The Elephant Who Wouldn’t Leave

By Mallory McClinchey

Like many Canadian families around the holidays, I was sitting around a table surrounded by members of my family. The conversation flowed along with the wine pouring into our glasses. It was 2010, and Mr. Ackerman, a long-time family friend, was telling all of us about the federal government expropriating the prime farmland belonging to his late wife’s family. Nearly unchallenged, they followed through with the expropriation; and a long two years later, construction began. Hundreds of acres of prime farmland now multiple suburban residential dwellings. Regretfully, we didn’t know then what we know now.

85 year old Frank Meyers knows this story all too well. He was born and raised on his farmland. And for the past seven years, he has been dealing with the elephant on his land – our federal government and the Department of National Defence (DND). With the expansion of Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton and the new JTF-2 base came the expropriation of 12 homeowners’ properties. Eleven reluctantly came to an agreement, in fear of losing what they have worked so hard for. But Frank stands his ground – he wants his Farm.

The farm along Meyers Creek Road has been in his family since 1798, when King George III gave and granted 1000 acres to Captain John W. Meyers, his heirs and assigns forever. Each land patent came with restrictions – Captain Meyers was required to build a dwelling, clear part of the land for farming and maintain the peace. He was found to be in compliance, and the land patent was issued. As a result of said land patent, Frank Meyer’s farmland should have been exempt from crown and legislature, and yet they began to harass Frank when he continued to refuse to come to an agreement.

Frank and Marjorie, his ill wife, were subjected to a number of requests by government officials. Those involved requests for soil tests to find contaminants, but none were found. Barn swallows prevented them from the deconstruction of his family barn built in 1818, but later informed Frank they would be following through with their plan to demolish in January 2014. In the meantime, they have been building an arsenal of ammunition under his barn. They threatened to have SPCA remove his cattle in 2007 if he did not surrender or sell them himself. They installed “No Trespassing” signs on the gate and fence surrounding his farmland. They assigned military police to stand guard, with weapons, on his property. When Frank needed to go to his barn or work his farm, he had to negotiate his way past the military police officials. And if anyone questioned the officials or stood by the gate, the OPP were quick to arrive to clear out the area, leaving all questions unanswered.

The day they broke him down to sign the expropriation agreement, Frank had not slept for nearly three days. His wife had had major surgery, and Frank was worriedly awake by her side. He believed he was travelling to Toronto that morning to meet with a Judge to challenge the expropriation. Instead he was bombarded with threats yet again. If he didn’t sign in that moment, they would send a notice of arbitration, and Frank would be lucky to receive half of their offered compensation for his prime farmland. Frank signed.

This issue is not just one farmer losing his farm, his heritage, and his pride. It’s much larger than that. The issue is our federal government eliminating what Class 1 prime agriculture land Canada has left. According to 2011 Statistics Canada, in just the last 30 years, we have lost more than 2 million acres of this very land for mineral extraction, urban and non-farming development.

In Ontario, farms and the food processing sector generate over 35% of Canada’s Agri-food GDP, as per 2011 Statistics Canada. Farms also provide fiscal stability for local governments.

For the sake of expanding a military base, the government has expropriated Frank Meyer’s farmland. A few weeks ago, the government told Frank to go North of Madoc and farm there, on land full of rock. This action is destroying our food supply, bullying our elders, and eliminating our remaining Prime farmland, but Canadians will not allow this any longer. Through Facebook, Save Frank & Marjorie Meyers Farm has reached more than 13,500 people. With this support system, Frank has gathered enough resources to file an application for signing under duress and to have his day in a higher Court to fight for his constitutional right. We protect our National Parks, and now it’s time we finally protect our farmland.

To all those involved representing the government who were on Frank’s land without his permission, that is criminal trespassing. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, the unlawful expropriation is a Breach of Trust by public officers, Intimidation and Extortion, carried out by all of those involved.