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.