Unity, Diversity and Justice

a virtual exhibition from the Diefenbaker Center Canada

The Notwithstanding Clause

The Notwithstanding Clause

Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, (the Notwithstanding Clause or "override power") allows provincial legislatures to temporarily circumvent certain Charter-protected rights and freedoms in order to maintain current laws or pass new ones. The Clause only allows governments to override the Charter for renewable periods of five years. While the Clause can be applied to the Charter, it cannot be applied to any other part of the Canadian Constitution or to matters outside of provincial jurisdiction.

“New Canadian Constitution” by Brent Lynch.
“New Canadian Constitution” by Brent Lynch.

The Clause has been invoked on several occasions, with varying degrees of success. Québec, having refused to formally sanction the Charter, has used the Notwithstanding Clause a number of times to protect French language laws. In 2000, the Alberta government tried to apply the Clause to the Marriage Amendment Act in order to exclude same-sex unions. The Supreme Court of Canada struck down this attempt in a ruling that stated marriage law was a matter within Federal jurisdiction and therefore outside of the Alberta's purview.


Prev Next