May 9, 1901 (9th Parliament, 1st Session)


Louis Philippe Demers


Mr. L. P. DEMERS (St. John and Iberville).

(Translation.) Mr. Speaker, before the House goes into Committee of Supply, I wish to call the attention of the government to the fact that a convention was passed between Great Britain and the United States, which was signed on the 2nd of March, 1899, and ratified on the 28th of July, 1900. According to that convention the United States are ready to give up in favour of Great Britain and of her colonies the right of aiibaine and the right of detraction, both of which the different states, in the middle ages, had arrogated, as we all know. The right of aubaine was the right for the state to seize upon the pro-Mr. PRIOR.
perty of a deceased foreigner. According to common law in England, aliens could own real estate and they can do so even nowadays, but they are not allowed to bequeath it.
Some of the states of the union have yet special provisions affecting the rights of foreigners to acquire and transfer property, but in most of the states, the law is that foreigners are treated as natives in this respect. As I have just said, aliens, in the middle ages, were not at liberty to dispose of their property, they could acquire or own property, but they were forbidden to. dispose of it ; in the event of their death, their wealth devolved to the public treasury.
In France, when the heirs of a deceased person were aliens the public treasury used to get a large portion of that person's property, by virtue of a right known as the right of detraction, and which still exists in some states. That capital is liable to very heavy taxes, whenever it happens to fall into the hands of foreigners.
The United States are ready to give up those rights, which seem to have been given up by all other nations, especially since the French revolution, in 1790, has done away with the right of aiibaine and the right of detraction, without exacting any reciprocity. However, the reciprocity system was again taken up and adopted by the Code Napoleon; but it was finally abolished by the law of the 4th July, 1819, which has placed all aliens in France on an even standing by the fact that it lias abolished the right of aiibaine absolutely and without any view of reciprocity whatsoever.
There is positively no objection to the convention between Great Britain and the United States inuring to the benefit of Canada, for all the provinces have adopted this same view. We have given up that exorbitant right which existed by virtue of common law in England and in all European countries as well throughout the middle ages.
No later than 1894 did United Canada give up that right when she adopted for the provinces of Quebec and Ontario a law according to which foreigners were allowed to acquire and transfer property on the same basis and to the same extent as were all the subjects of-the state. A law of a similar nature was enacted in all the other provinces of Confederation. For instance, in Nova Scotia, aliens were, as early as 1854, permitted to own property and to dispose of it as they would feel proper, and the law which authorises them so to do, can be found in the Revised Statutes of Nova Scotia, 1900, chap. 136. Prince Edward Island followed in 1859. True, it is that an alien cannot own more than two hundred acres of land in that province, but this restriction is undoubtedly due to the fact that the island is rather small. The law with respect to Prince Edward Island is 22 Vic., chap. 4.

Then we have had Manitoba, in 1891; the law which is contained in chap. 3a of the Revised Statutes was adopted there and it has been binding ever since February 28th, 1874. British Columbia voted a law of that kind in 1888, and it has been incorporated in chap. 6 of the Revised Statutes of 1897. New Brunswick also adopted, in 1891, a law which is known as 54 Victoria, chap. 13. Then, legal dispositions of a similar nature are in existence in every province of the Dominion, according to which foreigners and natives are equally unimpeded as far as acquisition of or parting with property is concerned.
As I have said at the beginning of these few remarks, the United States offer to give the citizens of Great Britain and those of her colonies as well, and on the basis of reciprocity, the right to own and to freely dispose of property, just as the American citizens themselves may do, within the limits of the Union. It is enacted by section 4 of that treaty, that it shall not inure to the benefit of any of the English colonies until the Secretary of State has been notified in the name of such colony by Great Britain's representative at Washington within a year from the date on which the treaty or convention has been ratified. My object in raising this question is to ask the government to take such steps as may be necessary to make the American Secretary of State aware, through England's representative, and before the 28th of July, 1901, that the Dominion of Canada is anxious to partake of the advantages of that treaty.

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