The problem with a government passing laws in the “best interests” of its citizens is that there is the presumption that the government actually knows what is in the “best interests” of its citizens.
This new Bill was passed by the House of Commons and had its first reading before the Senate in June of this year. Debate in the Senate is slated to continue when Parliament returns this month.
So what is it? Bill C-6 is meant to strengthen our consumer safety and protection laws. The intent is to increase powers granted to Inspectors to prevent unsafe products from being sold to consumers.
Sounds okay to me. What’s the problem? In its current form, the Bill is so poorly worded that it gives Inspectors the right to enter a person’s home and seize any consumer product that it deems “unsafe”.
For the full text of Bill C-6, look here. Read on to find out which parts I find most worrisome.
Consumer Product is defined as: a product, including its components, parts or accessories, that may reasonably be expected to be obtained by an individual to be used for non-commercial purposes, including for domestic, recreational and sports purposes, and includes its packaging.
Under Schedule 1 of the proposed bill, consumer products include: explosives, cosmetics, food, pest control products, vehicles, fertilizers, vessels, firearms, ammunition, cartridge magazines, cross-bows, prohibited devices, plants, seeds, controlled substances, aeronautical products, and animals.
I’d wager that there isn’t a household in Canada that doesn’t own at least one of those consumer products.
20. (1) Subject to subsection 21(1), an inspector may, for the purpose of verifying compliance or preventing non-compliance with this Act or the regulations, at any reasonable time enter a place, including a conveyance, in which they have reasonable grounds to believe that a consumer product is manufactured, imported, packaged, stored, advertised, sold, labelled, tested or transported, or a document relating to the administration of this Act or the regulations is located.
What household doesn’t “store” or “transport” one of the consumer products listed above?
Under what circumstances would a product be deemed “unsafe”? As defined by the Bill, a Danger to Human Health or Safety” means any unreasonable hazard — existing or potential — that is posed by a consumer product during or as a result of its normal or foreseeable use and that may reasonably be expected to cause the death of an individual exposed to it or have an adverse effect on that individual’s health — including an injury — whether or not the death or adverse effect occurs immediately after the exposure to the hazard, and includes any exposure to a consumer product that may reasonably be expected to have a chronic adverse effect on human health.
I have a very huge problem with the word “unreasonable”. It’s vague. Its meaning is variable depending on the circumstances and the person interpreting the law. Call me silly, but when a law is going to infringe on my Charter Rights, I’d really rather not have any “gray areas” included in it. Ambiguity just makes it that much easier for the law to be abused. This is, of course, not touching on the fact that if a law infringes on our Charter Rights it shouldn’t even be a law at all.
Here’s a few more relevant sections for your reading pleasure:
20.(2) The inspector may, for the purpose referred to in subsection (1),
(d) seize and detain for any time that may be necessary
(i) an article to which this Act or the regulations apply that is found in the place, or
(ii) the conveyance;
20.(4) An inspector who is carrying out their functions or any person accompanying them may enter on or pass through or over private property, and they are not liable for doing so.
21. (1) If the place mentioned in subsection 20(1) is a dwelling-house, an inspector may not enter it without the consent of the occupant except under the authority of a warrant issued under subsection (2).
(2) A justice of the peace may, on ex parte application, issue a warrant authorizing, subject to the conditions specified in the warrant, the person who is named in it to enter a dwelling-house if the justice of the peace is satisfied by information on oath that
(a) the dwelling-house is a place described in subsection 20(1);
(b) entry to the dwelling-house is necessary for the purposes referred to in subsection 20(1); and
(c) entry to the dwelling-house was refused or there are reasonable grounds to believe that it will be refused or to believe that consent to entry cannot be obtained from the occupant.
23. An inspector who seizes a thing under this Act may
(a) on notice to and at the expense of its owner or the person having possession, care or control of it at the time of its seizure, store it or move it to another place; or
(b) order its owner or the person having possession, care or control of it at the time of its seizure to store it or move it to another place at their expense.
What does all this legal mumbo-jumbo mean? In plain English all of this means that Government Inspectors can arbitrarily deem a consumer product “unsafe”, enter your home with or without your consent, seize your property, and make you pay for the privilege of having it seized.
I had hoped that a Conservative government in this country would (at least temporarily) put an end to the Liberal tendency to Nanny Statism. Unfortunately, it seems that my hopes were in vain. It would appear that Canada has been set on a path that it cannot (or will not) deviate from. I can only ask: how much longer before stories like V for Vendetta are more truth than fiction?