November 1, 2002
OH, CANADA:Prisoners gain right to vote: Supreme Court saves place at polls for Bernardo, Olson (Rick Mofina, November 01, 2002, The Ottawa Citizen)
All federal inmates -- including serial killers Paul Bernardo and child murderer Clifford Olson -- have the right to cast ballots in federal elections after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down legislation denying them the vote.
In a 5-4 decision yesterday, the high court declared that Canada's election law, passed by Parliament in 1993, violates the fundamental rights of federal prisoners when tested against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"The wholesale disenfranchisement of all penitentiary inmates, even those with a two-year minimum sentence requirement, is not demonstrably justified in our free and democratic society," Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote for the majority.
"The right to vote is fundamental in our democracy and the rule of law, and cannot be lightly set aside," Chief Justice McLachlin said in the 32-page decision. The majority held that the portion of Canada's election law relating to prisoners cannot be justified by any competing social objectives offered by the government.
Justice Charles Gonthier, writing for the minority, said that in the realm of competing social and political philosophies, "reasonableness" must be the predominant consideration. Barring serious jailed criminals from voting "reflects a moral line which safeguards the social contract and the rule of law," Judge Gonthier wrote.
What does it mean to be a citizen if you don't lose the vote even after killing your fellow citizens? Is the right to vote really more important to Canadians than the obligation to obey the laws your vote creates?
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 1, 2002 11:40 AM