BONVILLE, Ontario – Ontario Minister of Agriculture Ernie Hardeman was at the Lions Club in Bonville on Monday, Feb. 3 to present Bill 156 or the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2019.
The aim of the bill is to discourage independent actors, such as animal rights groups, from trespassing on private farm land.
Included in the bill are increased fines for trespassing on a farm, with up to $15,000 in fines for the first offence, and up to $25,000 for the second offence.
Bill 156 goes hand-in-hand with the Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act which creates inspectors who have taken over the duties of monitoring animal welfare from the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (OSPCA), particularly on farms.
Hardeman explained that the goal of his bill was to promote safety on farms for farmers, protesters, and for the food that farms produce.
“Everyone in this province has a right to a safe workplace, and for farmers, home and work is often the same place,” he said.
“Everyone has a right to protest, but that does not extend to trespassing on private property,” Hardeman added. “We are doing what we can to keep food safe, and that includes keeping it safe from trespassers.”
Hardeman said that the inspectors who will work under the PAWS Act will be trained to know the difference between abuse and animal husbandry.
“The way that farm animals exist is different than the way pets exist,” Hardeman said, giving the example of horses, saying that it winter, it was healthy for horses to be out in the cold.
Jim McDonell, Progressive Conservative MPP for Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry endorsed his colleagues new initiative.
“Anyone who grows up in the country knows how animals are,” he said. “We want to make sure that farmers have the right to privacy and that our food is safe.”
South Glengarry farmer Walter Oeggerli who was at Hardeman’s presentation said he was in favour of the bill.
“Overall I’m in favour of it,” he said. “It strengthens our ability to do what we do well while preventing misunderstandings from those who would tell us what we should do.”
“We have a moral obligation to treat our animals well,” Oeggerli added.