From the Manitoba Co-operator.
Calls for BSE settlement reach Commons
10/7/2010 11:55:00 PM
Cattle producers' calls for the federal government to negotiate an out-of-court settlement to class actions filed over the arrival of BSE in the Canadian herd have made it to the House of Commons.
Identical petitions from groups of cattle producers were presented Wednesday in the Commons by NDP agriculture critic and B.C. MP Alex Atamanenko, and by southern Ontario MP and rancher Larry Miller, who chairs both the Commons standing committee on agriculture and the Conservatives' rural caucus.
Atamanenko presented petition papers signed by a "couple of hundred people from Manitoba," while Miller presented on behalf of 26 residents of his Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound constituency.
"The petition mentions that there was a class action on behalf of cattle producers of Canada lodged in April 2005 claiming that negligence on the part of Agriculture Canada allowed BSE from imported British cattle to infect Canadian cattle," Atamanenko said in the Commons. "This class action has now been certified and is proceeding to trial."
Miller's and Atamanenko's presentations were among a list of petitions presented Wednesday during the "routine proceedings" section of the day's business, and were not debated in the Commons or otherwise discussed.
The petitions were co-ordinated by a group of Canadian ranchers following meetings in recent months with Cameron Pallett, the Toronto lawyer spearheading the class actions.
Specifically, they call on the government to name retired Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci as a mediator to facilitate settlement between the Government of Canada and the cattle farmers.
"The government of Canada settled the hepatitis C class actions. The government of Canada settled the residential schools class actions," the petition papers note. "The cattle farmers of Canada need help now. The BSE class action represents the interests of 135,000 hardworking Canadian farm families."
Petition organizers have also sent letters to all members of Parliament urging support for a settlement.
"The BSE class action has been in progress since 2005, and has passed all the legal criteria to be a true national class action suit. The next time it goes before a judge it is to be decided," the letters noted.
"We have heard that if it does go to court, that it could be 10 years before a final judgment is reached. We do not have 10 years," the letters state.
"Our farm income programs have ceased to work for us. Our equity is a fraction of what it was, and many producers are just waiting for those first good prices in order to salvage some equity and get out. When people get out of the cattle business, they do not come back."
In a separate essay last month outlining the case for a mediated settlement, petition organizers John Schwartzentruber of Brussels, Ont. and Gail Kasprick of Neepawa, Man. said that "surely the principles of good governance by a responsible government require that these matters be looked into by an independent qualified professional.
"Who better than a retired justice of the Supreme Court of Canada who has been employed by the federal government in a similar fashion on more than one occasion?"
In an interview last year, lawyer Pallett said he didn't see the trial getting underway for another four years at best, owing to the "procedural song-and-dance" that accompanies such cases.
Pallett represents Niagara Falls-area cattle producer Bill Sauer, the representative plaintiff for a "class" that includes all Canadian cattle producers outside Quebec. In that province, a related and certified class action suit by producer Donald Berneche continues.
The two suits claim negligence within the government led directly to the BSE-related closure of the U.S. border and other foreign ports. The lawsuits' allegations against the government and individual federal bureaucrats have not yet been proven in court.
Sauer's suit, as originally filed in April 2005, had claimed $100,000 for every member of the "class" in "general damages… for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life" as well as "aggravated damages" of $100,000 per class member plus "punitive damages" of $100 million from the suit's "corporate defendants."
But if it's willing to settle, Pallett said, the government would benefit from a better resolution, politically speaking, and on "more favourable economic terms." Cattle producers could then get compensation without "years of litigation."
For all the discussion across the western world about tax-funded economic stimulus, a settlement in this suit would offer real economic impact, he said.
Thank you to MP Joe Comartin (NDP, Windsor Tecumseh) for presenting to the House the petition he received on behalf of Canada's beef producers.
With the repeated attention that this issue has now received in the House, it is now imperative that beef producers call, email - any form of contact- their MP to ask them to support our request for the appointment of a mediator to settle our claim for compensation for losses due to the (preventable) BSE debacle.
In conversation with MP Bev Shipley, it was disheartening to hear him ask " . . .why am I not hearing from my constituents on this?" We will get only as much as we ask for.
Call your MP.
Happy New Year John,
I wish you alot of progress this year....with the politicians.
Please send me any new information you have and I will try to include in our newsletters.
Take care and keep up the good fight.
877 438-5729 x5013