Conservative candidate Chani Aryeh-Bain, left, and Ira Walfish at Federal Court in Toronto on July 16. (Ron Csillag/The CJN)
Canada’s chief electoral officer will not recommend that the date of the next federal election be changed, despite pressure to do so because it clashes with the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret.
On July 23, the Federal Court of Canada ordered Stéphane Perrault to review his earlier refusal to move the date of the election – Oct. 21 – after he was lobbied by observant Jews who pointed out they cannot drive, campaign or vote that day.
Lawyers for Chani Aryeh-Bain, the Conservative candidate in the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, and Ira Walfish, an activist and voter who lives in York Centre riding, had argued that Perrault’s refusal to move the date to Oct. 28 was unreasonable and that, as observant Jews, their rights, and those of 75,000 Orthodox Jews in Canada, were diminished.
But in a statement on July 29, Perrault said, “Having carefully considered the impact of holding the election on Oct. 21 on the ability of observant Jews to participate in the electoral process, and having balanced that with my mandate to ensure accessible voting opportunities for all Canadians, I conclude that it would not be advisable to change the date of the election at this late stage.”
Perrault said this was “not a decision that I make lightly, but with a view to providing the broadest possible range of accessible voting services to the population at large.”
He said he is “committed to continuing to work with the Jewish community to maximize voting options within the existing calendar in ways that are convenient and consistent with their religious beliefs.”
READ: FEDERAL COURT HEARS CHALLENGE TO FEDERAL ELECTION DATE
In a written statement to The CJN, Aryeh-Bain said she was “extremely disappointed” with Perrault’s decision.
“We do not believe he balanced the democratic and religious rights of Jewish voters and candidates,” she noted. “He has 85 days to prepare for this election – almost triple the amount of time than he has to prepare for a snap election. Why Perrault has dug his heels in is mystifying to me.”
The CJN will update this story.