I will make a very short statement, to begin, to clarify the Canadian policy, and we'll be very delighted to take your questions.
We're here today, as you know, to present to you on Canada's policy on absentee voting and extraterritorial constituencies.
Canada is an active proponent and supporter of democracy around the world. The government is proud to assist in the promotion and protection of free and fair elections. Indeed, Canada encourages foreign states to allow their citizens residing permanently or temporarily in Canada to exercise their right to vote in elections in their country of origin--namely, by absentee vote.
In 2010, Canada approved the establishment of polling stations in 25 elections. To date in 2011, Canada has facilitated absentee voting for 12 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and South America. The minister approved yet another absentee vote on Wednesday, October 4, 2011.
Canada will continue to support absentee voting; however, Canada will not accept requests for foreign polling where Canada is an extraterritorial constituency. Simply put, Canada is not a riding of a foreign country; this is an issue of sovereignty.
On February 12, 2008, Canada established a policy to refuse all requests by foreign states to include Canada in their respective extraterritorial electoral constituencies. This principled policy has been applied consistently since it was instituted in 2008. The policy does not target any particular country or region, and I would emphasize that.
Allow me to repeat this in French.
This principled policy has been applied consistently since it was instituted in 2008. The policy does not target any particular country or region. The policy is aimed at upholding Canada's sovereignty and reducing foreign interference in Canada's domestic affairs.
No one should represent Canada as a constituency in a foreign elected assembly. Having a foreign country unilaterally include Canada as part of its own voting districts could lead to the election of candidates who would be perceived as representing fellow Canadian citizens in a foreign elected assembly.
It may also lead, in some cases, to importing foreign political disputes to Canada. Foreign electoral campaigns in Canada have the potential to focus on domestic Canadian political issues or bilateral disputes, and to undermine social cohesion, inclusiveness and identity.
We have made this policy very clear. As I said earlier, we have applied it consistently. We expect foreign states to ensure that any voting planned in Canada is in full accordance with Canadian policy.
Canada expects foreign governments to respect Canada's laws and government policies concerning their activities on Canadian territory, as we respect theirs when in their countries.
As always, Canada stands with the people of all nations who aspire to a stable and prosperous democracy, and we believe that in safeguarding our sovereignty we are leading by example.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.