Think before you use notwithstanding clause for immigration, Trudeau warns Legault

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants incoming Quebec Francois Legault to think carefully before proceeding with his plan to invoke the Constitution's notwithstanding clause to override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The day after his election victory Monday, Legault vowed to use the notwithstanding clause if necessary to uphold a proposal to prohibit state employees in positions of authority — including police officers and teachers — from wearing religious symbols at work.

Legault said the proposed ban is important enough to sidestep court challenges by invoking the notwithstanding clause.

But Trudeau says the powerful clause should only be used in exceptional circumstances and after lots of deep reflection about the consequences.

He says the state should not be able to tell a woman what she can or cannot wear — and he argues that Canadians should be protected from that under the charter.

He says removing or deciding not to defend the fundamental rights of Canadians should never be done lightly.