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Canada Ottawa says it will sell back Mirabel land expropriated for airport in 1969

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau, right, chats with Philippe Huot, whose land was expropriated, after a news conference announcing the return of land expropriated fifty years ago for Mirabel airport on April 15, 2019 in Mirabel, Que.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The Canadian government says it is planning to sell back the last remaining unused land it expropriated in 1969 for construction of the Mirabel airport.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said today Ottawa will offer the roughly 300 hectares of land for sale to its original owners or their descendants.

About 38,800 hectares of farmland were expropriated by Ottawa in the 1960s to make way for the ill-fated airport project. The Mirabel airport never caught on with passengers, and its terminal was demolished in 2014. It now serves only cargo airlines.

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Ottawa 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 government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau wanted to turn the Mirabel airport into the main hub of airline travel for the Montreal region, but that vision never came to be. About 3,000 families were affected by the expropriations in the 1960s.

Today’s announcement 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.

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