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Amnesty International calls Ford's treatment of Toronto disgraceful

The most widely-known human rights organization on Earth is condemning Ontario's embattled PC government this week for violating the Charter rights of Toronto voters and candidates in the city's upcoming municipal election.

"No government in Canada should take the contemptuous step of disregard for the Charter of Rights that the notwithstanding clause offers them," said Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve in a press release issued Wednesday.

"To do so in a case involving the fundamental freedom of expression in a context in which core principles around elections and the underpinnings of our democracy are at stake is particularly disgraceful."

Neve was responding to Premier Doug Ford's invocation of the controversial "notwithstanding clause" in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms to push through his Better Local Government Act, slashing Toronto City Council almost in half, during an election period, without warning or consultation.

The clause, also known as Section 33, is meant to serve as a "safety valve," of sorts, for governments whose legislative agendas conflict with the Charter. It has never been invoked in the province of Ontario.

Amnesty International argues that Section 33 is nothing but "a blatant human rights escape clause, allowing governments to violate Charter rights without judicial scrutiny or oversight."

The fact that Ford is using the clause to override an Ontario Superior Court Judge's ruling against his administration is of particular concern to human rights watchdogs.

"Canada is obliged to uphold the freedom of expression in a number of international human rights instruments," writes Neve. "An obligation that extends to provincial governments."

"There is no need and should be no place for such a crude provision as the notwithstanding clause," he continues. "Amnesty International calls on all governments in Canada to refrain from invoking it."

Lead photo by

Lauren O'Neil


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