Donald Sutherland is publicly airing grievances against a Canadian law change that directly impacts me as well. On May 4, 2014, the Ontario Superior Court voided a law preventing expatriates of more than five years from voting, on the grounds that it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Ontario Court of Appeal, on government appeal, overturned this decision.
We live in Canada all the time we can. Our family house is here. Professionally, I still have to think twice when I say “out” or “house.” I have to restrain myself from saying “eh?”. In 1978, that’s nearly 40 years ago, the Canadian government made me an Officer of the Order of Canada. The Governor-General gave me the Governor-General’s Award a while back. I am on your Walk of Fame in Toronto. My sense of humour is Canadian. But I can’t vote.
Did you know that? If you don’t live here all the time you can’t vote. Americans who live abroad can vote. They can vote because they’re citizens! Citizens! But I can’t. Because why? Because I’m not a citizen? Because what happens to Canada doesn’t matter to me? Ask any journalist that’s ever interviewed me what nationality I proudly proclaim to have. Ask them. They’ll tell you. I am a Canadian. But I’m an expatriate and the Harper government won’t let expatriates participate in Canadian elections.
I am a Canadian citizen living in Little Canada, USA — that is to say, Minnesota. I have no plans on becoming a full citizen of the US, nor a dual-citizen, any time soon. I have not lived here for 5 years yet, but I am directly impacted by the political regime and laws that exist in Canada because I have many relatives, accounts, and financial concerns in Canada even now. What happens to any of them — my friends and family, my financial concerns — directly impacts me, even where, say, local traffic laws might not.
And all of that is not to say that changes to immigration/emigration laws, tax laws (where I still pay taxes), or my use of embassy services in Minneapolis (my passport is a Canadian passport) might be impacted by the vicissitudes of whomever is in office at any given time. Since Prime Ministers get to appoint a senate of wholly unaccountable cronies as the direct check against the House of Commons’ law-making power, being able to set up laws that affect me and taking my money without giving me the right to choose who gets to do that is disenfranchisement, pure and simple.
Beyond this, of the million expats who should be eligible to vote, roughly 6000 do it presently — because of that 5-year law, most likely. I plan on being one of those few people while I still can. And I plan on voting for a party who will not disenfranchise me — meaning, of course, anyone but those damnable Conservatives, who stand to gain the most from disenfranchising any traditionally liberal-voting edge case they can.