Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-304, introduced by the Reform Party member for Yorkton—Melville and entitled an Act to amend an Act for the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and to amend the Constitution Act, 1867. In short, it is an act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights.
At first glance, the subject appears appealing. The first clause proposes the following, and I quote:
Paragraph 1(a) of An Act for the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is replaced by the following:
(a) the right of the individual to life, liberty and security of the person, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;
This amendment to the existing legislation removes from subsection 1(a) the freedom of enjoyment of one's property. Everyone agrees that the freedom to enjoy one's property is a democratic freedom. One question, however: Is this an unconditional, universal, freedom?
We see what the member is after in clause 3. It proposes:
The Act is amended by adding the following after section 2:
2.1 (1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), every person has the right to the enjoyment of that person's property.
This is a fundamental statement of this bill: the right to private property. For most of us, private property refers immediately to our home, but it includes many other things, such as a house, car, land, bicycle, to name but a few.
I am no constitutional expert. However, I know that the provinces have jurisdiction over property and civil rights. It is therefore the responsibility of the provinces to legislate in areas involving personal property.
The member's bill therefore aims at establishing recognition of the right to property in federal legislation subject to the Canadian Bill of Rights, since it applies only to federal acts and institutions.
The right to enjoyment of property is found in subsection 1(a) of the Canadian Bill of Rights. So, we may well ask what the point of the bill is and what scope does the member intend for it. I think he is attempting to initiate a general debate on the right to private property based on the following assumption: the right to private property is a natural right and one that is outside of legislation.
But many ongoing situations show that personal rights, especially in connection to property, often have to be restricted for the common good. Take for example environmental issues. Environmental and public health protection require that legislation be passed that sometimes limits property rights by imposing strict regulations on companies.
Another example everyone, at least everyone in this place, knows about is the speed limit on roads and highways. Such rules limit my enjoyment of my car's performance. Yet, careless behaviour might see me lose the use of my car. Imagine how disastrous this would be.
The Firearms Registration Act is yet another example. I had no intention of ascribing motives to the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville. And I will not do so. But after hearing his remarks, it seems clear to me that, in his opinion, should the Canadian Bill of Rights be amended as proposed in his bill, the firearm registration legislation would be impossible to enforce and would entail prohibitive costs as anyone could demand a hearing before a court of law under clauses 2.1(1) and 2.1(4).
Last century, the era of dyed-in-the-wool economic liberalism, certain decisions prevented the various Parliaments in Canada from interfering with private property either by confiscating it or by destroying it without compensation. Times have changed.
In the 20th century, Parliament can establish laws, and the public has the right to judge their legitimacy and morality.
This is easily illustrated. In the case of the surplus in the employment insurance fund, the current government can try to legalize its use for purposes other than those established. Should it go so far, the public will decide on the legitimacy and morality of such misappropriation.
As you can see, we have no intention of supporting this bill, because we think that the freedom of some stops where the freedom of others starts. This is the price of living in a harmonious and responsible society.
Canadian and Quebec society will never opt for the law of the jungle.