September 15, 2018 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Ottawa: The World Sikh Organization of Canada is concerned by the invoking of the notwithstanding clause by the Ontario government to uphold Bill 31, The Efficient Local Government Act.
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 has been invoked in Ontario.
WSO Executive Director, Jaskaran Singh Sandhu said, “we are deeply concerned by the invoking of the notwithstanding clause by the Ontario government. This is the first time the notwithstanding clause has been used in Ontario’s history. Charter rights are fundamental to our free and democratic society and also ensure that minorities are protected. Overriding Charter protections through the notwithstanding clause is an extreme measure that must never be taken lightly. The Sikh community and many other minority groups in Canada have relied on the protections of the Charter to exercise their right to freely practice and express their beliefs. Confidence and faith in the judiciary is also paramount to our democracy. While the Ontario government may disagree with the Court on the striking down of Bill 31, the solution should be to appeal the decision and not to circumvent the protection of rights through the invoking of the notwithstanding clause.”