Mr. Speaker, we will try to do the best we can in the four minutes left to us to talk about a bill as important as Bill C-50.
To begin, I want to commend the exceptional work done by my colleague from Toronto—Danforth, who, on behalf of all of us in the official opposition, is trying to make sure that democracy continues to be alive and real in this wonderful country.
I am both happy and sad to rise. I am happy to do so on behalf of the people of Gatineau and to have a moment to speak to Bill C-50. At the same time, I am sad to see that Bill C-50 is being described as a response to a decision of the court. Once again, this shows me that this government has a strange way of responding to decisions of the courts. Every time, I am gobsmacked.
Frank et al. v. Attorney General of Canada was decided in the context of section 11, paragraph 11(d) of the Canada Elections Act. It stated that every Canadian citizen who had been absent from Canada for at least five consecutive years could not vote in Canadian federal elections.
In fact, what Justice Penny tells us in Frank is simply that the principle stated in section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees every Canadian the right to vote, without limitation. There is no exception depending on the context; it is an intrinsic right of every Canadian citizen. This is the primary method by which we are able to speak democratically in this country. It is the right to speak in the context of an election. It seems to me that this principle was obvious. The court made the decision that had to be made: that the right to vote cannot be taken away from Canadian citizens. We are talking about Canadian citizens. We are not talking about people who have no ties to Canada. They may not be in Canada, but they are Canadian citizens. What did the government do? It introduced Bill C-50.
As I listened to the debates all morning, I was pleasantly surprised. I would say I was was somewhat surprised because people sent me messages on Facebook, including a message from one person in particular. We know that in paragraph 11(d), to which I referred just now, there was in fact an exception relating to the military. The person in question said that all the rules obviously will not apply to our troops—and I am very pleased to know that—but this will not necessarily be the case for the family members of military personnel. That is a double standard.
I have some difficulty with that example and with others as well. What Bill C-50 does is leave us with different kinds of citizens.
I agree with all my colleagues who have spoken in the House and said that, insofar as we can, we must do everything in our power to make access to the vote as easy as possible—not to encourage ways of hijacking democracy, but to enable the most possible people to express their democratic choice. We might say that this government has a lot of trouble acting that way.
The bill tells us that it is in response to the court’s decision, but the decision says that people may not be prohibited from voting. What are the Conservatives doing? They are prohibiting people. I truly have a lot of trouble understanding how this government reads the decisions of the courts. In any event, they have continued to appeal the case.
I know my time on a subject this important has unfortunately already expired. However, I will certainly have an opportunity to speak to this issue at greater length.