The federal government is not looking at ways to boost trespassing legislation being passed in some provinces, according to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau.
Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta have taken steps to bolster protections for livestock and producers against trespassers and activists following high-profile events, and Manitoba is believed to be soon following them and is in the middle of doing a public consultation on the matter.
Bibeau says her government will look to support producers in other ways.
“It has to be done at the provincial level, but I’m following it closely because this is something that I care about,” she said. “This is not acceptable, that our farmers are being threatened for feeding us.”
Last September, a protest at an Alberta turkey barn led to charges against four of the roughly 30 participants; but more significantly, it prompted the Alberta government to increase fines for trespassing.
A new law in Ontario makes it illegal to stop or interfere with a vehicle transporting animals, while Saskatchewan passed legislation in 2019 requiring people looking to access privately owned rural land have permission from the landowner before doing so.
“This is what the provinces are doing in terms of trespassing and, really, protecting private property. This is one part of it, but it worries me a lot when I see the mental health issue,” Bibeau said. “This new reality, the added bullying and threats (producers) are getting through social media is also something that is hurting them a lot. They don’t deserve that and it is totally not acceptable.”
She said the federal government is looking at ways to combat that hatred on social media, and proposed the Buy Canadian policy could help. The Buy Canadian campaign is a federal initiative to promote Canadian food, but Bibeau said she wants it to be more than just marketing.
“I want it to contribute to strengthen the trust between consumer and producers and the pride around Canadian farmers, so this is another way I’m looking at it,” she said.