LILLEY: Trudeau’s campaign to defend Charter rights rings hollow – Toronto Sun

Trudeau’s own track record is horrible considering he pushed mandates that violated the Charter and used the Emergencies Act to quash protests

Publishing date:

Nov 05, 2022  •  4 hours ago  •  3 minute read  •  24 Comments

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Ontario Premier Doug Ford at Queen's Park provincial legislature in Toronto, Ontario, on Aug. 30, 2022.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Ontario Premier Doug Ford at Queen’s Park provincial legislature in Toronto, Ontario, on Aug. 30, 2022. Photo by COLE BURSTON /REUTERS

You would think Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government were in the middle of an election campaign the way they’re acting.

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Trudeau, and many of his ministers – Quebec ministers no less – are busy condemning and campaigning against Ontario’s use of the notwithstanding clause.

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Whatever you think of Doug Ford, let that sink in. Quebec politicians complaining about the use of the notwithstanding clause by a provincial government.

“It is a very, very serious thing to suspend people’s fundamental rights and freedoms,” Trudeau said Friday in Toronto.

At one point, Trudeau said all options are on the table to deal with this problem, meaning he’d consider using the federal power of disallowance – effectively cancelling Ontario’s law. That’s a power that hasn’t been used since 1943, meaning it’s never been used in all the times Quebec has used the notwithstanding clause.

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“Suspending people’s basic rights should never be something people enter into lightly or without seriously weighing the consequences,” Trudeau said.

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There are so many ways to point out the hypocrisy of Trudeau’s comments from his own suspension of Charter rights to his acceptance of Quebec using the notwithstanding clause preemptively to suspend minority language and religious rights. Despite Trudeau claiming Friday that he has condemned other provinces – he didn’t name Quebec – any criticism has been muted rather than campaign like.

Asked about Quebec’s Bill 21, which actually saw a teacher removed from the classroom for wearing a hijab, Trudeau said he had concerns. Expressing concern isn’t exactly a condemnation.

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“I noted from day one of Bill 21 that I had concerns about a free society telling someone what to wear or not wear when it comes to their religion,” Trudeau said in the House in December 2021, six months after the bill passed.

He’s been even more muted on Bill 96, which strips language rights away from Quebec’s English language minority, even making it difficult for historically English municipalities to provide services to residents. Trudeau has promised to consider joining any Charter challenge if it makes it to the Supreme Court, but that’s very different than what he is doing now.

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By the way, Hak v. Attorney General of Quebec, the court challenge of Bill 21 heads to court next week. Why isn’t Trudeau beating the drum louder?

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Then there are Trudeau’s own actions.

The Liberals claim invoking the Emergencies Act didn’t suspend Charter rights, but it most certainly did. In fact, it was the point. The invocation of the act restricted travel, the right to assembly, required people and businesses to provide services to government on demand – all of those are Charter violations but deemed lawful under the act.

The Liberals claim the Emergencies Act is Charter compliant and therefore no rights or freedoms were suspended. That’s simply not true, but also the notwithstanding clause is Charter compliant as well because it is in the Charter – it’s section 33 for crying out loud.

We can also point to Trudeau’s Charter violations during COVID. Like pretty much all governments, he did things that went against Charter rights, and most were never tested in court.

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One that came close to being tested was his ban on unvaccinated Canadians being able to get on a plane or train. That’s a clear violation of mobility rights guaranteed in section 6.

It doesn’t matter if the move was popular, it’s a violation of the right. Yet just over a month ago, as the case challenging this ban was about to go to court, the government dropped that restriction and asked the judge to throw out the case since it was no longer a requirement and the judge agreed.

On Friday, Trudeau said he wants to “continue to be the government and the party that stands up for people’s fundamental rights and freedoms.”

His own track record on this front is spotty at best. That doesn’t make what Ford is doing right, it just makes Trudeau’s campaign against Ford wrong and hypocritical.

blilley@postmedia.com