November 30, 2001
Letter to the Editor:
In his “Report from the Hill” published in the Durham Chronicle on November 26th, Mr. Ovid Jackson, MP suggests the federal Species At Risk Act (SARA), otherwise known as Bill C-5, is benign legislation designed to protect endangered plants, animals, fish, bacteria and private landowners. Its unfortunate Mr. Jackson was unable or unwilling to personally register that view at a SARA public meeting recently convened at Owen Sound, an event he was expressly asked to attend although the invitation was never acknowledged.
Mr Jackson states the incumbent Ottawa administration “remains convinced that a cooperative approach will work better than a heavy-handed one”. This soothing rhetoric doesn’t mention proposed SARA enforcement under criminal law powers of the federal government, a tactic already embedded in the Canadian Firearms Program (Bill C-68). It says nothing about federal authority to launch SARA prosecutions even though an alleged offence may have been unintentional. Or appointed enforcement officers with unilateral powers of access, search and seizure on private property. Or offender penalties ranging up to $1,000,000.00 and five years in jail. Or about a “strict liability” clause which means an accused offender is considered guilty until he or she can prove innocence, presumably at their own expense. And it certainly doesn’t list additional punishments a sentencing judge is encouraged to levy against convicted SARA offenders. Such as ordering them to publish details of their “crime” in the media or deliver a specified donation to a prescribed environmental organization or institution. Not “heavy-handed”? Come on, Mr. Jackson! Even folks usually indifferent to political double talk might wonder about that interpretation. Especially if they knew the truth about C-5.
Bill C-5 is directly linked to the United Nations through its Convention For Biological Diversity, an international treaty the Canadian government signed in 1992 without public or parliamentary debate. Many countries, including the United States, have rejected that pervasive covenant, seeing in its frightening manifesto the spectre of world governance without the consent of the governed. Since SARA principles originate with the U.N. and will impact Canadian owners of rural property, perhaps Mr. Jackson might be persuaded to comment on the official U.N. position regarding land ownership as quoted from the Preamble to its 1976 Conference on Human Settlement convened that year in Vancouver. “Land cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice. Public control of land use is therefore indispensable”. Where have we heard that song before? Didn’t another Manifesto once insist, initially at gunpoint, that injustice flows from private ownership of land. And didn’t that bizarre doctrine eventually trick millions of unsuspecting peasants into 70 years of state-enforced servitude and genocide during the last century?
The Convention binds Canada to honour United Nations protocols that seek to further Agenda 21, a U.N. program for the 21st century designed to re-engineer the social and economic fabric of Planet Earth in the name of environmental cleansing. Does this endanger Canadian sovereignty? Absolutely. When national autonomy is subordinated to globalization, however piously disguised, without advance public notice and extensive public debate our Constitution, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, indeed, our lives and property not to mention natural justice are, like some plants and animals, clearly at risk.
Among many other intertwined obligations, the Convention requires each ratifying country to enact a national species at risk statute by the year 2000. Consequently, after trying since 1998, the federal government intends to legislate, by invoking debate closure if necessary, its nation wide Bill C-5 before the House of Commons adjourns for Christmas 2001. But not to worry. In his Report Mr. Jackson assures us that SARA “permits” landowner compensation when private property is sterilized as species habitat. Well, not exactly.
The Act says the compensation issue will be addressed in Regulations, expected about a year from now, but not in the Act itself. It also says these delayed Regulations may - not shall - provide compensation on a case-by-case basis where a landowner can prove extraordinary loss. A qualifying definition of “extraordinary” and any estimate of landowner cost in assembling and presenting legal proof of loss is left to our imagination. This after the federal Environment Minister last year commissioned a SARA compensation study based on government promises that a formula for landowner operational and capital losses would, in fact, be included in the Act. However, as Mr. Jackson is no doubt aware and every landowner should be aware, that now-unmentioned study contemplates no recognition of loss below 10% of property market value and a maximum of 45% of value when the whole of an affected property becomes designated “risk” species habitat by government decree. According to Mr. Jackson, Bill C-5 doesn’t authorize government expropriation of private land but, in these circumstances, we’re perhaps entitled to wonder if land fraud, by intent or circumstance, is similarly excluded.
No thinking Canadian opposes fair Species At Risk legislation. And no government bureaucrat, paid consultant or appointed academic-scientist with a vested interest in regulating other people’s property is more respectful of nature than rural landowners, many of whom live and work with plants and animals every day. But the real costs, the hidden costs, the direct costs of Bill C-5 won’t be borne equally by all Canadians. No, indeed! They will be borne almost exclusively by owner/occupants of rural land who, in New Age government jargon, are now described as “stewards”. The Collins dictionary defines steward as “a person who administers the property of another”. A better description of a private landowner demoted by regulation to the status of unpaid janitor on what used to be his or her own property would be hard to imagine. By the way, if the title fits rural folk so well, how come urban homeowners aren’t called “home stewards”?
In the United States a national Environmental Protection Act has, over the past quarter century, soaked up billions of taxpayer dollars in a failed effort to protect nature, largely at the expense of rural property owners/lessees. While many people and organizations in the hugely profitable environmental industry are thereby enriched by an abundance of U.S. government funding, few “at risk” plants or animals and even fewer landowners - oops! land stewards - benefit at all. Instead, whole communities have in some areas been reduced to chronic despair and entrenched ruin. Now, rather than cooperate in a system that can, without compensation, arbitrarily devalue their property and degrade their livelihood, some American land stewards/owners/occupants simply “shoot, shovel and shut up”. Mr. Jackson will surely agree this is not an outcome Canadians, much less any species at risk, deserve or expect from Bill C-5, a viewpoint detailed on the Net at www.bmts.com/~opera/
Ontario Property and Environmental Rights Alliance
Post Office Box 483
Durham, Ontario, NOG 1RO
Phone: (519) 369-2195 / Fax: (519) 369-2992 / E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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