(JTA) – Federal Court Justice Justice Ann Marie McDonald has ordered Canada’s chief electoral officer to review his decision not to recommend changing the federal election date because it falls on a Jewish holiday.
The decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by a Jewish candidate in Canada’s federal election and a Jewish voter claiming that the election date discriminates against observant Canadian Jews.
What it means: The federal election date or some of the advance polling days could be changed. Shemini Atzeret, one of the last days of the Sukkot holiday, falls this year on Election Day, Oct. 21. Of the four advance polling days, three are on other Jewish holidays or Shabbat.
Chani Aryeh-Bain, the Conservative Party candidate for the Toronto-area riding of Eglington-Lawrence, is an observant Jew and therefore would not be able to campaign on Election Day, the lawsuit says. Voter Ira Walfish of York Centre, also a Toronto-area riding, also filed the lawsuit.
“This judicial review is granted as the overall decision of the CEO does not demonstrate the hallmarks of transparency, intelligibility and justification, as it is not possible to determine if he undertook the necessary proportionate balancing between the applicant’s charter rights and the exercise of his statutory duty,” the court ruling said, CBC reported. The chief electoral officer is Stéphane Perrault.
Since 2007, Canadian law has mandated that federal elections be held on the third Monday in October in the fourth calendar year following the previous election. Canada’s 2008 federal election fell on the first day of Sukkot.
“We respect the democratic and judicial process that has led to today’s ruling. Changing the date at this stage entails considerable logistical and financial implications. We note that Elections Canada has taken significant measures, in consultation with the Jewish community, to ensure every Jewish voter can cast their ballot. We will respect the Chief Electoral Officer’s decision and will continue working closely with Elections Canada to support its efforts to maximize voter participation and inclusion of the Jewish community – which is a cornerstone of democracy,” said Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, in a statement in response to the court ruling.
The Ottawa Jewish Bulletin contributed to this report.