The Frontier Centre for Public Policy has released its first ever documentary, examining 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 can be viewed at www.yourlandisnotyourland.ca.
The documentary chronicles the story of Marcel Fouillard and his family who, over the last 50 years, have developed a portion of the land they owned into a beautiful scenic area. 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 Fouillards.
Unfortunately, by their efforts, the Fouillards, who have a history of happily allowing schools, charities, and members of the public access the beautiful and historic site, made their land into a desirable expropriation target by the local Rural Municipality, which would like to develop it into a tourist attraction.
The RM of Ellice now says 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 documentray reveals, the RM is unable to present a business plan for this ‘community saving’ development.
The documentary is at the centre of a public policy debate surrounding the re-writing of the Manitoba Municipal Government Act in 1996, which expanded the uses for which municipalities can expropriate land.
It’s no longer about expropriating land for public purposes, such as roads. The effect of the new Municipal Government Act, the documentary maintains, 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, the documentary concludes, there will be more cases like the Fouillards.