Freedom? To an Extent…

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?

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 1982. April 16, 2012. Online Image. Downloaded on 4/12/15
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 1982. April 16, 2012. Online Image. Downloaded on 4/12/15

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.[1] 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.

Gavel. September 19, 2011. Online Image. Downloaded on 4/12/15
Gavel. September 19, 2011. Online Image. Downloaded on 4/12/15

When the Charter came into force in 1982, all Quebec statutes were repealed and then immediately re-enacted with the Section 33 override clause added.[2]

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. “[3]

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.

 

[1]Mapleleafweb.com,. ‘The Notwithstanding Clause: Section 33 Of The Charter | Mapleleafweb.Com’. N.p., 2015. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

[2]Chrc-ccdp.ca,. N.p., 2015. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

[3]Mapleleafweb.com,. ‘The Notwithstanding Clause: Section 33 Of The Charter | Mapleleafweb.Com’. N.p., 2015. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

[4]http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canadian-bill-of-rights/

[5]http://www.cbc.ca/news2/background/cdngovernment/notwithstanding.html

13 thoughts on “Freedom? To an Extent…

  1. This was a really interesting post! I had no idea about this! You expressed your ideas clearly, and stayed on topic thorough-out. This post sheds light on an important issue that impacts our society, and our nation of Canada today. It would strengthen your blog if you included specific examples of when the notwithstanding clause was used and how it impacted specific case(s).
    Moreover, the G20 crisis in Toronto was horrible. I remember watching the documentary, “You Should Have Stayed At Home.” The police were very brutal, and many were imprisoned for speaking up and protesting.
    Finally, I would have included a conclusion at the end, This is because the blog is ended with the G20 protest video which isn’t the main topic of the blog.

  2. This was a really interesting post! I had no idea about this! You expressed your ideas clearly, and stayed and topic thorough-out. This post sheds light on an important issue that impacts our society, and our nation of Canada today. It would strengthen your blog if you included specific examples of when the notwithstanding clause was used and how it impacted specific case(s).
    Moreover, the G20 crisis in Toronto was horrible. I remember watching the documentary, “You Should Have Stayed At Home.” The police were very brutal, and many were imprisoned for speaking up and protesting.
    Finally, I would have included a conclusion at the end, This is because the blog is ended with the G20 protest video which isn’t the main topic of the blog.

  3. I’m sorry Liam, but you seem mistaken. Section 33 does not apply to the majority of rights and freedoms in the charter. It does not apply to

    Fundamental freedoms (Section 2 of the Charter) such as freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression (including media); freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association.

    Legal rights (Sections 7-14 of the Charter) such as the right to life, liberty and security of the persons and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice; the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure; the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned; the right to not to be subject to any cruel or unusual punishment, rights against self-crimination; and so forth.

    Equality rights (Section 15 of the Charter) such as the right to be equal before and under the law and the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.
    View the Full Text of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
    The Notwithstanding clause cannot be used for the remaining Charter provisions, including:

    Democratic rights (Sections 3-5 of the Charter) such as the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein; the requirement that no House of Commons and no legislative assembly shall continue for longer than five years from the date fixed for the return of the writs of a general election of its members; and the requirement that there shall be a sitting of Parliament and of each legislature at least once every 12 months.

    Mobility rights (Section 6 of the Charter) such as the right of every citizen to enter, remain in and leave Canada, and the right of every permanent resident to move and take up residence in any province and pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.

    Language rights (Sections16-22 of the Charter) such as the requirement that English and French are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and government of Canada, and the right of a member of the public to communicate with and receive services from federal government institutions or agencies in either English or French.

    Minority language education rights (Section 23 of the Charter), the right of a citizen to have their children receive primary or secondary education in either English or French.

    section 33 is very complex, but in general it does not have the power to remove rights like you claim. The Clause only permits legislatures to protect themselves from judicial review in the context of certain Charter rights and freedoms.

  4. I really like your blog post it’s well written and I like that it’s informative and thank you for dumbing it down a little for the Section 33.I Think that it’s crazy that this election is actually a rule,i think that in the near future if something major were to happen and they were to overrule the situation it could effect in a negative way, and it could cause protests and fighting in the streets worse than we expect. I like the example of the G20 it has a lot to do with your topic. Great connection.

  5. I think that the majority of people that are commenting have completely missed the point of the article because of the video at the end. Your post is about section 33 of the charter of rights and freedoms but for some reason every comment I have read so far have been saying how terrible the G20 was and how the police shouldn’t have been so brutal as if they think your topic suddenly changed to police brutality. I think this is because your post ends on that note but this is not your fault. The only thing that I didn’t like was how quickly this became an extreme almost pirate-radio-esque call to action. I also didn’t understand how the removal of the Liberal Party means the loss of the Right to Life but that could be my ignorance.

  6. Wow. I’m really shocked. I never knew that our rights could be compromised that easily. Your post is very well written and your topic is very interesting and frightening but although they have the power to take away our right, I don’t think they would actually do so.

    1. You are absolutely right on that! Not at any point do I believe that such extreme measures would take place, but just the fact that if for some odd reason, some or all of our rights could be taken away, gives me the heebie-jeebies. But as you have seen from G20, things like this could and do happen. Thanks for the comment, and I hope you enjoyed my post!

  7. It seems Canada had some company over at their house, but Canada’s kids didn’t like the company that was over. Canada’s kids started being loud and was very embarrassing to Canada, so Canada locked it’s kids in their room. But the kids started making even more of a ruckus and embarrassed Canada even more. Canada got angry at it’s kids, and forced them to stop. Canada felt so embarrassed, but the company still stayed over, and later the company at Canada’s house left with awkward goodbyes. Canada let it’s kids out of their room, and now Canada’s kids are very angry at Canada.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s the 420 crisis in a nutshell.

  8. I think it is horrible that the police hurt innocent people like that and I do think that some police officers abuse their power, some take things too seriously and feel the need to shoot someone eight times because they were running away from you. Though not all of them abuse their power, too many of them still do. Do you think there is any way to decrease the amount of police officer’s abusing their power? Do you think that police officers pull the self defense card too often? Are they being punished for their actions correctly?

  9. Personally i say that the police had no right to attack normal innocent people like that but in your article you focus on one side more over the other. You focus on the citizens, what about the police? Yes the police had no right to hurt a person when there on the ground but all they were doing was trying to look for the anarchist people. As you talk about rights and how you say do we actually have rights. i say we do we are better then 90% of countries, look at Isis or third world countries where citizens say that they have rights as there shot and bombed to death.

    1. Your blog post brings to light an interesting issue. Though… it seems like the article is composed of many “what ifs”. I think using the example of specific issues, maybe problems that occurred in the past would strengthen your post. I feel that overlooking any section of the Charter would include a legal procedure and reasons that would need to be justified in Parliament. How do you think the Charter can be improved? What were the specific issues that prompted the creation of this section?

    2. While, this would take some time, and a lot of discussing, I believe the only way to correct the charter would be to modify the clause in the fact that any rights being taken away must be done so over a thought out discussion with reason and consideration. If this does not work, then the whole clause might just be an option for solution. I don’t recommend this option, as it will most likely cause disruption and disagreement, but if necessary, this route should be taken. Although at any point the federal or any provincial legislatures could override any power and take away our rights, this doesn’t mean that they are on the edge of their seats willing to do so. What stops them from doing this is the levels that it has to go through. It’s easy to say that all of a sudden our rights can be taken away (and in some sense they can), but tons of thought has to be put into these decisions, AND it has to be a majority that agrees on the idea. Not only that, but outside of government stands the idea of (not so) peaceful protests and riots occurring from such actions enforced.

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