Enforcing the Canada Elections Act

The Commissioner of Canada Elections

The Commissioner of Canada Elections is the independent officer whose duty is to ensure that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced.

The current Commissioner, Caroline J. Simard, began her tenure on August 15, 2022.


The Election Expenses Act of 1974, a series of amendments to the Canada Elections Act, created the position of Commissioner of Election Expenses, whose responsibilities were restricted to ensuring that the election expenses provisions of the Act were complied with and enforced.

In 1977, the Commissioner's responsibilities were extended to cover all provisions of the Canada Elections Act.

In 1992, the Commissioner also became responsible for ensuring compliance with and enforcement of the Referendum Act.

Role of the Commissioner

Generally speaking, the Commissioner's role involves taking corrective action when a provision of the Canada Elections Act or the Referendum Act (“acts”) is breached.

Complaints or allegations of wrongdoing related to a federal general election, by-election or referendum that constitute a contravention of these acts should be referred to the Commissioner. Each complaint is reviewed to determine whether there is a basis for the allegation.

If the complaint falls within the Commissioner’s mandate, an investigation may be carried out. Generally speaking, however, the Commissioner does not publicly disclose the decision to proceed, or not, with an investigation.

At the end of an investigation, if the Commissioner determines that a contravention of a provision of these acts has been committed, he will select the most appropriate compliance or enforcement tool from a number of possible measures. A complete list of the Commissioner’s formal and informal means of ensuring compliance with, and enforcement of, the Act, can be found in the Compliance and Enforcement Policy of the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

Further, if the Commissioner believes on reasonable grounds that an offence under the Act has been committed, he may lay charges. After the Commissioner lays charges, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is responsible for the prosecution on behalf of the Crown.

A complete list of offences can be found in sections 480 to 499 of the Canada Elections Act. Offences under the Referendum Act can be found at sections 34 to 38 of that Act.

How to make a complaint

Some of the most frequently complained about topics can be found on the When Should I Complain? page. This information may assist you in determining whether your complaint falls within the Commissioner’s mandate.

If you wish to make a complaint about wrongdoing related to a federal general election, by-election or referendum, you are encouraged to contact the Commissioner of Canada Elections either:

To make a complaint about the conduct of an election officer that does not constitute a contravention under these acts, please contact the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer (Elections Canada).

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