ex•pro•pri•ate 1 : to deprive of possession or proprietary rights
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy has released its first ever documentary. Your Land Is Not Your Land examines the precedent setting case of the expropriation of a portion of an 87 year old farmer’s farm by the Rural Municipality of Ellice, Manitoba.
Your Land is Not Your Land shows how Arthur Fouillard and his family developed a portion of their land into a beautiful scenic area over the past fifty years that they have owned the land. The site was a former Hudson Bay trading post called Fort Ellice, although there is little remaining evidence of its former use aside from a monument erected by the Foxwarren World War One Veterans.
The Fouillards have a history of happily allowing schools, charities, and members of the public access the beautiful and historic site. However it is their livelihood and their home. Like all property owners, they use their discretion against nuisances and vandalism. Ironically their good citizenship has made their land more desirable for the RM to expropriate.
The RM of Ellice now says it would like to develop a tourist attraction there. They say it is vital for the survival of the community to have this development. They even say that this goal is so important that the rights of property owners don’t matter. Nonetheless, as the film reveals, the RM is unable to present a business plan for this ‘community saving’ development.
The documentary is at the nexus of public policy in 2008. The issue is not an incidental occurrence, but the first test of a Manitoba Municipal Government Act that was rewritten in 1996 to expand the uses for which Municipalities can expropriate land. Expropriation for public purposes like roads is not new. However the effect of the new Municipal Government Act is to give municipalities an unfair advantage in running private operations. Unlike private citizens, this vaguely written law allows municipalities to expropriate land for initiatives like tourism operations that would compete with private land uses.
Unless the law changes, there will be more cases like the Fouillards. The 16 minute video Your Land is Not Your Land is also a new level of presentation for a Canadian public policy think tank. By presenting the issue in a nourishing but easily digested documentary format, Frontier is making a taking an emerging and important policy issue to a new level of public awareness.
The video can be seen on the Frontier website here.