Monday, 28 July 2014

Acadian Descendant Resists Eviction, Lives in National Park Decades Later

A hand-painted sign marks the property claimed by Acadian
descendant, Jackie Vautour, within Kouchibouguac National Park
and warns against trespassing by government employees.

Over the last year, I have become increasingly aware of and disturbed by contemporary cases of legally sanctioned theft by means of expropriation, also known as eminent domain. These government expropriations (i.e. legalized invasions and occupations of private properties) have resulted in forced evictions and demolitions of family homes, businesses and even entire neighbourhoods throughout North America.

Recent cases of government-sponsored property rights abuses, such as that of Ontario farmer Frank Meyers, have garnered some national media attention, and sparked public outcry. But growing awareness of and opposition to the issue of expropriation has done little to curb its practice, or even to protect individual property owners against these instances of government aggression.

Government abuse of, and total disregard for property rights is by no means a new trend in North America, and has been occurring since the continent was first settled by Europeans. The expulsion of the Acadians, or the first Acadian deportation occurred in the mid-seventeen hundreds, when the French-speaking inhabitants (Acadians) of what is now the Canadian Maritimes and northern New England were forcibly relocated by the British Imperialists throughout the American colonies, with some deported to France.

The Acadians, a largely ungoverned people since their settling of the continent in the early 1600s, were victims of the imperial battle between the British and French governments for the North American continent.

A contemporary case of expropriation with startling echoes of the Acadian expulsion, sometimes referred to as the second Acadian deportation, has recently come to my attention.  In the late 1960s, the Canadian and New Brunswick governments began an expropriation campaign to make way for Kouchibouguac National Park. The expropriation would account for the displacement of about 250 families, largely farmers and fishermen, and mostly of Acadian descent.

Despite early resistance from those families whose property was being expropriated, most eventually took the $5000-$7000 offered by the government for their land, and reluctantly accepted the reality of relocation. Many even accepted employment with Parks Canada at the newly established national park.

One man and his family, however, refused to surrender their home and livelihood (the expropriation also entailed surrender of fishing rights) to the government.

Painting of the Vautour home being demolished.
By Rocky Vautour (Jackie's son)

For seven years, Jackie Vautour steadfastly refused to sell his land to the government. With the Vautours unwilling to leave, in 1976, they were forcibly evicted, and their home demolished by the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources. Shortly thereafter, in 1977, Jackie Vautour, his wife and their children returned to the site of their home, where they took up residence in tents.

Jackie Vautour and his wife have remained at the site of their original home to this day. Over the course of several decades, the Vautours have lived in tents and other makeshift shelters. However, with little money, and their livelihood constantly threatened by the government (the Vautours have been arrested on several occasions for illegally fishing), their living environment has deteriorated in recent years.

Jackie Vautour and his wife, Yvonne.
Earlier this year, local businessmen donated a temporary shelter in the form of a mobile trailer, and the children of Jackie and Yvonne Vautour have started a fundraising campaign to raise money to buy or build a more permanent and safe structure for the Vautours to call home in the middle of Kouchibouguac National Park, where they have remained for more than thirty years, in bold defiance of government aggressors.

Jackie Vautour is a largely unsung hero, who has confidently and consistently asserted his right to his property. How successful might government expropriation campaigns continue to be if more property owners refused to surrender, not only by demanding their rights be respected by governments in courtrooms, but by exercising their property ownership in a very real way, by occupying and using their land in spite of an arbitrary legal framework that tells them they don’t own it?

For more information about the Vautour family's fundraising campaign, visit their Facebook page.

Click here to donate to the campaign.

Learn more about the second Acadian deportation, the Kouchibouguac expropriations, at .

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Canadian Military Resumes Armed Invasion of Farm

The Department of National Defence put in
place barricades, and moved in dumpsters to
the Meyers farm overnight.

The Department of National Defence (DND) has resumed its armed invasion of the Trenton, Ontario farm of 86-year-old Frank Meyers. Overnight, under the cover of darkness, the DND moved on to the farm, blocking Meyers' lane way access to his farm buildings, and moving in empty dumpsters, presumably in preparation for the demolition of the farm buildings.

The DND first attempted to take Meyers' farm and demolish the structures in January of this year, following the forced expropriation of the private property for the purpose of building a training facility for Joint Task Force 2, a highly secretive military "anti-terrorism" unit. The first attempt to take over Meyers' farm was blocked by an outpouring of public support for the elderly farmer, culminating in a peaceful occupation of the farm by supporters in the dead of winter.

Months have now passed since the DND was stood down by Meyers and his supporters, national media attention has died down and the voluntary round-the-clock monitoring of the property by occupiers became difficult to maintain. While some presumed silence on the part of the DND meant that they would accept temporary defeat, holding out on seizing the land until the elderly farmer dies, it seems the military was only waiting for the more favourable conditions of springtime to carry out their armed invasion.

Supporters of Meyers, communicating via their Facebook support page, are calling for a mass demonstration at the Meyers farm, 209 Meyers Creek Road, Trenton, Ontario, to block the demolition of the farm buildings. Online supporters of the farmer are using hashtag #SaveFranksFarm.

Neither Major Ronald Nelson, the man in charge of the demolition of the buildings, nor the Public Affairs Office of CFB Trenton could be reached for comment at the time of publication. Attempts continue to be made to reach officials at CFB Trenton. This article will be updated as information becomes available.

Read prior posts about the Meyers military expropriation here.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Farmer's Non-Compliance Exposes Government Violence

Last month, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the conviction of Durham, Ontario farmer and raw milk advocate Michael Schmidt. The court’s decision found that Schmidt’s cow-share program does not exempt him from regulations concerning the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk. Schmidt has vowed to take his case to the Supreme Court.
Ontario farmer Michael Schmidt's peaceful non-compliance
exposes the violence inherent in government regulations.

Photo from the Bovine.

The ruling went on to state that, “lifestyle choices as to food or substances to be consumed do not attract Charter protection.” That’s right. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a document that purports to protect the most fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadians, doesn’t cover a person’s freedom to choose what to eat.

Ontario’s milk law, as it is written, banning milk sales outside of the monopolized Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) quota system, is covered by a thin veil of false legitimacy which seeks to mask threats against independent dairy producers with incentives for those who will voluntarily participate in their monopoly, and to disguise a system of coercive force as voluntary and contractual.

Michael Schmidt’s case is an outstanding example of how peaceful non-compliance can help lift the veil of false legitimacy and shine light on the truly nefarious nature of government regulation. Since the early 1990s, Michael Schmidt has steadfastly refused to bow to threats of force made against him by the state, with regards to his dairy operation.

Schmidt’s peaceful non-compliance begins with his decision not to apply for a quota from the DFO. Here is where the force of the government first peeks out from beneath the thin veil. With his refusal to attain quota status; instead opting to operate independently, the government begins to claim that he is liable for thousands of dollars in fines. Of course, Schmidt never voluntarily signed a contract with the DFO or any other person or organization, which could have created such liability.

The real impact of Michael Schmidt’s non-compliance comes with his refusal to pay the government-imposed fines for violation of regulations to which he never agreed, pertaining to the private property of himself and his associates. It seems that Michael Schmidt understands that a payment of a fine resulting from non-compliance with a given government regulation would stand as a practical admission of guilt, and would grant legitimacy to a coercive regulatory system.

As his appeals are denied, and fines increased, it will be Schmidt’s continuing refusal to submit that will see him ultimately victorious in this David vs. Goliath tale. Michael Schmidt, the peaceful Ontario dairy farmer is a modern-day Hank Rearden of agriculture, refusing to grant moral sanction to those aggressing against him.
“If you fine me, you will have to seize my property to collect the fine—I will not volunteer to pay it. If you believe that you have the right to force me—use your guns openly. I will not help you to disguise the nature of your action.”
-Hank Rearden, Atlas Shrugged
If Schmidt’s battle at the Supreme Court proves legally unsuccessful, and he continues to refuse to pay the fines, he will have succeeded. 

With government imposed fines left unpaid, he could be dragged to a jail cell in handcuffs, as he has stated he is prepared to do, exposing the ultimately violent nature of the legislation in question. Conversely, the government might opt to protect its image and avoid the raw violence of kidnapping a peaceful man, dropping the fines against Schmidt, and proving unenforceable, laws that seek to inhibit voluntary interactions among free people. This would hopefully lead to a groundswell of peaceful non-compliance in food freedom and other areas of regulated life.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Entering the Raw Milk Underground

This article was also published on The Art of Not Being Governed Blog.

This week I descended, unprotected by the solicitous watch of government, into Ontario’s raw milk underground. Well … I’ve yet to be fully initiated; I haven’t even bought any milk yet.
Not yet...

Like in any subversive marketplace, aside from a few vocal advocates, most players on the raw milk scene seem intent on maintaining a high level of privacy as a means of protection against punishment by the state. On Monday afternoon I had a rendez-vous with a “mooshiner” * (someone who deals in raw milk) at a southern Ontario Tim Hortons, trepidatious though they were about the encounter.

While I’ve always been a dairy lover, I’m not much of a foodie otherwise, and therefore never took too much of an interest in issues surrounding food and farm freedom. However, my amble into the raw milk underground began when I wrote about attacks on Ontario farmers by government, mostly from a property rights perspective and stemming from my interest in the expropriation case of Trenton Ontario farmer Frank Meyers.

After writing a blog post on the subject of farmers coming up against government, in which I mentioned the case of raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt, I received a message from someone asking if I was looking for milk, and suggesting that we should connect, if so. My interest was piqued, but after a little bit of communication, my first raw milk contact was spooked by the fact that I was publicly blogging and socially networking about raw milk, among other topics – too much exposure!

Drawn in by the creamy intrigue of the illicit milk trade, I posted on social media about my contact being spooked, and made an appeal for someone willing to sell me some milk. Eventually, a mooshiner did agree to meet me at a Tim Hortons, though they were cautious about what they could tell me, for fear that I may publish some information that would reveal their identity and connection to the raw milk trade. No milk sale was made at our first meeting – trust has to be established first.

We spoke for about an hour, and I learned a lot about the inner-workings of Ontario’s raw milk market, some of which I hope to share with you as I gain a better understanding of the milk landscape.

This mooshiner’s insistence on privacy and discretion, I learned, is based on a fear of reprisal by the government – the crown, local health boards and the CFIA -, the individual farmers whom they represent, as well as the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), the organization responsible for dispensing legal milk quotas worth hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars to each farmer.

The mooshiner I met estimates that the majority of dairy farmers in Ontario – as many as 80% - engage in illegal “back door sales” of raw milk, and that almost all dairy farmers drink raw milk themselves. If that’s the case, then why don’t more farmers speak out in favour of raw milk legalization?

Under current legislation, most notably the Ontario Milk Act, dairy farmers are prohibited from selling milk outside of the DFO administered quota system. Quota-holding farmers are contractually bound to the DFO to produce a certain amount of milk to be pasteurized and centrally distributed for sale. Overproduction is penalized. Overproducing farmers are able to recoup some of the cost of production of the milk beyond their quota, as well as the associated penalties, by conducting back door sales. However, openly selling raw milk is a huge risk for quota-holding farmers, since being caught doing so would leave them without a quota that allows them to sell their milk to be pasteurized and distributed in the regulated marketplace, with fines and legal fees, and prohibited from selling any milk (raw or not) to provide them with a source of revenue.

I left the Tim Hortons without milk in hand, but on friendly terms with my new mooshiner acquaintance. Though more comfortable than at the outset, they were still concerned about what I might publicly divulge of our meeting, worrying that they might be identified.

It feels somewhat surreal to be operating in such a clandestine manner in order to procure something as seemingly benign as milk. I’m still learning about raw milk – so can’t speak too much to its health benefits or risks, but I’m sure that I’m not the only one who finds it ludicrous that I should have to enter into a “criminal” underground in order to voluntarily transact to buy food for myself, right?

Stay tuned for updates on my underground milk adventures!

*Try to come up with some milk and cow puns of your own for hours of fun!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Ontario Farms Under Attack

Since I began writing about Frank Meyers’ ongoing battle with the Canadian military to save his farm from armed invasion and seizure by the government, and in interacting with supporters of the 85-year-old Ontario farmer, issues of food and farm freedom have come onto my radar and interested me in a way they hadn’t before.

Ontario raw milk crusader Michael Schmidt
My interest in the Frank Meyers case was mostly due to what I see as an outright assault by the government on the right of all Canadians to own property – property of any sort; not just farms, homes or land. In interacting with Frank’s supporters I learned that many were drawn to support Frank’s cause due to an affinity for family-run farms, concerns about food security, genetically modified organisms and the like.

As a result, I have recently become acquainted with the cases of two other Ontario farmers who have come under assault by the state for engaging in peaceful and voluntary farming practices deemed inappropriate by legislators and bureaucrats.

Michael Schmidt, a Durham Ontario dairy farmer, has been providing families with raw milk since 1991. Schmidt has been at the forefront of the raw milk crusade in Canada, and has been at war with the Ontario government for many years. His cow share co-op provides fresh, raw milk to 150 families (over 600 people) in Ontario.

Despite the fact that his cow share scheme does not violate Ontario’s current raw milk laws, as co-op members own a portion of his cows and are not buying the milk from Schmidt, and members have not reported a single case of illness from the milk, his farm has been raided multiple times by government agencies, equipment stolen and product destroyed.

Schmidt has been convicted and fined on raw milk offences and seen those convictions overturned, only to have courts reverse the decision once more. Tomorrow, February 5, 2014, Michael Schmidt, represented by the Canadian Constitution Foundation, will appear before the Court of Appeal of Ontario in a final appeal of his convictions.

Montana Jones says a tearful goodbye to one of her sheep as
armed police look on.
Photo credit -

Sadly, Michael Schmidt is not the only Ontario farmer to be subjected to farm raids and property theft and destruction by government agencies. Shepherdess Montana Jones, who raised rare Shropshire sheep, began her battle with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) after a sheep she sold in 2007 to a farm in Alberta, tested positive for scrapie.

Scrapie is a disease that affects sheep, but is not transmittable to humans. In 2011, the CFIA ordered a quarantine of Jones’ sheep and tested them for scrapie. Despite the fact that not one of Jones' sheep tested positive for scrapie, the CFIA, citing that the test is only 88% accurate, announced that it would proceed with the euthanasia of the entire flock.

It is alleged, at this point, that Jones, in conspiracy with raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt, had the flock removed from her farm, in order to evade capture and euthanasia of the sheep by the CFIA. The sheep were later discovered on a farm south of Owen Sound Ontario and subsequently euthanized.

I cannot claim to be knowledgeable about the health implications of drinking raw milk, or the genetics of Shropshire sheep, so I will leave those issues to more qualified parties. What I do see in these cases, are individuals who peacefully and voluntarily interacted with their customers to provide a product or service. As a result of their peaceful and consensual activity, they were subjected to threats, and ultimately, raids on their property by agents of the government.

If every man has a right to life, and to not have that right infringed upon by others, then by extension, does he not have the right to sustain his life (i.e. feed himself) according to his own will? Even if, as the government claims, raw milk is dangerous to the health of those who consume it, does not a right to one’s own life, like any right, also imply the ability to dispose of that right in any manner one sees fit?

Monday, 27 January 2014

"Public Good" and "Economic Benefit" Justify Stealing?

The peaceful occupation of the Trenton Ontario farm of Frank Meyers has now entered into its third week. Supporters of the 85-year-old farmer have been occupying the farm since January 13, as a defensive measure, in order to prevent an armed invasion and seizure of the property by the Department of National Defence (DND). The DND is seeking to expropriate (i.e. steal) the farm in order to build a new training facility for the controversial and secretive Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2).

To this point, in my communications regarding the attempted expropriation of the Meyers farm, I have assumed that my audience sees the situation for what it is – an armed robbery.  This week, I would like to take the opportunity to address some points made by those who favour this expropriation (and expropriation in general) as a legitimate function of government.
Greater Good & Economic Benefit 

Those in favour of the expropriation say that the “greater public good” that would be achieved far outweighs the trauma that would be experienced by Mr. Meyers as a result of being forcibly evicted from his farm. Local proponents of the government’s plan, including Member of Parliament Rick Norlock, Quinte West Mayor John Williams and talk radio host Lorne Brooker, point to the economic benefit to the community, and the hundreds of new jobs that the new base is supposed to bring to the region, as basis for the legitimacy of the government’s action.

Consider this scenario: An armed robber enters a convenience store in your town and forces the storeowner, at gunpoint, to hand over all of the money in the store’s safe. He exits the store with a bag full of cash, leaving behind a box of chocolates and a thank you card for the shopkeeper.

Couldn’t it be said that the robber has acted for the greater good? Maybe he’s a friend of yours, a neighbour or co-worker.  Maybe he’s someone who brings his car to your auto repair business for maintenance, and someone with whom you share a beer on a weekly basis. He’ll likely use the money he’s stolen to purchase goods and services at local businesses around town. Maybe he’ll bring his car to your shop for a tune-up that he’s been putting off for a while, or buy everyone at the local pub a round next week. Heck, he’ll even buy a beer for the shopkeeper who he’s robbed. 

You, the proprietor of the pub and other business owners around town will be glad to see the additional business, and the townsfolk will be satisfied with a free beer. Shouldn’t the whole town be glad to have such a skilled and benevolent robber among them, who, through his act of violence, has stimulated the local economy?*

Surely you wouldn’t defend this man’s act of robbery merely based on the use he makes of the stolen property. If it’s not appropriate for an individual to steal, then by what mechanism does it become okay for a group of individuals, who call themselves the government, or the Department of National Defence, or defenders of freedom, or public servants, to do just that? 

*For a better economic understanding of the impact of crime, learn about the Broken Window Fallacy.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Peaceful Occupation of the Meyers Farm a Success, For Now

The peaceful occupation of the Trenton Ontario farm of Frank Meyers has succeeded, for now, in preventing the demolition of Mr. Meyers’ barns, and the ultimate and irreversible seizure of his prime farmland by the Department of National Defence (DND).

Image by Occupy Canada
Though Mr. Meyers had been promised by the DND that he would receive written notice in advance of the demolition of his farm buildings, the first of the peaceful occupiers arrived at the Meyers farm early Monday morning to keep vigilant watch. On the morning of January 13, an OPP cruiser arrived at the Meyers home, and an officer informed Frank that the demolition would indeed be taking place that very day.

The first occupiers on scene, Phil Ostroskie, Kim Verner-Ostroskie and Rachelle Verner, of Prince Edward County Ontario, keeping watch from their motor home parked in the driveway of the farm, alerted Mr. Meyers as military police and demolition crews, led by Major Ronald Nelson of CFB Trenton, rolled through Meyers’ corn field. In response to this armed invasion of his property, Mr. Meyers crossed the railroad tracks onto the part of his farm that the DND claims as their own, and served Major Nelson, as well as members of the demolition crew employed by Parkside Landscaping and Contracting, with cease and desist orders.

In receipt of the cease and desist orders, the invaders retreated, but not before threatening Mr. Meyers and his supporters with arrest, should they remain on the wrong side of the tracks upon their return. Dozens of supporters arrived throughout the day Monday, as Meyers scrambled to remove as many of his belongings from his barns as possible, in case demolition crews were to succeed in their mission of destroying his property.

The presence of Meyers’ supporters as well as several national media outlets on the farm kept demolition crews and military police at bay Monday, and through the night until early Tuesday morning. Under the cover of darkness and a blanket of fog, a single military police vehicle approached Meyers’ barns by way of a makeshift road forged through the cornfield by demolition crews the previous morning. Vigilant occupiers, who had remained on the farm overnight, once again alerted Frank to the invasion, and the military police quickly retreated down the path, with 85-year-old Meyers following closely behind in his John Deere tractor.

At approximately 9:00 am on Tuesday morning, Mr. Meyers placed a call to CFB Trenton, demanding an audience on his farm with base commander Colonel David Lothian. Meyers asked that the Colonel attend with documentation in-hand, proving the legitimacy of the DND’s claimed ownership of his farm. Having received no response from the Colonel, Meyers and his supporters crossed the railroad tracks onto the DND-claimed portion of his farm, and set up camp next to the barns. Military police did not respond, and demonstrators remained for the duration of the day and through the night. 

Occupiers of the Meyers farm vow to remain on site around
the clock in order to protect the property against armed
military invasion.
Photo by Michael Clark

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for CFB Trenton told local media that demolition of the farm buildings would be postponed, citing a desire to “make this as easy as possible on the individual (Meyers)” and a recognition of the occupiers’ “right to protest”. There were, however, no statements made indicating that plans to demolish the buildings would be scrapped. Instead, it seems, the DND will wait for occupiers to leave to farm so that they can proceed unencumbered with the destruction of Meyers’ property. CFB Trenton spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Danny Breton said, “We are waiting until conditions are appropriate to continue further development of the site.”

While the military waits for peaceful occupiers of the Meyers farm to disappear so they can proceed with their plans, supporters of the farmer remain on site, and vow to stay put around the clock to protect the private property against this armed invasion.