Can you imagine starting a business, creating a product and then being sent to jail for the “crime” of selling that product to whoever you wanted? This sounds absurd, doesn’t it? Of course, yet this was the reality for farmers in Western Canada for the past 70 years.
The Canadian Wheat Board made it a crime for a farmer to sell the fruits of his labour, namely the wheat he grew on his own land, to anyone but the Wheat Board. What’s even more grotesque is that this law applied ONLY to farmers west of the Ontario/Manitoba border. If you farmed in Ontario or Quebec, for example, you could sell your wheat to anyone you wanted.
By any standard imaginable, this is wrong, yet the Wheat Board fought long and hard to keep their monopoly on the fruits of Western labour in place.
Here is a brief explanation of the problem and the hypocrisy of the system, written by FarmersForJustice.com:
Freedom is not something that should differ from one province to the next. When it comes to wheat and barley it differs vastly.
Eastern farmers, millers and bakers can buy, sell, trade and export to whomever they please.
Western farmers, millers and bakers are imprisoned by the Federal Government, the Canadian Wheat Board and their bureaucrats.
The difference is not in legislation, but in policy.
The Canadian Wheat Board Act includes all of Canada. The difference is in the way it operates. When an Eastern farmer or processor wants to buy, sell, trade or export, they simply call 1-800-ASK-4CWB and are immediately granted approval. In some cases our Eastern colleagues do not even apply, but simply but, sell, trade or export to whomever, however, and wherever they see fit, without so much as a call tot he bureaucratic nightmare we call the Canadian Wheat Board.
When a Western farmer tries to carry out the same transaction, they are told that they must sell it to the Canadian Wheat Board. If you do not follow this demand you will be charged and jailed like twenty plus Western farmers already have.
Canada sent 13 farmers to prison for the terrible crime of selling their wheat to someone other than the government monopoly. In most cases it was symbolic sales to express civil disobedience for a fundamentally bad law. In one case the recipient of the wheat was an American 4H Club, hardly a bad cause!
Canada’s Conservative Government, led by Prime Minster Stephen Harper, has finally made this blight on Canadian history right, for that’s what sending wheat farmers to jail is: a blight, a disgrace, something you’d expect in Communist Russia, not downtown Winnipeg, Regina or Calgary.
“Never, never, never again will western farmers — and only western farmers — growing their own wheat on their own land be told how they can and can’t market their products,” Harper told the crowd.
Harper even took the monumental step of redressing this wrong by pardoning the farmers who dared challenge the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly by selling their wheat to someone else.
“These people were not criminals. They were our fellow citizens. Citizens who protested injustice by submitting themselves peacefully to the consequences of challenging injustice.”
Here are the names of the courageous men who were sent to prison for fighting against what amounts to eastern Canadian oppression of western farmers:
Gary Brandt, 33, of Viking, faced 62 days in jail. He took a bag of wheat across the border, forgot about it and ended up carrying it back into Canada.
Ron Duffy, 50, from Lacombe, faced 68 days in jail. He took one bag across the border, then a commercial quantity of wheat across the line.
Jim Chatenay, 59, from Penhold, faced 62 days in jail. He took a bushel of wheat to the U.S. and donated it to a 4-H club.
Martin Hall, 42, from Vulcan, faced 131 days in jail. He took a semi-trailer full of wheat across the border and sold it.
Rod Hanger, 32, from Three Hills, faced 75 days in jail. He took a commercial load of wheat across the border and sold it.
Noel Hyslip, 42, from Vulcan, faced 131 days in jail. He took a semi-trailer full of wheat across the border and sold it.
Ike Lanier, 72, from Lethbridge, faced 60 days in jail. He trucked 300 bushels across the border.
Bill Moore, 63, from Red Deer, faced 131 days in jail. He donated a bag of wheat to a 4-H Club, then took a half-ton truck of wheat across the border.
Jim Ness, 58, from New Brigden, faced 25 days in jail. He drove 100 lbs. of barley across the border and donated it to the 4-H Club.
Mark Peterson, 42, from Cereal, faced 124 days in jail. He hauled a truckload of wheat across the border.
Rick Strankman, 49, from Altario, faces 180 days in jail. He took 756 bushels of wheat across the border and sold it for $1.50 per bushel higher than the Canadian price.
John Turcato, 42, from Taber, faced 131 days in jail. He drove 900 bushels of barley across the border.
Darren Winczura, 35, from Viking, faced 24 days in jail. He drove a bag of wheat across the border.