Appeal Ontario Decision on Ag Gag Bill 156
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Bill 156, has been passed.
Bill 156, the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, is what is commonly known as “ag gag” legislation that restricts people’s ability to expose animal cruelty on farms. The new law could make it illegal for employee whistleblowers to seek out and expose animal abuse on farms, violations of workplace safety laws, and filthy conditions that could breed pathogens and threaten public health.
Bill 156 is similar to ag gag laws that have been struck down as unconstitutional by courts in Idaho, Utah, Iowa, Kansas, and North Carolina. Over 40 Canadian legal experts wrote to the government in February to advise that Bill 156 is unconstitutional because it attacks freedom of expression and could make investigative journalism at farms and slaughterhouses illegal.
Please join us in urging the Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford and the Attorney General of Ontario, Doug Downey to appeal this decision.
Thank you so much for contacting me about Bill 156. I agree with the concerns you have raised, as the Official Opposition and I are also concerned with this bill. Protecting farmers' safety and security and upholding trespassing laws is one thing, but this bill goes much too far, infringing on the Charter rights of Ontarians.
Ontario's agriculture food sector feeds our province and sustains over 800,000 jobs. The stated objective of Bill 156 is to protect the biosecurity of our food system and the rights of those who produce our food. There are provisions in this bill that do just that through stricter fines and regulations. However, as you pointed out, many portions of Bill 156 have nothing to do with biosecurity and are closer to what is referred to as "ag-gag" laws, which have been struck down as unconstitutional in other jurisdictions because it violates people's basic rights. For example, one provision could discourage agricultural workers from reporting concerns about illegal, unsafe, or unethical practices at their facility while other provisions give farmers sweeping powers to arrest individuals trespassing on their property. This reduces the ability of investigative journalists, farmworkers, and others from exposing issues in animal processing plants and farms, undermining public confidence in Ontario's agriculture and food system.
If the protections that Bill 156 provides to the agricultural industry were applied to other sectors, such as long-term care homes, for example, it would limit the ability for a group such as the Canadian Armed Forces to publish a report about the conditions they saw in the long term care homes. We've seen how important it is to have public and regulatory oversight over certain sectors and the agriculture sector is no different. Silencing whistleblowers and limiting peaceful protests is absolutely wrong. As it is currently written, Bill 156 will almost certainly face a costly court challenge. Not only is Bill 156 problematic, but the Government fast-tracking this bill in the middle of a global pandemic is unacceptable as the extremely short deadlines for Ontarians to provide feedback stifles public debate on the issue.
My Official Opposition colleagues and I will be raising these issues during the debate on Bill 156. We support reasonable measures to improve biosecurity and the safety of farmers, but I can ensure you that we will oppose provisions in Bill 156 that are unconstitutional, but agricultural workers at risk, undermine public confidence in Ontario agriculture and make it harder to expose animal cruelty.
Thank you very much for contacting me and sharing your thoughts on this issue. Please feel free to sign up for our e-newsletter on my website (https://www.chrisglovermpp.ca/ <https://www.chrisglovermpp.ca/> ) where you can find the latest information on our work, and to receive the latest updates for support available during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Take care and all the best,
MPP Chris Glover, Spadina-Fort York"
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