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CANADA’S NOTWITHSTANDING CLAUSE WHAT’S THAT AGAIN? 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford plans to invoke the notwithstanding clause of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms to push through an order to reduce the size of Toronto’s city council after a judge’s ruling blocked his government from going ahead with the plan to cut the number of councillors by nearly half. The dramatic step would make Ford the first Ontario premier to ever use the clause, which allows government to create laws that operate in spite of certain charter rights that the laws appear to violate. The notwithstanding clause, officially called Section 33, allows provincial or federal authorities to override or essentially ignore sections of the charter they do not like for a five-year period.

Politically, the notwithstanding clause is a particularly powerful tool, said Eric Adams, constitutional law professor at the University of Alberta. “Efforts to challenge the reasoning behind the use of the notwithstanding clause have not succeeded to date,” he said, referencing more than a dozen past incidents. In other words, when a provincial government invokes the clause, they almost virtually always get their way.

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