November 8, 2002
By a vote of five to four, the Supreme Court
of Canada decided convicted criminals should have the right to vote.
In a decision released on Halloween
(coincidence? I think not) our highest court decided that there was
no good reason to take the vote away from nice people like Clifford
Olsen and Paul Bernardo.
From here on in, criminals will get to vote
in federal elections.
That means a murdering psychopath's ballot
will now count for the same as one cast by the rest of us
And why will serious offenders get to vote?
In the words of our Chief Justice: "To
deny prisoners the right to vote is to lose an important means of
teaching them democratic and social responsibility." I suppose
if they had a sense of social responsibility they wouldn't be
dealing drugs, molesting children or robbing banks.
I'm not sure getting to vote once every four
or five years will teach them to respect the people and society they
prey on. It's part of this goofy idea that if you get to vote,
you're automatically part of the solution and not part of the
It will sure make the campaign trail more
interesting next election. After all, voting is only one part of our
civic duty. Before you vote you have an obligation to be informed on
Will prisoners get out on day passes to
attend all candidates meetings? Will candidates have to go door to
door (or cell to cell) in our prisons looking for votes?
I can hear them now: "Excuse me sir,
could you stop sharpening that toothbrush long enough for me to
explain my stand on GST input credits? Maybe
I can just leave you some literature on my 'get tough on crime'
platform since you seem to be busy digging a tunnel with a spoon. I
hate to ask, but it would really help me out if I could hang a sign
on your cell door in solitary."
I'm not sure what issues are going to be
near and dear to our prison population. Gun registration? Corporate
tax breaks? Tougher immigration policies to keep undesirables out of
Canada and our jails?
Of course it's just a small step to the next
logical court challenge for prisoners.
At the moment, it's still illegal for
someone in jail to actually run as a candidate in a federal election
(section 65g of the Election Act, if you want to look it up).
I figure if the right to vote helps
prisoners "rehabilitate and reintegrate," imagine how good
it would be for their sense of social responsibility if they could
actually run for Member of Parliament.
I have no doubt someone with too much time
on their hands is already drawing up the paperwork to fight this
discrimination against convicts, or as they probably prefer to be
called, the innocence-challenged.
If any of them get elected it wouldn't
require that much of a change.
As I recall from my last visit, the House of
Commons already has bars on the windows.
Finally, I just want to point out that the
only remaining adult Canadians who are legally prohibited from
voting are Canada's Chief Electoral Officer and his Assistant.
I suppose if they want to vote they're going
to have to get themselves arrested.