CUPE National President Mark Hancock has written a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling on him to take a stronger stand in the defence of Canadians’ Charter rights. Canada experienced a near-miss this week when Ontario Premier Doug Ford threatened to use Section 33 of the Constitution, the notwithstanding clause, to forge ahead with an attack on the voting rights of Torontonians.

While municipal and provincial leaders across the political spectrum took a stand against Ford’s abuse of the Charter, the federal government was noticeably missing from the scene.

“Canada’s commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights obliges your government to use its authority to prevent attempts like Premier Ford’s to deny citizens their rights to free democratic expression,” wrote Hancock.

“We ask you to commit, publicly, that you will use any and all avenues available to you to defend the rights of Canadians by upholding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the protections enshrined therein.”

Ford has promised that he will not hesitate to invoke the notwithstanding clause again, opening the door to future abuses in Ontario and across Canada.

The threat of Ford or another premier using Section 33 to trample Canadians’ rights, including the hard-won equality rights and labour rights that the Supreme Court has upheld again and again, is real. Hancock cited legal cases in recent years that have upheld same-sex marriage, a woman’s right to choose, and the right of workers to bargain collectively and to strike as examples of rights that could have been taken away if Section 33 were invoked.

Across the country, with authoritarian governments and hate and intolerance on the rise, we cannot rely just on the federal government to defend our rights. We must also be ready to defend them as well.

Read Hancock’s letter to the Prime Minister here.