Yes, BC Has Its Own Ag-Gag Law in the Pipeline – What Can You Do?

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 [1].  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 [2].

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 [3]:

General penalty

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 [4] to include not just individuals but organizations as well:

Expressions defined

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:

premises” means

(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

(iv) water;

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 [5]:

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 [8].

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 [6] passed under the Public Health Act [7] 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”.

Other Terms

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 [9].

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 [10] and an October 31, 1029 article on by Diego Flammini [11].

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.

Hansard Record

The Hansard record [12] 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.”

                                                                                                                                                      [underlining added]

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:

To find your MLA, enter your postal code at the following site:

A sample letter that you could send can be found on the excellent Factory Farm Collective blog:

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


[1]  Bill M-227:

[2]  Trespass Act:

[3]  Offence Act:

[4]  Interpretation Act:

[5] Motor Vehicle Act:

[6]  Food Premises Regulation:

[7]  Public Health Act:

[8]  Fletcher v Rylands, (1866) LR 1 Ex 265 at 279, 280 – United Kingdom Court

[9]  Laurie Throness MLA:

[10]  The Chilliwack Progress:


[12]  Provincial Debates (Hansard) for 41st Parliament 4th Session – see Monday October 28, 2019 afternoon:

Canadian Government Introduces Its Own Ag-Gag Law – Can Canada Do This?

Photo by Luke Littlefield on Unsplash

Canadian Government Introduces Its Own Ag-Gag Law – Can Canada Do This?

On February 18, 2020, Canadian MP John Barlow introduced Bill C-205 into the House of Commons, where it received first reading.  This Bill is clearly a federal entry into the ag-gag world.  As discussed below, it is far from clear that Canada has the legal authority to do this.

What Would Bill C-205 Do?

Bill C-205 proposes to add two short amendments to the Health of Animals Act (Canada) [1].

The first amendment adds a new section 9.1, which prohibits trespassing if doing so could expose an animal to a disease:

Exposure of animals to disease or toxic substance

9.‍1No person shall, without lawful authority or excuse, enter a building or other enclosed place in which animals are kept knowing that or being reckless as to whether entering such a place could result in the exposure of the animals to a disease or toxic substance that is capable of affecting or contaminating them.”

Note that this applies if people are simply “reckless” as to whether they could be exposing an animal to disease.

The second amendment introduces penalties specifically for breach of section 9.1 – hefty fines and/or possible imprisonment:

Exposure of animals to disease – individuals

65(1.‍1) Every individual who contravenes section 9.‍1 is guilty of

(a) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both; or

(b)an indictable offence and liable to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to both.

Exposure of animals to disease – other persons

(1.‍2) Every person, other than an individual, that contravenes section 9.‍1 is guilty of

(a) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars; or

(b) an indictable offence and liable to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand dollars.”

The reference in (1.2) to a “person, other than an individual” likely means a society, corporation or other legally organized group.

MP John Barlow

Perhaps not surprisingly, Barlow is Conservative MP for the Foothills federal electoral district – comprising the south-west corner of Alberta.  The Foothills riding was created in 2013 from parts of Macleod, Lethbridge and Calgary Southwest [2].

Private Members Bill

Bill C-205 is a private members bill, which means it was introduced into the House of Commons by an MP – not by the government (cabinet minister) [3A].

Private members bills have to go through the same procedures as government bills – second reading, possible consideration of the bill by legislative, standing or a special committee, or by Committee of the Whole, report stage, third reading, passage by the Senate, royal assent. [3B]

Very few private members bills become law.  However, apparently it more likely for private members bills to become law during times of Canadian minority governments [4] – which is currently the situation in Canada.

Parliamentary Debate

Hansard is the official record of what was said and by who in Parliament.  The Hansard record for February 18th contains the introduction of Bill C-205 by MP Barlow  [5].  Clearly the purpose of this Bill is to prevent trespassers on farm property.

“Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand today and introduce this bill, which is seconded by my colleague, the member for Beauce.

This bill addresses a critical issue, which is the securing of the biosecurity of our food supply, especially when there are trespassers on farm property and facilities. As the House may be aware, there are numerous protests on farm property and process plants across this country, and it is certainly not relegated to one segment of agriculture or one area of Canada. We have seen people enter hog farms in Abbotsford, B.C. and Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, a pork breeding facility in Ontario, and activists have even tried to remove animals from dairy farms.

In my own riding of Foothills, a farmer was startled to come to his farm in the morning and see that dozens of protesters had broken into the property and into a barn and were trying to take turkeys. There are numerous examples, and I fear the situation will get worse if producers do not see something is done. I do not think activists understand the full consequences of their actions. We want them to understand that they are endangering the safety of livestock, families, farmers and workers. We understand that they care deeply about the soil, food safety, animal health and the environment, but I think my colleagues in this room would also understand and agree with me that mental health and anxiety within agriculture is at a crisis.

These are important issues that we hope to address, but I have decided to focus my amendment to the Health of Animals Act to create a new offence. The act provides for the control of diseases and toxic substances that may affect animals or could be transmitted by animals to persons. The risk from viruses like the African swine fever are very real and potentially devastating to Canadian agriculture.

Currently, there is nothing that addresses trespassers, which is what this bill aims to change. I look forward to engaging with my colleagues as we work together to address this important issue and the safety of Canada’s food supply.”

                                             [underlining added]

Barlow’s Webpage

Barlow announced the introduction of Bill C-205 on his webpage [6], including the following comments:

““Recently, more and more individuals have been trespassing on farms and food processing centres”, said MP Barlow. “This has the potential to cause massive biosecurity issues for animals and the individuals who work with them.”

This Bill will not, in any way. limit an individual’s right to peacefully protest on public property. However, it will increase the penalties for groups and organizations who encourage individuals to threaten the biosecurity of animals and workers.”

Is This Law Constitutional?

It is questionable whether this law would be within the jurisdiction of Parliament.

The Constitution Act, 1967 divides all law-making power in Canada between the federal government and the provinces.  Section 91 lists the powers assigned to Canada – section 92 lists the powers assigned to the provinces.  Any power that is not expressly assigned to the provinces in section 92 is a power belonging to Canada.

Section 92 assigns to the provinces the exclusive authority to enact laws in relation to “property and civil rights in the province”.  This is why BC, Alberta and other provinces are lawfully entitled to have their own trespass laws.

Section 91 allows Parliament to legislate in relation to “The Criminal Law”.  The Canadian Criminal Code contains several offences which contain an element of trespassing, but trespassing is not the offence.  For example, section 177 of the Criminal Code prohibits “loitering or prowling” at night on someone’s property, but this offence is focused on the danger posed by those who loiter or prowl – it is not focused on trespassing per se.  There is a reason why trespassing, on its own, is not an offence under the Criminal Code – because it seems the federal government does not have the jurisdiction to create laws in relation to trespassing.

I will conduct research on this point, but at first glance it appears questionable whether Canada has the authority, under section 91, to legislate in relation to the matters in Bill C-205.


[1]   Copy of Bill C-205:

[2]  Wikipedia

[3A]  Private Members’ Bills

[3B]  Our Country Our Parliament

[4]  Wikipedia

[5]  Hansard Records – under “Health of Animals Act:

[6]  Barlow webpage:

But This Looks Like a Public Sidewalk?

Animal activists in Canada have a guaranteed (but not unrestricted) right to freedom of expression under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

One of the restrictions on the right of freedom of expression is that, generally speaking, the right does not extend to private property.  The purpose of this article is to explain to activists that property that may look exactly like a public sidewalk or roadway may actually be private strata property.

Animal rights strata sidewalk lawBritish Columbia has a system of property ownership called strata developments.  The governing statute is the BC Strata Property Act – and its Regulations – but initially it was the Condominium Act.  This is why these properties are often still called “condos”.

Especially if you do activism in an urban area, it is very likely you will encounter strata property.  There are huge numbers of strata developments in BC – as of September 1, 2019, there were 32,218 filed strata plans and 671,351 active strata lots.

The essential feature of a strata development is that it must include some property owned in common by all the strata lot owners – called “common property”.  A strata plan creates strata lots owned individually by the strata lot owners and it also creates common property, owned collectively by the strata lot owners.

In a residential strata development, the common property would include the exterior yard, underground parking, storage lockers, elevators, lobbies, utility rooms, recreation areas – even the exterior shell of the building.

Let’s consider a commercial strata development – a hotel with street-level stores and a driveway leading to underground parking.  Although the driveway and sidewalk fronting the stores are technically open to the public, they are very likely common property of the strata development – that is, private property. 

Section 2(1) of the BC Trespass Act prohibits trespassing and makes it an offence:

Trespass prohibited

2   (1) ….. a person who does any of the following commits an offence:

(a) ….;

(b) enters premises after the person has had notice from an occupier of the premises or an authorized person that the entry is prohibited;

(c) engages in activity on or in premises after the person has had notice from an occupier of the premises or an authorized person that the activity is prohibited.

Section 4 of the Trespass Act allows  notice under (b) and (c) to be given orally or in writing.

Looking again at our hotel strata development, the public is invited to enter the common property for the purpose of pay parking and shopping, but likely not for the purpose of animal activism.  If an activist is asked to leave common property but refuses to, that is an offence under the Trespass Act:

2(3) …..a person who has been directed, either orally or in writing, by an occupier of premises or an authorized person to

(a) leave the premises, or

(b) stop engaging in an activity on or in the premises

commits an offence if the person

(c) does not leave the premises or stop the activity, as applicable, as soon as practicable after receiving the direction, or

(d) re-enters the premises or resumes the activity on or in the premises, as applicable.

So animal activists proposing to carry out activism at a specific location must first determine the status of the property – although it looks like a public roadway or a public sidewalk, is it in fact private strata property?

Unfortunately that is not an easy question to answer.  The easiest route would be to engage a lawyer or land title agent to obtain and review the strata plan which is prepared by a land surveyor and which shows the exact dimensions of the strata lots and common property, but that will be expensive.  Perhaps the best way is to telephone the business and ask what is common property and what is public property, or simply plan to hold the event on property that is clearly public property.