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Update: The repeal of Bill 28 is a huge victory for all who fought for rights and freedoms in Ontario.

Click here to read our press release.

Why Bill 28 is an Issue

If the government can use the clause now without consequence, it won't hesitate to do so again.

The rights and freedoms of all people in Canada are being put at risk by the recent actions of Ontario’s provincial government. 

In passing Bill 28, and invoking the notwithstanding clause – a rarely-used Charter override, the Ontario government: 

  1. Put all our rights and freedoms in a precarious and vulnerable state;  
  2. Used the notwithstanding clause for only the second time in Ontario’s history. This government was also the first to use this clause in Ontario, just a few years ago, to try to limit freedom of expression. CCLA is also fighting this. 
  3. Overrode protections in Ontario’s Human Rights Code; and 
  4. Put an end to meaningful contract negotiations instead of going to an appropriate arbitration process.

The notwithstanding clause threatens democracy, freedom, justice, and rights. This clause can be used to override: 

  • Free speech 
  • Protest rights 
  • Religious freedom 
  • Workers’ rights 
  • Equality 
  • Liberty, the presumption of innocence and habeas corpus rights 
  • Life and security of the person

If the government can use the clause now without consequence, it won’t hesitate to do so again.  If governments can easily override these freedoms, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is in danger.  

The use of the ‘notwithstanding clause’ in Bill 28 means that even though courts have determined that freedom of association includes a right to strike and a right to collective bargaining, the government can effectively ignore these rights and try to avoid any meaningful review by the courts. If the clause is used in other laws, governments could use it to try to trample many other basic rights.  

Historically, governments across Canada, with the exception of Quebec, have been very reluctant to use the clause, since in those provinces it was seen as sending a message that a government did not care about rights and freedoms, and could not justify its actions. Remember that the Charter does allow governments to limit rights if they can justify those limits as reasonable.  

The reluctance to use the notwithstanding clause has been changing in recent years and we are increasingly seeing it being used in new and troubling ways. In Quebec it has been used in Bill 21, the province’s ban on religious symbols. In Ontario, the government used the clause after a court decided that an election law limiting free speech (in that case, political expression) was an unjustifiable Charter violation.  And the Ontario government threatened to use the clause when its decision to change the size of Toronto’s municipal counsel in the middle of a municipal election was challenged (but ultimately didn’t need to when the government was able to defend its law in court). Now, Bill 28 imposes a contract on education support workers such as education assistants, custodians, and administrators who have faced wage caps of 1% for years, and bans strikes, rather than trying to reach an agreement through negotiation, or going for appropriate binding arbitration. Now, the government is not even trying to defend its law in court – it is going straight to the notwithstanding clause to trample rights. 

Why Your Voice is Critical

The options to challenge Bill 28 in court and the use of the notwithstanding clause are limited and will take time. The government needs to understand, NOW, that Canadians care about fundamental rights and freedoms and don’t want to see them casually thrown away.  

This issue is bigger than one labour dispute – it is about the rights and freedoms of all people in Canada and our democratic way of life.  

The notwithstanding clause can be invoked in law for five years – and then it can be renewed. The five year mark was chosen by the drafters of the Charter to ensure that a government using the clause would face an election before it could be renewed.  

We cannot wait for an election to hold the government accountable for their actions here – too much is at stake. Canadians have to speak up now – individually and collectively. Your voices need to be heard loud and clear.  

Call, Write, Post on Social Media

You taking action can help.

Write to the Premier, the Education Minister, and your MPP. Not sure of your MPP’s name or contact info? Find it here.   

Tell them that you value the Charter and want to see it protected. Tell them you don’t support Bill 28 or the use of the notwithstanding clause to try to overrun rights and freedoms.  

If their actions mean you can’t support them in the next election, tell them that too. Use social media and the hashtags #OnPoli #OntEd #DontBeABully to get your message out.  

Still not sure what to say? We’ve got some sentences you might want to consider including in your letter. Choose the ones that make sense to you, cut and paste and revise them to make them your own! 

Letter Template

You can use and modify this template as you wish.

Dear MPP,  

I am a constituent in your riding. I am writing today to call on the Government of Ontario to respect Ontarians’ rights and freedoms – and to urge you as my MPP to fight for the immediate repeal of Bill 28. 

I do not support Bill 28 or the use of the notwithstanding clause.  

The constitution outlines our most basic rights, fundamental freedoms, and the democratic guarantees we rely on as individuals living in Canada. 

The notwithstanding clause was intended to serve as a democratic last resort, not pave the way for a pre-emptive strike against Charter rights.  

Using this clause to prevent workers from exercising their right to freedom of association is deeply unfair, and profoundly concerning.   

The government has said Bill 28 is about protecting kids. Taking away the rights of those who play a critical role in their education does just the opposite. And besides, the government could have settled the labour dispute through a fair arbitration process.

The rights and freedoms that the notwithstanding clause could override – freedom of expression, protest rights, religious freedom, freedom of association, rights to life, liberty, and security of the person, and the right to equality – are essential to a fair and democratic society.  

What is happening right now in Ontario is concerning. And this issue is bigger than this labour dispute – it is about the rights of all people in Canada to live in a society that upholds fundamental freedoms.  

Please work to repeal Bill 28 immediately.  

Please promise never to use the notwithstanding clause to violate rights and freedoms ever again. 

My vote in the next election depends on it. 


Get Out There and Protest

Make your voice heard.

Here is a picket-line finder tool on CUPE’s website. 

Latest Updates and Briefs


CBC News: Ontario government repeals anti-strike law for CUPE education workers

After news of the bill's repeal, Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, the executive director and general counsel…
November 15, 2022

Statement on the Repeal of Bill 28

TORONTO — Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Executive Director and General Counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, made…
November 14, 2022

Repeal of Bill 28 – Huge Victory for all Who Fought for Rights and Freedoms in Ontario

TORONTO — Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Executive Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, made the…
November 7, 2022

Statement on the Passage of Bill 28

TORONTO — Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Executive Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, made the…
November 3, 2022

Toronto Star: It’s time to ditch the notwithstanding clause

But recently, the Quebec and Ontario governments have shown an alarming trend to resort to…
November 2, 2022

Statement on Notwithstanding Clause

OTTAWA — Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Executive Director of the  Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), made the following…
October 31, 2022
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