FORT YORK, TORONTO -- MP John Godfrey (Don Valley West) and MP Peter Milliken (Kingston and the Islands) have announced their intention to introduce the Godfrey-Milliken Law as a private members bill in the House of Commons. Godfrey-Milliken follows the precedent established by the Helms-Burton Law in the United States enabling the government and citizens of one country to seek restitution from the government and citizens of another for the alleged trafficking in confiscated property.
The Godfrey-Milliken Bill would permit descendants of the United Empire Loyalists who fled the United States in the years following the 1776 American Revolution to reclaim land that is rightfully theirs and was confiscated unjustly and illegally by the American government and its citizens.
Furthermore, the Bill would enabled Canada to exclude corporate officers, or controlling shareholders of companies that engage in "trafficking", as well as the spouse and minor child of such persons from entering Canada.
The Bill, to be known as "The American Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Loyalty) Act", is consistent with the new moral standard in international commerce set by Helms-Burton. Descendants of the 80,000 American Loyalists who fled the future United States of America and whose property was confiscated by self-constituted revolutionary courts should be equally entitled to prosecute U.S. citizens who now benefit from or enjoy seized Loyalist estates.
Half of the Loyalists settled in Canada and their descendants now number three million Canadians. On the Helms-Burton principle, those Canadians with proven lines of descent would be entitled to restitution, compensation, and interest. The value of their alienated property can be measured in the billions of dollars.
What makes the claims of Canadian Loyalists even stronger than those of the former American owners of Cuban property is that the United States has already accepted the obligation to compensate victims of its revolutionary confiscations and assaults on property and capital. The Treaty of Paris of 1783 between Britain and the new United States, ratified by the United States Congress, provided in Article V for: "the restitution of all Estates, Rights, and Properties, which have been confiscated." Not only did the U.S. Government fail to carry out this commitment, but several states continued to persecute adherents of the crown. Exiles who returned home to exercise their treaty right to their old properties and to recover debts were abused and driven off.
Senator Jesse Helms' own state of North Carolina was notorious for vindictiveness. Amongst the many claimants for restitution in North Carolina, for example, are the descendants of Thomas McKnight, of Currituck County, who was plundered by revolutionary rabble of his plantation, houses, furniture, ships, merchandise, and outstanding debts owed him.
John Godfrey and Peter Milliken are both of Loyalist descent and represent communities where Loyalists settled. With the passage of the bill, John Godfrey intends to press the American government for recovery of his family house, Carter's Grove, in Virginia. Peter Milliken intends to press for return of his ancestor's property in the lush Mohawk Valley in New York State.
The Loyalists were not foreigners but Americans who only differed from their rebellious countrymen in political opinion. Thus the logic of the Helms-Burton Act should spur American legislators to compensate Loyalist descendants for property appropriated by revolutionary governments and retained by U.S. citizens, in defiance of an international agreement. By doing so, they will confirm their right to the moral leadership asserted by the Helms-Burton Act.
Some Canadians suggest we burned the White House in the War of 1812 to keep Americans from meddling in our affairs, and we just might have to do it again!