Invoking of Notwithstanding Clause in Ontario a Threat to Rights: WSO

Toronto (June 9, 2021):  The World Sikh Organization of Canada is deeply concerned by the Ontario government’s invoking of the notwithstanding to protect the Election Finances Act which was struck down by the Ontario Superior Court on Tuesday.  The Act would have limited third-party spending outside an election year but was found to infringe on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and struck down by the Court.   

Ontario's Government House Leader, Paul Calandra, has confirmed that the Ontario legislature will be recalled today and the notwithstanding clause will be invoked to protect the provisions of the Act found to be in violation of the Charter. 

The notwithstanding clause, found in section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms, allows governments to override Charter rights in section 2 or sections 7 through 15 for a period of five years, unless renewed.  While the notwithstanding clause has been used before in Quebec and Saskatchewan, this is the first time it will be invoked in Ontario.  The Ontario government had previously threatened to use section 33 in 2018 to overturn a court ruling against the decision to reduce the size of Toronto city council but instead decided to appeal the ruling. 

WSO President Tejinder Singh Sidhu said, “we are very concerned by the invoking of the notwithstanding clause by the Ontario government.  The growing use of the notwithstanding clause is a threat to our rights and freedoms as Canadians but an even greater threat to minority groups in Canada. Charter rights are fundamental to our free and democratic society and also ensure that minorities are protected.  The Sikh community and many other minority groups in Canada rely on the protections of the Charter to exercise their right to freely practice and express their beliefs. The Quebec government has insulated its deeply discriminatory Bill 21 with the notwithstanding clause and we are concerned that if the use of the clause becomes more common, other discriminatory and inequitable laws may also be insulated from Charter scrutiny in the future. 

If the Ontario government disagrees with the Ontario Superior Court’s decision to strike provisions in the Election Finances Act, the right solution is to appeal the decision and not to circumvent the protections of the Charter by invoking the notwithstanding clause.”

The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights of all individuals.

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