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Pierre Poilievre would not let the Charter of Rights and Freedoms hinder his promises of harsh sentences

Photo: Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press “I will protect Canadians against Justin Trudeau’s laws, and my proposals will be completely constitutional, to put real criminals in prison,” declared Pierre Poilievre on Tuesday, April 30.

Pierre Poilievre fled journalists who tried to obtain details on Tuesday about his equivocal remarks according to which he intends to toughen criminal laws with “any tool” at his disposal, leaving the ” people” to judge whether this is consistent with the Constitution.

“I will protect Canadians against Justin Trudeau's laws, and my proposals will be completely constitutional, to put the real criminals in prison,” the leader of the official opposition responded briefly in French.

Visibly annoyed, the Conservative leader hurried away from the representatives of the press who were hot on his heels, after a speech given in English as part of a conference bringing together large construction unions in Gatineau, on the Quebec shore. His team clarified that he would not accept any questions, instead shaking hands and taking selfies with the unionists present.

Pierre Poilievre, however, let slip some prepared answers, while refraining from specifying whether he is truly preparing — and to what extent — to use the notwithstanding provision in the criminal justice reform that he intends to implement if his party comes to power. Using this provision would allow it to exempt its promises from certain articles of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which would limit the risk of them being torn to pieces by the courts.

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Ensuring constitutionality

The day before, in a speech delivered in front of police officers punctuated with jokes, Pierre Poilievre suggested that he would not hesitate to use the notwithstanding clause, but without saying so clearly. Instead, he emphasized his intention to “make constitutional” his proposals to strengthen prison sentences.

“And by the way, [the murderers] will get consecutive sentences, not concurrent sentences. Those who have committed multiple murders are only going to leave prison in a box,” he said to the applause of members of the Canadian Police Association, whose courage he praised at length. “And all my proposals are constitutional,” he continued. We will ensure, we will ensure that they are constitutional. We will use whatever tool the Constitution offers me to make them constitutional. I think you know exactly what I mean. »

After some laughter from law enforcement officials, he added: “I will be a prime minister democratically elected by the people, who will be able to judge for themselves whether my laws are constitutional. »

In 2022, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously decided to delete section 745.51 of the Criminal Code, created by Stephen Harper's Conservatives, which allowed the authorities to 'add up the length of prison sentences. According to judges of the country's highest court, section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides protection against cruel and unusual punishment and treatment, such as sentences longer than human life expectancy without hope of rehabilitation.

This decision notably had the effect of limiting the sentence of the murderer of the Quebec mosque, Alexandre Bissonnette, to 25 years, since all his sentences for murder are served concurrently – at the same time -, to which Pierre Poilievre proposes to put end.

Irresponsible, says Trudeau

These comments, although full of implied, aroused the anger of the Liberal Prime Minister, who saw it as a commitment to “overturn” “fundamental protections” guaranteed by the Charter of Rights. “It’s irresponsible, and it’s not what we need,” Justin Trudeau argued before accusing his opponent of pandering to white supremacist groups — the same accusation that earlier set fire to the Commons, even causing the expulsion of Mr. Poilievre from the House.

Federal Justice Minister Arif Virani added that using the notwithstanding provision was a “last resort.” In his opinion, the role of an aspiring prime minister is to be “in defense of the Canadian Charter.”

The leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, for his part, defended the use of the notwithstanding provision. This tool provided for in the Constitution was notably used preemptively by Quebec to protect its Law on State Secularism from challenges. According to Mr. Blanchet, a possible use by the federal government of this clause would also undermine the arguments of the opponents of this law.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116