Class-action suit next step for pro-CWB groups

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Two farm groups supporting the Canadian Wheat Board’s single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley say they "can and will" file a class-action lawsuit against the federal government for compensation.

Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, working with the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance and "other interested parties," said Wednesday it plans to "broaden its current legal challenge" against the federal government’s planned deregulation of the CWB.

The FCWB, in a separate court case last month, obtained a Federal Court ruling which found Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz’s Bill C-18 — the legal text of the deregulation process now underway — to be a breach of Ritz’s "statutory duty" as per the federal CWB Act.

The federal government is appealing the Federal Court ruling, although it didn’t include any injunction that would have halted C-18′s passage or the deregulation process.

"We continue to hope that the courts will uphold Justice (Douglas) Campbell’s ruling that Ritz’s Bill C-18 legislation is ‘an affront to the rule of law’ and that the need to sue for compensation will be unnecessary," said Swift Current, Sask. farmer Stewart Wells, one of the eight CWB directors fired last month by the federal government.

"But if the worst happens, farmers will demand full compensation from the federal government for the consequences of its undemocratic actions." 

"It is clear that the Harper government is pursuing a policy of confiscation without either consultation or compensation," FCWB member Larry Bohdanovich of Grandview, Man. said in the same release. "This is totally unacceptable and prairie farmers will not take this lying down."

"One of our legal avenues is to  launch a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Prairie farmers to recover the value which will be lost should Minister Ritz succeed in ending the single desk," CWBA chairman Gilbert Ferre of Zenon Park, Sask. said in the same release. "Our legal counsel is prepared to file a submission in court within days if necessary."

Farmers’ interests, Wells said, would be "best served by a broader legal challenge mounted by the Friends of the CWB, the CWB Alliance, and other membership-based organizations because they represent a wider range and a greater depth of experience and knowledge on Wheat Board issues."

The groups in recent months have been gathering and documenting evidence "to support a comprehensive claim for compensation," he said.

FCWB’s Winnipeg lawyer Anders Bruun said Wednesday that court action "seems to be the only way for Prairie farmers to get the attention of the ideologically-driven Harper government."

Related stories:

Proposed farmers’ suit seeks claim on CWB’s assets, Jan. 9, 2012

Federal judge rips Ritz’s plans for CWB reform, Dec. 7, 2011