TORONTO — Disenfranchised expat Canadians are organizing a “No Harper” concert in New York City to express their anger at losing the right to vote.
The aim, according to the self-described “fun-loving, recently disenfranchised, and now angry” Canadians, is to show people in Canada that they still care.
“Many people here don’t have a way to participate in shaping the democracy that we grew up believing in,” Marie-Marguerite Sabongui, one of the organizers, said from New York.
“Our constitutional rights are being violated.”
Sabongui, an activist who grew up in Montreal and moved to the U.S. in 2009 to pursue her graduate degree, said organizers hoped to attract at least 200-300 people to the $10-a-person event. Proceeds from the event are going to support a resource website.
The idea, the former Sauve scholar said, is to put on a fun evening with a serious message. The response has been “tremendous” so far, she said.
“There’s a lot of energy to be capitalized on and to mobilize here in New York and in the U.S. in general and for expats around the world,” Sabongui said.
The event — denim-on-denim is the expected dress — is slated to include musical performances by Canadian talent such as Rococode and Nancy Pants. It will also feature poutine, smoked meat, beaver tails and other northern fare.
Among other things, the anti-Conservative organizers argue that Prime Minister Stephen Harper pulled Canada out of the Kyoto climate change protocol, muzzled government scientists and passed Bill C-51 that expands powers for the country’s spy services without any further oversight.
“Many Canadians perceive these developments to have eroded the country’s values and integrity,” they say in a statement.
But they are especially incensed at the Conservative government’s determination to ensure that the approximately 1.4 million Canadians who have lived abroad for more than five years are barred from voting by mail — as they have traditionally been able to do for decades.
The government maintains that allowing them to vote would be unfair to Canadians who live in Canada because they are more directly affected by its laws.
Among those expected at the event is Gillian Frank, one of two expats who are taking their case against the voting ban to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The planned Brooklyn concert is just the latest expression of anger among expats at losing the right to vote.
One Canadian who lives in Seattle has registered as a protest candidate in Harper’s riding of Calgary Heritage — even though he cannot vote there.
Some expats are in fact flying back to their old ridings in Canada to get around the ban, which was formally put in place in 1993, but has only been enforced by the Conservatives. Others have started a Twitter campaign —hashtag #polltax — that draws attention to how much it would cost to fly from where they are to Canada to vote.
Still others are raising money to defray the costs of taking the voting ban to the Supreme Court — which has yet to decide if it will hear the case. Several Canadian chambers of commerce in Asia have also decried the ban.
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press