The Croatian Embassy in Canada this weekend informed Croatian citizens in Canada that they would not be able to vote in the upcoming Croatian parliamentary elections on July 4 and 5.
The Embassy said that because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Canadian government could not give permission to open polling stations at the Croatian Embassy in Ottawa or the Consulate General in Mississauga, outside Toronto.
The decision has angered some members of the local Croatian community and Crodiaspora has penned an open letter to the Croatian community in Canada. The letter is in full below.
The period before an election is a time to reflect on all that we have accomplished as a nation, while at the same time deciding the political discourse to honour those accomplishments and to continue the legacy of our forefathers. As we reflect on what our country has accomplished, we cannot forget those who fought for those rights and advocated for the recognition of our country.
This group of Croatians adopted a new country and continue to contribute to their new home, while at the same time give to their Motherland. Croatia is fortunate to have so many people that give their unconditional love despite their needs, their ideas, their knowledge, and their capabilities often being unrecognized.
The diaspora is Croatia’s unsung hero. Their legacy built our homeland. Unfortunately, for this upcoming election, their rights are being diminished due to the Coronavirus. However, it is not the Coronavirus that ultimately failed them, but instead, we failed to digitize and implement modern ways to vote.
Canada is a perfect example of the necessity of Electronic and Mail-in voting.
There is a geographic barrier as many Croatians in Western Canada are not within 4,000 Kilometers of a polling station.
This leads to an economic barrier as flying within Canada can be as expensive as flying to Europe.
Out of the over 7,000 registered voters, barely 10% of them vote in Croatian elections.
In the short term, these issues cannot be fixed, in the long term, there is hope. However, one thing is for sure: our fight as diaspora is not over.
If you are a Croatian Canadian, you have the right to contact your local MPs. The power of the pen (or keyboard) is more powerful than any sword. People can assemble to protest in the hundred of thousands, but why can we not vote due to social distancing? Is there no way that we can compromise and find an appropriate way to cast our vote? These questions need to be posed and you need to demand your democratic right as a citizen of both countries.
Contact your local MP and demand your fundamental right as a Croatian Citizen to vote. Croatian Canadians and all Croatians in the diaspora are paramount to Croatia’s democracy. To find out who your local MP is, click here.
Some other people you should include in your emails are:
Bob Bratina, MP Hamilton East- Stoney Creek (Croatian Canadian)
Peter Fonseca, MP for Mississauga East- Cooksville (MP where the Croatian consulate is located)
Francois Phillipe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mona Fortier, Member of Parliament Ottawa Vanier (MP where the Croatian Embassy is located)
Leona Alleslev, Deputy Leader and Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Conservative Party of Canada