House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was property.


Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Lawrence O'Brien Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am starting to feel like I am a minister now. To have a question asked of me by the minister is indeed an honour. It is a very good question.

My background is teaching. I spent nine years teaching and I am very close to youth. I go into the schools quite often to discuss the Chamber make-up et cetera.

Last week in Goose Bay during the hearings for the natural resources committee we heard quite a few views, particularly in relation to youth. The strongest point was that it is very difficult to transport people from Hopedale, Labrador, an Inuit community near Davis Inlet, and the people from Nain thousands of miles away for training.

These people have cultural ties. It is slightly different in our white society. They are asking us to identify the kinds of things they can do, to identify the areas of work in mines, parks and so on that they can do. They are asking us to do whatever we can to bring the training to them rather than them to the training. Maybe we can work together on some of that.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill that was introduced by the fisheries minister. First of all, I must say that, with this bill, the federal government is not taking any action to ensure that, in the future, fishing will be done in a responsible way, that is, in a profitable and sustainable way, from viewpoint of both the environment and of industry workers.

To me, this bill represents one of the worst to be introduced in the House since our election. Yet, it should be the bill of the century. It combines several acts, some of which have existed since 1867. It is one of the worst bills I have seen, because it does not take into account the industry itself. Also, it does not take into account those who work in it and, particularly, those who depend on it.

Did this bill try to do anything to solve the problems of overcapacity? Absolutely not. Was there any attempt to solve the problem of industry revenues, of the industry's viability? Absolutely not. Dis this bill try to do anything to solve the problem of over-regulation? No.

Furthermore, this bill does not take into account Quebec's demands with regard to fisheries. Thus, this bill has the same characteristics as many others, that is, that the federal government keeps on acting unilaterally and maintains its centralizing perspective, which the Bloc Quebecois has always rejected. This is also unacceptable to the stakeholders in the industry.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has obviously learned well, and learned fast. I must admit that his predecessor was rather good when it came to federal paternalism. Notwithstanding his role in the now famous October 1995 demonstration of love, his predecessor never showed Quebecers he was aware of their needs and concerns regarding the fisheries industry.

While this bill establishes a regime for the conservation and management of fisheries, the minister's priority is to issue fisheries management guidelines. Does the minister realize that, before issuing such guidelines, he should have asked himself what the fishing industry is like in Quebec and Canada?

We all know about the current depletion of fish stocks. In fact, this depletion led to a moratorium on Atlantic groundfish. On the west coast, major steps had to be taken to ensure a degree of control over stocks. This goes to show there is indeed a serious problem. Will this bill solve this problem?

Let us see how the minister intends to go about it. As far as he is concerned, stock management simply does not exist. There is no mention, anywhere in this bill, of this important concept which is, I might say, vitally important to the fishing industry.

There are a number of questions, important questions, that the minister should have asked himself, questions like the following: Who will the fishers authorized to harvest the resource be? Should fishing become a profession, with a limit to the number of fishers? What types of vessels should fishers use? This bill does not answer any of these basic questions.

Is the minister blind? Does he have a vision for the future of this industry? There is no hint of that in here. This bill will put in place a regime for the conservation and management of fisheries. It provides the minister with new powers. If the bill is passed, the minister will be authorized to enter into agreements with fishers' associations or organizations.

These agreements could have a serious impact. There could be agreements on harvest limits and conservation measures for instance. How many licences will be issued and how much will they cost? What will the responsibilities and funding measures applicable to fisheries management be? To all these questions, the minister does not provide an answer.

The agreements could also state that fishers are required to contribute to biological research. As if it was not bad enough that they have to pay to have the right to fish, they could also have to pay for research. Now I have heard it all.

The government will go so far as to provide guidelines regarding the decision to be made in case of major violations of the act. But who will be part of this group of fishers? We cannot find out. There are no guidelines on this issue. With whom will the minister negotiate? Let us not be fooled. We know very well that the minister himself will decide who will sit at the negotiation table. He will invite his friends, of course, and should the minister not agree with those sitting at the table, who will form the group of fishers? The minister will have full authority to renege on his word.

The fishing industry needs clear and precise answers. It has been plagued by uncertainty for too long to now be presented with solutions such as those proposed in Bill C-62. This industry, and a large proportion of those who live off it, has had to put up with unstable and inadequate revenues for too long. Is this what the minister wants to offer to these people?

In Quebec, we feel the fishing industry is one that must be looked after. We feel it is one of the economy's engines. Consequently, our approach is totally different from that of the federal fisheries minister. The Quebec government's official position on fisheries is the one that was stated at the 1994 conference of fisheries ministers, in Victoria.

Quebec then publicly asked the federal government to give to the province full authority over fisheries management. Quebec wants to take full responsibility for the stocks fished by its residents. It is of course understood that any transfer of responsibility should be accompanied by a transfer of the budget set aside for this purpose.

Quebec wants its fair share of fish stocks taken by residents of more than one province. Let us consider how the industry in Quebec sees this share. I would like to point out at this point that Quebec's position was unanimous, including the government and all partners who took part in the forum on Quebec maritime fisheries.

The industry in Quebec believes it is essential to get out of the traditional pattern of interprovincial competition and concentrate on joint management of a renewable resource. A quota would be applied to the available volume of a particular species and would determine how the industry would manage that species.

If this mechanism is applied to all species, it will determine the resources available to each province. This will put an end to provincial bickering. There will be no more lobbying to appropriate a greater share of traditional resources.

Professional fishers would then enjoy stable access to their resources and feel more secure in the major investments they must make in this industry. Once their share is established, the industry and governments, federal and provincial, would be able to concentrate their efforts on developing this sector on a sound basis.

The entire industry stands to gain. When we know what we are entitled to and what is available, we are in a better position to manage the resource and subsequent processing. The minister is aware of the Quebec government's position in this respect. He was advised of this position in September by the Quebec Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Once again, the federal government is encroaching on Quebec's jurisdiction. We see duplication in matters such as the conservation and protection of fish habitat and pollution prevention. In case the minister did not know, Quebec has happens to have a Minister of the Environment and Wildlife. He is responsible for the protection and use of the aquatic environment and the resources found therein.

Quebec has jurisdiction over civil rights, private property, municipal authorities, physical planning and resource management, and this includes any matter of a local or private nature. It is therefore up to Quebec to take the responsibility for managing the aquatic environment and to take all necessary steps to protect it, to ensure the quality of that environment and to conserve its resources.

So what is the federal government doing here? Why more duplication? This is unacceptable federal encroachment. Since

1993, we have said repeatedly in this House that this government is increasingly encroaching on the jurisdiction of the provinces.

This government must absolutely allow the provinces to decide if they rather be subject to federal standards or to their own. Quebec has asked not to be subject to federal standards. The minister must reconsider and respect Quebec's wishes, thus preventing costly duplication.

I would like to draw attention to the new structure imposed under Bill C-62. This bill provides for the establishment of fisheries tribunals. The members of these tribunals could be appointed by the government for three year terms, and then be reappointed. As if the government had run out of places in the current structure to appoint its friends, it is now creating fisheries tribunals. This way, the minister retains complete control over the sentences handed out by these tribunals. We know full well that those who are appointed by the government must toe the government line.

Does the industry agree with the proposed creation of fisheries tribunals? No, it does not. Those involved do not want to answer to an administrative tribunal. We have magistrates in Quebec and Canada. Our judicial system is very efficient. The people in the fisheries industry want to be treated like any other citizen, they want to be tried by the judicial system in place, not some new structure.

The minister must abandon his plans to establish fisheries tribunals and go back to the drawing board as soon as possible. He must review his bill. He must listen to what the industry has to say. He must also take into account Quebec's demands, and ensure that his bill meets the needs of those who depend on the fisheries.

The fisheries industry is too important an industry, in Quebec as well as in Canada, to have a bill imposed on it that does not meet the needs of those who depend on it. It is therefore imperative that the minister go back to the drawing board.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Jean Payne Liberal St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I was listening intently to the hon. member's comment.

I want to say that this bill is the first rewrite of the act since 1868. All across Canada we have seen the need for stabilization in this industry. There is a very great need. The member spoke of stabilization of income and I agree with him. I think there needs to be a stabilization of income. But this will happen only if there is a professionalization of the industry. This is exactly what the bill intends to do.

I am making more of a comment than asking a question. I think the time has come for greater professionalization of this industry and for there to be some stability in the harvesting methods. That can happen only through a better quota system.

I would like to ask the hon.member to comment on how he would provide for stabilization and professionalization of both the industry and income.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her comment, which reflects what members of the industry want, that is to make theirs a professional industry.

However, the bill before us is silent on these issues. It is merely a merging of several existing acts. It maintains the status quo. What is new in this legislation? For example, does it say anything about how to make the industry viable and profitable? Does it say that the government is prepared to protect the investments made by fishers to develop their industry? The answer is no. This bill is general in nature, except for the fact that it gives the minister more and more power over the various organizations.

We know that, the more the minister consults these organizations, the less he follows up on what people are asking him. The same thing happened with other bills. Therefore, the problem will not be solved with a minister like this one, who does not give a hoot about the consultations he holds all over the country. The minister made a lot of people come to meet him and to make representations. What was the result of this whole exercise in the proposed bill? Nothing. A big zero.

For example, did the minister streamline regulations to help members of the industry adjust more easily? No, nothing was done in this regard. What about the issue of excess capacity? There is absolutely nothing on this either. Again, the minister has a short-sighted vision of what is going on in this industry. He does not realize that, if the bill is passed by this House, it will apply for many years to come and fishers will have to do without any improvement. The result is that the industry will once again experience total chaos.

The minister must review his position, and I hope many Liberal caucus members will inform him of their intentions and get their message across.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a few comments for my colleague. First of all, I would like to congratulate him. For a member from Chicoutimi, even if people say fishing is not that good up there, I believe some people like to troll for redfish and go ice fishing in the winter.

But what I find so surprising is that the hon. member took the time to do his homework and to read the fisheries bill.

Now let me explain. People from Chicoutimi are not as familiar with the sea as the hon. member for Newfoundland or I myself might be, but he understands the problem perfectly.

Before I put a question to the hon. member for Chicoutimi, I would like to elaborate on the comment made by the hon. member for Newfoundland. I must say it is very apt, and because this lady replaced the former Minister of Fisheries, Mr. John Crosbie, I suppose I can expect her to know something about the fisheries as well.

She pointed out that the fisheries industry was keen on professionalization. I want to make sure I understood correctly. I imagine she will have a chance to make her speech this afternoon.

When the first moratorium was established, Newfoundlanders referred to this as an act of God, and claims for financial assistance were the order of the day. When the second moratorium was proposed, again by a Minister of Fisheries from Newfoundland, but this time flying the Liberal colours, and I am referring to Mr. Tobin, the minister said that before the fisheries resume, it would be necessary to rationalize, by either reducing the number of fishers or their quotas.

The hon. member for Chicoutimi touched on this in his speech. Where are the government's measures for rationalization? The fishers said that one way to achieve rationalization would be to professionalize the industry. Where are the criteria for a professional fisher?

There is nothing in the bill. The minister should provide guidelines. He should tell us what his strategy is. But no, nothing, despite invitations to do so from other governments.

The hon. member for Newfoundland should tell us later on in her speech what the professionalization of fishers should entail. I wish she would mention this later on.

As for questions and comments on the speech made by my colleague from Chicoutimi, he mentioned initiatives by British Columbia and Quebec and that he would like to see a study, a breakdown of resources. I wish he would tell us more about this, because I think he hit on the right word, referring to the situation as total chaos.

Before starting up the fisheries again, it is useful to discuss how much we intend to catch. For the benefit of the House, I may point out that nearly 75 per cent of fish species now being caught in the Gulf of St. Lawrence or which were being caught before the moratoriums were already subject to individual quotas. These were referred to as enterprise allocations, and in some cases were transferable. That is also a management tool.

Nowhere in the bill does the minister provide any guidelines. Nowhere. One wonders what is going on here. We are entitled to an explanation from the minister. And if he cannot give us one, he should let someone else do his job.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, as regards the first part of the statement made by my colleague from Gaspé, I would like to inform the members of this House that, despite everything that happened in July in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, if the minister decides in the coming hours to take a real stand on ice fishing in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, because the flooding caused river banks to shift, this activity cannot continue without the permission of the minister of fisheries. I therefore invite the hon. members of this House to come and visit us and take part in this winter activity, thus giving the region a much needed boost in light of everything it went through. We are therefore promoting winter tourism.

As for his comment on the bill itself, I would simply like to say there are three problems the bill does not resolve. It maintains the status quo as regards the problem of overcapacity. Only the industry and the provinces concerned can decide what quotas the industry can absorb and the resource can tolerate. This must be decided not by federal standards and in high places, but by those who are close to the people earning their living from it.

To my way of thinking, this bill represents the status quo. The Bloc Quebecois wants to encourage the growth of a more independent and cost effective fishing industry-which is important for the people living off this resource-and especially one that is free of the many subsidies, which do not please everyone. We want to get rid of this sort of thing.

People want to work, they want to earn a living from this resource. They want to develop it into something that is cost effective. So let us give these investors-small or big-all the means they need to draw reasonable incomes from this industry.

I am sure, as it is a regular occurrence, that we will not be seeing people exerting pressure on the ministers any more in an attempt to remedy things. Why not correct everything when we have the opportunity? We could do it, if the current minister of fisheries went back to the drawing board.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

My dear colleagues, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Cumberland-Colchester-employment insurance; the hon. member for Châteauguay-National Defence; the hon. member for Davenport-Pesticides Products Control Act.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Herb Dhaliwal Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for St. John's West.

I listened intently to my colleagues from the Bloc. Many of us in the House have heard them say on every issue that no matter whether it makes good sense or common sense, they would have us turn everything over to Quebec.

The member, although he spoke very passionately and articulated his views very well, should understand that fish do not respect boundaries. They do not understand jurisdictions. Fish swim between international boundaries and they swim between provincial jurisdictions. For the member to stand up and say that we should turn everything over to Quebec, he is not understanding the fundamentals of what fisheries is all about.

I am pleased to speak on this new fisheries bill. As someone who served as a parliamentary secretary to Brian Tobin, the former Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, I have learned a little bit about the fishing industry. I probably have a lot more to learn about it because it is a very complicated area.

Before I took over the position of parliamentary secretary, I think I had two experiences in the fishery, going out to fish. Both times I was not able to catch any fish, so my friend did not invite me any more to go fishing with him because he figured that I was not good luck for him.

This is a very important bill. I know that my colleagues in the Reform Party think it is very important. That is why they are listening very intently. I am sure they know that I have some very interesting things to say.

This fisheries bill is long overdue. As has been stated earlier in this House, since 1868 the act has not been reviewed in a comprehensive way. The area I want to concentrate on is habitat, which is very important, but before I get into that I want to make some general comments.

This bill modernizes and updates the Fisheries Act. Members of the House should be saying that this should have been done a long time ago and not complain about how it fails to deliver. In fact it does deliver on some of the fundamentals of the fisheries, which is to have a fishery of the future, a fishery which is environmentally sustainable, a fishery which is economically viable and a fishery which reflects a commitment to the coastal communities.

This new fisheries bill is about building partnerships. I know many members in the House, including both opposition parties, the Reform and the Bloc, have talked about partnerships and how important it is to develop partnerships in the industry.

I had the opportunity to meet many of the members in the industry. Whether it was the aboriginal community, the commercial industry, the sports fishery or the small communities, they wanted a change in the fisheries. They wanted a change which would help build a stronger and more sustainable fishery. One way they wanted to do this was by building strong partnerships.

The reason we want to build strong partnerships is so that people will have a vested interest in the fisheries. It will ensure that when people are involved in the fisheries, they will act in a responsible way.

One of the highlights of this bill is it builds partnerships. It also gives the minister the ability to sign agreements and ensure that the communities and the industry are very much involved in the management of the fisheries.

The other area this legislation tends to emphasize is the administrative side. One of the things that many groups talked about and which was important for B.C. was to ensure that there was more local input in the decision making. Some of the changes in this bill ensure that we have boards not only in the Pacific but in the Atlantic as well. This will ensure that those boards are sensitive and that the decision making is based on regional needs and requirements. The bill addresses that particular concern.

The bill also deals with licences, how licence appeals are to be based and the whole licensing policy. This is very important for British Columbia and all of Canada.

I could go on and on about a whole array of subjects that are important and which my colleagues have failed to talk about. They have only talked about jurisdiction.

When I worked with the former minister of fisheries we looked at the salmon treaty and tried very hard to deal with that. As members know, this act incorporates the act which was brought in to deal with foreign overfishing. This will be simpler and easier to deal with.

This is a very good bill. We have to compliment the minister of fisheries for bringing in legislation which is modern, up to date, flexible and which reflects some new realities in the fisheries. The fisheries have changed a lot and the demands from the communities have changed a lot. If we want to have sustainable fisheries and truly want to protect our fisheries, the act will provide the needed flexibility to do so.

One of the most important components of this bill is habitat. This bill amends the habitat provisions to help habitat in the Fisheries Act. These important provisions of the legislation allow the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to delegate several freshwater habitat protection responsibilities to provincial governments that are in a better position to fulfil them. That is a very good common sense approach.

We heard the member of Parliament from Chicoutimi talk about allowing the provincial government to deal with this. That is what this bill does. It states that it wants to delegate several freshwater habitat protection responsibilities. This addresses some of the concerns that have been put forward. It makes very good common sense.

This government has continued to make sure that we take a very common sense approach. Where the provincial governments can do a better job, where they can administrate better, where they can deal with the responsibilities and where we can reduce overlap, this legislation deals with it.

Canadians have said they want us to reduce overlap and duplication with the provinces. This bill deals with that by having delegation agreements with the provinces. It deals with it by clarifying roles and setting out clear responsibilities that will improve habitat management and make it more consistent across the country, that will help to eliminate the overlap of federal and provincial roles in freshwater habitat protection and reduce the confusion that results from such overlap, that will clearly spell out which level of government will be responsible for what aspects of habitat management. These agreements would not change the constitutional responsibilities of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

The Canadian fishing industry is an international industry with 80 per cent of Canada's production being exported to over 70 countries worldwide. Canada is the world's fifth largest exporter of fish and seafood products. There is a significant international component to the whole fishing industry. The members of the Bloc would not agree with that because they do not realize that 70 per cent of the fishery involves exports. They think it should be mandated provincially but it has a very international mandate.

Recently I travelled across Canada as the vice-chair on the national Liberal task force on aquaculture to regions with active aquaculture industries. It is a new developing industry. I have come away with the impression of a positive future for this rapidly expanding industry.

For example, in 1995, B.C. sold $165 million in farm fish and fish products while employing thousands on a full time basis. Eighty-five per cent of this product is exported to markets in the United States and along the Pacific rim. This new industry will provide jobs, business opportunities and boost the Canadian economy. That is why we as Liberals recognize that.

We recognize the new opportunities that exist in this area which is why we have a task force. It is unfortunate that other members have not recognized the opportunities that exist out there.

I will conclude by giving other members an opportunity to speak as well. The objective of the provisions of the bill is to clarify roles and responsibilities. This legislation will go a long way to protect fish habitat. I urge hon. members to support this much needed legislation.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


John Cummins Reform Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was delighted that my friend from Vancouver South decided to address this fisheries bill.

I am also delighted to learn that he has gone sport fishing twice. I did not realize that he had invested so much time in the pursuit of fish but I think it is a very worthwhile objective for him. I believe he is taking his anti-capital punishment leanings a little too far when he goes fishing and does not catch any fish, that is not the purpose of it.

I would also suggest that success in fishing has something to do with virtue. Virtue is rewarded. I would be happy to take him out fishing with me sometime. A little of my virtue might rub off on him and he might have a little more luck. We will see about that.

The issue I want to question him about has to do with the delegation of authority for habitat to the provincial government. It is common knowledge in British Columbia and I believe right across this nation that the current premier of British Columbia, Glen Clark, makes Brian Mulroney look like the truth fairy.

When we turn something as critical as habitat over to that provincial government we must have some very stringent guidelines in place, guidelines that we know will be lived up to and fulfilled. Otherwise I would fear for the habitat.

We have plenty of examples in B.C. where the provincial government is responsible for protection of habitat. In the last few years it has fallen down on the job. For example, there have been instances where construction of the new island highway on Vancouver Island has led to the desecration of good coho habitat. How can we turn this kind of responsibility over to that provincial government without some ironclad guarantees?

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Herb Dhaliwal Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would love to take the member up on his offer to go fishing with him but I am afraid I might get arrested and spend two days in the slammer and I am not sure if I want to do that. I will have to get certain guarantees that I will not be arrested when I go fishing with the member.

The hon. member for Delta has a very good point about making sure that we have standards. Part of this legislation is to make sure that we have national standards to ensure that all provinces, when they manage the habitat, have signed an agreement. Within those agreements there will be standards to which they must adhere. I agree with him that we need standards but that is in the bill. Part of

what the bill is all about is to give those powers so that we can negotiate and have national standards.

I ask the hon. member to go back to the bill. This is one of the main purposes of the bill, to ensure that there are national standards and habitats are protected. That is under the minister's constitutional mandate and the agreements will be there to do it.

As much as I agree with him, I think if he reads the bill he will understand and recognize that his concerns have been dealt with under the bill.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

November 19th, 1996 / 4:50 p.m.


Jean Payne Liberal St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to speak on Bill C-62. I want to thank the hon. member from the Bloc. I must admit I miss these days of not being able to listen to him. His knowledge of the industry is deep and I still miss being in the fisheries committee.

The new bill contains provisions that will authorize the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to enter into legally binding fisheries management agreements with commercial licence holders, aboriginal organizations and other groups, for example, the recreational fishing industry.

This new approach to management, or partnering as we are now calling it, will serve as a cornerstone for developing a new relationship between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and fisheries stakeholders. We have heard on a couple of occasions this evening about the confusion that exists with regard to management and partnering. I would like to clarify some of those issues.

What is partnering? It is the logical next step in the evolution of fisheries management. It will build on and extend their existing co-management approach. It will provide for a more efficient and effective fisheries management regime and also increase the role of industry stakeholders in the decision making process. It will also provide greater opportunities for community involvement. Like any partnering arrangement, co-operation cannot be imposed. It will be up to the stakeholders whether they wish to discuss and pursue fisheries management partnering with DFO.

A partnering agreement between DFO and a group of stakeholders will spell out the terms and conditions on how the fishery will be managed for a defined period of time. It will be legally binding on both parties. This type of security, provided through a legally binding agreement where the rules of the game are clearly specified, is what many sectors of the industry have been requesting for quite some time.

It will provide incentives for better conservation and management of the resource plus give fishers the certainty that will allow for better business decision making and as we said earlier, for more stable incomes.

Discussions were held with most sectors of the industry on a partnering approach. In fact these discussions are still ongoing. Many of the ideas which are being discussed have come directly from the industry. The concept is work in progress. There are still many important issues to sort out with stakeholders. There are already some fisheries in Canada where co-management, which is a precursor to partnering, are already in place. For example, in British Columbia we have a co-management process with the Geoduck fishery since 1990 allowing fishers ongoing input into the management and decision making process.

Similar arrangements exist for halibut and sable fish fisheries where fishers have direct involvement in the management of their fishery. In Quebec, the beluga fishery has been managed since 1982 on a co-management basis, also allowing input from aboriginal fisheries into the management of that fishery.

Agreements in some of the maritime region's crab and shrimp fisheries provide the basis for industry to participate in the decision making process and to share the costs of managing the fishery and research.

Co-management is used in exploratory fisheries as a way to conduct scientific and market studies to determine if a commercial fishery would be sustainable and viable.

In the maritimes, exploratory fisheries for skate, monkfish, Jonah or rock crab and red crab are under way. This approach is allowing the industry and government to learn more about these fisheries in terms of biology, harvesting practices and potential markets.

Our goal is to continue to build on these types of initiatives. Not everyone is ready for change nor do they understand the concept fully. There are those who support the approach and have requested further consultation. Others wrongly view this as DFO's way to privatize the resource. Some have suggested that partnering is only for high valued lucrative fisheries. This is not the case.

To set the record straight the following should be understood. Partnering will allow for joint decision making by licence holders on the management of the fishery. It will allow industry and government to work together to ensure conservation of the resource remains paramount.

It must be considered for fishers in all sectors of the industry and for other resource users and their communities should they wish to explore this approach further. It requires each party, for example DFO and the sector, to bring something to the table. It is a two way street where benefits must accrue to both parties and allow for a more stable operating environment for fleet sectors who are prepared to share in the management of the fishery.

A cornerstone of the partnering approach is that these agreements must be in the public interest and not give preference or special treatment to individual groups. The agreements will not be imposed on the fishing sector. Both parties must agree on the terms and conditions for the agreement to come into force. It must complement and enhance our resource management objectives for the fishery, namely, the environmentally sustainable, economically

viable, integrating both economic and social considerations, and encouraging the industry to be self-reliant.

Both parties should adopt a flexible approach toward developing partnering agreements. These agreements can take on many different designs which will depend on individual circumstances.

There are some things that partnering will not do. It will not lessen the power of the minister with respect to conservation of the resource or prevent the minister from taking action to address conservation concerns. It will not result in change in historical landing patterns or current management strategies to conserve the resource or require all fishers to enter into partnering arrangements.

It should be understood that partnering may not be applicable or feasible in all fisheries. It will not be considered for only high valued lucrative fisheries. All sectors of the fishery are encouraged to explore the process.

Backroom deals will not happen. All stakeholders subject to the agreement will be consulted with regard to the proposed agreement. It will not privatize the resource or result in the fishery being administered or managed by large corporations, nor will it be designed solely to pass on fisheries management costs to the industry.

Partnering means for the fishing industry that it will provide the basis for industry to proceed on a new regime of fisheries management, a fishery that will have less government involvement and real industry input into the decision making process which is what has been requested of this government and other governments.

Partnering will require working with fisheries in coastal communities to find more efficient and effective ways to manage their fisheries. The industry has a legitimate role to play in fisheries management.

Partnership will set the framework for the industry to be more accountable for its actions and assume more responsibility for management activities specifically related to their sector. It will create a more stable operating environment in that DFO would formalize longer term allocation scenarios. This would allow for a stable operating environment within the industry allowing for longer term business planning.

With this in mind, partnering has the potential to change the behaviour of fishers to focus on conservation as they become true stewards of the resource. In some cases partnering could mean sharing the financial responsibility for fisheries management and science.

What does partnering mean for DFO? DFO would be able to evolve from being solely accountable for the management of the fishery to a position of shared accountability. It will continue to be responsible for conservation and protection of the resource. DFO will set the standards and audit industry performance to ensure that the standards are being met. It will be able to manage the fishery more effectively with reduced resources, focusing on its mandate of conservation, doing what government does best and letting the industry do what it does best.

Partnering will allow for direct and full dialogue with the industry. A typical partnering agreement will clearly set out: the allocation process for access to the resource; those who are in the fishery, and the process for additional participation in the fishery; mechanisms for each party to have a say in the decision making process; suggested sanction levels for various offences; roles and responsibilities for each party in the management of the fishery; and the financial obligations for each party.

Where do we go from here and what will happen next? The legislative authority to enable DFO to enter into the partnering agreements has been tabled in Parliament. The new fisheries act, if passed, will provide the basis for the legal implementation of partnering agreements. Until the new act is law, legally binding partnering agreements with respect to management of the fishery cannot be entered into.

The final details on how formalized co-management and eventual partnering will work will evolve through industry and DFO consultations. DFO has been consulting and will continue to consult with the industry.

Partnering will provide an opportunity for all sectors of the fishing industry to speak with a more united and effective voice. It is in line with the Government of Canada's desire to see more influence flowing to the fishers and consequently to their communities where fishing is the mainstay, and I can say that this is no more true in any riding than it is in mine.

The idea of the industry and government working together co-operatively to achieve joint goals and objectives makes common sense. Partnering has the potential to evolve as the management regime of choice as we proceed into the 21st century.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must say it had been a while since I had last heard my hon. colleague from St. John's West speak.

I will be as brief as possible, but I just could not let what the hon. member for Vancouver South said at the beginning of his remarks pass without comment. We are hearing speeches from Liberal members from coast to coast, from Newfoundland to Vancouver.

The hon. member for Vancouver South said that fish does not know boundaries. I would like to start my speech by stating that, at present, under the existing legislation and the proposed legislation as well, if we look at the situation in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, around Newfoundland for instance, live cod falls under federal jurisdiction. But when it is dead, regardless of where it is-be it in Newfoundland or in Gaspé, Quebec-it becomes the responsibility of the province, because the provinces have jurisdiction over processing plants. They are the ones that issue licences. That is why the current minister and his predecessor have had and still have all kinds of problems. Nothing was done about streamlining.

Why do I raise this issue? Because my hon. colleague has been a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for the past two years, yet, as far as I can see, this bill does not contain any guidelines as to the direction the industry should take in the future. We have heard about Brian Tobin's plans to limit fishing capacity, but there is not a word in here about future directions.

Worse yet, while partnership agreements are provided for, they may only be entered into with the minister's approval, based on the opinion of the minister. I refer the hon. member to paragraph 17(1). It clearly states that the minister may enter into an agreement with any organization that, in his opinion, is representative of a class of persons or holders. We do not know who will be part of such a group. It would be very important to specify it.

Another thing is very clear, and I wonder how the hon. member will be able to sell this to her constituents. I also wonder how Nova Scotia members will do it. It is clearly stated and the hon. member said it: to be part of a management agreement, one will have to pay new management fees, in addition to the fishing rights that people began paying in 1995. Such is the heritage left to them by Mr. Tobin.

I see that the Minister of National Revenue is with us. I hope we will hear from her this afternoon. This is another bonus for the government. Once again, it will take money from the pockets of fishers. I thought we had only one tax system in Canada: a person works, earns money and pays taxes. However, in the case of fishers, and the hon. member for Nova Scotia said so literally, she makes no bones about it, there will be two tax systems. How will she sell this to her constituents?

I say this in the presence of the revenue minister, and I am very comfortable doing so. Maybe she will provide a reply. It was just indicated that Canadian fishers will be subject to two tax systems. They will pay when they file their tax return, but the government will also take money from their pockets. I would appreciate a reply from the hon. member.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Jean Payne Liberal St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. As I said before, he has a great knowledge of the fishery.

The member knows that this is the first time since 1868 that the act has been rewritten. There were a great many flaws in the act.

As the member is well aware, the ongoing consultations have tried to work out for the benefit of the industry and the stakeholders in the industry what is the best area of jurisdiction for the provinces and what is the best area of jurisdiction for the federal government. This bill speaks to that. It outlines very clearly where the jurisdiction lies. That was not done by the federal government alone or the provinces alone; it was done in consultation with all of the stakeholders: the fisher people, the harvesters, the provinces, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The bill is clear. It is very streamlined and simple. It outlines exactly what the provinces will be responsible for.

There will be ongoing consultations. It is not a closed book. If something is not working, then we will talk about it and we will make it work.

One of the things that will happen is that the fishery will be managed. It will not be open for everyone to rape and pillage as was done in the past. All of us know what happened to the fishery on the east coast. We all know what will happen to many other stocks if they are not managed properly.

That is what the bill is designed to do. It is what the bill will do in a fair and consultative way with the provinces and the stakeholders.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-62.

As a member of Parliament from British Columbia, I am pleased to rise on behalf of many of my constituents whose concern over the management of the western fisheries is far more than just academic. Many of my constituents and those of my colleagues have been and are directly impacted by government fishing policies. Unfortunately, this impact lately and largely has been detrimental due to the injustice reflected by present Liberal government policies.

Bill C-62 rewrites the Fisheries Act and combines with it the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act.

What do we see in the fisheries today? There are problems in the fisheries. Much of them are the result of government mismanagement. On the east coast much of the fishery is closed due to the collapse of the groundfish stocks. On the west coast there are severe problems. There are continuing problems with the Alaskan

catch of Canadian bound salmon which remain unresolved with the Pacific salmon treaty.

On the west coast we also have the salmon fishery which is our key fish stock. It is a fishery which is in total disarray. There have been almost no non-native commercial fisheries on the Fraser River, which borders my constituency, for the past two years. The government native only commercial fishery is also in disarray.

Unfortunately the fisheries act which is before us today does nothing to address the foundational problems which exist in the government's high-handed approach to the fisheries.

Fisheries mismanagement has already had a deep impact on the livelihood of many B.C. fishers. I fear that continued mismanagement and the mindset we have seen hold dire consequences for the future.

Perhaps the most significant injustice in the present system and one which has received a fair amount of press coverage in my area is the manner in which the government has flaunted a supreme court decision that has literally established a race based fishery policy which benefits B.C.'s aboriginal fishers at the expense of the rest of the fishers in the province of British Columbia. In doing so it has trounced Canadian legal tradition and thus violated the rights of all Canadians.

In 1992 the fisheries minister of the day told fishers that the supreme court decision of Sparrow v. the Queen required the establishment of an exclusive native only commercial fishery specifically in law. In 1995 after the Fraser report's scathing condemnation of the government's race based policy, the supreme court declared unequivocally that its previous ruling did not call for such a system.

The native only commercial fishery was undermined by the supreme court's August 1996 Van der Peet, NTC Smokehouse and Gladstone decision. The court ruled against an aboriginal right. They have no right to an exclusive fishery. B.C. natives do not have a constitutional right to catch and sell fish commercially. Once the decision came down in August, regular commercial fishers, including my colleague, started to fish with the native commercial fisheries and had a full right to do so.

Thus, with no mandate from the courts, no mandate from the Canadian people and no mandate from Parliament, this government today maintains an unjust and, I will say, discriminatory policy in the fisheries on the west coast.

Specific to this management of the fisheries and specific to the item I have just mentioned, there is nothing that government can do under this new fisheries act that it cannot do already under existing legislation except, which I point out very specifically, for the right to extinguish the public right to fish. This essential change with respect to fisheries management is that the minister gains substantial powers to do what currently requires the specific authorization of Parliament or cabinet. This flies in the face of democracy and the good interests of the public fisheries in Canada.

The fisheries act which Canadians hoped would restore equity in the system fails to do so. As a result, the Reform Party cannot support this bill.

Today, I would like to take the time I have been given to read into the record a report that throws much light on many of the issues we are talking about today. It is a report written as a response to the Fraser River Sockeye Public Review Board. It is of note that this report is an evaluation commissioned by DFO on the performance of DFO with regard to the recommendations of the Fraser report which I mentioned earlier.

I will proceed to read this response into the record so that we can see the whole picture and how DFO has responded to what needed to be done. Some of the department's responses to the recommendations of the Fraser report are incomplete and others are still under study. The comments of this evaluation fall into six categories: management; institutional arrangements; the quality of the management principles; the aboriginal fishing strategy; the environment; and user groups views and responsibilities.

Under the title of management, specifically risk aversion management, the first recommendation is:

We recommend that DFO retain and exercise its constitutional responsibilities and not in any way abrogate its stewardship of resources under federal jurisdiction. Conservation must be the primary objective of both fisheries managers and all others participating in the fishery. The conservation ethics must prevail throughout and be adhered to by all.

The comments on the evaluation were:

-DFO did not achieve its escapement targets for Fraser sockeye in 1995.

-stock-specific conservation of Fraser River sockeye is threatened.

DFO cannot hope to succeed without a clear vision of what it is trying to achieve i.e., achieving conservation is more than just meeting escapement targets. The first requirement, therefore is an explicit definition of "conservation".

There can be no conservation of Fraser sockeye salmon in the long run without equivalent care and protection for the habitat on which fish stocks rely. In this light, the pending expiration of key programs as the Fraser River Action Plan, and the funding base that has supported it in recent years, is of utmost concern.

In terms of outcome, however, DFO was not fully successful.

DFO came close to achieving its escapement targets in 1995-It did not, however, fully achieve them. There were escapement shortfalls relative to target levels for all major run groupings with the most significant for the late runs.

The escapement shortfalls in 1995 indicate the need for even more prudence in DFO's planning and management than it exhibited in 1995.

Retaining and not abrogating: DFO officials do not believe they have in any way abrogated their responsibilities, but recognize there is perception of this, particularly in commercial and recreational fisheries. DFO did not directly respond to this part of the recommendation or the perceptions or concerns that underlie it.

Conservation must be a primary objective: Again from DFO's point of view this is a problem of perception, not substance.

There is a difference between recognition of intent and confidence in success. In 1995, run sizes were significantly overestimated, and fishing effort was sharply curtailed-As a result, public confidence in DFO's ability to achieve its conservation goals have been underestimated.

I can attest to that.

While escapement targets are above levels necessary to preserve the runs in aggregate, they are not in themselves necessarily adequate to preserve weaker stocks.

DFO did not achieve its escapement targets because it overestimated run size both pre-season and in-season-DFO was not always able to curtail fishing effort as much as required.

Failure to meet these targets, even if it does not place the resource-in aggregate-at risk, does point to the challenge of ensuring that DFO's conservation goals are achieved.

The unprecedented poor returns in 1995 suggest that DFO may also need to reconsider the targets it aims to meet. There is the longstanding concern about the diminution of weak stocks and the growing number of strong stocks-Making conservation a top priority requires reconsideration of their targets themselves and not just how they might be more consistently achieved.

Those are comments to the first recommendation. The second recommendation:

We recommend that DFO take immediate steps to initiate a process of planning for the future of the fishery, addressing all critical problems affecting conservation and sustainability, through an ongoing consultative forum. Among the problems to be considered would be over-capitalization, user-group allocation and ensuring equitable treatment under the law.

Comments to this:

Fleet reduction, in itself, will not address the fundamental problem underlying over-capitalization of the fleet-the common property nature of the commercial fleet.

The intersectoral allocation issue may not get resolved as planned. It is not clear whether a supportable framework will in fact be developed and implemented.

To date, DFO has not established a broad, multi-stakeholder consultative process to plan for the future and address critical problems affecting conservation and sustainability. DFO has not identified the responsibilities and composition it should have, nor its relationship to existing processes.

The third recommendation:

We recommend that DFO and PSC adopt a risk aversion management strategy because of the great uncertainty on stock estimates, in season catch estimates and environmental problems. Conservation goals must be achieved before any other priorities are addressed.

A risk averse strategy has not yet been developed. We found in our evaluation that DFO's actions were not the result of an explicit, well-defined risk averse management strategy, but rather were a response to the unprecedented events of the 1995 fishery.

DFO's actions were not based on a well-defined risk averse management strategy. The question of how DFO defines risk averse and how risk averse is expected to promote conservation must be addressed. Without this clarity there is no way to test if DFO's activities are in fact guided by well conceived and well defined strategy or whether their activities in themselves define what DFO means by risk averse.

The fourth recommendation:

We recommend that DFO, in conjunction with provincial authorities, First Nations, commercial and recreational fishing groups implement (both in marine and in-river areas) a revised system to ensure that catch information is timely and reliable, given that accurate counting and timely reporting of catch are fundamental to conservation. The system must also include a more stringent paper trail. There must be stricter control of landing and sales slips and a retention of sales slips with fish through to retail sales or export.

We recommend that DFO explore the application of new technology to collect information on stock levels in ocean areas in order to supplement catch statistics.

They made recommendations on institutional arrangements. We recommend that DFO develop better co-ordinated, inter-party communications among its staff and between staff and PSC, First Nations, commercial and recreational fishing groups with a greater degree of co-operation aimed at enhanced in-season management and post-season evaluation and at fostering working arrangements among all parties, and facilitate clearer and more transparent management and allocation policies.

The recommendations are an institutional arrangement and there are a number. We recommend that DFO and PSC give First Nations greater and more meaningful access to and involvement in the management process.

Quality management principles is another area. We recommend that DFO make a commitment to quality management principles in the management of fixed stocks by specific region and in this context for the third party quality auditing organization be contracted to provide ongoing services.

There is a litany of recommendations and a litany of where DFO has fallen short in meeting these recommendations.

I recommend to the House that the department again reviews all of these recommendations and the shortfalls so that, indeed, what is in the bill today will better reflect the well founded concerns and act accordingly.

In conclusion, I would like to put forward an amendment from the Reform Party. I move that the amendment be amended by adding:

"and that the committee report back to the House no later than June 19, 1997".

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member has provided her subamendment. The Chair will rule on it shortly. In the meantime the debate will continue. Questions and comments.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


John Cummins Reform Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her submission today. I agree wholeheartedly with what she had to say. The one point she made which I certainly support is the fact that the only thing the government can do in this bill which it cannot do in existing legislation is to extinguish the public right to fish. That may not seem like much but let us look at the implications of it.

Clause 17(1) says:

Her Majesty in right of Canada, represented by the Minister, may enter into a fisheries management agreement with any organization that, in the opinion of the Minister, is representative of a class of persons or holders.

What does that mean? It means in the first instance that the public right to fish is eliminated. The minister now will control the resource. He will be able to say to his friends that they have the right to capture a certain amount of the fish stocks and that is just the way it will be. There is no appeal when something like that happens.

For instance, he could go to a lodge owner who was a good contributor to his party-and I am not suggesting in any way, shape or form that the current minister would do this, but it opens a door for someone to do this kind of thing in the future.

Some minister in the future who lacked a sense of fair play and what is right and wrong could come to a friend who was a great contributor to himself or to his party and say: "I'll give you 20,000 fish to harvest" and that would be it. It would be a fait accompli.

The bill says as well in clause 19:

The Minister shall publish a fisheries management agreement in the manner he sees fit.

Therefore, he does not have to tell you and I that he has given this other individual 20,000 chinook to harvest. He does not have to tell anybody, except it states in clause 18 that before a fisheries management agreement is entered into, notice of it shall be given to the holders or persons likely to be subject to it.

The only people he has to tell are the people who are liable to catch the fish. In the instance of a sports fishing lodge operator he lets the guys know who are coming to his sports lodge that yes, they can catch these fish because he has this agreement with the minister that gives him the right to do it, but the public does not have to know.

How does that affect us? If we take my friend from Labrador who spoke earlier or we take into consideration my friend from Vancouver South who spoke of his history of two trips out sports fishing, what that means is that they could be barred from fishing simply because somebody else has been secretly given the right to catch those fish.

The impact is on the public. It is on the individuals. It is on you and me and anybody else who wants access to that resource. We will lose it. We lose access to the resource.

The member for Vancouver Quadra said here the other day that we did not understand the section of the Magna Carta that dealt with the public right to fish because we did not speak the language that the Magna Carta was written in, so how could we understand it. He was casting aspersions on the Supreme Court of Canada because as recently as last August in the Gladstone case the supreme court acknowledged that the public right to fish has existed since the time of the Magna Carta. That public right can only be extinguished by competent legislation, in other words by legislation which passes through this House.

How the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra could say we cannot justify the public right to fish and the existence of that with reference to the Magna Carta is beyond me. The Supreme Court of Canada can do it and certainly we can too.

What happens if we extinguish that public right to fish and we give the minister the authority to dispense fish to his friends? We open the door to all sorts of secret arrangements and pay-offs, pay-offs from the public purse so to speak, from the public treasury. This is a resource owned by all Canadians yet it could be doled out and given to whomever the minister sees fit, to whomever he wants to make that donation. That is totally unacceptable. It is something I do not think the people of British Columbia can tolerate. It is certainly something that this House should not tolerate as well.

Fisheries ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. I believe we are now into private members' time.

The ruling with respect to the subamendment will be made the next time the matter is called. The member will have the right to reply to the question from her colleague the next time the matter is called.

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.

Constitution Act, 1867Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

moved that Bill C-284, an act to amend an act for the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, in May of this year I introduced Bill C-284. I sent an information package to every member of Parliament describing why protection of property rights should be strengthened and how this should be and could be accomplished without amending the charter of rights and freedoms. In the package I described the three main reasons that government should aggressively defend every person's right to own, use and enjoy property, namely: property rights make society richer; property rights protect freedom and democracy; and property rights protect the environment.

No doubt government members are getting tired of debating property rights. The reason Reformers continue to bring the issue to the floor of the House of Commons is that Canadians' property rights are not adequately protected in Canada.

Property rights were first debated by Reformers on February 24, 1995 when the hon. member for Skeena introduced Motion M-301 which proposed an amendment to add property rights to section 7 of the charter of rights and freedoms. The Liberal government opposed protection of property rights.

This year the member for Comox-Alberni introduced Motion M-205 which proposed to strengthen the property rights provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Motion M-205 was debated on June 10, September 30 and November 5. The Liberals opposed protection of property rights during debate and voted against Motion M-205 on November 6, 1996, believe it or not.

Because Motion M-205 was votable and similar to my bill, the subcommittee for private members' business decided that my Bill C-284 would not be votable. The subcommittee's decision wasted literally hundreds of hours of effort and research on behalf of my own office. It wasted some of the fine legal analysis and drafting by the House of Commons legislative counsel branch. It is sad that the Liberals are more interested in their own social engineering than in protecting the fundamental rights of Canadian citizens.

Motion M-205 and Bill C-284 outline the specific property rights that need to be better protected in federal law. However my bill goes further by describing the legislative means needed to implement these improved property rights protections.

I want to make all Canadians aware of the obvious contradictions in the Liberal government's opposition to improving property rights protection. I want to point out how the Liberal government of the nineties is totally at odds with the position which Liberal governments took on property rights during the sixties, seventies and eighties. Today's Liberal government opposes strengthening the protection of property rights in the Canadian bill of rights, while the Liberal governments of the sixties, seventies and eighties argued forcefully and repeatedly for the inclusion of property rights in the charter of rights and freedoms.

Where did the Liberal government lose its vision? When did Liberals decide to oppose strengthening every person's property rights? Was it when the current Prime Minister took over?

It is odd that while the Liberals were being led by the Right Hon. Pierre Trudeau they aggressively supported including the protection of property rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but now that I call for the strengthening of property rights they have changed their minds. Now that Mr. Trudeau's strong philosophical and ideological principles about fundamental rights and freedoms are no longer guiding the Liberal Party, it does an about face on strengthening the protection of one of our democracy's most important fundamental rights, that being property rights.

Unfortunately and contrary to what today's Liberals are saying, Canadians do not have these rights and protections under federal law. The only protection Canadians have to turn to if the federal government arbitrarily takes their property is the Canadian bill of rights. Unfortunately, the Canadian bill of rights falls far short of providing the protection which every Canadian thinks they now have.

We each have seven fundamental property rights. The bill of rights only provides rather feeble protection for three out of the seven: the right to the enjoyment of property; the right not to be deprived of property except by due process; and the right to a fair hearing. Those are the only three. Even these rights can simply be overridden by saying so in the legislation. They are rather weak, feeble and quite useless, just like what the Liberal government did with Bill C-22 which cancelled the Pearson airport contract.

Unfortunately for Canadians, if the government does decide to arbitrarily take a person's property, the Canadian bill of rights does not provide protection for the following property rights. There are four of them which are not adequately protected: the right to be paid fair compensation; the right to have compensation fixed arbitrarily; the right to receive timely compensation; and the right

to apply to the courts to obtain justice if they feel that any aspect of their property rights has been denied or infringed upon.

That is why we need to improve the bill of rights. That is why we need to strengthen the protection of property rights in federal law by passing motions such as M-301, M-205 and bills such as Bill C-284 which we are discussing today.

On June 10, 1996 the hon. member for Prince Albert-Churchill River, Saskatchewan, who is also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, outlined the Liberal government's reasons for opposing better protection of property rights. He said in summary that there is already more than adequate protection for property rights. He said that the laws already provide fair procedures and fair compensation and that common law already provides the presumption of compensation. He said that much of the responsibility for regulating property is provincial. He said that it would establish a hierarchy of rights in the bill of rights. Finally, he said that it may prevent socially useful legislation.

In my speech to the House on November 5, 1996 I destroyed these pitiful excuses one by one. I exposed the real reason that the Liberals oppose property rights, namely, it would affect their social engineering agenda. I made it abundantly clear. I refer people to the Hansard record of that day to read how those arguments were destroyed.

The Liberal Party under the leadership of Pierre Trudeau was not afraid of entrenching property rights in the Constitution. However, the Liberal Party of the 1990s is afraid that even strengthening protection of property rights in federal law as proposed in my bill will interfere with its plans to re-engineer Canadian society.

I first became interested in property rights during the debate on Bill C-68, the Liberal government's half-baked, tax wasting scheme to register every rifle and shotgun legally owned by every law-abiding citizen in Canada. That was when I became aware of the lack of property rights in Canada. That bill will affect 20 million legally owned firearms owned by five to eight million law-abiding citizens.

It did not deter Liberal social engineers that this half a billion dollar expenditure of public funds would not in any way reduce the criminal use of firearms or that it would not improve public safety. Liberals believe that they need to tax anything that moves and is healthy and if it continues to move it needs to be regulated. When it stops moving, I think they believe they have to subsidize it.

As I read Bill C-68 I came to understand that the most dangerous part of Bill C-68 was not the flawed registration scheme but it was the absolute power the justice minister was giving himself and those government ministers that follow him. The most dangerous part of Bill C-68 is the absolute lack of respect and protection for property rights of Canadian citizens.

Just as a little aside, the debate we just had today in regard to fisheries and the debates we have been having in so many areas over the past three years impact on property rights. The ministers in the legislation in this House are giving themselves absolute rights and are taking away the rights of the Canadian people. Those rights need to be protected.

The lawyers in the Library of Parliament who analysed my bill cited C-68 as a bill that would be affected by property rights. They themselves zeroed in on C-68 as being one of the bills that would be affected. With the passage of Bill C-68 the Minister of Justice prohibited or banned over half a million already registered handguns and thousands of rifles, all firearms that are commonly used for hunting and sporting purposes.

As a consequence, the minister dramatically reduced the value of these firearms and all but eliminated the market for the sale of these firearms. With the passage of Bill C-68, the Liberal government violated the fundamental property rights of hundreds of thousands of sports shooters, farmers, hunters, fishermen, collectors, aboriginals and even museums that own firearms.

Section 117.15 of Bill C-68 grants the Minister of Justice through the governor in council the powers to prohibit any firearm which in his opinion is not reasonable for hunting or sporting purposes. Section 84(1)(e) of the Criminal Code of Canada used to prevent the prohibition of any firearm commonly used for hunting and sporting purposes but no longer. The Minister of Justice can ban any firearm he thinks is bad regardless of how safely the firearm is being used. What the firearm is being used for or how many Canadians are legally using this type of firearm makes no difference.

The Liberal government has given the Minister of Justice the absolute power to ban every firearm in Canada. Not even the Supreme Court of Canada could overturn his decision no matter how ridiculous because the legislation states "in his opinion".

There are a few Canadians who might agree with the Minister of Justice if he banned all guns. However, I ask everyone to consider this very scary truth because it can happen: if it can happen to one type of property such as firearms, it can happen to anything that a citizen owns. We do not have strong, effective property rights protection protecting Canadians from their own government. It could affect land. It could affect businesses. All types of property could be at risk. I have many other examples but I am citing some of the ones I am most familiar with. Section 119 of Bill C-68 even gives the Minister of Justice the power to make firearm regulations or ban firearms without parliamentary review if, again in his opinion, that fatal phrase, the regulation he proposes is urgent, immaterial or insubstantial.

Section 116(2) of the Criminal Code used to require the justice minister to lay every regulation before Parliament at least 30 days before its effective date, but no more.

So here we have a prime example of the Liberal government's overriding the fundamental property rights of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens. The value of the firearms banned by the Minister of Justice is the property of the persons who own the firearms. All they have is some very limited protection in the Canadian Bill of Rights. All other rights and freedoms are protected under the charter of rights and freedoms but not property rights.

We have to ask ourselves why were property rights omitted from the charter of rights and freedoms but all other rights contained in the Canadian Bill of Rights were put into the charter.

Here are some other examples of how government runs roughshod over property rights. Under the guise of improving the environment the government can pass laws which restrict the use of private land. Private property owners are already concerned that Bill C-65, the Liberal government's endangered species act legislation, may be extended to include federal government control over endangered species on private lands.

While this bill is before Parliament there is time to clarify this point. But what if the government arbitrarily decided to extend the endangered species act to cover private lands? What protection does the individual property owner have? The answer is no constitutional protection whatever, only the very limited protection under the Canadian Bill of Rights. That is what I am proposing to change. I am not proposing a constitutional amendment but simply to strengthen the Canadian Bill of Rights so we have something at least.

The federal government also reveals its arbitrary abuse of individual property rights by imposing monopolies on grain producers in the west. A farmer in western Canada can grow wheat and barley but he can sell it only with the permission of the federal government, the Canadian Wheat Board.

Some farmers have proven they can get more money for their wheat and barley by selling it in the United States than to the Canadian Wheat Board but they are denied the opportunity to get their extra value from the sale of their property and the fruits of their labour by government decree backed up by government force. Some of them have their trucks seized. Some of them face heavy fines. Some of them have gone to jail for trying to do what every other property owner takes for granted, selling their private property.

Here are just three examples of the federal government's power to arbitrarily take property to control it. The Pearson airport deal is another example which is remarkable in that it was revealed that Americans investing in Canada have more property rights under the North American Free Trade Agreement than Canadians investors have under Canadian law. That is shocking.

I am not saying that it is wrong for the government not to take property. What I am saying is that if the government does take a person's property they need to have better protection for their property rights.

Bill C-284 would extend property rights protection in the Canadian Bill of Rights for all seven fundamental property rights, including the right to fair and timely compensation, the right to have compensation fixed impartially, the right to apply to the courts to obtain justice.

Further, property rights would be extended to include not just future bills passed by the House of Commons but would include any law in force in Canada and any order, rule or regulation passed by Parliament. Bill C-284 goes much further than just expanding the description of each person's property rights. My bill introduces a number of measures which come as close as possible to entrenching property rights in federal law.

The first measure proposes that a person can be deprived of their property rights only if it can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. This means that the federal government can still deprive a person of their property. However, the government must be able to prove that the taking of the property serves some reasonable and justifiable public purpose. The prohibition measures in Bill C-68 would just not pass this test.

The second measure proposes that in order to override the enhanced property rights protection in the Canadian Bill of Rights the government would have to pass "a declaration of notwithstanding" with a super majority vote, which means a two-thirds majority of the members of the House of Commons. This demonstrates that sometimes fundamental rights need to be overridden by government for the greater good of society, but it should not be easy for government to do so.

Third, my bill proposes that a declaration of notwithstanding would be automatically repealed by using a five year sunset clause. This guarantees that if the government decides to override property rights in a bill it must be automatically reviewed by Parliament every five years and must pass another super majority vote in the House.

Finally, my bill proposes an amendment to the Constitution to permit the use of the super majority vote and comes as close as we can to entrenching this measure into federal law by requiring a super majority vote in the House to change it.

A lot of work has gone into this bill, only to have the Liberals avoid the issue by declaring it non-votable. Because property rights were omitted from the charter of rights and freedoms, they should be strengthened in the Canadian Bill of Rights. That is what I am proposing. It is the second best choice, because the Canadian Bill of Rights is not entrenched in the Constitution. That could be changed, if necessary, by Parliament. Again, I am proposing a two-thirds majority vote.

The Library of Parliament has done an excellent analysis of my bill. I recommend that all members read it before they decide whether this is a good bill or not.

Even the courts of Canada have been very timid in protecting property rights because they are not strongly protected. This bill would address that problem. The courts have had to invent the applicable standards with regard to property rights, something they have not done very well.

Canadians at present are second class citizens in the world of international trade. Our main trading partners all have stronger property rights than we have as Canadians. That puts us at a very distinct disadvantage.

I have a little time left. I wonder, if I would be silent for a few moments and not say a word, would it make any difference? When I listen to the debate that takes place in this House and I see members vote, I wonder if they were even listening when the debate took place.

We were given the impression that there would be free votes on Private Members' Business. Will that be the case with this bill? Is there any point to going through all of this exercise and all the work which has been put into this bill?

I really appeal to members of the House to take a close look. Remember, property rights are fundamental. We have to have property rights if we want to have a strong society.

In light of all the work which has been done on this bill, I ask for the unanimous consent of the House to send the bill to the Standing Committee on Human Rights.

Constitution Act, 1867Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Dear colleagues, is there unanimous consent to refer the bill to committee?

Constitution Act, 1867Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Some hon. members


Constitution Act, 1867Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member does not have unanimous consent.

Constitution Act, 1867Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan


Gordon Kirkby LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased this evening to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-284, brought forward by the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville. The bill proposes that the Canadian Bill of Rights be changed to provide further protection pursuant to property rights.

The Canadian Bill of Rights is part of Canada's longstanding tradition to human rights. The bill 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 and 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 a process clause. The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms provides some protection to the peaceful enjoyment and free disposition of his or her property.

The common law also protects property rights. For example, judges frequently apply the presumption of compensation where someone is deprived of their property.

It is important to remember that the Constitution assigns much of the responsibility for regulating property to the provinces. In fact, section 92(13) of the Constitution Act provides that the provinces have exclusive power to make laws relating to property and civil rights in the province.

That is not to say that the federal government cannot legislate in ways that affect property, but that its jurisdiction is limited in these respects.

On the whole, the average Canadian enjoys a very high level of protection for property rights under the statutes and the common law applicable at the federal level, including already the Canadian Bill of Rights.

I would venture to say 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 and dispose of property is also fundamental, although we recognize that these are not unlimited rights, which the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville recognized very explicitly in his speech.

In Canada we place a very high value on property rights, the right to own many of our possessions. The right to use or dispose of the property is also very fundamental to our way of life. These rights we value very highly in this country of ours. 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 replete with examples of rules concerning the ownership and use of property.

For example, our laws concerning real property, lands and buildings contain many rules protecting both purchasers and vendors. Thus when I consider the broad range of legislation and judicial precedence that protects 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 amendment would actually do.

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, to liberty, to security of the person and enjoyment of property.

Out of all those very fundamental rights to Canadians, the Reform Party tries to raise property rights up for special protection. It seems that all of these 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 to all of Canadians.

I do not understand why we would want to have this particular amendment. It would end up establishing a hierarchy of rights in the Canadian Bill of Rights which would not be appropriate. Each of the rights in the Canadian Bill of Rights is of equal importance. They are all very important. To say that one is more important than the other would not be appropriate.

The Canadian Bill of Rights is historically significant. It represents one of the first steps toward a constitutionally entrenched bill of rights. Just over 20 years after the Canadian Bill of Rights was enacted, we did provide constitutional protections in the form of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Since then our energies have been focused on the charter. In light of that evolution, I do not think we should be revisiting the Canadian Bill of Rights.

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 land 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 on us to think carefully about the implications of amending the property rights protection in a general human rights document.

I am concerned about what effect a general and broad provision on property rights may have on these laws. I am equally concerned that socially important legislation could be challenged in the courts on the basis of such considerations.

The United States has had considerable experience with property rights and we can learn from its experience. Initially constitutional property rights were used in the United States to prevent socially useful legislation such as regulating hours of work. Later on the courts adopted a more enlightened view but still attempts to regulate the environment or trade in endangered birds or land use have been met with court challenges based on conflict with property rights in the American bill of rights. This sort of general provision has complicated the regulation of whole varieties of areas germane to the public interest.

Canadian courts have demonstrated that they will go their own way in interpreting the provisions of the charter and our other human rights laws. However, the proposed amendments would leave us with uncertainty about the meaning of property rights and the effect of the amendment on a wide variety of laws that touch on property in one way or the other.

I certainly have a great deal of sympathy for the purpose behind Bill C-284. Like the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville, I feel very strongly about the importance of property rights in our society and legal system.

Having said that, I would also say that so far as I am concerned we have more than adequate protections in our statute law and common law for property rights. Not only do I not see the necessity for the proposed amendment to the Canadian Bill of Rights but I am also concerned in some respects about its impact.

In light of the American experience I would think it far better that we continue to rely on the very extensive protections of property rights that already exist in our laws. For these reasons I cannot support the bill.

When we look at the history of our nation, the history of the evolution of property rights within the common law system, going back to the system of law evolving in many provinces and in the national government from the common law of England, we have

that basis. The basis is stated in many statutes designed to protect property rights from the actions of government or other individuals. This is both at the federal and provincial levels. At the municipal level these would be covered by provincial statute.

All of these types of protections are offered our citizens as we enjoy property of various types. The protection of our property is important. Our common law and statute law are absolutely replete with examples of how we seek to protect and ensure that our citizens can enjoy their property fully and completely without fetter, without hindrance from other individuals, government and so on.

While the hon. member's bill is well intended, I believe that if we closely examine the protections that are currently available to all citizens of Canada-

Constitution Act, 1867Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member's time has expired.

Constitution Act, 1867Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, as our colleague, the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville, has mentioned, this is the third time the House has had an opportunity to debate property rights. On each occasion, we have heard the same arguments from both sides of the House.

I listened very carefully to the member for Yorkton-Melville, and the least one can say is that our colleagues in the Reform Party are consistent and persistent, because, as I said, we are now looking at the third bill or motion concerning property rights. On each occasion, the Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, opposed this kind of motion and was even more strongly opposed to a bill, although the bill now before us is not votable.

Why is the Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, opposed to a bill with a purpose like that of the bill brought forward by the member for Yorkton-Melville?

In his speech, our colleague mentioned two or three of the reasons he introduced this bill. First of all was the fact that recognizing property rights makes society richer and also provides better protection for the environment. In the same vein, he pointed out that these rights are not protected by existing legislation.

I will show, in the few minutes available to me, that property rights are recognized by both our federal and our provincial legislation, and I will refer to the situation in Quebec.

In his speech, our colleague also mentioned that it was not the purpose of his bill to amend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in other words to introduce a constitutional amendment.

I want to say right away that this argument will not wash. Unless I misunderstood or misread clause 6 of Bill C-284, it is clear that the purpose of this bill is among other things to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 to reinforce property rights so that, as provided in clause 6, every time a bill would have the effect of modifying property rights, its passage would require the support of two-thirds of the members of this House. Clause 6 also proposes to amend the Constitutional Act, 1867 so as to recognize the principle to which I just referred.

I think it is quite clear, although I am not a constitutional expert, that what my Reform colleague wants is a constitutional amendment with all its troublesome implications.

That being said, the real issue in this debate is whether in our society, in Canada and in Quebec, property rights are recognized. Can individuals across Canada acquire property or goods and dispose of them as they wish, always with due respect for the law? Is this actually the case?

When we look at the situation in Quebec, the answer is an unqualified yes. The Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms specifically recognizes property rights. Section 6 of the Quebec Charter Rights and Freedoms says that every person has the right to peaceful enjoyment and free disposition of his property, within the limits provided by law.

In other words, in practice this section means that yes, every person has a right to property which allows him to purchase goods, movable or immovable, and to dispose of them as he sees fit, always within the limits of the law. That is what we must remember in this debate. The Bloc Quebecois is opposed to adopting this legislation but recognizes property rights as a basic right that is currently protected by our statutes, both federal and provincial, and which in our view does not need additional protection.

Another point. If by some misfortune this kind of bill were adopted by the House and if by some even greater misfortune, a constitutional amendment were tabled to recognize property rights in the Constitution, in the charter of rights and freedoms, this would have far reaching consequences for the way our institutions operate in each province, and especially in Quebec.

It would mean that all legislation passed, previously, now or in the future, with the aim of limiting or circumscribing the right to property must come under our basic law, which is the Constitution.

I have a few examples of potential consequences. The Secretary of State for Justice mentioned a few earlier, but I think it is important to repeat some of the basic ones.

Quebec has agricultural lands protection legislation, which was passed nearly 20 years ago by the PQ government of René Lévesque. It naturally limits property rights. It circumscribes the right by limiting the acquisition of agricultural lands and by preventing any change in their status in agricultural terms when they are sold.

If there were an amendment like the one proposed by our colleague, could people challenge this legislation right up to the Supreme Court and risk, essentially, the revocation of legislation sought by all Quebecers, which still today despite difficulties in applying it meets with everyone's approval?

The scenario is the same in the case of legislation on income security. Under this legislation in Quebec, known as the Loi sur l'aide sociale, an individual may not own a building worth more than $50,000 without his social security being affected. Such a provision, clearly, limits the right to property. Does this mean that the Government of Quebec or another province wanting to keep such a provision could find itself stymied before the higher courts if a bill such as the one proposed by our Reform colleague were passed?

Other provisions also lead us to conclude that existing legislation, or provincial powers to legislate on property matters, is quite adequate to permit both enjoyment of the right to property and to offset this right with all of our social rights.

Constitution Act, 1867Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to my colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-284, which proposes to strengthen and protect individual property rights through a number of legislative measures.

The member and I have worked together because I had a similar votable motion, No. 205, which was debated in the House on June 10, September 30 and November 5. The procedure was very interesting because I received a number of inquiries from Liberal members who were interested in the bill. Since it was a private member's bill they would have the opportunity to vote impartially, so-called.

However, when it came time to vote every Liberal voted against the motion. It is very rare in the House that on a private member's motion all members of a party will vote the same way. It was clear from my perspective that Liberal members had been told not to vote for the motion. The reason was it would have embarrassed the government on Bill C-68 dealing with firearms. It would have embarrassed the government on the endangered species act, because if a specific plant grew on your land, a little extension of this legislation could mean that the government could move in and take the land without compensation. This is where the Liberals are coming from.

Bill C-284 would guarantee that every person has the right to the enjoyment of that person's property and the right not to be deprived of that property unless the person is accorded a fair hearing, paid fair compensation, the amount of that compensation is fixed by an impartial person, and the compensation is paid within a reasonable amount of time.

It does not tie the government's hands. Reform is saying that if we take something away for the public good then the owner must be compensated. This is not rocket science. The Americans have it, other provinces and countries have it, yet when comes to Canada this appears to be somewhat vague.

In addition to the property rights provision proposed in my motion, Bill C-284 proposes specific legislative measures to strengthen and protect the bill of rights.

Section 7 of the charter of rights and freedoms provides:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Canadians believe in a free and democratic society, fundamental justice and the necessity for fairness. Most believe that property rights are among those very basic rights. Yet property rights, as opposed to what the member from the Bloc would say, are not protected. I want to make that very clear. There is no guarantee of fair treatment by the courts, tribunals or officials who have the power over individuals or corporations. There is simply no reason why a government should have the freedom to expropriate private property without fair, just and timely compensation, and this is what this bill is about.

In the past there have been many attempts to deal with private property concerns and I will run by a bit of history on where we are going.

In 1960 John Diefenbaker introduced and passed the Canadian Bill of Rights. The bill of rights includes property rights yet the guarantee of protection is marginal at best. There is no provision that government must pay just compensation whenever it expropriates property.

Former Prime Minister Trudeau fought to include property rights in the charter of rights and freedoms, yet the Liberals have voted down my motion, the same Liberals across the floor of this House. It just does not make any sense; a former prime minister pushing for rights and yet these people across the floor are opposed to them.

In 1968 Mr. Trudeau as the minister of justice tabled a Canadian charter of human rights which included protection of property rights.

In 1969 Prime Minister Trudeau wrote that the charter should protect the right of the individual to the enjoyment of property.

In 1978 Mr. Trudeau's constitutional amendment bill included a clause representing fundamentally the same protection he had suggested 10 years earlier.

In 1980 Trudeau attempted to include the property rights clause in the proposed charter.

As minister of justice our current Prime Minister supported Trudeau's attempt to include property rights in the charter of rights and freedoms. The Prime Minister described property rights as "a central value of our society and an essential agreement for the charter, a right which all Canadians should have regardless of where they live in our country".

I am disappointed that our present Prime Minister did not stand by his words and vote for property rights in this House.

In 1982 Pierre Trudeau made the last attempt to include property rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In 1982 property rights were left out of the charter and Canadians were denied property rights once again. In 1988 the House voted overwhelmingly to support a motion that proposed: "The 1982 Constitution Act be amended in order to recognize the right of enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice and in keeping with the tradition of the usual federal provincial consultative process".

This was passed in the House with a majority of 108 votes of support versus 16 against.

Clearly this points out that through the 20 years in the history of this House various administrations have supported private property rights. It did not get that far and it is not in legislation, but the leaders have supported it. Yet here we have the crowd across the floor trashing it again. Property rights were removed from the Charlottetown accord against the wishes of many Canadians. I would suggest that is one of the reasons why the Charlottetown accord failed. Any attempts to entrench property rights within the charter have failed.

My colleague's bill, Bill C-284, avoids concern about federal interference in provincial jurisdiction. Bill C-284 applies only to federal law and to operations of the federal government. That is important. It does not tromp on provincial territory, as the Bloc member was saying.

Most provinces support the entrenchment of property rights. British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick have passed resolutions supporting the inclusion of property rights in the charter. In a 1987 Gallup poll 87 per cent of the people supported increased property right protection. It is there. The Canadian people want it and yet the Liberals refuse to recognize it.

Many national organizations have also come out in favour of greater protection for property rights, including the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Real Estate Association, to mention but a few. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by Canada in 1948, commits Canada to the protection of property rights. Article 17 reads: "Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of this property". That was signed by Canada in 1948 and here we are, 50 years later, still arguing about it.

A number of other democratic countries have already taken the lead, as I suggested earlier. The United States, Germany, Italy and Finland all have private property rights. Why is it that we in Canada, supposedly the best country in the world, do not have protection for individual property rights? It is absolutely wrong.

The fifth amendment of the United States constitution, adopted in 1791, provides that the federal government cannot deprive anyone of life, liberty or property without the due process of law and also stipulates that private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation.

Canada alone among the industrialized nations does not grant some form of constitutional protection to property ownership. I do not understand why this government refuses to grant Canadians the protection which was agreed to almost 50 years ago.

Protecting property rights does not diminish the rights which Canadians already have or prevent the government from carrying out its duties for the common good of the nation.

Amending the charter of rights and freedoms requires the support, as my colleague said, of two-thirds of the provinces and 50 per cent of the population. Amending the Canadian Bill of Rights, as proposed by this bill and by my Motion No. 205, could be accomplished in the House.

Protection of these rights has been supported by all sides of the House in the past and this is the time to move forward.

In conclusion, the protection of individual property rights is a fundamental freedom which must be protected. It is time that the government took a serious look at property rights and put aside partisan concerns to work together for the common good of the people. I will be supporting my colleague in this bill.