MIRABEL, QUE. — The Canadian government made a “big mistake” in 1969 when it expropriated thousands of hectares of land north of Montreal to build the ill-fated Mirabel airport project, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said recently.
Roughly 3,000 families were affected by the expropriations in the 1960s. Some of those who lived through it attended the minister’s news conference north of Montreal. Garneau told them Ottawa planned to sell back the last remaining unused land it expropriated for construction of the Mirabel airport.
“We learned difficult lessons, and I am sorry you were the victims of that,” Garneau said.
The project was supposed to turn the Mirabel airport into the main air travel hub for the Montreal region. But that vision never came to be. The airport never caught on with passengers, and its terminal was demolished in 2014. It now serves only cargo airlines.
About 38,800 hectares of farmland were expropriated by Ottawa in the 1960s to make way for the project. The federal government had sold back 32,000 hectares in the 1980s, and in 2006 it began returning what remained outside the airport zone. But it excluded 300 hectares that were inaccessible by road.
That obstacle was removed in 2016 when Ottawa and the City of Mirabel reached an agreement to open up the last bit of territory.
The recent announcement was related to the final unused 300 hectares and it ends the long-running dispute over expropriated lands outside the airport zone. But the City of Mirabel continues to eye excess lands within the airport zone for industrial development purposes.
© 2019 The Canadian Press