Canada Farmer who fought expropriation of his land for JTF2 base dies at age 91
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Frank Meyers stuck to his guns to the very end.
The Trenton-area farmer had fought against the Conservative government’s decision to expropriate his land in 2012 for a new base for the Canadian military’s counter-terrorism team, Joint Task Force 2.
He argued that farmland was precious and was needed to feed the country’s population. Besides, the military already had plenty of land in the Trenton area, particularly near Mountain View, which it could relocate the unit to from its base in Ottawa, Meyers, then 86, told this newspaper in a 2014 interview. He said he had nothing against the Canadian military but JTF2 didn’t need the 90-hectares he was farming, land that had been in his family for 200 years.
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Meyers refused the federal government’s payment for his property, even after they seized his farm.
When he died last month at age 91 he still hadn’t accepted the federal payment, an amount which remains confidential.
“The last comment that he would have said to the government that would be printable and more than four letters long would be that they should have put the base expansion at Mountain View … instead of destroying prime agricultural land and disrupting our family farm life,” his son John Meyers recently told Ontario Farmer newspaper.
To the end, Meyers continued to demand that his land be returned. Both the Conservative and Liberal governments declined his requests.
The Department of National Defence said it handled the expropriation with sensitivity. Meyers was allowed to keep the original farmhouse in which he was born, his current house across the road, and some acreage.
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Meyers decision to speak out wasn’t welcomed by many in the Trenton area who expected a major economic boost when hundreds of military families moved into the region.
Comments in a local newspaper portrayed him as a millionaire money-grubber standing in the way of progress and jobs for the community. The Belleville Intelligencer accused him of deception. Others portrayed him as a dupe of leftists intent on discrediting the then federal Conservative government.
“They say I’m holding up progress, but progress of what?” Meyers said in 2014. “Starving the people? What are you going to do when you run out of farmland? I guess we’ll buy our food from China.”
The tens of millions of dollars that area residents expected from a JTF2 move never did materialize and, it appears, likely never will.
In July this newspaper confirmed that the Canadian Forces is now looking at keeping JTF2 in Ottawa.
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The cost to move the counter-terrorism unit had skyrocketed. Instead of the original $346 million, the price tag is now estimated to be $1.2 billion.
In 2016, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance was warned that the project to move JTF2 from Ottawa to Trenton was facing major risk in “cost and scope,” according to documents obtained under the Access to Information law. The special forces had significantly added to the plans for the proposed site, expanding it beyond its original scope.
Then there is the changing terrorist threat.
“An emerging threat against western nations is that of ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attacks against targets of tremendous symbolic importance, such as those we have seen in Berlin, London, Paris, and Ottawa,” explained Department of National Defence spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier.
In October 2014, lone wolf attacker Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, then attacked the nearby Parliament Buildings, where he was shot and killed.
“Many of our allies have responded to this shift in the security environment by relocating their top-tier special forces units to within close proximity and rapid response time of their national capitals, and the rationale for doing so has proven increasingly convincing,” added Le Bouthillier.
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Having JTF2 located at a base 280 kilometres from Ottawa doesn’t make sense, according to military officers.
Current options for the former Meyers farm now include building an ammunition storage facility on the land or perhaps using the property occasionally for training.
Meyers farmed the land well into his 80s. Shortly before his property was expropriated he planted corn in his fields. But the federal government sent Meyers a letter stating that he was not to harvest the crop. Instead it rotted in the field.
“It’s a shame that this will all be gone,” Meyers said at the time surveying his farm. “They’re going to destroy the land.”
Meyers died on Sept. 15. His obituary stated: “He spent his life building, farming and raising his family.”
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