Canada and France in dispute over French elections in Canada

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy bows in front of veterans and the French flag as he attends the traditional …Julien Balkany is an American resident campaigning in Canada for a seat in France's national assembly.

Now, doesn't that sound strange?

Like other countries attempting to re-engage expatriates, France will allow about two million of its citizens who live in other countries to vote in the June election. But, to the chagrin of Canadian officials,  France is doing things a little differently.

According to a story in the National Post, France has carved the world into 11 electoral districts. One seat up for grabs is "North America," which includes Canada and the United States, home to about 200,000 French nationals. So, in essence, Balkany is running to represent "North America" in France's national assembly.

According to the Post, however,  the Canadian government is trying to put a stop to the French vote. Last fall, the Foreign Affairs department sent around Circular Note No. XDC-1264 to heads of diplomatic missions in Canada, about Canada's laws regarding foreign elections.

"The department continues to encourage foreign states to allow citizens residing permanently or temporarily in Canada to exercise their right to vote in their country of origin's elections or referenda, namely via absentee ballot," the circular states.

"It must be emphasized that, as a matter of policy, the Government of Canada will continue to refuse requests by foreign states to include Canada in their respective extraterritorial electoral constituencies. Also, the department will not allow foreign governments to conduct election campaigns in Canada or establish foreign political parties and movements in Canada."

Moreover, last week, Foreign Affairs "summoned" the French ambassador, Philippe Zeller, for an official dressing down.

"No authorization has been given to France to permit it to include Canada in an extraterritorial electoral district," Joseph Lavoie, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, told the Post.

"We summoned the ambassador to tell him of our disappointment with the French government's decision to ignore this Canadian policy, aimed at upholding Canadian sovereignty and reducing foreign interference in Canadian domestic affairs."

But, it seems,  France has no intention of backing down.

The National Post notes that France responded this month by saying it would go ahead with the election. It plans to place ballot boxes in its embassy and French consulates in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Moncton, which, technically, are sovereign territory of France.

As for candidate Balkany: he continues to campaign and will be in Vancouver next Tuesday.

"My decision to run for the French parliamentary election reflects my willingness and eagerness to meet the expectations and needs of the French people residing in North America," he notes on his website.

"The French expatriates living in the U.S. and Canada are an extremely valuable aspect of France's ongoing influence and competitiveness in a globalized economy, as well as tremendous ambassadors of the French culture."

Elections will take place on June 2.

(Reuters Photo)