Urgent and disturbing news.
Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is pushing through
Ag-Gag law, Bill 156.
The deadline to comment is
6 PM (EDT), June 9, 2020
We have little time to register our opposition, so please, spare just a few minutes to tell Ontario’s government that:
- honourable businesses should not fear public exposure
- animals and human workers need openness and transparency to protect them.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, while Ontario citizens are distracted with other matters, it appears the Doug Ford government intends to push through their Ag-Gag bill with as little discussion as possible. For no apparent reason, we have been given little time to submit our complaints with the bill, or register to provide delegations. Those of us who care about protecting farmed animals, as well as the human workers, on Ontario’s farms have been given just days to comment on the official Standing Committee website.
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 and 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 left at greater risk when whistle-blowers are subject to harsh laws and penalties.
It’s important to register our opposition on the official Standing Committee website as all submissions become part of the permanent public record.
It’s sadly true that since Ontario’s Premier leads a majority government that Bill 156 will likely become law. However, there is a real possibility that the law contains elements that are contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This means that the law might 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 was strongly opposed by many Ontario citizens.
And, there is always hope that enough Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP) might understand that it’s in their best interests to vote against a bill that violates our best traditions of respect for open dialogue and free speech.
How You Can Help
Therefore, we urge all Ontario citizens to register your opposition to “Bill 156, Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Act, 2020” by submitting your comments on the official website by 6:00 PM EDT, June 9th, 2020:
And, Ontarians can also contact their own MPPs to urge them to “vote no” to Bill 156.
Find your Ontario MPP here: https://voterinformationservice.elections.on.ca/en/election/search?mode=postalCode
Canadians who do not live in Ontario can contact Premier Doug Ford; and Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ernie Hardeman (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, leading to undue hardship for animals used for food. That is why ‘whistle-blowers,’ people who take employment in animal agriculture facilities to record conditions and report on what animals or human workers are experiencing, are so important. Yet, Bill 156 would criminalize the honourable practice of under-cover investigation, a practice that has been critical to open discussion in free societies.
Human workers too need the protection of public view. Farm workers are often marginalized and/or migrant workers who are particularly vulnerable. Bill 156 would also criminalize persons seeking to investigate conditions that human workers are exposed to.
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 with no one to report on them.
Ontario already has laws against trespassing, and 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 unnecessary 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 proposed legislation here: