Canadian Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald last week ordered Elections Canada to review its decision for the date of the country’s national elections, because of evidence of the violation of the charter rights of some voters concerning the objectives of the election law.
The plan is for Canadians to go to the polls October 21, which falls on Shemini Atzeret, the next to last pilgrimage holidays on the Jewish calendar in diaspora. This is a Torah-level commandment which Orthodox Jews are not permitted to desecrate, which may exclude them from voting this year.
Elections Canada is an independent, non-partisan agency reporting directly to the Canadian Parliament. It is deposited with the responsibility to ensure that Canadians can exercise their choices in federal elections and referenda through an open and impartial process.
B’nai Brith Canada, which was granted a friend of the court status in this case, stated that as many as 75,000 Orthodox Jews would be affected by the current scheduling. The group recommended moving election day to Oct. 28, the eve of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan.
Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia synagogue in Winnipeg told the Winnipeg Free Press that the scheduling was most likely “just an oversight.”
Rabbi Shmuly Altein of Chabad-Lubavitch of Winnipeg said the October 21 date would prevent him from exercising his right to vote, saying, “Anyone who observes holidays in a traditional manner would be affected.”
Laurel Malkin, president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, complained that “the government would never consider holding an election on Christmas or Good Friday.” She suggested that changing the date would benefit all the minority religions in Canada, so holidays such as Ramadan and Dewali would be respected in deciding election dates in the future.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party are facing a tough re-election campaign against the Conservatives.
Elections Canada was ordered to respond to the court’s ruling by August 1.