A Conservative private member’s bill to prevent trespassing on farms received second reading in the House of Commons last week.
Bill C-205, sponsored by Foothills MP John Barlow, would make it an offence to enter, without authorization, a barn or place where animals are kept. The intent is to prevent the animals from being exposed to disease.
It passed second reading with 178 votes in favour and 155 against, and now moves to the Liberal-majority standing committee on agriculture for debate.
“Bill C-205 received strong support from the NDP, Bloc and Conservative members who recognize the necessity for common sense legislation to safeguard the biosecurity of our farms,” said Barlow in a statement. “It is with great disappointment to see that the Liberals do not support measures to protect the biosecurity of our farms or safeguard our food supply chain, especially during a pandemic.”
He said the legislation, which would amend the Health of Animals Act, would also protect the rights of whistleblowers and an individual’s right to peacefully protest on public property. And, he said it would protect farmers’ mental health.
Currently, the act sets out how animal owners must control disease and toxic substances but does not address trespassers. There are cases of protesters entering different types of livestock facilities, which puts them and the animals at risk.
In Barlow’s riding, activists entered a turkey farm for a sit-in in 2019.
Barlow noted that viruses like African swine fever, BSE, foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza all threaten agriculture and strengthening biosecurity measures is required.
Pat Finnigan, Liberal chair of the agriculture committee, said during Feb. 26 House debate that he understood the intent of the bill and that the government agrees with implementing solid biosecurity measures, but he added they are dealt with by existing legislation or provincial laws.
He noted that the punishment under the Criminal Code of Canada would be fines of up to $5,000 and up to two years in prison.
Last week, animal rights group Animal Justice said it is suing the Ontario government over its farm trespass legislation, which it calls an “ag gag” law passed to conceal animal suffering. The group said it infringes on the right to freedom of expression.