Details on two bills that would increase landowners’ legal protection against trespassers saw the light of day on March 10 — four months after they passed their first reading in the legislature.
Bill 62 would amend the Animal Diseases Act, and Bill 63 would make changes to the Petty Trespasses Act and the Occupiers’ Liability Act.
Why it matters: The bills represent a fundamental change in the protection of property rights for landowners.
The Pallister government passed these and 17 other bills through their first reading at the beginning of November despite not releasing the text of the bills for the opposition parties or public to read — a move that drew criticism from the opposition and policy experts.
If passed, Bill 62 would make it illegal to enter a biosecurity zone like a barn or processing facility without permission. It would also make it illegal to interfere with an animal in that zone, or in transport. For instance, a person could not feed or give water to an animal without consent from the owner or driver of the transport vehicle.
When asked if the bill targeted animal rights activists, Ag Minister Blaine Pedersen told media that was “part of it.”
“Obviously if people are entering a facility unauthorized and posing a danger to the farm, the people themselves, to the animals, to the safety and the biosecurity, this is what’s really looking to address that,” he said during a call with media on March 10.
The law wouldn’t keep a barn employee from reporting animal welfare concerns, said Pedersen. Anyone outside the biosecurity zone could also call in animal welfare concerns.
“There’s nothing being hidden here,” said Pedersen. “It’s about food safety and biosecurity.”
Bill 63 will “create clarity, to move Manitoba forward, to rebalance the conversation when it comes to understanding what constitutes trespassing, and to clearly get to a more reasonable place when it comes to who we owe an obligation of liability to,” Justice Minister Cameron Friesen told media.
Bill 63 would remove landowners’ duty to warn or confront trespassers before they can be charged with trespassing — or to entirely fence off their land.
If the bill passes, people could be charged with trespassing if the property is marked or partially enclosed to keep people off or animals on the property. Trespassing also includes entering property that wouldn’t normally be available to the public.
The bill gives a few exceptions — like police officers and utility meter readers.
The bill would also reduce the landowner’s legal duty of care to anyone over 12 years old who trespasses on their land.
Under the Occupier’s Liability Act, except for drivers of off-road vehicles or those using recreational trails, it’s the duty of the landowner to take reasonable care to see that a person will be “reasonably safe” while on the property.
Under the amended act, a landowner’s duty to a trespasser would be to not act with reckless disregard for their safety or with the deliberate intent to harm them or their property.