Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Motion No. 227 introduced by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville. The member has been making his points on property rights for at least 10 years now, first with Bill C-284, then Bill C-304, Bill C-313 and currently with Bill C-235. He also tabled motions, including the current one, which was debated on April 21.
During the first hour of debate he stated that his motion was based on a general principle, a principle that he would like Parliament to approve so that eventually property rights would be entrenched in a bill of rights and ultimately that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms be amended accordingly.
During the first hour of debate on this motion, on April 21, my colleague, the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River, explained our government's position very well on the motion being debated today.
In our opinion, the scope of the motion is far too broad; it is unreasonable. And if its principle were incorporated in Canadian law, its application would be impossible under modern governance. Should it be passed and implemented, it could cause major repercussions.
I agree with my colleague.
Speaking on behalf of the government, the member for Scarborough—Rouge River explained that the scope of the motion was far too vague. He added that if it were adopted and put into practice through adoption in Canadian laws, the repercussions based on the current wording would be staggering and that if it were taken to its logical conclusion, it would make much of our current governance unworkable.
I will not repeat the sound arguments made by my colleague. He certainly made a very strong case on the reasons why we oppose the motion. I will instead spend time on what could be the ultimate goal of the member for Yorkton—Melville, that is, amending the Canadian Bill of Rights to increase the protection of property rights in Canada.
The Canadian Bill of Rights is part of Canada's longstanding transition to human rights. The Bill of Rights has included provisions protecting property rights since it has been in force. Section 1 of the Bill of Rights recognizes the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law.
Property rights are also protected at the federal level by statute in common law. Federal statutes that regulate the disposition of property have been designed to ensure that people are treated fairly; that is, these laws provide for fair procedures and for fair compensation where property rights are affected.
Property rights are also protected at the provincial level. For example, the Alberta individual rights protection act protects the ownership of property by a due process clause. The Quebec charter of human rights and freedoms provides some protection to the peaceful enjoyment and free disposition of one's property.
The common law also protects property rights. For example, judges frequently apply the presumption that compensation is required where someone is deprived of their property.
It is also important to note that under the Canadian Constitution, property law is primarily the responsibility of the provincial governments. In fact, section 92(13) of the Constitution Act states that the provincial governments have exclusive jurisdiction over civil law and property law, notwithstanding matters under federal jurisdiction according to section 91.
This provision does not mean that the federal government is unable to legislate property law. However, its jurisdiction in this area is clearly limited. Should it reach beyond its jurisdiction, this could raise constitutional issues.
Proposals to include greater protection for private property in the Charter have been rejected many times by provincial governments, since, in their eyes, it would be an intrusion upon their constitutional powers.
Canada already protects property rights in a number of ways. On the whole, the average Canadian enjoys a very high level of protection for property rights under statutes and the common law, including the Canadian Bill of Rights. This is generally true at the provincial level as well. This protection reflects the value that we as Canadians place on property rights.
The right to own things, a home, a car or other possessions, is basic to our way of life. The right to use or dispose of property is also very fundamental to our way of life, but we recognize that these are not unlimited rights. These rights we value very highly in our country. These property rights are ingrained in our legal system. They are ingrained in statutes at the federal level. They are ingrained in statutes at the provincial level. They are ingrained in human rights legislation at the federal level and within the common law.
In fact, a basic premise of our legal system is the right to own and dispose of property. Our laws, whether legislated or judge made, are full of examples of rules concerning the ownership and use of property.
For example, the laws concerning real property, consumer protection or security interests contain many rules protecting both purchasers and vendors. Thus, when I consider the broad range of legislation and judicial precedents that protect property rights, it is not clear to me that the solution offered by the hon. member provides any further protection.
Taking that into account, it is important to reflect on what the proposed motion would actually do if its principle were incorporated into law. It singles out property rights from all the other rights in the Canadian Bill of Rights for very special protection. Again section 1 of the Canadian Bill of Rights recognizes the rights of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property.
Out of all those very fundamental rights to Canadians, the hon. member tries to raise property rights up for special protection. It seems that all of those rights are very important. When one considers the right to life and liberty, certainly one would not raise the value of property higher than those very special and important rights.
I do not see why, under the circumstances, we should support the motion of the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville. If it were carried through, it would establish a hierarchy within the rights that are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which would not be desirable. Every one of these rights should have equal importance. They are all very important, and I believe it would be inappropriate to try to favour one above the rest.
As I mentioned earlier, the right to own and dispose of property is not an unlimited right. It is limited by laws that regulate the use of property in the public interest. For example, land use, planning and zoning laws may limit the type of building that can be placed on residential lots. They may limit the type of construction in certain types of business districts. Environmental laws regulate everything from the disposal of hazardous waste to the removal of trees. There are laws that regulate the ownership of transactions and shares in limited companies. Other laws regulate bankruptcy and the ownership of corporate interests by non-Canadians, and so on. All of these laws impose real limits on the ownership and use of property.
No one disputes that these are necessary limits in a free and democratic society. When that is realized, it is incumbent upon us to think carefully about the implications of amending the property rights protection in a general human rights document. I am concerned about that effect in general.
The United States has had considerable experience in property rights and we should learn from its experience. On the other hand, Canadian courts have demonstrated that they will go their own way in interpreting the provisions of human rights laws. The proposed motion, if it became a legal principle, would leave us with uncertainty about the meaning of property rights and the effect of the motion on a wide variety of laws that touch on property in one way or another.