Ag Minister introduces legislation to protect farmers, animals and food supply from unwanted trespassers

Ernie Hardeman, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. (Photo by Kirk Scott)

The province has introduced legislation aimed at quelling on-farm protests.

The “Security From Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act” aims to address unique risks and challenges associated with unwanted trespassers on farmers, including the risks they post, possible exposure of farm animals to stress and disease, as well as introducing contaminants into the food supply.

The proposed act would escalate fines to $15,000 for a first offence, and $25,000 for subsequent offences, compared to a maximum of $10,000 under the Trespass to Property Act.

It would also provide exemptions to allow access for municipal by-law officers, police and persons appointed under provincial animal protection and other legislation to access the property.

Ontario Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman says “we started this process several months ago, when the agricultural community, including producers, processors and transporters said they were becoming concerned about the increasing intensity of the demonstrations, and the risks they were feeling. We’ve been consulting every since, developing what we thought was the right approach to balance the food safety and the trespassing issue, which is the safety for the individuals, and the safety of the livestock”.

Hardeman noted he has held more than 20 roundtables, meetings and conference calls with various segments of the agri-food industry, rural municipalities and representatives of animal advocacy organizations.

The bill will have to be debated in the Ontario legislature and go to committee. After a third reading, it would become law.