Home Sweet Home
The obligatory bio
Charites & Organizations
My Calgary Sun Column & More
Law Stuff
Gary Lautens
E-mail me!

Criminal Decision

by Stephen Lautens


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 non-murdering psychopaths.

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 problem.

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 the issues.

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.

© Stephen Lautens 2002

Back to column archive index