An Act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights (protection for property rights)

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Scott Reid  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 15, 2004
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

DNA Identification ActPrivate Members' Business

November 9th, 2006 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about this private member's bill, Bill C-279, An Act to amend the DNA Identification Act (establishment of indexes).

The summary says:

This enactment amends the DNA Identification Act to provide for the establishment of a human remains index and a missing persons index to help law enforcement agencies search for and identify persons reported missing.

Hon. members know the effort that the Bloc Québécois makes to defend the interests of Quebeckers and, at the same time, defend areas of provincial jurisdiction. Once again, this House is debating this sort of bill. I will read a comment made by an analyst with the Parliament of Canada about Bill C-240, which was introduced during the previous Parliament and covered the same ground as Bill C-279, which is before us today. The analyst told us that the bill introduced by the member in question—who shall remain nameless—was ultra vires Parliament, because it concerned a local area of jurisdiction.

That means simply that this bill does not come under federal jurisdiction.

We can talk and talk in this House, but the government always turns a deaf ear. Before, it was the Liberals; now, it is the Conservatives. The government is always ready to encroach on areas of provincial jurisdiction. It is no wonder so many Quebeckers want to leave Canada and form their own country, Quebec. We are sick and tired of this constant interference. We are tired of investing time, money and energy in areas that do not come under federal jurisdiction. In fact, 23%, 24% or 25% of the money comes from Quebeckers.

The federal government has enough problems with its own areas of jurisdiction, as we can attest. Since the Conservative government was elected, we have watched it invest in the army, in arms, in law and order. The Criminal Code is a federal responsibility. The government has enough problems with its own areas of jurisdiction. It should let the provinces pass their own legislation and their own regulations in their own areas of jurisdiction.

As I said, the Bloc Québécois did not say that, it was a researcher from the Library of Parliament who said that this bill does not come under federal jurisdiction.

Earlier, my Liberal colleague openly admitted that there was a problem with jurisdiction. When there is a problem with jurisdiction, you do not table such a bill. It is simple. That avoids debates and, in the opinion of his colleagues, would avoid giving the Bloc Québécois a reason to argue. Too often, in this Parliament, we are right. In the case of this bill, we find quite simply that this is not a matter falling under federal jurisdiction.

It is not that there are not some good debates. Solving the fiscal imbalance is a good debate. It is a debate that we should have in this Parliament. We would be pleased to have members from the other parties table private members' bills in order to deal with the fiscal imbalance. Some would say that they cannot table such bills because they entail expenditures and therefore require royal recommendation.

However, this small bill, C-279, also requires royal recommendation given that it entails expenditures to create an index. When fellow members table bills requiring royal recommendation,they know that entails expenses and requires additional authorization. That also means that it requires supplementary budgets and that it is not a sure thing that it will be adopted. That is what it means.

Thus, the members should work on solving the problem of Quebeckers, namely the fiscal imbalance. The Bloc Québécois has never hidden the fact that the amount needed to resolve the fiscal imbalance is $3.9 billion. It is that simple. Any colleague from the other parties can table a private member's bill and ask for resolution of the fiscal imbalance, which is $3.9 billion for Quebec and some $12 billion for all of Canada. They would be helping one another out, they would be helping the citizens of their provinces and, at the same time, would perhaps ease some of the tension that exists between Quebec and the rest of Canada.

Members will have gathered from what I said that the Bloc Québécois will oppose Bill C-279. The reason for that is quite simple: the establishment of a registry for DNA identification or the establishment of indexes do not fall under federal jurisdiction; it is an area of provincial jurisdiction.

We are very respectful of the Constitution of Canada. As members know, Quebec has not signed the new Constitution. The ROC, the rest of Canada, gave itself a Constitution and cannot even abide by it. It is no wonder that Quebec did not sign it: that document was unacceptable to the people of Quebec.

I hope that everyone has noted the Bloc Québécois' desire to clarify its position. The Bloc Québecois is finding increasingly intolerable the introduction of bills having to do with areas of provincial jurisdiction. So, this is a nice, friendly warning to our colleagues and friends from other Canadian provinces: they have to respect provincial jurisdictions in the private members' bills they introduce.

I will repeat to make sure that it is clear. I am not the one saying this, because I am repeating what the analyst from the Library of Parliament said about Bill C-240, which was identical to Bill C-279. The analyst said that Bill C-240 was ultra vires the powers of Parliament as it would deal with a matter of local concern. The same is therefore true of Bill C-279, and that is why we have not requested any specific analysis from the Library of Parliament staff. We already had their analysis on Bill C-240.

So, it will come as no surprise to the hon. member who introduced Bill C-279 that the Bloc Québécois will be voting against that bill. I realize that this may sound persnickety and that the Bloc Québécois may appear to be fussy about this point. But if we want each level of government, both the federal government and the provinces, to have their jurisdictions respected, the first thing to do is to read the Constitution over. It is all set out very clearly in there. It was very clear to the analyst, and I hope it will be very clear as well to my hon. colleagues, that Bill C-279 does not fall under federal jurisdiction.

This brings me to the issue of the federal government's jurisdiction. As we know, some money was spent and more will be spent in the future. We can also see that this Conservative government, guided by its right-wing republican conservative vision, is investing a lot of money in the military and in defence material. Of course we cannot blame the government for doing that, because this area comes under its jurisdiction. The federal government is responsible for looking after the army. I think the Conservative government has clearly understood that, and this is why Canada is investing increasingly more in this area.

The problem is that we do not have debates in this House on the kind of armed forces that we want. When missions are sent to Afghanistan, there is no debate in the House, and the government does not seek the advice of hon. members. For example, when we go to Kenya to represent the Government of Canada and talk about the environment, as is the case now, there is no debate. Yet, the Bloc Québécois asked for a debate. The leader of our party rose in this House and asked the Prime Minister for a true debate, so that we can at last state our position to the Minister of the Environment, who will arrive in Kenya without the Canadian government's position.

This is not the first time the Government of Canada does not have a position. When the Liberals were in power, they did not have one either. The problem is, some might say we were lucky because at least they showed up. It is true that the current Conservative government has often been absent from major international meetings and during international talks.

I see that I have only one minute remaining, so I will wrap things up.

So Canada will show up in Kenya with empty pockets and empty hands because the Canadian government does not have a position and does not want to respect the Kyoto protocol. Obviously, the Conservative government is on the oil company payroll. This probably comes as no surprise to the people who watch and listen to what goes on in this House—they know the Conservative government is under the oil companies' collective thumb.

I doubt this is news to anyone. However, given the serious global warming problem we are facing, it is time to set aside our personal interests, take into account the common good and stand up for the best interests of all Quebeckers and Canadians who want the federal government to have a real agenda to meet the Kyoto protocol targets, rather than pass bills like C-279.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

October 4th, 2005 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to hear every speaker getting my riding name right since we returned. They must have spent the summer practising.

I suspect that in her remarks earlier the parliamentary secretary was making a speech that must have been written with the intention of being used on my private member's Bill C-279 rather than on this motion because she made references to the Canadian Bill of Rights. I proposed a lot of that effect and unfortunately she only seemed to have a passing familiarity with the motion before the House today.

I want to talk a little about the overarching theme of property rights that is contained in both the motion before the House today and in the bill that I proposed.

Let me start by going back in history to December 7, 1941, which is the day on which the imperial Japanese navy launched a simultaneous attack on British and American forces in the Pacific. As a result of this, both Canadians and Americans found themselves at war with Japan and both countries at that time contained large populations of naturalized and second generation citizens of Japanese origin, most living on the Pacific coast and working largely as fishermen.

Given the fear of coastal attacks, the white majority in both countries responded with what one author has described as “near-identical racism to the perceived security threat posed by the Japanese minorities”.

As a result of this, in February 1942 these mostly patriotic Canadian and American citizens were rounded up and shipped to internment camps in the interior. In their absence, their properties, including their fishing vessels, were in many cases seized without their consent. Naturally, some of the internees sought legal remedies to the outrageous manner in which their rights had been violated. In Canada, which had no bill of rights at that time, their appeals were rejected by the courts and the policy banning these citizens from returning to the west coast remained in effect until 1949.

In the United States, the cases eventually made their way to the supreme court which ruled in 1944 that the wartime internment of American citizens without proof of anti-government activity or treasonable sentiment was a justifiable use of the state power. This ruling has made some people comment that in times of crisis the bill of rights cannot be relied upon to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority.

However what is forgotten and what is relevant to today's debate is that this same court also ruled, at a time when war was still raging with the Japanese empire and when that empire seemed years from defeat, that it was not permissible for the American government to take away their property and sell it compulsorily. In Canada, by contrast, seized property was sold for a fraction of its value without regard to the protests of former owners. To add insult to injury, deductions were made for sales costs and taxes.

In a comparison of the treatment of the Japanese on the other side of the border, historian Roger Daniels concluded that it was “the American constitution, with its tradition of judicial review, which was largely responsible” for the less uncivilized behaviour of the American authorities.

I have related this story because I believe there are a number of vital services that can be provided by a well written, well interpreted bill of rights or charter of rights and, in particular of course, in protecting people and their property rights. Here is a clear demonstration of how this works and how it could have worked in Canada. This is the kind of benefit we could see if property rights were protected in a bill of rights.

Of course there are other ways of going about dealing with protecting property rights. We could do it through the Charter of Rights and other levels of government could pass ordinary legislation.

This has been a critical part of my own political career. I wrote the property rights policy that was adopted by the old Reform Party in the 1990s. I was active in causing the new Conservative Party to adopt a version of this policy at its most recent policy convention in March. I was happy to assist the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville when he was drafting his motion several months ago. Actually, I withdrew an item of my own from the Order Paper back in April so that he could start the process of bringing this very important issue before the House, and thank goodness he has done so.

Finally, of course, I introduced a private member's bill of my own, Bill C-279, which seeks to entrench property rights in a meaningful form in Canadian law. I will just talk for a minute about Bill C-279 before returning to the motion at hand.

Bill C-279 seeks to add teeth to the property protection provisions of John Diefenbaker's legislated Canadian Bill of Rights which was enacted in 1960. The Canadian Bill of Rights is not a constitutional document, unlike the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and it only affects federal legislation, which means that it would not affect a number of the areas that were dealt with by my hon. colleague from Durham moments ago. However it does set up a pattern for the kind of behaviour we would like to see and it also deals with federal regulations that intrude on the lives of ordinary Canadians.

The Bill of Rights contains a property provision right now, but it does not prohibit any limitations on how governments may abridge property rights. Bill C-279 seeks to correct this by altering the word of the relevant section of the Bill of Rights to read as follows:

(a) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment and use of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law, and, in the case of property, without full, just and timely compensation;

This is the whole point of the exercise. Neither I, nor the member for Yorkton—Melville, nor anybody else in the House who is speaking in favour of property rights, is trying to take away any power from the government. We are not attempting to say that governments cannot pass laws in favour of public safety, protection of the environment, zoning or taking over pieces of property for military use. We are not trying to invade on the government's right to create new bankruptcy laws which was the particularly unusual example cited by the parliamentary secretary.

We are trying to ensure that when these actions occur, for example, when the use of land is restricted because of the need to protect an endangered species because of unusual environmental situations, that the cost to the landowner of the change in use of that land is compensated in some way. There is no reason why the government cannot do this, except of course that there might be an additional cause.

This is the usual argument that tends to come up and the parliamentary secretary raised this objection earlier. Essentially, if we stop downloading the costs of new laws, and I will take environmental laws as an example, onto a specific group such as farmers, it will raise the cost of these worthwhile regulations and laws, and therefore we will have fewer of these laws and fewer of the benefits that go along with them.

There is a technical way in which perhaps that is partly correct, but the obvious thing that I want to point out is that the marginal cost in lost environmental protection would be very slight. This is true for the following three reasons. First, many environmental regulations passed right now are of limited benefit in protecting the environment. These would be the ones most readily set aside if the government could not afford the cost.

For example, there is a regulation in Ontario forbidding the production of sawdust and wood chips at sawmills, even though these chips are used to spread as ground cover by the National Capital Commission and elsewhere. Bureaucrat A who wants the regulation, if there were property rights protections and compensation for the taking of property, would have to justify the cost of that compensation to the Environment Department to bureaucrat B, who would then try to focus perhaps on using the available funds more wisely and not on measures that have no discernible benefit to the environment. This of course applies to every other area.

Second, the government would start to focus on lower cost solutions to the environmental problems that it is called upon to regulate. For example, if the government had to cover the cost of complying with its own regulations, I do not think it would approach the problem of keeping drinking water safe by creating the requirement for concrete retaining tanks for liquid manure which has been done here in Ontario under the nutrient management act. This is perhaps the highest cost possible way of dealing with the legitimate concern about keeping the water table clean and municipal water safe in the wake of the Walkerton tragedy. Because of the cost to download it, there is no need for the bureaucrats to worry about this sort of thing.

Finally, taking actions that impose costs without compensation is actually bad policy in achieving its goal. To take the example of environmental policy, there is what is known as the shoot, shovel and shut up phenomenon where someone recognizes that he or she has an endangered species on his or her property and seeks to shoot it, then shovel and hide the evidence in order to protect the property from having its usage restricted by laws.

This is what we see going on in Goulbourn where right now people are clearing their land in order to ensure they do not get wetland designation. Several years ago I saw my father's next door neighbour out in the country in rural Osgoode, south of Ottawa, do the very same thing to avoid having a wetland designation that might prevent him from severing his property.

There is in fact very little real cost to ensuring compensation. There is a great deal of additional benefit and justice, and as in the example I gave earlier of the Japanese Canadians in the 1940s, it is frequently those who are most disenfranchised and least able to speak for themselves who are the victims of a lack of property rights in the country. Therefore, I urge everybody to vote in favour of the motion before the House today.

SupplyGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2004 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, today, we are here to discuss and debate a motion that reads as follows, and I will read it in French.

That the House call on the government to take the appropriate measures to sell the 11,000 acres of arable land back to the families and farmers whose land was expropriated to build the Mirabel Airport.

It was near Mirabel that I learned the French language. During the 1980s, I lived in Saint-Antoine, very close to Mirabel. I worked in a Giant Tiger store in Saint-Jérôme, east of Mirabel.

It is difficult, for people who do not know this area of Quebec, to realize how big this airport is.

To folks who are not from that area and who mostly speak English, I will try to describe a bit of this. I will tell them about an experience I had when I made a wrong turn one time. I was returning from Laval. I got off the autoroute at the wrong spot and wound up driving on to the territory of Mirabel. I drove down this road through the middle of an absolutely empty countryside for a good 10, 12, maybe 15 minutes. I finally got to the airport. I was able to turn around at that point and drive all the way back to get on to the autoroute to continue on home.

This is an area that has been completely depopulated. It is two-thirds the size of the sovereign country of Singapore, two-thirds the size of an independent country with several million people. It is completely depopulated as a result of a cabinet decision that was made in 1969 and followed through by the cabinet in 1971, even after it realized it was wrong.

I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker.

There were 88,000 acres expropriated, as I say, two-thirds the size of the sovereign country of Singapore, and 3,200 families were forced to move as a result of that expropriation. Only 5,000 acres were used for the airport. As one of my hon. colleagues from the New Democratic Party has pointed out, that is a larger amount of land than is used for Heathrow Airport, the largest and busiest airport in the world. Mirabel has tens of thousands of additional acres that continue not to be used.

As early as January 1971, the Liberal cabinet knew that 22,000 of those acres were not required for the purposes of the airport under any imaginable scenario. Rather than face the public relations embarrassment of having to retract that expropriation, it continued on and depopulated the area of a further 1,700 people who did not need to be moved, but who were forcibly moved to avoid a public relations embarrassment. That is an absolutely astonishing thing to do.

However, this is typical of the attitude that has been taken by that government and by Liberal governments since that time toward private property owners, or even by Liberal governments before that time. After all, it was a Liberal government that in the 1940s that not only rounded up and interned the Japanese Canadians in camps in the interior of B.C. and in other places like Saskatchewan. It also then took their property from them, expropriated it, auctioned it off and then charged the costs of the auctioning against the value of the property. This is the attitude that this government and Liberal governments historically have had toward the private property rights of Canadians.

It seems to me that there are things we could do about this. It is this principled approach that I want to talk about today. It seems to me that we could, as a country, make a decision to ensure that when property is taken by government for a public purpose, adequate compensation is paid. There is no reason why governments should not, when they sense a need, be able to take property from private citizens, as long as compensation is given, compensation that meets certain qualifications. It has to be full compensation. It ought to be timely compensation and it ought to be just compensation.

It is in this spirit that last week I introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-279, which would have the effect of ensuring that the 1960 bill of rights be amended to ensure that no property can be taken unless full, just and timely compensation is given. For greater surety, I have added we want to ensure that the use and enjoyment of property cannot be taken away without full, just and timely compensation.

We could, in this chamber, make the decision to put that law into effect. If that had been done prior to the beginning of the expropriations in 1969, it would be families would not have been deprived of their property in such an unjust and unfair manner. Indeed, because it would have had to pay the full price for these lands, the government would have been much more circumspect about taking these lands.

As we know, there were considerable pressures from within the cabinet as to the expenses involved in this expropriation. Had those expenses reflected the full cost to the community instead of being imposed on the community, I suggest the government would not have taken all those additional acres, which it knew as of 1971 it did not actually need. The public relations headache, by admitting that it had made a mistake, would have been outweighed by the financial considerations of having to pay the cost of its own actions. That is the value of property rights.

I want to talk for just a moment about some other examples of the kinds of property rights abuses that we see from governments, both federal and provincial, toward Canadian citizens and particularly toward rural Canadians who have so much of their livelihood and well-being tied up in the ownership, use and enjoyment of land.

Zoning laws can have the effect of reducing the use and enjoyment of property, effectively taking away some of the value of property. Environmental laws relating to buffer zones around water courses, for example, and restrictions on the grazing of animals on property can have the effect of reducing the value of that property. That can amount to a de facto expropriation.

Acts, like the Species at Risk Act, which we passed in the House of Commons without adequate compensation provisions for property owners, can have the effect of depriving people of some of the use and enjoyment of their property. That, again, can amount to a de facto confiscation.

The regulations that some provinces, including my own, have passed regarding water filtration requirements can have the effect of causing community halls to be unable to open because they cannot provide the expense of putting in these filtration systems. I have seen this in my own constituency.

All these are effectively restrictions on the value of property without actually taking that property away. That is both unjustifiable and very damaging to the health of our rural communities.

The example that occurred in Mirabel is merely the largest and, if we like, the purest example of this kind of abuse of private property rights. It is not always the case, and it was not the case with those extra acres at Mirabel, but as a rule there is a legitimate public justification for what is being done. I do not think anybody would object to the goal of trying to protect quality in our water courses. I do not think anyone would object, on principle, to the idea of trying to preserve species at risk. Quite the contrary. However, it does seem reasonable that when we take a measure, we ought to accept that we as a government should agree to pay for the cost instead of imposing that cost on the private citizens who have the misfortune to be standing in the way of that public policy.

This respect for their property and their rights ensures that we will see good husbandry of the environment and respect for the law by those who are being affected by these laws.When people know their properties are likely to be confiscated from them or reduced in their value to them, they will try to protect themselves if there is no compensation. However, if the government finds that they have endangered species on their properties, they are far more likely to do what they can to ensure the survival of those species if they know it will not result in their own financial ruin.

I can actually cite an example from Montague Township, in my constituency, where species at risk legislation had the effect of causing someone to lose some of the use of his property. Therefore, he could not subdivide a lot, could not finance his mortgage and he lost his property. Had that property owner known what was coming, I suspect he would have gone out and destroyed the nesting sites of the loggerhead shrike rather than see the loggerhead shrike survive and he lose his property. This kind of thing happens when one does not have respect for property rights.

This is understood in many countries. It is understood, for example, in some countries in Africa, which have had great success by respecting the property rights of local villagers, of their turning their local elephant populations into an asset for them rather into a resource, which is protected at their expense. The result is the countries which have had that kind of respect for property rights have increased elephant populations. We can look around the world at many places for these examples.

Canadian Bill of RightsRoutine Proceedings

November 15th, 2004 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-279, an act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights (protection for property rights).

Mr. Speaker, this is an amendment to the Canadian Bill of Rights of 1960, the so-called Diefenbaker bill of rights, which, although it has been supplemented by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has not been supplanted. It remains on our books and remains a piece of legislation that governs and indeed overrides all federal pieces of legislation that do not specifically say that they will override the Bill of Rights.

This legislation is intended to ensure that no person will be deprived of the use or enjoyment of property without full, just and timely compensation.

The example of such restrictions without compensation on property rights are legion, particularly in rural Canada where governments, both federal and provincial, regularly impose restrictions and regulations that result in the de facto loss of all or most of the value of property that may be the only source of wealth or income to people involved with such humble lines of work as being farmers or campground owners. It imposes restrictions as well on community halls. It is in fact a real burden upon rural communities.

Federal examples of this kind of legislation in which restrictions are placed without compensation include the Species at Risk Act, which seeks to impose a noble policy goal, but does so by imposing the costs upon rural landowners. This is unfair and has resulted, along with provincial homologues, in the loss of property by people who are in a number of areas of rural Canada, including my own constituency.

This legislation would prevent this from taking place and would ensure that property rights of rural Canadians, and indeed all Canadians, are properly respected.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)