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Elections Canada attempts to combat huge number of non-Canadians on voting register

In May, it was revealed that Elections Canada needed to eliminate an estimated 103,000 people from their voters’ register because they aren’t Canadian, but nonetheless were registered to vote. This number was later revised to 85,000, of which 74,000 were removed, according to Elections Canada.

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be accurate.

Dylan Gibbons Montreal, QC

In May, it was revealed that Elections Canada needed to eliminate an estimated 103,000 people from their voters’ register because they aren’t Canadian, but nonetheless were registered to vote. This number was later revised to 85,000, of which 74,000 were removed, according to Elections Canada.

Furthermore, it is possible that some illegal, non-Canadian voters may have slipped through the vetting process during the 2015 election, reports CTV News, and many non-Canadians remain registered to vote in Atlantic Canada.

Elections Canada came under similar criticism last year when it was revealed that new immigrants to Canada, who had yet to receive citizenship, had been given voter information cards and had been logged in their database.

According to the Toronto Sun, Jacqueline, a woman who arrived in Western Canada in 2017 as a refugee, had been sent a letter from elections Canada in 2018, urging her to register ahead of schedule so that she could vote in an upcoming election. This is despite refugees needing to be in the country for three years before they’re able to apply for citizenship.

“I don’t know where they got her information to begin with, but they sent her a registration card,” Jacqueline’s husband, who was interviewed because his wife still struggles with English, told the Sun.

“She’s taking ESL classes, we haven’t even been in the country a year and a half, and the Liberals are sending a vote registration card.”

The husband went on to say that this is quite common among immigrant families, and that he personally knows several families which have received similar letters and registration cards.

According to the Toronto Sun, a spokesperson for Elections Canada says that they “compile voter registration lists from a number of sources, including the Canada Revenue Agency, driver’s license agencies, provincial voter lists, and the federal immigration department.”

“From time to time, a non-citizen may inadvertently be included in the register and may, therefore, receive a voter information card in error. In the rare case that a non-citizen gets a voter information card, we ask that they call their local Elections Canada office and ask to be removed from the National Register of Electors,” said Natasha Gauthier of Elections Canada in 2018.

“It is not illegal for a non-citizen to be on the register in error,” she continued. “It is an offence under the Canada Elections Act for a non-citizen to vote, or to apply to register to vote, knowing they are not qualified to do so,” said Gauthier.

In response to criticism over the possibility that non-Canadians were being registered to illegally vote, Elections Canada took to Twitter to clear up the misunderstanding.

The problem and subsequent concerns have persisted well into the current year, even though the election is only two weeks away.

“You must be a Canadian citizen in order to vote so the best thing to do to help Elections Canada improve the list and correct the mistakes is to either go to an Elections Canada office and say ‘will you please remove me from the list, I’m not a Canadian.’ or you can phone,” said Francoise Enguehard of Elections Canada. “We have a 1-800 number and you will help greatly in making the list better.”

According to True North News, new legislation permits non-Canadians to vote, though illegally, and they can bypass vetting processes “by providing a voter information card and bank statement or utility bill and student ID card or other combinations of paperwork that do not require photo verification.”

If a person does not unregister, votes, and are caught, they could face a fine of up to $5,000 and may have to serve jail time.

However, even if someone lacks these documents, they still may be able to vote if another person vouches for their identity as Canadian citizens.

The Post Millennial reached out to Elections Canada for comment and received a response.

According to Elections Canada, being on the National Register of Electors (NRoE) is “not a ticket to vote.” The list of people on the NRoE is aggregated from the Canada Revenue Agency, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC); provincial/territorial diver’s license bureaus’ provincial and territorial electoral management bodies; and when you register to vote or update your registration with Elections Canada.

When asked about the number of non-Canadians who are currently or were on the NRoE, Elections Canada’s Matthew McKenna wrote the following:

In April 2019, for the first time, IRCC was able to provide Elections Canada with information on permanent residents and foreign nationals.  Elections Canada was able to initially identify approximately 103,000 potential non-citizens in the Register. This number subsequently increased to 112,000 following further analysis. Based on revised data sent by IRCC, the number was revised again, to 85,000, from which, approximately 74 000 were removed. Others were confirmed to be Canadian citizens. Elections Canada is continuing to analyze the data and cross-reference it with other data, and in accordance with the Canada Elections Act, we are taking steps to verify the eligibility of these individuals and remove those who are not eligible to vote.  Matthew McKenna,  Media Relations and Issues Management for Elections Canada

The Post Millennial also asked about the possibility of non-Canadians illegally voting in the 2015 election, especially considering how many non-Canadians were only recently discovered on the NRoE.

They said that they only have “immediate access to information regarding only those electors who voted at advance polls, those who voted by special ballot, and those who registered to vote on polling day, which represents approximately 30 per cent of all votes cast.”

Having access to only 30 per cent of those votes is something that Elections Canada says they are taking “very seriously.”

As Elections Canada writes:

The importance of taking our time to do this was confirmed recently when it was determined that due to an IRCC system error, historical data was included in the information shared by IRCC with Elections Canada (see the note above about the initial number of 103,000 being ultimately revised to 85,000, of which we were able to remove 74,000). As a result, some eligible electors were mistakenly identified as potential non-citizens. This reinforces the need to analyze the data thoroughly, to cross-reference it with other data. A complete review of the voting records would require Elections Canada to open thousands of poll bags from the 2015 federal election, alone. This would be a massive undertaking that would jeopardize the conduct of the current federal election if it were to take place at this time. Matthew McKenna,  Media Relations and Issues Management for Elections Canada

This means that of those identified, only 11,000 were genuine Canadian citizens, while 74,000 had nearly managed to slip through vetting, and it is unclear how many may still be unidentified and trying to vote. Furthermore, it appears they are uncertain how many non-Canadians managed to bypass the vetting process during the 2015 election.

As the current election progresses, Elections Canada says that they are prioritizing “removing confirmed non-citizens from the Register now that we have the data and putting measures in place to detect and prevent non-citizens from voting in the 2019 federal election.”

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