Thank you for your message regarding Bill C-275, An Act to amend the Health of Animals Act (biosecurity on farms), brought forward by the Conservative Critic for Agriculture and Agri-Food, John Barlow (MP for Foothills). At the Second Reading stage, when this bill was first debated in the House of Commons, I lent my support at that time to send it to the Agriculture Committee, but with a caveat: my support was conditional on seeing some important improvements made to the language in the bill, which I laid out in detail during my speech on May 1, 2023.
The rationale for this bill was purported to be about biosecurity risks posed to farm animals, including African Swine Fever, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), Foot and Mouth Disease, and Avian Influenza (AI). These types of infectious outbreaks are serious threats that can necessitate the culling of entire livestock herds or flocks, and I was prepared to examine the bill, in good faith, with the understanding that seeking to improve biosecurity on farms was the objective of this Conservative bill.
However, as the study of the bill at committee stage unfolded, especially during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, it became clear that committee members were uninterested in accepting reasonable amendments I proposed to improve the bill and clarify its federal scope. This was a departure from the committee’s more well-reasoned approach to examining Bill C-205 in the previous Parliament. A majority of committee members, including most of the Liberals, sided with the Conservatives to block my very reasonable amendments, including my proposed measure to ensure the provisions of the bill would apply equally to everyone – including farmers and their employees. If this bill was truthfully about enhancing biosecurity and preventing risk of infectious diseases being transferred to farm animals, it should have been a no-brainer that these responsibilities apply equally to everyone.
Unfortunately, I believe that this bill strays into provincial jurisdiction, making it primarily trespass legislation – not, fundamentally at its heart, about biosecurity, as was originally purported. It is for this reason that I arrived at the difficult conclusion that I could no longer offer my support to this bill. I’d like to offer more reasoning for my decision below:
Since Bill C-275 was first introduced as Bill C-205 in December 2019, during the 43rd Parliament, I have met several times with Humane Societies International-Canada, and Animal Justice, to hear about the concerns animal rights groups have about the legislation. HSI-Canada and Animal Justice identified the very real threat that the bill attempts to prevent whistleblowing in cases of animal abuse, by circumventing existing trespass laws in the Criminal Code of Canada.