A woman holding a baby enters a polling station to vote in Calgary, Alberta, October 19, 2015. The federal government setting up a five-person panel of senior bureaucrats to sound the alarm when a serious attempt to meddle in the election by a foreign actor that could threaten the integrity of the electoral process has taken place. (Mark Blinch/REUTERS)

No time limit on right to vote for Canadians living abroad, Supreme Court rules

Canadians living abroad have the right to vote in federal elections no matter how much time they have spent outside the country, Canada’s highest court ruled Friday.

In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that provisions of the electoral law that had denied the right to vote to Canadians who had spent more than five years outside of the country were unconstitutional.

“Since voting is a fundamental political right, and the right to vote is a core tenet of Canadian democracy, any limit on the right to vote must be carefully scrutinized and cannot be tolerated without a compelling justification,” Chief Justice Richard Wagner said, writing for the majority.

“Intrusions on this core democratic right are to be reviewed on a stringent justification standard.”

The case was brought by two Canadians who have lived for years in the United States.

They maintained a 1993 law barring expats abroad for more than five years from voting violated their charter rights to vote.

The Liberal government already passed legislation last month that guaranteed voting rights to all Canadians residing outside the country, but Friday’s ruling could have the effect of preventing future governments from enacting legislation to limit voting rights for citizens living abroad.

With files from CBC News

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