Elections Nunavut Struggling with Regulation of Internet Campaigning

With the territorial election tomorrow, Elections Nunavut has been in the news a couple of times recently as it struggles to deal with questions about the regulation of campaigning on the internet.

First, the CBC had an article about a purported effort by Elections Nunavut to prevent an individual in Alberta from expressing opinions or supporting Nunavut candidates using social media, on the grounds that she was living outside Nunavut. The apparent reason for this perplexing position was that under section 13.1 of the Nunavut Elections Act, individuals who are not resident in Nunavut are prohibited from campaigning in an election. However, there is a broad exception to this prohibition in section 13.1(2) to protect freedom of expression, which appears to have been overlooked in this case.

Second, the CBC reported that Elections Nunavut told candidates to remove election material from their websites or Facebook pages by late Saturday night. This position comes from section 255(1) of the Act, which prohibits broadcasting a speech or any entertainment or advertising program on election day or on the day immediately before election day, as campaign material. This is a different approach taken than in other jurisdictions with prohibitions on election advertising on election day and the day prior; other jurisdictions simply prohibit the posting of new material on social media and websites, instead of the removal of all previously published material.

These two issues are interesting real life examples of how election legislation attempts to regulate political expression, and the difficulties and awkwardness faced by election authorities when it comes to interpreting and applying these rules in the face of now well-established communications methods.

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