'I'm still standing up to it,' farmer Frank Meyers says of DND expropriation fight
The fight between an Ontario farmer and the Department of National Defence is likely to end in the government's favour unless protesters are able to inflict political pressure, according to a real estate lawyer.
Approximately 200 acres of Frank Meyers' farm in Trenton, Ont. face demolition this week, to make way for the Canada Special Forces Command's new headquarters and training camp the DND plans to build there.
Now in his mid-80s, Meyers has been fighting the move for more than seven years.
Meyers, whose family has worked the farm since 1787, was to be compensated for the land transfer under the terms of a confidential deal reached last November, but the farmer says he "never got anything."
"I didn't understand a thing. I was never given a copy of anything," Meyers told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday morning. He said he's asked government representatives to meet with him since the hearing, but "nobody comes to see us. We've asked them. We've called them."
In the letters he was distributing to visitors at his farm Tuesday, Meyers declared three points of contention with the deal.
Besides providing "no benefit" and being "a causal source of harm," Meyers wrote that it "lacks the capacity to compel performance" and "lacks the power to force i (sic) or my person to be bound to perform under any and all of its terms and conditions."
The government took possession of his land in August 2012, but his family never left. Now, with the prospect of bulldozers, more than 91,000 people have signed an online petition, and a Facebook page trying to raise awareness has almost 28,000 likes.
However, Meyers does not have the law on his side.
"Every level of government -- federal, provincial and city -- has the right to take away your land," real estate lawyer Mark Weisleder told Canada AM. "What they have to demonstrate though, is that it's for the greater public good. That's the test."
"In this case, national defence, you could make an argument that this is for the benefit of all Canadians, as heartbreaking as it is for Mr. Meyers," Weisleder said.
In cases of land expropriation, the government often makes its arguments in a hearing of necessity in front of an inquiry officer. The inquiry officer will make a recommendation after he hears the case. But, even if he says, 'I think this is a bad idea,' the government can still take your land," Weisleder said.
The government will have to pay Meyers the farm's market value and cover his relocation costs, but since Meyers claims he hasn't received any money, it's likely to go to court. "He will get paid. It just might take a while," Weisleder said.
"That's why they say that if the government really wants your land, they're going to take it." Weisleder added. "To me, the only way to fight this is to make it political."
Weisleder pointed to the example of Toronto’s Spadina Expressway in the late '60s as one example.
"This was going to go all the way to the lake. Hundreds of thousands of people stood up and said no. And they put so much political pressure that (then Ontario premier) Bill Davis stood up in 1971 and said 'I'm stopping it.' To me, that's the way to stop an expropriation."
"I'm still standing up to it," Meyers told Canada AM, saying he'll continue his fight against government expropriation. "They're crushing everybody. They're getting rid of all the farmland."