It wouldn’t be “advisable” to move the federal election to another date despite the fact that Oct. 21 falls on a Jewish holiday, says Canada’s chief electoral officer.
Last week, the Federal Court ordered Stéphane Perrault to review his decision to not recommend a change in the scheduled date.
The ruling came after Conservative Party Orthodox Jewish candidate Chani Aryeh-Bain, who is running in the Toronto-area riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, and Orthodox Jewish political activist Ira Walfish asked that the date be moved to Oct. 28 to accommodate observant Jews who will be celebrating Shemini Atzeret, which begins at sunset on Oct. 20 and ends on Oct. 21.
They argued that Elections Canada did not properly consider their rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In a decision released Monday, Perrault acknowledges that the upcoming federal general election day and some of the advance polling days, coincide with Jewish holidays and that on these days “members of the observant Jewish community are unable to cast a ballot or campaign.”
However, he argues against moving the election date, because “the right of all Canadians to a fair and accessible election weighs heavily in the balance.”
“There is no such thing as a perfect election day, especially in a country as diverse as Canada,” Perrault writes. “There are always Canadians who are unable to vote on election day.”
In the 2015 federal election, some 4.3 million Canadians (over 25 per cent) cast their ballot prior to election day, either at advance polls or through one of the various special ballot options, he adds.
“For most, this may well have been a matter of preference or convenience. For many, however, this was the only practical option,” Perrault writes.
Observant Jewish electors “have a genuine opportunity to participate in the electoral process” by voting in one of these alternative ways, he adds.
“This is a difficult situation that directly touches upon the very core values of our democracy,” Perrault writes.
“This is not a decision that I make lightly, but with a view to providing the broadest possible range of accessible voting services to the population at large.”
Asked about the chief electoral officer’s decision, Trudeau said Monday he respects the independence of the office.