A British man living in Beiseker, Alta., is raising questions about how many non-Canadian citizens could be voting in the upcoming federal election.
Paul Gabriel has lived in Canada for almost 20 years but is not a Canadian citizen.
Gabriel said he received a Voter Information Card (VIC) from Elections Canada in early October.
“I can’t even vote for my local mayor, let alone the prime minister,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel said he was surprised to find out one of his co-workers, also not a Canadian citizen, had received a voter card as well.
That prompted him to share his story online on Monday afternoon, and within 24 hours, his Facebook post had been shared more than 16,000 times. A number of people commented that the same thing had happened to them.
“How many of us are there?” Gabriel asked. “I’m looking closer at the card and thinking there must be something else that stops me from voting.
“There must be a safety valve or a check or something like that… and I’m looking at it, and no, there isn’t. I can just use my driver’s licence.”
According to Elections Canada, it updates the National Register of Electors (NRoE) using more than 40 sources, but non-Canadian citizens can end up on that list.
In April 2019, Elections Canada identified approximately 103,000 potential non-Canadian citizens in the register.
That number was revised to 85,000, of which 74,000 were removed from the NRoE, while it was determined the remaining 11,000 were Canadian citizens.
“It’s not illegal to receive a voter information card in error,” Elections Canada spokesperson Leanne Nyirfa said. “[But] it is illegal to vote if you’re not a Canadian citizen.
“The VIC is not a ticket to vote. It’s a card that provides information on where your polling station is and the hours of voting, so if you’ve received a VIC, which says on it you do need to be 18 years of age and a Canadian citizen to vote, you should contact Elections Canada and we’ll get you removed from that list.”
Although proof of citizenship cannot be demanded at the polls with the enactment of Bill C-76, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is now authorized to share information on permanent residents and foreign nationals with Elections Canada.
According to Elections Canada, that means after the 2019 federal election, it will be able to cross-reference its data with IRCC’s data to determine if any non-Canadians cast a ballot. Those cases will be referred to the Commissioner of Canada Elections, who is responsible for enforcing the Canada Elections Act.
Penalties range from a fine of up to $20,000 or imprisonment for a term of up to a year, or both, for a summary conviction.
On conviction on indictment, the fine can jump up to a maximum of $50,000 or a jail term of no more than five years, or both.
These penalties would only apply in cases where charges were laid and then someone was convicted of the offence, and the sentence would be at the discretion of the court — not the commissioner.
The commissioner has a number of other tools at his disposal to ensure compliance with and enforcement of the Canada Elections Act, including entering into a compliance agreement, the imposition of an administrative monetary penalty or the laying of charges.