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Students file injunction in bid to get on Quebec voters’ list

A woman casts her ballot at an advance polling station in the town of Hudson, Que., Monday, March 31, 2014. Quebecers will vote in a provincial election on April 7.

Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The students brought everything from leases and pay stubs to tax records and utility bills to prove they lived in Quebec and had the right to vote in Monday's election. When that failed, they turned to the courts.

In a sign of the feverish atmosphere leading up to next week's provincial vote, five McGill University students have hired a high-profile human-rights lawyer and filed an emergency court injunction in a bid to get on the Quebec voters' list.

All five – including one who is running for the Green Party on Monday – are originally from out of province but say they are "domiciled" in Quebec, a key criteria interpreted by election officials to being eligible to vote. In an injunction filed in Quebec Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon, the five say their requests were turned down by election officials in "arbitrary decisions" that violate their fundamental rights.

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The students, represented by constitutional lawyer Julius Grey, have lived in Quebec beyond the six-month minimum required by law and say they intend to stay for at least three years. All made sworn affidavits.

One of them, Simren Sandhu, says he was refused after only showing the revisions officer his lease; the official declined to look at all the other documents he brought in, according to the court filing. Officials told Mr. Sandhu, who is originally from British Columbia, that they couldn't establish his intention to stay in Quebec even though he said he was in the process of incorporating a business in Montreal.

Another student, James Hallifax, was refused after being told his "roots were too strong" in Ontario, according to the filing.

The students' court offensive coincides with reports of out-of-province students facing obstacles in getting registered ahead of the deadline Thursday afternoon.

The McGill student union says it received numerous complaints from students who claim they were turned away by elections officials despite providing proof of domicile. The rejections have been frustrating because students have been galvanized by the high-stakes election, particularly on the issue of the Quebec secular charter, said Samuel Harris of the McGill Student Society.

"They feel the charter is so outrageous that they really feel the need to register so they can vote and be heard. A lot of people are disgusted," Mr. Harris said. "Some are also worried about the spectre of a referendum."

The Quebec director of elections was unable to provide figures on voter-list rejections. It says it is compiling statistics, but they won't be available until the revision period is over.

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One of the five plaintiffs in the court injunction might face the unusual situation of being unable to vote in an election in which he is a candidate. Brendan Edge is a registered candidate for the Green Party in the Laval riding of Chomedey.

Mr. Edge was able to register as a candidate because rules stipulate that candidates for office in Quebec must only present their candidacy papers and swear an oath that they are eligible voters; unlike voters, they don't have to provide proof.

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About the Author

Ingrid Peritz has been a Montreal-based correspondent for The Globe and Mail since 1998. Her reporting on the plight of Canadians suffering from the damaging effects of the drug thalidomide helped victims obtain federal compensation and earned The Globe and Mail a National Newspaper Award, Canadian Journalism Foundation award, and the Michener Award for public service. More

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