Saturday, February 27, 2021

McGrail aiming to ‘keep farms and food supply safe’

North Kent Councillor Jamie McGrail entered a successful motion on Monday night, February 10, to have the Municipality of Chatham-Kent support Bill 156: Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act.

McGrail said the new legislation is an important way to keep farms and food supply safe for all Ontarians.

“Bill 156 provides a balanced approach to protecting farms while recognizing a citizen’s right to protest,” McGrail said in her motion.

“Bill 156 will ensure farm businesses have a legal standing to protect their farm, family and employees, livestock, crops and ultimately the entire food system.”

McGrail’s motion directed Chatham-Kent to support the new proposed legislation by circulating a letter of support to Ontario municipalities and the Minister of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs, Ernie Hardeman.

The motion required a vote beforehand, which required a two thirds result, as McGrail requested waiving the notice period.

Both votes were passed unanimously by Council.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture are in support of the bill as well. For more details, click here.

Here are more details released by the province back in December:

The proposed Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2019, if passed, is intended to keep Ontario’s farmers, their families, agri-food workers and farm animals safe by reducing the likelihood of trespassing on farms and processing facilities. The proposed legislation also enhances protections from obstructions in the transportation of livestock.

The proposed legislation would address unique risks and challenges associated with trespassing onto a farm or into a food processing facility.

Targeting specific areas

The proposed legislation would create “animal protection zones” on farms, processing facilities and other prescribed premises. Animal protection zones include animal enclosures, areas marked with signs in accordance with regulations and other areas on the property the Minister may prescribe.

The proposed Act would apply to animal enclosure regardless of whether there is any signage related to trespass or biosecurity.

Providing greater deterrents to trespass

The proposed legislation would recognize the unique risks and further deter trespass on farm or food processing facilities and obstructions to farm animal transport by:

– Providing escalating fines of up to $15,000 for a first offence and up to $25,000 for subsequent offences, compared to a $10,000 maximum fine under the Trespass to Property Act.

– Allowing the court to order restitution for any injury, loss or damages suffered as a result of the offence. This could include loss of livestock to stress or disease or loss of food due to safety protocols not being followed and potential contamination.

– Prescribing aggravating factors that would allow the court to consider factors that might justify an increased fine. If the court choses not to increase the fine based on the aggravating factors they must provide reasons for their decision.

– Increasing protection for farmers against civil liability from people who were hurt while trespassing or contravening the act as long as there was no intent to do harm or reckless disregard.

Increasing safety around livestock transport trucks

Concerns have been raised about people in close proximity to moving trucks or attempting to stop them on a public roadway. As well, interacting with animals in transport can cause unnecessary additional stress and risk introducing contaminants. The proposed legislation would address this by:

– Prohibiting the stopping, hindering, obstructing or interfering with a motor vehicle that is transporting farm animals.

– Prohibiting interfering or interacting with farm animals being transported by a motor vehicle without explicit prior consent.

Making it easier to prosecute trespass

The legislation would be an additional tool for law enforcement and would make it easier for Ontario’s legal system to prosecute individuals for offences as it would:

– Require that a person have explicit prior consent before entering an animal protection zone.

– Invalidate consent if it was obtained under false pretense or duress.

– Expand the limitation period in which charges can be laid to two years from the day of the offence or two years from the day when evidence of the offence was uncovered. This compares to a limitation of six months under the Trespass to Property Act.

Protection of animals under the proposed Act

The health and welfare of animals is important to all of us but trespassers may unknowingly endanger them. The proposed legislation would maintain and enhance animal health by:

– Reducing the risk of animals being exposed to stress and disease by trespassers.

– Including exceptions to allow access for those enforcing animal welfare legislation, as well as emergency personnel, federal and provincial inspectors, municipal by-law officers and other authorized people.

– Containing a clause to allow the reference to animal welfare legislation to be updated to the Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act if both are passed by the legislature.

Addressing additional risks specific to farms and agri-food premises

The proposed legislation would establish additional offences to address challenges and risks specific to farms, agri-food premises and farm animal transport including:

– Entering into prescribed areas of a farm or processing facility without explicit prior consent;

– Failing to comply promptly with a request to leave the premises or stop interacting with animals from the owner or occupier of a farm or food processing facility.

– Failing to comply promptly with a request from the driver to stop hindering or obstructing a livestock transport vehicle or to stop interfering or interacting with the animals

– Providing false or misleading identification; and

– Defacing, altering, damaging or removing any signs that have been posted to identify prescribed areas where farm animals are kept.

This proposed legislation does not affect:

– Indigenous hunting and fishing rights on rural land outside of an animal protection zone, and

– Existing specific provisions under the Trespass to Property Act.

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