Individuals who “stop, hinder, obstruct or otherwise interfere with a motor vehicle transporting farm animals” can be fined as of September 2, 2020. The Ontario government proclaimed four key sections under the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020, making it a punishable offence to interfere with vehicles transporting farm animals. The immediate implementation of these regulations was necessary to protect the livestock and poultry transport sector and are critical to ensuring the safety and security of the province’s food supply chain, from farm to table.
Bill 156 was created by the provincial government in response to increased incidents of on-farm trespass, escalating animal activist activities, and a surge in less than peaceful protests. The rise in unlawful protests and trespass have created undue stress on Ontario’s farmers, their families, livestock, and agri-food workers, who work diligently to provide a safe and sustainable food supply. The Act enhances the safety, protection and integrity of the entire food value-chain, while recognizing a citizen’s right to peaceful public protest and respecting freedom of speech.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) welcomes the legislation and applauds the efforts of the provincial government in supporting the needs of the entire agri-food sector. The proclamation of these sections of the Act demonstrates to trespassers, activists, law enforcement and the justice system that the protection of farms, families, animals, agri-food workers and the food system is of the highest priority.
Implementing these regulations will help protect the livestock and poultry trucking sector, however the effectiveness of these provisions is dependent on police enforcement and the application by the provincial court system. Ontario depends on the legal system and law enforcement to protect their safety. Clear communication of the new provisions to enforcement officers and the justice system will be critical to ensure food safety through the value chain is protected.
While the legislation has received royal ascent, the remaining draft regulations have been posted on the Ontario Regulatory Registry for public comment. Consultations are open until October 15, 2020. The draft regulations define a broad range of terms, seek to clearly define various activities, terms and areas, and ensure the Act is clear and easily interpreted to achieve the goal of protecting the food supply.
Farms are an integral part of a healthy and sustainable food value chain. The Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020 effectively responds to threats to animal safety, food safety and to the personal safety of our farmers, their families and agri-food workers. OFA looks forward to continuing work with industry stakeholders and the provincial government as Bill 156 is brought fully into force.