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.