An 85-year-old Quinte West, Ont., farmer — reinvigorated by sudden support he has received through a social media campaign — is vowing to fight the federal government's expropriation of his land as part of a planned expansion to CFB Trenton.
Frank Meyers was the last holdout in a process to buy up land near the military base, one that had been ongoing since 2006. The government took possession of his 90 hectares of land in August 2012 but allowed Meyers to lease it until Sept. 30 last year.
Meyers conceded he signed papers concerning the selling price this past fall, but now says he signed them under duress.
He told Alan Neal on CBC Radio's All in a Day Tuesday he should be able to continue to live and work on the farm that has been in use since 1786 and in his family since 1798.
"I don't want the money, I want to be left alone," said Meyers. "I'm producing food for all the people in this country. They don't seem to want that."
Meyers had been waging a one-man battle with the federal government over the expropriation, arguing that there is not enough good farmland in the country to be taking it away.
Local historian Doug Knutson , who spoke up at the expropriation hearing, said the fight has taken a toll on the farmer.
"I feel personally rather sick about it," said Knutson. "I've gotten to know the Meyers family over the years. Here's a family farm that goes back 227 years and they want to continue into the future. I think that's rare and unique," he said.
Social media campaign began this year
Last fall, Lisa Gibson of Ottawa read about Meyers and his fight and started the Facebook page to support the farmer. The page has since collected 24,314 likes. It also gave Meyers a new group of supporters.
She drove to the farm Monday when she heard bulldozers were on their way.
"This has stressed Frank out so much that the man sleeps in the laneway in his truck because he's afraid they're going to come up the back way in the middle of the night. No citizen of this country should fear that's going to happen...especially an 85-year-old man," said Gibson.
When work crews arrived at the farm on Monday, Gibson and dozens of supporters were there to block their path.
The crews have yet to step foot on the property, and Ontario Provincial Police arrived Tuesday to ensure there was no incident.
Meyers said he welcomes the support, however late it may be in coming.
"I appreciate everything they are doing, they are not just fighting for me, they are fighting for the whole country," he said.
Department of National Defence responds
Capt. Christopher Daniel, a spokesman with the Department of National Defence, said in an email the expropriation was not the government's first choice, and was only done after negotiations reached an impasse.
Daniel said while the government took possession of the land in 2012, they allowed Meyers to stay to sell off his livestock and harvest his crops, and agreed to a license agreement that would allow him to stay until the end of last September.
When Meyers made a further request to extend the licensing agreement, the request was not granted "because the initial work for construction could not be delayed any longer" said Daniel.
Meyers, however, was allowed to gain access to the land to harvest crops he had planted in the summer of 2013, wrote Daniel.
"Because Mr. Meyers will remain in his residence, he therefore remains to be our neighbour and we continue to be respectful to him and his family," he wrote.
Meyers has a different interpretation of events, saying the government has harassed him into selling his cattle and turkeys and intimidated him into going when he doesn't want to.
"They've been bullying me for seven years," he said.