Why was the "notwithstanding" clause included in the Canadian charter?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, commonly known as the Notwithstanding Clause, gives veto and overruling power to Parliament and provincial legislatures over parts of the Charter. It acts as a method of temporarily suspending certain rights while leaving others intact; this is controversial because of the power it allows.

Its inclusion in the Charter came about as the compromise between elected officials and the judicial system over who would have legal ruling power. Allowing the courts legal ruling power would effectively hamstring officials in their daily business, but with no power, the court system was incapable of defending the rights of citizens. The notwithstanding clause, signed by every province except Quebec, allows officials to bypass the court system in select and rare cases, thus giving officials more power. As of 2012, the notwithstanding clause has never been used by the Canadian Federal government, although provincial officials have used it on occasion.


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