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There are a number of bills progressing through Parliament that are important for our farmers but will never become law if the federal government forces an early election. One of these is C-205, introduced by Alberta MP John Barlow.
His bill makes it illegal for anyone to put animals at risk of disease or contamination by entering a farm without permission.
Governments across Canada have been forced to respond to the growing trend of organized extremists using threats, theft, invasion of farms and property, and the occupation of farms to intimidate farmers to promote their political demands.
In December 2019, Alberta was the first of several provinces to pass legislation that directly addresses this issue following the occupation of a Hutterite farm by 30 anti-meat protestors earlier that year. That incident left the farmers psychologically stressed, disrupted farm operations, and ended with the theft of five farm animals before the occupiers were finally dispersed by police.
According to testimony before the House of Commons Agriculture Committee, protestors in Quebec recently occupied a pig farm for several hours. The activists left the doors to the barn open and sabotaged the generators that heated the facility. The stress caused by the protestors and the cold caused several anxious mother pigs to crush their piglets. Afterward, it was also discovered that the pigs were left infected with rotavirus – a disease not seen on that farm in over 40 years.
This isn’t just a question for our livestock producers but also for our grain producers. There are many crop diseases, like clubroot, and invasive weed species, like leafy spurge, that can be transferred from field to field if proper precautions are not taken.
While provincial legislation has been an important tool in protecting our farms, the federal government must act and pass its own laws as well. Only the federal government has the resources and constitutional authority to impose the tough penalties needed to disrupt and deter the most aggressive threats to the health and safety of our farms, our farmers and their animals.
I hope our Alberta MPs and Senators, and their counterparts in other provinces, will make sure that Bill C-205 – as well as other private members bills that are critical for our farmers – becomes law before an election wipes away all the progress that has been made in advancing this important legislation.
Devin Dreeshen served as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry from April 30, 2019 to November 5, 2021.