The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-275, under Private Members' Business.
John Barlow Conservative
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
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, without lawful authority or excuse, a place in which animals are kept if doing so could reasonably be expected to result in the exposure of the animals to a disease or toxic substance that is capable of affecting or contaminating them.
Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business
November 29th, 2023 / 4:15 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont
The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-275, under Private Members' Business.
The House resumed from November 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-275, An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act (biosecurity on farms), be read a third time and passed.
Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business
November 22nd, 2023 / 6:20 p.m.
John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB
Madam Speaker, I want to thank all colleagues who took the opportunity not only tonight but throughout this process to speak in support of this very important legislation, which is an amendment to the Health of Animals Act, Bill C-275.
There has been overwhelming support for this bill from Canadians across this country, and certainly from farmers, producers and the entire agriculture sector. I cannot thank them enough for helping me craft this legislation, for improving it at committee and for championing it through the legislative process. To farmers, ranchers and producers across the country for their encouraging phone calls and letters, I give a heartfelt thanks.
Perhaps it is fitting if I take a few minutes to read an excerpt from an open letter by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which represents more than 200,000 families across Canada. It states:
The amendments proposed under Bill C-275, would provide targeted intervention against the on-farm food safety and biosecurity risk by limiting the access of unauthorized entrants to animals and farms. The proposed amendments to the Health of Animals Act offer an avenue to further strengthen our overall food system by enhancing the measures in place to protect the health of farm animals across our country.
At the same time, Bill C-275 strikes a balance between producers’ safety and protection and the right to lawful and peaceful protest. Our members’ operations often host visitors to demonstrate how the land is managed or their animals are cared for, but there is a key distinction between those who willingly follow prescribed, strict biosecurity and sanitation practices and those who willfully endanger animal health, welfare, and food safety.
The letter goes on to quote Megz Reynolds, an executive director of the Do More Agriculture Foundation, a group that is the national voice and champion for mental health in agriculture. She said:
Agriculture is an industry with a foundation in deep rural roots, hard work, resilience, strength, and community. On a daily [basis] farmers deal with numerous factors outside of their control, that directly influence their mental wellbeing. Farmers should not have to add living with the fear of protestors trespassing into enclosed areas and endangering their animals, livelihoods, and food security on top of everything else that weighs on them day in and day out. Farmers are among the most vulnerable when it comes to mental health challenges like stress, anxiety, depression, emotional exhaustion, and burnout. In 2021 the University of Guelph found that 1 in 4 Canadian farmers felt like their life was not worth living, wished that they were dead, or had thought about taking their own life in the last 12 months.
The letter concludes by saying, “We urge you to support Bill C-275 and its proposed amendments, which will provide increased safety to producers, the animals they raise, and the food they produce.”
I, of course, echo these sentiments. I want to encourage my colleagues to support Bill C-275 and send a message to our farmers, our livestock producers and their families. The message from the House of Commons would be that their animals matter, Canadian agriculture matters, our food security matters and, most importantly for farm families across the country, their livelihoods matter. We care about their mental health. We recognize the unwavering dedication our farmers and farm families have for the well-being of the animals in their care.
I again thank all colleagues who spoke so well and shared many of their personal sentiments on farmers and operations in their ridings across Canada and who echoed the concerns and viewpoints of their constituents in the House today. For colleagues who do not necessarily come from an agricultural or rural riding, it is important that we share this message not only with our rural communities but certainly with urban Canadians, who may not have a wealth of knowledge or experience regarding what Canadian agriculture is, how we do it, why we do it and the very strict regulations and protocols in biosecurity we must follow to ensure the security of our food supply.
I thank my colleagues for their support and hope they will continue to support Bill C-275. I also thank farmers and farm families across Canada so much for their support.
Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business
November 22nd, 2023 / 6 p.m.
Branden Leslie Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in support of Bill C-275, an act to amend the Health of Animals Act, biosecurity on farms, which was introduced by my friend and colleague, the member for Foothills.
Like my Conservative colleagues who have spoken to this piece of legislation already, I am also an extremely strong supporter of our agricultural sector. I actually grew up on a family farm near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. I wear it on my sleeve that I am just a regular farm kid who happened to find his way into the House of Commons.
I understand that many members of Parliament, and many Canadians, have not had the chance to visit a farm for a variety of reasons related to how they live their lives or where they live. I appreciate my hon. colleague from Charlottetown previously stating that, as a new MP, he had to recognize that urban MPs need to understand the interconnectivity between where production may take place and the processing done often in urban areas. At the end of the day, all Canadians eat. I applaud him for that and I encourage all my urban colleagues to try to understand by visiting a farm somewhere near their area.
Many others, who may be animal rights activists or vegans, may not want to experience a farm. For those who probably never will visit a farm, I would like to explain what it is like to visit a livestock operation. I have had the chance, prior to being elected and since being elected, to visit many farms.
The first question someone will be asked is if they have been to another farm recently because the transfer of diseases between farms is potentially a terrible challenge. Beyond that, someone is immediately asked to put on a suite of biosecurity measures like gowns, foot covers, hats, goggles and gloves, to make sure they are not endangering any of the flock or herd of animals on the farm. Livestock producers and all farmers care about the health of their animals. Animal welfare is critical. If we ask any producer, they will say the health and well-being of their animals is of utmost importance to them.
Relating to the bill specifically, its central provision is that it makes it an offence for a person, without permission, to enter a place where animals are kept, if their doing so could reasonably be expected to result in the animals being exposed to a disease or a dangerous substance. This is so that individuals and organizations will be deterred from entering farms without permission. It also changes the financial and non-financial penalties associated with doing so.
Some outside the agricultural sector may ask why these changes are necessary. Let me tell everyone why. Radical animal rights activists have been staging protests on private property, such as farms and processing plants, for far too long. I can assure people they are not putting on all that protective gear to protect the welfare of those animals. The groups that do not want to see this bill pass might deny this claim, so I will give a few examples.
On March 9, 2019, 15 activists trespassed on Webstone Holstein Farm, a dairy farm near Elmira, Ontario, even removing a deceased calf in the process.
On April 28, 2019, 65 individuals staged an occupation of the Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
On September 2 of the same year, dozens of protesters, without permission, planted themselves inside a barn at the Jumbo Valley Hutterite Turkey Farm near Fort Macleod, Alberta.
On December 7 of the same year, 11 activists occupied Porgreg farm, a pig-breeding facility in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec.
The disruptive nature of these protests is the reason that many provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and P.E.I, have passed bills that strengthen provincial laws as they relate to trespassing on farms. However, in provinces where these laws are not present, farmers are largely left to fend for themselves when it comes to creating a playbook for protecting biodiversity and handling trespassers on their property. This legislation aims to fix that.
The fact of the matter is that individuals and groups staging protests are far from being animal saviours. They are more than likely exposing animals to dangerous diseases and substances.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2022, the agriculture and agri-food system employed 2.3 million people, or one in nine jobs in Canada, and generated $143.8 billion, roughly 7% of Canada’s GDP.
An activist who, even accidentally, introduces a disease at a farm could have a staggering effect on these numbers, in addition to the fact that it would threaten our food security here in Canada and around the globe. Let us take, for example, African swine fever, ASF. It has yet to be detected in Canada, thank goodness. It was first found in China in August 2018, leading to the death of about half of that country’s pigs and a quarter of the entire world’s pig population between 2018 and 2019.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, CFIA, notes that in 2022, Canada exported just over $4.8 billion in pork to 77 different countries, as well as the fact that the industry contributes 88,000 jobs and generates $24 billion for our economy. For my province and my home riding, this is a very important issue as it relates to the hog sector. We have 138 sites producing pigs in my riding alone.
Manitoba is the second-largest producer and exporter of Canadian pork, employing 22,000 Manitobans across the various sectors involved with the industry. It is interconnectedness that matters here, in the sense that two million tonnes of feed is purchased by this sector from local grain growers, representing about half a billion dollars. Over 40 new barns have been expanded to enhance their environmental sustainability and animal care since 2017. This is a $2.3-billion industry for Manitoba that must be protected. The threat of radical animal rights activists putting that economic impact in jeopardy is worth tackling.
If ASF were to be detected in Canada, and to reach the same scale it had in China, the pork industry would simply be decimated, just like the numbers we saw in China. I cannot stress enough how devastating these losses would be, not just for those in the agricultural sector, but that interconnectedness. For the rest of the processing industry and those involved in shipping these processed products, it would have a major impact.
Protecting our economy and the global food supply is the main reason why this bill is so important, although another, and somewhat understated, goal of this legislation is to protect the mental health of farmers. Farmers have a very stressful life. They work long hours in sometimes very extreme conditions. They have an increasingly extremely high debt burden and are price takers, not price makers. In fact, the Canadian Mental Health Association states that “stress, mental health issues, and suicide are higher among farmers as compared to the general population.” When radical animal rights activists illegally enter farms on the private property that they are located on, they unnecessarily threaten farmers' physical and mental well-being by adding to the long list of stressors that our Canadian farmers already face. This is unfair, especially considering that farmers are, quite literally, the people who feed our country and the world.
I have taken a few minutes to talk about what this bill does, but I would also like to focus on what it does not do. I know there are some criticisms out there that are unwarranted. The first thing it does not do is limit a person’s ability to protest peacefully. Second, it does not prevent whistle-blowers in any way. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 2(c), protects an individual's right to peaceful assembly. If people take issue with the way farmers raise their livestock, they are free to protest in accordance with all applicable laws on public property instead of private agricultural land. To the second point, this bill does not, as some might lead people to believe, prevent whistle-blowers from speaking out. Whistle-blowers are the employees. They are the family members. They are professionals who work and are legally permitted to be on the private property where these animals are being housed. Simply put, trespassing activists are not whistle-blowers. They are more like trouble-makers.
At the end of the day, this is a good piece of legislation that will protect biodiversity on farms and farmers' mental health. It has support from a vast number of organizations from the agricultural sector, including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Canadian Cattle Association, the Canadian Pork Council and Dairy Farmers of Canada. While I could give quotations about their support and stand here all day expressing why they think this is important, I would just like to thank them for all the work they have done in supporting this legislation, as well as all the good work they do to represent our Canadian farmers. Like those stakeholder groups, I hope that we are able to turn this common-sense bill into law as soon as possible.
I will just conclude by saying that for the well-being of our farmers, our economy and our food supply, I hope members of this chamber will join me in voting in favour of Bill C-275.
Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business
November 22nd, 2023 / 5:50 p.m.
Caroline Desbiens Bloc Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île dOrléans—Charlevoix, QC
Madam Speaker, first I would like to say that I am aware we still have a long way to go to improve how livestock are often treated. We must speak out against intensive livestock farming done without any concern for animal welfare. We have to implement practices worthy of a modern world.
Our ancestors showed us how to be kind and have respect for the lives of farm animals. We must monitor any misconduct and punish people accordingly. Animal rights groups are right to be concerned. However, we must not defend animal rights by demonstrating illegally, which only makes things worse. Before I get into it, I would like to say that we all make life choices. Food is part of that, based on our values and food traditions. Generally speaking, we should be eating local food that comes from ethical and sustainable agriculture, and we should show moderation in how much we eat, especially when it comes to food of animal origin. That is a rule we should live by at all times.
In the same vein, a society that treats its animals badly and disrespectfully does not take much better care of its humans. That idea is going to form the foundation of the rest of my speech. I would like to take advantage of the fact that we are indirectly talking about animal welfare to say thank you to all the pets that have been part of my life or still are. I am sure many of my colleagues here will agree that the relationship we have with our pets is unique; it is like no other feeling.
Although they go by many names, I am convinced that pets make families happy, just as Copain, Patof, Flocon, Hiver, Roxy once did for me, and as Abricot, Capi, Dalida, our little newcomer, Ma Dalton, Luna, Marjolie, Berlioz and Iba still do. I want to take this opportunity to thank pets for the affection and unconditional loyalty they give to their respective families. Pets bring happiness to families and single people alike, and there are the positive effects that pet therapy has on people with psychological difficulties.
Although not directly related to the subject of this bill, I wanted to highlight my love for animals and also my concern for all aspects of animal welfare in our society. I am very concerned about respect for animal life and welfare at home and on livestock farms. Legal protection of the animal world is a fundamental principle.
In that regard, this bill engages the same willingness to do better, despite any perceptions that its wording may elicit. The Bloc Québécois will support Bill C‑275 in principle, particularly to curb a growing phenomenon across North America and the rest of the world. I am referring to break-ins at farm buildings to protest livestock conditions. As unhealthy as they may sometimes be, there is no excuse for committing offences that often endanger the very animals we seek to protect. This bill is a step in the right direction, although a number of points will have to be clarified to determine whether this addition is consistent with Canada's federal animal health legislation and Quebec's existing animal welfare legislation.
We firmly believe that it is not up to the federal government to impose its laws on Quebec, even in an area of shared jurisdiction, when the division is relatively clear. The Bloc Québécois recognizes that demonstrations with dramatic gestures are a growing problem, that they should not be trivialized and that they must be better regulated. This is not a debate about freedom of expression. No one is questioning this right to demonstrate against abuse, which must be denounced. However, when the act of protest itself leads to mischief, that may not be the best way to express one's opposition.
I do not think this bill is meant to condone animal abuse. We all have a responsibility to speak out against such situations. Extremes often lead to excesses, which is when laws like these are really necessary. It is more a question of recognizing that property-owning families have suffered and continue to suffer from these crimes, and that they live in fear of new offences being committed. It is also about making people aware that biosecurity standards must be met on farms in order to protect the safety of animals and herds.
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. There is nothing offensive or upsetting about that.
The Bloc Québécois's concern over this bill is that the penalties for contravening the new offence are enforced under the Health of Animals Act and not under the Criminal Code, which is a federal responsibility. Then, the enabling legislation, the Health of Animals Act, was not directly designed to support animal welfare, despite its title. It was instead drafted to protect animals in a perspective of human consumption and to try to contain the chance of zoonotic diseases, diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans.
The federal government has limited power with respect to the scope of application of such a bill. That is why it would be interesting to have more information in committee on the bill's functionality and application. Protecting animal welfare, including that of livestock, is primarily a provincial jurisdiction. Every province and every territory in Canada has legislation on animal welfare. Provincial and territorial legislation often have a broader scope; they focus on a series of interests related to animal protection.
Some provinces and territories have laws or regulations that govern specific aspects of animal welfare or target certain species. All of the provinces have animal welfare legislation, but they do not all have legislation dealing specifically with this offence. In recent years, several provinces, including British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta, have created or strengthened laws to punish people who break into a slaughterhouse or farm. Quebec does not yet have such legislation, and instead court action is taken under the Criminal Code or the Civil Code. We must therefore avoid getting involved in a situation that might be construed as us telling Quebec what it should do. It is not up the federal government to impose its laws on the provinces.
When strangers come into contact with animals or their habitat without taking the appropriate precautions to avoid contamination, the risk of disease increases tenfold. Every such contact is a risk and requires the application of biosecurity measures. Intrusions that cause a disease outbreak in a farmer's herd jeopardize their livelihood because sick animals cannot be consumed and must be isolated. If the disease spreads outside the farm, the consequences can be catastrophic. The best example of this is the avian flu, which is often transmitted through contact with migratory birds. 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. For example, noise and stress can cause sows to get up abruptly and then kill the piglets when they lay back down. How can a person think that holding these animals hostage, as it were, will serve a cause? One has to wonder.
If we want to change mindsets and get people to eat less meat, because limiting meat consumption is also beneficial for the environment and reduces greenhouse gases, we need to find other ways to do it. Balancing supply and demand, adding these variables to education programs and improving information and awareness are just some of the ways we can profoundly change the course of history.
Some members in this House may not agree because they deny the concept of ecosystem imbalance and the role of human neglect in animal welfare and they believe that climate change is made up. As we all know, freedom of expression is a precious value for the Bloc Québécois, and people have every right to protest and make their views known. However, we cannot condone protests involving illegal acts that may cause harm to both producers and animals. Breaking and entering is simply not the way to go about it.
Asking questions about best practices and the best ways to change consumer mindsets is also a good way to protect animals. I would like to point out that in Quebec is once again well ahead of the game. It is home to a number of livestock farms that are winning awards of excellence in animal welfare. For example, Ferme Karona in Plessisville, central Quebec, won Agropur's 2021-22 animal welfare award. The farm is a true wonder. I commend the owners, Pierre, Odrey and Pierre-Olivier Caron, who breed Holstein cows and are recognized as master breeders, the most highly prized honour in the livestock industry. The title is conferred by Holstein Canada on livestock producers who breed and raise animals under the most comfortable conditions and in compliance with good breeding habits and practices based on health and longevity. The cows are free ranging and live on a fine sand surface more comfortable than a living room sofa. All this is happening right here in our own backyard. Obviously, when breeders improve their behaviour, the number of offences committed to protest animal abuse drops. I encourage people to follow their example.
There is probably room for a constructive discussion on this issue. The debates between the parties were all about the details. I hope there will be more reflection to find better solutions. I would especially like to see Quebec used as a model, once again, in order to improve the health and the lives of animals.
Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business
November 22nd, 2023 / 5:40 p.m.
Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE
Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to Bill C-275 and, specifically, to the support it would provide our farmers.
We know that Canadian farmers face hardships. These include issues with supply chains and the rising costs of production; the threat of environmental hardships, such as natural disasters caused by climate change; and the risk of harmful and deadly animal disease. These are compounding everyday struggles. The possibility of someone illegally entering farmers' property amplifies these hardships, causing stress to the farmer, their family and their animals.
Bill C-275 would protect Canadian farmers and their animals by making it illegal to enter a place where animals are kept if, in doing so, a person could reasonably expose the animals to a disease or toxic substance. The bill would provide Canadian farmers with the reassurance that they no longer have to worry about potential biosecurity breaches from individuals entering their property illegally. They could instead focus on their daily work to maintain the health of their animals and to help feed the country.
The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food studied this bill. The committee heard from a number of stakeholders, including farmers and industry associations representing the agriculture and agri-food sector. It was clear from their testimony that farmers are committed to protecting the health of their animals. Their livelihood depends on it. Indeed, that would characterize the vast majority of farmers.
However, I would be remiss if I did not point out some of the criticisms of the bill raised by those who are concerned about animal cruelty. There are people who have expressed concerns in that regard. They point out that, in Canada, it is rare to see cameras in slaughterhouses, something that is commonplace in Europe, for example. They also point out that whistle-blowers in an operation, where they see something untoward, would be exposed to potential risk by measures such as these.
I am from Prince Edward Island, and probably the most serious biosecurity case encountered in P.E.I. did not relate to animals but, as one might predict, to potatoes. In 2014, there were sewing needles found in potatoes and in french fries in various locations throughout Prince Edward Island. The angst this caused the agricultural community was absolutely incredible. It also necessitated some very substantial investments by farmers to essentially X-ray potatoes going through the processing line in order to combat this and reassure the public their food was safe.
Our government recognizes the importance of farmers and has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to them and the agriculture and agri-food sector. I want to take a moment to describe some of the ways we have supported the Canadian agriculture sector over the past year, beginning with budget 2023.
The Canadian agriculture industry is world class and the backbone of our economy. In fact, Canada exported nearly $92.8 billion in agriculture and food products in 2022. The government has made a number of significant investments to continue expanding the sector's reach. For instance, through budget 2023, our government created the dairy innovation and investment fund, providing up to $333 million over the next 10 years. The fund is intended to help the Canadian dairy sector increase its competitiveness and adapt to new market realities.
We know the dairy sector is a vital pillar of rural communities and a key driver of the economy. There are 9,739 farms and 507 dairy processing plants across Canada, employing more than 70,000 Canadians. In 2022, the dairy sector generated $17.4 billion in sales.
Even though I am from Prince Edward Island, I represent an urban riding. I can remember, when I was first elected, being summoned to a meeting with dairy farmers with a couple of my rural colleagues. My immediate reaction was to ask why I needed to be at the meeting, because there were no dairy farmers in my riding.
It was very quickly pointed out to me that ADL, which is a milk and cheese processor, employs many of my constituents. That was a good lesson for a young member of Parliament: While much of the wealth is generated in rural areas, it often emanates from rural into urban areas. We are all interconnected. That needs to be borne in mind.
I would like to offer a tip of the hat to Chad Mann and the good people at Amalgamated Dairies Limited, who are truly national and international leaders in the production of milk and cheese. We are immensely proud of them. They are actually owned by producers. It is a business that we need to promote as a key element of the economy in Prince Edward Island and that the Government of Canada can, must and should continue to support.
The sustainable Canadian agriculture partnership was launched this past April. It is a five-year agreement between the federal and provincial and territorial governments. It includes $1 billion in federal programs and activities. For instance, the federal AgriMarketing program provides approximately $130 million to the agriculture sector to increase and diversify exports to international markets and seize domestic market opportunities.
The SCAP includes an additional $2.5 billion in cost-shared programs and initiatives that are funded among all orders of government. This includes, for example, support for AgriRecovery in cases of emergencies.
Speaking of AgriRecovery in support of emergencies, natural disasters can have a devastating impact on our agriculture industry. We have seen it up close in Prince Edward Island, more often than we would like in recent years, including, most recently, hurricane Fiona. There have been a number of catastrophic floods, droughts and hurricanes that have resulted in millions of dollars in losses.
Our government recognizes the hardships that farmers face from these natural disasters, and we are here to support them. The AgriRecovery framework is designed to support producers with the extraordinary costs they incur because of an emergency and to get them back into production.
That is why, in October 2023, we announced $365 million in federal-provincial funding to provide relief to farmers and ranchers in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan as a result of the extraordinary costs they have incurred because of this year's extreme weather conditions. This funding covers up to 70% of costs incurred during these disasters. This includes moving livestock, so they can be fed and watered, replacing and repairing damaged fencing, and unforeseen veterinary costs.
I would like to close by indicating that our government recognizes the importance of supporting farmers. We are investing significant funding to support our farmers and producers. This would enable Canadian farmers to maintain their world-class reputation and continue to provide Canadians with the first-rate products we have come to expect.
Our government is always hard at work to promote the work of our farmers in the agriculture sector through a wide range of activities, initiatives and funding opportunities. We have demonstrated that we are consistently here for our farmers, in good times and in bad.
Bill C-275 is another tool to provide further support for farmers and to ensure the safety of their animals, a subject that preoccupies the vast majority of them. This is a commendable objective that deserves our backing.
The House resumed from October 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-275, An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act (biosecurity on farms), be read the third time and passed.
Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business
October 31st, 2023 / 6:35 p.m.
Richard Lehoux Conservative Beauce, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today in support of Bill C-275, an act to amend the Health of Animals Act regarding biosecurity on farms, which was introduced by my colleague, the member for Foothills, under Private Members' Business.
Like my friend and colleague from Foothills, I love and deeply respect the agriculture and agri-food industry. As a dairy farmer and purebred breeder for over 40 years, I have always been a strong supporter of the agricultural industry, and I recognize the importance of this bill.
This bill proposes essential amendments to the current Health of Animals Act, which in my opinion does not go far enough in protecting biosecurity on our farms or in protecting our family farms from unwelcome intruders on private property.
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 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 even a herd.
As hon. members know, animal rights activists have organized many protests on private property, on farms and at processing plants. Of course, these protests are not limited to certain segments of the animal agriculture sector or certain parts of the country. It is a broader issue.
Bill C‑275 simply proposes to double the fines for trespassing on a farm. This will protect biosecurity on the farm, as well as the safety and mental health of farm families. When activists break into farm properties and facilities, they do not fully grasp the consequences of their actions. First and foremost, they endanger the safety of farm animals, as well as of farmers and workers.
I know that my colleagues in the House will agree with me when I say that agricultural producers, livestock farmers and processors care deeply about food safety and animal health. They will also agree that mental health and anxiety among farmers are reaching crisis levels, especially since the pandemic.
Protecting Canada's food supply is vital. Viruses such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE, foot-and-mouth disease, avian influenza and African swine fever pose a very real threat to Canadian agriculture. These biosecurity threats can decimate livestock herds and devastate our industry and economy.
An epidemic in Canada would devastate our farms, and export markets would disappear overnight, crippling the pork industry as well as many other industries in the chain. A single case of BSE in the early 2000s automatically shut down all Canadian export markets.
I would like to share with my colleagues my personal experience as a purebred breeder exporting to some 30 countries in the 2000s. All Canadian exports came to a halt overnight, only resuming several years later, very gradually. When it comes to the costs of non-compliance with biosecurity measures, I can confirm that they are very high.
The vast majority of people who go to farms respect these biosecurity measures. Enhancing biosecurity measures as they relate to trespassers is a move that is supported by farmers and ranchers, as well as food processors and the many associations that my colleague from Foothills named earlier. Even the former agriculture minister spoke about the unacceptable actions of extremist groups who protest against dairy farms and the fact that this was a major concern of his department.
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.
I would like to tell the House of Commons about some testimony we heard at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food from a British Columbia hog farmer, Ray Binnendyk, who had to deal with a massive demonstration on and off his property.
He and his family woke up one morning to find several protesters in and around his hog barn. These were not isolated individuals; they were brought onto his private property by bus for the sole purpose of disrupting his family's farming activities. Cameras have also been installed inside his hog barn on several occasions.
The case I just mentioned was truly catastrophic. This was his and his family's livelihood. The fact that he was the victim of such an intrusion, that his private property was invaded, is appalling. We can no longer allow Canadian farmers to be intimidated. We also cannot afford to suffer from food insecurity in the current climate because of mental health concerns.
Clearly, the agricultural industry fully supports these important changes to the legislation. We, the Conservative Party of Canada, hope to have the support of all parties to pass Bill C‑275 as soon as possible.
In conclusion, Bill C‑275 will defend biosecurity on farms and in food processing centres. Protecting animals and workers must always be top of mind when it comes to farms and food processing centres.
I hope that all members of the House understand the importance of this bill and will support it when the time comes to vote on it here. This bill is in no way partisan. It is common sense. We must do everything we can to protect Canada's agri-food sector. As members have heard in previous speeches and in my intervention, protecting the national food supply is extremely important.
It is imperative that the federal government step in to ensure compliance with and regulation of these issues. We must put guidelines in place so the provinces can review them. Then, we must work with all stakeholders to do everything we can to better protect farmers.
Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business
October 31st, 2023 / 6:25 p.m.
Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak to this bill.
I have to say I was a little surprised to hear my friend, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford and a fellow member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, say that he protects provincial areas of jurisdiction. What an odd thing to say at this juncture. We could talk about that at length.
I would like to go have a beer with him to hear more about all the obstacles he sees to health care with respect to these systems. I would like him to tell me his definition of areas under provincial jurisdiction when he talks to us here in Parliament about imposing conditions on seniors' care homes in the provinces before sending transfers. I actually object quite strenuously to being told that this evening. I hope the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford is listening to what I am saying.
I will not hold it against him, though. I will let it slide, but I want to set the record straight. This is not about encroaching on areas under Quebec's and the provinces' jurisdiction. I am an elected member of the Bloc Québécois, as I believe everyone here knows. We are always talking about that. I noticed a member across the way with a charming smile that I will take as a sign that he knows what I am talking about. I doubt anyone here is as keen to protect Quebec's jurisdiction as I am.
We have had that discussion. At the same time, I must admit that my colleague is not coming out of nowhere on that because trespassing does in fact fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces and Quebec. There are already laws in that regard. The problem is that often those laws are inadequate. They force people into extremely complicated complaints processes that require showing evidence of a direct link between the disease outbreak and the trespassing. I will give the example of the Porgreg hog farm in Saint‑Hyacinthe, where there was a rotavirus outbreak after people illegally trespassed there. The owners must scientifically prove that the outbreak happened because of the trespassing. That is very difficult to do.
What we can do at the federal level is amend the Health of Animals Act, which falls under federal jurisdiction. Members can rest assured that I would not interfere in the jurisdictions of the provinces and Quebec. That is clear. I am still trying not to laugh after being told that by my NDP colleague. We witness all sorts of things in the House. I cannot help laughing.
What we are doing is legislating on animal welfare. This law will reinforce the message. It says that, if a person enters a livestock facility without authorization and jeopardizes its biosecurity, then they will have to pay a hefty fine.
My NDP colleague is criticizing us for not saying that everyone would be subject to this fine. We are talking about a $25,000 fine. Do we seriously want to tell people who work on a farm, feed the pigs or milk the cows that if, three weeks or a month from now, they make a mistake and an accident happens, not only will they lose their job and lose a lot of money for their employer, or themselves if they are farmers, but they will also be fined $25,000? That is ridiculous. Employees cannot be targeted by this bill.
The purpose of the law is to prevent trespassing, which, I might add, is criminal assault. Nobody is talking about passing a law for the sake of it. The issue here is people entering someone's property and settling in. I already gave an example in the previous Parliament, because, unfortunately, in the House, we often have to restart what has already been done. This bill is in its second iteration. I have already suggested imagining coming home and finding eight people sitting in the living room. Nobody is allowed to shove them out, because physically touching them is considered physical assault. Assault charges could be laid, even if these people are in the living room. The police must be called to ask them to leave.
It may take several hours. It is not known what the individual did while there. Maybe the individual went to sabotage the bathroom. I am talking about sabotage because, at the Porgreg pig farm, someone put water in the diesel tank. Without video surveillance, it is difficult to prove that it was the intruder who put water in the diesel tank.
I referenced the laws of Quebec. The laws of Quebec exist, for private property, but we are acting here on another level, that of biosecurity. The committee did not take its work lightly. The committee very diligently made sure that we addressed biosecurity, which we want to protect.
The member for Foothills is the sponsor of this important bill and I thank him again for introducing it. I believe it was he who mentioned, among other things, African swine fever, which is circulating in the world today.
I am not trying to scare people even though it is Halloween today, but let us call things by their rightful name. If anyone can go onto a farm at any time without following protocols, that will certainly cause problems. Studies done by organizations show that most biosecurity incidents are caused by someone who works on site. Accidents do happen, but does the fact that accidents happen justify letting people assault others with impunity? Honestly, I do not see this as a valid argument. The goal is to minimize risk and protect farmers.
Can we start to respect the people who feed us in this country? Yesterday, produce growers spoke out, asking for emergency support programs so their businesses will not go under, but governments are not responding.
In this case, at least, the issue is being addressed. I applaud that.
I want to talk about safety measures. Farmers must first wash and change their boots. Poultry farmers have different boots for each hen house. Most of the time, they take a shower afterwards. Farmers have specific clothing for the barn. There are a lot of rules to follow, and with good reason. Avian flu can be transmitted by wild bird droppings in the field that the farmer has stepped in without noticing. It could come from the tire of another vehicle that has driven through. It only takes one particle that is nearly invisible to the naked eye to transmit these dreadful viruses. This is a serious subject.
We are talking about respecting the people who feed us, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them. They work hard every day, with little income, but they are under a lot of stress trying to stay in business for the long term. There is also the lack of respect and support they get from their government. What we are talking about today is important.
This bill does not conflict Quebec's laws. Animal health is a separate area. This reinforces the message. Of course, it is already prohibited by certain laws in some provinces that are stricter than others. Here, however, it is prohibited everywhere.
I understand that my time is almost up. I was shocked to hear someone from the NDP tell me to respect provincial jurisdictions. I will remember what he said, and the NDP can rest assured that I will remember it, keep the video and bring it up again in the coming months when he does the same thing again. When that happens, I will ask him what he is doing.
For now, let us vote in favour of Bill C-275. Let us show some respect for farmers and, above all, let us protect them. Can we, as a government, tell people that we are going to do everything we can to ensure that they will not be assaulted on their property or when they are working to feed us all?
Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business
October 31st, 2023 / 6:15 p.m.
Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC
I was happy to support this bill at second reading, but that support was always conditional on certain amendments being made at committee, just as we did in the previous Parliament, the 43rd Parliament, on the previous version of this bill, which was Bill C-205. Unfortunately, the majority of committee members did not support the amendments that were conditional for my support, and I find myself speaking in the House today saying that I can no longer support Bill C-275.
I want to talk about the importance of biosecurity measures because they are incredibly important to Canadian farms and farms all around the world. At the federal level, Canada’s legislative framework for dealing with issues with respect to animal disease and biosecurity rests primarily under the Health of Animals Act and its regulations.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for investigating and responding to reported incidents of a reportable animal disease. We know that many diseases pose a serious risk to farm animals, including things such as African swine fever, foot and mouth disease, and avian influenza. Biosecurity is about preventing the movement of disease-causing agents on to and off of agricultural operations. The three key principles of effective biosecurity are isolation, traffic control and sanitation.
At committee, we had a variety of witnesses, and many of those witnesses provided our committee with briefs. One of the organizations was Animal Justice. It provided a report from 2021 that looked at the disease outbreaks and biosecurity failures on Canadian farms. It was around the same time Bill C-205 was being debated in the previous Parliament.
I know a lot of people have differing opinions on animal justice, but the report was based on factual data, and that data listed hundreds of incidents of failures of biosecurity, which were all caused by authorized personnel associated with the afflicted farms. That means people who were authorized to be on the farm were the ones responsible for the disease outbreak.
Biosecurity is a serious thing. It can happen to any farm, and it can happen to anyone, either through no fault of their own or through being at fault. If they are not following proper biosecurity measures, the results can be quite devastating.
I also want to take some time to talk about the differences between federal and provincial jurisdiction when it comes to enacting laws because this is a key point behind my opposition to Bill C-275. We know the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over the criminal law power. That is why acts, such as the Health of Animals Act, exist.
We know that, to be considered a valid exercise of criminal law power, federal legislation has to have a valid criminal law purpose, which can include measures such as health; be connected to a prohibition; and be backed by a penalty for violations. This bill, however, gets out of the federal lane and enters into provincial jurisdiction over trespass law. We know that the provinces of Canada have exclusive jurisdiction over property and civil rights, and that is definitely considered to be the domain under which they enact their anti-trespass laws. I think Bill C-275 is unfortunately taking us into provincial jurisdiction, and that is a serious point that we have to pay attention to.
This is backed up by evidence that we heard from none other than the senior legal counsel for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Mr. Joseph Melaschenko. On two occasions, both in questioning from the member for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill and from myself, he confirmed that the phrase “without lawful authority or excuse” in Bill C-275 made this primarily a piece of legislation about trespass. He confirmed that on the record on two separate occasions.
What are we to take from that? If the senior legal counsel of the federal agency responsible for the Health of Animals Act is telling our committee that Bill C-275 is veering into trespass territory, why should we as a committee be ignoring it and instead returning a bill to the House with that problematic phrase in it?
That is the crux of the problem. That phrase is making the bill veer into that territory. I tried my best at committee to amend the bill. My amendment sought to remove the phrase “without lawful authority or excuse” so that the purported biosecurity measures of Bill C-275 would apply to everyone equally. After all, if we are in fact serious about dealing with biosecurity breaches, knowing we have a litany of evidence detailing just how many on-farm failures there have been from people who are authorized to be there, we should make a biosecurity piece of legislation apply to everyone equally, including on-farm employees. Unfortunately, that amendment failed.
I want to commend another member of the committee, the new member for Winnipeg South Centre, who tried with his own amendment to instead insert the phrase “applicable biosecurity measures” so that basically the bill would have applied to everyone who had taken the applicable biosecurity measures. I think that was a reasonable amendment. Again, we have measures in place that the industry has developed. They are voluntary measures, but they are developed with the CFIA, and I think it is quite reasonable that if we are going to make a substantive amendment to the Health of Animals Act, we should make reference to applicable biosecurity measures. Unfortunately, a majority of committee members did not see eye to eye with me or the member for Winnipeg South Centre, and we have the version of the bill we are dealing with today in the House.
I also believe that clause 2 of the bill is redundant and completely unnecessary given that the Health of Animals Act already has offences and punishment. I have been in this place a long time, and unfortunately our federal statutes are littered with examples of redundant and unnecessary language in the law. One only needs to look at the Criminal Code of Canada to see that in action. I believe that with offences and punishment already listed in the parent act, having clause 2 in Bill C-275 is unnecessary, and it is yet another reason I can no longer support it.
I want to make one thing very clear to all who are listening to this debate: I will never condone unauthorized trespass on private property that puts farmers and their families at risk. I say that not only as the NDP's critic for agriculture and agri-food, but as the member of Parliament for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, an area that has a long and storied history in farming.
Unfortunately, I have arrived at this place with Bill C-275 because I believe it is veering out of its federal laneway and into provincial jurisdiction. I believe, in other words, that it is a trespass bill masquerading as a biosecurity bill. Proper biosecurity measures need to apply to everyone equally. If a farm does not follow measures and is responsible for a disease outbreak that spreads to other farms, then it is that farmer who has done a real disservice to his or her neighbours. We need to work to make sure those measures are applicable to everyone.
If people are concerned with the inadequacy of current trespass law in Canada, then I invite them to pressure their provincial representatives, because that is where this debate belongs. If members of this House feel that trespass laws are not adequate, then it is the provincial legislatures of Canada that need to take that issue up on behalf of their constituents.
It is very difficult to find the correct balance between all of these issues, and I really wish I could have come to a place where I was supporting Bill C-275. Unfortunately and with regret, I do not feel that Bill C-275 would achieve that balance, and I will find myself voting against it.
Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business
October 31st, 2023 / 6:05 p.m.
Francis Drouin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Bill C-275 would amend the Health of Animals Act to add a new offence to protect farmers and the biosecurity of animals on their farms from those who enter their property unlawfully. The objective of the bill is laudable, as it is meant to deter individuals or groups who choose to illegally enter a farm and potentially cause detrimental impacts to Canadian farmers and their animals.
The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food had an opportunity to study Bill C-275; during this time, we heard from several witnesses who brought various perspectives forward. What was abundantly clear from witnesses' testimony is that protecting the health and safety of animals is of the utmost importance to farmers and producers. As we noted during the study of the bill, on-farm animal biosecurity protocols are a key element supporting this objective, which is why the majority of committee members voted in support of Bill C-275 passing with amendments.
In simple terms, animal biosecurity consists of the practices and principles that protect animals from the introduction and spread of infectious diseases. In Canada, animal biosecurity is an area of shared responsibility. It involves federal, provincial and territorial governments, industry associations and farmers. All these partners work together to strengthen animal biosecurity.
Over the years, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has collaborated with industry, academic institutions and provinces and territories to develop voluntary national biosecurity standards for various sectors, including poultry, cattle and dairy. These standards are available on the CFIA's website. Farmers can tailor them to meet their specific operational needs and help protect the animals on their farms.
During the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food's study of Bill C-275, we learned that a number of industry-led programs incorporate some elements of these national biosecurity standards in their on-farm programs. We have been informed that farmers implement these standards and can tailor biosecurity protocols to meet the unique circumstances of their farm operation. Witnesses spoke to the specific protocols their industry members require on their farms, including showering in and out of barns, washing their hands and signing logbooks, to name a few. Protocols are often unique to the farm and tailored to the specific needs of the farmers and circumstances. It was broadly recognized that these protocols are essential. The risk of an animal disease outbreak is real and can be devastating, as was explained by the member for Foothills. That is why the government has continued to fund efforts to strengthen animal biosecurity in Canada.
For example, in 2022, the government allocated $1.5 million to the poultry biosecurity preparedness initiative in Ontario. This funding is directed toward non-supply-managed poultry operations with 300 birds or more. It provides money for these farmers to strengthen their on-farm biosecurity protocols used to reduce the spread of avian flu, such as adding security gates and signage to control entry, purchasing cleaning and disinfecting equipment for their premises and enhancing practices to mitigate interactions between wild and farm birds. In sum, animal biosecurity is crucial for the agricultural sector. Biosecurity protocols help minimize disease risk to Canadian farms and their livestock, reduce the threat of disease to both animals and Canadians, and maintain market access and international trade.
I have heard multiple testimonies on Bill C-275, and the difference between a regular business and a farm business is that families live on farms. When protesters or unwanted visitors show up on farms, it is completely different. None of us here in the House are saying that people should not protest, but if a person has an issue with animal abuse, there are resources they can use. For instance, they can call the SPCA in Ontario or OMAFRA to make a complaint. These organizations have the proper resources to show up on a farm, as well as the proper knowledge. Not everybody knows how to raise livestock in Canada. Videos from certain groups that I have seen online clearly show that they have no clue or understanding of how to raise animals on farms.
I can assure everyone that it is in the farmers' interests to raise their animals in a proper way. Why? Because if animals are mistreated they will not produce. It is the same thing with dairy farmers; it is the same thing with poultry farmers. All of us in this House want to ensure that animals are properly raised, but we must ensure that we use the resources that we have available at our disposal, that is, to call the SPCA and OMAFRA. I will not comment on the other provinces. I am familiar with Ontario.
There are proper resources that can be called. I would encourage anyone who is worried about animal security or animal welfare to call the proper local authorities to ensure they can do the proper inspections on those farms.
Because of the complex nature of agriculture in Canada, biosecurity is a collaborative effort. Multiple stakeholders are involved in implementing biosecurity. It requires commitments from all levels of government, industry and individuals. It is very clear that this government and every player in biosecurity share the same objective, which is to protect the health and safety of animals in Canada.
At the federal level, the Health of Animals Act establishes a legislative framework to prevent and control diseases that can affect animals. The federal government has also worked with the provinces, territories and industry associations to help fund and support the development of biosecurity standards for various products.
In the industry, many associations promote biosecurity through farm programs specific to their products.
When it comes to farm operations, owners and farmers can take steps to ensure the welfare of their animals. Implementing preventive measures, including biosecurity protocols, is a long-standing and effective practice on Canadian farms to keep animals healthy.
Implementing these biosecurity protocols, such as creating biosecurity zones on farms and establishing biosecurity protocols for entry into such zones, allows us to protect animals from the spread of animal diseases. Canadian and Quebec farmers work tirelessly to ensure the safety of their farms and animals.
Private individuals are illegally trespassing on farms, and this worries farmers. In addition, it raises concerns for the safety and health of their animals. Bill C‑275 offers farmers an extra layer of protection to deter individuals from illegally trespassing in barns and pastures and potentially endangering animals.
Once again, I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and all the parliamentarians who participated in the study of the bill. In my riding, I would like to thank the farmers who ensure that biosecurity measures are respected every day. For example, in the poultry sector, a biosecurity issue such as an outbreak of avian flu at one farm could result in depopulation, where all the animals would be killed. We know that farmers want to protect their animals.
Once again, I would like to congratulate the member for Foothills for moving forward and introducing Bill C‑275, which our government is proud to support.
Health of Animals ActPrivate Members' Business
October 31st, 2023 / 5:45 p.m.
John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB
moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to rise in the House today and speak again to my private member's bill, Bill C-275, an act to amend the Health of Animals Act. I would like to thank all the members of the agriculture and agri-food committee who participated in the study of this bill and worked with our witnesses and stakeholders to try to bring this forward.
I do want to take a moment to thank all of the stakeholders who have supported this bill from the beginning: the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Canadian Cattle Association, the Canadian Meat Council, the Canadian Pork Council, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada, Turkey Farmers of Canada, the National Cattle Feeders' Association, Alberta Farm Animal Care and Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums.
During the committee discussion, we did have one amendment to this legislation, which included removing the words “knowing that or being reckless as to”. This is some clarification for my colleagues in the Liberal Party and NDP and I do appreciate their participation.
The second amendment was to lower some of the penalties as part of this for unlawful trespassers, but one amendment to remove penalties for groups and organizations that encourage this unlawful behaviour was not successful. It is not surprising that animal activist groups wanted these penalties removed from this legislation. These groups encourage this unlawful behaviour, which is a fundraising mechanism for them. For example, in the United States alone last year, these groups raised more than $800 million and organized more than 500 attacks on farms across the United States. We do not have specific statistics in terms of fundraising and numbers in Canada, but we do know that Canada ranks seventh in the world in the number of attacks on farms by animal activist groups.
These producers and farm families are subjected to vandalism, cyber-attacks, tampering on farm and arson, but, most important, relentless intimidation and harassment. This takes its toll on farm families across Canada. It jeopardizes the biosecurity on farms and certainly the health and welfare of our livestock. Most important, we heard at committee that these illegal intrusions have a long-lasting impact on the mental health of our farm families.
We had a hog farmer from B.C., Mr. Binnendyk. His family went through having 200 protesters on his family farm. I want to quote Mr. Binnendyk's comments at committee. He said:
[I]t affected us as a family,...for a number of years it was basically like you were...being watched. We used to be proud to be hog producers. Now we don't tell anyone. The perception that people have about us has all been spread by lies and stuff that are not true. It takes the fun out of what you do.
There aren't many farmers left, especially in B.C. There used to be 300 [hog] producers in the nineties. I do believe there are now [only] four or five producers left. It's a dwindling...industry, [to be] sure.
We also had Megz Reynolds, who is the executive director of The Do More Agriculture Foundation, which is an important advocacy group for mental health on farms. I want to quote some comments from Ms. Reynolds as well, from committee. She said:
[These] people showing up and trespassing [and protesting] are not whistle-blowers. They don't necessarily understand what that farmer needs [or what they] do to take care of that animal and what that animal means to that farmer.
I've talked to farmers, men, across Canada, and they tear up when they talk about having to cull a full barn in response to [a] disease....
I talked to a producer in Saskatchewan, and she does not feel safe to send her children out to fix fences by themselves because of the perceived risk from protesters. These are actual things happening on farms today, where in rural Canada our farm families do not feel safe on the land that they have nurtured and cared for, in many cases for generations.
I cannot be more crystal clear about this point in this legislation: This bill would not hinder in any way an individual's right to protest on public property. This bill would not prevent whistle-blowers from coming forward when they see standards of care not being met. In fact, whistle-blowers would be protected under this proposed legislation because they would be lawfully allowed to be on the premise with the animals.
Canadian farmers and ranchers have a moral and legal obligation to look after their animals. Farmers operate in a highly regulated system, and the environment and strict codes of conduct must be followed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of farm animals.
It was also highlighted at committee in testimony that people are showing up on farms who are not whistle-blowers. Activists are not whistle-blowers. True whistle-blowers are family members, employees, veterinarians and professionals like CFIA inspectors who understand the nuances of animal husbandry. They understand the livestock industry. They know what they are looking for if standards are not being met.
Members from all parties recounted situations in their ridings where they saw these activities happening and the impact that it had on our farmers and constituents. What worried me, from some of the testimony at committee, is how brazen some of these activists have become. They are putting not only farmers and farm animals at risk, but also the public. We saw an animal rights group in Montreal hang three dead hog carcasses from an overpass. The consequences of that could have been devastating.
We heard from a farmer in Ontario who was attacked by ransomware. His farm and his operation were held hostage unless he admitted publicly that he was mistreating his animals, which we know was utterly false. Mr. Binnendyk said there used to be 300 hog farmers in B.C., and now there is only a handful. The activist campaigns will work to end animal agriculture if there is not a strong deterrent in place.
Opponents of this bill will say there is no proof of animal activism spreading disease. There are two problems with that argument. First, they are missing the whole point of our current situation. It is short-sighted to have an argument that justifies unlawful behaviour that could lead to unimaginable consequences on a farm. Second, it is completely false. We had one incident in Quebec with an outbreak of rotavirus, a disease not seen in almost 40 years, after trespassers were on a hog farm there. Trespassers also went on a mink farm in Ontario, which spread distemper throughout the community, again as a result of trespassing.
Another argument is that some provinces have trespassing and biosecurity laws in place. That is true, but only Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba and P.E.I. That means the vast majority of provinces and territories do not have this type of legislation in place. I think it is very important that we show leadership from a national perspective, a federal government perspective, that says we understand the importance of biosecurity on farms, the importance of food security and the fact that public protests have a place but that place is not private property.
Most importantly, what this bill talks about is ensuring that biosecurity protocols on farm are adhered to and protect our food security from diseases like the avian flu, African swine fever, and foot and mouth disease, which pose very real threats to Canadian agriculture. In 2014, the Fraser Valley had 10 farms with avian flu outbreaks, and almost 200,000 animals had to be euthanized. The worst outbreak was in 2004, when 17 million birds had to be euthanized. That outbreak eventually cost the industry about $300 million in losses. In the aftermath, a number of changes occurred to ensure that biosecurity protocols were more strict and were adhered to.
In the most recent outbreak of avian flu, which we had this past year, 7.6 million birds had to be euthanized. The provinces of B.C., Alberta, Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan were the hardest hit. Farmers are still trying to recover from this outbreak, replacing flocks, cleaning out barns and getting their operations back up.
Cammy Lockwood, the owner-operator of Lockwood Farms on Vancouver Island, who, ironically, has free-range chickens and sells eco eggs, talked about the importance of this legislation for protecting their farms from trespassers who very well could be bringing the avian flu virus onto their farms. They have very strict protocols.
Many of us as parliamentarians have visited farms in our ridings or neighbouring ridings and understand that many times we have to wear booties, hairnets and haz-mat suits and have to clean our shoes before and after leaving farms. When we travel, we are asked if we have visited a farm in the last two weeks. That is important for not spreading viruses, but that is how easy it is to spread them and it cannot be overlooked.
One example is African swine fever, which thankfully we have not had in Canada. Unfortunately, it is not a matter of if, but likely a matter of when it will come to Canada. When the first case of African swine fever occurred in China in 2018, it spread to every single province in that country in less than a year. It has since spread to the Asia-Pacific, central Asia and eastern Europe and has now been detected in the Dominican Republic.
Although it is not a food risk, 100% of animals that come down with African swine fever have to be put down. If an outbreak were to happen in Canada, it would be absolutely devastating. Our Canadian pork industry has a $24-billion economic footprint in Canada. It employs more than 45,000 people, and almost 70% of our production, which is worth $4.25 billion, is exported to markets around the world.
Unfortunately, many of us in Canada understand and still feel the ramifications of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSC, which happened more than 20 years ago. It cost our cattle industry and was very impactful in my riding of Foothills. I know it was much the same for my Alberta colleagues.
It cost us almost $10 billion. In western Canada we lost 3,000 ranches. The vast majority of those ranches have never come back. Our animal herd in Canada is significantly lower 25 years later. It shows us the very real consequences of an animal-borne disease and what it can do to our industries across Canada. This is very real. It can happen. We do not want it to happen again.
If there are any lessons we can take, I look back to what happened over only the last couple of years with COVID. I think if any of us had a chance to go back in time, we would have done things differently. We would have been much better prepared to ensure we had the resources in place to protect Canada. We cannot make that same mistake.
Members can imagine the consequences if we had an animal-borne virus pandemic in Canada with any of these types of diseases. That is why strengthening the biosecurity of our farms is so critical, which is what this legislation is focused on doing. Certainly, these groups are raising money off of these endeavours and threatening the mental health of our farmers.
Most importantly, I hope my colleagues in the House will support protecting the biosecurity of farms and our food security here in Canada and around the world. I look forward to their questions.
The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-275, An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act (biosecurity on farms), as reported (with amendments) from the committee.
October 23rd, 2023 / 4:05 p.m.
John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB
Thank you very much.
Ms. Lockwood, I have a bit of time left here, so I'm going to go to my last question.
You mentioned the importance of preventing unwanted guests and protesters from coming onto your farm. We just passed Bill C-275 in this committee, which will put substantial fines on people who would come onto private property and protest on your farm or in your barn.
Do you think it's an important tool to have those deterrents to protect biosecurity and the mental health of you as a producer?
October 23rd, 2023 / 3:45 p.m.
Pierre Lampron Second Vice-President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today. As has been said, my name is Pierre Lampron and I'm the second vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. We met not too long ago to discuss Bill C‑275.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is Canada’s largest general farm organization. We represent over 190,000 farmers and farm families across Canada that are the heart of a Canadian agri-food system generating $134.9 billion of Canada's gross domestic product.
As a dairy farmer myself, I fully appreciate the critical importance of animal emergency preparedness and ensuring that strong biosecurity measures are in place to protect our animals, our livelihood as farmers, as well as our economy. Generally speaking, from our perspective the most effective strategy to deal with biosecurity threats is prevention. Here in Canada, across all livestock sectors, farmers have put strict biosecurity protocols in place to ensure the health and safety of their animals.
I am most familiar with the National Standard on Biosecurity for Canadian Dairy Farms which was developed by the Dairy Farmers of Canada working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The national standard for dairy farms focuses on four biosecurity control areas that result in a significant reduction in disease and human food safety risks and include: restricting visitors' access to animals; ensuring the farm is well maintained, clean and sanitary; ensuring that there is a herd health plan in place that includes responding proactively to disease risk; and keeping new animals separate from existing animals until they represent no disease risk.
On top of that, the dairy sector has integrated biosecurity into its proAction certification program which offers proof to customers that the sector is ensuring quality and safety, animal health and welfare as well as environmental stewardship. This is just one example, but every livestock commodity has their own biosecurity standards.
Another important facet of this issue is facilitating communication and coordination nationally and across other jurisdictions. Animal diseases don’t recognize borders and we’re all better served by fostering clear communication and sharing best practices.
In Canada, we have seen good progress in establishing collaborative protocols that clearly define critical tasks and delineate responsibilities to ensure a coordinated and timely response. While this work has been under way in one fashion or another for some time, we have seen recent progress made through the Animal Health Emergency Management Project, overseen by Animal Health Canada, which supports the collaborative development of resources to minimize the incidence of disease.
Animal Health Canada is a national organization bringing together industry, federal, provincial and territorial governments to provide collaborative guidance on animal health and welfare systems in Canada. The success of this model is that it enables a comprehensive approach jointly developed by industry and government, supporting increased awareness, response capacity, and confidence through the development of protocols supported by clear guidance and training.
The last point I want to touch on is international trade. The integrated nature of our markets has long made clear the importance of animal health and animal biosecurity as key priorities. An outbreak of an infectious disease in any sector has disastrous effects, including but not limited to closing our borders to trade, lost trade opportunities, and increases in production costs. That’s one of the reasons why traceability systems are absolutely critical to facilitate both efficiency and stable growth. These systems need to be developed through extensive industry leadership and engagement and be supported with education and outreach.
Thank you for your attention. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.