Securing voting rights for Québecers living temporarily abroad

Jun 22, 2022 3 MIN READ

The Pro Bono Cause

Bruno Gélinas-Faucher is a Québec lawyer. After completing his undergraduate law degree at the University of Ottawa and his master’s degree at the University of Cambridge, he worked as a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada and as a Judicial Fellow to the President of the International Court of Justice. At present, he is pursuing doctoral studies in international law at the University of Cambridge in addition to teaching as a temporary professor at the Faculty of Law of the Université de Moncton.

In December 2019, a by-election was held in the electoral division of Jean-Talon, in Québec City. At the time, Mr. Gélinas-Faucher was domiciled in that electoral division but had temporarily left Québec for the purposes of his doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge. Since he had been away from Québec for more than two years on polling day, he was deprived of the right to vote by mail. Unable to vote otherwise, Mr. Gélinas-Faucher was prevented from voting in this election.

The Osler Pro Bono Connection

The Osler team of Julien Morissette (partner in Litigation and Insolvency & Restructuring), François Laurin-Pratte (Litigation associate), and Quentin Montpetit (Litigation associate) are acting as counsel to the plaintiff Bruno Gélinas-Faucher for the purposes of his challenge to the Québec Election Act (the E.A.). In that case, the plaintiff is challenging the constitutionality of a provision of the E.A. insofar as it deprives certain Québec voters of their most fundamental democratic right: the right to vote in provincial elections.

Section 282 of the E.A. allows any elector who temporarily leaves Québec to vote by mail in a Québec election under certain conditions. One of these conditions is that the elector has not left Québec for more than two years on polling day. Consequently, an elector who is temporarily outside Québec for more than two years is deprived of the right to vote by mail. This is the case for electors who, like the plaintiff, are studying abroad for more than two years. These electors are forced to travel to Québec to vote in person, a trip that can be long, costly and arduous, or sometimes impossible.

By removing the right of certain electors outside Québec to vote by mail, section 282 of the E.A. deprives them of a real possibility of voting in Québec elections. In so doing, section 282 of the E.A. violates the right to vote of these electors in a manner that cannot be justified in a free and democratic society, contrary to the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights and freedoms.

Volunteer Reflections

It is an honour to support Bruno Gélinas-Faucher, whose right to vote was infringed. I am proud to engage the court in his name, and for other Québec voters in the same situation, to defend a fundamental democratic right.

Julien Morissette

Partner, Disputes | Insolvency and Restructuring, Montréal