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Virani says Poilievre’s willingness to use notwithstanding clause threatens rights

OTTAWA — Canada’s justice minister says the notwithstanding clause should only be used as a measure of last resort after Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre suggested he wouldn’t hesitate to wield it to enact tougher criminal laws.

Poilievre told the Canadian Police Association in a speech on Monday that he would enact stiffer penalties for convicted criminals and those charged with crimes who have a record of violence.

He says a future Conservative government would do away with house arrest for serious offences and change the law to ensure murderers with multiple victims have to serve their entire sentence in maximum security.

Poilievre told the crowd he would make sure his proposals are constitutional “using whatever tools the constitution allows me to use to make them constitutional.”

Justice Minister Arif Virani says Poilievre’s comments demonstrate “what his true intentions are” when it comes to hitting the override button on constitutional protections of Canadians’ rights and freedoms.

Virani says no federal government has ever used the notwithstanding section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which allows any level of government to pass laws which override parts of the Charter for up to five years. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2024. 

The Canadian Press

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