Yes, BC Has Its Own Ag-Gag Law in the Pipeline – What Can You Do?
On October 28, 2019 Bill M-227 – the Trespass Amendment Act, 2019 – was introduced into the BC Legislature . As discussed in Part 1 of this article, this Bill amends the BC Trespass Act and directly targets animal activists.
In Part 2 of this article, I discuss the introduction of Bill M-227 by MLA Laurie Throness and his rationale for doing so.
Part 3 of this article encourages you to write to your MLA opposing Bill M-227.
PART 1 – Bill M-227
If it becomes law, Bill M-227 would make five major changes to the BC Trespass Act .
Change #1 – Trespasses That Contaminate
Section 2 of the Trespass Act prohibits trespasses generally, but a new section 2.1 would prohibit a trespass that “contaminates” a “food establishment”:
Contamination of a food establishment prohibited
2.1 (1) Subject to section 3, a person who trespasses on or in premises that is a food establishment and contaminates the food establishment in the course of trespassing on such premises commits an offence.
Change #2 – Payment of Restitution
It appears that at the present time there are two consequences for a trespass under section 2 of the Trespass Act – the default penalties under the Offence Act :
4 Unless otherwise specifically provided in an enactment, a person who is convicted of an offence is liable to a fine of not more than $2000 or to imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or to both.
plus payment under section 8 of the Trespass Act of “restitution for the damage or loss sustained” by the owner/occupier as a result of the trespass.
Bill M-227 would make restitution also payable for trespasses that “contaminate” a “food establishment” under new section 2.1.
I will write about restitution and other possible compensation payable by trespassers in a separate article.
Change #3 – Penalty for Trespasses in Food Establishments
The third change under Bill M-227 would create harsh penalties for trespasses in or on “food establishments” – even if no “contamination” is caused:
Additional fines for trespassing on or in or contaminating a food establishment
8.1 (1) In addition to compensation that may be ordered under section 8, the Provincial Court may impose a fine of not more than $10 000 or a term of imprisonment for not more than one month on a person convicted of an offence under section 2 in relation to the trespass on or in premises that is a food establishment.
Note that these penalties are in addition to the payment of restitution.
Change #4 – Higher Penalty For Trespasses That Contaminate
The fourth change under Bill M-227 would create even harsher penalties for trespasses on food establishments that contaminate under the new section 2.1:
Additional fines for trespassing on or in or contaminating a food establishment
8.1 (2) In addition to compensation that may be ordered under section 8, the Provincial Court may impose a fine of not more than $25 000 or a term of imprisonment for not more than 6 months on a person convicted of an offence under section 2.1 (1) in relation to the contamination of premises that is a food establishment.
Note again that these penalties are in addition to the payment of restitution.
Change #5 – “Persons” That Encourage Trespass
Bill M-227 would also prohibit a person from encouraging or counselling someone to commit a trespass under section 2.1:
2.1 (2) A person who encourages or counsels another person to trespass on or in premises that is a food establishment and that trespass results in the contamination of the food establishment commits an offence.
The term “person” is defined in the BC Interpretation Act  to include not just individuals but organizations as well:
29 In an enactment:
“person” includes a corporation, partnership or party, and the personal or other legal representatives of a person to whom the context can apply according to law.
Bill M-227 would create a harsh penalty for organizations that encourage or counsel unlawful trespasses:
8.1 (3) The Provincial Court may impose a fine of not more than $50 000 on a person convicted of an offence under section 2.1 (2).
“Premises” Is Broadly Defined
Both a general trespass under section 2 of the Trespass Act and the new offence under section 2.1 require a trespass “in or on premises”. The term “premises” does not just mean a building – premises is broadly defined in the Trespass Act:
(a) land, including
(i) enclosed land, and
(ii) foreshore and land covered by water, and
(b) anything on the land, including
(i) a building or other permanent structure, including a building or permanent structure designed or used for shelter for livestock,
(ii) a ship or vessel, train, railway car, vehicle or aircraft, except while in operation,
(iii) a trailer or a portable structure designed or used as a residence, for shelter, including shelter for livestock, or to house a business, and
The term “enclosed land” is also defined in the Trespass Act.
“Vehicle” is defined in the Trespass Act the same as under the Motor Vehicle Act :
“vehicle” means a device in, on or by which a person or thing is or may be transported or drawn on a highway, but does not include a device designed to be moved by human power, a device used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks, mobile equipment or a motor assisted cycle.
If Bill M-227 becomes law, “premises” would also specifically be defined to include “food establishment”.
February 21, 2020 Changes to the Definition of “Premises”
The words in bold in the definition of “premises” were added to the definition only two weeks ago – on February 21, 2020.
The term “livestock” is not defined. However, “livestock” is defined in the Livestock Act as:
“livestock” means cattle, goats, horses, sheep, swine and game and includes any other animal designated by regulation;
There does not appear to be any other animals designated as “livestock” within the regulations to the Livestock Act.
The change in b(i) was probably unnecessary – the term “building or permanent structure” would have already included one used for livestock. However, without the change in b(iii), the term “shelter” would likely not have included shelter for livestock.
What is interesting is that the specific addition of these words about livestock suggests that the definition of “premises” does not include areas for livestock unless specifically indicated. This raises the question about whether a trespass on “enclosed land” under clause a(i) would include enclosed land for the grazing of livestock – since livestock is not specifically mentioned.
“Food Establishment” Also Broadly Defined
The term “food establishment” is also very broadly defined in Bill M-227:
“food establishment“ means any place where, or any vehicle in which, in the ordinary course of business, food is grown, raised, cultivated, kept, harvested, produced, manufactured, slaughtered, processed, prepared, packaged, distributed, transported or sold, or is stored or handled for any purpose;
Normally one would not think of living animals as “food” – however, since the definition refers to places where “food” is slaughtered, likely a court would be forced to interpret “food establishment” as any place where living animals are kept, slaughtered, transported, sold, etc.
This means that even vehicles transporting living animals are included in the definition of “food establishment”.
The definition would also include grocery stores and restaurants – as those are places where food is “stored”, “handled” and “sold”.
“Contaminate” Doesn’t Mean What You Think
Normally if you read – “a person who trespasses and contaminates a food establishment” – you would think there would no offence unless the person actually contaminated the food establishment.
However, Bill M-277 contains the following definition of “contaminate”. It is the same as the definition of “contaminate” in the Food Premises Regulation under the Public Health Act [6,7]:
“contaminate“ means to expose to conditions that permit
(a) the introduction of foreign matter, including filth, a poisonous substance or pest,
(b) the introduction or multiplication of disease-causing microorganisms or parasites, or
(c) the introduction or production of toxins;
In other words, a person will be guilty of contaminating if he or she simply “exposes the food establishment to conditions that permit the introduction ….”.
There are 4 elements that need to be proved in order for contamination to be found:
1 – The trespasser must “expose”
2 – The exposure must be to a “condition”
3 – The condition must be one that “permits”
4 – The “introduction”, “multiplication” or “production” of a listed substance.
Admittedly this is very awkward wording that someday a court would have to interpret, but in any case something less than actual contamination would be an offence.
Definition of “Foreign Matter”
Foreign matter can be introduced into food – glass, for example – but the term “foreign matter” is difficult to interpret in relation to a pasture, barn or slaughterhouse.
In any case, “foreign matter” is specifically defined to include “filth, a poisonous substance or pest”.
Definition of “Filth”
A court may accept the dictionary definition of “filth”: foul or putrid matter. An 1866 court decision referred to filth as contents of an outhouse .
Definition of “Pest”
Although “pest” is not defined in Bill M-227 or the Trespass Act, it is defined in the BC Food Premises Regulation  passed under the Public Health Act  as:
“pest“ means any animal or arthropod destructive to the sanitary operation of food premises and includes rats, mice, cockroaches and flies;
A court would likely adopt this definition of “pest”.
Although the following terms are not defined, a court could likely readily come to a conclusion about what is meant by “poisonous substance”, “disease-causing microorganisms or parasites”, and “toxins”.
PART 2 – Introduction of Bill M-227
Private Members Bill
Bill M-227 was introduced into the BC Legislature by Laurie Throness, the Liberal MLA for the Chilliwack-Kent provincial riding .
The following information from the Province describes private members bills and the process for bills to actually become law in British Columbia:
“First Reading: the bill’s sponsor briefly introduces the proposed bill and explains its purpose. Other Members do not discuss the bill’s merits at this point, but simply vote on whether to accept it for future debate. If they vote yes, the bill will proceed to Second Reading debate.”
In this case, the Hansard record indicates this Bill will proceed to Second Reading debate:
“Bill M227, Trespass Amendment Act, 2019, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.”
Purported Justification for Bill M-227
Mr. Throness’ justification for introducing the bill was threats of violence from animal activists and to protect food processing facilities from biohazards, according to an October 30, 2019 article in The Chilliwack Progress by Paul Henderson  and an October 31, 1029 article on www.farms.com by Diego Flammini .
In the articles, Mr. Throness referred to organizations, such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), who he claimed encourage the trespass or occupation of farms, and he referred to the approximately 60 activists who entered the Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford.
The Hansard record  indicates the following introduction by MLA Throness of Bill M-227:
“L. Throness: I move that a bill intituled Trespass Amendment Act, of which notice has been given in my name on the order paper, be introduced and now read a first time.
Farmers around North America, and in my riding, who raise animals are experiencing a spate of threatening messages, some of them violent, from activists dedicated to shutting down the practice of animal husbandry, which supplies protein for millions, comprises much of our agricultural industry and is an important way of life in B.C. In a number of cases, including in the Fraser Valley, unlawful trespasses and occupations of farms have also taken place, leading to a loss of income and of security for farmers and their families.
Recently the government accepted an opposition motion to include farms and livestock under the Trespass Act. While this is a first step, there is much more to be done. Today’s private member’s bill, presented on behalf of myself and the member for Delta South, will add specific and targeted penalties against those who trespass on farms. It will also protect food processing facilities from trespass and provide even greater penalties to address a greater threat, a breach of biosecurity protocols when trespassing, since an outbreak of disease can take the lives of hundreds of thousands of animals and threaten an entire industry. Finally, as the government of Alberta has done, penalties are applied to organizations which encourage the trespass or occupation of farms.
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 B.C. will act decisively to protect farmers, processors and animals alike from unlawful trespass.
It’s fine for protesters to demonstrate about anything they want, but let them do so on public property. It’s not all right to break the law, take away the rights of our farmers and threaten the safety of their families and livestock while making their point.”
PART 3 – What Can You Do?
Clearly it is not in the best interest of BC animals or activists for Bill M-227 to become law. I encourage you to email both the BC Minister of Agriculture and your MLA to oppose Bill M-227.
The email address for the Honourable Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, is: AGR.Minister@gov.bc.ca
To find your MLA, enter your postal code at the following site: https://www.leg.bc.ca/learn-about-us/members
A sample letter that you could send can be found on the excellent Factory Farm Collective blog: https://factoryfarmcollective.ca/2019/11/02/keeping-animal-abuse-hidden-in-british-columbia-bill-m227/
Alternatively, you could write a letter in your own words.
For the sake of the animals and activists acting on their behalf, please take this action
 Bill M-227: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/4th-session/bills/first-reading/m227-1
 Trespass Act: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/18003
 Offence Act: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96338_01
 Interpretation Act: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96238_01
 Motor Vehicle Act: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96318_01#section1
 Food Premises Regulation: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/210_99
 Public Health Act: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/08028_01
 Fletcher v Rylands, (1866) LR 1 Ex 265 at 279, 280 – United Kingdom Court
 Laurie Throness MLA: https://www.leg.bc.ca/learn-about-us/members/41st-Parliament/Throness-Laurie
 The Chilliwack Progress: https://www.theprogress.com/news/chilliwack-kent-mla-says-farmers-are-receiving-threats-of-violence-from-animal-rights-activists/
 farms.com: https://www.farms.com/ag-industry-news/cracking-down-on-farm-trespassers-892.aspx
 Provincial Debates (Hansard) for 41st Parliament 4th Session – see Monday October 28, 2019 afternoon: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/18003