Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Canada Election 2006: Martin wants to scrap the notwithstanding clause

I have not had a chance to check out what the blogosphere is saying about this move, to ban the notwithstanding clause, by Paul Martin to lure voters back to his side. My impression is that removing the Charter override was "plan B". If the debate was going sour, he was going to bust it out. And it certainly was sour from my point of view before he said it. He was stuttering. Nervous. Reading from his notes. And then, to grab the headlines, busted out his promise. Let's look at what Martin has said in the past about the Charter's notwithstanding clause.

February 2005:
My responsibility as Prime Minister, my duty to Canada and to Canadians, is to defend the Charter in its entirety. Not to pick and choose the rights that our laws shall protect and those that are to be ignored. Not to decree those who shall be equal and those who shall not. My duty is to protect the Charter, as some in this House will not.
Sounds like this whole s.33 scrapping plan is an excercise in "pick and choose."

January 2004:
Prime Minister Paul Martin says he would use the Constitution's notwithstanding clause if the Supreme Court rules that churches must perform gay marriages. "Oh, yes I would," Martin said Thursday on CBC Radio when asked whether he would use the clause.
-- CanWest News, Monday, January 12, 2004
So, Martin is the only one to promise to use the notwithstanding clause out of Harper and himself, but he is now not in favour of it, hoping that Canadians will feel injustice enough to block Harper. Sounds like a hail mary to me. In fact, the notwithstanding clause is what made the Charter even possible. The provinces would not even have signed on without legislative supremacy over the Courts. Martin is free to try to amend the Constitution. But good luck. I can't name a province outside of Ontario that would seriously consider such a move.

But the major thing is what precipitated this move. It was same-sex marriage. It is simply unbelievable. I mean, the Liberals want to put the onus on people jailed for gun possession (which violates the Charter) but want to also fiercely protect the rights of couples to marry each other.

I don't know about you, but I tend to believe that "innocent until proven guilty" (onus on the Crown) is a much more important and ingrained historical right than same-sex marriage. And to think that this same-sex marriage debate is fueling the fire to get rid of the notwithstanding clause....simply unbelievable. I mean, I would have expected a gross abuse of s.33 to occur before such a proposition was made. But that hasn't happened. Parliament has been very responsible about this, because of the implications it has politically.

Removing s.33 would pass on responsibility to the Courts to have the final word on Canadian philosophy of right and values. That is something the Liberals have done for years - lacked the courage to lead socially, and make decisions independently of the Courts.

Martin cannot and will not get his way. Canadians understand this. And do not wish to be led by a noose around by the Courts. And I am even guessing the SCC justices don't wish to be the ones leading either.

3 comments:

Gary McHale said...

Mr. Martin claims that parliament itself can remove the Notwithstanding Clause - if so, cannot another parliament simply put it back in?

Kimlid said...

Notably Mr. Martin's comments that a Liberal government would attempt to amend Constitution to prevent federal use of notwithstanding clause caught our attention. Mr. Martin's commitment to the proposed change is hopefully the nail in his political coffin. Our current system is a way that the legislatures, federal and provincial, can secure the final say is retained by the elected representatives of the people rather than by the courts. Steve Paikin was very efficient and made the debate very successful for viewers.

Anonymous said...

Well Mr.Martin is going to win in my eyes because i would vote for him anyday