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Updated: Mon, 31 Mar 2014 15:45:47 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Notwithstanding clause would be used to pass secular charter



PQ leader Pauline Marois makes a point during a news conference in Trois-Rivières, Que. Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press

PQ leader Pauline Marois makes a point during a news conference in Trois-Rivières, Que. Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press

Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois has confirmed her government would use the notwithstanding clause to push through its controversial secular charter if the Supreme Court contests it.

"I don't want this charter to just be a document that will end up in the trash if it is contested," Marois said at a campaign stop in Trois-Rivières, Que.

"In order to avoid that, we will look into this question, and if necessary we will proceed with the notwithstanding clause."

The clause allows a government to exempt a law from being struck down on certain charter grounds for a renewable five-year period. 

The notwithstanding clause was inserted into the 1982 Constitution to allow governments to override the Canadian charter.

The most famous use of the notwithstanding clause was in 1988, when then premier Robert Bourassa used it to override a Canadian Supreme Court ruling against parts of Bill 101, now known as the Charter of the French Language.

Philippe Couillard says PQ wants fight

Marois's comments came after her Liberal opponent, Philippe Couillard, accused her party of using "Machiavellian" techniques to win the election and lead Quebecers to a referendum.

He said the PQ wants its charter to be contested by Canada's top court, so that it can use the ruling as leverage for a referendum on Quebec's independence. 

“Clearly, the goal [of the secular charter] was not to come to an agreement, the goal was to have a big fight, to divide Quebecers against each other in order to fuel a referendum,” Couillard said in Quebec City.

He said Marois's party was purposely manipulating Quebecers. 

“I’m 57 years old, and I’ve never seen something so cynical in the Quebec political landscape before.”

But Marois denied claims that her party was deliberately using the charter to divide Quebecers and prompt a sovereignty debate.

"Honestly, we never, never planned for a scenario like that," she said on Monday. 

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