Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers wants the provincial government to be more transparent about overriding Charter rights.
Des Rosiers, a legal scholar and co-editor of the 1,168-page Oxford Handbook of the Canadian Constitution, said Monday there must be greater scrutiny when governments decide to invoke the “notwithstanding clause.”
That’s why she is tabling private member’s legislation so Ontarians would be told when any government bills or regulations may violate their rights and freedoms.
It would also force the attorney general to table any legal arguments used to justify such a move.
Premier Doug Ford, elected in June, threatened to use the measure for the first time in Ontario history — to slash the size of Toronto city council — and has warned he “won’t be shy” about doing so again if courts try to thwart him.
“This is a government that may be willing, quite readily, to violate our Charter rights,” said Des Rosiers (Ottawa-Vanier).
“So this private member’s bill, if passed, would oblige the attorney general to inform the house — and to inform Ontarians — about what the possible violations would be of their rights,” she said, noting the Charter is essential in protecting the rights of all: “anyone who is a member of a religious minority, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Mennonite.”
“I think today we particularly are sensitive to the way in which we must protect the rights of religious minorities throughout the world.”
Hamilton lawyer Wade Poziomka, chair of the human rights section of the Ontario Bar Association, said Des Rosiers’ law could save taxpayers’ money.
“MPPs of every political stripe should support this bill,” said Poziomka.
“When we bring in bills that are unconstitutional and that violate the Charter, we’re inevitably going to find ourselves in litigation, which is lengthy and expensive, wasting taxpayers’ dollars and resources,” he said.
After Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba in August struck down Ford’s bill as unconstitutional shrinking the size of Toronto council from 47 members to 25, the premier threatened to use the “notwithstanding clause” to overrule the court.
The province successfully appealed the ruling at the Court of Appeal in September, and it did not need to invoke the clause.