Expropriation in Canada: Discretion Masquerading as Law

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Although expropriation is one of the most extreme uses of government power, Canadian governments have almost complete discretion over when they resort to it. Governments often justify this violation of their citizens’ property rights as being necessary to carry out public purposes. But expropriations that serve private interests, and those that are unnecessary, have become commonplace. Citizens have little recourse against arbitrary, unfair, and unjustified expropriations. This study by Elizabeth Brubaker provides an overview of federal and provincial expropriation laws. It examines the forums that give landowners only an illusion of meaningful participation in the expropriation process. It looks at a number of disputed expropriations, and at how the courts have grappled with them. And it suggests reforms to better balance the needs of governments with the rights of landowners. Continue reading

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Expropriation Gone Awry: A Case Study

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In this conference presentation, Elizabeth Brubaker discusses the city of Toronto’s expropriation of six properties on the northeast corner of Yonge and Dundas in order to make way for a multi-screen cinema, restaurants, shops, and offices. Brubaker argues that forcibly taking land from private owners and re-selling it to private developers was an abuse of the city’s powers. She calls for an overhaul of the expropriation process to ensure that property is taken only for legitimate public uses and that landowners are treated fairly. Continue reading