BC Bill 37, Animal Health Act

pumping diseased salmonAgriculture Minister Don McRae claims that the Animal Health Act does not seek to silence citizens and journalists on the topic of disease outbreaks on farms. With the Act expected to pass this week, I urgently suggest that Minister McRae read section 16 where it states “Except as permitted under section 17 [duty to keep information confidential] or 18 [personal information], a person must refuse, despite the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, to disclose the following:”

Sections 17 and 18 do not apply to members of the public nor to journalists, so unless these individuals do not qualify as “a person” it seems quite clear that this Act would indeed attempt to silence British Columbians.

A recent salmon farm virus outbreak provides an example. Diseased salmon were transferred from ship to trucks in Port Alberni. The local mayor and First Nations leaders were not informed until citizens brought it to their attention. Under the Animal Health Act those citizens would have been breaking the law.

I suspect that this is exactly why the Animal Health Act is written as it is.

Read the Animal Health Act at http://www.leg.bc.ca/39th4th/1st_read/gov37-1.htm

UPDATE: Media were reporting that Minister McRae was going to amend the Act to clarify “a person”. It appeared on the Legislature’s Orders of the Day amended from

a person must refuse, despite the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, to disclose the following:

To:

a person described in section 17 (1) or 18 (1) must refuse to disclose the following:

(2) Despite the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, a person who would otherwise be required under that Act to disclose information described in subsection (1) of this section must refuse to disclose the information.

This amendment would be an improvement. Citizens and journalists would not be prosecuted for talking about disease outbreaks. I still find offensive that former ministry employees, laboratory employees, inspectors, persons engaged in administration of the Act and “prescribed persons” would be prohibited in perpetuity from talking about topics covered by the Act. The Act, even as amended, seeks to prosecute whistleblowers.

The point may be moot however. Alexandra Morton reports as of 1540 this afternoon that Minister McRae never did stand in the house to make the amendment. Smoke and mirrors?

yet another UPDATE: It seems they pulled the bill! Thanks and congratulations to all who made a stand.

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