| Feb 24, 2005


Feature artcle, February 24, 2005

Feature article February 24, 2005

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Lanark Landowners warmly received in Cloyne

by Jeff Green

Members of the Conservationists of Frontenac Addington, (COFA) a group that is dedicated to hunting, trapping and fishing within Addington Highlands and North Frontenac, were an attentive audience for Randy Hillier last week.

Hillier is the President and principal spokesman for the Lanark Landowners Association (LLA), a group that has taken its Rural Revolution message throughout rural southern Ontario this winter with a series of farm tractor convoys on the 401 Highway from Tilsonburg to Prescott.

The LLA is planning on taking its message of rural frustration and landowners rights directly to the Ontario government next month, with tractors scheduled to converge on Queens Park on March 9.

Several other LLA members, including Vice Presidents Merle Bowes and John Vanderspank, all wearing their trademark Back off Government sweatshirts and red suspenders, joined Randy Hillier in Cloyne.

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In his address, Hillier spoke of how the Lanark Landowners came into being. Some farmers in Lanark County, including John Vanderspank, were losing their crops to deer, and the Ministry of Natural Resources were reluctant to permit deer culls from taking place.

They said the deer are more important than the farmers, Hillier recounted. The Lanark Landowners organized a deer cull and instead of leading to arrests, it led to changes in the rules.

In Lanark, people had spent 7 years going to meetings to get permission to kill nuisance deer and it came to nothing. In 2003, we had a deer cull and three weeks later we had permits to kill 300, Hillier said.

In his address to COFA, Randy Hillier made reference to a litany of complaints rural Ontarians have had with all three levels of government in the past few years: from the definition of sawdust as toxic waste; to problems Maple Syrup producers and Trailer Park owners have had with the property assessment process; to gun control and Water Regulation 170/03; to the closing of abattoirs in Ontario; to the species at risk act; the amalgamation act; and the environmental protection act.

While some of these issues, such as the designation of Maple sugar shacks as industrial rather than farm property, have been dealt with by the province, and others, such as trailer assessment and Water Regulation 170/03, are under review, Hillier seemed to feel that the fact that these regulations were under consideration is an affront to the rural way of life.

He summed up the Lanark Landowners attitude towards all of these problems by saying, We have one major principle. We believe in the right to enjoy the use of our property and the right to make a living on it. We will accomplish a constitutional change to make property rights a fundamental right.

In the past two years the Lanark Landowners has grown from a group of four rural landowners to a group that includes thousands of members from Ontario and beyond, and the affiliation of landowner associations in Renfrew, Leeds and Grenville, Hastings, and West Carleton, Hillier said.

Hillier described how the Lanark Landowners act in a very public manner to promote their cause.

When we first went to Ottawa, the police asked for a meeting. So we went. They said, you cant drive tractors down the 417. We said we were going to drive tractors down the 417. They said, you cant fence off the street in front of the Parliament buildings and hold a cattle auction. We said, fine, we wont fence off the street; well let the cattle go. Then they said ok, you can fence off the street and have an auction.

When the Lanark Landowners bring their rural revolution to Toronto on March 9, they will hold a public assembly where they will pass nine Acts, which they will then present to the Legislature.

The Acts are wide ranging, including the Right of Ownership Act, under which the Federal Government will be requested to amend the charter of rights and freedoms, and the Land Use Act, which will forbid land re-zonings without the consent of the landowner, except in rare cases. Compensation will be required in those cases. Other Acts would alter the judicial system, and there is a Farm /Rural Restitution Act which would address deceptive camouflage of food/environmental safety regulations among other things. As well, the Nutrient Management Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act are to be rescinded.

There were many questions for Randy Hillier from COFA members, all of them reflecting sympathy with the positions taken by the Lanark Landowners.

When he was asked if he thought the in-your-face style of the group would ever lead to confrontations with authorities, he responded, We do not have secrets. We tell everybody what we are going to do and when were going to do it.. In a democracy, people have rights and governments have obligations. The day our protests lead to confrontations is the day we know we are not living in a democracy, but I dont think thats going to happen. The day the police are going to start arresting middle-class, rural landowners, theyre in a lot of trouble, and they dont want to go there.

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