How would you react if you woke up tomorrow morning to find that an eviction sign had been posted on your farm and you and your family had a deadline to remove yourselves and your goods? What if the expropriation was being carried out by no less than the army and your legal rights amount to absolute zero?
Bad for anyone right? Well it gets worse.
For the Meyers family they have lived, loved and worked on this property since 1798 when the Crown land patent assigned the property to them “forever.” Ironically it was awarded for exemplary military service? But that’s not what counts here in the 21st Century. What the government wants the government gets.
That’s the situation facing octogenarian Frank Meyers and his wife Marjorie.
The simple facts are that the federal government has pushed them off their historic property near Canadian Forces base Trenton to construct a new headquarters for Joint Task Force 2, the Canadian military’s elite Special Forces squad. Frank Meyers did not ask for the fight. Neither did the armed forces. Traditionally farmers and forces have served in different ways but with the same end in sight. It appears that the only end in sight for this conflict is an embarrassing example of how immovable positions can hurt everyone.
It has been more than seven years since the feds first offered to buy Frank’s Ontario his farm.
Eighteen months ago it was expropriated despite his objections. After all if the state wants your land (for a highway, a hospital or a top-secret training facility), you can either sell now or be expropriated later. However, the law isn’t always just and Meyers’s lopsided battle with forces beyond his control has captured the attention and hearts of fellow Canadians and farmers around the world. As is often the case, the story was supposed to go away before attracting too much attention. But now complete strangers are spreading the word, phoning the farm and writing letters and blogs of support. An online petition is collecting signatures (18,833 at last check). And a Facebook campaign (“Save Frank & Marjorie Meyers Farm”) has amassed 42,895 supporters in a little more than a week.
Why didn’t this happen sooner?
Was there a chance this kind of outpouring could have made a difference, if it happened earlier in the confrontation? The cynic in me says no because whenever the government promises the juicy carrot of money at the end of the tunnel friends, neighbours and community leaders lose sight of any other reasonable alternative. How easily we forget that the money rarely pays for what is lost. Oh. Some will see the money. Perhaps the local Mayor with his lands and three local hotels will make a generous offer to one side or the other. Or perhaps the local Member of Parliament who is so accountable to his election promises will cease to insist on demonstrating that you have to be on his good “number” side to have his support …. After all, he is seeking re-election. He is counting real votes. History. Humanitarianism. Will they help him at the polls? If not, then he can’t really fight for you. A few barbecues, some photo-ops with the animals and a few smile-and-nod-off-and-run-off handshakes at farmer days – and his agricultural action list is complete.
The main players insist they are looking at the “big” picture. Unfortunately these artists have really only mastered paint-by-numbers and those will only hang in a hall of shame not fame.
Frank and Marjorie, like many of us, fall into the small rural citizenship demographic. They aren’t the first and won’t be the last to be rolled under by bigger interests.
Wait until the numbers suggest that there is a need for big box stores, superhighways and sprawling subdivisions to house the big city commuters. Hopefully, your personal pockets will have been lined by the “millions” accrued from this “absolutely necessary” expansion. We are all proud of the men and women who fight to defend our country. Sometimes we are not so proud of the decision-making that goes on behind the scenes. Every action is not noble. Sometimes the ones who are defeated are those who for generations have supported our fighting forces. I fear that this isn’t the only battle the JF2 will face. And lose!
Where is the “win” in this lost situation?
I personally think it would be a symbolic show of support, not only for this farmer and his family history, but for all the rural farms and families who are seen as expendable to government progress. The fact is you never know what unforeseen event could have a tremendous impact on your planning – five years .. ten years … tomorrow. Farming is not short term. You don’t start in with the plan that, at the first bump, you will move out. Farmers endure generations on the home farm and sometimes the enduring is the hardest fought battle. And it affects all of us who are in agriculture.
Is it a hard decision?
Yes! Is either side absolutely right? No! Is there no alternative but the “done deal”? We will never know. Is it necessary? Perhaps. However , it is hard not to be amazed that a group that can manage the defence of an entire country … cannot imagine, propose and carry out a plan that will leave one man and his family with their dignity and family history in tact?
We all know that life goes on and the Meyer’s family – has no choice but to take the next step.
Having said that, Frank stayed true to his vision. He has even complimented those he has dealt with “The military guys have been very nice and supportive,” says John Meyers, who understands that his family’s spat is with the government, not the members of JTF 2. “The bureaucrats are the ones running this show.”
“Fighting to keep his family farm, Frank Meyers has enjoyed precious little public support.”
That is the phrase that stood out for me and no doubt for many others when they first heard about the Meyer’s plight. Here at the Bullvine we know firsthand the passion of the agricultural community. As the momentum grows, Tom and Marjorie are learning that real support comes from unexpected places and in unexpected ways. If you have the time to encourage Frank Meyers and add to the “numbers” he couldn’t rally before he was turfed out, add your “like” to Facebook Page. Eighty-five year old Meyers does not have Internet but he is aware of the support and feels gratified by the response. “I can’t stop people from fighting for me. They’ll never know how much I appreciate what they’re doing. I could never repay them.”
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Frank doesn’t have the Internet but you can be absolutely assured that the number crunchers do. Will it make a difference? Yes. To Frank Meyers it will. And that’s the only number that counts! .
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