The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a monumental step in the right direction for Canada. Mostly.
What I speak of is Section 33 of the Charter, which is also known as the notwithstanding clause. What this Section states is that Parliament or provincial legislatures are allowed to override certain portions of the Charter. This brings up a few questions.
Why was this section added to the charter?
What portions were thought of when deciding on this clause?
How far could these governments take these thoughts?
What would happen in communities in the event of this clause coming into effect?
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was established in 1982 to replace the Canadian Bill of Rights which was enacted in 1960. The Charter was not agreed upon between several provinces, and therefore, the notwithstanding clause was created to alleviate the concerns. The concerns that some provinces had were that the Judicial Branch would have too much power over the actions that elected legislatures had to make. The decisions had to be reviewed in accordance to the Charter to make sure that it was being respected. From that, it meant that the Charter would become the supreme law, and no provincial governments had a say in what was deemed right. The Judiciary had the power to interpret the meaning of the rights and freedoms and how far they extend with certain circumstances.
When the Charter came into force in 1982, all Quebec statutes were repealed and then immediately re-enacted with the Section 33 override clause added.
The clause from Section 33 states,
“Parliament or the legislature of a province may expressly declare in an Act of Parliament or of the legislature, as the case may be, that the Act or a provision thereof shall operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or sections 7 to 15 of this Charter. “
Now, what this mumbo-jumbo means is that at any time, the federal or any provincial government can ignore whichever section(s) of the Charter that they choose with no (theoretically) price to pay from such actions. Rights and freedoms like Right to Vote, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Belief and Expression, and even Right to Life may be taken away. From what? Just because some provinces didn’t agree with the idea of the Judicial system deciding what happens in the country (which I don’t see much of a problem with personally. I mean, they are the courts and what they inflict is prescribed only from the law.), doesn’t mean that you should give them a “deal.” This is no trade. These are the Rights and Freedoms of Canadian citizens that matter a great deal, and should not be compromised.
These actions (if they even come into effect) may reach the very end if the government that ignores rights and freedoms wishes them to go that far. We say we have rights, but they all stand on one clause that can turn our whole democracy into a dictatorship in less than a week.
If a right like the Right to Vote disappeared, we can’t decide who runs our country a party like the Conservatives can extent their reign to whatever length they desire. If you take away a couple, then rules begin to bend and leave minds and an anarchy forms. If, for example, the Conservatives decide they don’t want to leave, elections can be taken away, and boom. Your voting rights are gone. If the conservatives are facing trouble and other parties like the Liberals are fighting, they can decide to wipe out the whole party and boom. Your Right to Life is gone. Even if for some strange reason a Member of Parliament decides they don’t want anybody in their province to be educated, they can stop funding and boom. Your Rights to an Education are gone.
Following through with these rash decisions brings up the consequences laid out and the destruction that is destined to arrive. If any of these scenarios were to take place, massive riots would form and try to fight back for their rights. In such events, revolutions would surface, and the maple syrup-loving country is no more.
Extreme measures will be put to action and Martial Law could come into effect. A case that could retain similar results is the G20 Protest in Toronto in 2010.
Now I’m sure that none of these spontaneous actions will occur any time soon, but the thought of our democracy being built on a dictatorship is frightening.