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Opposition criticizes N.B. government’s pledge to defend vaccination bill

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. AP Photo/David Goldman, File

Opposition politicians say the New Brunswick government is being heavy-handed by pledging to invoke the notwithstanding clause if necessary to shield mandatory vaccination legislation against charter challenges.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy says the proposed law – which would make vaccinations mandatory for children in schools and daycares unless they have a medical exemption – is necessary.

READ MORE: ‘There are no two sides’ to vaccine debate, N.B. education minister says

He says government needs to make schools a safe place that are protected against outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles.

But People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin says using the notwithstanding clause – which prevents citizens from challenging a law for violating parts of the charter that protect fundamental rights and freedoms – would be akin to using a nuclear button.

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READ MORE: New Brunswick government to launch public consultations on mandatory immunization bill

Green Leader David Coon says he won’t support the bill as long as it cites the notwithstanding clause, but he would support the bill if it’s amended.

Premier Blaine Higgs says government lawyers advised that unless the notwithstanding clause were used to defend it, the bill would not stand up to a court challenge.