The Inclusion of the Notwithstanding Clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Inclusion of the Notwithstanding Clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

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The Inclusion of the Notwithstanding Clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms


The inclusion of the Notwithstanding Clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was an invaluable contribution in the evolution of the liberal democratic state. Not an endpoint, to be sure, but a significant progression in the rights protection dynamic. Subsequent to its passage in 1982 it became the primary rights protecting mechanism, however, its raison d`etre was as a neccessary concession, the pivotal factor allowing the patriation of the constitution. Many legislators present at the constitutional conference in 1981 opposed in varying degrees the entrenchment of a "bill of rights" in the constitution. The premier of Saskatchewan, Allan Blakeney, A preeminent liberal legislator at the time, recognized this potential document as an invitation to judicial review. He feared a conservative judiciary might hinder enlightened policies and sought authority beyond the ambit of an entrenched rights protection act. At the other end of the political spectrum opposition was in the form of an allegiance to parliamentary supremacy as expressed most notably by Sterling Lyon, the conservative premier of Manitoba. Imbedding section 33, commonly referred to as the Notwithstanding Clause, into the constitutional document alleviated these concerns to a degree that permitted their compliance. It is well established that the impetus for the Notwithstanding Clause was of a political nature. To insert this so inspired clause into an intended sanctuary from capricious legislative acts appears tantamount to allowing the fox to guard the chicken coop. Conceivably the same legislative majority that would create the laws abridging rights could exem...


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...e observed now as easily as it might be in it's final form. The prevailing notion is that through judicial interpretation or legislative act it should be more onerous to affect legislative override, not to the level of constitutional amendment of the rights in question, but perhaps a moderated super majority . The dialogue created by judicial-legislative interplay is truly indispensable to the democratic process, however the possibility exists that the dialogue could be circumvented and replaced with a legislative diatribe. As equally unappealing is the judicial monologue, the disdain for which increasingly dominates legislative analysis in the United States. The override provision effectively eliminates such concerns in Canada. The inevitable democratization of our override provision will in time perfect the dichotomy so vital to legislative-judicial conciliation.

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