55,000 education workers walk off the job setting up a labour showdown with the Ford Administration
The Ontario government has taken the unprecedented step of using the notwithstanding clause to prevent teachers from striking.
This move has far-reaching implications for the teachers union (C.U.P.E.) and the government. For the union, their right to strike has been taken away. And for the government, it sets a dangerous precedent. It raises questions about how this clause can be used in other situations and whether it’s a slippery slope that could lead to authoritarianism.
Whatever your opinion on the strike, it’s essential to understand the implications of the notwithstanding clause. This decision will have a lasting impact on Ontario and its citizens.
The notwithstanding clause is a part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, allowing the government to override certain rights protected by the Charter. So, for example, if the government decided to make striking illegal, it could use the notwithstanding clause. It’s a powerful tool and has been used a few times. But it’s controversial because it allows the government to ignore the rights of its citizens.
So what do the notwithstanding clause’s implications mean for the Ontario teacher’s strike?
The government says it doesn’t have to listen to the union and can force teachers back to work. This is a big deal, and it’s something that’s never been done before in Ontario. The government hopes this it will break the back of the teachers union and force them to come to the bargaining table ready to negotiate. But the union has already stated it’s prepared to fight the Supreme Court.
In 1988, the government used the clause to overrule a court decision that would have allowed French-language schools in the province of Quebec to operate outside the curriculum set by the government. In 2003, the Canadian Federal Government used the clause to override a court decision that would have allowed same-sex couples the right to marry.
Throughout history, governments, from provincial to federal, have used the notwithstanding clause to get their way, even if it means overriding the courts’ decisions. The most obvious reason is that it allows the government to overrule any court decision it doesn’t like. This could be a massive advantage for the government if, for example, it wanted to pass a law that conflicted with the constitution quickly.
Another reason is that it sends a strong message to the courts that the government is serious about getting its way. This could be important if the government needs to show that it’s serious about tackling a big issue like public debt.
However, using the notwithstanding clause undermines democracy. This means that the government can ignore any ruling it doesn’t like, which takes power away from the people and gives it to the government. This could lead to abuse of power and, ultimately, loss of trust in the government.
Another reason is that it’s costly to use the notwithstanding clause. This means the government could spend a lot of money on legal fees as it battles it out in court. The notwithstanding clause makes it harder for unions to strike now that the Bill has received Royal Assent to become law. Unions may also think twice before going on strike, knowing they could face stiff penalties.
Teachers may also be less likely to strike, knowing they could lose their jobs or have their pay docked. And finally, the government has sent a clear message to all workers in Ontario: if you go on strike, you will be punished.
This clause was meant to be a last resort, and using it to undermine the democratic process and break the will of the union is a blatant abuse of power. The government has offered them a 2.5% raise, which is well below the inflation rate. Using the notwithstanding clause, the government has shown that it is not interested in negotiating in good faith.
If it is successful in breaking the union and getting its way with the teachers, it may be tempted to use this powerful tool more often in the future. We must stand up against this abuse of power, show that we will not allow our democracy to be hijacked, and stand with our teachers.
Image source Cupe Twitter Feed