(July 30, 2019 / JNS) Despite falling out on the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret, which follows Sukkot, Canada’s chief electoral officer Stéphane Perrault said on Monday that the national election should occur on Oct. 21 as scheduled, following an order by a federal court last week to review the case.
“There is no such thing as a perfect election day, especially in a country as diverse as Canada,” he wrote in his decision. “There are always Canadians who are unable to vote on election day.”
“I conclude that it would not be advisable to change the date of the election at this late stage. … This is a difficult situation that directly touches upon the very core values of our democracy,” he stated.
Perrault pledged a commitment to “maximize voting options” for the Jewish community.
Like many Jewish holidays, observers are prohibited from writing, driving, using electricity and working.
“Observant Jews are still going to be able to cast their ballots, as there are four days of advanced polls, although not so easily, since one of them falls on a Friday, a second on a Saturday, the third on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and the fourth on the first day of Sukkot itself. Special ballots generally used by armed forces abroad and prison inmates are also available to religious Jews,” per The Jerusalem Post.
According to Global News, “By law, eligible voters are required to have three consecutive hours to vote on election day. If a person’s work hours do not allow for such a time period, employers are legally obligated to give voters time off work in order to cast their ballot, however this does not apply to advance polling dates.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Monday that he would follow the advice of Perrault.
B’nai Brith Canada condemned Perrault’s recommendation, while the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said it “respects” the outcome.
“The Chief Electoral Officer admits that observant Jewish candidates like Chani Aryeh-Bain and David Tordjman in Mount Royal will not be able to ‘compete on equal terms with non-observant candidates,’ ” said B’nai Brith Canada in a statement. “And for us at B’nai Brith, that’s a red line.”
“While mindful of the inconvenience that some will experience and the clear disadvantages faced by a religiously observant candidate, we trust that those challenges can and will be mitigated by the measures put into place by Elections Canada,” said CIJA president and CEO Shimon Fogel in a statement. “Our focus after the election will be to change the fixed election date so it will not coincide with Jewish Holidays in the future. We have already raised this objective with Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, who has expressed openness to it.”