Ontario ready to bring safety act into force

A no trespassing sign. (Photo by Adelle Loiselle.)

Ontario’s new Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act is coming into force.

Today Ontario’s Ag Minister, Ernie Hardeman, says the new law recognizes the risks when individuals trespass onto farms and agri-food processing facilities or when they interfere with the transportation of livestock.

Hardeman says he’s heard from too many farmers who no longer felt safe on their own property.

The Act increases protections for Ontario’s food supply, farmers, agri-food businesses and farm animals from trespassing activities while maintaining the right for people to participate in lawful protests on public property, provided such protests do not have the potential to cause harm and are conducted in a safe manner.

Ontario Federation of Agriculture President, Peggy Brekveld, states it’s critically important to be able to maintain a steady, safe and sustainable food supply chain while protecting the safety of those who feed us.

And Murray Sherk, the chair of Dairy Farmers of Ontario, says it gives producers a peace of mind that their farms, families, animals and staff are protected.

Here’s what the act does:
Escalates fines of up 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
Prescribing aggravating factors that would allow the court to consider factors that might justify an increased fine
Allowing the court to order restitution for damage in prescribed circumstances which could include damage to a farmer’s livestock or from theft
Increasing protection for farmers against civil liability from people who were hurt while trespassing or contravening the act, provided the farmer did not directly cause the harm
Removing consent to enter a farm property when it was given under duress or false pretenses

The group Animal Justice has called it an ‘ag gag’ law and says this will muzzle those who want to bring attention to animal cruelty situations.

Last weekend, footage from an undercover video was released by Animal Justice, taken at an Ontario pig farm and showed what the group called distressing scenes.

Animal Justice also filed an animal cruelty complaint and a workplace health and safety complaint.