ONTARIO ADOPTS NEW LAW TO PROTECT PUBLIC SAFETY AND FOOD SUPPLYPublished on December 06, 2020
GUELPH - The Ontario government is set to proclaim the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020, putting the safety of our food supply first. The new law recognizes the unique risks that can result when individuals trespass onto farms and agri-food processing facilities or when they interfere with the transportation of livestock.
"We are delivering on a significant pillar of our government's commitment to protect the health and safety of our food supply, the agri-food sector and our farm animals," said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. "I heard from too many farmers who no longer felt safe on their own property. Through this Act we are adding tough new protections for them and their families as well as our food supply chain."
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.
"We received wide and strong support from the sector and from municipalities for this new Act, including important feedback on the Minister's Regulation needed to bring the Act into force," said Minister Hardeman.
"Proclamation of the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020 is very welcome news for Ontario's agri-food system," said Peggy Brekveld, Ontario Federation of Agriculture President. "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. The Act does a commendable job at protecting people, animals and the entire food value chain from the risks associated with trespass, while maintaining the right to lawful and peaceful protest."
"The implementation of these regulations is a milestone that will help protect our food supply while giving dairy producers peace of mind that their farms, families, animals and staff are protected," said Murray Sherk, Chair of Dairy Farmers of Ontario. "We appreciate the government's judicious action on this issue and thank the Minister and his team for continued consultation and support."
"The members of the Ontario Livestock Transporters' Alliance (OTLA) are very pleased the Ontario government is proclaiming the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act," said Susan Fitzgerald, Executive Director of OTLA. "This is a very important piece of legislation as it will assist in protecting those who work in agriculture from harassment, trespass and other unlawful practices. For the OLTA members specifically, we feel this Act will help insure that human safety and animal welfare are protected during loading, transporting and unloading."
Ontario consulted widely on a Minister's regulation from August 31 to October 15, 2020, receiving over 850 responses from the public, including Indigenous communities. This input was used in the development of the Minister's Regulation. The Act includes protections for Aboriginal and treaty rights. Ontario will take steps to educate the public and agri-food sector on the new legislation to encourage a smooth implementation, including raising awareness of Aboriginal and treaty rights.
The Act will help protect our food supply and deter trespassing by
- Escalating 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 protections in the Act will help to improve working conditions for farmers, farm families and agri-food sector employees and allow agri-businesses to focus on important aspects of their operations including the production of safe, high-quality food for Ontario families.
- The Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020 was introduced on December 2, 2019 and received Royal Assent on June 18, 2020.
- On September 2, 2020, the Ontario government proclaimed sections 6(1), 7, 14(1) 3 and 15(1) of the Act into force to address an urgent public safety concern resulting from continued interference with livestock transport trucks outside of animal processing facilities. This was creating unsafe situations for animals, the people responsible for their safe transport, and those who were interfering with the trucks.
- Nearly 130 municipalities have passed or supported council resolutions calling on the government to strengthen protections for farm families, employees and animals.