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Willow Pond

Property rights press conference

(UPDATE 1: video & coverage of press conference) (UPDATE 2: Sign the property rights petition) Below are the remarks that I delivered at the press conference yesterday at Queen’s Park. The press conference was for an effort, by M.P.P. Randy Hillier and M.P. Scott Reid, to amend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include property rights.

My family (minus my sister, who is in Amsterdam) was asked to join Randy and Scott on stage for the press conference. Our case helped motivate Randy and Scott to make this effort. In a pleasant surprise, our local M.P.P., John O’Toole, also joined us on stage, and introduced us to the legislature. John and I exchanged a few phone calls during our ordeal, and I was happy to get his words of encouragement and support throughout.

UPDATE: Here’s the video of the press conference (my remarks begin around 6:30 into the video):

My remarks:

I want to thank Randy and Scott for giving me an opportunity to tell the story of my mom and dad’s fight to gain the freedom to celebrate freedom.

For the past ten years, I have been organizing the annual Liberty Summer Seminar on my parents’ property in the municipality of Clarington.

The Liberty Summer Seminar is an event that brings young people together to discuss and celebrate Canada’s history and tradition of liberty. It is a two-day, outdoor event with seven speakers, a barbecue, and a concert featuring Toronto’s Lindy Vopnfjord. It has a summer camp feel, which is why some of us refer to it as “LibertyStock.”

This past year, after our ten-year anniversary, my mom and dad were charged with running a commercial conference centre on land zoned Agricultural. The event is a non-profit event, hosted by the Institute for Liberal Studies, a registered charity. My mom and dad faced a possible fine of up to $25,000 each, for letting me, their son, host an event that promotes Canada’s founding values of civil, political and economic freedoms — the values that motivated my parents to escape to Canada from Communist Poland in 1984.

The legal fees, and the frightening prospect of not only being fined $50,000, but the possibility of having to cancel the Liberty Summer Seminar after celebrating the ten-year anniversary, was devastating.

But we got lucky.

In December, the Canadian Constitution Foundation chose to represent us to defend our right to host this Seminar. Their lawyers argued that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects our right to host an event like this under Freedom of Peaceful Assembly.

The Municipality’s lawyers agreed with the Canadian Constitution Foundation’s arguments just a few weeks ago, dropping the charges against my mom and dad, and clearing the way for the 11th annual Liberty Summer Seminar (which is in the planning stages right now, and will be hosted over the July 23, 24 weekend).

Our municipality announced just a few weeks ago that they were going to drop the charges against my parents. Their lawyers agreed with the Canadian Constitution Foundation’s arguments. But my parents should never have been charged in the first place. For nine months, my family lived under a cloud of uncertainty about what we are and are not permitted to do on our own property.

Entrenching property rights protection in the Charter would have acted as a bulwark against an overzealous bylaw department. If we had entrenched property rights, my parents would likely have never had to deal with the expense, anxiety, and heart-ache associated with being fined for hosting an event on their own property to celebrate freedom.

We’ve since discovered that our story is not unusual or uncommon in Ontario. Property owners all across Ontario, especially farmers and homeowners in rural Ontario, are facing crippling fines and excessive regulations with no compensation for the lost use and enjoyment of their property.

Entrenched property rights will help ensure that you and I, ordinary Canadians, at least have some kind of a defense against large and more powerful governments.

That’s why we’re excited about this attempt to amend the Charter, and why we support the effort wholeheartedly.

Thank you.

Coverage:

Feb. 22:
Announcement: Constitutional First for Ontario: Scott Reid and Randy Hillier seek to amend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Toronto Sun: Protect property in Charter: Ont. politicians

Feb. 23:
The Ottawa Citizen: Politicians to call for property rights protection in the Charter
580 CFRA: Call for property rights to be included in Charter

Feb. 24:
National Post (Tasha Kheiriddin): Will property rights finally get Charter protection?
The Windsor Star: Vander Doelen: Who’s on our side?
Canada Free Press: Scott Reid and Randy Hillier seek to amend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Warren Kinsella: “Property rights” in the Constitution
The Volunteer: Property rights: Randy Hillier’s statement

Feb. 25:
National Post: Protection of property is a basic right
Stephen Taylor: Entrench property rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Five Feet of Fury: The Battle of Willow Pond: New campaign to add property rights in the Charter
Frontier Centre for Public Policy: Property rights in the Charter?

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