Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee.
I am here today as a board member of the Council of Canadians and also as legal counsel to eight Canadians who applied to the Federal Court in 2012 seeking orders annulling the results of the May 2011 federal election in six ridings across the country because they were the intended victims of voter fraud.
I've prepared a written statement, which I believe is translated, and which I think all of you have, so I won't take you through that. But I do want to point out some of the more significant things we want to say to this committee and to the federal government.
I want to speak to you about an aspect of the fair elections act that hasn't attracted a lot of attention, but which in our view is critical to safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process and the democratic franchise of Canadians. I am referring to section 524 of the Canada Elections Act, not the bill, which empowers any elector to defend their constitutionally protected right to vote.
I've reproduced the provisions of section 524 in our submissions, but they entitle an elector or a candidate—and only an elector or a candidate, not the Chief Electoral Officer or commissioner or anyone else—to actually bring an application to the Federal Court seeking the annulment of an election in certain circumstances. These include the circumstances set out under paragraph 524(1)(b) of the act where there are alleged to have been irregularities, fraud, corrupt or illegal practices that affected the result of the election.
While a great deal of attention in this committee has focused on the enforcement role of the Commissioner of Canada Elections to prosecute perpetrators of voter fraud, only a candidate or an elector, as I have noted, can seek a court order annulling the result of an election that was fraudulently won.
It is this right of an individual elector to defend their democratic franchise that is arguably, in our view, the most significant deterrent to voter fraud. It's one thing to chase a fraudster, somebody like Pierre Poutine, and catch him and subject him to significant sanctions; it's another to take away the ill-gotten gain, which in certain cases is going to be a seat in Parliament that was not fairly won.
As I expect members of the committee will know, on May 23, 2013, Mr. Justice Mosley of the Federal Court rendered his decision in the applications my clients had brought and made the following findings. I set out some of the key findings of his decision in my submissions, but I just want to draw your attention to two or three of these.
He found, “there was a deliberate attempt at voter suppression during the 2011 election.” He found the calls that were made misdirecting people to the wrong polling stations were “targeted towards voters who had previously expressed a preference for an opposition party, or anyone other than the government party...”.
He also found there was an orchestrated effort to suppress votes during the 2011 election campaign by a person or persons with access to the CIMS database. You all know what the CIMS database is. He said he was satisfied that the CIMS database maintained and controlled by the Conservative Party of Canada “was accessed for that purpose by a person or persons currently unknown to this court” and that was the source of information used in this effort to defraud Canadian electors.
Last, he found that during the course of the litigation the Conservative MP respondents engaged in trench warfare and every other tactic to prevent the matter from coming to a hearing before the court.
To the question that remains, having regard to those conclusions, I think as a well-known national columnist pointed out, we now have a smoking gun, but we just don't know who pulled the trigger. But the people who control the CIMS database will know who downloaded lists of non-Conservative Party supporters in the days leading up to the election, and the findings of the court indicate that indeed the database was used for that purpose.
What does the bill before you have to say about that? Nothing. It imposes no greater measure of accountability on those maintaining these types of databases—not just the Conservative Party, but all political parties—for their misuse.
In fact the bill as before you will actually make it more difficult for an individual elector to bring the kind of applications that my clients brought, because they are unlikely to ever discover that voter fraud took place during a particular election, as both the commissioner and the Chief Electoral Officer are prevented from making public complaints about voter fraud that come to their attention.
I've also set out in our submissions the amendments to the bill that we believe would actually address the problem of voter fraud and make it less likely to occur in a future federal election.
Thank you very much for giving me the time today.