Mr. Fred McCain (Carleton-Charlotte):
Mr. Speaker, this motion and its amendment, if I am allowed to address the amendment before you have approved it, is an absolutely essential requirement for society. Perhaps prior to the creation of a Constitution some years ago it was not as important as it is today, but in that Constitution we deprived this House and virtually all legislative bodies of the right to create laws within the guidelines of the power of government which was, of course, delineated by the Act of 1867 that created Canada in the first place. At that particular time it was hoped that in future law would be interpreted by the courts of the land as it had been interpreted, that there would be precedent which would prevail in the judgment, and that specific laws and interpretations, once made, would be respected.
We now find that when a case goes to the Supreme Court, if a defendant or a prosecutor presents to that court a precedent or a particular law which is relevant to the case but may not be
April 29, 1988
identical to the case, the court is inclined to question the legal representation by saying: "What has precedent to do with it; what has this or that to do with it?" As far as Canada is concerned, we have seen the legislative capability of the Supreme Court, particularly as it was expressed with respect to its decision on abortion.
We have resided in this land since the earliest settlers arrived here with the concept that we did in fact own land; that if we had bought and paid for it, it was our possession as much as the clothes on our backs were presumed to be our possession. However, under this Constitution, as I see it, we are now in the position where nothing is finite which is not in the Constitution itself and everything is subject to interpretation.
That was obvious to some of us when the Constitution was presented in the first place. However, it was impossible to get amendments, either to add the right to own land or to give a finite capability to the legislative bodies which exist in our dominion.
While there may have been some reservations about the ownership of land, we have reached a time when the philosophical types of decision we have seen in the Supreme Court of Canada and other courts demand that there be no opportunity for philosophical, sociological, or any other type of decision with respect to the ownership of land. That must be finite in the Constitution. We should not overlook that.
There are literally hundreds of municipal, provincial, and federal rights of passage, rights of access, et cetera, which are applied to land ownership and which do in fact override some of our rights. They are intended to override some of our rights of ownership because our ownership may not be in the best interest of the public domain. Nevertheless, there is the demand that, if the public requires the land or the building which we own, the owner be compensated for infringement, lack of possession, or demolition of the property.
I know that one of the reasons people came to this land initially was that where they had resided at an earlier date, whether in Europe or another place, they did not have clear ownership of land, they did not have private possession. They may have been serfs, share-croppers, or in some other capacity, but they did not own land. That was one of the very objectives of people leaving their homes, relatives, and friends to come to a foreign land, even a wilderness, to settle.
One must ask why we have not established the sacred right to property prior to this time. This question should not be left to the philosophical decision of a judge, but it should be absolutely established in law.
I do not believe this would interfere with the administration of government, whether at the municipal, provincial, or federal level. However, the exclusion of such rights can interfere with the security of the individual.
This question may not have been as significant when the Constitution was being introduced to the House in its broad terms. At that time the property rights proposal was subject to interpretation because it did not spell out its purposes. Now that we have seen the philosophical capability of a judge to make an interpretation which the judge believes is in the best interest of society, the time has come to provide for property rights.
I have always believed that property rights should be a fundamental aspect of our Constitution. To my knowledge, those provincial jurisdictions that oppose land ownership have never explained how this would interfere with the operation of government. When one considers the background of many Canadians, it is beyond my comprehension why anyone would argue against the insertion of land ownership in our Constitution.
I believe this motion directs the Government to take the necessary steps to bring that about, and I compliment the Hon. Member for Kitchener (Mr. Reimer) for introducing it.
One of the fundamental reasons why our forefathers came to this country was that they could either get a grant of land or purchase land. They were provided with an opportunity which they or their descendants would ever have in their new homeland.
I recall a conversation I had with an immigrant to this country. After an extended trip to his homeland, he talked of the difficulties he had in returning there and spoke of the difficulties facing his relatives. I asked him how he felt upon returning to Canada. He said that he felt just like the astronaut who, upon returning to earth, said he could kiss the ground. This immigrant came from a land where he could not own property. When he returned to Canada he wanted to kiss the ground because of the privileges we enjoy in this country. These principles of property rights should be enshrined in our Constitution.
Subtopic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-MOTIONS CONSTITUTION ACT, 1982 SUGGESTED AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE PROPERTY RIGHTS