Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen looks on during the daily briefing at the Manitoba Legislative Building, in Winnipeg, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski

Manitoba government eyes new rules to curb rural crime, tighten farm security

Manitoba government eyes new rules to curb rural crime, tighten farm security

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is planning to tighten rules around farm security and trespassing on rural property in a move partly aimed at animal rights activists.

One of two bills put before the legislature Wednesday would require a person to obtain consent before entering a biosecurity zone, such as a farm or food-processing plant, or feeding an animal in transport.

Agriculture Minister Blaine Pedersen said the proposed legislation would cover animal rights activists who might enter barns and pose a threat to biosecurity standards.

“That’s part of it. Obviously, if people are entering a facility unauthorized and posing a danger to … the safety and biosecurity, this is what’s really looking to address that,” Pedersen said.

“It is not specifically for (activists), but it does cover that element.”

A recent law in Ontario is being challenged in court by an animal rights group. The law makes it illegal to enter a farm or processing plant under “false pretences.” Some activists say that prevents them from being hired as workers and going undercover to document what happens inside.

The Manitoba bill does not include that wording. Pedersen said anyone concerned about animal treatment has avenues to file a complaint.

“If you’re a whistleblower, if you work in that facility and you see animal abuse … you are still able to report that without incrimination to yourself.”

Giving animals food or water while they’re being transported would also be an offence. Pedersen noted an instance in which activists in Ontario stopped a hog truck and gave water to at least one animal.

“Who knows what was in that water? Are they contaminating that water, which would contaminate … the food system?”

The second bill put forward by the Progressive Conservative government Wednesday is aimed at curbing rural crime. It would make it easier to prosecute people for trespassing on large properties.

The current law requires a landowner to issue a verbal or written warning in many cases, unless a property is fully fenced in, before a charge can be laid.

“That is not good for anyone. It invites conflict,” Justice Minister Cameron Friesen said.

The proposed change would take away that requirement where property is even partially enclosed, marked as private, or not usually maintained for public use.

The bill would also remove the right of the landowner to make an arrest in such cases, Friesen said. He encouraged landowners to call police instead.

“Arrest is a function that should be undertaken by an officer of the law.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2021

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

Manitoba

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