An Update on the Canadian Farmers for Justice

web posted December 1996

Jailed Farmer Gets Time on CBC

Andy McMechan, the farmer jailed for daring to believe in a free market, and act on it, was interviewed by the CBC’s Peter Gzowski on his Morningside program. The interview aired on November 1. I didn’t hear about the interview until after it was aired so I am afraid I cannot provide you with any details on how it went.

Federal Court Challenge Continues…

Rick Dobranski took the stand recently for two days of testimony, and expressed that he had no idea how restrictive the CWB control was to farmers until he became a farmer. Dobranski, formerly a partner in Allstate Grain Company, handled grains, oilseeds, pulse crops, spice crops, birdseed and more on behalf of farmers into markets all over the world, from 1979 until Allstate Grain was sold in 1987. He continued on with the company until 1989.

Under Allstate, Dobranski testified, farmers had several choices as to how their grain was going to be priced. Allstate turned over all profits to the farmers, not including expenses and a marketing fee which was stated in advance on the contract. Allstate also dealt with farmers voluntarily and was subject to scrutiny to Canadian Grain Commission regulations.

The CWB maintains that voluntary pooling cannot work, but Dobranski was entrusted with over 400 pools, voluntarily, by farmers.

So what’s happened to Dobranski since? He returned to his family’s farm in Roblin, Manitoba in 1991. When with Allstate Grain, he traded grains all over the world in the free market, but he now was in a designated area, meaning he had to sell his grain to the state monopoly and then buy it back at whatever price they determined.

Dobranski offered stories of how the CWB unfairly treated him, including charging him for storage and interest fees on grain that had never left his farm, in once case charging over $60/tonne on grain that was still in his bins.

Dobranski stated that if he had known how oppressive the CWB was to farmers, he would not have returned to farm in a Wheat Board controlled area. Dobranski now works part time with International Grain Trade in Vancouver, British Columbia.

CFFJ, 18 farmers file Constitutional Application

The CFFJ recently filed a Constitutional Application to the Alberta Court of Queens Bench pursuant to Section 11(g) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to obtain a declaration from the Court hold that:

"failing to provide to the Chief Officer of Customs a license granted by the Canadian Wheat Board for the exportation of wheat or barley" does not constitute an offense under Canadian or International Law and is not Criminal according to the General Principles of the Community of Nations. They also insist that the charge does infringe upon their rights as guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that the charge runs contrary to section 11(g) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

The CFFJ have argued that the powers of the CWB are illegal and therefore unenforceable. David Sawatzky was acquitted on this ground and in the court cases of Andy McMechan and Bill Cairns the judge also stated that there was no law that a farmer had to provide a license to the Chief Officer of Customs.

The CFFJ hopes that the Alberta Government Constitutional Lawyers will join in the application and argue for the rights of Alberta farmers.

NCC Launches New Campaign

The National Citizens Coalition launched a campaign to free Andy McMechan and scrap the CWB. Running in twelve newspapers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, the ad slams the feds for imprisoning McMechan and calls for farmers to have the freedom to market their grain either through the CWB or independently. The NCC ad rightly states that if the CWB is providing superior service, then they have nothing to fear from a dual marketing arrangement. The ad also asks for donations, valid considering that they are providing assistance, both financial and legal, to McMechan and his family.

Turn About is Fair Play

Allan Johnston of Johnson’s, a grain broker, recently wrote a letter that he sent to the CWB and several newspapers. If you are unsure how the CWB treats farmers, then read this and learn what life would be like if CWB rules were imposed on the CWB.

Another View: Pay Equity for the Canadian Wheat Board

On the weekend I was thinking about the pooling of grain and how the wheat board claims that "single desk marketing" and price pooling are the best thing for farmers in Western Canada.

If this is the case, then lets let them in. We will select a farmer appointed panel that will secretly pool all wages of Wheat Board employees under the Wheat Board Wages Board. We will get the right to do this by asking Mr. Goodale to pass a Ministerial Order to this effect, which we know he has the power and the will to do.

This panel will set their own wages, pensions, and have the right to deduct all costs up front (secretly, of course) to prevent the opposition, whomever it may be, from getting information on these costs. The panel will pay each month about 60 per cent of their wages each month, and then later, after two Christmas periods have passed, they will make a final payment on their wages (less all costs of administration).

This whole thought is unbelievable. How can they possibly lose, just think, less wages, and a whole new board employing a lot more Canadians for the total well being of Board employees.

When the new board needs a new employee to cover some new area, wages will never have to be discussed, because even if they have value added benefits like a university degree or twenty years of experience in marketing or accounting, all wages will be the same. People will be lining up to work at the Wheat Board. But to make things even sweeter for all the employees, if they want to quit the Wheat Board Wages Board, all they will have to do is apply to the Farmers Panel to buy back their job. This panel, of course, will act very fairly and set some sort of low buy back price for that job on their services owed to the Farm Panel.

This program will be so widely excepted around the world that everyone will want in, and will want the expertise on setting it up and controlling it. Just think, the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and all their employees will adopt this as well. Then Leroy Larson (Sask. Wheat Pool President) will be receiving the same wage as his elevator managers, everyone will be happy. The Liberal government will believe so strongly in this policy that is Canadian made, that they will adopt it for all politicians in Ottawa.

This is wonderful, why have they not thought of it before, with the close working relationship that the Wheat Board has with college professors, and all their collective wisdom, how has this been missed?

Allan Johnston, Johnston’s

Ralph Goodale to be Subpoenaed

Forty-five minutes after David Sawatzky was acquitted in late May 1996, Agricultural Minister Ralph Goodale passed an Order-in-Council which, he said, plugged a 'loophole' in the CWB export monopoly. All the farmers accused in Alberta made their export in April, before the change to the CWB regulations by Minister Goodale. They simply need to know:

  1. Which loophole did the Minister plug?
  2. Since they were charged before the Minister created this regulation, how can the charges be sound?
  3. Since the regulation which the Minister amended were those under the CWB Act, why is he continuing to charge farmers under the Customs Act? Why not being the Wheat Board out to enforce its own rules?

History's Lessons...

If you listen to the government, the farmers who want to practice freedom are a fringe group and that farmers have traditionally supported a collectivist state run agency to market their wheat for them. You might even believe them...until a letter was discovered recently in a Manitoba farmer's desk. The letter, dated 1952, brings up the same issues as the CFFJ does! The letter shows that some farmers have always opposed a state run program to market grain. Here's the letter's text:

January 14, 1952

Special Request to Manitoba Farmers

The wording of the ballot in the coarse grains Referendum deliberately created the impression that the Wheat Board might be eliminated if a majority of farmers voted "No".

That's why a big majority of farmers voted "Yes" and that is also why our organizationb refrained from adivisng farmers which way to vote. We don't want either the open market or the closed market to be forced on farmers who are opposed to the particular system advocated.

What we DO want -- and what we firmly believe the majority of Manitoba farmers want -- is freedom of action to market our grain either through a voluntary board or the open market. We have reason to believe that governmental authorities will make this possible if enough farmers indicate a desire for freedom of action.

To guide us in this battle for freedom of action in grain marketing we are now asking you Manitoba farmers to indicate below just how you would like to have your grain marketed.

You do not have to sign this opinion poll if you do not want to -- but please indicate your preference on this letter and mail it back as soon as possible in the enclosed stamped envelope, so that we may know the true desire of Manitoba farmers.

Yours very truly,
Bruce MacKenzie (signed)

Farmer' Protective Assn. of Manitoba

Do you wish to exercise freedom of action in marketing your oats and barley, whereby you can use EITHER a voluntary board OR the open market? Write "YES" or "NO" below.

This letter does show that some farmers have always been opposed to a forced state run system. The government refused to listen then...and is doing so now.

Support the CFFJ!

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