Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government has pushed through
Ag-Gag law, Bill 156
During the Covid-19 pandemic, while citizens are distracted with other matters, the Doug Ford government pushed through their “Ag-Gag” legislation, the Ontario Bill 156, with as little discussion as possible. The public was given little time to submit complaints about the Bill, or register to provide delegations. Those of us who care about farmed animals, as well as the human workers, had a narrow window to submit comments to the Standing Committee on General Government.
Ag-Gag laws are contrary to free speech as they criminalize the respected practice of under-cover investigation. Under-cover investigations are necessary to expose abuses. These investigations have been carried out by advocates and journalists alike. Ag-Gag laws focus on the agricultural sector and only protect the owners of farm businesses. They do not protect the general public, farm workers or farmed animals. In fact, human workers and farmed animals are at greater risk when whistle-blowers are subject to harsh laws and penalties.
It’s important to contact elected representatives. We must express our opposition so that our voices become part of the permanent public record.
While Bill 156 is now law, there is a possibility that it contains elements contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This means that the law could be challenged as unconstitutional if persons are charged under the new law.
In the future, it would be helpful to animal advocates to be able to show that Ontario’s government was given ample warning that the Bill is strongly opposed by many Ontario citizens.
How You Can Help
Therefore, we urge all Ontario citizens to contact their own MPPs. Express your disappointment about the passing of “Bill 156, Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Act, 2020”
Find your Ontario MPP here: https://voterinformationservice.elections.on.ca/en/election/search?mode=postalCode
Canadians who do not live in Ontario can contact the Premier and Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (see contact information below).
Here are suggested comments. Please use your own words to express more powerfully what is important to you:
Farmed animals are often confined in barns and hidden from public view. This makes it very unlikely that cases of abuse or neglect will be discovered and exposed. That is why ‘whistle-blowers’ are so important. Yet, the Ontario Bill 156 would criminalize the honourable practice of under-cover investigation, a practice that is pivotal to open discussion in free societies.
Human workers, too, need the protection. Farm workers are often marginalized and/or migrant workers who are particularly vulnerable. Bill 156 would also criminalize persons seeking to investigate conditions for human workers.
Bio-security is given as a reason for Bill 156. But shutting out public over-sight does not make the food supply safer. If farm owners are ensured of being able to conduct their business free of public view and transparency, it’s possible that bio-security regulations might be violated.
Ontario already has laws against trespassing; no further legislation is required. Bill 156 is clearly intended to criminalize the actions of those who seek to shine the light of public transparency on those who treat farmed animals badly, causing them distress and pain. This is contrary to the shared values of Ontarians, regardless of whether they support the use of animals for food, or not.
Contact Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford and Minister Ernie Hardeman:
Premier Doug Ford
Minister Ernie Hardeman
Read the legislation here: