Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria, British ColumbiaiStock

A Canadian Jewish advocacy organization has called on the province of British Columbia to discontinue holding provincial and municipal elections on Saturdays.

B’nai Brith Canada urged the province to change the day of its elections to accommodate all religious groups.

A longstanding law in British Columbia established by Elections BC requires the province to hold elections every four years on the first Saturday in October.

“British Columbia is the only province that holds its elections on Shabbat impacting observant Jews as well as members of some Christian denominations, such as Seventh Day Adventists,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said.

”Ontario holds its municipal elections on Mondays and provincial elections on Thursdays. Quebec voters choose their provincial representatives on Mondays and their mayors and councillors on Sundays.”

B’nai Brith sent a letter to British Columbia’s Minister of Municipal Affairs, Nathan Cullen, explaining that Saturday elections “provide no evident benefit but do prevent some Jews from voting on Election Day.”

“In the recent municipal elections, we wrote to the major municipalities across British Columbia and were assured that they provided alternative advance voting days and in some cases mail-in voting,” B’nai Brith League for Human Rights National Director Marvin Rotrand said.

“However, in all cases, observant Jews have fewer voting opportunities than the general public and some municipalities selected Saturdays for early voting,” Rotrand added.

B’nai Brith noted that the Jewish population continues to increase in British Columbia, making the issue of Saturday voting in urgent need of a solution.

“B’nai Brith urges quick action before the next election. B’nai Brith reminded Minister Cullen that his province has an obligation to remove barriers that make it more difficult for any citizen to vote,” the organization said.