Free land? How’s your Russian?


A reader named Eric emailed me Tuesday.

Hi John

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Where or how can I get free land in BC?

I’d like to raise my own land off grid in BC. Who should I contact?

Best, Eric

He included a link to a column I wrote in June 2016, “B.C. needs Putin’s free land scheme.” Describing the divide between homeowners and those who will never be able to own a home as having reached the “terminal phase” in B.C., I suggested we emulate the Russians, who had just passed a law allowing their citizens to apply for up to one hectare of free land in six different regions of the country’s Far East. Crown land, I pointed out, makes up some 95 per cent of B.C. and 89 per cent of Canada. “We have the land,” I wrote. “We just need leaders with some character, vision and heart.”

I replied to Eric:

Hi Eric

The politicians didn’t exactly jump on my suggestion, though they are still struggling to deal with the housing issue.

I would say go right to the top and contact Premier John Horgan. Maybe he could check with the Russian embassy to find out how it’s done.

If that doesn’t work, do you speak Russian?

Cheers, John

It wasn’t a facetious question. As Russia Today reported last year, foreigners are also eligible to apply for free land, but they would have to become naturalized citizens to register full property rights.

The program, it turns out, has been so successful that Russian President Vladimir Putin said he supports the idea of expanding it to all regions of the country. “There is enough land in Russia,” he was quoted as saying.

Imagine that. Enough land.

As of June last year, 93,000 applications had been filed and almost 20,000 had been approved, RT reported. Described as the Russian version of the Homestead Act, the only condition is that homesteaders are willing to put the land to good use, which means using it for any lawful purpose. After five years, it can be sold or leased out.

Some people have told me this idea would never fly in Canada because First Nations would block it. Nonsense, I answer. They would be eligible, too. In fact, because Canada is such an attractive destination, the government would almost certainly have to limit applicants to Canadian citizens who have been in the country for a defined length of time, or better yet were born here. Depending on the amount of land initially made available, it might have to be limited to Canadians whose parents were born here as well, under the basic principle that we look after natives first. Under any of those scenarios, First Nations people would be eligible.

Oh yes, I’ve figured this all out. I’m just waiting for that call from Horgan.

Or maybe Canada’s foreign affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland, will get on the job. She’s certainly got the right name for it. Indeed, she could work with Putin’s people to make it happen. There must be some way for her to get around that travel ban.

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