A Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Judge has certified a class action lawsuit alleging financial irregularities occurred during the privatization of the Canadian Wheat Board.
Manitoba farmer Andrew Dennis filed the lawsuit against the Government of Canada and G3 Canada Ltd.
Dennis is acting as the representative plaintiff for farmers who sold wheat to the CWB’s pool accounts in the 2010/11 and 2011/12 crop years.
The lawsuit alleges $145,000,000 of farmer’s money was unlawfully sheltered into an account that could be transferred to the purchasers with the privatization of the CWB in 2012.
A statement from the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB) states that the Manitoba Court of Appeal accepted in a 2020 ruling that if this money had not been sheltered by the government, it would have been paid to farmers. The claim also alleges that the CWB is liable to farmers by not paying them the full amount required under their contracts.
Stewart Wells, Chair of the FCWB, says the certification of the lawsuit now means the case can move to trial.
"The way that dismantling was done by Mr. Ritz was morally wrong, and now we're going to find out if it was not just morally wrong, but also legally wrong."
Anders Bruun, one of the lawyers involved, says they are also seeking $10,000,000 in punitive damages plus interest on the full amount claimed for this misallocation of funds.
Wells says for over a decade the FCWB have alleged that the Government of Canada and CWB took money that belonged to farmers and sold it as part of the asset base taken over by the
Crown and then provided to G3 Canada Ltd.
"We're alleging that in his haste, and I think it's not going too far to call Mr. Ritz's actions mean spirited. But in his haste to strip the assets away from farmers and get ready to give those assets to the government of Saudi Arabia and the grain company Bunge. Mr. Ritz and the Cabinet orders were a little overzealous and actually went past his authority as agricultural minister."
Wells says the wheels of justice have been grinding very slowly because the government has been wasting taxpayers money trying to delay everything, but those wheels are still grinding, and that's the important point.
More information on Manitoba Court of Appeal Justice Martin’s judgment and other background information can be found here.