OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it sent asking Elections Canada to clarify a ruling by the Commissioner of Canada Elections on a recent complaint. Democracy Watch received the ruling from the person who filed the complaint and in it the Commissioner refused to investigate based upon a much too narrow and restrictive interpretation of a key measure in the Canada Elections Act that prohibits influence of voters by foreigners.
Democracy Watch sent the letter on August 6, 2012 asking specifically for Elections Canada to clarify their interpretation of the word “induce” in section 331 of the Canada Elections Act which was interpreted in such a way to mean that a voter “was actually induced or affected in their voting behaviour due to the activity complained of.” In Democracy Watch’s opinion, the legally correct definition of this measure is that “induce” also includes trying to persuade someone to vote one way or another (or not to vote), especially given that the heading of section 331 reads “Non-Interference by Foreigners” and the sub-heading is “Prohibition — inducements by non-residents.”
Given this very flawed ruling which sets a weak enforcement standard and the Commissioner’s refusal to disclose the rulings it made on more than 3,000 complaints from the 1997 election on through the 2011 election, Democracy Watch is calling for a public inquiry into the Commissioner’s enforcement standards and practices from the past 15 years.
“It’s incredibly important for Elections Canada to make it perfectly clear what they meant by their ruling because as it currently stands the ruling indicates that the Commissioner will likely never prosecute a foreigner for illegal influence of voters in Canadian federal elections,” said Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch. “Because of this highly questionable ruling and the lack of transparency at Elections Canada, we are calling for a public inquiry to disclose and publicly audit the Commissioner’s rulings on more than 3,000 complaints filed since 1997 to ensure that Canada’s election laws have been enforced properly and effectively.”
As a result of the lack of transparency and refusal to release important information regarding enforcement of the Canada Elections Act, Democracy Watch has also filed an access-to-information request seeking details on how Elections Canada handled the thousands of complaints.
“It simply does not make sense that Elections Canada, the organization running the most important single event for Canadian democracy, is hiding whether it actually enforces Canadian election laws meant to ensure free and fair elections” said Sommers.