Out-of-province students face difficulities in voter registration

a/Montreal/News by

An unclear definition of requirements to vote in the upcoming Quebec election has led some students to be refused the right to vote on April 7.

According to the Quebec Election Act, a person has the right to vote if they are at least 18 years of age, are a Canadian citizen, and have been domiciled in Quebec for six months.

Dune Desormeaux, a U3 Engineering student from Vancouver, is one McGill student who has been told he does not have the right to vote due to the fact that he does not meet the domicile requirements.

“What it comes down to basically is the word ‘domiciled,’” Desormeaux said. “That is a term which means that you have an address in a place and you have an intention to make that place your permanent […] place of principal establishment.”

According to the Civil Code of Quebec, a domicile is a place that a person considers his or her personal dwelling, publicly acknowledges as his or her domicile, and gives as reference for the exercise of his or her civil rights.

In addition, in order to prove that an establishment in Quebec is your domicile, you must show intention of making it so.

“Intention is evidenced by material facts, such as concrete gestures and behaviours,” the code reads.

Desormaux argues that his intention to make Quebec his domicile should be clear—for example, he has worked in Quebec and his family owns land in Montreal.

“My father was born here, my last name is from family that’s been here for a really long time, and I [have spoken] fluent French […] for 14 years,” Desormaux said.

However, Quebec officials frequently question potential voters, most often out-of-province voters, in order to prove their intention.

Lou-Anne Daoust-Filiatrault, a McGill alumnus from Montreal who accompanied Desormeaux to the registration office, explained that while many students they spoke to from out-of-province were rejected, others with the same backgrounds were accepted.

“Some students are getting it, some students are not,” she said. “I’m sure the law isn’t being applied universally and it’s just completely up to interpretation.”

National media sources have reported that other students have also had difficulties, especially from universities with high out-of-province populations such as Concordia and McGill.

“I’m really disturbed by the way the process is set up—the idea that someone can deny you the right to vote without requesting any additional documentation or having an appeal process,” Sean Beatty, a McGill PhD candidate in virology and bioinformatics from British Columbia, told the CBC.

According to Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President External Samuel Harris, SSMU will be providing students with   information so that they are prepared when they go to the registration office.

“We are going to be sending out information [on how to vote] very soon,” Harris said. “We will be putting out other information on the listserv.”