Property in Perspective

By now you’ll know that it is impossible to properly understand the law of property in a vacuum. So lesson 2 provides a contextual basis for our study of property law, with particular focus on the social, economic and political issues that impact resource allocation.

First on the schedule is some context on the law of expropriation. In many places throughout the world, there’s a heavy emphasis here on property as a “human right.” But what does that mean, practically speaking. We will consider the rationale for excluding private property protection from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Comparisons with American “takings” law and the implications of NAFTA will also be raised.

To prepare for class discussion on topic, go through pages 137-166 of the casebook. (Yes, I know that’s a lot of reading for one class, but readings are relatively lighter for remaining classes, so it all balances out.) This class will delve into the people and places involved in the classic Canadian decision Mariner Real Estate Ltd. v. Nova Scotia (Attorney General), in order to answer the central question: how much regulation is too much?

During this lesson, we also talk about the recent “Occupy” movements, which in one Canadian city culminated in the legal decision in Batty v City of Toronto. The outcome in that case, and in similar cases elsewhere, depended on the degree to which  property  rights conflict with other rights, including in those cases freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. We’ll discuss these issues in class, if you read pages 19-29 and 783-791 of the casebook.

Image of DVD cover
No Place Called Home (NFB, 2004)

Just before our last class of the chapter, during the Monday movie night, we glimpse further into the intersections among gender, race, class and property by watching the NFB documentary, “No Place Called Home.” There are no required readings from the casebook to accompany this film, but I do want you to look carefully through the content at the website of Ontario’s Landlord Tenant Board. Pay special attention to this guide, and be sure to browse through the statute governing this area, the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006.

Consistent with our emphasis on linking class content with current events and updated developments, we are pleased to feature a new documentary films in this year’s class. PUSH is a new documentary “investigating why we can’t afford to live in our own cities anymore. Housing is a fundamental human right, a precondition to a safe and healthy life. But in cities all around the world, having a place to live is becoming more and more difficult. Who are the players and what are the factors that make housing one of today’s most pressing world issues?”   

We end with a lesson on poverty, the opposite of having property. We’ll frame this first class around one fundamental question: “What impact does property have on people who have none? Read pages 115-137 for an introduction to this issue.