Throughout the history of our country we have seen property ownership change hands through the force of war, racism and actions that have been nothing short of highway robbery.
There are thousands of people in Canada with legitimate claims of compensation for land that was taken away from their ancestors. People whose ethnic heritage connects to aboriginal first nations are certainly among this group. And even within this group there are women who were never acknowledged to have the dignity of land propriety.
But there are many, many others. Like the people who can trace their heritage back to Africa. Their ancestors were not only robbed of their land but they were brought here against their will. They were enslaved, beaten horribly and killed.
In Canada, people of Japanese heritage had their businesses and homes taken away and then they were forced to live in concentration camps.
People of Chinese ancestry were denied land ownership for all their labour, including the heroic work they did in significant numbers to build railroads through perilous countryside and climate. The railroads they built cost many of them their lives, but what they accomplished played a direct role in laying the geographic borders of this country. And still they were denied the right to buy land.
Our history includes people called Metis, who organized a regional government that held the territory of Manitoba against possible annexation by America for the sake of the Dominion of Canada. These brave people have rarely been acknowledged, let alone compensated for what they did. In fact those who weren’t killed by so-called Orangemen from Ontario were run off their land.
We all owe so much to so many. More than we can imagine. There is not enough money in this entire country to fully compensate the loss of land rights that so many in the past suffered. There never will be. And we will never be able to truly identify all those who were affected. Women, for example, in some societies, were never even acknowledged as actual people, never mind recorded land owners with property rights.
Maybe the place to start is provide a semblance of compensation to those whose ancestors lost their land. We must compensate, even with what inadequate funds that we have, to those who gave so much of what our society benefits from today, with a one-time cash payment.
While it would without a doubt, be far less than it should be, like the inappropriately small payments made to Canadians of Japanese heritage a few years ago, it would be an acknowledgement of what was done. We must extend that acknowledgement to all whose ancestors had their rights violated and give formal apology for what was done.
But the hardest task of all will fall to the descendents of these people. They must find it in their hearts to forgive what happened in the past. From that point, the greatest thing that we all can do is to enshrine private property rights into our constitution.
For almost three decades now, I have watched our provincial real estate associations and the Canadian Real Estate Association try in vain to push our government to recognize the importance of private property rights. Maybe this will be the year.
For the sake of all who lost so much so that this country could be what it is today, we have to make this happen.
What greater monument can we give to those who were hurt so much in the past than fundamental constitutional law that will never let it happen again?
We should continue these efforts for as long as it takes.
Heino Molls is publisher of REM. Email [email protected]
By: Heino Molls