PEN Canada Condemns Ontario’s Invocation of Section 33

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September 14, 2018 – Today PEN Canada condemned the government of Ontario’s invocation of Section 33 of the Charter of Rights, the Notwithstanding Clause, to sideline a Superior Court justice’s ruling that it had infringed on freedom-of-expression rights protected by the Charter. PEN believes that the government’s invocation of the clause displays a calculated disregard for democratic norms and processes.

“Reasonable people can dispute the merits of Justice Belobaba’s arguments,” said Neil Bissoondath, Vice President of PEN Canada. “That is why we have an appeals process. But no Canadian government can simply sweep aside inconvenient decisions from an independent judiciary and endanger the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the process. The premier’s public statements on the ruling, and his reported willingness to re-use this tactic if further frustrated by the courts, indicate a failure to grasp the essentials of Canadian democracy. A legislative majority is not a licence to rule by fiat.”

PEN believes that Ontario’s invocation of Section 33, in these circumstances, threatens freedom of expression by imperilling the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a fundamental Constitutional document on which we all rely. It is further concerned that the premier’s dismissive attitudes towards the courts, and his insinuations that they protect the interests of his political rivals, undermine public trust in institutions that are essential to the democratic balance of power.

Available for Interview:
Neil Bissoondath

For further information:
Brendan de Caires, PEN Canada, bdecaires@pencanada.ca