POLITICS

Canadians Attend 'No Harper' Event In New York

10/16/2015 01:14 EDT | Updated 10/16/2016 05:12 EDT
CP
TORONTO — Scores of expat Canadians turned up for a "No Harper" bash in New York to express their ongoing attachment to Canada and their opposition to a law that bars those abroad for more than five years from voting in Monday's election.

The Thursday evening event raised $3,000 — with some donations still to be tallied and expenses to be deducted — that will go toward taking their grievance about the voting ban to the Supreme Court of Canada, organizers said.

In a speech to the party-goers Toronto-born Gillian Frank, of Princeton, N.J., one of two long-term expats who is challenging his disenfranchisement as arbitrary and unreasonable, attacked Prime Minister Stephen Harper as anti-democratic.

"Stephen Harper has an agenda that flies in the face of traditional Canadian values that we grew up with: multiculturalism, responsive government, and respect for democracy," said Frank, who supplied a copy of his speech.

"The Conservatives have made this a partisan issue and have sought to undermine our right to vote in order to further their divisive agenda."

While the Constitution guarantees the vote to all Canadian citizens who are at least 18, part of the Canada Elections Act bars expats abroad for more than five years from voting by mail, effectively denying them the ability to cast a ballot.

It was only under Harper's Conservative government that the 1993 law was strictly enforced, catching many of the country's estimated 1.4 million expats — including Frank — by surprise in 2011.

"I was shocked and I was angry," Frank told the crowd. "We must never forget that the Conservative party believes we are second-class citizens."

One of the organizers, Marie-Marguerite Sabongui, said the 250 people who bought tickets had a great time at the event in Brooklyn. Many felt Frank's speech was the "real highlight" of the evening, she said.

"He really captured the spirit and energy of why we were all there," Sabongui said Friday from New York. "People felt the communal, cathartic experience they needed and wanted."

Several Canadian bands flew in for the occasion, including Rococode and Nancy Pants, while DJ White Cliffs spun the discs.

The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether it will hear the voting ban case. An Ontario Superior Court sided with the expats, but the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned its decision this summer at the government's request.

A separate crowdfunding effort has so far raised almost $14,000 for the legal challenge.

One donor, Jonathan Alexander Leaver, put up $250.

"Having worked closely with members of the Conservative party from New York to bring cutting-edge fintech jobs to the Kitchener-Waterloo region, I know first-hand the impact our citizens abroad have on Canadian competitiveness in international markets," he said in an accompanying note.

"I sincerely hope the party will reconsider its support for the voting rights of Canadians competing in this global economy."

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