Raised in a family of educators, historians, environmentalists, and social justice advocates, Mary felt she’d “come home” when she and her husband began renovating a century farmhouse on the Federal Lands in 1980. Within weeks they were celebrating the 5th anniversary of the airport’s “cancellation” with People or Planes. Little did she know that 36 years on she would still be fighting for these Lands! First as a journalist and later as an educator at the local museum village, she researched North Pickering’s involvement in the so-called Farmers Revolt, and realized she was living on what had been rebel lands twice over – during the Rebellion of 1837, and during the airport battle of 1972. Mary is the proud mother of three environmentalists, all of whom would willingly surrender the old farmhouse to a new generation of farmers once the Lands have been saved!
Laura is the minister at Claremont United Church. She sees protecting the Federal Lands as inextricably tied to social justice. In a time of increasing climate change and disruption, she believes that safeguarding our high-quality farmlands for localised, diverse, and sustainable agriculture is the greatest defence against burgeoning food insecurity and hunger both locally and globally. With the Class 1 soils, vital watersheds, and integral natural habitats found on the Lands, Laura sees their protection as a means to also rekindle people’s wonder and love for nature and to nurture humanity’s need to live in respect and harmony with all of creation.
David has been involved in the fight against a Pickering airport since 1998, first with V.O.C.A.L. (Voters Organized to Cancel the Airport Lands) and then with Land Over Landings. He strongly believes there is no business case for an airport but that there is one for agriculture, research, and tourism. He is amazed by the local politicians’ belief in “Build it and they will come.” They have only to look at the experiences of Hamilton and Waterloo. David is a CPA and lives in Claremont.
When Gabrielle first stepped into the house that became her home on the Lands it was March 1985, and with the empty fields all around she was reminded of her childhood growing up on a farm on the edge of Exmoor in England. With her husband she quietly cared for the 1870s leased farmhouse and extensive property, riding the waves of the shifting political sands, keeping a low profile, planting trees, raising a son, growing vegetables…But by 2005 the future was looking increasingly precarious. With the birth of Land Over Landings, staying under the radar was no longer an option: the shy piano teacher had a steep learning curve but it was a small price to pay for the wonderful friendships made within the group and the incredible opportunity to contribute to a cause so absolutely, fundamentally right.
Pat has vivid childhood memories of the family farm just south of Ottawa but she spent most of her life as a city girl in downtown Montreal and Toronto, in the graphic design and publishing/communications worlds. When she and her husband moved to Durham Region in 2007, the plan was to ease into retirement. Instead, she learned that the spectre of an airport continued to haunt and economically diminish the once-vibrant farming community of North Pickering. A life-long armchair protester and writer of letters to editors, and an acolyte of Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, David Attenborough, Oliver Rackham, and Jon Stewart, she was attracted to Land Over Landings like an iron filing to a magnet. Snap. And all previous experience took on the aspect of simulations and field exercises leading up to the real thing.
Alexis Edghill Whalen
Alexis spent most of her childhood in the great outdoors, much of it on the Federal Lands, where she developed a strong connection with the natural world. Some of her most significant childhood memories are of her efforts to persuade others to see the world the way she did. A woodlot wasn’t just waiting for a highway to burst through it, but a habitat for native species. A pristine river system wasn’t a potential storm sewer for urban sprawl, but a vital source of clean water. Silence and darkness weren’t a void awaiting development, but a space in which to breathe, listen, and imagine a world where the economic benefits of preservation would trump those of development. Alexis is a business graduate from the University of Guelph, mother, photographer, and active volunteer who firmly believes in advocacy through doing.
Maggie has always had a love of the land and nature – and always finds herself called back to the land. Growing up in a rural area on Montreal Island she delighted in exploring the local woods, meadows, ponds, and streams. She feels fortunate to have been able to live and raise her two daughters on the unspoiled “airport” lands in north Pickering, and hopes the lands will remain a rural setting for her grandchildren to enjoy as well.
I have always felt that we are stewards of the earth and that we should strive to leave our bit of the planet in the state it was in when we arrived – ideally, to leave it in far better condition that we found it.
Susan grew up in what is now a 9th generation farming family in the former Township of Markham. She recalls being a 12 year old who was deeply moved by the 1972 expropriations for the Pickering airport on land a few miles to the east of her family’s farm. She even made her own roadside People or Planes sign. Fast forward 40 years: she and her husband moved into a 150-year-old house on the Federal Lands and Susan re-engaged with the fight to stop the airport, joining the Land Over Landings Executive Committee. She is thrilled that two large sections of the Lands have been designated for the Rouge National Urban Park for farming, natural habitat, and tourism, and is committed to achieving a similar outcome for the last piece of the Lands.
Reid is a recent University of Waterloo graduate with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies and a Sociology minor. She completed her undergraduate thesis on the topic of youth civic engagement, using the Pickering Airport and Land Over Landings as a case study. The topic is near and dear to her, as a member of the third generation of Williamsons to live in the shadow of a perpetually threatened airport. Her grandparents were victims of the 1970s provincial expropriations next to the airport site, and both Reid and her father witnessed the degradation of the family home over the subsequent decades. Her personal history and her desire to inspire a love of nature in younger generations drew her to Land Over Landings and our effort to preserve a beautiful and life-giving natural resource.
Member at Large
In the mid-sixties, Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring pulled Heather, an artist, straight into the environmental movement. In the late 1970s she leased a house on the Federal Lands for herself and her young son and soon learned about the airport fight and People or Planes. In 2005, when evictions and demolitions were again rampant on the Lands, she and a handful of like-minded individuals formed Land Over Landings, an extension of POP, to try to convince the federal government to re-establish a sustainable, profitable agricultural community on the Lands. Heather’s art includes land art: large-scale, three-dimensional installations, with food sovereignty as the central theme, leaving the public with a question to ponder: “How can we feed our expanding local population without harming the environment that sustains us?” Heather is currently preparing a new field drawing – A Field Guide for Honeybees – for an environmental/educational centre north of Toronto.
Member at Large, Head of Research
Jim Miller co-owns Thistle Ha’, a national historic farm adjacent to the Federal Lands near Claremont, ON.
Gord, a teacher, and his wife Myrna, moved their young family to the lovely little hamlet of Brougham in 1967, only to have their world turned upside down by the 1972 expropriation of 18,600 acres of land, including Brougham, for an international airport. Gord and Myrna joined People or Planes, partly to save their home and partly to fight the ill-conceived plan to destroy the area’s high-quality farmland. After POP’s hard work got the airport shelved in 1975, Gord and Myrna chose to stay in Brougham, hoping that their property would be returned to them. They have wound up leasing their own home from Transport Canada for more than 40 years, and have joined or led protests whenever new airport threats periodically surfaced. In 2005, when the federal government began evicting long-term tenants, the newly formed group Land Over Landings, with Gord as chair, succeeded in getting the evictions stopped. Mary Delaney became chair in 2013 and Gord was named honorary chair in 2015 in recognition of more than four decades of tireless commitment to this cause.