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Notwithstanding and Equality and Accessibility

Should we be concerned about our rights, if the Government threatens to use the “notwithstanding clause” to pass laws that break our Rights and Freedoms? Does the change from 47 to 25 wards in the City of Toronto matter to survivors? Most of us are used to being ignored so the number of people doing it does not matter.

But. Stay with me. It might matter for survivors and minorities.

Happening now: Protesters handcuffed, asked to leave gallery during Question Period. Star photographer is taking photos of the scene as it unfolds at Queen’s Park. Follow and for updates:Two guards in the viewing gallery at Ontario legislature stand next to an older protesting woman before she is removed by force.

//youtu.be/RfvUDUQc7aI

 

What happened in the Toronto-Ontario-election standoff:

  • Toronto planned to have an election with 47 wards each represented by a councillor and 1 mayor.
  • The Ontario Government passed Bill 5 to reduce the number of wards/councillors to 25 on August 14 ….“to provide a more efficient council”…
  • Judge said that Bill 5 violated the  Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It “infringed” or prevented the free speech of voters and candidates to run for city council (Charter section 2(b) about Free Speech).
  • The Ontario Government appealed that decision to the Court of Appeal and it brought forward a “new” Bill 31 to engage the “notwithstanding clause” of the Charter (s. 31)
    • “Notwithstanding” = means that the government could pass a law that broke the constitution and  judges could not stop them.
    • This has never happened in Ontario and has rarely been used outside of Quebec.
  • We are back to 25 wards because the the Court of Appeal  gave a stay which means that Bill 5 continues to be the law.

So this is lots of legal discussion, but the real issue is how the government can do without the courts stopping them.

What would stop the government from taking away equality rights of people with disabilities if they are willing to take away free speech rights?

If the government could save money by not providing services or if it could win popular support by demonizing a minority, will judges be able to stop them?

Normally, judges would use the Charter to determine whether the action was unconstitutional. If it was unconstitutional the government would change the law. This did not mean that the courts could dictate details or policy or practical elements of laws. The notwithstanding clause was imagined to be used in extreme urgent situations (war, disaster) rather than in the midst of elections.

But if the government can put aside the Charter (and does it) then what can the courts and minorities and unpopular groups do to protect their equality rights?

  • Check out the protesting NDP being removed from the legislature: youtu.be/RfvUDUQc7aI

Opinions of other Premiers and Leaders about the notwithstanding clause youtu.be/vBzy57YuC2c

 

 

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