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Federal Court finds election fraud in robocalls case

May 24, 2013

The Federal Court has dismissed the “robocalls” applications brought by individuals in several ridings across the country who were the subject of voter suppression efforts in the last federal election,

However, the Court found that there was “a concerted campaign by persons who had access to a database of voter information maintained by a political party” to attempt to dissuade voters from casting ballots for their preferred candidates. That campaign involved telephone calls falsely claiming to be from Elections Canada in which voters were told that the locations of polling stations in their districts had been moved.

However, the Court also held that the evidence did not establish that the fraud affected the outcomes in the subject ridings. Therefore, it declined to overturn the election results in those ridings.

While certain conservative pundits are claiming that the Court’s decision has “cleared” or “vindicated” the Conservative Party of Canada, that is a bit of an overstatement. What the Court said was:

I make no finding that the CPC, any CPC candidates, or RMG and RackNine Inc., were directly involved in the campaign to mislead voters. To require the applicants to identify the perpetrators of the misleading calls would impose an impossibly high standard of proof. I am satisfied, however, that the most likely source of the information used to make the misleading calls was the CIMS database maintained and controlled by the CPC, accessed for that purpose by a person or persons currently unknown to this Court. There is no evidence to indicate that the use of the CIMS database in this manner was approved or condoned by the CPC. Rather the evidence points to elaborate efforts to conceal the identity of those accessing the database and arranging for the calls to be made. [emphasis added]

While there was no evidence that this use of the CIMS database was approved by the CPC itself, the evidence also showed that very few people had access to the database, and the Respondent MPs did not offer any evidence to assist the Court on the issue. The evidence before the Court, which it accepted, was:

Access to a party’s central database is carefully controlled. The calls at issue in these proceedings are most likely to have been organized by a person or persons with: i) access to the central information system of a political party that included contact information about non-supporters; ii) the financial resources to contract voice and automated service providers to make such calls; and iii) the authority to make such decisions.

The Court had a lot of other interesting things to say, both about the voter suppression efforts and the way the CPC MPs conducted their case.  Click here to read more.


Steven Shrybman

Practice Areas

Public Interest Litigation