Canadian Elections - The Five Year Rule

In May 2014, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that the five-year rule for Canadian electors living abroad was no longer valid. The rule had stipulated that Canadians living outside of Canada for more than five years consecutively were not eligible to vote in federal elections by special ballot.

Now, however, all Canadian citizens aged 18 or over and living abroad may register for the International Register of Electors to vote by a mail-in special ballot in federal elections, by elections, and referendums if they have previously resided in Canada.

In anticipation of the upcoming Canadian federal election currently scheduled for October of this year, I've sent off my registration form for the International Register. I also discovered during the 2010 UK general election that as a member of the Commonwealth I was eligible to register on the electoral roll here.

In a way, the ability to contribute in this way to both of the countries in my life is a quintessential reflection of my "expat-ness". Just because I'm not currently living in Canada, doesn't mean I don't still care deeply about the welfare of the country and the people I know living there. One day I may return permanently and I’d like to have a say in the future of the country. At the same time, it’s important to me to feel that I can have an impact on my present surroundings as well.

My residency does seem to be determined on a case-by-case basis. It depends entirely on circumstances and differing criteria whether I am considered to be in the category of "home" or "international" - from either "here"or "there" for the purposes of an individual situation. It's a constant straddling of borders!

Earlier this month, I participated in a scratch performance of new 10-minute plays. The premise of the evening was to bring together actors and writers to meet and rehearse for an hour before presenting staged readings for a public audience. The casting was done entirely by a short application from actors submitted beforehand, and no one knew in advance anything about the character they were to play. The casting ended up being uncannily well-suited to everyone involved.

Because I wasn't required to audition, it was both refreshing and a relief to have the judgement of accent removed entirely. I wasn't the only North American voice in the room, and it was lovely to be there purely for the experience of coming together in word, rather than being categorized or cast based on the fact that I pronounce my “r”s…! The general atmosphere of the evening was so wonderfully inclusive and open, especially because from the outset, it was clear that all were welcome whether from here or anywhere!