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Aug. 4, 2020 | Tuesday
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New legislation will have little effect on horse-drawn carriage operators: Sentineal
Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman has introduced the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act. (Supplied photo)

Animal rights activists may soon face steeper penalties for trespassing on farms and agri-food premises, but will proposed legislation protect local horse-drawn carriage operators who have become frequent targets of the town’s resident protesters?

It seems unlikely.

Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, introduced a new act Dec. 2 that aims to increase the chance of trespassers on farms being prosecuted and convicted.

The Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act could potentially deter animal rights activists from targeting farms and agricultural businesses.

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Sentineal Carriages will only benefit from the new legislation if protection extends off the farm, owner Laura Sentineal said.

Though she had not yet delved into the legislation documents, she does think “it’s a step in the right direction all the way around.”

A big concern for Sentineal is that her employees are protected.

“I don’t want to prohibit anyone’s right to protest, I just want it done in a respectful way so it’s not inhibiting our right to have a legal business and, more importantly, my employees,” Sentineal said.

“They should be able to go to work without fear of being harassed.”

There already is legislation about safety and zero harassment in the workplace, but those rules don’t seem to apply to her staff when protesters harass them, she said.

“Our poor staff seem to be the exception – it’s wrong.”

Hardeman’s spokesperson Tanja Kiperovic said the application of the act is specific to certain areas on agricultural premises only and to motor vehicles transporting farm animals.

“Trespassing that takes place on other properties continues to be covered through other legislation, including the Trespass to Property Act and the Criminal Code of Canada,” she added.

In a response to a letter from Locals for Carriages advocate Jennifer Jones-Butski, which she provided to The Lake Report, Hardeman said he understands the concern for safety and well-being of farm employees.

“Our government believes that everyone has the right to feel safe at work; this is especially true for farmers and other businesses where home and work are often the same place,” he wrote.

“The bill is intended to protect farm animals, the food supply, farmers and others from risks that are created when trespassers enter places where farm animals are kept or when persons engage in unauthorized interactions with farm animals,” the introduction of the proposed legislation states.

Areas on farms, animal processing facilities and other premises farm animals may be kept or located are protected under the new act. People are prohibited from entering without prior consent of the owner or operator of the farm.

The maximum fine for a first offence under the bill is $15,000, rising to $25,000 for subsequent offences. The act also states that fine may be increased by the court depending on the gravity of the offence.

“We feel that this proposed bill is fair and balances the safety and security of farmers and their families and our food supply, while protecting the right of people to participate in legal protests,” Hardeman told the Legislature.

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