Ontario Ag Gag Consultation: Have Your Say!
Ontario is consulting the public on a proposed regulation under the province’s new “ag gag” law, Bill 156, Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act. Bill 156 restricts the ability of investigative journalists and employee whistleblowers to document and publicly expose animal abuse, workplace safety violations, and public health risks at Ontario farms and slaughterhouses. It also restricts rights to peacefully protest on public property outside of slaughterhouses and document the conditions under which animals are transported to slaughter.
Legal experts from across the country have raised the alarm because Bill 156 would violate rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government's approach to drafting the regulations will still violate Charter rights.
• A ban on “interacting” with a farmed animal in transport would include a list of vaguely-defined activities and could result in significant fines for people on public property who film conditions inside transport trucks to expose suffering and violations of transport regulations.
• Although the government is proposing a limited exemption from the prohibition on entering a farm or slaughterhouses under “false pretenses” for journalists, investigative journalists could still face significant fines for documenting animal abuse, workplace safety violations, and public health risks where the exposé causes financial or other harm to the owner or operator of the facility.
• The government suggests that “bona fide” employees can report abuse to the appropriate authorities, but this would still punish people who get jobs at farms and slaughterhouses without disclosing an intention to film and expose animal abuse or other unlawful or unethical activity, and would not protect employees who release footage to the public.
Have your say on the proposed regulation by October 15, 2020. Personal letters to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, as well as your MPP and the Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, have the biggest impact.