Ontario's Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs was in Bruce County Friday to meet with local farmers.
Ernie Hardeman and Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker held a meeting in Chesley to discuss Bill 156, according to a government statement.
The proposed legislation is meant to better protect livestock farmers and processors from demonstrators trespassing on their property.
It imposes steeper fines against trespassers, allows farmers to seek restitution through the courts for livestock theft or damages and protects farmers from civil claims by people hurt while trespassing on a farm.
Hardeman has been travelling throughout the province for the last month, touting the benefits of the bill, which is currently in its second reading at Queen's Park.
“We have received a lot of support from across the province for our proposed legislation to improve protection against trespass,” says Hardeman in a statement. “Our hard-working farmers, their families, employees and farm animals face unique risks and challenges associated with trespass onto a farm or into a food processing facility. We take their safety very seriously and this bill addresses those risks.”
Critics say the bill would make it difficult for whistleblowers to expose animal cruelty in the livestock industry.
Hardeman notes the proposed bill would not interfere with the right of people to participate in legal protests.
“Our government will always protect that right," the Minister says. "However, these activities cannot include creating safety risks on farms or interfering with livestock in transport."
According to a government statement, Hardeman held several meetings with farmers prior to the introduction of the proposed bill where they expressed the need for government action to deal with on-farm trespass.