2nd Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 149, Issue 68

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
The Honourable Pierre Claude Nolin, Speaker pro tempore

Canada Elections Act

Bill to Amend—Third Reading—Debate Adjourned

Motion in Amendment

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise to speak in support of Senator Moore’s amendments. Before I do that, I would like to thank Senator Frum and Senator Moore for all the work they have done on Bill C-23. I would also like to thank the chair and all members of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for the hard work they have done on this bill.

Honourable senators, I support and agree with what Senator Moore has stated. I want to once again speak about an issue that I had spoken of at second reading. Much has been said about this bill, but I would like to point out some particular points on vouching which were raised in committee. I have already expressed my views in detail at second reading and therefore will not repeat myself.

Our colleague, Senator Moore, raised at committee a very important issue and I would like to quote him:

What is even more interesting is that this same government, which is now moving to end vouching, used the very same practice as a justification for making these changes to voter identification requirements in 2007. The government then agreed that vouching was seen as a failsafe. . . .

Under the 2007 law, a fully documented voter can vouch for the identity of a voter without full identification. . . . Yet government lawyers have been arguing in B.C. courts since 2009 that vouching is a failsafe that protects the constitutionality of the 2007 voter identification rules, a position the government continues to maintain in its current submission to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Honourable senators, the government has been using vouching as an argument to defend voter identification rules that it passed in 2007. With these major changes in our vouching system, will those voter identification rules still be valid?

I would also like to point out a scenario which Senator Baker brought up in committee:

Some of the examples given by the Chief Electoral Officer were of parents who were visiting their children and of having that identification if they were in another part of the country and they were trying to vote; and of somebody who is somebody’s partner. All of the information that comes to that home comes to only one of the two partners, and the other person just doesn’t have two pieces of ID.

Senator Baker raises a real-life scenario that affects many Canadians. The fact is that many Canadians will go to the polling stations with one or no pieces of ID through no fault of their own.

Further, at committee, Senator Joyal also raised a very valid example, which highlights some of the individuals who would continue to be disenfranchised by this bill. I would like to quote Senator Joyal. He stated:

Let’s take the example that I knew of myself when I was a member in the other place. There was a long-term seniors’ home. There were under 26 persons living there, in bed, most of them, most of the time, with no parents. There was a nurse responsible for each floor of the senior’s home, and she could not vouch for five of them or six of them living in the same room in that long-term care residence.

It seems to me that there are cases like that that should be allowed because she had to pick which one, among the six patients in that room, she would vouch for to allow her to vote. For some people who are caught in that situation, voting is sometimes the only link they have with the outside world.

Honourable senators, voting, it seems, is already a difficult endeavour. Yet, with this bill, we are making it even more difficult. Is that the kind of democratic reform we want?

I would like to raise one final issue that is very concerning to me. A recent Ipsos poll found that 87 per cent of Canadians believe it’s reasonable to require that electors prove their identity and address before they can vote. I agree, honourable senators, that 87 per cent of Canadians think it is reasonable.

I am sure that the other place took that 87 per cent into account when they were presenting this bill. The other place can look after the 87 per cent, but honourable senators, we are here to protect the rights of the 13 per cent.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.


Senator Jaffer: During the study of Bill C-23, our colleague Senator Plett said:

Clearly, the opposition’s biggest argument or complaint in this legislation has been around the vouching and their fear that there will be five or six people in the country who won’t be able to vote because of the legislation.

Honourable senators, I believe our role as senators is to protect those five or six individuals who will not be able to vote because of this proposed legislation. That is why we sit in this chamber. That is why each one of us in this chamber was appointed to the Senate of Canada.

Honourable senators, as a person who was raised in Uganda, I have to say that when we lost the right to vote because we were Asian Ugandans, we lost everything. When we came to Canada, the biggest present we got from Canadians was the first time we went to vote. That was the proudest moment for my whole family. All of us got to vote. At that time, we didn’t even have an address because we were so new; but we had the right to vote. That’s the beauty of Canada and that’s what we in the Senate of Canada have to protect.

Motion in Amendment

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Therefore, honourable senators, in an effort to ensure that every Canadian has the right and opportunity to vote, I move that Bill C-23 be not now read the third time, but that it be amended —

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Before Senator Jaffer starts reading her amendments, I think it is appropriate to seek approval of the house that we study all the amendments, Senator Moore’s and Senator Jaffer’s, in a stacked way, altogether. Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It means we will be able to discuss the amendments moved by Senator Moore and those moved by Senator Jaffer. That’s the agreement.

Senator Jaffer: I move:

THAT Bill C-23 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended

(a) in clause 46, on page 26,

(i) by replacing lines 5 to 8 with the following:

“the polling division, and

(iv) their own residence has not been,” and

(ii) by deleting lines 18 and 19;

(b) in clause 47, on page 27, by replacing line 7 with the following:

“subsection 143(6) or 549(3).”;

(c) in clause 50,

(i) on page 28, by replacing lines 35 to 39 with the following:

“the polling division, and

(D) their own residence has not been,” and

(ii) on page 29, by deleting lines 36 and 37;

(d) in clause 51, on page 30, by replacing line 20 with the following:

“subsection 161(7) or 549(3).”;

(e) in clause 54

(i) on page 32, by replacing lines 11 to 15 with the following:

“the polling division, and

(D) their own residence has not been”, and

(ii) on page 33, by deleting lines 19 and 20;

(f) in clause 55, on page 33, by replacing line 40 with the following:

“subsection 169(6) or 549(3).”;

(g) in clause 60, on page 37, by replacing lines 21 to 23 with the following:

“(3.1) No elector whose own residence has”;

(h) in clause 93,

(i) on page 193,

(A) by deleting lines 29 and 30, and

(B) by deleting lines 36 and 37, and

(ii) on page 194, by replacing lines 1 to 6 with the following:

(3) Subsection 489(2) of the Act is amended by adding “or” at the end of paragraph (c) and by replacing paragraphs (d) and (e) with the following:

(d) contravenes subsection 169(6) (attesting to residence when own residence attested to).”; and

(i) in clause 94.1, on page 194, by replacing lines 24 to 29 with the following:

“(a) contravenes subsection 237.1(3.1) (attesting to residence when own residence attested to); or

(b) contravenes any of paragraphs 281(a) to”.

Thank you.