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How does land expropriation work?

Expropriation is when the government or certain empowered public agencies take your land without your consent.

This happens when the government needs that specific land for some public works or public purpose. Examples can include building or expanding military bases, utilities or schools.

Each province has its own expropriation act, and so does the federal government, so laws are not entirely the same across Canada. However, there are similarities in most acts.

How much notice do I get?

The expropriator is legally required to send a notice of intention to the landowner by registered mail and, depending on the applicable law, may have to do more.

In B.C., they must also provide the owner with a copy of the act itself, post signs on the targeted land and file a notice with the land title office.

In Ontario or New Brunswick, the expropriator must also publish a notice in a local newspaper.

Once notified, you typically have between 60 and 90 days to vacate the land, depending on your governing law.

Do I get compensated?

Yes, the government can’t just take your land for free. Expropriation laws all spell out a compensation scheme. This also depends on your governing law. The federal act offers a basic compensation formula that gives the owner “the market value of the owner's estate or interest in the expropriated land plus reasonable damages for disturbance.”

Provincial laws are similar, typically using a calculation of market value and special damages for disturbance.

Can I fight an expropriation?

You can file an objection to an intended expropriation. Most laws give you 30 days from the date you were notified to make your complaint.

Once you’ve objected, there is a hearing or inquiry involving all affected parties. An inquiry officer then produces a report evaluation whether the expropriation is proper or necessary. It may suggest alterations to the amount of land sought or the proposed construction project.

However, these reports are not legally binding and the “expropriating authority” can still proceed as they wish.

Can the government take aboriginal land?

Section 4 of the federal Expropriation Act sets limitations on acquisition of aboriginal land. It details certain Cree, Sechelt, and Yukon lands that are not to be expropriated except by order of the Governor in Council (the Governor-General, acting on advice of the federal cabinet).

Read more:

Federal Expropriation Act 

British Columbia Expropriation Act