House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cfia.


Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to address this problem from a legal standpoint. Instead, I will try to show through anecdotes and personal experiences how important it is for us as a society to be as open-minded as possible because we have changed enormously over the last few years. However, I think we still have a long way to go.

In the early 1970s, women were beginning to be more aware of their rights, to become more familiar with them and even to have rights. It has only been since then that women have had the right to sign cheques on their own behalf, to have bank accounts in their own name, and to keep their name when they marry.

When I wanted to get married in the early 1970s, I was in love with a black man, and the priest at my church did not want to marry us. And there it was, discrimination. Society was not very advanced at that time in terms of intercultural marriages. I went to the curate to find someone who would perform the marriage, but the priest still refused. At the time, I thought this was terrible. Nowadays, when walking down the street, one meets many couples of different origins, who have children of different origins, and people are not offended any more as they were in the early 1970s.

In regard to the development of women's rights and human rights, I think that we have reached the point in our society where we should recognize the rights of people of the same sex who want to join their lives, share their lives, remain together and be happy.

To show how fast things go in life and how fast our ways of thinking can change, I remember a young woman for whom I was caring in the early 1980s. She had AIDS and was of Haitian origin. When her parents went to see her in the hospital, they did not go into her room because they thought she was possessed by the devil. They thought the devil had invaded her and that was why she was sick. Nowadays, if this young woman were still alive, I am sure that her parents would go into her room and would be able to embrace her rather than transmitting their embraces through me to her.

It is extremely difficult to realize that, in 2005, we still have questions about an issue like the one before us today. This should have been resolved a long time ago. A decade ago, homosexuals had the courage to come out to themselves. Now, they have the courage to come out to their co-workers and their families. It was not so easy in the past. If we go back 30 or 40 years, it was extremely difficult. No politician, man or woman, dared come out of the closet. It took years for this to be possible, for such people to be accepted and respected in our legislatures. Initially, people were respected because their sexuality was a secret. When they came out, at first, it caused an uproar.

Now, we know and respect our colleagues, no matter what their sexual orientation, which is essential. However, if they command such respect from us, we must go further. We must give them the opportunity to lead a full, rich life, a life similar to that led by every other human being. As my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert said earlier, everyone is entitled to happiness. There is nothing conditional about it.

If we take the trouble to think a little about our own families, friends and acquaintances, I am convinced that even my colleagues who want to vote against Bill C-38 know someone who is homosexual, someone who may want to marry and be happy.

Do these people have to give up their right to happiness because their representatives have said no? Will they be embarrassed or self-conscious?

As my colleague from Joliette has said, and said so well, I do not want to have to tell my grandson or granddaughter that it is a bad choice to be homosexual because they cannot do the same thing as others can. I know that many here have a great deal of respect for the hon. member for Hochelaga. I would be pleased if he were to find the love of his life and decide to marry. I do not think there is anyone in this House, regardless of his or her beliefs, who would dare turn down an invitation to his wedding. I think we would all accept and would all turn up with presents.

If we can recognize that right for a person we know well, why not for others? Why can we not recognize it for all of society? It is a right. We have a right to be happy and to choose the person we want to live our life with.

Let us think this over calmly. Could all members of this House take the time to ask themselves whether they want to have to say to their sons or daughters, “No, you are gay so you cannot get married”. We say that older people have the right to marry, even without children. I know a number of seniors who have married. The purpose of marriage is supposed to be procreation, having children. But when somebody is 70, 75, 80—or like the last one I saw, 88—and wants to marry, let us not pretend it is to have children. We must not be ridiculous about it. They did not get condoms as presents, either.

As a society, we need to make an effort to be a little more open. There is much talk of open-mindedness, but for many that is just empty talk. I find that hugely regrettable. As a government, as parliamentarians, we need to meet the needs of our fellow citizens, our constituents.

I too have received cards from people saying they are against same sex marriage. I responded to every single one. To my great astonishment, I received dozens of calls from people who said they had not written to me. Their names and signatures had been used on the cards. When they called me, they said, “Madam, why did you write to me? I have never spoken about this. I am not against same sex marriage”. Some people would have us believe that the majority is against same sex marriage, but that is not true.

In any event, Quebeckers are a little more progressive than that and I am sure most Canadians are prepared to accept same sex marriage.

In the meantime, I hope my colleagues will think twice before voting against this bill. It would allow us to take a stand as compassionate human beings. This has been done successfully elsewhere and I think it can be successful here as well.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today in defence of the traditional definition of marriage.

I was pleased a couple of weeks ago to join some 15,000 to 20,000 Canadians on the lawns of this great Parliament to say in a very loud and clear voice that the traditional definition of marriage, and that is the union of a man and a woman in marriage to the exclusion of all others, is the right thing to maintain.

I, like many on this side of the House, and indeed, I am joined by a huge segment of our society, millions of Canadians from coast to coast to coast who are supporting the retention of the traditional definition of marriage, that of a man and a woman. Any comments to the contrary are simply not realistic.

Marriage and the family based on marriage are the basic institutions of our society. We must not, we should not change these kinds of foundations lightly or easily. I do not believe that the government or those who are proposing to change the traditional definition of marriage have been able in any way to make a compelling case that would cause Canadians and this Parliament to consider changing that definition. That case simply has not been made.

At least one of the major purposes of marriage historically has been to provide a stable environment for the procreation and the raising and nurturing of children. That does not mean that other kinds of relationships are not loving and valuable, nor does it mean that heterosexual married couples who cannot or do not have children are less married than anyone else. What it does mean is that marriage as a social institution has as one of its goals the nurturing of children in the care of a mother and a father. That is the fundamental.

If we change the definition of marriage to end the opposite sex requirement, we will be saying in fact that the nurturing of children in the care of a mother and a father, that this goal of marriage is no longer important. We cannot say that.

The central question we are wrestling with is whether marriage is still connected to this potential to have and raise children and to provide a stable environment for those children, or whether it is simply connected with the personal needs of two adults in a close relationship.

McGill University medical and legal ethicist Margaret Somerville made the point so clear and eloquent in a recent book called Divorcing Marriage . She said:

“The crucial question is: should marriage be primarily a child-centred institution or an adult-centred one? The answer will decide who takes priority when there is an irreconcilable conflict between the interests of a child and the claims of adults. Those who believe that children need and have a right to both a mother and a father, preferably their own biological parents, oppose same sex marriage would mean that marriage could not continue to institutionalize and symbolize the inherently procreative capacity between the partners; that is, it could not be primarily child centred. In short...accepting same sex marriage...means abolishing the norm”--the accepted value--“that children...have a prima facie right to know and be reared within their own biological family by their father and mother. Carefully restricted, governed, and justified exceptions to this norm, such as adoption, are essential. But abolishing the norm would have a far-reaching impact”.

This belief that marriage is inherently connected with procreation until recently was upheld as the reason for marriage by the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1995 Supreme Court Justice La Forest, speaking on behalf of four judges in the majority in the Egan case rendered a decision. This is absolutely important because this kind of decision still holds strong and reigns in the Supreme Court of Canada. It has not been changed. We cannot accept the arguments of the Liberals that the Supreme Court is wavering on this because it is not. Justice La Forest said:

Marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of long-standing philosophical and religious traditions. But its ultimate raison d'être transcends all of these and is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship. In this sense, marriage is by nature heterosexual.

That decision still stands in the Supreme Court of Canada and nothing that the Liberals or the Bloc or the NDP say has any basis in fact to refute that. It simply does not alter what the Supreme Court of Canada has said. This statement remains the only commentary on the basic meaning of marriage in any Supreme Court decision.

The House, including the current Prime Minister, voted to uphold the definition of marriage in 1999 and in the amendments to Bill C-23 in 2000 with the Deputy Prime Minister, who was then justice minister, leading the defence of marriage from the government side. Here is what the Deputy Prime Minister said in 1999 as she so clearly and eloquently made her defence of the traditional definition of marriage speaking on behalf of the government. She said:

We on this side agree that the institution of marriage is a central and important institution in the lives of many Canadians. It plays an important part in all societies worldwide, second only to the fundamental importance of family to all of us--

The definition of marriage, which has been consistently applied in Canada, comes from an 1866 British case which holds that marriage is ‘‘the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others’’. That case and that definition are considered clear law by ordinary Canadians, by academics and by the courts.

Marriage has fundamental value and importance to Canadians--

As we know, the government voted to defend the traditional definition of marriage at that time. We do not know what happened to change its mind. It was not a Supreme Court decision.

Nothing that she said then was out of date. All that has happened is that several provincial courts have overruled the long standing common law definition of marriage, but the Supreme Court itself has still not addressed this issue, despite a clear request to do so by the government.

We do not believe, on the basis of provincial court decisions which the government refused to appeal to the Supreme Court, that a fundamental centuries old institution should be abolished or radically changed.

No matter what all the Liberals are talking about, save some of them who support marriage, that institution stands strong today, both in the Supreme Court, and in the hearts and minds and souls of millions upon millions of Canadians.

We believe that marriage should continue to be what it has always been, what the courts and the government accepted it to be until a very few years ago, an institution which is by nature heterosexual and has as one of its main purposes the procreation and nurturing of children in the care of a mother and a father.

I think I speak for a vast majority of Canadians regarding that definition. I will stand in defence of that in the House, on the street, and wherever I travel in this country.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, in the debate on Bill C-38, I will speak as a member of the House of Commons. I have been an MP for almost 12 years, but of course there was a time when I was not an MP.

Bill C-38 is the type of issue where we wonder how we would react as private citizens. Unfortunately, we cannot avoid our duty as MPs. I would like to take a few minutes to try to explain what my colleagues and I are faced with in situations like this, in debates like this one.

Obviously, when I was a private citizen, I had a reputation, as I still do, of being fairly open minded as far as the debate on same sex marriage is concerned. In a free and democratic society, if rights are not taken from one group of people and given to another, or merely taken away just for the sake of doing so, I have no problem with it. That, in my opinion, is where we stand today. We want to give rights to certain members of society, without depriving any others of their rights. That is how I saw it when I was a private citizen, and that is how I see it now that I am the member for Saint-Jean.

It is, however, far from easy when a person becomes an MP, because then we cannot necessarily follow our own wishes and our own upbringing, or our own view of an issue. We cannot always react instantly, because now we are members of Parliament and represent others. And when you represent others, you have to take the trouble to see how they react to various issues.

I had a preconceived idea of what an MP did when I got here in 1993. I saw us settling major issues. I thought, first of all, that I could get up during oral question period and ask any minister a question.

I was told—and learned rather quickly—that that was not the way things were done. We have to comply with the traditions, customs and usages of the House of Commons or of Parliament. There is a party leader and a house leader, and they will often announce, “We have decided to take this or that approach today. And it is your turn, Claude. You will be the fourth speaker to rise”. Most of the time, things run like clockwork, except at certain moments. For example, at present, with the threat of an election hanging over us the atmosphere is a bit uncertain and tense. At times like that, it is always a bit more difficult.

That being said, I thought that as soon as one became a member of Parliament, one was negotiating or doing very important things all the time. However, I had not thought about the moral issues. This is another situation in which members find themselves in a rather more awkward spot. On account of our upbringing and surroundings, we have preconceived ideas. I said earlier that in regard to same sex marriage, my idea as a regular citizen was like that I hold as a member. However, sometimes it seems to me that we have huge responsibilities.

In my office on Mondays, I can be shown 1,000 cards from people who are against same sex marriage and 1,000 cards from people who are in favour of it. So what does a person do? One listens, of course, to the views of people in one's riding, weighing the pros and cons, and sometimes, they are almost equal.

It is easier in politics to go with the wind rather than against it. It is easier to row downstream rather than up. But I think one needs to show courage.

Bill C-38 concerns an issue about which the opinions of our fellow citizens should be taken into account. At the same time, though, we cannot ride roughshod over our basic principles and what lies deep within us. It is not easy.

Another debate will appear before us soon, concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide. We have seen suicides on television, almost live, and soon there will be people saying, “I am anxious for the members of the House of Commons to decide what will be done about that”.

That is another kind of subject about which, some Monday morning in our office, we will receive 1000 cards from people in favour of euthanasia and assisted suicide and 1000 from people who are opposed. So again we will be on the horns of a dilemma. However, we cannot evade our responsibilities.

I have also learned as a member that there are several decision making layers in a society. I thought that members of Parliament were the top layer. When I arrived here, I thought that my position as a member of Parliament was important.

I learned that we had a House leader, a leader, a whip who is sitting with us now—a very likeable guy, but who can be very strict when he must. We learn that all these people have a role to play.

I also understand that, in our society, there is a government, there are ministers and an executive branch. In fact, 308 MPs cannot be consulted every day on whether to do this or that. The executive branch has certain powers but the legislative branch has others. The 308 MPs in the House vote on bills, listen to their constituents, attend committee meetings and form opinions on bills. Then, often in accordance with their party line, they will vote in favour of some bills. Naturally, when the party line is crossed, there are problems, because that shows division within the ranks.

There is also the media, often called the fourth estate, because it wields a certain power. There is also the judiciary. I respect my colleagues who are lawyers. Many are here now, and I want to spare them. However, I have always thought that, in a free and democratic society, the elected representatives of the people are the ones who have to make certain decisions.

I have often criticized the government for letting debates concerning grey areas drag on, thereby forcing the courts to intervene. The courts will often take the lead. That is exactly the situation today. At least seven courts have ruled that the rights of same sex couples were violated by the definition of marriage and that such a definition had to include them.

The petitioners turned to their respective jurisdictions. However, it is extremely complicated: marriage is a federal responsibility, divorce, a provincial one, and so forth. It is somewhat confusing. However, people are now aware who to send cards to, in the knowledge that we shall soon decide. Sometimes I get cards, sometimes e-mails. I enjoy, at times, sitting down to read my e-mails. For every one I read, dozens more arrive in my inbox, faster than I can type or click.

Sometimes we find that a bit difficult. The members have perhaps not got to the end of their mandate, and now the courts have decided unanimously that there was a problem and that the definition of marriage had to be changed to include same sex partners. So it becomes very difficult for us MPs to ignore the court judgments. I am constantly saying that the MPs ought to be the ones to make decisions, but we cannot decide everything. Sometimes there are grey areas, and the courts are required to interpret them. That is what happened here, and all their interpretations have been in the same vein.

I must, moreover, admit that in Quebec the openness has progressed beyond that. We have adopted it, it has been recognized. If it has been accepted in Quebec, then Ottawa must follow suit.

From the legal point of view, we cannot go far wrong. If only one or two courts had made decisions, or if the Supreme Court had quashed the judgments made by the others, perhaps we would be in an awkward position of not knowing which way to go. But, legally speaking, we know exactly where we stand.

I have already referred to all the mail-ins that I get. In fact, some of the major institutions have got involved, including churches. This very morning at a breakfast meeting in the parliamentary restaurant we heard an excellent presentation by a woman involved in human research. Marriage goes back more than just centuries, even more than a millennium. The churches started to celebrate marriages around 900; before that there were none. Interaction between persons of the same sex has always existed, but without any legislation about it. Now, today, there is.

I will therefore, be consistent with myself. As an ordinary citizen, I would have said that, provided no one else loses any rights, I have no problem with others being given rights. I adopt the same behaviour as an MP. I believe that the people of Saint-Jean will follow my reasoning on this. I will, therefore, be voting in favour of Bill C-38.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.


Hedy Fry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken in favour of the bill many times in the House but I want reiterate some important points today. I want to reiterate the fact that this is an issue of equality and an issue of minority rights under the charter. I have spoken clearly about the rights of children and the necessity of passing this bill if we are to give all children equal rights in this country.

I want to make a couple of new points. Currently, we know that 85% of Canadians have the right to same sex marriage in seven provinces and one territory. We also know that if we do not pass the bill we will have to go backwards and do something about those people who have already married, which would mean using the notwithstanding clause. However we believe strongly that using the notwithstanding clause in this case to deny equal rights to a minority group is unacceptable to the government.

Recently in Vancouver I was present where most of the major religious groups, including the Buddhists, the Hindus, the aboriginal communities, the Anglicans, the Catholics, the Unitarians and the United churches, came together to support the bill for a basic reason. If the bill were to pass it would allow them freedom of choice in religious institutions to choose to marry whom they wish. Currently they do not have that choice in some religions.

Two days ago major unions of this country had a press conference in which they talked about the necessity to continue this kind of debate and to bring forward the kind of legislation that the government had promised in its Speech from the Throne that it would follow through on. The unions and the municipalities are all asking us to get on with this and pass the bill. The unions mentioned the bill as being essential and one that was a clear equality right and they wanted to see it passed.

Let us get on with the work of doing good governance in the House and bringing about good public policy, not fooling around as we have been doing in the past while.

Civil Marriage ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that full, just and timely compensation be paid to all persons who are deprived of personal or private property or suffer a loss in value of that property as a result of any government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation.

Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 227 is a straightforward proposal.

In the year 2003, the Supreme Court reminded all Canadians that they have no rights whatsoever when the federal government decides to take their property.

On July 17, 2003, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the class action suit Authorson v. Canada. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the federal government and against mentally disabled war veterans. The government had amended the Veterans Affairs Act to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in interest on pension benefits the government had held in trust for about 30,000 veterans. The Supreme Court ruled:

Parliament has the right to expropriate property, even without compensation, if it has made its intention clear and, in s. 5.1(4), Parliament's expropriative intent is clear and unambiguous.

The Supreme Court's ruling also stated:

Lastly, while substantive rights may stem from due process, the Bill of Rights does not protect against the expropriation of property by the passage of unambiguous legislation.

If a government will take millions out of the pockets of 30,000 mentally ill war veterans, what hope does the average citizen have? It is obvious that something needs to be done to protect the rights of citizens to what the government rightfully owes them. This is why I introduced the motion and the intent of my motion is to start strengthening the protection of property rights in federal law for all Canadians one step at a time.

How can any member of the House be against providing proper legal protection to provide full and just compensation to anyone who has been ripped off by their own government?

Just last month, Polara Research conducted a telephone survey of 1,260 Canadian adults and an Internet survey of 8,000 consumers on behalf of the Canadian Real Estate Association. Question one asked: “How important is it to you that the government fairly compensates a property owner if their property is expropriated?” Ninety-two per cent of telephone respondents and 96.7% of Internet respondents thought this was either very important or important.

Question two asked: “How important is it to you that the government fairly compensates a property owner if restrictions are imposed on how their property is used?” Eighty-eight per cent of telephone respondents and 93.2% of Internet respondents thought this was either very important or important.

That is what the polls are telling us, but what are the people saying? I can tell this House that it is not pretty.

Over the last few months I have participated in a grassroots movement of landowner associations that are springing up across rural Ontario. These are good, honest folks who are angry at the government for being in their face, in their backyards and in their front yards. Government overregulation is driving them nuts. The government's refusal to listen is driving them out of their farmyards and on to the highways and on to Parliament Hill.

Mr. Speaker, if you could have gone with me to some of these meetings and heard firsthand accounts of how government is taking their property or devaluing it to zero by some of the regulations and some of the laws that are being passed, you would have been flabbergasted. These people are being driven off their land and are being deprived of their livelihoods. They are angry and they are looking for some redress to this gross injustice.

How bad can it get? If robbing the bank accounts of 30,000 mentally ill war veterans is not obscene enough for the federal government, hon. members should listen to this.

A small booklet was provided to me last week by the Canadian Real Estate Association that reprinted a very sad story from Jean-Paul Raymond's book, La mémoire de Mirabel . It is about Mr. Cardinal who had his home expropriated by the federal government to build the Mirabel Airport. Mr. Cardinal's home was among 35 homes and 20 farms that were expropriated to make way for a quarry to service the construction of the airport.

I want to quote from the booklet:

In La mémoire de Mirabel, Mr. Raymond says Mr. Cardinal decided to move south to nearby St. Eustache to build a new home. 'A strike interrupted construction and he was unable to return to his old home to finish moving out all his belongings. When he finally did return, he was struck with the sad surprise of seeing his house in flames. The federals had set fire to his house and it burned with his household things and personal belongings inside. A life worth of things had stupidly disappeared'.

The book also describes the story of Mr. Campeau. 'He had a poor heart and the strain from the long exhausting process of expropriation put him in the hospital. As he lay sick federal officials paid him a visit. They offered him $55,000 for his farm. Knowing that his land and all his buildings on it were worth more, Mr. Campeau declined. But the government came back with an offer that was lower; they said he would now only get $50,000'.

These examples are poignant because they are part of a double mistake. The homes were taken to make way for a quarry. But the government itself came to realize the quarry was not needed, and it was abandoned. Hundreds of families faced heartache as their heritage was stripped away. They faced painful, difficult and humiliating experiences.

Approximately 97,000 acres of Quebec's best farmland was expropriated. Despite the fact that 3,200 farm families were displaced only 5,000 acres were ever used for airport operations.

In the 1980s, the Mulroney government acknowledged that Mirabel was a mistake and that far too much land had been expropriated. Roughly 80,000 acres of expropriated land were returned to the original owners.

Now that the airport is completely closed to passenger traffic and may never expand the expropriated landowners believe that the 11,000 acres of land outside the airport perimeter should be returned to farming. They have formed a citizen's group called “The Commite du 11,000 Acres” to fight the case.

Aéroports de Montréal, ADM, continues to administer the 11,000 acres. A Bombardier Inc. factory is situated on part of the airport land outside of the 11,000 acres in question. Bombardier has indicated the land it now occupies is sufficient for its needs. But ADM and the federal government argue the land should be retained in case it may be needed by Bombardier in the future.

The Conservative opposition introduced a motion in the House of Commons on November 25th, 2004, calling on the government to sell back the surplus land.

That is the end of the quotation from the Real Estate Association booklet.

Talk about a heartless federal government. The Conservative Mirabel motion passed the House of Commons despite opposition from the Liberal government.

Now let us take a look at another Liberal bill rammed through Parliament without a guarantee of full, just and timely compensation. It is called the Species at Risk Act. Section 64(1) of the act states:

The Minister may, in accordance with the regulations, provide fair and reasonable compensation to any person for losses suffered as a result of any extraordinary impact of the application of

(a) section 58, 60 or 61; or

(b) an emergency order in respect of habitat identified in the emergency order that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a wildlife species.

Fair and reasonable compensation is not full, just and timely compensation, nor does fair and reasonable guarantee that property owners will get fair market value for their land taken out of production by the power given to the minister under the Species at Risk Act.

Then we have the unfair monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board, which is inaccurately named because it only applies to prairie grain producers, not all grain farmers in Canada as the name suggests.

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 what 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 Citizens Coalition, appealed the conviction on the grounds that it violated his property rights as guaranteed in the Canadian Bill of Rights 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. I ask the House to listen carefully to what the Manitoba Court of Appeal stated on page 14 of the ruling:

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.

It is shocking that in a modern democratic country like ours property rights are not protected. I know of no other country in the modern world that does not protect property rights. I would ask anyone who is listening to this debate or reads the record of this debate whether they can believe that those words came out of a Canadian court of law. I repeat: “the right to 'enjoyment of property' is not a constitutionally protected, fundamental part of Canadian society”. I seek to change that.

Another concern for property owners was the Liberal government's proposed animal cruelty legislation that would have seen the animal cruelty provisions moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own; that would remove these provisions outside of the scope of the legal protection of section 492(2) of the Criminal Code. Ultimately this proposed legislation could open up the possibility that farmers, sporting groups and scientific researchers will be unjustly prosecuted. Animal rights groups in Canada will certainly use this new legislation as the basis for such prosecutions and in fact have already stated their intention to do so.

The cost of these prosecutions is one thing that farmers cannot afford, but the fact is that this legislation could affect billions of dollars worth of property without providing any legal means for those affected to receive fair, just and timely compensation for the manner in which their operations will be affected by this legislation and by the regulations that implement it.

These are just four examples of the Liberal government running roughshod over each person's right to own and enjoy property and to receive full, just and timely compensation if the government takes that property away from people, prohibits them from using and enjoying their property or reduces the value of their property by the regulations they impose upon us.

Chinese property owners have a better chance of getting full, just and timely compensation for their property rights taken from them by the government. At least property rights are entrenched in the Chinese constitution. But not in Canada's.

China has just recently put this in place and yet we in Canada do not recognize how important this is in a free and democratic society based on a market economy. If we want a strong economy, we must put property rights into the Constitution.

I can see people's eyes glazing over. They may not understand the importance of property rights, but I assure everyone that it is absolutely essential in a country like ours that they be properly protected. That is why I have brought this motion forward. I hope that people will approach this with an open mind, examine the issues, scratch beneath the surface and see how absolutely essential this is. Then I think the glaze in their eyes may fade away, because they will see that each one of us in Canada suffers because we do not have the proper property rights protection.

Because the Liberals will not fix this injustice, it will be up to us as Conservatives to do it. We can take the first step tonight by supporting Motion No. 227.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville for his speech. When it is my turn to speak, he will understand that we agree in principle with the motion, but I want to ask him the following question.

To me his motion seems rather vague. He spoke at length about the Species at Risk Act and I think his motion is particularly concerned with that act. However, I would like him to elaborate on whether he is simply generalizing or whether his motion is related to other bills.

Can the hon. member elaborate on whether his motion concerns specifically the Species at Risk Act, whether he has other intentions in mind, or whether other legislation could be affected by this motion?

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. The member said that this is a big motion. If we look at this carefully, it is a general principle. It is a principle that I would like this Parliament to approve. Once we approve this in principle, we can begin to look at ways to protect property rights in Canada. In a previous Parliament I put forward a bill that would have amended the Bill of Rights and that would have given a little protection.

This is not specifically aimed at one particular piece of legislation in this House. I am trying to achieve a principle of property rights entrenched in Canada. We could begin with the Bill of Rights, which this Parliament could easily pass. I think we also have to look at ways in which we can amend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include this as a general protection that Canadians would have against their own government. Right now, the government can run roughshod over Canadians with any piece of legislation. They have no protection in law.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

An hon. member

And it does.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

And it does.

I did not use just the example of the airport or of this one particular act. I talked about farmers and the ability to sell their grain. Let me tell members a little more about that case.

There was a farmer in Manitoba who had the misfortune of having a certain disease come into his wheat. He had a very small percentage of diseased kernels in that grain. The Canadian Wheat Board refused to accept his grain. He had large quantities of this grain. If he could not sell it, his business of course would have been destroyed. He found a buyer in the United States who was willing to take his grain and give him a fair price for it.

The Canadian Wheat Board, which would not buy his grain, would neither allow him to sell it. Here we have a gross violation of property rights. And when we go to the courts, the courts say we do not have property rights in Canada.

I first want to get this passed as a general principle by this House. Then we can start working together as political parties, as politicians, as elected representatives of the people of Canada, to decide what is the best way to do that.

I have already made a suggestion: put it in the Bill of Rights. We could also look further as to ways to include that in the charter. That is more difficult because it is of course a constitutional amendment. It is something that I think we should start thinking about and looking at. I think once we explain this to the people of Canada, they will see that this is something that is best for this country and that it protects the average citizen in Canada.

In answer to the member's question, no, it does not refer to just one piece of legislation. It is a general principle. I hope that it would apply to all legislation and would be a caution on government to not run roughshod over the people of this country.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, Nepean--Carleton is the riding I represent and it is the region I want to speak about today. At the outset of the creation of the Federal District Commission, which has now become the National Capital Commission, farmers had huge pieces of land confiscated. They were paid only a third of the market value of that time.

The National Capital Commission now charges full market value rent on those lands. The National Capital Commission has effectively become a commercial enterprise, using these properties which it expropriated from farmers and families as a revenue-generating tool.

All of this is documented in the Spirit of Nepean , authored by the famous D. Aubrey Moodie, who was the reeve of Nepean. He is 97 years old today and can tell us all these important historical facts.

It seems to me that this is one practical example of how a group of people were abused by their government and not given fair compensation. It seems to me that this right is so basic, so quintessential, that it is burned onto the heart of every human being, that that which they create with their hands is their property and must be protected. Why is it that in a country as advanced as Canada we have yet to respect that right?

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the answer is simple: I do not know. I cannot comprehend why we would not have put this into our Charter of Rights and Freedoms when we made the charter part of our Constitution in 1982. It was intentionally omitted. The member has just given an excellent example. There is a host of examples right across this country as to why we need this right.

If we think of all the rights around the world that people possess, I cannot think of any right that is more important and more fundamental than property rights, other than the right to life. I cannot imagine why we do not have that. It is an obvious right that should be included. That is why I brought this motion forward.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this motion. My comments will be a bit more precise than for most motions.

The motion proposes that all persons who are deprived of personal property or suffer a loss in the value of property as a result of any government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation be compensated. I will have to oppose this motion on a number of grounds. I will try and elaborate.

First, the scope of the motion is far too broad. It is quite simply unreasonable and unmanageable in modern day governance terms. I think the mover has thought about this from a certain perspective; I will call it inside the box. However, when one steps outside the box and looks at the application of the motion, one will see how unworkable it really is.

Perhaps as discussion here has suggested, the motion is an attempt to nudge governance back toward a charter amendment that would refer to personal property rights. I do not think this will get us there very quickly. However, I appreciate the motive in the motion.

If the motion were adopted and if it were put into practice, the repercussions based on the current wording would be staggering. It is not an exaggeration to say that taken to its logical conclusion, it would make much of our current governance unworkable.

For example, the term “all persons” would not only include individuals. In Canadian law “persons” refers to corporations as well. That would include multinational corporations.

Second, the words “personal or “private property” would refer to any non-governmental property, including the property of corporations, non-Canadian corporations held here, and even property acquired through illegal activity, directly or indirectly. For example, proceeds of crime legislation that removes property from people would be covered by the motion. I assume it is not the intent of the mover to protect people involved in illegal activities. No one around here would ever want to suggest that. In its current form the motion would extend that protection.

Being deprived of property could be interpreted to include a lot of things, including paying taxes. I am assuming that dismantling the tax system is not the objective of the mover, but based on the wording of the motion that could be the result.

Let me give another example. Let us say that the Bank of Canada lowered the core interest rate, that there was a change in policy and the core interest rate was lowered. That would result in a decrease in the value of assets held across the country, virtually around the world, currencies, loans, government bonds, holders of assets and not just for Canadians, but the central banks of many countries.

One has to take into account the many indirect effects that would be had on a variety of financial assets in Canada and outside Canada, securities and real estate. Just that one government policy change, lowering or raising the interest rate, could have that kind of an impact.

The terms of this motion would require the government to compensate all holders of these assets in the event of such a policy decision. It is safe to say that in that one hypothetical example that would just about bankrupt us all.

Let us consider the wording “government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation”. This wording appears to be designed to cover the full spectrum of government activity. Let us look at some of the possibilities if this motion with its current wording were put into effect. It would render inappropriate the current Income Tax Act and taxation statutes. Without taxes, we would have to renounce any form of government programming, any form of government activity, from universal health care to agriculture to public security and defence.

For example, if the Canadian International Trade Tribunal were to apply a countervailing duty on goods being exported from abroad into Canada, that would trigger a loss in value. It might even cause a loss of jobs here.

That would be a perfectly justifiable trade countervail decision, but it would be a government policy decision and it would have a negative economic impact on Canadians. This motion would require compensation.

Maybe the hon. member did not think about that particular envelope when he drafted the motion, but he has drafted it widely for the reasons I have alluded to before and that is where I think it takes us.

As I said before, this could also cover the seizure of goods and the proceeds of crime. He may not have thought that through. The impact on Canada's general body of laws would be actually quite profound.

Additionally, the motion also raises the question of who would decide what is just, full and timely compensation. The usual processes for deciding such matters are court decisions, out of court settlements, negotiated agreements and statutes that are made after full debate in Parliament. The motion also raises the question of how compensation would be administered. No doubt it would be a daunting task.

Lastly, another objection I have to the motion is that it fails to recognize that the Government of Canada and in fact all governments across Canada already consider the interests of Canadians and their electors when they embark on policy and legislative processes. In other words, governments, including the federal government, already take a preventive approach. The private property rights alluded to here are framed and protected already, not quite the way the hon. member would like, in our common law system.

For example, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act already provides that the government shall investigate the potential impacts of proposed government decisions on the environment, including human society. These include: health and socio-economic conditions, positive and negative; physical and cultural heritage issues; the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by aboriginal persons; or any structure, site or thing that is of historical, archaeological, paleontological or architectural significance. The government is already compelled to take into account in that one example many possible effects on personal property.

To conclude, the simple fact is that if the House were to adopt this motion and if a government were to try and put it into practice, the federal government would have a very, very tough time governing. I am sure that was not the goal of the hon. member. Unless, is it possible, that the motion really manifests part of an agenda which, let us say, is right of centre, which attempts to rebalance what we currently have, the balance between collective rights and individual rights and to place that balance closer to the individual? I suspect it is.

However, I happen to be one of those who, unlike the official opposition, do not happen to think we are all headed to hell in a handcart. We happen to have an excellent country and I know our citizens believe that it is. In that balance between personal and collective rights, I think we have it right and the charter firmed up part of that balance. However, if the hon. member wishes to tinker some more and to move the balance, I am not one who would agree with that, but I congratulate him for contemplating the prospect.

I want to indicate that I oppose the motion for the several reasons I have indicated. I encourage colleagues to think of it in the same way that I have.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in this debate this evening on Motion M-227 introduced by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville. The hon. member said the following in his motion, which I am pleased to read so that those watching us can understand what we are talking about this evening:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that full, just and timely compensation be paid to all persons who are deprived of personal or private property or suffer a loss in value of that property as a result of any government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation.

The question I asked the member for Yorkton—Melville was not innocent. I asked him, since the motion was especially vague, whether it referred to a number of other bills. In light of his answer, I must say that, for the moment, the Bloc Québécois has not determined what position it will take, because this motion could affect a number of other statutes. If so, this may affect several of the Bloc's critics and, clearly, it would be out of line for me to take a stand on their behalf this evening, at first reading of this motion. We are reserving our position for now, however, the member raised many interesting points when he made his motion and above all when he gave striking examples, particularly with regard to Mirabel and the farmers. I will mention other examples in the course of my speech.

So, if we want to get a good grasp of the situation, it must be said that the federal government has the power to restrict the property rights of Quebeckers and Canadians, of course, and even deny them those rights or decrease the value of their property. This is a possibility. All too often, the rules on compensation lack a proper legislative framework. That is why I asked the member earlier whether he was talking specifically about the Species at Risk Act, because, as I said earlier, this is one instance where the rules on compensation lack the proper legislative framework. I might have the opportunity, in a moment, to talk about the ins and outs of this legislation.

During consideration of this legislation, some groups had noted that compensation issues were insufficiently defined. The representative of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, specifically, came to talk to us. Section 64 of this act indicates that the Minister may, in accordance with the regulations, provide fair and reasonable compensation to any person for losses suffered as a result of any extraordinary impact of the application ofthe act.

So what about the ordinary consequences which may, of course, be just as unfortunate? And what, exactly, happens when restricting property rights amounts to expropriation? Mirabel was just mentioned: it is both a good and a bad example. And in cases, for instance, where a piece of land cannot be used because of a declaration by the federal government that threatened species live there? If people cannot expect to be properly compensated, there is a danger they will not want to report protected species on their property.

The member was talking about farmers a little earlier. In my case, I can talk about outfitters. There are 400 of them in Quebec. An outfitting operation might see its access to or use of a lake restricted because of a protected fish species in it. If the compensation to which the outfitter would be entitled is insufficient, he might choose not to say anything. One must be very careful, therefore, when a minister is given discretionary power, namely that of deciding whether any compensation provided will be large or small. We must be very cautious about that.

The Species at Risk Act is intended basically to protect threatened or endangered species and their habitat. This legislation ensures that birds, fish mammals, plants and insects at risk will be given protection. It will also ensure that the government will help endangered species grow in numbers. So much for fine principles. The act applies to fields, forests, wetlands and open water. It must be remembered that there are nearly 70,000 animal and plant species in Canada. It is very important to protect them, and we recognize that.

Nevertheless, I will say in a moment why we voted against the bill, and people will understand quite soon.

There are provisions under the act for compensation for unexpected losses due to unforeseen restrictions on the normal use of the land in question. Compensation would be for losses which cause hardship for land owners and land users. The compensation provisions, however, must not create perverse incentives to inhibit voluntary habitat protection measures in hopes of receiving future compensation.

That was an excerpt from a press release issued by the former Minister of the Environment at the time when he tabled the Species at Risk Act.

We were against this legislation. It was not that we were against protecting species at risk, far from it, but in the view of the Bloc Québécois, protecting habitat is a provincial jurisdiction, while the government across the way, in this legislation, took unto itself the power to intrude on land in Quebec.

I can tell you right now there was no way this could be acceptable to the Government of Quebec at the time or to us. As usual, it is an intrusion. It is not just overlap, it is direct intrusion in Quebec jurisdiction, that is to say, federal police officers can intervene on a piece of property or a reserve. That just does not work in terms of our goal of being a sovereign nation.

When I was giving examples just now, I mentioned the Quebec's outfitters. The hon. member who presented the motion gave the example of Mirabel. We totally agree with him. I would like to use the example of Baie-du-Febvre, because I will end with the Species at Risk Act.

Baie-du-Febvre is in the mid-Quebec region, Centre-du-Québec, where I was born. It is just outside my riding boundaries. As you may know, there are 200 bird species on the shores of Saint-Pierre Lake in spring and fall. They put on a fantastic show. Snow geese taking off and landing at dawn—it is a sight I recommend to everyone. Tens of thousands of birds launch into the sky at the same time.

If the principle of protection were applied there, if land in that sector were expropriated without adequate compensation of the land owners, there would be a problem that the hon. member's motion might help solve.

He talked about Mirabel. That is good. I need not remind you that we have had major differences of opinion with the government opposite on this topic. In March 1969, the federal Liberal government at the time announced the plan to build the Mirabel international airport in Sainte-Scholastique. It submitted a plan to expropriate 97,000 acres, 10 times the area of the largest airports in the world and 27 times the area of Dorval airport.

Later they realized they did not need anywhere near 97,000 acres. This was the largest expropriation Canada had ever seen, an area larger than the city of Laval. More than 3,000 families were affected by the scandal, another scandal. This scandal has been around for a very long time and still has not been resolved, despite the decision by Parliament—the opposition parties in fact—to call for the land in Mirabel to be returned to the farmers or the people who had it stolen from them by the government at the time.

The Bloc Québécois has long been demanding that the federal government fix this mistake, involving individuals whose land was expropriated for Mirabel. For starters, the 11,000 acres of land expropriated in excess of what was needed could be returned. Its development is jeopardized by the temporary nature of the rights of the farmers who are using it. It is difficult for them to convince financial institutions to lend them money to invest in their facilities. Moreover, these farmers are reluctant to undertake expensive projects to improve the land, since they do not know how long they will be able to use it. This debate is not over.

I believe that the member's motion does propose a way to right this terrible wrong. Consequently, despite the fact, as I said at the start of the debate, that the Bloc wants to reserve its position for the moment, there are some interesting points in the motion, which we must consider more closely first. As Motion M-227 proceeds through the various stages, that is what we will do.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to stand today to address a motion put forward by my colleague, the Conservative member for Yorkton—Melville. I would like to read the motion into the record:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that full, just and timely compensation be paid to all persons who are deprived of personal or private property or suffer a loss in value of that property as a result of any government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation.

At this point I want to congratulate my colleague, who is undoubtedly one of the hardest working members of any party in the House. He has acted so well on behalf of taxpayers with regard to the firearms registry, but also in advancing very important issues like property rights. He has been a consistent advocate of those principles. I had the opportunity in the last Parliament to address this issue and I am pleased to do so again. I fully support this motion.

We have to recall the abstract and history of property rights and the fact that it is intertwined completely with western civilization, going back to great thinkers like Aristotle, the Greco-Roman, the Roman civilization, working its way up to philosophers like John Locke. I would like to quote from Locke's work at this point. I think he gives one of the best definitions.

He locates the right of property and labour. He individualizes the right of property, which is certainly an important development in western thought. This is from his Two Treatises of Government , “Chapter V Of Property”:

The “labour” of his body and the “work” of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his own property.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

That is beautiful.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

My colleague says it is beautiful. It is a very beautiful statement about what the meaning of property is. It is men and women mixing their labour with nature, thereby having a sense of ownership over it.

As has been said many times, the omission of property rights from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a worrisome oversight and we would certainly like to see that document amended to include property rights. The rights that Canadians enjoy with respect to property are only done through some provincial and federal statutes, but there should be, as my colleague suggested, an overriding principle so all laws can abide by this principle.

In Quebec, of course, property rights are found within the civil code of that province.

Since property rights are not entrenched in the legal system, Parliament can easily overturn property rights under virtually any piece of legislation. There are examples of that in this Parliament and the last.

The proposed endangered species legislation in the last Parliament by the Liberal government could mean vast tracts of land are taken away from landowners of the smallest size at the discretion of political figures and governments without giving due compensation. That is a key thing to remember. This is not saying that the government never has a reason to take property away but if it does so, it has to give fair market compensation. That was an important principle that we fought for in the last Parliament.

The recent anti-terrorism legislation authorizes police to seize certain property without normal judicial review. The mapping of the genome and advancements in health sciences have brought about new debates in intellectual property. There is the issue of firearms seizure under Bill C-68 with respect to the firearms registry.

There is also the issue of patents, copyright and intellectual property rights, which are an important area of the work I do as the industry critic for the official opposition. In this digital day and age, we see repeated violations of property rights. Music is downloaded and shared without paying anything to the creator. Major motion pictures are also copied and shared through the Internet. This is an important point. Locke made the whole innovation in terms of mixing our labour. However, it is also mixing our intellectual labour with something and being a creator and, thus, being rewarded for the efforts and the intellect that one pours into something.

The University Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 considered intellectual property a fundamental right of all peoples. However, Canada has been less aggressive than most of its international competitors in linking innovation to intellectual property or in protecting or promoting intellectual property rights.

On the other hand, the Conservative Party at its policy convention in March of this year passed several motions that will improve property rights for Canadians. I am proud to say that it was my riding association that was one of the sponsors of these, the good members of Edmonton—Leduc.

The policy reads:

i) A Conservative Government will seek the agreement of the provinces to amend the Constitution to include this right, as well as guarantee that no person shall be deprived of their just right without the due process of law and full, just and timely compensation.

ii) A Conservative Government will enact legislation to ensure that full, just and timely compensation will be paid to all persons who are deprived of personal or private property as a result of any federal government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation.

In addition to this, the Conservative Party passed two more resolutions that would improve the protection of intellectual property. We would create a process to allow the patent holder to restore time lost on 20 year patent protection due to delays in government approving certain things, like pharmaceutical medicines. If the government takes two or four years to approve a product, we believe there should be some restoration in the patent period to that company and to the company that holds the patent.

We also believe we must continuously examine and update our copyright legislation. To that end, we have passed a comprehensive set of objectives to guide the party in future amendments to copyright law.

Music file sharing is a massive problem in Canada. There is a proliferation of websites providing resources and copies of music used by most to avoid paying for a copy of a CD or cassette tape.

I was struck by the comments by the member for Scarborough—Rouge River, for whom I have a great deal of respect. He engaged in an act of sophistry which I have not seen him do in this Parliament.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage will soon be introducing copyright amendment legislation that actually tries to protect the works of creators, people like Tom Cochrane, Tragically Hip and Blue Rodeo, who are famous Canadians musicians. It is based on a perception that if they pour their intellectual, moral and labour into something, then they have a right to derive a benefit from it. That is property rights. That forms the basis of that legislation

We cannot have copyright legislation unless we have an abstract understanding of what property right legislation should be.

Canadian musicians have been waiting for more than a decade for amendments to the Copyright Act. As it currently stands, Canadian composers, song writers, lyricists and music publishers are not being fairly compensated and in some cases their rights are being violated because we have no workable enforcement mechanisms in Canadian law.

I am calling on all members to seriously think about this motion and examine it. It is a very thoughtful motion and it is put forward in the most gracious spirit that one can ask for from the member for Yorkton--Melville in terms of protecting property rights of all types, property rights and intellectual property rights.

However, I want to address in my conclusion one of the big issues. Members have said that it is a right wing or centre right issue. That is absolute nonsense. They say it is for big corporations. That is absolute nonsense.

The whole history of the development of property rights theory is linked frankly to small landowners, small creators trying to protect what they put in, whether it is against a bigger landowner or against a government that comes in and arbitrarily takes away what they have.

There is the example of legislation in the past Parliament. A small landowner whose land is simply expropriated under the endangered species act needs to have fair market compensation so he or she can keep going on the farm and can have his or her livelihood kept intact.

That protects the smallest landowner as much as it does the largest landowner. It is a protection for the small creators, for the small farmers against the actions of an excessive government or the actions of another excessive corporation or individual. Therefore, property rights are there to protect the small creators, the businesses, the people who really do need our protection.

I support the motion. I hope all members will do the same. I was going to conclude with a comment from Frederick Bastiat, who I think was called one of the greatest economic journalists of all times. He said that the whole notion of law, and the copyright law is one example, is if the law does not recognize property rights, it is so mistaken. The law itself, he would argue, especially common law, was derived so much from the whole development and notion of property rights itself. It is an inverse relationship.

Therefore, I encourage members of the House to fully recognize that relationship and to amend our laws and Constitution to fully recognize property rights here in Canada.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Russ Powers Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Motion No. 227 brought forward by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville which calls upon the Government of Canada to financially compensate all persons who have been deprived of personal or private property or have suffered a loss in value of property as a result of any government initiative, policy, process, regulation or legislation.

Needless to say, the scope and effect of the motion is titanic. My time today does not permit me to outline all of the potential difficulties, both in law and in policy with Motion No. 227. I will instead attempt to highlight a singular issue, the ways our legal system would be severely negatively affected by the motion, specifically in the areas of proceeds of crime, the forfeiture of offence-related property and sentencing, to name but a few.

Currently, the Criminal Code provides for court order forfeiture of proceeds of crime after a conviction for a broad class of offences. Once convicted, if the Crown can show that the property is the proceeds of crime and that the property is connected to that crime, it is forfeited to the Crown.

Even further, if no connection is established between the offence for which the offender was convicted and the property, the judge may still order the forfeiture of the property if he or she is satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the property is the proceeds of crime.

If the government were to in fact implement Motion No. 227 as currently written, it would mean simply that our proceeds of crime regime under the Criminal Code would become next to useless because the government would be required to reimburse convicted criminals who have already had their ill-gotten gains stripped under its authority.

This clearly would run contrary to the goals of the criminal justice system and the view that in Canada crime should not pay. It would also run contrary to the unanimously expressed view of the House in a motion voted less than a month ago that Canada's proceeds of crime legislation should in fact be strengthened through a reverse onus provision.

Our proceeds of crime regime is essential, especially in the fight against organized crime. The proceeds of crime legislation attempts to ensure that the profits from criminal activity are not used by these criminal groups to commit further crime, for the recruit of further members, or to allow for the facilitation generally of our criminal operations. This motion critically jeopardizes this fight.

Further, the Criminal Code provides that where a person is convicted of an indictable offence and the court is satisfied the property is offence-related property, and that the offence was committed in relation to that property, it may be forfeited. In this case, offence-related property means any property by means or in respect of which an indictable offence is committed or that it is used or is intended to be used in connection with the commission of an indictable offence under the Criminal Code.

Once again, if the government were to enforce the principle, as articulated in Motion No. 227, this entire scheme and this power under the Criminal Code would become useless because the government would be required to compensate the criminals for the offence-related property that was forfeited.

Just as alarming is the effect the motion would have on the property seized for violations of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Similarly structured to the offence-related property scheme under the Criminal Code, the courts are given the power under the CDSA to order the forfeiture of property such as marijuana grow houses, lamps and other pieces of property which satisfy the necessary legal tests. Stripping police and prosecutors of an important tool, as Motion No. 227 purports to do, would do nothing more than fuel this criminal phenomena and take leaps backward in the fight against this criminal industry.

A further impact of Motion No. 227 on the operation of our criminal justice system relates to the negative blow it would have on the imposition of monetary penalties under the Criminal Code. There are numerous offences under the code which allow for the court to impose a fine flowing from a conviction for an offence. The potential impact of this motion on our fine system is evidenced by the powerful monetary penalties which are available to the courts and sentencing organizations, as there is no limit on the amount of fine which can be imposed on an organization convicted on indictment.

This motion would impose an obligation on the government to stop collecting such fines and perhaps even repay fines previously collected.

On a regular basis, courts across Canada are ordering the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime and offence-related property and also imposing substantial fines for persons convicted of federal offences.

The motion fails to recognize valid existing laws and policies for which all sides of the House likely support, including those in the area of criminal law. The motion is substantially over broad and is poorly conceived. To say the least, the motion brought forward by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville would cause the collapse of the Canadian criminal justice system and therefore cannot be supported.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to address the entirely and deliberately specious aspect of the Liberal argument on this issue. The Liberals argue that this motion, which protects private property in a way that is done in most civilized nations of the earth, would somehow inhibit the government's ability to recover stolen property.

If property is stolen, it does not become the possession of the thief. In law it is still the possession of the owner, so these property rights provisions would have absolutely no application to people who have stolen other people's belongings.

I wish I did not even have to say such a thing because it is so patently obvious. I think the members across the way know it is so patently obvious, but instead of addressing the core principle that the member for Yorkton—Melville has put forward, they have tried to insert this specious confusing argument into the discussion in order to move away from the core principle.

Why would they not want to debate the core principle? It is because their position, which opposes basic property rights protection, is totally, intellectually indefensible. They are not prepared to defend their position, so they are injecting distortions that take away from the overall principle debate.

Now that I have demolished that distraction, I am going to return to the principle that we are here to discuss. We are discussing one of the foremost rights that has led to the very civilization that we have today. As the hon. member from Edmonton already pointed out, it is essential that when a human being creates with her hands, or his mind, that the property, the resulting fruits of that labour, become his or her own and that no state agent has the right to interfere with that ownership.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Property RightsAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to re-address this issue that I first raised in the House of Commons on March 9 pertaining to agriculture. I had addressed my question to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food concerning the problems that we have with the BSE situation. Specifically, the question had been prompted by something I heard from one of my constituents.

A rancher in my riding had phoned to say the bank had called in his loan. His before-tax income was only $4,000, that is all he had, so it brought home to me the realistic and real plight of farmers throughout Canada and throughout particularly the province of Saskatchewan.

As someone who is fourth generation in the province of Saskatchewan, my great-grandfather, grandfather, father and practically all of my relatives have grown up on the farm. It is something very real; something I understand.

We must realize that in the province of Saskatchewan, we faced drought and frost. There have been continual attacks on the agriculture sector. Then we faced, not too long ago, BSE, the problem that was in reality a trade dispute. For all intents and purposes and all the dressing up that it was a scientific problem or anything else, it was a trade dispute.

Coming from a farm family and an agriculture background, it is extremely frustrating to watch the government's inactivity. It throws out big numbers that it is spending money on farmers and that it is giving money to them, but at the end of the day, what does it help? What does it help when a family only has $4,000 before-tax income?

That is where the question originates. Does it work? Is it practical? People in my riding, my constituents, keep saying that it does not. What do we have here? We have an inadequate government whose trade policy cannot get the border open and whose foreign policy cannot help.

Even today, who was it that went ahead and got involved with intervenor status in the United States in the court cases to move the situation forward for our farmers? It was Conservative members of Parliament. Conservative members of Parliament took the initiative and I am proud that my name is going to be part of that intervenor status. I am going to stand up for my farmers. I am going to stand up for the people of Saskatoon--Humboldt, the beef producers who need real help.

Again, my question and underlying premise that I bring is this. Where is the help? The farmers are not seeing it. They are not getting real money into their accounts. They are looking for real help, efficient help, help with processing, so that they can look after themselves more effectively, and be in charge of their own future here in Canada to look after their beef.

I will repeat the question I first asked the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on March 9. I hope he has a better answer, an answer which delivers something directly to the people, the farmers of western Canada and beef producers. How can the agriculture minister believe in his program when farmers are going bankrupt? I would appreciate a sincere response to this question.

Property RightsAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.


Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's comments and also his concern on the issue which is extremely important to our farmers.

I want to assure him that the minister and the government are extremely dedicated, committed and concerned about the plight of farmers. That is why our government has introduced a number of initiatives. I hope I will be able to provide him with the answers to the very fundamental questions that he has posed.

The minister is acutely aware of the impact that BSE and low commodity prices have had on our farmers. That is why the minister has implemented a number of initiatives through the business risk management programs, to help them manage the immediate financial crisis such as the one raised by the member, the tragic case of one of his constituents. I would like to know, and I am sure the minister would too, why that particular farmer was not able to access the programs, or whether he did access the programs I am going to speak about today.

The government and the minister have put out ongoing financial assistance of $5.5 billion since 2003 running through to 2007-08 through existing business risk management programs, such as the Canadian agricultural income stabilization program, production insurance and the cash advance programs. This amounts to $1.1 billion a year, but it is not something that is fixed in stone. There is a lot of flexibility built into it. More demand in one particular year would enable our farmers to access a larger chunk of those moneys.

I think the minister has shown through his actions, and through this in particular, that we have provided moneys directly for exactly the type of person the hon. member is talking about. When a farmer and his family are running into problems, that is what this money is for.

The minister is also aware of the concerns regarding the methodology and timing of payments under CAIS. The deposit announcement in the 2005 budget and the minister's March 23 announcement on CAIS interim measures show he is very much listening to the producers and others in the industry and is continuing to commit to work to improve the responsiveness of this program.

In fact the CAIS program paid out more than $1.2 billion in its first 15 months of operation. With the provincial counterparts, the total amount is nearly $2 billion in ad hoc BSE moneys and transitionally related assistance to the industry since 2003. Add to this the March 29 announcement of a further $1 billion in federal spending. These moneys clearly are going to the producers this April through the farm income payment program.

Through programs such as this, the producers received a total of $4.8 billion in 2003. This figure increased to $4.9 billion in 2004. These record levels of program payments reflect the commitment of the government to the issues raised by the hon. member.

I think our government has committed record amounts of money for farmers and their families to deal with the very difficult circumstances they are in today.

If the member has other solutions that we could employ to help our farmers, I would be very interested to hear about them.

Property RightsAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's views on this issue and I really appreciate his taking the time to respond, but I have to say, where is the beef?

He listed all those numbers, but there are a few things he did not explain. Cash advances are loans. Not all of this money is in grants directed to farmers. They are loans. Some of these programs are money that is given, money that is taken back. If one only has $4,000 in before tax income, one could be lent all the money in the world, but if one has to pay it back, it is not going to help. We need something that actually gets to the farmers.

When I first got involved in this, the member for Yorkton—Melville told me that years later they would go back and look at programs, they would see what had been announced and they would find that one-third of it had stayed in Ottawa. That is the problem. All those numbers do not add up.

Where is the beef? A farmer cannot live off a loan if he or she does not have the money to pay it back. That is the problem. There are a lot of good words, but nothing has really been delivered.

Property RightsAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member may believe those moneys are not getting through but that is not the information we have. That is not what we have done for our farmers.

I want to reiterate and summarize the actual dollars that we have given to farmers. We have given them $5.5 million over five years to assess and manage their business risks. This money is in addition to a $3.5 billion package from the provinces and territories. The five year federal, provincial and territorial commitment is $9 billion.

In addition, we have committed an additional $312 million through the BSE recovery program, $120 million through the cull animal program, $930 million through the transitional industry support program and $488 million for Canada's beef and cattle industry to succeed in the post-BSE era.

Those are the moneys that we have dispersed or will disperse. If the member feels that his constituents are not receiving those moneys, then he should please let us know and we will make sure we get the money to them.

Property RightsAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:40 p.m.)