Alexandra Morton: Farm Disease Secrecy Act Quietly Withdrawn by Minister
The following is a press release from Alexandra Morton
Victoria (May 31, 2012) For Immediate Release.
In the face of enormous public outcry, agriculture Minister Don McRae quietly withdrew his Bill 37 that would have made disease reporting in animals an offence punishable by two years in prison and $75,000. The stated intent of the Bill was to encourage greater disease reporting by farmers in BC.
On May 3, Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham wrote a highly critical letter calling Minister McRae’s bill “extreme”, pointing out Bill 37 “would override the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act” saying “this is a matter of deep concern considering the importance of disease management” and tying it to salmon farming.
Citing the debate in the House between Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture, Lana Popham and McRae, arguing the definition of the word “person”, Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law wrote McRae, “I strongly advise that you seek legal advice…”.
A change.org petition continues to grow targeting supermarket chains Loblaws, COSTCO and Safeway asking them to stop selling farm salmon that have tested positive for viruses.
On Tuesday, McRae began to retreat telling the media that he was going to amend his Bill to suggest that it would not apply to media or the public, only to government workers, but he left that on the order paper, never standing in Parliament to bring it forward.
“If Minister McRae wants higher disease reporting compliance, why didn’t he create a Bill to make it mandatory that all farmers in BC report disease, instead of attempting to take away free speech in violation of the Constitution of Canada,” says biologist Alexandra Morton. “I am deeply grateful for all the people who wrote McRae and signed the change.org petition, this was an extremely close call with oppression.”
Bill 37 could rise when the BC Legislature sits again.