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held that the right to effective representation superseded that of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:
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR SASKATCHEWAN
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
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.