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Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s invoking of the notwithstanding clause, in his attempt to slash Toronto city council in half, has created a sense of urgency in city councillors and residents.
Hundreds of Torontonians mobilized in front of Toronto City Hall yesterday to protest Ford’s decision, and what they say is an unprecedented attack on charter rights.
Dubbed the “Rally to Save Our Democracy and Constitutional Rights,” organizers rolled out a large poster of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms like it was a red carpet.
People in attendance signed their names to pledge their support.
“He has violated our constitution by cutting our city council in half,” said Frank Hong, one of the organizers of the event and a concerned citizen.
“Now he is using the notwithstanding clause, which is reserved for national emergencies, for the first time in Ontario’s history to override the constitution.”
The notwithstanding clause was introduced in the Constitution Act of 1982, allowing certain fundamental rights and freedoms to be sacrificed for a limited period of up to five years.
But city councillors, despite Ford’s ability to invoke the clause, say they’re not going to let him take Toronto without a fight.
Four city councillors were billed to speak from the podium: Gord Perks of Ward 14, John Filion of Ward 23, Joe Mihevc of Ward 21 and Kristyn Wong-Tam, Ward 27.
“This is the house of democracy and you own it, not Doug Ford,” Wong-Tam said, walking down the cement stars from the podium toward the cheering crowd.
“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of every democracy in the world, and if we do not have free and fair elections, then who are we? Do you recognize this country?”
Torontonians will meet him on the street, Wong-Tam said, block by block, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.
“He is not going to take Toronto without a fight.”
Some of the New Democrat Party MPPs who were ejected from Queen’s Park earlier in the day, escorted by the sergeant-at-arms, also attended the rally.