November 03, 2002
SUPREME COURT OF CANADA RULES
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling in Sauve v. Canada, has struck down s. 51(e) of the Canada Elections Act, which barred prisoners serving sentences of two years or more from voting in federal elections. The majority judgement, written by Chief Justice McLachlin, held that s.51(e) infringed s.3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that the infringement was not justified as a reasonable limit under s.1. The judgement means that all federal prisoners now have the right to vote in federal elections.
Although only the Canada Elections Act was before the Court, the legal reasoning in the judgement applies equally to the prohibition on prisoner voting in several provincial election statutes (for example, B.C.).
The Chief Justice’s judgement represents the most significant judicial statement to date on the relationship between democracy, the rule of law and Charter rights and their application to prisoners.
www.justicebehindthewalls.net brings you links to the full text of both the majority and dissenting reasons in this landmark judgment, and to Professor Jackson’s analysis and highlights of the case (requires the free Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or newer, available by clicking this link).