Farmers who tried to launch a $17 billion class action lawsuit against the federal government and CWB are promising to keep fighting what they call an “unprecedented theft” of farmer assets.
Stewart Wells, chair of the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB), said farmer litigants will appeal a Nov. 29 ruling by Federal Court justice Daniele Tremblay-Lamer.
The ruling rejected many of the arguments put forward by the FCWB in its statement of claim against the federal government and refuted suggestions that farmers’ property had been unjustly confiscated by Ottawa and CWB.
In her ruling, Tremblay-Lamer suggested that changes to CWB legislation did not result in the loss or divestiture of farmer property or assets.
However, the government may have deprived farmers of some pool payouts during the 2011-12 transition year, she added.
Because of that, Tremblay-Lamer said a limited class action suit should be allowed to continue.
Wells said in a Jan. 2 news release that the plaintiffs believe Tremblay-Lamer erred in her judgment.
“Our supporters feel that it is imperative that we continue with our legal efforts to recover the $17 billion of value and assets farmers put into the wheat board,” he said.
“It was 50 years ago this past month the Canadian Wheat Board, in consultation with its farmer advisory committee, moved into a downtown Winnipeg office building bought and paid for with farmers’ money, and no amount of legal sophistry or rationalization can change the fact farmers are owed compensation for what amounts to an unprecedented theft of private resources by Ottawa.”
Anders Bruun, legal counsel for FCWB, said the appeal moves forward the legal action on the federal government’s seizure of the wheat board’s assets.
Those assets, according to FCWB plaintiffs, include rail cars, ships and the CWB’s head office.
“(This appeal) … shows the resolve of my clients to keep fighting against the expropriation without compensation that the government has visited on farmers,” Bruun said.
Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz rejected suggestions that farmer assets were confiscated.
Since the elimination of single desk grain marketing nearly a year and a half ago, Ritz has claimed that farmers had no claim to equity in CWB and that outstanding debts on CWB assets were greater than any equity held by CWB.
“Through numerous decisions, the Canadian justice system continues to uphold that producers were never shareholders in the CWB and thus have never owned its assets,’’ Ritz said in Jan. 3 statement.
“While a small few continue with frivolous lawsuits, marketing freedom is and will remain the law of the land,” he said.