Ford uses notwithstanding clause to override court ruling

On Monday September 10th, Justice Edward Belobaba ruled Bill 5, the Better Local Government Act, unconstitutional. Bill 5 is the controversial bill that would nearly halve council from 47 to 25 in the middle of the 2018 election.

Later that Monday at 2pm Premier Doug Ford took an unprecedented step and vowed to amend the Better Local Government Act to include the Notwithstanding Clause in a new bill titled “Efficient Local Government Act.” Prior to this week, an Ontarian provincial government has never included this clause to bypass a court ruling – it is seen as the “nuclear” option of our constitution that has been used only a handful times across the country.

This clause would allow Premier Ford to bypass Charter Rights and Freedoms in Section 2 and 7-15. In short, the clause allows Ford and the Progressive-Conservatives to suspend our Constitutional rights in order to ensure that Toronto city council would stay at 25 councillors.

The Notwithstanding Clause suspends sections that include freedom of thought, religion, expression, association, peaceful assembly, belief, and the right to life, liberty, unreasonable search and seizure, and other Charter items that are cherished by Canadians. The clause allows the legislation to be free from judicial review or challenge for up to five years.

If Efficient Local Government Act passes it will make future uses of the clause much easier – other bills that infringe on your Charter Rights and Freedoms will be easier passed. The Notwithstanding Clause can lead to bills that infringe on your freedom of practicing your religion, your right to not be subject to cruel and unusual punishment, and your right to be equally treated before and under the law.

Our judicial system, which includes the Supreme Court of Canada and its judges, are integral to upholding our Constitutional rights. Ontario’s democracy consists of three branches – the Executive (the Premier and their cabinet), the Legislative (the elected Members of Provincial Parliament), and the Judicial. Ideally, these work in tandem with each other to ensure our democratic and constitutional rights and freedoms.

The three branches should have equal power – however, with a majority government, the Legislative and the Executive branches effectively work as one. Therefore, without a healthy Judiciary, the government works without any checks or balances.

Casual uses of the Notwithstanding Clause allow governments to trample on our constitutional rights in favour of political gain. The careful review of our bills is integral to our democracy and democratic process – we must stand up against Ford’s glib use of the Notwithstanding Clause. The ramifications of this can be severe.

“Our First 7 Years in Canada” An Interview with Hong Nguyen

Our family came to Jane and Finch in 1993. There were four of us, my husband and I, and our daughter and son. My husband and daughter arrived as refugees in 1989.  My husband worked at Panasonic and he sponsored me and our son in 1991.  After two months of searching for a job, I started work at W. M. Shoe Manufacturing Ltd. in Etobicoke. In Vietnam, my background was in accounting so I had never before worked in a factory.  After the shoe factory closed down in 1993, I was out of work.  My husband was laid off too, so we applied to live in government housing.  We moved from Etobicoke to an apartment on Dune Grassway in Downsview in 1993,. I remember that our son borrowed books from a bookmobile that parked on Firgrove every Wednesday.

Both my husband and I found work here and there, but there was a language barrier. I wanted to take a Computerized Accounting Program offered by MicroSkills, but I had to improve my English. I took LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) classes, where I learned about Toronto and the pioneers who lived over one hundred years ago.  Our teachers took us to Black Creek Pioneer Village, I think that any newcomer should visit it!  During that time I was also pregnant with my third child (a son). I took the TTC from Downsview to Davenport every day up until my baby was due.  My teachers were worried when the weather was bad.

When I was ready to apply to the Accounting Program, I was also about to give birth. My case worker told me I had a hard choice to make. I could stay at home and take care of three kids, or start the program one month after giving birth. Because this was my best chance to go back to school, after my son was born, I started the Accounting Program in May 1994. The next years were tough. My husband and daughter took turns babysitting when I was at school. After finishing in 1995, I volunteered at North York Community House, helping newcomers and translating flyers about local events.

Finally, in 1995 I got a job in data entry at Watts Distribution Ltd., and I stayed there for more than 11 years. I learned new things on the job, and was promoted to Database Administrator. Working at Watts improved my English. I learned from the customer service reps, and later from talking with customers. My husband learned CNC technology and worked at Eagletronic.  In 1998, seven years  after our family arrived in Canada, we bought a house near Driftwood and have lived there ever since.

Our neighbourhood has changed a lot over time. My husband and I used to travel downtown to buy rice and Asian food. Today, there are supermarkets in the area like Kien Hung Supermarket, and great Vietnamese restaurants. You can  go to church in Vietnamese at St. Jane Frances Church. My neighbours come from Africa, Europe, and Asia, and we always greet each other with a smile. My son still enjoys playing Ping-Pong at the Driftwood Community Centre. 

When I look back on our first years in Canada, I feel grateful that there were programs to support my family. My children have had many opportunities: our daughter is an MBA and our son became an Engineer.  Thank you Canada!  Actually, we are selling our house this year. I am moving with my children to Vaughan after more than 20 years in this house. If it were only up to me, I would stay in Downsview

*This interview was conducted in Vietnamese and translated in to English by Michael Vu. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Editorial ✘Downsview Votes

According to the most recent polls, the Wynne Liberals have lost the confidence of most Ontarians. Instinctively, Ontarians looked to the Progressive Conservatives to end the 15-year-long reign of Liberals at Queen’s Park. However, the abrupt resignation of Patrick Brown and the controversies surrounding his leadership, and the poorly organized PC leadership race that ensued, made Progressive Conservatives look less and less like a viable option for most Ontarians. This sentiment was further reinforced by Doug Ford’s Greenbelt remarks and the Highway 407 data breach controversy which saw the resignation of the PC candidate for Brampton East. Also, Ford’s failure to present Ontario voters with a comprehensive platform makes Ontarians question the aptness of Progressive Conservatives to take charge of the province.

The only other option left for Ontarians is Andrea Horwath, the leader of Ontario’s New Democrats, who is seen as the most trustworthy contender in this fierce election season. In contrast to Ford’s PCs, the NDP has presented a fully costed platform that seeks to address some of the greatest challenges faced by Ontarians and aims to make life more affordable for people in the province.

This year, the election race in Humber River–Black Creek has proven to be an exciting one with three new and diverse candidates. The candidate that The Downsview Advocate is proud to endorse is Tom Rakocevic. Tom’s rich knowledge of the community and his years of experience advocating for local issues make him a strong voice for Humber River–Black Creek.