Letters to the Editor: October 2008

To the Editor,

I hope you don’t mind me sharing the good news:  I flew Niki this morning from Frankfurt to Vienna and when entering the plane I noticed several, many (!) people reading The Vienna Review. They were concentrated and reading with interest, which is no wonder, the quality of The Vienna Review is professional, yet you still have an edge and fresh, genuine approach. On the aisle I encountered an air hostess carrying pile of newspapers with The Vienna Review on top, and I got the last copy! At the end of the flight, for example, a fellow sitting in front of me had separated the sections and took part of The VR with him. Actually, I would say many took it with them, walking out I did not see many papers left behind on the seats.

This morning’s experience made me very proud.

Reya Hildebrand

Director of Admissions

Webster University Vienna

The following is an open letter to the Canadian Ambassador and PM Stephan Harper

To the Editor,

I have been silenced. I am a Canadian citizen, yet my right to vote at this October’s General Election has been stripped from me.

Having committed the grave sin of residing in Vienna, Austria, for the last five years, Elections Canada has informed me that my right to vote, as guaranteed under Section Three of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is void.

This decision, based on Paragraph 222 of the Canada Elections Act (2000), is not only a violation of my rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is flagrantly antidemocratic.  Why, you may ask, should someone living abroad (and therefore not paying income taxes in Canada) be allowed to vote?  Because our right to vote is not based on taxation but citizenship.  We do not strip the vote from any citizen residing in Canada whose income level does not require them to pay income taxes.  We no longer strip the voting right from criminals, who won their right to vote (Sauvé v. Canada 2002) by challenging the very Elections Act, which prevents me from voting.  We do not strip the vote from any citizen residing abroad for four years and 364 days.  It is that extra day, and every day after that, which somehow means I am less Canadian, more irrelevant, and forever a pseudo-citizen.

Why, you may ask, should someone living abroad and not a member of our immediate community be allowed to vote?  Because our right to vote is not based on direct community participation but citizenship.  Because residing abroad does not equate to an abandonment of being Canadian.  Canada is my place of birth and is forever my home no matter where I live.  My small child is Canadian, and Canada may very well become his home as well.  I should have as much a say in how that Canada will look as any other Canadian.

Yet I have lost something more than my right to vote in this coming election.  I have lost my trust in my democracy.  The right to vote, as enshrined in our Charter, is clear.  The actions of our elected officials, by manipulating and altering these rights, are dangerous, and taking away the right to vote is the most dangerous of all.

James Watson



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