Most Albertans and many Canadians remember the June 2013 floods as one of the most catastrophic and costly natural disasters in the nation's history. The floods devastated communities throughout southern Alberta and also affected neighbouring provinces.
Many areas were affected by evacuation orders, notably High River, Alberta. The entire town was evacuated as residents were forced to leave their homes due to the dangerous conditions. Rescue teams were sent in multiple times to ensure no individuals were left behind. A year and a half later, rebuilding has pressed on showing a resilience and fortitude worthy of respect.
However, one noteworthy issue emanating from the mandatory desertion was the seizure of citizens’ firearms from their homes, including firearms that were properly and legally stored. Approximately 609 firearms were seized from 112 High River homes . The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP has commenced an investigation, which is currently ongoing.
Protection against seizure of private property can be traced back to the Magna Carta. In 1215, the Magna Carta stated that representatives of the King could not take moveable goods from citizens without immediate payment. As discussed in our previous post, section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms relates to the protection against unreasonable search and seizure; however, that section is interpreted as relating to privacy rights rather than the protection of personal property. The current Constitution Act contains no explicit protection of property rights, and in fact, property and civil rights are matters of provincial jurisdiction.
The Alberta Bill of Rights protects an individual’s right to not be unduly deprived of property under section 1(a). A seizure of firearms for safety purposes would be reasonable and justified; however, in this case, many of the guns were properly stored and posed no threat to security. So, if indeed the seizure of private property was unwarranted and contrary to provincial legislation, do the residents of High River have the right to compensation? If the Magna Carta in it's original form was our guiding legislation today, it would appear so. This poses the question, were the people of 1215 granted greater property protection than those of modern day citizens?
A further discussion of this issue can be found here. Let us know what you think in the comments below, and check back tomorrow for more property related topics!