The new Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act (formerly Bill 156) has provided us with an opportunity to engage our local OPP detachments on the issue of trespass and how the new legislation better protects our farm properties and businesses.
The Prince Edward Federation of Agriculture (PEFA) recently initiated a conversation with their local OPP detachment after some alarming activist activity occurred in December 2020. An activist took footage of a local dairy farm under the cover of darkness and while trespassing on the property. The footage was produced in the form of a website and doctored to present the farm sinisterly. OPP were made aware of the situation and while the perpetrator is known to police, charges were not able to be laid as the activist kept his face well-covered in the footage. This was an eye-opening experience for our small county, and it reminded us all that the threat of activists is pervasive and could happen anywhere, anytime.
During the aftermath of the situation, PEFA came to the realization that the OPP were unaware of the new legislation and its role in the rural agricultural community. PEFA took this as an opportunity to introduce the legislation to OPP and start a dialogue on how we can all do better to mitigate threats to our farms. The OPP detachment was very open to hearing from their local farmers and took the time to meet with us virtually.
What we learned from this conversation is that the OPP in some areas may need to be prompted to look closer at the new legislation and learn how it differentiates from the Trespass to Property Act. Some of the key aspects of the new legislation include animal protection zones, consent and false pretenses, signage, and increased penalties.
One example of a misconception we were able to clarify is that of the need for signage to protect your farm property. Under the new Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, there is no requirement for the landowner/farmer to post signage for the Act to apply. Our farms are covered inherently as animal protection zones under the Act, and only under rare circumstances is signage required to identify animal protection zones. Persons are prohibited from interfering or interacting with farm animals in or on animal protection zones without prior consent of the owner or occupier of the farm, facility, or premise.
Moving forward, all members of the agricultural industry should familiarize themselves with the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, and are encouraged to start using the full name of the legislation now that it is no longer a Bill. OFA has created a straightforward document that highlights the key parts of the Act and is easily shareable with your network. It can be found here. Consider reaching out to your local police force and sharing the new Act with them. This Act can only protect our farms if everyone is familiar with it and knows how to implement it.