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The Supreme Court of Canada, in The Attorney General for Saskatchewan v. Roger Carter, Q.C. held that the right to effective representation superseded that of representation by population. Enclosed are specific highlights:


EXCEPTS FROM
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR SASKATCHEWAN
V.
ROGER CARTER, Q.C.

(The following excerpts from this 1998 decision establish the right to effective representation.)

The Court held that:

The content of the Charter right to vote is to be determined in a broad and purposive way, having regard to historical and social context. The broader philosophy underlying the historical development of the right to vote must be sought and practical considerations, such as social and physical geography, must be borne in mind. The Court, most importantly, must be guided by the ideal of a "free and democratic society" upon which the Charter is founded. The purpose of the right to vote enshrined in s. 3 of the Charter is not equality of voting power per se but the right to "effective representation". The right to vote therefore comprises many factors, of which equity is but one. The section does not guarantee equality of voting power.

Relative parity of voting power is a prime condition of effective representation. Deviations from absolute voter parity, however, may be justified on the grounds of practical impossibility or the provision of more effective representation. Factors like geography, community history, community interests and minority representation may need to be taken into account to ensure that our legislative assemblies effectively represent the diversity of our social mosaic. Beyond this, dilution of one citizen's vote as compared with another's should not be countenanced.

The history or philosophy of Canadian democracy does not suggest that the framers of the Charter in enacting s. 3 had the attainment of voter parity as their ultimate goal. Their goal, rather, was to recognize the right long affirmed in this country to effective representation in a system which gives due weight to voter equity but admits other considerations where necessary. Effective representation and good government in this country compel that factors other than voter parity, such as geography and community interests, be taken into account in setting electoral boundaries. Departures from the Canadian ideal of effective representation, where they exist, will be found to violate s. 3 of the Charter.


 

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