By Greg Murphy
QUINTE WEST – They’re dug in for the long haul.
At about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, about 20 supporters of Frank Meyers crossed the railway tracks that mark the edge of what used to be Meyers’s family farm on Meyers Creeks Road.
The Department of National Defence has expropriated the 90-hectare property to build a training facility for Joint Task Force 2, the Canadian military’s elite special-forces unit. The farm had been in Meyers’s family since 1798, and the octogenarian farmer has stubbornly refused to agree to the takeover, despite a compensation arrangement that he has said is for more than $1 million.
“We will be working in shifts so there will be people here 24/7 until this thing is resolved to protect the interest of Mr. Meyers,” demonstrator Carolyn Sopha–Tobin said.
Demolition of the buildings at the farm was supposed to start Monday, and bulldozers and other heavy equipment were brought in to the site. But Meyers’s supporters also arrived Monday, and the equipment sat silent.
Some of the protesters kept vigil in the area overnight from Monday to Tuesday. They took shifts so some could sleep while others kept close watch from inside their vehicles.
By late morning Tuesday there was still no demolition activity and there was no sign of the demolition crews. OPP and Canadian National Railway police were monitoring the site from a nearby hill.
Meyers says he hasn’t been given the money – which he said he was told would amount to $1.6 million – for the expropriation of his land.
“No money has come in yet,” he told QNet News Sunday. We had a hearing in Toronto that they said was ‘just a hearing.’ I haven’t slept in three days over this. We haven’t seen any money.”
Jeremy Link, a spokesman for Public Works and Government Services Canada, told QNet News Monday that a financial agreement has been reached with Meyers.
“They have come to an agreement. The details are confidential, but that’s where they’re at,” Link said.
Julie Di Mambro, a spokeswoman for Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, told QNet News Tuesday that the federal government has offered full compensation for Meyers’s farm.
“The government of Canada has approached this land expropriation with great sensitivity and has offered Mr. Meyers full compensation for the property,” Di Mambro said.
She added that the government has a commitment to improving infrastructure at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.
“As part of the government’s commitment to further modernize our military, we will be expanding and improving infrastructure at CFB Trenton to house the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command. This project will inject millions of dollars into the local economy and bring hundreds of well-paying jobs to the community,” Di Mambro said.
As of Tuesday the Facebook page Save Frank & Marjorie Meyers Farm, set up last year by people angered by the expropriation, had more than 23,000 followers from across the country. That total is up from 15,000 Sunday.
On Sunday the farm was the scene of a last-minute protest over the expropriation.
“Frank’s not gonna take it anymore,” sang demonstrators lining the road outside Meyers’s house.
Meyers was joined by people of all ages and employment in what the protesters called a last-stand effort to save his farm.
Lisa Gibson, who set up the Facebook campaign, travelled 2½ hours from her home south of Ottawa to head the demonstration. She said it was a matter of life and death.
“I’ve seen first-hand that when you take someone Frank’s age, and you take away their reason for getting up in the morning – their purpose in life – they will die,” Gibson said. “This is hopefully our last-ditch effort to save Frank’s farm – his life.”
Meyers said he was touched by the support.
“I appreciate each of them. I appreciate everything they’re doing,” he said.