moved that Bill C-237, 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, this is the third time since I became a member of parliament that my property rights bill has been denied enough time for full debate. This is the third time that MPs have been denied the opportunity to vote for or against strengthening property rights in federal law. It is also three slaps in the face for each of the thousands of Canadians who have signed petitions supporting my bill. So far I have personally received 578 pages of petitions signed by 13,729 Canadians from all across Canada who support the bill.
It is also an insult to another major supporter of the legislation, the Canadian Real Estate Association, an association that represents more than 200 real estate boards in every province of the country.
I repeat for the third time in the House that it is time for us to make this bill, and all Private Members' Business that comes before the House, votable.
I will start the debate by asking a few questions. I know they will be difficult questions for many Liberals to answer and almost impossible for the socialists in the House to understand but I am going to ask them anyway.
What does anyone own that the Government of Canada cannot take away from them? The answer is nothing.
Does anyone think they have any right to own the satellite dish they bought, paid duties and taxes on, and enjoy the programs they pay for and watch on their TV? Does anyone think they have the right to own the gun that they legally bought to go target shooting or hunting with? Does anyone think they have the right to own the money they paid into their own government pension fund? Does anyone think they have the right to own and sell the crops they grow on their own land? Does anyone think they have any right in Canadian federal law to be compensated for any property that the government takes away from them, including their own land?
If anyone was thinking that as a Canadian citizen they had any of these rights or that somehow these rights were protected in Canadian law, I am sad to inform them that they are wrong. The federal government can take anything anyone owns, anytime it wants, and there is not a thing anyone can do about it. Only we in the House can do something about it.
Let us look at the government's track record at taking the property from Canadians. Over the years, an estimated 700,000 Canadians have purchased direct-to-home satellite equipment, services and programs from the United States because the equipment, services and programs were not available to them in Canada. This was a legal product that the Government of Canada collected both duty and taxes on. The government then unilaterally passed a law that declared the equipment, services and programming people watched using their own satellite dish, their own decoder and their own television illegal.
In May of this year, the RCMP announced a crackdown on these made in Ottawa criminals. My colleague, the member for Calgary Centre, made the directive public. The RCMP directive states:
Although any such device or equipment brought into Canada may have had duty and taxes paid, the provisions of the Radiocommunication Act remain in effect. The possession, use, sale, etc. of any such equipment is therefore illegal.
Watching television illegally in Canada can result in a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to 12 months in prison. So much for the right to own and enjoy property in Canada.
In 1994 a farmer with a firearms licence issued by the federal government went out and bought a gopher gun, a firearm commonly used for hunting and sporting purposes, from a government licensed firearms dealer. In 1995 the government passed Bill C-68 giving it the absolute power to prohibit any firearms if, in the opinion of the governor in council, really the Minister of Justice, he or she does not think the firearm should or could be used for hunting and sporting purposes.
I can hear by the noise in the background that the Liberals do not like this, but I think it is time they paid attention. If the bureaucrats in the justice department think a gun looks dangerous and can convince the justice minister that it is dangerous, the minister can ban the gun by order in council. Section 117.15(2) of the criminal code gives the government such sweeping authority that it can ban any gopher gun without producing a shred of evidence that the firearm it is banning is dangerous. The government can ban any gopher gun even while ignoring factual evidence that the firearm is “commonly used for hunting and sporting” purposes.
The government can ban any gopher gun without any debate in parliament. Nor is there any means of getting the prohibition reconsidered by parliament. The government can ban any gopher gun without any statutory right of appeal for individual owners of these firearms because the criminal code does not contain any such rights of appeal.
The government can ban any gopher gun and declare the owners do not have any right to be compensated for the loss in value resulting from the government's arbitrary prohibition order and no right to be compensated even if the government confiscates the firearm from its lawful owner.
Finally, not even the Supreme Court of Canada could overturn the arbitrary prohibition order because it would be virtually impossible for any court to substitute its opinion for the opinion of the governor in council. In fact, lawyers from the Library of Parliament confirmed this when they wrote, “courts would be loathe to find the governor in council acted in bad faith”.
The punishment for possession of a prohibited firearm is imprisonment for up to five years. So much for the right to own and enjoy property in Canada.
For years, 670,000 federal public servants paid too much of their own salaries into their own government administered pension plans. In May of this year, the government passed Bill C-78 which declared that the surplus money these employees paid into their own pension plan was not theirs any more. It was the government's. The money the government stole was the property of its own employees.
Do employees not have the right to own the portion of money they pay into their own pension fund? Not if they work for the federal government. If these contributions individuals made to their own public service pensions are not safe from the plundering by the federal government, what makes anyone think that the contributions they make to their RRSPs are safe? So much for property rights in Canada.
A Saskatchewan farmer, David Bryan, grew a crop of wheat on his own land. He got into trouble when he tried to sell his wheat for a better price than the Canadian Wheat Board would pay him. The federal government charged Mr. Bryan with exporting his own grain to the United States without getting an export licence from the monopolistic dictatorial wheat board.
For violating this Soviet style decree, Mr. Bryan spent a week in jail, was fined $9,000 and received a two year suspended sentence. Mr. Bryan, with the help of the National Citizen's Coalition, appealed his conviction on the grounds that it violated his property right as guaranteed in the Canadian Bill of Rights and passed by parliament in 1960.
On February 4, 1999, the Manitoba Court of Appeal ruled against David Bryan's right to sell his own grain that he grew on his own land. On page 14 of the ruling of the Manitoba Court of Appeal it states:
Section 1(a) of the Canadian Bill of Rights, which protects property rights through a “due process” clause, was not replicated in the Charter, and the right to “enjoyment of property” is not a constitutionally protected, fundamental part of Canadian society.
Can anyone who is listening to this debate or who reads the record of this debate believe these words came out of the Canadian court of law?
This ruling confirmed what constitutional expert Peter Hogg wrote in his book Constitutional Law of Canada , Third Edition. It states:
The omission of property rights from s. 7 (of the Charter) greatly reduces its scope. It means that s. 7 affords no guarantee of compensation or even of a fair procedure for the taking of property by the government. It means that s. 7 affords no guarantee of fair treatment by courts, tribunals or officials with power over the purely economic interests of individuals or corporations.
That is citation 44.9, page 1030. Professor Hogg also wrote:
The product is a s. 7 in which liberty must be interpreted as not including property, as not including freedom of contract, and, in short, as not including economic liberty.
That is citation 44.7(b), page 1028.
Therefore, without any protection of property rights and freedom of contract in the charter of rights and freedoms and with the courts ruling that the Canadian bill of rights does not provide any protection whatsoever from the federal government's arbitrary taking of property or infringing on our fundamental economic liberty, I decided it was time to do something about it.
Amending the charter is a hugely complicated task because it requires a resolution to be passed in the House of Commons and in seven provincial legislatures, comprising about 50% of the population. I decided to draft a bill to strengthen the protection of property rights in the Canadian bill of rights. Consequently, this would only strengthen the protection of property rights in federal law.
In past debates the government has argued poorly that there is no need to strengthen property rights in federal law, that the Canadian bill of rights provides adequate protection of property rights. The Bryan case proves that it is totally wrong on this count. The bill of rights provides absolutely no protection of property rights. Even if the government ignores the Bryan judgment, these rights can be overridden by just saying so in any piece of legislation passed by the House.
My bill proposes to make it more difficult to override the property rights of Canadian citizens by requiring a two-thirds majority of the House. My amendments would not tie the government's hands to legislate, but would send a clear signal that members of parliament think that adequate protection of property rights is so important that an override clause should pass a higher test in the House.
Even if the government agreed to abide by the so-called guarantees in the Canadian bill of rights, as currently worded, it would only protect three things: 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. Unfortunately the bill of rights does not prevent the arbitrary taking of property by the federal government. The bill of rights does not provide any protection of our right to be paid any compensation, let alone fair compensation. The bill of rights does not provide any protection of our right to have compensation fixed impartially. The bill of rights does not provide any protection of our right to receive timely compensation. Finally, the bill of rights does not provide any protection of our right to apply to the courts to obtain justice.
Bill C-237, my property rights bill, would provide this protection. I offer the government this opportunity to take corrective action by voting to strengthen property rights in the Canadian bill of rights. When passed by the House we could then work toward amending the charter of rights and freedoms, which is a much more complex process.
I would like to mention a couple of things in summation. Why are property rights good? There are three key reasons for which property rights are good and necessary. First, they make society richer. Second, they protect the freedom of individuals. Third, they protect the environment. Theoretically the protection of property rights makes society richer because those rights spur, through creative effort, the improvement of one's circumstances. Second, property rights protect the freedom of individuals because they allow people to make their own decisions about how to best use their existing possessions, including labour. Finally, property rights protect the environment because the problem of pollution is not that people pollute their own surroundings but that they pollute other people's surroundings.
I would like to briefly talk about the Magna Carta and the English bill of rights; however, I see that my time is up, Mr. Speaker, and I will have to do that another time.
These property rights have been around for a long time. It is only recently that we have neglected them and failed to put them in our charter of rights and freedoms.
I respectfully request the unanimous consent of the House to make Bill C-237 a votable item. I have given all the arguments for it. I think there is much sympathy in the House for it. In fact, many years ago it was passed and I think it is time we did it again.