NCC Horror Stories

The Munro Dairy Farm

Harold Munro fought the expropriation of his land in the Supreme Court, and lost

Harold Munro had his farm expropriated by the NCC for the greenbelt in 1959. He fought the expropriation of his land, at Innes and Blair roads, all the way to the Supreme Court and lost. The decision more or less established the NCC's legal authority to do as it pleases. In the event, 38 years later, the NCC proved the court's decision to be wrong when they had the land rezoned and sold it.

The Ottawa Citizen -- Final
City Sep 7, 1996

Deja vu: As with the Champlain Bridge battle, the capital's builders have 
been at odds with local interests before. Randy Boswell

N-C-C. You only have to say these three letters to get Harold Munro's 
blood boiling, even 30 years after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the 
local dairy farmer had to hand over his 195-acre homestead to the National 
Capital Commission.

It was a landmark judgment, one that helped the NCC create the Greenbelt 
and transform a modest government town into a cosmopolitan capital. But the 
NCC's best intentions for Ottawa-Hull have sometimes been pursued over the 
objections of local folk such as Munro who didn't want to give up their 
land -- or the neighborhood peace -- for a national dream.

The feelings of frustration and powerlessness that have haunted Munro are 
no doubt familiar to a new generation of property owners in west-end Ottawa. 
Many of them oppose an NCC plan to widen the Champlain Bridge. Such conflict 
between local interests and federal objectives is a sadly recurrent feature 
of NCC history.

Munro, now 66 and living near Carp, was a young man in the late 1950s with a 
major milking operation in what was then rural Gloucester Township.

It was a decent spread, he says, with a good barn, a solid farmhouse and a 
clay pit used a lot in those days to supply material for a major east-west 
commuter road being built across Ottawa -- today's Queensway.

Then, on a June day in 1959, Munro was served notice that the NCC had 
expropriated his land to help create something they were calling the 
"Greenbelt" to surround urban Ottawa. It was all part of a master plan 
adopted a year earlier by the federal government that established the 
National Capital Commission and empowered it to build a world-class capital 
with a lush, green, undeveloped fringe.

The idea, to Harold Munro and dozens of other local farmers, seemed to be 
a hell of a waste of good land and money.

"But you can't beat them," says Munro. "That's the government and they did 
what they want. And they still do."

Munro tried like no other local citizen to beat the NCC. His lawyers argued 
the $200,000 offered for the farm was far too low. And besides, they said, 
the British North America Act didn't give constitutional authority to the 
federal government to take someone's property.

"It had nothing to do with money," recalls Munro. "It was the principle of 
the thing. I wanted to keep my land."

But after seven years of legal wrangling, the Supreme Court upheld the 
federal government's actions in a ruling still hailed as the legal basis of 
NCC authority.

"I find it difficult," wrote Justice John Cartwright, "to suggest a subject 
matter of legislation which more clearly goes beyond local or provincial 
interests and is the concern of Canada as a whole than the development, 
conservation and improvement of the national capital region in accordance 
with a coherent plan in order that the nature and character of the seat of 
the Government of Canada may be in accordance with its national significance."

The NCC got its Greenbelt -- which, it should be said, local residents have 
grown to treasure.

Munro says he got some fine words, a little more than $300,000 for his farm, 
and 30 years, so far, with a bitter taste in his mouth.

Copyright  1996 The Ottawa Citizen



The Ottawa Citizen -- Final
City May 14, 1997

Gloucester Council has rezoned for commercial use Greenbelt land that the NCC 
expropriated from a local farmer 38 years ago. Sophie Nadeau

Harold Munro fought the expropriation of his land at Innes and Blair roads to 
the National Capital Commission in the Supreme Court and lost. That land has 
been part of the city's Greenbelt ever since. That is, until yesterday, when 
council rezoned the land at the NCC's request.

"They want to sell off the land and get money for it and pay their bills," 
Mr. Munro said. "But they're doing it at the expense of former farmers."

The NCC did not offer Mr. Munro and other farmers the option to buy back the 

Instead, it requested a re-zoning of the area as part of its "Greenbelt 
Master Plan" for the city. It says the 20 acres in question are no longer 
agriculturally viable and the probable expansion of Blair Road makes the 
re-zoning necessary.

Mr. Munro claims the NCC will make more than ten times what it paid for the 
land at the time of expropriation. He's fighting the change, with many others 
from the area, on principle.

The NCC is not legally obligated to give Mr. Munro, or any others who gave up 
the rights to their land, money resulting from the sale of the property.

But Mr. Munro says some kind of payment would be fair.

"I doubt they'll give me any money, but if they did I would give it all to 
charity," Mr. Munro says.

Diane Dupuis, a spokesperson with the commission, says its business with 
Mr. Munro is over.

"During the expropriation process, funds were paid. So, we have already 
paid," Ms. Dupuis said.

She said that the Greenbelt is not being eroded since it will be expanded in 
other areas and new recreational planning is under way.

Gloucester council passed a motion at last night's meeting supporting the 
farmers' right to get first crack at the land, saying that the NCC and other 
agencies have, in similar situations, let other farmers buy back their land.

But council also admitted that when it comes to federal jurisdictions, it 
can't do much except to encourage the decision makers to be fair.

Meanwhile, homeowners in the area are furious council approved the re-zoning. 
A group circulated a petition against the changes.

Sonya LaRock was one of the people heading up that effort. She says public 
meetings on the issue showed overwhelming opposition to the re-zoning.

"What was the point of having the public meetings in the first place if 
the councillors aren't going to listen to us?" Ms. LaRock asked.

Carolyn Gorman lives right across the street from the 
soon-to-be-commercialized green space at Innes and Blair.

"The traffic will increase. There will be more accidents. My kid is supposed 
to cross that road. What will he do? I'm furious," Ms. Gorman said.

Copyright  1997 The Ottawa Citizen