The province announced new protections for farmers against trespassing and illegal protests at the Jumbo Valley Hutterite Colony.
The government of Alberta is introducing legislation designed to punish illegal protestors who invade farms. On Labour Day, about three dozen animal rights activists invaded the Jumbo Valley Hutterite Colony near Fort MacLeod. The turkey barn had about 4,000 birds was one of eight free-range barns at the colony. The birds are free to go outside into an enclosed area when the weather is warm and they have access to water and food.
“Alberta’s farmers and ranchers treat their animals well, and they have a right to run their operations without illegal harassment from militant trespassers,” said Premier Jason Kenney in a prepared statement.
“I’ve asked Minister Dreeshen and Minister Schweitzer to consider all options, including legislation, to protect livestock producers’ operations and their families from harassment.”
Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry said farmers shouldn’t have to worry about people entering their workplace, interfering with their lives, or threatening the health of their animals.
“This incident made it clear our farmers need stronger protection. We will act to protect our farms and ranches from radical activists.”
Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General said the measures the Alberta government is proposing will send a loud and clear message to fanatics.
” Trespassing on farmers’ property to disrupt their ability to operate is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Options being proposed include fines up to $10,000 for a first offence and up to $25,000 for subsequent offences for individuals and up to $200,000 for organizations and imprisonment of up to 6 months.
In addition, amendments to the Animal Health Act are proposed so farmers affected by bio-security breaches can recover their costs and so trespassers and protesters placing biosecurity at risk can be fined $15,000 for first offences, then $30,000 plus imprisonment of up to one year for repeat offences.
The Provincial Offences Procedures Act would be amended to increase the maximum amount of compensation awarded by the court from $25,000 to $100,000.
The government is also funding 50 new Crown prosecutors to be tougher on criminal behaviour.
Mark Tchetter from Jumbo Valley welcomed the changes.
“This announcement provides farmers further clarity on what a measured response from the legal system will look like. Farmers now have a better understanding of what the government is willing to do if situations like this arise in the future.”
On top of the illegality of trespassing, unauthorized or improper entry on farms and in barns can introduce disease and threaten the health and welfare of animals. It can also have a detrimental impact on business operations and on the well-being of farm families.
Albertans are encouraged to call their local RCMP detachment if faced with trespassers.
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