Unanimous support for tough laws to protect agrifood operations against trespassers was a highlight of agriculture day in Victoria this year.
Opposition proposals were embraced by the government, resulting in a rare show of unity among the parties on an issue that has hit farmers hard over the past several years.
“We understand that a farm or a ranch, it’s not just a workplace, it’s a home and it’s a place with children and grandparents. Trespass, mischief, prowling at night, these are all against the law and must be treated as such,” BC agriculture minister Lana Popham told producers and representatives of farm organizations at a reception in Victoria on Monday.
The announcement was met with applause, and BC Agriculture Council chair Stan Vander Waal said farmers across the province should feel lighter as a result. BCAC urged the province to take action in April, following the invasion of Excelsior Hog Farm by more than 100 activists.
Attorney general David Eby and solicitor general Mike Farnworth stood alongside Popham, pledging their support for the move.
Eby has led the charge with respect to the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, which addressed the province’s trespass legislation. Opposition members stepped up last week, with Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong asking for an amendment to include livestock operations among the premises protected from trespass in legislation.
Chilliwack Kent MLA Laurie Throness jumped in this week with a private member’s bill aimed at protecting all forms of agrifood operations and imposing stiff penalties on transgressors.
“It’s our hope that the government will take this bill or respond with its own to send a strong preventative message to activists, like that sent by the government of Alberta earlier this month, and that BC will act decisively to protect farmers, processors and animals alike from unlawful trespass,” he told the legislature.
Popham, Eby and Farnworth all said that would happen.
“To have our laws reflect that care and concern that we have for the work that you do is really important,” Eby said. “We’re on your side and we’ve amended the law to make it absolutely clear to everybody.”
Third reading and passage of the legislation has not yet occurred.