Charter Challenge seeks Supreme Court ruling against first-past-the-post voting system

For Immediate Release: June 6 2017 

Last week, a majority of Members of Parliament voted to reject the recommendation of the Commons’ own Special Committee on Electoral Reform to develop a proportional voting system for Canada.

Today, a pair of non-profit organizations from opposite ends of the country are joining forces to file a Charter Challenge asserting that Canada’s discriminatory first-past-the-post voting system violates section three of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Who’s behind it: This initiative was launched by Fair Voting BC (FVBC), a registered non-profit society promoting voter equality.  Nova Scotia-based Springtide, a charity focused on political education and research, is now joining forces with FVBC.

Who’s paying:  871 Canadians have already pledged over $140,000 to launch this challenge.  Springtide and FVBC estimate that $400,000 - $500,000 is required to see this case all the way through to the Supreme Court.

Why a charter challenge: A successful challenge would result in The Supreme Court ruling that the federal first-past-the-post voting system violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In previous cases, the Court has ruled that Canadians have the right to ‘effective representation’ and has applied this to riding boundary questions, but has never ruled on the system of voting itself.  

Both organizations would rather have seen the discriminatory effects of our voting system addressed by politicians, but, in the light of Parliament’s decision last week, now feel that the civil rights of voters can best be protected through a court mandate.

Pull Quotes

“Our current voting system systematically denies representation to more than half the voters. Section three of the charter guarantees Canadians the right to vote;  the Supreme Court has stated that this right includes guarantees of effective representation and substantial voter parity.”

-  Antony Hodgson, president, Fair Voting BC

 

“Democratic rights are human rights, and Parliament always has the ability to protect those rights before being told by the Court to do so. It’s easy for the question of electoral reform to be dismissed as a decision that benefits one political party and hurts another, but that’s a distraction from the underlying reality that voters’ rights have been increasingly neglected under the federal first-past-the-post voting system.”

- Mark Coffin, executive director, Springtide

What happens now: Today, Fair Voting BC and Springtide are announcing their commitment to bring a Charter challenge forward in the coming months. Over a third of the money required to cover the costs of the case has already been pledged by Canadians from across the country.

What people can do: Concerned Canadians can visit CharterChallenge.ca (ContestationCharte.ca, en français) to learn more about the case and to contribute financially.

What’s Next: We plan to retain Legal Counsel following a successful fundraising campaign, and hope to make an initial filing by Fall of 2017.

About the Partners

Springtide is a Nova Scotia-based charity dedicated to non-partisan research, teaching and public engagement about democracy and politics in Canada. Springtide has published two papers on electoral reform - modelling four alternative electoral systems for Canada and Nova Scotia - and has conducted extensive public engagement and education workshops on electoral reform throughout Nova Scotia.

Fair Voting BC (FVBC) is a non-partisan, non-profit society that works for fair voting systems for elections held in British Columbia at all levels of government. In the 2009 referendum on electoral reform in BC, FVBC served as the official proponent for the Citizens’ Assembly’s recommended Single Transferable Voting system.


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For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact: 

Mark Coffin

Executive Director @ Springtide

mark@springtide.ngo

 

Antony Hodgson,

President @ Fair Voting BC

antony.hodgson@gmail.com

 

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Stay tuned to this blog for updates on electoral reform and the Charter Challenge for Fair Voting.

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Like and Follow

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Current Status:

We are raising the money necessary to file the case in court. In the Fall of 2018 we received a strategic opinion from the lawyer we have retained, advising us on the approach and lines of argument for fighting this case.
 

How you can help

We need to raise $70,000 to be fully prepared to file. You can donate here.


What to expect

- Once we file, the case will be heard in a provincial court.

- Following an initial decision, there will be an appeal heart in another court. If the initial decision is in our favour, the Government of Canada will likely appeal it. If the decision is not in our favour, we will appeal it.

- Finally, if the Court chooses to grant this case leave, it will be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada, where the decision will be final. If the case isn’t granted leave, the decision of the appeal court is final.


Time and Money

We estimate the total costs for arguing and overseeing this case to be in the range of $250,000 - $300,000, spread out over the course of 2 - 4 years.

At each step, we will set a goal based on our estimate of the costs at each stage, and ask supporters to contribute to help us reach that goal, and to ensure the case can continue to move forward.