Canada election clash with Shemini Atzeret causes anger in Jewish community
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Canada election clash with Shemini Atzeret causes anger in Jewish community

Representatives from B’nai B’rith in the country hit out at chief electoral officer who refused to change federal vote date

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Congregation Emmanu-El Synagogue (1863) in Victoria, British Columbia, the oldest Synagogue in Canada still in use, and the oldest on the West Coast of North America. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Credit: Michal Klajban (Hikinisgood.com)
Congregation Emmanu-El Synagogue (1863) in Victoria, British Columbia, the oldest Synagogue in Canada still in use, and the oldest on the West Coast of North America. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Credit: Michal Klajban (Hikinisgood.com)

 An angry B’nai B’rith Canada has slammed the country’s chief electoral officer, Stéphane Perrault, who has refused to change the federal election date this year, which falls on Shemini Atzeret, the last festival of the month of High Holy Days.

Last week a federal court ordered the Elections Canada chief to reconsider changing the date of the election from October 21 to October 28. He had been taken to court by an observant Jewish candidate, Chani Aryeh-Bain, who is the Conservative Party candidate for the Eglinton-Lawrence area in Toronto.

But although Mr Perrault said he recognised that keeping October 21 as election day would make life difficult for observant Jews, it was still possible for them to vote in an alternative way, and that it was “not in the public interest” to change the date.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said that “CIJA respects the decision taken by the Chief Electoral Officer. We will continue working closely with Elections Canada to maximise opportunities for the Jewish community to participate in the democratic process.”

But B’nai Brith Canada’s CEO Michael Mostyn said that the fact that Jewish candidates would not be able to compete equally with non-Jewish candidates was a “red line”. In a statement, he said that Mr Perrault had admitted “that observant Jewish candidates like Chani Aryeh-Bain in Eglinton-Lawrence and David Tordjman in Mount Royal would not be able to ‘compete on equal terms with non-observant candidates”.

He added: “Last year, when the Quebec election fell on Shemini Atzeret and Élections Québec made similar accommodations [for people to vote early or by postal ballot], voter turnout in the most heavily Jewish area still fell from 72 per cent to 47 per cent. We fear that this scenario may repeat itself this year.”

 

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