Demolition crews move in on Frank Meyers’s historic farm

‘It’s sneaky. They came in the middle of the night. What would you feel like?’

Frank Meyers on his farm. (Photograph by Cole Garside)

Frank Meyers on his farm. (Photograph by Cole Garside)

An Ontario farmer who has fought for years to save his historic land from the Canadian military—a battle bolstered in recent months by tens of thousands of online supporters—will soon have nothing left to fight for.

Demolition workers gathered on Frank Meyers’s former property early Wednesday morning, installing a concrete barricade and delivering large metal shipping containers in preparation for a razing that his family—and many sympathetic strangers—have been dreading. Contacted by Maclean’s, a spokeswoman for the Department of National Defence (DND) confirmed that the controversial site has been “secured” for demolition, a “standard practice to ensure public safety.”

As for when the teardown will officially begin, DND won’t say. But the sudden prep work suggests the excavators will arrive at any moment, poised to rip down the old Meyers barn and numerous other sheds standing in the way of the military’s master plan: a sprawling new training facility for JTF-2, Canada’s elite Special Forces unit.

“It’s sneaky,” says Meyers, now 86, who saw the bins and barriers when he looked out his front window early Wednesday morning. “They came in the middle of the night. What would you feel like? What would you think if they had a barricade up in front of your house when you went outside in the morning?”

If the end is finally near, it took eight long years to get here.

As Maclean’s first reported, Frank Meyers was one of numerous landowners in Quinte West, Ont., being forced off their properties to accommodate the planned expansion of CFB Trenton, the country’s largest and busiest air force base. But while most neighbours eventually reached a deal with the federal government, Meyers vowed to never sell his beloved farm, no matter how much money Ottawa offered to pay. As he famously proclaimed (more than once): “What are they going to do, send a task force in to take me out?”

Meyers’s tough stance didn’t garner much local sympathy. Political leaders, including Quinte West Mayor John Williams and Conservative MP Rick Norlock, championed the arrival of JTF-2 because the base expansion will inject millions of federal dollars and hundreds of well-paying jobs into an economically depressed region. Moving Canada’s elite commandos to Trenton will also be a major tactical upgrade, providing the troops with instant access to airlift for rapid deployments. “The vast majority of my constituents—and when I say the vast majority, I’m talking the vast majority of my constituents—want this to go ahead sooner rather than later because they know the economic implications,” Norlock told Maclean’s last year. “The good of the many, in this particular case, outweighs the good of the few.”

But the Meyers land is more than just a dairy farm. It’s a slice of Ontario heritage.

The direct descendant of Capt. John Walden Meyers—a loyalist war hero and founder of nearby Belleville—Frank farmed a portion of the very same plot of land bestowed on his famous forefather by King George III for his exemplary service during the American Revolution. (Ironically enough, Capt. Meyers was the 18th-century version of a special-forces operative, a crack spy and daring soldier most renowned for leading a late-night raid on the home of a U.S. general. To patriot children, he was the bogeyman. If you don’t behave, their mothers would say, Capt. Meyers “will come and eat you.”) Signed in 1798, nearly 70 years before Canadian Confederation, the Crown land patent assigned the property to the Meyers clan “forever.”

Even Stephen Harper sympathized with Meyers’s plight, delaying construction plans for at least a year in the hopes that a fair deal could be reached. “The Prime Minister told me his concerns that he wanted this, as much as possible, to be a negotiated settlement,” Norlock said. “He was aware of the history behind this and the sensitivity that the government should have.” By 2012, however, the government’s patience had run out; Meyers was served with a notice of expropriation that said his land was required “for a purpose related to the safety or security of Canada.” (All levels of government have to the power to expropriate private property, in exchange for “fair market value,” if it’s required for the public projects such as highways, hospitals and hockey arenas.)

Meyers hired a lawyer and filed a last-ditch appeal with an independent hearings officer, arguing, among other things, that the government didn’t actually need his 90 hectares to finish JTF-2’s new headquarters because the other 11 properties it acquired provided plenty of space. Barely a dozen people showed up to listen to Meyers’s tearful plea, and the hearings officer wielded no real authority. Federal officials read her report and went ahead with the expropriation anyway. (The Meyers home, separated from the rest of the land by a set of train tracks, was not expropriated.)

Although he doesn’t own the property anymore, Meyers signed numerous lease agreements with the government that allowed him to continue farming the land (and emptying his barn and sheds) while both sides negotiated the final selling price. But in October—amid news that the final lease agreement had expired, and Meyers would soon be ousted—his story suddenly exploded on social media, triggering a Facebook campaign to “save” the farm that now boasts more than 57,000 supporters.

A few weeks later, Meyers actually agreed on a selling price and signed the final pieces of paperwork—but quickly backtracked, saying he was pressured to surrender and that the deal was null and void. Bolstered by his growing legion of Internet followers (and the few dozen protesters who periodically arrived at his farm, waving Canadian flags), Meyers vowed to fight on, even though he officially lost the land more than two years ago.

When the government cheques arrived in February—totaling $3.3 million, according to one published report—Meyers refused to cash them. He still does. “I don’t want the money, I want the land,” he says. “This has got nothing to do with the price. I’ve told them that from the beginning.”

Meyers has no idea when the heavy equipment will arrive, or what he’ll do when it does. “What can I do?” he asks. “What would you do? “Why not just take me out, tie my hands, and shoot me instead of harassing me for eight years? What is the difference?”

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Demolition crews move in on Frank Meyers’s historic farm

  1. Since expropriation is a long-hated boogeyman of right wing ideologues, it brings a wry grin to my face to think of Harper forcing himself to personally intervene..ON THE SIDE OF BIG GUBBMINT!

  2. There’s no doubt that he was pruessured to sign those documents, 8 years of the government poking and prodding at him, harassment all around – I would consider this a form of strange and unusuale punishment.

    A farmers land is their lively hood, Frank’s farm is even a monument of his family’s dedication to the throne and the lands he fought for.

    Even if the government says, a dead kings words mean nothing. It is morally unsound to do this and is showing the citizens exactly how much they care — about themselves.

    Proud to be Canadian…. Not so much ATM.

    • This old man was not under duress, he is a hardcore negotiator. Frank was wanting for $5.2 million dollars for his land over the past seven years. He finally dropped it to $4.1 million but the DND’s last and final offer was $3.3 million and they paid his legal fees. Because they didn’t meet his dollar figure, he called in the goof troop and started to cry duress.

      People say it isn’t about money, its about the land. Well apparently if the DND had hit $4.1 million, it was all about the money.

      Out of town protesters need to learn all the facts before they spew it like they know it.

      • Your quote of $3.3 is incorrect right off the bat “Mr Hand” – so before telling everyone else to check their facts, perhaps take your own advice?

        • John Meyers admitted this himself.

          “Three members of the Meyers family have received – but say they haven’t cashed – cheques totalling $3.3 million from the federal government, thought to be closure of the expropriation process in which the government took 220-acres of land from family patriarch Frank Meyers.”

          “The cheques were issued to Frank Meyers for $1,255,917, his wife Marjorie for $892,417 and to his son John Meyers for $1,151,667. In addition, the government covered Meyers’ legal and associated costs of $299,999.”

          This is documented and proven fact. Much more fact than anything ever given by the protesters.

          • I stand behind Mother Earth on every issue, the Gods hear our cries – you can be sure of that.

            I do not SPEW my words, sir. I annunciate them clearly, and am in fact a local member of society with family friends to the farm.

  3. The expropriation act is an ACT of Government – it is NOT law. The Crown Land Patent that shows the land deeded to the Meyers in PERPETUITY from the Crown should be all that’s needed to shut this down. As for the local Mayor’s talking point about increased employment for the area …….. who’s he trying to kid? The ONLY employment will be to more Military members and their families who will be vying for the same, few, occupations that others are already vying for. His conflict of interest with the family’s Hotel chains might see a temporary influx of visitors as the workers do their work, but that in and of itself should have been reason for him to step aside from this issue from the get go. Expropriation for the GREATER GOOD OF ALL is far from what this encounter has been. It MIGHT be for a select few, but all? Far from it! Elder abuse, desecration of private property, coercion, bullying, and so much more comes to mind first. SHAME

    • Most of the deeded land given to Meyers was sold off by Meyers family over the years, but then repurchased when it went back up for sale. This land is no different than if you or I had purchased it.

      Besides that, if you want to get technical and really stick with your argument. This was native land, it was never the Crown’s to give to anyone, it was stolen property in the first place.

  4. There are a multitude of military bases that are empty and could be used… Why not use one of those and leave PRIME FARMLAND to do what it is meant to do… Be farmed and provide the canadian population the food it needs… You can’t eat money or grow anything on concrete. The expropriated lots of people for the Mirabel Airport and it now sits unused and just a pile of concrete and asphalt… We are drastically running out of farmland. We need to preserve it for our children and grandchildren…

    • JTF2 is located at CFB Trenton because that’s the Canadian Forces main air logistics hub, and it’s geographically well-situated for deployments all around the world.

      • JTF-2 is currently based in Ottawa which has an airport. Please don’t say they need instant access. They do not have aircraft on standby. They are third or fourth responders for terrorism in Canada and have never needed to go overseas on such short notice they couldn’t drive to the airport in Ottawa. CSOR- which heads the task force for overseas operations is and will remain in Petawawa.

        • I’m pretty sure the government decides which unit will do what job. There’s no 100% this unit will do this specific type of deployment and nobody else.

      • “Deployments all over the world?” Only Harper believes we’re a world power and need to deploy all over the world. FOR WHAT?
        Let’s all give our heads a shake, people.

    • As has been stated time and time again, this is not Class 1 Farmland. Just google Agriculture Classification map and you will see that it is Class 3 farmland. Of course, I am sure there is some sort of government conspiracy theory to change those maps from Class 1 to Class 3. Wouldn’t class 1 be rich dark earth and used for something other than cow corn? Because he was not growing anything that was being sold on the local economy or at the market downtown. Not unless you like to eat cow corn. His dairy cattle were no longer being milked because he sold off his quota. Rumour has it (I have not been able to confirm this) that it was because the milk trucks wouldn’t cross the tracks due to their poor condition, and he wouldn’t pay CN to improve them.

  5. He can live in his farm home;
    He’s given a fair price;
    he can farm ;
    he’s 88 years old.
    What is he fighting about ???
    Sorry, I usually sympathize with a person put in this position.
    Get the Gov. to put a plaque & statue of the original Mr.Meyers where it can be seen
    & live out your life on the farm.

    • HE HAS NOT BEEN paid, get your facts right or shut up, He was sent a cheque which he returned, they sent it to his lawyer, who ironically was supplied and paid for by the government. The government has played underhanded since day 1. no more than 15 km south there is mountain view, which is already set up, they should use it. Or how about the PUBLIC being told about the millions being spent on Dwyer Hill the current home of JTF2. Maybe they should really think hard before they proceed and say they need this land. How about that. PEOPLE in who are with our government and all their corruption are your typical SHEEPLE, just following along while lives are destroyed. If we as Canadians stand by and let this happen, it will become another pearson airport fiasco. Thousands of acres that are sitting empty with boarded up houses. Don’t think for one minute that this can’t happen to you, municipalities, provinces and the federal government can all do it. TIME to put a stop to it all, Our land is ours not theirs, and in Franks case, was his families before Canada was Canada. so the feds should back off .

      • “Don’t think for one minute that this can’t happen to you.”
        The only way Harper will get a pipeline built through northern BC is by federal expropriation. Let the battle begin!

      • CaptainCanada what is this Pearson Airport fiasco that you speak of?

        Can you provide more details about the set up of Mountain View and how it meets the requirements of DND for this project? You seem to know a lot about the defence of Canada and I would love to hear about the “set up” there and its capability for this unit.

      • Mountainview is all set up is it? Set up for what exactly?

    • You do not understand the heart of a true farmer. Maybe someday you will. Very sad that you do not. What is a fair price for 200 years of future income. 200 years of past income, farmland that is actually safe to grow food on. No he did not. What is the fair price for the buildings that they want to demolish 4 million would probably cover the cost of rebuilding them? How many years at a different farm to get the land in the same condition. Have you heard of micro climates? Another location may not have that… Please read up on the basics…

    • One thing that is never reported is that this not just a fight by an 86 year-old farmer to keep his land for sentimental reasons. Frank’s son, ironically another John Walden Meyers, wants to continue the family farming tradition and pass it onto his children. How many families have a legacy like that – reaching back to Canada’s beginning. Now THAT is something worth fighting for!

  6. HE HAS NOT BEEN paid, get your facts right or shut up, He was sent a cheque which he returned, they sent it to his lawyer, who ironically was supplied and paid for by the government. The government has played underhanded since day 1. no more than 15 km south there is mountain view, which is already set up, they should use it. Or how about the PUBLIC being told about the millions being spent on Dwyer Hill the current home of JTF2. Maybe they should really think hard before they proceed and say they need this land. How about that. PEOPLE in who are with our government and all their corruption are your typical SHEEPLE, just following along while lives are destroyed. If we as Canadians stand by and let this happen, it will become another pearson airport fiasco. Thousands of acres that are sitting empty with boarded up houses. Don’t think for one minute that this can’t happen to you, municipalities, provinces and the federal government can all do it. TIME to put a stop to it all, Our land is ours not theirs, and in Franks case, was his families before Canada was Canada. so the feds should back off .

    Reply ↓

    • Being given a cheque kinda does mean being paid, y’know.

      • Not if they have not cashed it. That money would not cover the cost of all the farm buildings that they would gleefully destroy. As well as the time that it takes to keep the land productive. You may be able to eat money, but I would rather have home grown food!

        • That’s simply not true at all. if we have an agreement and I give you a valid cheque, i have discharged my obligation whether you cash it or not. As for the value of the land, it can be ascertained by experts in the field and there’s no indication the price was not fair.

    • The misinformation you people give out is just ridiculous. Just because you spew it doesn’t make it true.

      Look back at the older Macleans articles on this story. One (of many) from 2013, it specifically states “Meyers family hired a lawyer and launched their only available appeal: an objection in front of an independent hearings officer”. This was not a DND appointed lawyer, the Meyers family hired Scargall.

      Secondly, Frank signed the papers and cheques were given to him, its a done deal. It doesn’t matter if Frank cashes them or decided to let them sit, tear them up or burn them, he has received payment. If I sold my car, signed over the ownership, but then decided to not cash the cheque, that does not mean I can go back and take my car from that person. Similar with legal papers, if you are served papers you are served papers, you can’t just rip them up and pretend it didn’t happen.

      Thirdly, Mountain View is not even close to being a viable option. Hercs and Globemasters have practised short runway landings at this base to prepare for emergency situations in other countries. The runway or base is not even close to being adequate for standard use, there is not even a control tower! Those two points are the least concerning of that base, to bring it up to suitable use would blow the JTF-2 budget into kingdom come. Its not even close to being feasible.

      Lastly, it has been 100% proven now that parts of Meyers land had been sold previously, after the land had been gifted to his family. Meyers did end up buying some of that land back, but that is no different than if you or I had purchased it by that point. The whole “gifted by the king” is a defunct and foolish argument. Even if he hadn’t sold it previously, its still a moot point. No one is above expropriation in this country, in almost any country. This isn’t just a Canadian law, it exists everywhere. Frank should be lucky he lives in a country where he is actually given compensation for it, a lot of countries they just take it.

      Lastly, lastly, Meyers farm is not prime class one land. Look up maps people, its right here at your fingertips, his land is a mixture of class 3 and class 4.

      You protesters are such a sad misguided bunch. You are fed a bunch of bad information and believe every last word of it without asking questions. Then you talk like you know the law when you absolutely nothing. You throw out big words now and again and think you have it all figured out.

      This is over, its not even a newsworthy story anymore.

      • OK – lets see that “100% proof” – talk about misinformation!?
        And your reasoning for expropriation – unbelievable! Just because something happens “everywhere” that makes it right? Frank has brought the issue of expropriation to the forefront – it happens all the time from all levels of government but we rarely hear about it. Frank has become poster-boy for victims of expropriation. It may be necessary to expropriate in certain conditions – time of war, need for a highway, etc. – similar to the use of lethal force. However, our governments wield it with impunity and at will. The need for this expansion is simply to inject government $ in the local economy – Quinte’s day at the government trough! Kudo’s to Frank for standing up for the property rights of all Canadians. May it never happen to you!!

        • 100% proof. How about It was stated right from Frank Meyers himself and admitted by the Facebook page that he said it after the Intelligencer article came out. Right from the Facebook page, posted by one of the main people:

          “All the land was deeded, some was sold at one point and Frank purchased it right back as he knew it was part of the original deeded land. FRANK did not sell it but did recover it for his family.”

          You so called supporters don’t even take time to read your own page let alone do any type of searching for information yourself. Then when people point out facts or disagree with you, well then we are just government shills, or we don’t know the real story, or we are just trolls.

          Ignoring facts does not make them untrue, it just makes you look gullible.

          • So true Mr. Hand. How many of those 57,629 supporters even know what the issues are in regards to the expropriation of Mr. Meyers farm? Most have just liked the page, and gone away. It is too easy to “like” a page and never think about it again. The admins say that they are there to support Frank against the expropriation, but I have read many many posts by persons with their own agenda and those posts were not deleted. Anyone who makes a statement to correct some misinformation has their posted deleted, and if they continue they are banned. This even happened with Frank’s family members and their friends who were force to create their own page for awhile to try and dispel the rumours. Now how sad is that?

            The expropriation has already happened. The government has taken possession of the land. Frank and his family members have received payment for the land. What is happening here is a knife has been shoved into Frank’s chest, and thanks to the protestors, it is being twisted deeper and deeper. Let the poor (I mean rich) old man properly grieve for his loss instead of prolonging it.

  7. Good for the people of Trenton. They get money from other tax payers via an unnecessary move that will end up costing ~ $300 million. This is exactly the type of pork barrel defence spending that makes any sort of sensible organization of DND so difficult.

    The sensible and much cheaper option would have been to move the “green” elements of JTF-2 (amalgamation with CSOR makes even more sense) to Petawawa where there is lots of space for training and CSOR is already based. If new ranges etc are built CSOR could use them and if they already exist in Pet we save money by not replicating them. The CH-47Fs are also in Pet. Not having to fly to Trenton will save a lot of fuel. It’s unlikely the Trenton facility will be large enough for some weapons firing so invariably JTF-2 will have to travel to Pet for some training.

    My guess is that this was a no go because eventually someone would ask why we have two SOF units that are supposed to work together much of the time and not just one larger unit. Of course since there are two SOF units they need a HQ commanded by a BGen. The army has argued JTF-2 should be under their command. Moving to an air base complicates the matter.

    Someone’s bound to write “but they need immediate access to aircraft”. No they don’t. Since RCMP SERT was founded and JTF-2 replaced them as our national CT team it (they are 3rd or 4th responders) has never deployed on such short notice it couldn’t drive to the Ottawa airport. CSOR will still be in Petawawa. Any notions of JTF-2 rushing out to a waiting C-17 and then launching with no notice on an overseas missions is delusional. First C-17s aren’t kept on standby. Secondly CSOR heads the overseas task force. Thirdly and most importantly special operations that are not well planned and rehearsed invariably fail. Planning takes time which makes the ability to just jump on a plane of no practical use and could even harm the mission if launched without critical intelligence, gear or personnel.

    I expect many people in DND concur with my view but the departments made a big deal of this and paid for a lot of land so to save face they’ll charge ahead.

    • Thank you! At last someone with common sense! Eventually the revenue stream will be lost. But hopefully, this farm can still be saved!

  8. Our National Defence is not defending one of the greatest duties of the nation which is to protect our food source. Some of those farm buildings were 200 years old. Food security means nothing to Norlock etc. Billions of dollars into the local economy is just that. Local. Nothing for the rest of Canada. Cold Lake Alberta and Newfoundland will benefit how? How will the DND protect food from 1000’s of miles away? How healthy and what are the risks to those food sources? Living history is not worth being protected. Land that was protected for our food source through the War of 1812, Confederation, World War 1 & 2, the Great Depression is ended for what. How soon will that land be declared surplus or stand unused when the rest of Canada realizes that there are no longer the billions to be spent on one rural area. When money is being spent on that and not on our amazing veterans or the wonderful active men and women of our military. If you are a veteran living in Windsor you need to drive to London. If you are a veteran living in PEI you need to go out of province for the services you need. But yet, they have money to spend on new land when thousands of DND owned land sit vacant. The list goes on and on!

  9. P.S. The lands are adjoining the main rail lines between Montreal and Toronto…….

  10. Makes you wonder if Frank should raise a hammer & sickle flag there or a swastika flag.

  11. The government continues in its bullheaded manner to go ahead with this ill conceived project of the JTF2 in spite of well placed arguments as to why using farmland for a training ground when there are available military lands is not smart. There are cuts to the military who are already functioning with outdated equipment and inadequate health care. How can the DND justify this project with the mega million dollar price tag? Harper and Wynne claim to care about farmers but they show no regard in protecting not only this farm but others ( New Brusnswick, Nova Scotia, B.C to name a few).

    • So one argument you protesters have is how can the government justify this mega million dollar project, then the next argument you have is why can’t it be located at Mountain View?? Virginia are you even from this area? Have you been past Mountain View? In order to bring Mountain View up to a suitable base, the budget would skyrocket into the realm of infinity. You might as well be building a new base from the ground up, because that’s what would be needed.

      As already pointed out, Mountain View has been used for short runway practice by the base for both Hercs and Globemasters. They use it for training purposes when short runway landings may be required elsewhere. The runway is not suitable for standard every day use, there is not even a control tower. Take the current JTF-2 budget and multiply it by 100 if you want the number it would be to upgrade Mountain View base. Even then it would not offer all the amenities the Trenton Base would.

      The only bullheadedness comes directly from the protesters and Frank. Compared to the Canadian population you are an extreme minority that does not even make up 0.16% of the population. Even of that, most of the people on the page are not even Canadian!

  12. Here’s another question about this entire debacle — WHY was the Mayor, with his hand directly in many local hotel pockets – never declared in conflict of interest in the entire matter. IF (and that is in fact still an IF) – IF this project proceeds, and the numerous military (and the job seeking families) relocate to this area and vie for the “abundance” of local jobs – exactly WHERE will they and any construction crews stay during the process? Oh, that’s right – the local hotels!!!!!!!

    • Here we go again about the Mayor and “conflict of interest!!” The Mayor doesn’t even own a hotel in Trenton. Yes, he does own a couple in Belleville, and just how is this a conflict? The people working at this new expansion will be living in Trenton and Belleville, not staying at Williams’ hotels. There are a large number of accommodations on the base that visitors to the new facility will stay at if they have to come for business. I would be surprised if the construction workers even stayed at hotels in Belleville. Have you seen all the construction going on at the base right now? Probably not because you don’t live in the area and don’t have a clue. There are already lots of construction workers in the area. Why don’t you complain about the construction that is currently going on and a conflict there? The Mayor and Council support the expansion because it will direct millions of dollars into the economy in the area by people moving here, buying houses, spending their pay cheques in the stores and restaurants. There is the spin off of jobs for the local residents who are employed here.

      I saw the 20-something page document that was published on the Save the Farm FB page and if I was Mayor Williams, I would be hiring a lawyer and charging the authors with slander. Not only was this document published online but it was also mailed to all the municipal councils in the area! The allegations in it were unbelievable. And then there was the transcript of a conversation between “Gord” and Mrs. Hamilton, wife of a Quinte West councillor that was published without her permission. I hope she launched a law suit.

      Sure expropriation sucks, but it is a fact of life. We wouldn’t have the 401 if there was no expropriation. And it is a last resort — after attempting for many many years to negotiate with someone who will not negotiate.

  13. Sorry, no sympathy for this old codger in the least. Expropriation is Canadian Law, what makes this one any different than any other? What makes this old man think he is any more special than any other Canadian.

    You got your money old man, be happy with that.

  14. I will personally evoke Nemesis. In her name I spread my blood upon the soil, call the Goddess of retribution to curse the land upon its destruction and bring forth the wrath of the three-fold law.

  15. They’re tearing the barns down now! “Canada” wins – Canadians lose! :-(

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