Since 1993 Canadians living abroad for more than five years were denied to vote. But, after a worldwide expat campaign, the Supreme Court of Canada in January this year ruled in favour of returning expats their Constitutional right.

Canadians living abroad can not vote in elections in Canada, after Canada’s top court confirmed expatriates’ voting rights, striking down a law that denied them from casting a ballot if they have lived abroad for five years or more

Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a section that constitutionally guarantees Canadian citizens the democratic right to vote in a general federal or provincial election.

Section 3 is one of the provisions in the Charter that cannot be overridden by Parliament or a legislative assembly under Section 33 of the Charter.

In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada said the regulation infringed on Canadian expats’ constitutional right to vote, which Chief Justice Richard Wagner called a “fundamental political right” and “a core tenet of our democracy.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government had already reformed the elections act, doing away with the five-year provision the previous month. But the ruling was still widely viewed as important in that it would prevent future governments from bringing back the restrictions.

Why vote from afar?

The decisions of Canada affect all Canadians – their Canadian identity, their social contract, their welfare, their families. It means contributing to the country’s future, not limited by geography.

Who can vote

Canadian citizens who live abroad may apply to be on the International Register of Electors, which will allow them to vote by mail-in special ballot in federal general elections, by-elections and referendums.

Get the latest info on the Elections Canada website here.

To be included in theInternational Register of Electors, you must be qualified to vote (a Canadian citizen at least 18 years old on election day), and have lived in Canada at some point in your life.

On your application, you must indicate your last address before leaving Canada, which determines the electoral district for which your vote will be counted. You must use a physical address. You cannot use a post office box or rural route, except in areas where no other physical address is available.

It’s not too late to register

The 2019 Canadian federal election is scheduled to take place on October 21, 2019. Parliament was dissolved by Governor General Julie Payette on September 11, 2019, on the advice of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Canadian Club of Costa Rica says you still have time to register to receive a Voter’s Kit, and return it if you use the address of the Embassy in San José (service provided for election purposes ONLY).

Your kit will be couriered to Costa Rica from Ottawa and can be returned by Diplomatic pouch. (Don’t consider using an apartado (mail box as your voting address here because the Correo doesn’t accept courier deliveries).

The simplest Embassy address to use (for election purposes ONLY) on the registration form is: Embassy of Canada, PO Box 351-1007, Centro Colón, San José, Costa Rica.

Be sure also to advise the Embassy in San José at sjcraconsular@international.gc.ca that you have registered to vote using their address so they know how to contact you. Embassy website here.

More and updated information can be found on the Elections Canada website here.

Where to register

Over the past century, Canada has expanded the right to vote, originally restricted to property-owning men aged 21 or older, to women, racial minorities, persons once described as suffering from a “mental disease,” prison inmates and soldiers and diplomatic staff posted abroad.