Ken Larsen’s Letter to the Editor with the giant headline ‘Myth: the CWB put farmers in jail for selling their wheat’ has been widely distributed. It is notable not for what it includes, but for what it excludes. We all know that when Western Canadian farmers tried to export their own grain they were charged and some were eventually jailed.
Mr. Larsen writes about the charges against farmers that were laid through the Customs Act, the Immigration Act and the Criminal Code and then tries to leave the impression that none of this has anything to do with the CWB or the CWB Act. However, without the CWB Act farmers would have been free to do their own business. The CWB Act was the pin around which all the other charges revolved. Mr. Larsen knows that when farmers tried to sell and export their own wheat the whole weight of government came down on their heads. Every Act that the Liberal government could drag out was used to punish farmers.
Mr. Larsen also knows that when the courts threw out the initial convictions against farmers for exporting their grain, Mr. Goodale passed an Order in Council to recriminalize their activities. Mr. Larsen is aware that the Liberal government then used five different departments (Justice, CRA, RCMP, CWB and Customs and Immigration) against individual producers.
Mr. Larsen knows that the Liberal government preferred to use the Customs Act against farmers because its penalties were far more severe and immediate than the CWB Act. On August 1st the Prime Minister extended pardons to the producers who had been charged under the old system. The CWB Act has now been changed and the opportunity to export grain is available to individual producers. The unfair laws under which so many farmers were charged no longer apply and so it is reasonable to extend pardons.
Mr. Larsen and others still have the opportunity to do business with the CWB. It continues to operate. Farmers can finally make their own choice where and to whom they sell their wheat.
Member of Parliament for Cypress Hills-Grasslands