Canada's Original Think Tank

Committee of the Whole respecting the subject matter of Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments

Committee of the Whole respecting the subject matter of Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments

Committee of the Whole respecting the subject matter of Bill C-76, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make certain consequential amendments

Senator Lillian Eva Dyck: My question is probably for Mr. Perrault, and it has to do with voting on First Nation reserves.

Bill C-76 reinstates the voter information card and the system of vouching. I want to know whether or not this will remove the barriers for First Nation members living on reserves to vote. One of the biggest barriers is the fact that on many if not most reserves there are no street addresses.

For example, I’m a member of the George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan. I don’t live on the reserve. But if I did live on the reserve, my address would be a post office box number in Punnichy, Saskatchewan, which is close to the Gordon reserve. So I don’t have a street address.

Let’s say I do get a voter information card. Presumably that also does not have a street address because I don’t have a street address. So I need another piece of identification. What other piece of identification will work? Does that have to have a street address? In answer to Senator Dagenais, you said it doesn’t necessarily have to have a photo, but at one point I believe you said the second piece of identification should be able to verify your address.

Stéphane Perrault, Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Elections Canada: Yes. This is a complex issue. It conflates two different problems, but there is an answer. I’ll try not to be technical.

When the requirement to prove address at the polls to vote was enacted in 2007, it was quickly realized that Indigenous communities and reserves are a problem. Over 1 million Canadians do not have a civic address or do not have documents that use civic addresses. So that was quickly realized.

The bill was then introduced to say that for those electors for whom we’ve already located in a polling division, through targeted revision, through historic voting, if you have a piece of documentation that has address information, be it postal or civic, that matches what we have in the register and on the list of electors, then you are entitled to vote.

The additional difficulty is that many people, including people on reserve, do not even have that additional piece of documentation. If they don’t have that, they now must rely on a band leader. So they’re dependent on somebody else to write a letter of attestation. That’s this element. It’s not only an obstacle to voting, but for me, it’s an obstacle to voting with dignity and independently. The voter information card will resolve that issue.

If we have you in the register, we have you within a polling location. We have geo-located you. We will send you a VIC at your postal information. That VIC, based on the combination of this bill and prior legislation, will suffice to allow a voter in your situation to vote with another piece of ID.

Senator Dyck: You said you will send them a VIC?

Mr. Perrault: I’m sorry, that is terminology I should not use. It’s the voter information card. My apologies.

Senator Dyck: So we don’t need a street address. You will get this card in the mail.

My second question is this: I just found out by calling some of my relatives on the reserve that the Saskatchewan driver’s licence now will list your address as, say, house number 100, George Gordon Reserve. Would that be acceptable as an address?

Mr. Perrault: It would. That is acceptable. It allows us to locate you within a geo-location and a polling division. That is not a problem. If you have a driver’s licence, then that would work.