Letter - Anyone concerned about private property rights?

by MPP Toby Barrett - The Regional

June 24, 2009

The arrival of an illegal smoke shop on the front of a privately-owned farm on Highway 6, South of Caledonia, has raised a number of questions. Does government not have a role in defending the private property, or are people on their own?

Smoke shops are illegal, regardless of who owns the land where they are located. So why are they seemingly condoned by all levels of government?

We have government for a reason. We have law for a reason. And, as I explained in a June 12th letter to Premier McGuinty, when government abdicates responsibility it puts matters back into the hands of people themselves. Hence talk of a Caledonia Militia and other measures not seen since the American West of the late-1800's.

On June 1st, I introduced, for the third time in the last 14 years, legislation to restore property rights in the Province of Ontario. The Property Rights and Responsibilities Act, 2009 provides measures for compensation and a public hearing in those cases where a home - or property - owner is subject to a government initiated 'taking' of property.

My bill does not provide measures to protect property owners from a 'taking' by a private individual or group because the law has been very clear on this one - you don't set foot on someone else's land or go in their home to intimidate or extort or steal without suffering the extent of the law.

We have had such protections, from intrusion by government and by private individuals, for centuries going back to the Magna Carta of 1215 and the beginnings of English common law. The legacy of these protections can be found in the Criminal Code of Canada.

In 1960, Prime Minister Diefenbaker introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights - one of the most comprehensive human rights documents in western society. Upon introduction, the bill gave Canadians statutory protection against the federal government infringing on their rights - including "security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law."

However, for whatever reason, Prime Minister Trudeau did not include the right to own property in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In light of this constitutional void, it is up to both levels of government to pass laws protecting property rights.

It's time for society to acknowledge the very basic need to address an individual's right to own and enjoy one's land and home. These are some of the reasons that I joined John Tory and now Tim Hudak in calls to beef up the Trespass to Property Act - the most recent proposal calling for a significant increase in penalties for trespassing, as well as the designation of separate offence for 'illegal occupations'.

As well, I will continue to seek support for my private members bill calling for property rights protection in this province - following my The Land Rights and Responsibilities Act, 2006, and The Property Rights Statute Law Amendment Act, 1995.

While my focus has always been directed at ensuring protection, consideration and possible compensation for private property from government-takings, the most recent smoke shop example makes clear the need for further steps to ensure that property rights are maintained, strengthened and enforced throughout Ontario