Mr. Francois Gerin (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to assure the Hon. Member of our sympathy for the entrenchment of property rights in the Constitution. He is
aware of the long record of support of the Conservative Party for property rights. In 1960, the Progressive Conservative Government under the leadership of the late former Prime Minister, the Right Hon. John G. Diefenbaker, introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights provides protections for property rights at the federal level. In particular, it protects the right of every individual to the enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof, except by due process of law. Since the introduction of the Canadian Bill of Rights, we have continued to advocate property rights. In the process leading up to the patriation of the Constitution and after, we pressed the Liberal Government to add property rights to the Constitution.
It was in this context that the previous Attorney General of Canada asked the Attorneys General of the provinces last year to establish a working group of officials to examine the entrenchment of property rights. The Attorneys General agreed, and a working group was established. Women's groups, aboriginal people, environment groups and provincial Governments have expressed concerns about the impact of entrenching property rights and about legal uncertainties relating to property rights. The working group is analysing these questions. I understand that the working group is making good progress and it will be reporting to the Attorneys General in due course.
Last August in their Edmonton declaration the provincial Premiers specifically asked that the question of Quebec and the Constitution be dealt with first before we deal with any other matters of constitutional reform and they specifically included in these the matter of property rights. At the conclusion of their annual conference in Vancouver last November, the First Ministers of the provinces reiterated their view that there should be another stage following the present round of discussions to deal with other matters, including property rights.
An amendment to the Constitution would require the assent of at least seven provinces and the assent of at least 50 per cent of the population of the provinces. The Hon. Member will appreciate that we wish to co-operate with the provinces as their agreement on the matter of property rights is essential. The current round of constitutional discussions is not over yet so we do not have a definite schedule for the next round of discussions. However, the matter of property rights is progressing with the efforts of the working group on property rights.
Subtopic: THE CONSTITUTION-REQUEST FOR INCLUSION OF PROPERTY RIGHTS