NEWS
04/24/2014 10:31 EDT | Updated 06/24/2014 05:59 EDT

Robocalls made across Canada in 2011 won't bring charges

An investigation into misleading and nuisance robocalls made to voters across Canada didn't find an intention to prevent them from casting ballots, so no one will be charged, Elections Canada said today.

A 2012 media report about the investigation into robocalls in Guelph, Ont., led to hundreds of complaints about live and automated calls directing voters in other ridings across Canada to the wrong polling stations. There were also complaints about annoying and harassing calls that frustrated people and may have been meant to annoy them enough not to vote.

Yves Côté, commissioner of Canada Elections, said in a news release Thursday that the investigation into those calls didn't find an intent to prevent or dissuade Canadians from voting.

"Ultimately, investigators have been able to determine that incorrect poll locations were provided to some electors, and that some nuisance calls occurred," the report into the calls said.

"However, the evidence does not establish that calls were made a) with the intention of preventing or attempting to prevent an elector from voting, or b) for the purpose of inducing an elector by some pretence or contrivance to vote or not vote, or to vote or not vote for a particular candidate."

"This proof of intent is necessary for the commissioner to consider recommending to the Director of Public 
Prosecutions that a prosecution under the Act be initiated," the report said.

One person has been charged with the misleading robocalls made in Guelph. Michael Sona's trial starts June 2 in Guelph.

Most complaints from Lead Now

Elections Canada was flooded with complaints from 260 of the country's 308 ridings.

But while the agency got more than 40,000 messages about the misleading and nuisance calls, the investigation found 96 per cent of them came through Lead Now, an organization that asked concerned voters to sign a petition.

In all, 39,350 of the more than 40,000 "communications" with Elections Canada were from people expressing "their profound dissatisfaction with inappropriate calls​," the report said, and not from people who received the calls.

Investigators found that people were annoyed with the calls in part because both national and local political campaigns were providing specific poll locations during legitimate get-out-the-vote calls. In some cases, reports suggest the campaigns were getting the locations wrong.

"Elections Canada is the only authoritative source of information on poll locations," the report said.

The election agency doesn't normally report on cases that don't lead to charges, but published the 2011 election calls report because of the enormous public interest.

The agency also had former Supreme Court justice Louise Charron review the investigation. Charron said there were a number of roadblocks, including limits to what political parties have to report to Elections Canada.

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