Manitoba is changing its trespassing laws, to reduce confrontations between landowners and people who enter farm property.
On March 10, the province unveiled amendments to the Petty Trespasses Act, the Occupiers Liability Act and the Animal Diseases Act, to bring clarity to trespassing rules and protect farms from biosecurity threats.
Under the old rules, landowners were required to tell someone that they are trespassing.
“If you don’t have a fence around a field, you’ve got to… get in front of a person to remind or instruct them that they’re trespassing,” said Manitoba justice minister Cameron Friesen, in a call with media. “That invites conflict and can escalate situations.”
The new legislation, now called the Trespass Act, removes that requirement. If a property is marked or partially enclosed, a landowner doesn’t have to warm someone.
“By moving towards a presumption of trespassing… you’re actually creating a safer situation,” Friesen said.
The legislation could potentially reduce conflict between farmers and animal rights groups, who have been entering livestock farms across Canada.
In September 2019, about 30 activists entered a turkey barn at a Hutterite Colony near Fort MacLeod, Alta. They sat inside the barn for hours, took photos and live streamed to Instagram and Facebook.
The Trespass Act and the Animal Diseases Amendment Act, will make it harder for such protestors to enter farms in Manitoba.
“Trespassing can expose farms and food production facilities to biosecurity risks that could spread disease, and may cause injury and stress to farm animals,” said agriculture minister Blaine Pedersen.
The Animal Diseases Amendment Act also applies to food processing facilities, like slaughter plants, and trucks that transport livestock.
The Act will apply to protestors who try to give food or water to livestock on a truck, because it poses a biosecurity risk. And a safety risk to the protesters.
Last year, an Ontario woman died when she was protesting outside of the hog slaughter plant in Burlington, Ont. She was hit by a truck while trying to give water to pigs.
The new Manitoba legislation, under the Trespass Act, also affects the rights of landowners and farmers. They no longer have the right to arrest a trespasser on their property.
“Arrest is a function that should be undertaken by an officer,” Friesen said.