On the Significance of Ford Government’s Use of Notwithstanding Clause – Pauline Easton –
The Ford government is using the notwithstanding clause contained in the 1982 Constitution to violate the rights of Ontario workers and prevent any court challenges to its back-to-work legislation against education workers. What this means is that far from the law being found unconstitutional if it were challenged in court, the very inclusion of the notwithstanding clause in the Constitution shows that the attacks on the rights of the education workers would be found constitutional by the courts. What this means is that the constitutional arrangements are not what most Canadians consider to be of a democracy but, on the contrary, they are precisely there to protect governments of police powers.
Far from the democratic arrangements and institutions keeping police powers in check, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms contains the conception of “reasonable limits” so that governments can do what the Ford government is now doing: declaring the claims of teachers and education workers unreasonable because they allegedly violate students’ rights. According to the Ford government, the notwithstanding clause is necessary to “protect against legal challenges, which may create destabilizing uncertainty for students and families.”
The government has resorted to using police powers against the teachers and education workers based on the underlying supposition that their claims are unreasonable. It will not discuss. It does not take into account what the teachers and education workers and their unions say and relegates them to a category of self-serving individuals who harm society’s interests, and it is therefore alright to penalize and punish them. It is doing and will do the same thing against all members of society in order to impose its anti-worker, anti-national and anti-people agenda as well as to legalize the theft of Indigenous resources and violate their territories and hereditary rights.
This means that addressing the situation is not a matter of applying labour law to resolve a specific dispute. It is a political matter which concerns the polity itself and it is up to the people themselves to settle the matter by taking their own decision as to whose demands are reasonable. Teachers and education workers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions and families can only achieve peace of mind for their children’s health and safety if they support the just claims of the teachers and education workers for the wages and working conditions they say they require.
The post-pandemic conditions must be set by the workers of Ontario, not the rich and governments in their service. Do not permit the Ford government to cross this line! Uphold the just claims of teachers and education workers for the wages and working conditions they are fighting for. All out to uphold the rights of all!