An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act

This bill was previously introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

John Barlow  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Report stage (House), as of June 21, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-205.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Health of Animals Act to make it an offence to enter a place in which animals are kept, or take in any animal or thing, if doing so could reasonably result in the exposure of the animals to a disease or toxic substance that is capable of affecting or contaminating them.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

March 10, 2021 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-205, An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act

Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business

February 26th, 2021 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Pat Finnigan Liberal Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

Madam Speaker, I was pleased to hear the speeches by the hon. members and I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-205.

I understand the intent of this bill. I understand the farmers and the fact that the animals under their care have been distressed by intrusions. I understand the reasoning of the hon. member for Foothills who is addressing this issue of biosecurity. I have a great deal of respect for him. We sat at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and I deeply respect his knowledge and concerns for the agricultural sector.

The government agrees that biosecurity measures are crucial for protecting the health of animals and ensuring their welfare. We must protect the mental health of farmers and the marketing of farm products.

We obviously agree with implementing solid biosecurity measures. As we have already heard, effective biosecurity is a shared responsibility between the federal government, the provinces and the territories, as well as the farmers.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which is responsible for enforcing the Health of Animals Act and regulations, is working in close collaboration with the provinces and the industry on biosecurity standards and other issues related to animal welfare.

Cases of unlawful entry are currently dealt with by existing legislation. However, Bill C-205 proposes to amend the Health of Animals Act to prohibit trespassing on farms and other facilities.

Let us unpack this a little. As I just said, instances of trespassing or unlawful entry are currently dealt with by existing legislation, whether under the Criminal Code or provincial or territorial laws. Trespassing on farms and such premises is already addressed in several provinces. In addition, provincial governments in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have increased trespassing fines dating back to early 2019.

Let me provide an example. Alberta Bill 27, The Trespass Statues (Protecting Law-Abiding Property Owners) Amendment Act, came into force December 5, 2019. That bill amends several acts. The Occupiers' Liability Act was amended to better protect property owners from civil liabilities for injuries to trespassers where the owner has reasonable grounds to believe the trespasser is committing, or about to commit, a criminal offence. The Petty Trespass Act and the Trespass to Premises Act were amended to increase the maximum fines to $10,000 for a first offence and$25,000 for a subsequent offence, as well as possible prison time for up to six months, and $200,000 for corporations that help or direct trespassers.

The Petty Trespass Act was amended to broaden locations where entry is prohibited without notice to explicitly reference land used for crops, animal rearing and bee keeping. The Provincial Offences Procedure Act was amended to increase the maximum amount a court may order for loss or damage to property to $100,000.

Of even more pertinence is Alberta's biosecurity regulation, Alberta Regulation 185/2019, which also came into force December 5, 2019. That regulation was made under existing authorities of the Animal Health Act and is intended to protect animals from potential disease introduction and stress associated with breaches of security protocols.

The regulation prohibits unauthorized entry into premises where livestock are housed without the need to give notice, such as posted signage, and where other species of animals, such as laboratory animals, are kept when notice is given orally or in writing. The regulation contains a novel prohibition against aiding, counselling or directing a person to commit an offence. The regulation provides an avenue for a grieving party to request restitution from the convicted party for loss or damage to property and the costs of remedial action that may be taken to address the potential harm of the biosecurity breach, such as veterinary care, medication, cleaning and disinfection.

In relation to break-ins, the Province of Alberta had previously made reference to provisions of the Criminal Code, section 348. This section codifies breaking and entering with the intent to commit an offence, breaking and entering and committing an offence, or breaking out of a place after intending to or having committed an offence. Section 321 of the Criminal Code defines “break” for the purpose of the break and enter provision. It makes clear that “breaking” does not need to include damaging property, and can simply mean opening a door. However, under Alberta legislation, if the concern is related to use or enjoyment of property, then the offence in question is likely to be mischief.

To recap, not only do provinces have trespassing legislation, but several provinces, like Alberta, have passed legislation specifically focused on protecting farms, and I think it is important to respect provincial jurisdiction.

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, the trespassing activities targeted by Bill C-205 are already captured under the mischief offence, subsection 430(1); namely, the obstruction, interruption or interference with the lawful enjoyment or operation of property. Penalties depend on the nature on the property, and whether the mischief caused actual danger to life. Punishment includes fines of up to $5,000 and up to two years in prison. The trespass offence in section 177 of the Criminal Code, against loitering or prowling at night near a dwelling or house without lawful excuse, could also be applicable in such cases, and is punishable by summary conviction by a maximum term of imprisonment of two years less a day and a fine not exceeding $5,000.

The point is that there is the Criminal Code and there is existing provincial legislation, some with higher fines. This type of legislation and enforcement largely rests with the provinces.

In closing, in addition to instances of trespassing or unlawful entry being dealt with by existing legislation, biosecurity measures already exist on Canadian farms and premises. We do not want to reinvent the wheel, but we want to find the right balance with the bill and discern the best way forward considering that legislation and biosecurity measures already exist. If the bill before us makes it to the agriculture committee, I look forward to discussing it and finding ways to create that balance. I absolutely agree that we can improve biosecurity in places where animals are kept, but I cannot support the text of the bill as written, given some of the challenges it raises.

Not only does existing legislation already address instances of unlawful entry, but biosecurity measures are also in place on Canadian farms and other such facilities. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.

Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business

February 26th, 2021 / 1:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate virtually in today's debate on Bill C-205, an act to amend the Health of Animals Act.

If I may, I would like to go back to a sad event that occurred in my riding just under a year and a half ago.

On December 7, 2019, 13 vegan and animal rights activists broke into a pig farm in Saint-Hyacinthe to protest the raising of animals for human consumption. They entered a hog barn, where they filmed a staged protest for nearly seven hours, sitting on the floor in front of the pig pens. Several Sûreté du Québec officers then had to enter the building to get them out. The site was contaminated by approximately 30 people who should never have been there in the first place.

During a press conference in January 2020, the co-owners of the pig farm in question said that since the incident, they had noticed clinical signs of a new disease. An analysis showed that it was rotavirus. This disease of the small intestine was not a new disease, but it had not been seen in 40 years. Furthermore, rotavirus is not the only disease that can affect pigs. Pigs are extremely sensitive to stress. When they are in captivity, their environment has to be controlled, in terms of both temperature and noise levels.

During the occupation of the farm, the sows got up suddenly, and when they lay back down, they crushed some of the piglets to death. What is more, the activists put water in the generator's diesel tank, throwing off the temperature. They also left the barn doors open when it was -12°C out.

That happened in my riding, but it was not the only incident of its kind. An intrusion like this can have major consequences on farm biosecurity. The health and well-being of the very animals on whose behalf these people are protesting are at serious risk. In addition to the harm caused to the animals and the financial consequences, many farmers told me that after this incident, they were constantly afraid it would happen again. Unfortunately, these protests are becoming increasingly common.

After this incident, the Union des producteurs agricoles obtained an emergency injunction against the protest group, preventing it from coming within 500 metres of a farm without the owner's permission. Naturally, if they have the owner's permission, they can approach the farm.

The 12 members of the group Direct Action Everywhere faced two charges, namely breaking and entering with intent to commit mischief and obstructing a police officer. The other protester, a minor, had to appear in youth court.

Even though the matter is before the courts, the harassment has not stopped. Just recently, the farm owners I talked to this week were the target of people's ire on social media. They have had to stop answering the phone to avoid the invective. They are not the only ones in this situation.

People realized that, unfortunately, the law is not good enough. That is why we are discussing Bill C-205, an act to amend the Health of Animals Act. This is a very simple bill that makes it an offence to enter, without lawful authority or excuse, a place in which animals are kept if doing so could result in the exposure of the animals to a disease or toxic substance that is capable of affecting or contaminating them.

We support the bill at this stage. This is not about opposing freedom of expression, or people's right to express themselves and protest, or vegan values. Each and every one of us is free to embrace such values and to share them or not. That is not the issue. However, we can by no means allow illegal actions that hurt both farmers and animals.

It is important to mention that animal welfare is an integral part of Quebec's agricultural model, which is based on family farms, not factory farms where animals spend their whole lives never seeing so much as a blade of grass. That is not how we operate.

As the Bloc Québécois critic for international trade and the member for what is likely the most agricultural riding in the country, I often get the chance to talk to farmers about their concerns over meat imports competing with their products. Animal welfare is one of their considerations because their competitors have much lower production costs, not least because their animal welfare standards are much lower. This leads them to seek greater reciprocity of standards, while ours are among the best in the world. Lastly, farmers are calling for improved animal welfare standards around the world.

For example, duck farmers recently voiced their dissatisfaction with the European standards, which are less strict than ours and promote what I would not hesitate to describe as unfair competition. Poultry farmers are also concerned about what might end up on our supermarket shelves from Mercosur countries. Incidentally, poultry farmers get their workers to sign a farm welfare awareness form.

In addition, dairy farmers adopted a code of practice for the care and handling of dairy cattle, in co-operation with scientists and veterinarians. This code sets standards with respect to living conditions, feeding, health care and transportation for the animals.

There is also the proAction certification program, which has been around since 2017. This program provides a way to properly assess all these factors. I am sure some people are thinking that dairy farmers must not have been happy to have a certification program forced on them and to be under the microscope. On the contrary, this program was not forced on dairy farmers. They did not go along with it reluctantly. They took the initiative and asked for it. A well-treated cow produces better-quality milk. A study has shown that when cows are pampered and brushed, they can produce up to one kilogram of additional milk per day and are 30% less likely to develop inflammation. Farmers know that it is always beneficial to treat animals well.

The types of farms that I mentioned are just examples, not an exhaustive list. However, let us remember that the activists who are going after Quebec agriculture are missing the mark. Even though things can always be improved and we can always do better, that is not the issue. In many ways, Quebec agriculture is the gold standard. Attacking Quebec agriculture only promotes foreign farming practices that are far more harmful to animals.

To come back to the bill, we support it, but we fear there may be some problems enforcing it. Agriculture and animal welfare are areas of shared jurisdiction. Ottawa has limited power with regard to such a bill's scope of application. That is why it would be good to have more information on the bill's functionality and application. As the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says, the welfare of animals, including livestock, falls mainly under provincial jurisdiction. The CFIA therefore limits its own mandate to regulating the humane transportation of animals and the humane treatment of food animals in federal slaughter establishments.

The Criminal Code of Canada also prohibits anyone from willfully causing animals to suffer from neglect, pain or injury. The Criminal Code is enforced by police services, provincial and territorial societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals and provincial and territorial ministries of agriculture. We must proceed with caution because all provinces have animal welfare legislation, but not all provinces have legislation dealing specifically with intrusion. Some provinces and territories have passed legislation or regulations, while others have not. Some provinces, like Alberta and Ontario, have made stricter laws to punish offences and break-ins, but Quebec still does not have a similar law. Quebec is contemplating the issue, and it is not up to Ottawa to impose its laws on the provinces.

However, the whole point of committees is to ask these kinds of questions, and so, we will raise our concerns on the matter in committee.

Action is needed and that is why, in the name of respect for animals, private property laws and producers, we will vote in favour of Bill C-205 at this stage.

Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business

February 26th, 2021 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, for all of us as parliamentarians, private members' business is an opportunity to share our thoughts and concerns about things that matter to us and the people we represent, so I want to acknowledge the member for Foothills for his work on this.

Farming, in my riding of North Island—Powell River, is an incredibly important part of the region that I serve. Whether on the mainland or on Vancouver Island, we have a lot of farms. There are a lot of family farms, some that have been in the family for generations, and it is a proud history that we have in our region.

This is important to all of us. People in our area continue to be very concerned about food security because we are in communities that are isolated. If food transportation becomes an issue, research tells us that we have only three days of food in our area. With some of our islands, particularly some of our small islands, this timeline could be even shorter.

We have a lot of farms that produce both produce and livestock, so this is an issue that arises in my region. I am incredibly proud of the hard work that many farmers do.

For example, our region produces wines and spirits. I think of the wonderful 40 Knots Winery and the Shelter Point Distillery, which have both won awards recognizing the high quality of their products. SouthEnd Winery, on one of the islands in my region, has lovely wines but also amazing spaces for enjoying the beautiful area and engaging with a small chicken coop as well.

Gunter Brothers Meat Co., which was started by the grandfather of the brothers who own this business and has gone through generations, processes local meat in our communities. I often drive by the Vancouver Island bison farm and get to see the bison majestically walking along the fields. It is amazing in the morning to see the mist rising and these beautiful bison, locally raised and grass fed, that are really a healthy product for our communities. Amara Farm is a family-owned organic farm that provides a great amount of beautiful produce and also important leadership in supporting people who want to grow their own food, so it provides a lot of education.

Then I think specifically of the Powell River region, where there are many tremendous small farms. A list of them is provided online at the Powell River Farmers' Agricultural Institute, and that list is significant. This organization also hosts a regular Seedy Saturday, where local farmers gather and share seeds and information about what is happening in the region. In my riding, agriculture is very important, and I am incredibly proud of that as well.

Today, we speak to Bill C-205. It specifically talks about farms with livestock and the fear that outsiders who unlawfully gain access to farms or properties could introduce contagions, thereby infecting animal populations resulting in their deaths or possible livestock culling. This is a serious concern, and I appreciate the focus drawn to this. Several provinces have already introduced similar legislation. Some provinces are in the process of considering it, so this is obviously a concern.

One of the things that I think is important for us to address, though, is when we see people doing the work to expose animal abuse cases. This bill proposes significant fines and up to two years of imprisonment. It concerns me, because I think we need to protect farms and livestock, while acknowledging that there is important work to be done around identifying challenges or when treatment of livestock is unethical in this country. I hope to see that this will be addressed in this bill, when and if it goes to committee.

Several years ago, we heard a terrible story that I think is important to talk about with respect to this legislation. Our office was called by a woman named Kathy from Port Hardy, who had two horses stolen from her property. Sadly, they were stolen and taken to a slaughterhouse where, under forged identification papers, they were slaughtered for meat. That was absolutely appalling. I cannot imagine losing two beloved pets that way. They were horses. They were connected to the family and it was just a devastating outcome.

Two issues became very clear from this. First, the CFIA knows that horses are not intended for the meat market and often can contain steroids or medication that are not supposed to be in meat for consumption. There seems to be a missed mark here that we need to see addressed. Second, and very importantly, equine information documents are easily forged, which could open the doors to horses being stolen and slaughtered under fraudulent identity. We have continued to work with Kathy and the federal government around this, but have been saddened and disappointed by the lack of engagement by the government.

We have heard from people across Canada who are experiencing this. It is something that is happening and I really hope the federal government takes it seriously and starts to address it. This represents a loss of family members for those people. I also believe that in the House, all people here want to ensure the safety of livestock on farms, while allowing animal abuse cases to be uncovered.

I am just worried about some of those key points that we need to see addressed in this piece of legislation. I hope that if it does pass, the committee will really look at these and make sure that there is a more robust discussion of the inspection regime of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It is obviously something that is really important.

I am incredibly proud of all of the farmers across my riding. I hear from them frequently. I know they work hard to provide food, beverages and produce for our communities and our region.

I hope that if this does go to committee, there are serious discussions about amending this legislation to make sure that the testimony is reflected in it. I look forward to further discussions.

Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business

February 26th, 2021 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Lianne Rood Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-205, an act to amend the Health of Animals Act, the private member's bill of my Conservative colleague, the member for Foothills. I want to congratulate the member and thank him for the bill. The member understands the challenges farmers, ranchers and processors in his riding face, and he knows what they are up against. The residents of Foothills are well served by him.

I am very proud to represent all of my constituents of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. In speaking to the bill, I am representing the thousands of farm families that would benefit from this change in legislation, not only in my own riding but across our great country. This last year has shown us just how important our farms and farm families are in ensuring our domestic food supply.

Mental health has come to the forefront during the pandemic, and this includes the mental health of all those who work in agriculture to produce the foods we all enjoy. The bill would protect not only animals, but also the workers and families who care for them.

It also addressed very directly the concerns of farmers, ranchers, producers and processors about biosecurity. The welfare of livestock, poultry and fur-bearing animals when outsiders trespass or insinuate themselves by false premise on farmland, grazing land, production sites or in transit is critical to protecting our domestic food supply and our agriculture industry. Viruses like African swine fever and even COVID-19 pose a real threat to biosecurity. They can decimate our livestock herds and have long-lasting devastating impacts on our farms.

It is critical that Canadians have a reliable and safe food supply system. To ensure the integrity of our food supply system, Canadians, ranchers, farmers, producers and processors adhere to the most robust security standards developed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and protocols and strategies in collaboration with producer organizations, provincial and territorial governments and academia. They work diligently to follow these standards to ensure the health and welfare of their animals.

Few people understand animals better than those who raise them. They understand their behaviour and instincts, their feed and water needs, what they require to feel safe where they are kept, their veterinary requirements and what is humane treatment for a particular species of animal. They understand that livestock, poultry, fur-bearing animals and even dogs and cats are not human beings. Herding animals want to be treated according to their behaviour and their instincts, as do livestock, poultry and, yes, dogs.

Those who raise livestock, poultry or fur-bearing animals do so because they enjoy being around animals. They do something they enjoy to earn a living from raising these animals for commercial purposes. Their ability to earn a living from animals depends on their giving those animals good care and treatment.

On a farm, ranch or production site with animals, every animal has a purpose. Dogs serve as an early warning sign for intruders on property and keep away foxes and coyotes. Farm cats help hold down the rodent population in barns and around farmsteads. Animals raised for commercial purposes also benefit us. The eggs and bacon we fry up for breakfast come from chicken and hogs. The milk we put on our cereal and the cream we add to our coffee or tea come from a dairy cow, as do the butter on our toast and the cheese on our burger or pizza. The steak and roast beef on our supper tables or from a favourite steakhouse come from beef cattle, as does the pastry shell made with lard that comes with a piece of pie. Our Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey with or without the trimmings comes from a poultry producer's work. I do not know about members, but I am starting to feel a little hungry.

It does not stop there. The wool in our suits, sweaters and blankets comes from fleece sheared from a sheep. The leather in belts, boots, purses and briefcases, the fur collars on a coat and the fur lining of our slippers come from the hides of animals raised for purpose.

Canadians are indebted to farmers, ranchers and producers for the food, clothing and household goods that give us sustenance, warmth and enjoyment. Their contribution to the quality of life should not be underestimated, nor should the excellent quality of life that farmers, ranchers and producers give their animals.

I understand that not everyone eats meat, poultry or eggs, drinks chocolate milk or enjoys ice cream or a slice of cheese, nor wears leather or fur. However, the vast majority of Canadians do. People's decisions not to eat meat, poultry, eggs or dairy, nor wear leather shoes or carry a leather purse, do not entitle them to prevent other Canadians from enjoying these products. Someone's freedom of choice does not entitle them to trespass on a farm, ranch or production site to engage in behaviour that stresses animals, introduces diseases or vandalizes private property.

We continue to see an increasing number of people trespassing on farms and at food-processing centres, and there is real potential to cause massive health and safety issues for the animals and the individuals who work with them. Despite the pandemic, we have seen that COVID-19 affects not only humans, but also poses a real threat to the health of some animals and, in turn, the livelihoods of those families who depend on animals to make a living. When individuals enter a farm unlawfully, they not only threaten the health of animals by potentially exposing them to disease, but also the welfare of the animal that is put in danger. Farmers in my riding have seen first-hand the devastating harm to the animals when protesters release them from their cages, and moms and babies are separated with no way of knowing how to reunite.

Regardless of one's own opinion, this kind of behaviour should not be tolerated, especially when the health and safety of the animal is jeopardized. The preferences of protestors do not entitle them to insinuate themselves and trespass under false premises onto a farm, ranch or production site to clandestinely capture and out-of-context video that does not take into account animal behaviour and needs.

That said, as Canadians, we have an absolute right to hold our own views and opinions, and the right to peacefully protest. I want to be clear that this bill in no way prohibits someone's right to peacefully protest on public property.

When someone enters private property without permission, putting the health of farm families and animals at risk, there have to be consequences. This bill will increase the penalties for groups and organizations who encourage individuals to threaten the health and safety of animals and workers. There have been instances in my area where individuals have trespassed on a farm, and not only were the livestock and animals at risk, but also the families. That may include young children who also reside on the property. Parenting and raising animals for a livelihood is hard work. Farmers should not have the extra burden of worrying about the safety of their children being affected by individuals unlawfully entering their farms as well. The worry adds a whole other level of unnecessary mental health strain.

Unlike most if not all of us who have had the privilege of serving as members of Parliament, most farmers, ranchers and producers who raise animals are not very political. Most just want to get on with what they know and do best: raising animals to feed and clothe us and to serve our everyday lives. By doing so, they want to earn a living to look after their families, and like all of us, feed and clothe themselves and their families and put a roof over their heads. As they do so, they just want to be left in peace. Is that really asking too much?

Of course, there are instances of animals not being properly cared for, but this bill in no way prevents whistle blowers and employees from reporting abusive and cruel conditions in livestock facilities. In fact, they have an obligation to report to the appropriate authorities any abuse, inhumane or irresponsible treatment, as they operate in a highly regulated environment and must follow strict codes of conduct to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all farm animals, including farm animals at events like agricultural fairs and exhibitions.

Those who raise animals for a living are the most vigilant when it comes to the well-being of the animals. In today's global marketplace, it is critical that we protect the integrity of Canada's supply chain and ensure that our food remains safe to eat and prevents disease outbreaks, and that our farmers and businesses do not lose significant income. Strengthening penalties on trespassers is something that farmers, ranchers, food processors, farm groups and commodity organizations all support. I urge the Liberal government to do the same. That is why, as the official opposition's shadow minister for agriculture and agri-food, I fully support Bill C-205. I encourage all members of the House to support it and vote in favour of this bill.

Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business

February 26th, 2021 / 1:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-205 because I come from a riding where agriculture is so important and agri-tourism makes such an enormous contribution to the vitality of Shefford.

The Bloc Québécois supports the principle of this bill because we have always stood with farmers, who would not be able to survive if they did not treat their animals properly. I grew up with horses. My father even raised a mistreated horse and practically brought it back to life. I accompanied my aunts and uncles when they went to care for their animals. That contact with the land and the agricultural community on a smaller scale was a privilege for me, and it did a lot to open my eyes to the importance of this sector in the food chain.

I want to begin my speech today by stating the main points of the bill. I will then give a real-life example from my region, and I will close by reminding members of some of the arguments for and against the bill. To start, I want to dispel the myth that Bill C-205 challenges vegan values. The bill is about respect for animals, laws and private property.

First, let me summarize the bill, which is actually very simple. It makes it an offence to enter, without lawful authority or excuse, a place in which animals are kept if doing so could result in the exposure of the animals to a disease or toxic substance that is capable of affecting or contaminating them. It also amends the Health of Animals Act, under which the penalties would be applied.

However, shared jurisdiction limits its effects. Certain difficulties may also complicate the application of this bill, including the fact that the purpose of the Health of Animals Act is really to protect animals in order to protect the humans who consume them and to prevent epidemics of zoonotic disease, or animal-to-human disease transmission. It was not created to define animal welfare. Agriculture and animal protection are shared jurisdictions, so the federal government's power to implement this kind of bill broadly is limited. That is why it would be good to have more information about how the bill would actually work.

To better understand the issue, here is a brief description posted on the website of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, or CFIA:

Canadian provinces have the primary responsibility for protecting the welfare of animals, including farm animals and pets. All provinces and territories have laws in respect to animal welfare. Provincial and territorial legislation tend to be general in scope, covering a wide range of animal welfare interests. Some provinces and territories have regulations that govern specific aspects of animal welfare, or are related to certain species.

The CFIA's animal welfare mandate is limited to regulating humane transportation of animals and the humane treatment of food animals in federal abattoirs.

The Criminal Code of Canada prohibits anyone from willfully causing animals to suffer from neglect, pain or injury. The Criminal Code is enforced by police services, provincial and territorial Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and/or provincial and territorial ministries of agriculture.

We must therefore be careful, because all provinces have animal welfare laws but not all of them have passed legislation to address this particular issue. In recent years, several provinces, including Ontario and Alberta, have created or strengthened laws to punish people who break into a slaughterhouse or farm.

Quebec does not yet have a law such as this, but it does have the Animal Welfare and Safety Act. This law is very much in line with the type of agriculture we have in Quebec, which is much more oriented towards family operations. We must avoid getting involved in a situation where it could be construed that we are telling it what to do or giving lectures. If the question is asked, the reply is simple: Quebec is considering the issue and it is not up to the federal government to impose its laws on the provinces.

I will now talk about a case that farmers and food processors in Shefford have raised with me several times, especially since I live in the region that is known as Quebec's pantry. It is a region that I share with the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot who also spoke of the highly publicized case of Porgreg in Saint-Hyacinthe. We are neighbours, so of course, people have talked to us about this a lot. Again, on December 7, 2019, 13 vegan activists and antispeciesists broke into a pig farm in Saint-Hyacinthe to protest against raising animals for human consumption. They entered a pig barn where they filmed and protested for nearly seven hours, sitting on the floor in front of the pig enclosures to try to expose their quality of life.

Sûreté du Québec officers had to enter the building to remove them. These 30 people, who were not supposed to be there, then contaminated the premises, which put the health and safety of the herd at risk.

During a press conference in January 2020, the co-owners of the farm in question said that after the incident they had noticed some clinical signs of a disease. After testing was done, they found out they were dealing with the rotavirus, which they had not seen in nearly 40 years.

That is what Ms. Grégoire explained when she testified alongside the president of the UPA, Marcel Groleau, and the president of the Éleveurs de porcs du Québec, David Duval. It should be noted that pigs are very sensitive to stress and when they are in captivity their environment needs to be controlled both in terms of temperature and noise.

This type of break-in obviously has potentially disastrous biosecurity consequences for pig farms and puts the animals' health, safety and well-being at risk. Access to the pig barns is limited and controlled, to prevent the potential introduction of external diseases, viruses or bacteria, such as the swine respiratory disease, or SRD, porcine epidemic diarrhea, or PED, the rotavirus, which is a viral disease of a pig's small intestine, or African swine fever, which has ravaged pig populations in Asia.

Farmers whose herds are infected as a result of a break-in end up having to spend a significant amount of money. This event was quite unsettling for the animals. One of the owners, Ms. Grégoire, reported that the activists had put water in their generator's diesel tank, tampered with the building's thermostats and left the barn doors open. The temperature in the barn dropped to -12°C. The noise and stress even caused the sows to get up abruptly and then kill the piglets when they lay back down. Anyone who has spent any amount of time on a pig farm could have foreseen this outcome. secur

The UPA had to seek an injunction against the activist group to prohibit it from coming within 500 metres of a farm without the owner's consent. That injunction was urgently granted because the group was planning other stunts.

When I read the request for injunction, it was worrisome to see that the risk of criminal conviction clearly did nothing to curb the behaviour of the individuals in that group and did not have the desired deterrent effect. Farmers in my region are therefore extremely concerned, because the activists do not seem to regret their actions. The fear that it will happen again is legitimate.

One month after the incidents in Saint-Hyacinthe, UPA representatives made a public announcement with the owners of the farm to show their support and denounce this type of practice, which is clearly becoming more and more common. Marcel Groleau even said that “the acts committed seek to impose an ideology through defamation, propaganda, threats and fear. Society strongly condemns this type of abuse, for which there must be serious consequences”.

The Bloc Québécois values freedom of expression highly, as we recently demonstrated. People absolutely have the right to protest and make themselves heard and share their vision of how things should be. However, we cannot allow that to take the form of illegal activities that can harm both farmers and animals.

I mentioned the Porgreg farm earlier, which raises pigs, obviously, and, without downplaying the consequences for other animal species, pigs in particular are genetically very similar to humans. Their sensitivity to stress is very high. The incident stressed the animals. In addition to exposure to contaminants and changes in temperature, light and noise, as well as the commotion of the tussle with police, the pigs are in danger of getting sick.

That is unfortunately what happened at the Porgreg farm. The owners hold the activists responsible for the fact that the farm has been dealing with a rotavirus outbreak since late December 2019. They told the media that none of their pigs had had that disease for nearly 40 years. They also said, and I quote, “Our sows are feverish and sick. Since they entered our hog barn, our maternal mortality rate has increased considerably.” They also pointed out that several visits from veterinarians have been required, and that also means additional costs. According to one of the owners, the stress of seeing activists breaking into farms will cause a lot of anxiety for many Quebec livestock producers.

Let us now look at the views of both supporters and opponents. Obviously, most producer federations are in favour of this measure. These include the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Canadian Pork Council, the Chicken Farmers of Canada, the Egg Farmers of Canada, the Turkey Farmers of Canada, the Canadian Meat Council and, of course, the Union des producteurs agricoles.

From the animal rights activists' perspective, the legislation does not go far enough and should punish offending producers and processors when the living conditions of animals are deemed to be poor.

Many people go as far as to discount the biosecurity argument, believing that the meat industry hides behind all kinds of bogus arguments to the effect that surprise visits from activists to slaughterhouses can create contamination problems or endanger the lives of animals.

In closing—

Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business

February 26th, 2021 / 2 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in support of Bill C-205, an act to amend the Health of Animals Act, the private member's bill introduced by the member for Foothills.

Much like my friend and colleague, the member for Foothills, I have a profound love and respect for the agriculture and agri-food sector. I am a strong supporter of farmers and ranchers. They get up at dawn every single day to do a vital job and feed Canadians.

This important bill proposes some essential amendments to the existing Health of Animals Act. I do not think the existing legislation does enough to protect farmers and ranchers from people unlawfully entering their farms. Bill C-205 would make it an offence to enter farms and ranches, in order to protect livestock and other animals from trespassers who could intentionally or unintentionally cause damage to them or to their owner.

The existing law provides a framework to control diseases and toxic substances that may affect animals or that may be transmitted by animals to humans. However, the requirements and prohibitions apply to the owner of the animals. The act does not currently cover people who unlawfully enter a farm, and that is what the bill would amend.

It is important to note that the purpose of the bill is not to limit a person's ability to protest peacefully, but to add guidelines, and especially rules, that individuals must follow when it comes to animal welfare and cross-contamination, which can have disastrous consequences for the health of an animal or the ability of an owner to keep their herd safe.

As hon. members surely know, animal rights activitists have organized many protests on farms and at some processing plants. As my colleagues have mentioned, these protests are not limited to certain segments of the agriculture sector or certain parts of the country. In the Saint-Hyacinthe region, many problems were caused by activists who broke into pig farms and caused irreparable harm to the animals and their owner.

In this case, in December 2019, protesters broke into the pig farm in the early hours of the morning with the intention of causing a disturbance. The activists entered the pig barn and caused severe damage to the facilities. The farm owner reported losing over 500 pigs as a result of the contamination. Two different biological infections were subsequently detected on that farm. Not only did the protesters cause the pigs serious health problems, but they also traumatized the animals by taking pictures with ultra-bright flashes and causing the animals to run around the pens, leading to considerable losses. The activists also left the barn doors open and tampered with the building's thermostat, causing additional problems for the farm owner. Members can imagine what happens when the doors of a farm building are left open in the middle of December. For the protesters, this intrusion led to nothing more than a slap on the wrist. The police even told the farmer that there was nothing they could do to keep the protesters off the property. This incident was definitely a premeditated attack, since all but one or two of the protesters were not even local residents.

That was just one of the many protests that took place in Quebec. They are happening far too often, and they are happening across the country. I am worried things will get worse if nothing is done. When activists trespass on farms and farm buildings, they are probably not aware of the consequences of their actions. First and foremost, they are endangering livestock, farmers, their families and workers.

I know my colleagues will agree that our farmers, ranchers and processors care deeply about food safety, animal health and the environment. They will also agree that mental health and anxiety in the agricultural sector are reaching crisis levels and that we are already seeing a significant impact during the pandemic in particular.

It is essential to protect Canada's food supply. Viruses like African swine flu are a real threat to our agriculture. These threats to biosecurity can decimate cattle herds and devastate our industry and our economy. An epidemic in Canada would devastate our farms and immediately close export markets, paralyzing the pork industry and countless other sectors.

Enhancing biosecurity measures as they relate to trespassers is a move that is supported by farmers and ranchers, as well as food processors and various farming organizations. Recently, a growing number of individuals have been breaking into farms and food processing centres. This could lead to major biosecurity problems for the animals and the people who work with them. Even the Minister of Agriculture has spoken out against these protests by extremist groups on dairy farms, saying that her department was concerned about this.

I would like to share with the House some of the perspectives of the stakeholders who completely agree with the proposed changes in this bill.

According to Benoît Fontaine, chair of Chicken Farmers of Canada or CFC, Canada's 2,877 chicken farmers take pride in raising safe food for Canadians. CFC's raised by a Canadian farmer on-farm food safety program enforces strict biosecurity measures on every farm across the country to limit the spread of disease. He believes that the proposed legislation will further strengthen the Health of Animals Act to ensure trespassers are prosecuted for their actions, while preventing the potential spread of disease.

For his part, Pierre Lampron, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, said that Canadian dairy farmers are committed to giving their herds the best care and respecting the highest animal welfare, food quality and biosecurity standards. Mr. Lampron believes that the amendments proposed by the member for Foothills to the Health of Animals Act will better protect the health and safety of animals.

As we can see, the industry generally supports these important changes. The Conservative Party hopes to have the support of the other parties to implement this bill as soon as possible. We have the sense that many of the recent incidents in Canada are not organized by individuals but by groups of activists who encourage people to break the law in some cases. This amendment would serve as a deterrent to these groups by doubling current prison sentences and maximum fines.

In conclusion, Bill C-205 will protect the biosecurity of farm operations and food processing plants, where the protection of animals and workers must remain the priority. I hope that all members of the House understand the importance of this bill and that they will support it when the time comes to a vote in the House. This is not in any way a partisan bill; it is just common sense.

We must do what we can to protect our agri-food sector. As we heard in previous speeches and in my presentation, protecting our national food supply is extremely important. It is imperative that the federal government intervene to ensure proper regulations and enforcement with respect to this issue. We must put in place guidelines for the provinces, on which they will work with all stakeholders—

Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business

February 26th, 2021 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Madam Speaker, I think it is very fitting that I have the opportunity to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-205, on the week that we celebrated Canada's Agriculture Day. It means a lot when we look at the bills that have come forward. I want to congratulate my colleague from Northumberland—Peterborough South for the passing at second reading of his private member's bill, Bill C-206, which would exempt all farm fuels from the carbon tax. It is a huge message we are sending to Canadian farmers: We are advocating for them and working on issues that are important to them.

I want to take the short time I have remaining in this debate to thank my colleagues who have stepped up and spoken to my bill, and certainly my colleague from Beauce and my colleague from Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, who spoke in favour of the legislation today. It is important that we talk about how this legislation builds on the very robust biosecurity measures we already have in Canada.

I also want to thank my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, especially the agriculture critic, who spoke about another very important issue in our first hour of debate. I heard it raised again today. It is the issue of whistle-blowers. Nothing in the bill does anything to prevent whistle-blowers from doing what I believe, and what many Canadians believe, is a very important job. Someone with a lawful reason for being on a farm, like a farm employee, who sees something that is concerning or is not up to standard should absolutely take the opportunity to raise the issue with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or their employer to ensure that our farm animals are protected.

I also want to thank the Bloc's agriculture critic, who talked about another important issue: the mental health impact on Canadian farmers. The Tschetter family, in my riding, went to their barns at 7:30 in the morning and saw 40 protesters in one of their barns. It was shocking, and it has had a profound impact on them. I know it still impacts them to this day.

My colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot spoke today about a very recent issue at a farm in his riding, where 30 protesters came onto a hog operation. They did not understand the biosecurity protocols that are in place. That is exactly what this legislation is trying to address. As a result of the protesters being on that hog farm, the farmer has now seen rotavirus in his herd. He had not seen it on his farm in more than 40 years. These issues are very real, and they do impact Canadian farmers. It could have been African swine fever, which would have devastated that farm and spread across Canada.

This is a $14-billion industry to Canada. A protester or an activist, unknowingly, does not understand the biosecurity protocols that are in place, and they are very strict. Any of us who have gone to visit a farm in our riding or a neighbouring riding understands the things we must do before we go onto farms, and certainly into barns or processing plants. Protesters and activists many times do not understand the protocols that are in place. I know they do not do it on purpose, but sometimes they do not understand the consequences of their actions. They could be bringing in African swine fever, BSE, foot-and-mouth disease or avian flu. All of these things have an impact.

As I said, we saw it at the hog farm in Quebec. However, we also saw mink farms in B.C. have to euthanize their animals because of COVID-19. We have seen the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our Canadian economy and what has happened. Imagine a similar virus or disease came onto a farm. It could have a similar impact throughout our agriculture sector. That is what the legislation is trying to prevent. It is not a statement against protesting. Protesting is an important part of our society, but people can do that on public property, outside of the farm. This is about when they cross the line and go onto private property. That is what the bill is trying to address.

I want to thank the commodity groups and farmers across Canada I have worked with, including the Tschetter family, to develop this legislation and bring it forward. It would not have been possible without their support and encouragement.

I ask that all members of the House support Bill C-205 to get it to committee for further discussion. I hope they will all vote in favour of it. I want us to send a message to farmers and farm families that we are here for them, we understand what they are going through, we are here for their financial and mental health, and we are here to protect the sanctity of our food supply.

Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business

November 26th, 2020 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

moved that Bill C-205, An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I know that all of us, when we have the opportunity to stand up in this House, are very proud of representing our constituents. I have stood up in this House many times, but I think this is one of the most proud moments I have ever had as a parliamentarian because I have the opportunity to not only to represent my own constituents, but also farmers, ranchers, farm families and processors in this industry across Canada. I am presenting an amendment to the Health of Animals Act, which I am confident that all members in this House will support, as it will protect the mental health of our farm families, but also the integrity of our food supply.

I want to take the members of this House back to just over a year ago when I received a frantic phone call from a farmer in my riding. He was extremely upset. He and his sons had gotten up to check on their turkeys in the morning, but when they walked into their barn they found that dozens of activists and protestors had broken onto their farm and into their barns, demanding the release of their birds.

What made that interesting is that they were free-range turkeys. They were not in cages or mistreated in any way. They were healthy and happy. The only risk to the health of these animals was actually from the protestors who were on that property.

When I left from Ottawa, I went back home to the riding to meet with Mr. Tschetter and his family. He was completely distraught. He had not slept in days. He did not understand why he was targeted. He had done everything he possibly could to take care of his animals because he knows they are his livelihood.

In fact, he had nothing to hide. When he got into his barn that morning and saw 30 or 35 protestors, he invited them to tour his farm. He invited the media, protestors and activists to walk around to see what he had and what his operation entailed.

My bill is really trying to address two things. The first is the mental health of our farmers and farm families, as well as the protection of those families, their workers and the animals they care for. The second is the very important issue of biosecurity on our farms. This is a critical issue as we try to protect our food supply and our supply chain.

What my bill sets out to do is a very simple change. It is an amendment to the Health of Animals Act. I really wanted to make it as simple as possible, so we could get the support of every member in this House.

The Health of Animals Act, as it currently stands, has control of diseases and toxic substances that may affect animals, and diseases transferred from animals to humans. However, the obligations and prohibitions within the act only deal with the farmer who owns those animals. There are no protections in the act that deal with individuals or organizations who may break into private property and put those animals at risk.

That is really what my private member's bill is trying to address. I did not want to invent something new. I wanted to have something that was specific to the issue that we are dealing with. I also wanted something that was not a one-off on an issue that happened in my own riding, but something that could address the bigger picture of biosecurity on our farms.

I really want to be crystal clear on this to all members in this House. The one thing that this bill is not is a prohibition of protest. Protesting one's view and one's opinion is absolutely anyone's right as a Canadian. We want to uphold that. One's right to protest on public property is absolutely one's right. However, when someone crosses a line by entering or breaking into private property and putting the health of animals and farm families at risk, there have to be consequences.

I think that all of us in this House understand this is not an isolated incident. My staff and I went through media reports and did some research. There have been literally dozens of these types of incidents across the country, touching ridings of every single party in this House, from one coast to the next, in every sector of agriculture. We had 50 protestors at a hog farm in in Abbotsford, B.C. We had people trying to forcibly remove animals from a dairy farm in Quebec, and we saw protestors at a pork-breeding facility in Ontario.

As I said, this really sparked an interest in me. This incident in my own riding with the Tschetter family had an impact not only on that family, but also on farm families across my riding. They inundated my office with questions such as these: Are we free game for protestors and activists? Are we not safe on our own farms? Are our animals not protected?

What really struck me with that protest at the farm in Fort Macleod, which is usually quite a quiet little town, was the fact that many of those activists and those protesters had been on a hog farm in Abbotsford only a week before.

This is really the crux of my private member's bill. I do not think these protesters quite understand, perhaps through no fault of their own, the consequences of their actions or the very strict biosecurity protocols we have on farms, which are there for very important reasons.

I know that my colleagues in this House understand that no one cares for their animals, their land and their environment more than farmers, ranchers and processors do. I hope that biosecurity is an important aspect of this bill that we can focus on through our debate this evening.

When those protesters are coming onto private property and breaking into barns in areas where they may not fully comprehend what is at stake, they are posing a very real risk to a critical industry within our country, and this is very real. African swine fever, avian flu, foot-and-mouth disease, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, are very real threats to our industry.

Obviously, this has hurt my riding. Almost two decades ago, we had the BSE outbreak in Alberta. That had an impact of between $6 billion and $10 billion on our cattle industry in Canada, as the second that BSE was confirmed in central Alberta, more than 40 countries shut their borders to Canadian cattle exports. It was a $10-billion hit. Most important, 3,000 ranchers went out of business, including many of my constituents and my friends.

I can recall ranchers like Grant Hirsche, who found a little processor, slaughtered his cattle, found a used refrigeration truck and drove up and down Highway 2, trying to sell his beef on the side of the highway just to keep his operation afloat. Thousands of ranchers were not so lucky. Almost 20 years later, we are still trying to rebuild our cattle herd in this country. Twenty years later, the impact of that outbreak is still being felt. Many countries are only now reopening their border to Canadian beef.

In 2004, we had a massive outbreak of avian flu in the Fraser Valley. Almost 300 million animals had to be euthanized. The economic impact of that was more than $300 million. To this day, we have to be aware of avian flu. There were some positives that came out of that. We have improved surveillance, improved testing and improved quarantine measures, but, most important, we have improved regulations and protocols around biosecurity, which everyone must abide by.

I know many of us in this House who have had an opportunity to tour the farms and ranches in our constituencies or neighbouring constituencies in rural Canada understand. I visited the Kielstra farm, a poultry operation, this summer. I had to put on booties, a lab coat, a hair net and a face mask. This had nothing to do with COVID. These are the biosecurity protocols on just about every farm in Canada. Many times these protesters and activists just do not understand this.

We have a very big threat facing us right now. I talked about BSE, foot-and-mouth disease and avian flu, but African swine fever is a very real threat as well. There has been an outbreak in China, which has decimated the Chinese hog population. It has spread now through most of Southeast Asia, Central America and many parts of eastern Europe.

Were African swine fever to come here to Canada, the impacts would be profound. The pork industry in Canada is a $24-billion industry. That is 45,000 jobs from gate to plate. Seventy per cent of the hogs that we raise here in Canada are exported. That is $4.25 billion.

If there is an outbreak of African swine fever in Canada, international markets will close. It take us years, as we learned with BSE, to rebuild that confidence in those export markets to try to regain that global opportunity. The threats of these animal-borne diseases are very real and we cannot take them lightly.

All of us in the House understand the impact COVID-19 has had on our constituencies and certainly on every aspect of every industry in our economy. This is a human-borne virus that has brought our country, and just about every country around the world, to a screeching halt. Imagine what an animal-borne virus could do to Canada's agriculture industry, whether it is hogs, cattle or feathers. It would be devastating.

All of us in the House, if we had an opportunity to walk back in time and do a better job of preparing for the COVID-19 pandemic, for which all of us as parliamentarians take some responsibility, I know we would do that to have a better strategy in place to protect Canadians.

We have that opportunity today to to that with this amendment to the Health of Animals Act, which would protect the health of animals on farm. It would also protect the mental health of our farmers and our farm families. We cannot make the same mistakes we have made in the past. We simply cannot afford an animal-borne disease or virus outbreak on farms or within processing plants across the country.

We have dug ourselves a very deep financial hole as a result of COVID-19 and there are only a few industries that as Canadians we can look to and rely on to help dig us out of that financial hole. Energy would be one; agriculture is the other. If we do not provide agriculture with the resources and the safeguards they need to ensure they are protected, then we leave them vulnerable. I do not think any Canadian would support that.

I was encouraged to read a comment from the Liberal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food the other day, saying there were unacceptable actions of extremist groups protesting on dairy farms. I know it is a concern of hers as well. Strengthening the biosecurity measures for trespassers on farms, ranches and processing plants are something farm groups, commodity groups and processors across the country support. I have been honoured to have their letters, emails and quotes of support from across the country, which is really buoyed our efforts on this private member's bill.

I am confident that the Liberal government as well as my colleagues throughout the House also understand the mental health strain our farm families are under right now and the importance of protecting our food security and food supply, especially now as we try to rebuild and come out of this pandemic. This is no time to put our food supply and food security at risk.

I really want to leave this message very clear with my colleagues. I know the opposition to this private member's bill will be based on this. In no way is the bill a prohibition on protesting. People are more than welcome to protest on public property, on the gravel road, on the highway outside the farm fence, but there has to be a line in the sand. That line is when people cross onto private property and put the health of a farm family, their workers and their animals at risk.

We must do everything we possibly can to put protections in place for our food security and food supply. As I said, we cannot make the same mistakes we have in the past when it comes to animal-borne diseases that would devastate our agriculture industry. This is an opportunity to be proactive. I look forward to questions and support from my colleagues throughout the House.

Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business

November 26th, 2020 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kody Blois Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Foothills for introducing Bill C-205 so that we can talk about it.

I know that the bill was introduced to support biosecurity on Canadian farms and other establishments, which is a laudable objective.

I believe I speak for everyone when I say that Canadian consumers are engaged consumers. They care deeply about where their food comes from and whether it is safe.

I am pleased to report that Canada has one of the best food safety systems in the world, and we continued to maintain that high confidence level in our food safety system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, the Government of Canada announced $20 million in funding for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, or CFIA, to support critical food inspection during the pandemic to ensure that Canadians would have continued access to safe, high-quality food.

In my opinion, our country's high level of food safety and security can be attributed to the ongoing work of the CFIA and the robust biosecurity measures in place on Canadians farms and other establishments.

It is important to note that the health of animals and biosecurity measures, as was discussed in the speech by the member for Foothills and in the question and answer period, are a shared jurisdiction between the federal government, the provinces and the territories.

I want to take a moment to talk about the role of the CFIA and the Government of Canada in relation to the topic we are discussing tonight, a very important topic I might add.

CFIA enforces regulations concerning the transportation of animals. The government introduced the health of animals transport regulations in February. It is also concerned with the humane treatment of animals at federally licensed abattoirs, or slaughterhouses.

The member for Foothills talked about education between rural and urban. There is a difference between provincial abattoirs, or slaughterhouses, that are licensed to provide meat products within those provincial or territorial boundaries and the federal licensing system, where the meat that is processed goes across the country. Therefore, it is important to recognize that there is concurrent jurisdiction in relation to these two domains.

The provinces also have the ability to introduce their own regulations as it relates to the health of animals regulations and biosecurity.

I will leave it up to my colleagues to elaborate on the strong biosecurity measures already in place on Canadian farms and facilities as well as the jurisdictional aspects and existing legal instruments.

I want to focus on the Health of Animals Act. I ask that all members be patient as I will be discussing some rather technical concepts.

The Health of Animals Act was enacted in 1990. It repealed and replaced the previous act, the Animal Disease and Protection Act.

The Health of Animals Act is enforced by the Canada Food Inspection Agency.

With respect to the real purpose of the Health of Animals Act, its long title is “An Act respecting diseases and toxic substances that may affect animals or that may be transmitted by animals to persons, and respecting the protection of animals”. Section 34 is the primary authority in the Health of Animals Act for making regulations. This section gives the Governor in Council, or the minister, the authority to make regulations for the protection and health of persons and animals by controlling or eliminating diseases and toxic substances, and for the carrying out of any other purposes under the act.

I want to highlight for all of my colleagues in the House and, indeed, all Canadians watching that three objectives are revealed by these three provisions, the underlying goals of the act. The first is to prevent or control the spread of diseases that may affect animals; the second is to prevent or control the spread of diseases that may be transmitted to humans by animals, which are called zoonotic diseases; and the third is to protect animals from inhumane treatment. There are provisions related to this objective found under part XII of the health of animals regulations, which deals with the humane transportation of animals.

I will talk specifically about the contents of Bill C-205. One thing that needs to be fleshed out in this discussion, and I look forward to my colleagues' thoughts on this, is whether CFIA would have an additional role. The member for Foothills gave examples of where the behaviour of individuals, activists and protestors on farms was creating challenges. He mentioned Ontario and Alberta as two examples, and perhaps there are others, that have introduced provincial legislation in this sphere, but there was not a whole lot of conversation on who enforces this. Is this being done by police or CFIA, given the fact that it has the explicit responsibility for this act?

Something we need to consider is whether that would be an expectation of CFIA, whether it would be given a larger mandate and be required to have additional personnel who would also be responsible on farm, because right now it is largely maintained among the federal abattoir-inspected facilities. I asked the member for Foothills about this and in his remarks, which I do not have right in front of me, he said that many of these activists do not know what they are walking into or they are not aware.

I will read the provision that he is suggesting we add to the legislation. It says:

No person shall, without lawful authority or excuse, enter a building or other enclosed place in which animals are kept knowing that or being reckless as to whether entering such a place could result in the exposure of the animals to a disease or toxic substance

My concern is if the member for Foothills is correct in saying that the majority of people do not know about this when they go on farm and the provision is that they had to know about or ought to have known about it, it may be a difficult threshold for us to make meaningful change on these pieces, but perhaps that could be studied at committee, assuming that it passes to that level.

I want to highlight a few things. There are strong biosecurity measures already in place on Canadian farms and other establishments. The member for Foothills himself acknowledged the good work that Canadian farmers do along with industry, in co-operation with the federal, provincial and territorial governments.

It is up for debate, but there are legal instruments already in place to perhaps deal with the issue around whether the provinces have the ability to introduce these types of legislation, as some provinces have already done. There are provisions under the Criminal Code. It is up for debate and I look forward to hearing other members' thoughts on whether prosecutors, who try to prosecute on these particular grounds, believe they have the tools to successfully have a prosecution in these circumstances, which I would agree are unfortunate and cannot continue.

The Health of Animals Act, which is where it is suggested this particular legislation be added, the private member's bill, is designed to protect the health of animals. I do not think anyone would question that is not a good intent, but I do not know if it is intended to be used as a mechanism to crack down on trespassers. That is why I asked the member for Foothills about whether there has been a connection between a biosecurity risk and trespassing on farm. I do not know what that information is. I asked that in earnest. I hope it is a point that we can discuss in the House, because this bill is an important piece of consideration for agriculture communities.

I want to bring in the Nova Scotia context very quickly. I am in one of the heaviest agriculture ridings in Atlantic Canada, in Kings—Hants. This has been mentioned by my stakeholders and that is why I have the privilege of being able to speak to this tonight. Speaking on behalf of the government, it does appreciate that the incursion on farms and biosecurity facilities can potentially result in the introduction of concerns and we look forward to hearing more of the debate tonight.

Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business

November 26th, 2020 / 6 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will start by thanking my colleague for introducing this bill. As my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot said, we will support it.

I will start with a question. At times, we might wonder if something that happened to us has also happened to someone else. For example, has anyone here ever experienced a break-in?

One of my colleagues raised a hand. I was not really expecting an answer, but I thank him for that information.

I have experienced a break-in, and I know it can change a person's life. It had a psychological impact on my sense of safety and consequences for my belongings. Nothing I took for granted was guaranteed anymore. I was worried about my family's safety 24/7. I was distressed and did not know what to believe. Personally, I think such an event changes a person's life, changes their habits.

Now imagine that the future of one's own business is at stake, that thousands of dollars are at stake or that the break-in makes one responsible for disease or for not having taken proper care of one's business.

Colleagues mentioned it earlier, including my colleague from Kings—Hants, whom I commend for his remarkable efforts to speak French. I tip my hat to him. Even though the Liberal Party does not have any tangible measures at least there are people in the Liberal Party making a serious effort. I encourage the hon. member to have a positive influence within his party.

As agriculture critic, when we would tour farms or processing plants before COVID-19, we would have to wear plastic from head to toe and wear a mask. People would have to remove their jewellery. They do not ask people to do that just for kicks. They do this for the sake of biosafety.

This bill is very serious and extremely important. It makes it an offence to enter, without lawful authority or excuse, a place in which animals are kept if doing so could result in the exposure of the animals to a disease or toxic substance that is capable of affecting or contaminating them. A disease or toxic substance may be introduced by a well-meaning person who wants to water an animal with an outside source that was not subject to quality control. As such the person might jeopardize the entire herd. Let's not forget the people who go near an abattoir or a farm to protest.

As my esteemed colleague warned us earlier, this is not about preventing people from expressing an opinion or protesting, quite the contrary. We live in a country that affords its people a lot freedoms that all parliamentarians here respect and want to continue to respect.

However, we must not lose sight of the basics, such as private property, biosecurity or the food security of our people; these are concerns that we have become extra sensitive to, particularly during this pandemic. It is therefore extremely important to take action, and here is why.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency's mandate on animal welfare is limited to regulating the humane treatment and transportation of food-producing animals when they are at the slaughterhouse or on the way there. As another colleague mentioned earlier, it is about preventing disease.

It is complementary, but I think the proposed legislation is necessary because it will add to and clarify the consequences. What I like about this bill is that it contains concrete measures, such as prison sentences and significant fines.

We have heard all kinds of stories about things that happened in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. Farmers and restaurateurs do not dare report incidents because they figure that if they get mad, they will come back. The government does not have the right to not ensure people's safety. The government certainly does not have the right to not ensure the safety of farmers, the people who feed us.

This does not take away anyone's right to protest. People can protest in the street with placards and on social media. All we are saying is that there must be no unjustified intrusions without appropriate precautions being taken.

I am sure that if these people want to visit facilities, they will find businesses that are willing and all the necessary precautions will be taken, just like the precautions that we as parliamentarians take when we visit farms and we don plastic from head to toe. Farmers are transparent. They have nothing to hide. That is the essence of Bill C-205.

I want to come back to the incident that happened in Quebec nearly a year ago, in December 2019. My colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot talked about it earlier. It had to do with Porgreg, in the Saint-Hyacinthe region. Those individuals were incredibly courageous, speaking out publicly with the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec, out of a sense of duty to serve the public. Despite the fear of reprisals, they did it for the public good.

In Quebec, this resulted in a temporary injunction prohibiting protesters from getting within a certain distance of farms, so as to ensure the safety not only of livestock, but also of property owners and businesses.

The piglets that died were mentioned earlier, but we did not hear about the disease that ensued. Rotavirus spread throughout the facility shortly after the trespass. Farm officials said they had not seen that disease for 40 years. How could one file a complaint and prove that the protesters brought in the disease? It would be very difficult. That is the problem. The proposed regulations will give some clout to people who might want to take action in that kind of situation. I am running out of time, but I could probably talk about it for a good half hour.

Leaving the doors of a hog barn open when it is -12°C outside is reckless. People were there all day. The police were called in to evacuate them one by one. I will come back to my anecdote from earlier. Imagine coming home and realizing that you have been burglarized and, to make matters worse, the burglars are sitting in the living room. Then imagine that the police tell you that it is a tough call because they did not break anything and no one can prove that they were the ones who stole the merchandise. At Porgreg, they put water in the diesel. It is appalling. We have to put ourselves in the farmers' shoes.

We have to adopt this measure because it is simply logical. Yes, there are jurisdictions to consider. We are very aware of that and we will be careful, but I think this bill deserves to be studied further because it is essential. Imagine not having any recourse against people sitting down in our own home. We have to adopt this measure now to avoid unfortunate events. I do not want to scare anyone, but we want to avoid that.

When one's own business is put at risk by a group of total strangers who came from another province, the interprovincial regulations become very important. It is important that we adopt this measure. The Bloc Québécois will support this bill. When the bill is a good bill, the Bloc Québécois will vote for it. I urge those who brought forward this bill to do the same for the bills we are introducing.

Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business

November 26th, 2020 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to also offer my congratulations to the member for Foothills for bringing forward Bill C-205 for the House's consideration and debate. I enjoyed working with the member for Foothills when he was previously a member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, of which I have now been a member for almost three years, going back into the previous Parliament. Maybe we will be able to invite the member back to the committee, this time as a witness to defend his bill.

I am quite excited about this because in the almost-three years that I have been a member of that committee, I have not yet had the chance to examine any legislation at the committee. It is actually exceedingly rare that the agriculture committee gets to examine legislation, and we may in fact now have two bills headed our way, both Bill C-206 and Bill C-205, so it is going to keep us quite busy in the short term.

The legislation that we have before us, Bill C-205, an act to amend the Health of Animals Act, is essentially centred on the danger that exists from potentially exposing animals on a farm to disease or to a toxic substance. Before I get into the particulars of the bill, it might be helpful just to spend a few moments talking about biosecurity and why it is so important for farms. Therefore, I will talk a bit about the experiences I have personally had here in my riding.

I have had the pleasure of visiting a couple of farms in my riding, and I will identify two of them: Lockwood Farms and Farmer Ben's Eggs. They are both fantastic egg producers in my riding.

Because I have a small flock of chickens myself, one of the strict requirements was that I have no contact with my own chickens for an entire week before I visited those farms because there is a very real danger that I could unwittingly, or through negligence, transfer diseases like avian flu. I also have a flock of ducks. For anyone who manages fowl, there is a real understanding that disease is prevalent and it is quite a danger, so there was that requirement before I even visited the farm. Of course, when I was there, we had to take great care to make sure that our footwear was clean, that we put on disposable booties and wore the gowns and the hairnets, before we actually went into the barn to look at their egg production facility.

When in the barn, we get a sense of why this is necessary. First, avian flu is a very contagious disease and if it were to go through the flock, it would be absolutely devastating. Any farmer whose livelihood depends on animals, whether livestock or poultry, will tell you that their first and primary care is focused on the well-being of their animals. They literally stay up at night wondering about all the dangers that could come, and biosecurity is a huge part of that.

Another experience I had, going back a few years to a previous life, was when I was a tree planter. One of my tree planting contracts was near Merritt at the Douglas Lake Ranch. It is one of the largest working cattle ranches in the interior of British Columbia and their lands are so vast that they actually lease them out to logging companies. They do selective harvesting of their lands and, as a tree planting company, we were brought in to reforest. When I was doing the reforestation, there was a real danger of foot and mouth disease, so before we were allowed entry onto the lands, we had to have our vehicles wiped down, the wheels hosed off and all of our footwear hosed off with cleaning agents to make sure that we were not inadvertently transferring the disease.

All of these examples just help to illustrate the very real concern that exists out there with biosecurity.

Given the fact that international trade is such a huge part of agriculture, we have seen many diseases and pests come from other parts of the world, diseases and pests that are novel to the Canadian environment and pose a very real risk. I have spoken to researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the number of new diseases and pests entering our borders every year really does keep them up at night. It is an ongoing battle to try to make sure that they're coming up with the best practices and best defences against those diseases.

I also want to highlight the important role that animal rights organizations play. As the member for Foothills correctly noted in his speech, the vast majority of them have the best interests of the animals at heart. Their ultimate goal is to make sure that we have a farming system in place that is treating our animals with respect and making sure that the standards of care are there.

What we face, and I think the member illustrated it very well in his speech, is the balance that we have to have between the public's right to know, the transparency we want to see and the right to protest, and the rights of a farmer to secure his or her property from trespassers, people who may not know how the farming operation works and may not know about the dangers they might be carrying, just simply on the soles of their feet. They could be transporting diseased soil or something in some food they are carrying, and these are all very real dangers for the reasons that I illustrated previously.

That is the balance we are confronting through the legislation we are considering. In Canadian law, when it comes to animal welfare, it is primarily our provinces that have jurisdiction over protecting the welfare of animals. Here in British Columbia, depending on what the case is, we have the B.C. SPCA. They do farm inspections. We also have visits from officials from the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture.

Going to Bill C-205 and what it is doing, for the the next part of my speech, I just want to highlight the provisions that currently exist in the federal statute that is the Health of Animals Act. If we go through the existing act, we can see that there are number of sections within the act that are already seeking to prohibit. For example, people are not allowed to conceal a reportable disease or toxic substance. People are not allowed to keep diseased animals. People are not allowed to bring them to market or to dispose of them improperly, or to let them out. These are all prohibited actions and they come with some pretty severe fines and penalties, because we are essentially trying to prevent those types of actions from occurring.

Where Bill C-205 steps in is that it is going to insert a new section 9.1, which is aiming to prohibit the entry of persons into a building where animals are kept, if by knowingly doing so or if they were reckless in doing so could potentially expose those animals to disease or a toxic substance. This is important. If the ultimate goal here is the welfare of animals, a person may have noble intentions and may want to see if the animals are being taken care of, but by doing so they may in fact be doing more harm than good.

Again, I understand the struggle that is out there, the debate that is going on with the public's right to know, but it has to be balanced against the very real consequences that those actions bring about. As the NDP's critic for agriculture and agri-food, I support the bill. I support the principle behind it. I believe that the bill does merit further study at the committee. That is why I will be looking forward to voting for it.

In closing, I have received correspondence from concerned people from across the country who are worried that the bill might serve as an effective gag against their right to protest. What I would say in reply to that is that if we look at the specific wording of this act, it is talking about a person entering without lawful authority or excuse. There is nothing in the bill to prevent a whistle-blower, like a farm employee, who is already lawfully there and who witnesses something that they believe is wrong or contrary to animal welfare laws, from blowing the whistle and raising the alarm on that.

Perhaps what the bill may serve to do is to have a broader conversation on how we instill that public trust and build that kind of transparency so that people understand what farming is all about and the struggles that farmers go through, and also give farmers a chance to inform the public of how a farm operates and what measures they try to put in place to look after their animals.

I will conclude there. I will just congratulate the member for Foothills again for bringing forward the legislation. I hope it is sent to committee so that we can take a further look at it.

Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business

November 26th, 2020 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to congratulate the member for Foothills on his excellent private member's bill.

Before I get into the heart of my speech, there are a couple of arguments that I think are misplaced. Quite frankly, I am a bit frustrated, as over the last couple of days I have been involved in private member's bills that were designed to help the agriculture industry, and we have received support and constructive feedback from both the Bloc Québécois as well as the NDP. I have to say I am a little disappointed in the Liberal Party and in its response to our supporting rural agriculture.

Specifically, I would like to address a couple of things that have come up. One is that this is absolutely an area of federal jurisdiction. It is co-jurisdiction, but the federal government has the right. Currently in some of the provincial legislation that would attempt to prevent some of the conduct that is contemplated in this legislation, some of the penalties are less than stringent. Therefore, this federal legislation, which is definitely within the jurisdiction, is also warranted.

Secondly, the member for Kings—Hants brought up the idea that maybe animal activists will not know about this law, and asked how we could put this law in place. The reality is that there is an old common-law principle that is hundreds of years old that says ignorance of the law is not an excuse. We must be aware of the law. It is part of being a citizen of a country.

Finally, the other subject he brought up was the idea that, and he did ask it earnestly and I do respect that, whether for one of these biosecurity lapses, protestors had created an outbreak or the spread of a disease, and whether there was evidence of this. I would say, respectfully, to him that before COVID there was no COVID. Before the Holocaust there was no Holocaust. We need to get ahead of things; we cannot stay behind them. The reality is that, whether this has occurred in the past or not, there is the very real opportunity for this to occur, which it appears all parties acknowledge. Therefore, we need to be ahead of these things, not behind them.

At this point, I would like to get into the meat of my speech. I can say with great pride that I am the member of Parliament for Northumberland—Peterborough South, a predominantly rural riding where we have, I believe, some of the best farmers in our country. I am honoured to rise in the House for the second time this week to speak in support of the amazing hard work farmers do across Canada.

Canadians should all be proud of the amazing work our agriculture sector does. We have incredibly difficult and stringent regulations, which farmers across our country meet every day to make sure that Canadians have the safest, most secure food supply in the world. Whether it be growing grain on the Prairies, produce out in the beautiful province of British Columbia or raising livestock in my province of Ontario, Canadians can rest assured that every step is being taken by our farmers to make sure that food is safe and secure.

We have talked about biosecurity in Canada, but I would just like to take a half-step back and explain, at least in accordance with the Province of Ontario, what biosecurity is. Biosecurity is defined at the farm level as a management practice enabling producers to prevent the movement of disease-causing agents onto and off of agricultural operations. This includes environmental contamination. Biosecurity, therefore, involves many aspects of farm management, such as disease control and prevention, closed-herd vaccination, nutrient management and visitor control. Although controlling and limiting the movement of livestock is recognized as the most important biosecurity measure for most diseases, many important hazards can be carried on contaminated clothing, boots, equipment and vehicles.

While many people outside of the agricultural industry may not yet be aware of the issue of biosecurity, it has become a major concern within the industry as a result of the foreign and emergent diseases that are increasing public concerns over food safety and the globalization of agriculture.

I would like to comment on the question addressed by the member for Foothills.

There is unfortunately a divide between rural and urban Canada. Hopefully this speech and legislation helps to bridge it. As someone who is in rural Canada, I invite every member of Parliament, whether Liberal, NDP or Green, to come out to rural Canada. I would be happy to show everyone around my farm and the farms in my area. We would, of course, abide by all appropriate measures.

The concerns of biosecurity will only grow as we have greater farm and population density. This will increase the relevance and salience of biosecurity concerns.

In my opinion, the passing of Bill C-205, an act to amend the Health of Animals Act, is long overdue. This is an issue that all Canadians should care about. I hope to see all my colleagues join me and the member for Foothills in supporting this important legislation.

The protection of biosecurity on farms has always been an important issue for farmers across the globe, but perhaps it has never been more salient than right now. There are currently no provisions at the federal level to protect our farmers, and the incredible products they produce, from trespassers, who may pass on an array of various diseases to their livestock.

Meanwhile, we are becoming increasingly aware of many diseases plaguing our farmers and animals across the globe. I want to give an example: African swine fever. Of course, the member for Foothills talked about this. This is a very real concern for Canadian farmers.

I want to tell the story of Chen Yun, a pork farmer in Jiangxi, China. He noticed that one of his pigs had stopped eating. Shortly after, it developed a fever. He was concerned, so he checked on the rest of his pigs. Within a week, all 10,000 of his pigs had died of African swine fever. This virus is highly contagious and affected every province in China, and it led to the slaughter of half of Chinese pigs.

Soon after the outbreak, the fever spread from China to Southeast Asia to central Europe, where it has now reached Belgium. This virus shows the importance of biosecurity and why this legislation is very important.

Health of Animals ActRoutine Proceedings

February 18th, 2020 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-205, An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand today and introduce this bill, which is seconded by my colleague, the member for Beauce.

This bill addresses a critical issue, which is the securing of the biosecurity of our food supply, especially when there are trespassers on farm property and facilities. As the House may be aware, there are numerous protests on farm property and process plants across this country, and it is certainly not relegated to one segment of agriculture or one area of Canada. We have seen people enter hog farms in Abbotsford, B.C. and Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, a pork breeding facility in Ontario, and activists have even tried to remove animals from dairy farms.

In my own riding of Foothills, a farmer was startled to come to his farm in the morning and see that dozens of protesters had broken into the property and into a barn and were trying to take turkeys. There are numerous examples, and I fear the situation will get worse if producers do not see something is done. I do not think activists understand the full consequences of their actions. We want them to understand that they are endangering the safety of livestock, families, farmers and workers. We understand that they care deeply about the soil, food safety, animal health and the environment, but I think my colleagues in this room would also understand and agree with me that mental health and anxiety within agriculture is at a crisis.

These are important issues that we hope to address, but I have decided to focus my amendment to the Health of Animals Act to create a new offence. The act provides for the control of diseases and toxic substances that may affect animals or could be transmitted by animals to persons. The risk from viruses like the African swine fever are very real and potentially devastating to Canadian agriculture.

Currently, there is nothing that addresses trespassers, which is what this bill aims to change. I look forward to engaging with my colleagues as we work together to address this important issue and the safety of Canada's food supply.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)