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Stranger than Fiction

Revenge of the Loyalists

From Harper's Magazine

From a press release issued in July by two members of the Canadian House of Commons after President Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act, which seeks to protect the claims of Americans and Cuban exiles who lost property in Cuba during that country's communist revolution. The law permits U.S. courts to sanction foreign companies investing in Cuba who use such property, and to forbid their officials from entering the United States; executives of a Canadian mining firm were among the first to be barred under the law.

Following the new moral standard of international jurisprudence set by the Helms-Burton law, Members of Parliament John Godfrey and Peter Milliken will introduce the Godfrey-Milliken law. The bill would permit descendants of the United Empire Loyalists who fled the United States in the years following the 1776 American Revolution to reclaim land that is rightfully theirs, land that was confiscated unjustly and illegally by the American government and its citizens. The bill would also enable Canada to exclude corporate officers (as well as their spouses and children) who trafficked in this confiscated property. The Loyalists' descendants now number three million Canadians. In keeping with the Helms-Burton principle, these Canadians would be entitled to restitution, compensation, and interest. The value of their alienated property can be measured in billions of dollars. John Godfrey and Peter Milliken are both of Loyalist descent and represent communities where Loyalists settled. Following passage of the bill, John Godfrey intends to press the American government for the recovery of his family home, Carter's Grove, in Virginia. Peter Milliken intends to press for the return of his ancestor's property in the lush Mohawk Valley of New York State.

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