“If the UCP has nothing to hide, release your legal opinions” says AFL
EDMONTON – The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has released internal government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information process suggesting that the Kenney government has received advice from its own lawyers warning that many provisions in Bill 32 are unconstitutional and likely to be struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Internal documents obtained by the AFL show the UCP began planning its anti-union campaign in August of last year and received “legal opinions” in October. The documents are heavily redacted – even the email titles are blanked out, an unusual practice.
The government refused to release the legal opinions, but the emails confirm that they exist – and the heavy secrecy around all of the discussions related to Bill 32 suggests that the UCP has something to hide.
“If the government has nothing to hide, then they should release their legal opinions,” says Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan. “Albertans deserve to know if their government is consciously and intentionally stripping them of their constitutionally-protected rights to free expression and association, contrary to the advice of legal counsel. They also deserve to know if the government deliberately decided to proceed with a law they knew would lead to years of costly and divisive litigation.”
Since the release of Bill 32, many labour law experts and legal scholars have concluded that the Bill violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly the constitutionally protected freedoms of expression and association.
York University professor David Doorey, for example, recently wrote an article entitled “Alberta Tests Right-Wing Republican Inspired Labour Laws.”
In that article, he says “Bill 32 swings the pendulum very far to the right despite the now ubiquitous claim the law is intended to ‘restore balance.’ Expect Charter challenges and lots of protests.”
Athabasca University professor Jason Foster also wrote an article about Bill 32 in which he said the following: “These amendments … run counter to recent jurisprudence promoting picketing as a fundamental component of freedom of expression under the Charter.”
McGowan says the AFL has its own legal opinion concluding that many provisions of Bill 32 violate the Charter. Unlike the government, McGowan says the AFL will make its legal opinion available to any media outlet that requests to see it.
“We’re not afraid to share our legal opinion with the media,” says McGowan. “If the Premier is so confident about the legality of his law, he should have no problem doing the same with his. In fact, given all the talk about the unconstitutionality of Bill 32, you’d think he would be quick to share the government’s legal opinions if they confirmed the law was defensible. The fact that they have so far refused to share those opinions speaks volumes about what they really say.”