The federal ag critic introduced a private member’s bill to change the Health of Animals Act
By Diego Flammini
A member of the federal opposition has put forward a bill aimed at protecting farms from trespassers.
John Barlow, the Conservative shadow minister of agriculture and agri-food, introduced a private member’s bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday that would make it an offence under the Health of Animals Act to “enter, without lawful authority or excuse, a place in which animals are kept if doing so could result in the exposure of the animals to disease or toxic substance.”
The bill doesn’t limit people’s rights to peacefully protest on public property.
The provincial governments of Alberta, Quebec and Ontario have taken steps to increase penalties for farm trespassers.
This piece of legislation addresses a gap in farm protections on a national level.
“Currently, there is nothing that addresses trespassers, which is what this bill aims to change,” Barlow said in Ottawa on Wednesday.
The punishments would include fines that range from $50,000 to $500,000, and jail time ranging in duration from six months to two years.
Canadian farmers are in favour of Barlow’s bill.
Implementing this bill protects farmers on two fronts, said Joe Hofer, a livestock and crop producer from near Westlock, Alta.
“We live on our farms too, so when you’ve got people invading farms, they’re not only invading our workplace but our homes as well,” he told Farms.com. “I’m all for penalizing people who come onto our farms without our permission.”
Barlow mentioned biosecurity issues while introducing the bill.
“The risk from viruses like the (African) swine fever are very real,” Barlow said.
Keeping unwanted visitors out is one way to ensure the safety of farm animals, Hofer said.
“You don’t know where those people are coming from and what they’re bringing onto the farm,” he said. “All it takes is for one animal to get sick and then you’ve got an outbreak on your hands and you don’t know where it originated from.”
Industry stakeholders also support Barlow’s bill.
“We believe that the introduction of this bill is an important and necessary step in the right direction,” Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said in a statement.