House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cfia.

Topics

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to address this problem from a legal standpoint. Instead, I will try to show through anecdotes and personal experiences how important it is for us as a society to be as open-minded as possible because we have changed enormously over the last few years. However, I think we still have a long way to go.

In the early 1970s, women were beginning to be more aware of their rights, to become more familiar with them and even to have rights. It has only been since then that women have had the right to sign cheques on their own behalf, to have bank accounts in their own name, and to keep their name when they marry.

When I wanted to get married in the early 1970s, I was in love with a black man, and the priest at my church did not want to marry us. And there it was, discrimination. Society was not very advanced at that time in terms of intercultural marriages. I went to the curate to find someone who would perform the marriage, but the priest still refused. At the time, I thought this was terrible. Nowadays, when walking down the street, one meets many couples of different origins, who have children of different origins, and people are not offended any more as they were in the early 1970s.

In regard to the development of women's rights and human rights, I think that we have reached the point in our society where we should recognize the rights of people of the same sex who want to join their lives, share their lives, remain together and be happy.

To show how fast things go in life and how fast our ways of thinking can change, I remember a young woman for whom I was caring in the early 1980s. She had AIDS and was of Haitian origin. When her parents went to see her in the hospital, they did not go into her room because they thought she was possessed by the devil. They thought the devil had invaded her and that was why she was sick. Nowadays, if this young woman were still alive, I am sure that her parents would go into her room and would be able to embrace her rather than transmitting their embraces through me to her.

It is extremely difficult to realize that, in 2005, we still have questions about an issue like the one before us today. This should have been resolved a long time ago. A decade ago, homosexuals had the courage to come out to themselves. Now, they have the courage to come out to their co-workers and their families. It was not so easy in the past. If we go back 30 or 40 years, it was extremely difficult. No politician, man or woman, dared come out of the closet. It took years for this to be possible, for such people to be accepted and respected in our legislatures. Initially, people were respected because their sexuality was a secret. When they came out, at first, it caused an uproar.

Now, we know and respect our colleagues, no matter what their sexual orientation, which is essential. However, if they command such respect from us, we must go further. We must give them the opportunity to lead a full, rich life, a life similar to that led by every other human being. As my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert said earlier, everyone is entitled to happiness. There is nothing conditional about it.

If we take the trouble to think a little about our own families, friends and acquaintances, I am convinced that even my colleagues who want to vote against Bill C-38 know someone who is homosexual, someone who may want to marry and be happy.

Do these people have to give up their right to happiness because their representatives have said no? Will they be embarrassed or self-conscious?

As my colleague from Joliette has said, and said so well, I do not want to have to tell my grandson or granddaughter that it is a bad choice to be homosexual because they cannot do the same thing as others can. I know that many here have a great deal of respect for the hon. member for Hochelaga. I would be pleased if he were to find the love of his life and decide to marry. I do not think there is anyone in this House, regardless of his or her beliefs, who would dare turn down an invitation to his wedding. I think we would all accept and would all turn up with presents.

If we can recognize that right for a person we know well, why not for others? Why can we not recognize it for all of society? It is a right. We have a right to be happy and to choose the person we want to live our life with.

Let us think this over calmly. Could all members of this House take the time to ask themselves whether they want to have to say to their sons or daughters, “No, you are gay so you cannot get married”. We say that older people have the right to marry, even without children. I know a number of seniors who have married. The purpose of marriage is supposed to be procreation, having children. But when somebody is 70, 75, 80—or like the last one I saw, 88—and wants to marry, let us not pretend it is to have children. We must not be ridiculous about it. They did not get condoms as presents, either.

As a society, we need to make an effort to be a little more open. There is much talk of open-mindedness, but for many that is just empty talk. I find that hugely regrettable. As a government, as parliamentarians, we need to meet the needs of our fellow citizens, our constituents.

I too have received cards from people saying they are against same sex marriage. I responded to every single one. To my great astonishment, I received dozens of calls from people who said they had not written to me. Their names and signatures had been used on the cards. When they called me, they said, “Madam, why did you write to me? I have never spoken about this. I am not against same sex marriage”. Some people would have us believe that the majority is against same sex marriage, but that is not true.

In any event, Quebeckers are a little more progressive than that and I am sure most Canadians are prepared to accept same sex marriage.

In the meantime, I hope my colleagues will think twice before voting against this bill. It would allow us to take a stand as compassionate human beings. This has been done successfully elsewhere and I think it can be successful here as well.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today in defence of the traditional definition of marriage.

I was pleased a couple of weeks ago to join some 15,000 to 20,000 Canadians on the lawns of this great Parliament to say in a very loud and clear voice that the traditional definition of marriage, and that is the union of a man and a woman in marriage to the exclusion of all others, is the right thing to maintain.

I, like many on this side of the House, and indeed, I am joined by a huge segment of our society, millions of Canadians from coast to coast to coast who are supporting the retention of the traditional definition of marriage, that of a man and a woman. Any comments to the contrary are simply not realistic.

Marriage and the family based on marriage are the basic institutions of our society. We must not, we should not change these kinds of foundations lightly or easily. I do not believe that the government or those who are proposing to change the traditional definition of marriage have been able in any way to make a compelling case that would cause Canadians and this Parliament to consider changing that definition. That case simply has not been made.

At least one of the major purposes of marriage historically has been to provide a stable environment for the procreation and the raising and nurturing of children. That does not mean that other kinds of relationships are not loving and valuable, nor does it mean that heterosexual married couples who cannot or do not have children are less married than anyone else. What it does mean is that marriage as a social institution has as one of its goals the nurturing of children in the care of a mother and a father. That is the fundamental.

If we change the definition of marriage to end the opposite sex requirement, we will be saying in fact that the nurturing of children in the care of a mother and a father, that this goal of marriage is no longer important. We cannot say that.

The central question we are wrestling with is whether marriage is still connected to this potential to have and raise children and to provide a stable environment for those children, or whether it is simply connected with the personal needs of two adults in a close relationship.

McGill University medical and legal ethicist Margaret Somerville made the point so clear and eloquent in a recent book called Divorcing Marriage . She said:

“The crucial question is: should marriage be primarily a child-centred institution or an adult-centred one? The answer will decide who takes priority when there is an irreconcilable conflict between the interests of a child and the claims of adults. Those who believe that children need and have a right to both a mother and a father, preferably their own biological parents, oppose same sex marriage because...it would mean that marriage could not continue to institutionalize and symbolize the inherently procreative capacity between the partners; that is, it could not be primarily child centred. In short...accepting same sex marriage...means abolishing the norm”--the accepted value--“that children...have a prima facie right to know and be reared within their own biological family by their father and mother. Carefully restricted, governed, and justified exceptions to this norm, such as adoption, are essential. But abolishing the norm would have a far-reaching impact”.

This belief that marriage is inherently connected with procreation until recently was upheld as the reason for marriage by the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1995 Supreme Court Justice La Forest, speaking on behalf of four judges in the majority in the Egan case rendered a decision. This is absolutely important because this kind of decision still holds strong and reigns in the Supreme Court of Canada. It has not been changed. We cannot accept the arguments of the Liberals that the Supreme Court is wavering on this because it is not. Justice La Forest said:

Marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of long-standing philosophical and religious traditions. But its ultimate raison d'être transcends all of these and is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship. In this sense, marriage is by nature heterosexual.

That decision still stands in the Supreme Court of Canada and nothing that the Liberals or the Bloc or the NDP say has any basis in fact to refute that. It simply does not alter what the Supreme Court of Canada has said. This statement remains the only commentary on the basic meaning of marriage in any Supreme Court decision.

The House, including the current Prime Minister, voted to uphold the definition of marriage in 1999 and in the amendments to Bill C-23 in 2000 with the Deputy Prime Minister, who was then justice minister, leading the defence of marriage from the government side. Here is what the Deputy Prime Minister said in 1999 as she so clearly and eloquently made her defence of the traditional definition of marriage speaking on behalf of the government. She said:

We on this side agree that the institution of marriage is a central and important institution in the lives of many Canadians. It plays an important part in all societies worldwide, second only to the fundamental importance of family to all of us--

The definition of marriage, which has been consistently applied in Canada, comes from an 1866 British case which holds that marriage is ‘‘the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others’’. That case and that definition are considered clear law by ordinary Canadians, by academics and by the courts.

Marriage has fundamental value and importance to Canadians--

As we know, the government voted to defend the traditional definition of marriage at that time. We do not know what happened to change its mind. It was not a Supreme Court decision.

Nothing that she said then was out of date. All that has happened is that several provincial courts have overruled the long standing common law definition of marriage, but the Supreme Court itself has still not addressed this issue, despite a clear request to do so by the government.

We do not believe, on the basis of provincial court decisions which the government refused to appeal to the Supreme Court, that a fundamental centuries old institution should be abolished or radically changed.

No matter what all the Liberals are talking about, save some of them who support marriage, that institution stands strong today, both in the Supreme Court, and in the hearts and minds and souls of millions upon millions of Canadians.

We believe that marriage should continue to be what it has always been, what the courts and the government accepted it to be until a very few years ago, an institution which is by nature heterosexual and has as one of its main purposes the procreation and nurturing of children in the care of a mother and a father.

I think I speak for a vast majority of Canadians regarding that definition. I will stand in defence of that in the House, on the street, and wherever I travel in this country.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, in the debate on Bill C-38, I will speak as a member of the House of Commons. I have been an MP for almost 12 years, but of course there was a time when I was not an MP.

Bill C-38 is the type of issue where we wonder how we would react as private citizens. Unfortunately, we cannot avoid our duty as MPs. I would like to take a few minutes to try to explain what my colleagues and I are faced with in situations like this, in debates like this one.

Obviously, when I was a private citizen, I had a reputation, as I still do, of being fairly open minded as far as the debate on same sex marriage is concerned. In a free and democratic society, if rights are not taken from one group of people and given to another, or merely taken away just for the sake of doing so, I have no problem with it. That, in my opinion, is where we stand today. We want to give rights to certain members of society, without depriving any others of their rights. That is how I saw it when I was a private citizen, and that is how I see it now that I am the member for Saint-Jean.

It is, however, far from easy when a person becomes an MP, because then we cannot necessarily follow our own wishes and our own upbringing, or our own view of an issue. We cannot always react instantly, because now we are members of Parliament and represent others. And when you represent others, you have to take the trouble to see how they react to various issues.

I had a preconceived idea of what an MP did when I got here in 1993. I saw us settling major issues. I thought, first of all, that I could get up during oral question period and ask any minister a question.

I was told—and learned rather quickly—that that was not the way things were done. We have to comply with the traditions, customs and usages of the House of Commons or of Parliament. There is a party leader and a house leader, and they will often announce, “We have decided to take this or that approach today. And it is your turn, Claude. You will be the fourth speaker to rise”. Most of the time, things run like clockwork, except at certain moments. For example, at present, with the threat of an election hanging over us the atmosphere is a bit uncertain and tense. At times like that, it is always a bit more difficult.

That being said, I thought that as soon as one became a member of Parliament, one was negotiating or doing very important things all the time. However, I had not thought about the moral issues. This is another situation in which members find themselves in a rather more awkward spot. On account of our upbringing and surroundings, we have preconceived ideas. I said earlier that in regard to same sex marriage, my idea as a regular citizen was like that I hold as a member. However, sometimes it seems to me that we have huge responsibilities.

In my office on Mondays, I can be shown 1,000 cards from people who are against same sex marriage and 1,000 cards from people who are in favour of it. So what does a person do? One listens, of course, to the views of people in one's riding, weighing the pros and cons, and sometimes, they are almost equal.

It is easier in politics to go with the wind rather than against it. It is easier to row downstream rather than up. But I think one needs to show courage.

Bill C-38 concerns an issue about which the opinions of our fellow citizens should be taken into account. At the same time, though, we cannot ride roughshod over our basic principles and what lies deep within us. It is not easy.

Another debate will appear before us soon, concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide. We have seen suicides on television, almost live, and soon there will be people saying, “I am anxious for the members of the House of Commons to decide what will be done about that”.

That is another kind of subject about which, some Monday morning in our office, we will receive 1000 cards from people in favour of euthanasia and assisted suicide and 1000 from people who are opposed. So again we will be on the horns of a dilemma. However, we cannot evade our responsibilities.

I have also learned as a member that there are several decision making layers in a society. I thought that members of Parliament were the top layer. When I arrived here, I thought that my position as a member of Parliament was important.

I learned that we had a House leader, a leader, a whip who is sitting with us now—a very likeable guy, but who can be very strict when he must. We learn that all these people have a role to play.

I also understand that, in our society, there is a government, there are ministers and an executive branch. In fact, 308 MPs cannot be consulted every day on whether to do this or that. The executive branch has certain powers but the legislative branch has others. The 308 MPs in the House vote on bills, listen to their constituents, attend committee meetings and form opinions on bills. Then, often in accordance with their party line, they will vote in favour of some bills. Naturally, when the party line is crossed, there are problems, because that shows division within the ranks.

There is also the media, often called the fourth estate, because it wields a certain power. There is also the judiciary. I respect my colleagues who are lawyers. Many are here now, and I want to spare them. However, I have always thought that, in a free and democratic society, the elected representatives of the people are the ones who have to make certain decisions.

I have often criticized the government for letting debates concerning grey areas drag on, thereby forcing the courts to intervene. The courts will often take the lead. That is exactly the situation today. At least seven courts have ruled that the rights of same sex couples were violated by the definition of marriage and that such a definition had to include them.

The petitioners turned to their respective jurisdictions. However, it is extremely complicated: marriage is a federal responsibility, divorce, a provincial one, and so forth. It is somewhat confusing. However, people are now aware who to send cards to, in the knowledge that we shall soon decide. Sometimes I get cards, sometimes e-mails. I enjoy, at times, sitting down to read my e-mails. For every one I read, dozens more arrive in my inbox, faster than I can type or click.

Sometimes we find that a bit difficult. The members have perhaps not got to the end of their mandate, and now the courts have decided unanimously that there was a problem and that the definition of marriage had to be changed to include same sex partners. So it becomes very difficult for us MPs to ignore the court judgments. I am constantly saying that the MPs ought to be the ones to make decisions, but we cannot decide everything. Sometimes there are grey areas, and the courts are required to interpret them. That is what happened here, and all their interpretations have been in the same vein.

I must, moreover, admit that in Quebec the openness has progressed beyond that. We have adopted it, it has been recognized. If it has been accepted in Quebec, then Ottawa must follow suit.

From the legal point of view, we cannot go far wrong. If only one or two courts had made decisions, or if the Supreme Court had quashed the judgments made by the others, perhaps we would be in an awkward position of not knowing which way to go. But, legally speaking, we know exactly where we stand.

I have already referred to all the mail-ins that I get. In fact, some of the major institutions have got involved, including churches. This very morning at a breakfast meeting in the parliamentary restaurant we heard an excellent presentation by a woman involved in human research. Marriage goes back more than just centuries, even more than a millennium. The churches started to celebrate marriages around 900; before that there were none. Interaction between persons of the same sex has always existed, but without any legislation about it. Now, today, there is.

I will therefore, be consistent with myself. As an ordinary citizen, I would have said that, provided no one else loses any rights, I have no problem with others being given rights. I adopt the same behaviour as an MP. I believe that the people of Saint-Jean will follow my reasoning on this. I will, therefore, be voting in favour of Bill C-38.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Vancouver Centre
B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken in favour of the bill many times in the House but I want reiterate some important points today. I want to reiterate the fact that this is an issue of equality and an issue of minority rights under the charter. I have spoken clearly about the rights of children and the necessity of passing this bill if we are to give all children equal rights in this country.

I want to make a couple of new points. Currently, we know that 85% of Canadians have the right to same sex marriage in seven provinces and one territory. We also know that if we do not pass the bill we will have to go backwards and do something about those people who have already married, which would mean using the notwithstanding clause. However we believe strongly that using the notwithstanding clause in this case to deny equal rights to a minority group is unacceptable to the government.

Recently in Vancouver I was present where most of the major religious groups, including the Buddhists, the Hindus, the aboriginal communities, the Anglicans, the Catholics, the Unitarians and the United churches, came together to support the bill for a basic reason. If the bill were to pass it would allow them freedom of choice in religious institutions to choose to marry whom they wish. Currently they do not have that choice in some religions.

Two days ago major unions of this country had a press conference in which they talked about the necessity to continue this kind of debate and to bring forward the kind of legislation that the government had promised in its Speech from the Throne that it would follow through on. The unions and the municipalities are all asking us to get on with this and pass the bill. The unions mentioned the bill as being essential and one that was a clear equality right and they wanted to see it passed.

Let us get on with the work of doing good governance in the House and bringing about good public policy, not fooling around as we have been doing in the past while.

Civil Marriage Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Property Rights
Private Members' Business

April 21st, 2005 / 5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that full, just and timely compensation be paid to all persons who are deprived of personal or private property or suffer a loss in value of that property as a result of any government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation.

Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 227 is a straightforward proposal.

In the year 2003, the Supreme Court reminded all Canadians that they have no rights whatsoever when the federal government decides to take their property.

On July 17, 2003, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the class action suit Authorson v. Canada. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the federal government and against mentally disabled war veterans. The government had amended the Veterans Affairs Act to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in interest on pension benefits the government had held in trust for about 30,000 veterans. The Supreme Court ruled:

Parliament has the right to expropriate property, even without compensation, if it has made its intention clear and, in s. 5.1(4), Parliament's expropriative intent is clear and unambiguous.

The Supreme Court's ruling also stated:

Lastly, while substantive rights may stem from due process, the Bill of Rights does not protect against the expropriation of property by the passage of unambiguous legislation.

If a government will take millions out of the pockets of 30,000 mentally ill war veterans, what hope does the average citizen have? It is obvious that something needs to be done to protect the rights of citizens to what the government rightfully owes them. This is why I introduced the motion and the intent of my motion is to start strengthening the protection of property rights in federal law for all Canadians one step at a time.

How can any member of the House be against providing proper legal protection to provide full and just compensation to anyone who has been ripped off by their own government?

Just last month, Polara Research conducted a telephone survey of 1,260 Canadian adults and an Internet survey of 8,000 consumers on behalf of the Canadian Real Estate Association. Question one asked: “How important is it to you that the government fairly compensates a property owner if their property is expropriated?” Ninety-two per cent of telephone respondents and 96.7% of Internet respondents thought this was either very important or important.

Question two asked: “How important is it to you that the government fairly compensates a property owner if restrictions are imposed on how their property is used?” Eighty-eight per cent of telephone respondents and 93.2% of Internet respondents thought this was either very important or important.

That is what the polls are telling us, but what are the people saying? I can tell this House that it is not pretty.

Over the last few months I have participated in a grassroots movement of landowner associations that are springing up across rural Ontario. These are good, honest folks who are angry at the government for being in their face, in their backyards and in their front yards. Government overregulation is driving them nuts. The government's refusal to listen is driving them out of their farmyards and on to the highways and on to Parliament Hill.

Mr. Speaker, if you could have gone with me to some of these meetings and heard firsthand accounts of how government is taking their property or devaluing it to zero by some of the regulations and some of the laws that are being passed, you would have been flabbergasted. These people are being driven off their land and are being deprived of their livelihoods. They are angry and they are looking for some redress to this gross injustice.

How bad can it get? If robbing the bank accounts of 30,000 mentally ill war veterans is not obscene enough for the federal government, hon. members should listen to this.

A small booklet was provided to me last week by the Canadian Real Estate Association that reprinted a very sad story from Jean-Paul Raymond's book, La mémoire de Mirabel . It is about Mr. Cardinal who had his home expropriated by the federal government to build the Mirabel Airport. Mr. Cardinal's home was among 35 homes and 20 farms that were expropriated to make way for a quarry to service the construction of the airport.

I want to quote from the booklet:

In La mémoire de Mirabel, Mr. Raymond says Mr. Cardinal decided to move south to nearby St. Eustache to build a new home. 'A strike interrupted construction and he was unable to return to his old home to finish moving out all his belongings. When he finally did return, he was struck with the sad surprise of seeing his house in flames. The federals had set fire to his house and it burned with his household things and personal belongings inside. A life worth of things had stupidly disappeared'.

The book also describes the story of Mr. Campeau. 'He had a poor heart and the strain from the long exhausting process of expropriation put him in the hospital. As he lay sick federal officials paid him a visit. They offered him $55,000 for his farm. Knowing that his land and all his buildings on it were worth more, Mr. Campeau declined. But the government came back with an offer that was lower; they said he would now only get $50,000'.

These examples are poignant because they are part of a double mistake. The homes were taken to make way for a quarry. But the government itself came to realize the quarry was not needed, and it was abandoned. Hundreds of families faced heartache as their heritage was stripped away. They faced painful, difficult and humiliating experiences.

Approximately 97,000 acres of Quebec's best farmland was expropriated. Despite the fact that 3,200 farm families were displaced only 5,000 acres were ever used for airport operations.

In the 1980s, the Mulroney government acknowledged that Mirabel was a mistake and that far too much land had been expropriated. Roughly 80,000 acres of expropriated land were returned to the original owners.

Now that the airport is completely closed to passenger traffic and may never expand the expropriated landowners believe that the 11,000 acres of land outside the airport perimeter should be returned to farming. They have formed a citizen's group called “The Commite du 11,000 Acres” to fight the case.

Aéroports de Montréal, ADM, continues to administer the 11,000 acres. A Bombardier Inc. factory is situated on part of the airport land outside of the 11,000 acres in question. Bombardier has indicated the land it now occupies is sufficient for its needs. But ADM and the federal government argue the land should be retained in case it may be needed by Bombardier in the future.

The Conservative opposition introduced a motion in the House of Commons on November 25th, 2004, calling on the government to sell back the surplus land.

That is the end of the quotation from the Real Estate Association booklet.

Talk about a heartless federal government. The Conservative Mirabel motion passed the House of Commons despite opposition from the Liberal government.

Now let us take a look at another Liberal bill rammed through Parliament without a guarantee of full, just and timely compensation. It is called the Species at Risk Act. Section 64(1) of the act states:

The Minister may, in accordance with the regulations, provide fair and reasonable compensation to any person for losses suffered as a result of any extraordinary impact of the application of

(a) section 58, 60 or 61; or

(b) an emergency order in respect of habitat identified in the emergency order that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a wildlife species.

Fair and reasonable compensation is not full, just and timely compensation, nor does fair and reasonable guarantee that property owners will get fair market value for their land taken out of production by the power given to the minister under the Species at Risk Act.

Then we have the unfair monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board, which is inaccurately named because it only applies to prairie grain producers, not all grain farmers in Canada as the name suggests.

A Saskatchewan farmer, David Bryan, grew a crop of wheat on his own land. He got into trouble when he tried to sell his wheat for a better price than what the Canadian Wheat Board would pay him. The federal government charged Mr. Bryan with exporting his own grain to the United States without getting an export licence from the monopolistic, dictatorial Wheat Board.

For violating this Soviet-style decree, Mr. Bryan spent a week in jail, was fined $9,000 and received a two year suspended sentence. Mr. Bryan, with the help of the National Citizens Coalition, appealed the conviction on the grounds that it violated his property rights as guaranteed in the Canadian Bill of Rights passed by Parliament in 1960. On February 4, 1999, the Manitoba Court of Appeal ruled against David Bryan's right to sell his own grain that he grew on his own land. I ask the House to listen carefully to what the Manitoba Court of Appeal stated on page 14 of the ruling:

Section 1(a) of the Canadian Bill of Rights, which protects property rights through a “due process” clause, was not replicated in the Charter, and the right to “enjoyment of property” is not a constitutionally protected, fundamental part of Canadian society.

It is shocking that in a modern democratic country like ours property rights are not protected. I know of no other country in the modern world that does not protect property rights. I would ask anyone who is listening to this debate or reads the record of this debate whether they can believe that those words came out of a Canadian court of law. I repeat: “the right to 'enjoyment of property' is not a constitutionally protected, fundamental part of Canadian society”. I seek to change that.

Another concern for property owners was the Liberal government's proposed animal cruelty legislation that would have seen the animal cruelty provisions moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own; that would remove these provisions outside of the scope of the legal protection of section 492(2) of the Criminal Code. Ultimately this proposed legislation could open up the possibility that farmers, sporting groups and scientific researchers will be unjustly prosecuted. Animal rights groups in Canada will certainly use this new legislation as the basis for such prosecutions and in fact have already stated their intention to do so.

The cost of these prosecutions is one thing that farmers cannot afford, but the fact is that this legislation could affect billions of dollars worth of property without providing any legal means for those affected to receive fair, just and timely compensation for the manner in which their operations will be affected by this legislation and by the regulations that implement it.

These are just four examples of the Liberal government running roughshod over each person's right to own and enjoy property and to receive full, just and timely compensation if the government takes that property away from people, prohibits them from using and enjoying their property or reduces the value of their property by the regulations they impose upon us.

Chinese property owners have a better chance of getting full, just and timely compensation for their property rights taken from them by the government. At least property rights are entrenched in the Chinese constitution. But not in Canada's.

China has just recently put this in place and yet we in Canada do not recognize how important this is in a free and democratic society based on a market economy. If we want a strong economy, we must put property rights into the Constitution.

I can see people's eyes glazing over. They may not understand the importance of property rights, but I assure everyone that it is absolutely essential in a country like ours that they be properly protected. That is why I have brought this motion forward. I hope that people will approach this with an open mind, examine the issues, scratch beneath the surface and see how absolutely essential this is. Then I think the glaze in their eyes may fade away, because they will see that each one of us in Canada suffers because we do not have the proper property rights protection.

Because the Liberals will not fix this injustice, it will be up to us as Conservatives to do it. We can take the first step tonight by supporting Motion No. 227.

Property Rights
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville for his speech. When it is my turn to speak, he will understand that we agree in principle with the motion, but I want to ask him the following question.

To me his motion seems rather vague. He spoke at length about the Species at Risk Act and I think his motion is particularly concerned with that act. However, I would like him to elaborate on whether he is simply generalizing or whether his motion is related to other bills.

Can the hon. member elaborate on whether his motion concerns specifically the Species at Risk Act, whether he has other intentions in mind, or whether other legislation could be affected by this motion?

Property Rights
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. The member said that this is a big motion. If we look at this carefully, it is a general principle. It is a principle that I would like this Parliament to approve. Once we approve this in principle, we can begin to look at ways to protect property rights in Canada. In a previous Parliament I put forward a bill that would have amended the Bill of Rights and that would have given a little protection.

This is not specifically aimed at one particular piece of legislation in this House. I am trying to achieve a principle of property rights entrenched in Canada. We could begin with the Bill of Rights, which this Parliament could easily pass. I think we also have to look at ways in which we can amend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include this as a general protection that Canadians would have against their own government. Right now, the government can run roughshod over Canadians with any piece of legislation. They have no protection in law.

Property Rights
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

An hon. member

And it does.

Property Rights
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

And it does.

I did not use just the example of the airport or of this one particular act. I talked about farmers and the ability to sell their grain. Let me tell members a little more about that case.

There was a farmer in Manitoba who had the misfortune of having a certain disease come into his wheat. He had a very small percentage of diseased kernels in that grain. The Canadian Wheat Board refused to accept his grain. He had large quantities of this grain. If he could not sell it, his business of course would have been destroyed. He found a buyer in the United States who was willing to take his grain and give him a fair price for it.

The Canadian Wheat Board, which would not buy his grain, would neither allow him to sell it. Here we have a gross violation of property rights. And when we go to the courts, the courts say we do not have property rights in Canada.

I first want to get this passed as a general principle by this House. Then we can start working together as political parties, as politicians, as elected representatives of the people of Canada, to decide what is the best way to do that.

I have already made a suggestion: put it in the Bill of Rights. We could also look further as to ways to include that in the charter. That is more difficult because it is of course a constitutional amendment. It is something that I think we should start thinking about and looking at. I think once we explain this to the people of Canada, they will see that this is something that is best for this country and that it protects the average citizen in Canada.

In answer to the member's question, no, it does not refer to just one piece of legislation. It is a general principle. I hope that it would apply to all legislation and would be a caution on government to not run roughshod over the people of this country.

Property Rights
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, Nepean--Carleton is the riding I represent and it is the region I want to speak about today. At the outset of the creation of the Federal District Commission, which has now become the National Capital Commission, farmers had huge pieces of land confiscated. They were paid only a third of the market value of that time.

The National Capital Commission now charges full market value rent on those lands. The National Capital Commission has effectively become a commercial enterprise, using these properties which it expropriated from farmers and families as a revenue-generating tool.

All of this is documented in the Spirit of Nepean , authored by the famous D. Aubrey Moodie, who was the reeve of Nepean. He is 97 years old today and can tell us all these important historical facts.

It seems to me that this is one practical example of how a group of people were abused by their government and not given fair compensation. It seems to me that this right is so basic, so quintessential, that it is burned onto the heart of every human being, that that which they create with their hands is their property and must be protected. Why is it that in a country as advanced as Canada we have yet to respect that right?

Property Rights
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the answer is simple: I do not know. I cannot comprehend why we would not have put this into our Charter of Rights and Freedoms when we made the charter part of our Constitution in 1982. It was intentionally omitted. The member has just given an excellent example. There is a host of examples right across this country as to why we need this right.

If we think of all the rights around the world that people possess, I cannot think of any right that is more important and more fundamental than property rights, other than the right to life. I cannot imagine why we do not have that. It is an obvious right that should be included. That is why I brought this motion forward.

Property Rights
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this motion. My comments will be a bit more precise than for most motions.

The motion proposes that all persons who are deprived of personal property or suffer a loss in the value of property as a result of any government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation be compensated. I will have to oppose this motion on a number of grounds. I will try and elaborate.

First, the scope of the motion is far too broad. It is quite simply unreasonable and unmanageable in modern day governance terms. I think the mover has thought about this from a certain perspective; I will call it inside the box. However, when one steps outside the box and looks at the application of the motion, one will see how unworkable it really is.

Perhaps as discussion here has suggested, the motion is an attempt to nudge governance back toward a charter amendment that would refer to personal property rights. I do not think this will get us there very quickly. However, I appreciate the motive in the motion.

If the motion were adopted and if it were put into practice, the repercussions based on the current wording would be staggering. It is not an exaggeration to say that taken to its logical conclusion, it would make much of our current governance unworkable.

For example, the term “all persons” would not only include individuals. In Canadian law “persons” refers to corporations as well. That would include multinational corporations.

Second, the words “personal or “private property” would refer to any non-governmental property, including the property of corporations, non-Canadian corporations held here, and even property acquired through illegal activity, directly or indirectly. For example, proceeds of crime legislation that removes property from people would be covered by the motion. I assume it is not the intent of the mover to protect people involved in illegal activities. No one around here would ever want to suggest that. In its current form the motion would extend that protection.

Being deprived of property could be interpreted to include a lot of things, including paying taxes. I am assuming that dismantling the tax system is not the objective of the mover, but based on the wording of the motion that could be the result.

Let me give another example. Let us say that the Bank of Canada lowered the core interest rate, that there was a change in policy and the core interest rate was lowered. That would result in a decrease in the value of assets held across the country, virtually around the world, currencies, loans, government bonds, holders of assets and not just for Canadians, but the central banks of many countries.

One has to take into account the many indirect effects that would be had on a variety of financial assets in Canada and outside Canada, securities and real estate. Just that one government policy change, lowering or raising the interest rate, could have that kind of an impact.

The terms of this motion would require the government to compensate all holders of these assets in the event of such a policy decision. It is safe to say that in that one hypothetical example that would just about bankrupt us all.

Let us consider the wording “government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation”. This wording appears to be designed to cover the full spectrum of government activity. Let us look at some of the possibilities if this motion with its current wording were put into effect. It would render inappropriate the current Income Tax Act and taxation statutes. Without taxes, we would have to renounce any form of government programming, any form of government activity, from universal health care to agriculture to public security and defence.

For example, if the Canadian International Trade Tribunal were to apply a countervailing duty on goods being exported from abroad into Canada, that would trigger a loss in value. It might even cause a loss of jobs here.

That would be a perfectly justifiable trade countervail decision, but it would be a government policy decision and it would have a negative economic impact on Canadians. This motion would require compensation.

Maybe the hon. member did not think about that particular envelope when he drafted the motion, but he has drafted it widely for the reasons I have alluded to before and that is where I think it takes us.

As I said before, this could also cover the seizure of goods and the proceeds of crime. He may not have thought that through. The impact on Canada's general body of laws would be actually quite profound.

Additionally, the motion also raises the question of who would decide what is just, full and timely compensation. The usual processes for deciding such matters are court decisions, out of court settlements, negotiated agreements and statutes that are made after full debate in Parliament. The motion also raises the question of how compensation would be administered. No doubt it would be a daunting task.

Lastly, another objection I have to the motion is that it fails to recognize that the Government of Canada and in fact all governments across Canada already consider the interests of Canadians and their electors when they embark on policy and legislative processes. In other words, governments, including the federal government, already take a preventive approach. The private property rights alluded to here are framed and protected already, not quite the way the hon. member would like, in our common law system.

For example, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act already provides that the government shall investigate the potential impacts of proposed government decisions on the environment, including human society. These include: health and socio-economic conditions, positive and negative; physical and cultural heritage issues; the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by aboriginal persons; or any structure, site or thing that is of historical, archaeological, paleontological or architectural significance. The government is already compelled to take into account in that one example many possible effects on personal property.

To conclude, the simple fact is that if the House were to adopt this motion and if a government were to try and put it into practice, the federal government would have a very, very tough time governing. I am sure that was not the goal of the hon. member. Unless, is it possible, that the motion really manifests part of an agenda which, let us say, is right of centre, which attempts to rebalance what we currently have, the balance between collective rights and individual rights and to place that balance closer to the individual? I suspect it is.

However, I happen to be one of those who, unlike the official opposition, do not happen to think we are all headed to hell in a handcart. We happen to have an excellent country and I know our citizens believe that it is. In that balance between personal and collective rights, I think we have it right and the charter firmed up part of that balance. However, if the hon. member wishes to tinker some more and to move the balance, I am not one who would agree with that, but I congratulate him for contemplating the prospect.

I want to indicate that I oppose the motion for the several reasons I have indicated. I encourage colleagues to think of it in the same way that I have.

Property Rights
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in this debate this evening on Motion M-227 introduced by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville. The hon. member said the following in his motion, which I am pleased to read so that those watching us can understand what we are talking about this evening:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that full, just and timely compensation be paid to all persons who are deprived of personal or private property or suffer a loss in value of that property as a result of any government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation.

The question I asked the member for Yorkton—Melville was not innocent. I asked him, since the motion was especially vague, whether it referred to a number of other bills. In light of his answer, I must say that, for the moment, the Bloc Québécois has not determined what position it will take, because this motion could affect a number of other statutes. If so, this may affect several of the Bloc's critics and, clearly, it would be out of line for me to take a stand on their behalf this evening, at first reading of this motion. We are reserving our position for now, however, the member raised many interesting points when he made his motion and above all when he gave striking examples, particularly with regard to Mirabel and the farmers. I will mention other examples in the course of my speech.

So, if we want to get a good grasp of the situation, it must be said that the federal government has the power to restrict the property rights of Quebeckers and Canadians, of course, and even deny them those rights or decrease the value of their property. This is a possibility. All too often, the rules on compensation lack a proper legislative framework. That is why I asked the member earlier whether he was talking specifically about the Species at Risk Act, because, as I said earlier, this is one instance where the rules on compensation lack the proper legislative framework. I might have the opportunity, in a moment, to talk about the ins and outs of this legislation.

During consideration of this legislation, some groups had noted that compensation issues were insufficiently defined. The representative of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, specifically, came to talk to us. Section 64 of this act indicates that the Minister may, in accordance with the regulations, provide fair and reasonable compensation to any person for losses suffered as a result of any extraordinary impact of the application ofthe act.

So what about the ordinary consequences which may, of course, be just as unfortunate? And what, exactly, happens when restricting property rights amounts to expropriation? Mirabel was just mentioned: it is both a good and a bad example. And in cases, for instance, where a piece of land cannot be used because of a declaration by the federal government that threatened species live there? If people cannot expect to be properly compensated, there is a danger they will not want to report protected species on their property.

The member was talking about farmers a little earlier. In my case, I can talk about outfitters. There are 400 of them in Quebec. An outfitting operation might see its access to or use of a lake restricted because of a protected fish species in it. If the compensation to which the outfitter would be entitled is insufficient, he might choose not to say anything. One must be very careful, therefore, when a minister is given discretionary power, namely that of deciding whether any compensation provided will be large or small. We must be very cautious about that.

The Species at Risk Act is intended basically to protect threatened or endangered species and their habitat. This legislation ensures that birds, fish mammals, plants and insects at risk will be given protection. It will also ensure that the government will help endangered species grow in numbers. So much for fine principles. The act applies to fields, forests, wetlands and open water. It must be remembered that there are nearly 70,000 animal and plant species in Canada. It is very important to protect them, and we recognize that.

Nevertheless, I will say in a moment why we voted against the bill, and people will understand quite soon.

There are provisions under the act for compensation for unexpected losses due to unforeseen restrictions on the normal use of the land in question. Compensation would be for losses which cause hardship for land owners and land users. The compensation provisions, however, must not create perverse incentives to inhibit voluntary habitat protection measures in hopes of receiving future compensation.

That was an excerpt from a press release issued by the former Minister of the Environment at the time when he tabled the Species at Risk Act.

We were against this legislation. It was not that we were against protecting species at risk, far from it, but in the view of the Bloc Québécois, protecting habitat is a provincial jurisdiction, while the government across the way, in this legislation, took unto itself the power to intrude on land in Quebec.

I can tell you right now there was no way this could be acceptable to the Government of Quebec at the time or to us. As usual, it is an intrusion. It is not just overlap, it is direct intrusion in Quebec jurisdiction, that is to say, federal police officers can intervene on a piece of property or a reserve. That just does not work in terms of our goal of being a sovereign nation.

When I was giving examples just now, I mentioned the Quebec's outfitters. The hon. member who presented the motion gave the example of Mirabel. We totally agree with him. I would like to use the example of Baie-du-Febvre, because I will end with the Species at Risk Act.

Baie-du-Febvre is in the mid-Quebec region, Centre-du-Québec, where I was born. It is just outside my riding boundaries. As you may know, there are 200 bird species on the shores of Saint-Pierre Lake in spring and fall. They put on a fantastic show. Snow geese taking off and landing at dawn—it is a sight I recommend to everyone. Tens of thousands of birds launch into the sky at the same time.

If the principle of protection were applied there, if land in that sector were expropriated without adequate compensation of the land owners, there would be a problem that the hon. member's motion might help solve.

He talked about Mirabel. That is good. I need not remind you that we have had major differences of opinion with the government opposite on this topic. In March 1969, the federal Liberal government at the time announced the plan to build the Mirabel international airport in Sainte-Scholastique. It submitted a plan to expropriate 97,000 acres, 10 times the area of the largest airports in the world and 27 times the area of Dorval airport.

Later they realized they did not need anywhere near 97,000 acres. This was the largest expropriation Canada had ever seen, an area larger than the city of Laval. More than 3,000 families were affected by the scandal, another scandal. This scandal has been around for a very long time and still has not been resolved, despite the decision by Parliament—the opposition parties in fact—to call for the land in Mirabel to be returned to the farmers or the people who had it stolen from them by the government at the time.

The Bloc Québécois has long been demanding that the federal government fix this mistake, involving individuals whose land was expropriated for Mirabel. For starters, the 11,000 acres of land expropriated in excess of what was needed could be returned. Its development is jeopardized by the temporary nature of the rights of the farmers who are using it. It is difficult for them to convince financial institutions to lend them money to invest in their facilities. Moreover, these farmers are reluctant to undertake expensive projects to improve the land, since they do not know how long they will be able to use it. This debate is not over.

I believe that the member's motion does propose a way to right this terrible wrong. Consequently, despite the fact, as I said at the start of the debate, that the Bloc wants to reserve its position for the moment, there are some interesting points in the motion, which we must consider more closely first. As Motion M-227 proceeds through the various stages, that is what we will do.

Property Rights
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to stand today to address a motion put forward by my colleague, the Conservative member for Yorkton—Melville. I would like to read the motion into the record:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that full, just and timely compensation be paid to all persons who are deprived of personal or private property or suffer a loss in value of that property as a result of any government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation.

At this point I want to congratulate my colleague, who is undoubtedly one of the hardest working members of any party in the House. He has acted so well on behalf of taxpayers with regard to the firearms registry, but also in advancing very important issues like property rights. He has been a consistent advocate of those principles. I had the opportunity in the last Parliament to address this issue and I am pleased to do so again. I fully support this motion.

We have to recall the abstract and history of property rights and the fact that it is intertwined completely with western civilization, going back to great thinkers like Aristotle, the Greco-Roman, the Roman civilization, working its way up to philosophers like John Locke. I would like to quote from Locke's work at this point. I think he gives one of the best definitions.

He locates the right of property and labour. He individualizes the right of property, which is certainly an important development in western thought. This is from his Two Treatises of Government , “Chapter V Of Property”:

The “labour” of his body and the “work” of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his own property.