Octogenarian battles JTF 2 over farm

Despite an emotional appeal, the feds are buying Frank Meyers’ farm for a top-secret training ground

At war with the feds

Photograph by Colin O'Connor

The verdict was never really in doubt; if the government wants to buy your land, selling is the only real option. But for Frank Meyers and his family, the official confirmation was no less devastating: their beloved farm, more than two centuries old, will indeed be transformed into a top-secret training ground for JTF 2, the Canadian military’s elite special forces squad.

“I am of the opinion that the properties proposed for expropriation are absolutely essential for the safety and security of Canada,” reads the final decision from Ottawa, signed by Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose. “For that reason and in absence of valid justification to do otherwise, I have confirmed my intention to expropriate.”

The paperwork, obtained by Maclean’s, marks the end of a long, public battle that pitted a piece of Canadian history against modern-day national security. The direct descendant of Capt. John Walden Meyers—a Loyalist war hero and the founder of Belleville, Ont.—Frank Meyers has spent seven decades farming the very same plot of land that King George III bestowed on his famous forefather as gratitude for his service during the American Revolution. (Ironically enough, Capt. Meyers was the 18th-century version of a special-forces commando, most famous for leading a late-night raid on the home of an American general. Patriot children actually believed he was the bogeyman. If you don’t behave, their mothers would say, Capt. Meyers “will come and eat you.”)

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In 2007, nearly 200 years after the captain died, the feds started buying out Frank’s neighbours directly north of CFB Trenton, all part of an ambitious plan to construct a massive, cutting-edge headquarters for Joint Task Force 2. Meyers, now 84, vowed he would never sell, leaving Ottawa no other choice but to file a notice of expropriation.

In April, at an emotional public hearing, the family urged Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to spare their 220 acres (or at least part of it) because of its sentimental value. They also argued that the Defence Department already had plenty of land to build its training centre. “My forefathers fought for this country and helped make it what it is today: a country of compromise, commitment and understanding,” said Frank’s son, John Meyers. “Canada is about rights and freedoms—the right to own property and the freedom to enjoy it to the fullest.” When his daughter spoke, Frank couldn’t control his tears. “I cannot begin to imagine what he is feeling right now, thinking about his life-long hard labour,” said Elaine Meyers Steiginga. “Only for it to be gone with just a signature.”

Rona Ambrose was unmoved. In her report, the minister said that although “no details of the proposed facility may be disclosed,” every last acre (except the house and a couple of nearby buildings) is required. “The Meyers family will receive fair compensation for their ownership interests and may utilize proceeds to continue farming on available replacement lands of similar or superior quality,” she wrote.

Frank Meyers is still waiting to find out exactly how much “fair compensation” will be—and whether his fight is truly over. “We have to see if there are any other avenues to try to change their minds or stop it,” his son said. “We’re holding out a small amount of hope.”


Octogenarian battles JTF 2 over farm

  1. Fair compensation should include the government handing Meyers the deed to Ambrose’s place.

  2. Interesting that Harper was saying he wants to add ‘property rights’ to the constitution. Just not quite yet.

    • Even a property rights amendment — even the broadest ones proposed by Reid and Hillier — would allow for this sort of expropriation.

      There has always been, even in eras with the strongest protection of property rights, the ability of the government to expropriate land for public use, with full compensation at fair value. If there were not, it wouldn’t be possible to build highways.

      A property rights amendment affect regulatory takings — for when the government effectively takes away part of your land’s value but not the whole. Stuff like the Greenbelt.

      • You’re right, tigerinexile, but explicit recognition of property rights in the Charter would have given the Meyers an additional argument.

        It would also have at least some moral pull, and would buttress John Meyer’s argument that Canada is about rights and freedoms, including the right to use and enjoyment of property to its fullest.

        • He MAY or may not be right, seeing as we’re discussing a hypothetical. Whether constitutionally enshrined property rights would prevent expropriation unless explicitly stated is an open question.

          • GFMD: One could, theoretically, write a property rights amendment that would allow for no expropriations whatsoever, but there’s nowhere in the common law world that has anything like that.

            Dr. Jaws: About use and enjoyment of property — this is the federal government, and so it’s covered by the old 1960 Bill of Rights, which DOES have property rights protections. (In its equivalent section to s. 7 of the Charter.)

            But again, all that any of that does is guarantee compensation. Which is already on offer here.

        • I agree that property rights should be in the Charter.

          It just wouldn’t have any impact on this case. If the government wants to expropriate your land for public use, and offers full financial compensation, that land is getting taken even with a property rights amendment.

  3. I wonder how Mr Meyers voted in the last election?

    • Well I know how he will vote in the next election :)

  4. Our government is sounding more and more like the United States everyday.

    • We will be the United States soon I fear.

      • It will burn first.

      • I hate to be all terrorist-y but I’d rather die than have Canada become part of the US.

    • Unfortunately people keep putting Harper … i.e. the madly wagging tail on the end of the dog … back in office with a whomping majority, so I have to assume this is what most Canadians want.

  5. It’s not as though there’s a vast abundance of uninhabited land in this country to waste on uselessness. The government has to steal our land from us. That’s just common sense.

    • I am guessing there is another side to this story that tells why this land is the best choice and it would be inconvenient at best for it to be farther away.

      • oh whatever. let’s not make excuses for the CONs.

        • Justin is that you?


  7. in Alberta they can throw you in jail for arguing with them about stealing your land.

  8. Wikipedia tells me that 89% of Canada is Crown Land, 41% of which is federal. COULDN’T THEY FIND ANOTHER SPOT? All in the name of security…..

    • It needs to be close to the Trenton air base for faster deployments.

  9. As an American citizen I find the fears and statements here of becoming more like the United States profoundly prophetic and frightening. Here in the U.S. politicians use Canadian healthcare as an example of what we should not want here and yet when I look behind the scenes find some rather strong similarities in our governments, to be sure. There may very possibly be a reason that advanced countries are, in fact, all of them beginning to look much the same especially where economics and corporate takeovers rule the day.

  10. This is horrible. They shouldn’t force people out of their homes, whether they have a plan or not. It makes me think that we and our homes are all expendable, if the Feds so choose. :(

    • What do you think governments do when roads need to be expanded or built?

    • He’s not being forced out of his home, he was offered a substantial amount for his farming property and he agreed, than tried to get more. The gov’t offered more, so he upped the price again. That’s when he got the expropriation notice and now the media is sensationalizing it to paint the gov’t a bad colour. There is much more to this story.

  11. Not very top secret any more, eh?

  12. Its sad that you reach the age of 84 and haven,t the option of dying in your home because the government takes what they want.we are becoming more socialist with each government.We have no rights when it comes to the government .I find it hard to believe that that is the only property that is suitable for these purposes.There are many acres of land that is not being farmed and the government can,t understand why the farming families are dying off.Why would anyone want to have a large farm knowing that yours might be the next one that the government absolutely has to have

    • This has nothing to do with socialism. As a matter of fact, favouring the military and large corporations over the individual citizen is much more a hallmark of the right wing than the left. Other than that, I agree with the rest of your comment.

  13. What could be so damn important about this land that the government had to steal it from this family, rather than find somewhere else.

    This Conservative “Harper” government is really making this proud Canadian ashamed to admit it. These dapper Dan’s and Danielle’s make me sick.

  14. What I like about living in the Commonwealth and Canada is a part of the Commonwealth. When the government is treating it’s citizens unfairly they can challenge in the highest court of the land, if they do not agree with the decision the citizen in a constitutional monarchy can appeal directly to the Crown to intervene. I suggest this man and his family go down that path and plead their case to the head of the Commonwealth, The Queen.
    This says it all, “The Queen of Canada’s Royal style and title is Elizabeth the Second, by
    the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and
    Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith”

  15. The Harper government could always compensate him with one of Tony Clement’s pork-barrelled gazebos in Muskoka.

  16. very sad. he should ask for help from the queen, considering how his family acquired the land in the first place.

  17. This is all about JTF-2s desire not to be based at Petawawa as are CSOR the unit that supposedly supports JTF-2 and the CH-47F helicopters .

    Training wise it makes no sense not have have all of the “green” SOF elements at Pet- a large base where they can fire heavy weapons, have access to the helicopters and large amounts of training aids already exist. The much smaller “black” anti-terrorist bit can stay in Ottawa.

    Operations wise the supporters of this waste of money will go on about airports etc. as if Ottawa didn’t have one but the real reason is that JTF-2 people would rather live near Toronto than in Pet. It’s about standard of living and fun after work not any mission.

    • The JTF-2 base is within spitting distance of the boundary of the City of Ottawa. But considering traffic patterns, siting the base near Carleton Place vs. at Pet probably only saves them about 45 minutes travel time to the Ottawa airport. It’s nowhere near Toronto.

      • Pet has an airfield. Trenton is closer to TO and hence a more desirable home that Pet. JTF-2 in Ottawa would have helicopters available making traffic patterns to the Ottawa airport largely irrelevant. There would be nothing stopping JTF-2 from keeping a QRF at the military airport if speedy deployment was that important. JTF-2 has never responded to an immediate emergency and is the third or fourth responder for counter terrorism so all this talk about the need to get on planes right away is theoretical.

        • You’ve never been to a single CF base, fred.
          How would you know?

    • What would you know about the military, fred?

  18. Another incident showing that the Conservatve heart is in their wallet.

  19. “… and may utilize proceeds to continue farming on available replacement lands of similar or superior quality,” she wrote”
    It’s a business that has been improved by generations of utterly local knowledge of soil, weather, and other growing conditions. It’s not a warehouse they can just move to another location.

  20. As a currently serving Canadian soldier who grew up on a farm I can honestly say I have never been so ashamed to wear my uniform after having read this article. That the CF/Canadian Government is going expropriate this man’s land stains the honour of his ancestors, our military and its heritage as well as this government and its ministers.

    I can tell you its a terrible thing to see the legs of someone cut out from under them; at least in Afghanistan you could count on it being the result of an insurgent IED and not the pen stroke of a Canadian bureaucrat. I doubt the scars will heal any faster or be any less painful for Mr. Meyer and his family.
    To Mr. Meyer and his family: It is my sincerest hope that you can find a way to keep you land or that the government comes to its senses and respects your right and claim to your property.

  21. The government is being a bully to an 84 year old man and his family.
    220 acres is not huge. They could alter the plan to avoid his area.
    There seems to be no empathy or appreciation for a hard working Canadian who
    has deep ties to and loves his land.

  22. As usual, government paranoia trumps individual rights.

  23. Hell yeah JTF2 FTW! Old man leave so JTF2 can screw some heads now!

  24. As a Canadian citizen that values a decent military, I support this action. There are a number of reasons, which all combined make it the unfortunate – yet correct thing to do. We are unaware of the military logistical reasons, but it no doubt relates to things like proximity to rapid deployment issues, current warehousing and related training fields, apparatus, associated task force personnel, instructors, the list is probably very long. If tons of all these things are already situated at one end of the country, we should not expect them to spend multi-millions of dollars and effort to move these things to Wainwright Alberta on the other end of the country – just because one farmer loves his land. I can assure you (as I know many farmers-have them in the family)… that in a few years this guy will be gone from this world and his children are more likey to want to sell the land than work it. That is based on statistical changes to farming families across the country. If you complaining, crying , bleeding heart, love to hate the government and anything they do types really had any idea what is required to run a military… you would you be far more understanding. The “joint” part of JTF means multiple skills and disciplines are required, not just assaulters. The JTF would need experts for a vast list of disciplines trained to work together in a small elite squad whose members are multi-disciplined. Consider mechanical, medical, naval, paratrooper,advanced electronic optics, information technology, explosives,…the list of skills required to get into a terrorist headquarters undetected and extract hostages alive is not short. Many Canadians would love to have this farmers problem. Not only does he get top dollar for his land, he can be proud that the land will become hallowed ground in the decades to come. Hundreds of families will cherish this place as the location that helps keep their military family member alive and able to return home after deployment in an extremely dangerous world. Do you bleeding hearts watch the news? Do you have any idea of the trouble in the world and what is to come? Canadians should be extremely proud of our JTF, and support their training and development whole heartedly. One farmer having to move from their land is a miniscule concern as compared the the plight of millions of people suffering from dictators and terrorist across the globe. Lets all try to see the bigger picture here…JTF will prevent &/or reduce effects to thousands of families from death, destruction, torture, & mental anguish of war torn hell (MANY thousands of lives over decades). Just the threat of having such a force prevents some of the monsters of the world from doing terrible things. It would be a good lesson for lots of people to spend some time in any number of war torn countries. Imagine the number of fathers & mothers that have had their child killed. All you bleeding hearts crying foul about this should take your head out of your safe Starbucks and travel the world… get some perspective before you make us even less prepared than we already are. You are so short sighted… complaining about the Canadian Government??? like you could do better! You are a bunch of spoiled brats. The best governments around the world do this for good reason. Try to read non fiction once in a while you pie in the sky – clueless dreamers. Our government is doing an incredible job, all things considered.

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