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.