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View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Actually, now that we have been interrupted—I figured you were going to move your motion, which has been put on notice for some time—maybe I could just take a second to allow our witnesses to clear. I'm sure they have other business to attend to.
I'd like to thank Mr. Roussel and the whole team from Elections Canada. You guys are always doing an amazing job for us and improving our electoral system every step of the way. I know that Canadians and parliamentarians have a lot of faith in you and a lot of faith in our process.
Mr. Méla, thank you so much. They have just informed me that the reprint should be ready to be tabled on Monday. I think that is fantastic. They are probably going to have to work throughout the weekend to make that happen as well, so thank you for that.
To PCO and Ms. Paquet, thank you for being here to answer our technical questions on the legislation.
As far as the committee meeting goes, I think at this point you're all free to go since we are moving on to another matter. Thank you.
Mr. Blaikie, go ahead.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I think I will indeed take it from the top, just because the interruption was a little longer than planned—or foreseen, as the case may be. I don't think it was planned.
I'll just start from the top with the motion, Madam Chair. The motion is as follows:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(a)(vi), the committee undertake a study on the advisability of establishing a National Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform to make recommendations about how to improve Canada's electoral system, including the question of how Canadians elect Members of Parliament and how the make up of Parliament reflects the votes cast by Canadians; that the committee's study shall include an examination of: (a) the terms of reference for such an assembly; (b) the composition of such an assembly; (c) a timeline for the completion of such an assembly's work; (d) public reporting requirements for such an assembly; (e) the resources required to support the work of such an assembly, including measures to ensure comprehensive and effective citizen engagement throughout the process; (f) any other matters the committee deems pertinent to voting reform; that the committee report back to the House; and that the committee's report either (I) recommend not to proceed with such an assembly or (II) recommend to proceed with such an assembly and include a detailed plan for how to proceed that provides for the issues raised in items (a)—(f).
That's the motion, Madam Chair. What it's meant to take in and the reason the last part is prescriptive is that—frankly—one of the challenges with the special committee's work in the last Parliament was that while it did lay a path for how to proceed, it was, in my opinion, too vague. When we get the attention of parliamentarians on this issue, if we are to lay a path forward, we have to get beyond the point where there's a lot of discretion left to government on how to proceed.
This is something we should be taking on as legislators. I think this is a question, first and foremost, for the legislative branch. While under a citizens' assembly we, as legislators, won't be leading the process—which I think is one of the virtues of this proposal—we need to lay out a clear path. We need a clear mandate that comes from the legislature, not from the government, on what citizens who are participating in this are going to be asked to do and what authority they will be granted to make detailed and specific recommendations on a way forward.
I think, to date, one of the points of concern, and where efforts at electoral reform have sometimes fallen apart, has been around controversies around the government's sincerity in its engagement or how it's laid out that process. I think it would be better to see much of that decided by people who are not in government.
First, we need a mandate from legislators for a citizens' assembly that clearly delineates their scope and authority in order to empower them to be prescriptive and to set out a determinate plan within that scope and within that authority. We need to make it clear coming out of that citizen-led process what the next step is for the country, who needs to make a decision, how that decision is going to be made and what the questions are going to be to get to that decision.
It's not an accident that this is prescriptive in terms of how things ought to proceed.
If I could, Madam Chair, I also want to offer a few remarks.
I've already talked about the extent of the current election speculation and the madness of going to polls while we are still in a pandemic. I'm coming to this committee from Manitoba. We're in serious lockdown. We still have some of the highest numbers in North America.
To be hearing that we might be going into an election right now is insulting, frankly. It's reminiscent of Jean Chrétien calling an election during the 1997 flood. People here were very unhappy about that, because it showed a blatant disregard for what Manitobans were going through.
While I'm very happy for people in other parts of the country who are seeing lower rates and whose lives are getting somewhat back to normal, when you're talking about a federal election, and when you're a federal leader who's responsible for the entire country, it's not enough to say, “Oh, well, Manitoba's just a small province. We don't care what's going on there. As long as Ontario, Quebec and B.C. are doing well, we're off to the polls. We'll sort out the rest later. The smaller provinces can just put up with it.”
Here we find ourselves in that situation. I think the first-past-the-post system is clearly contributing to that situation of anxiety, but I would say also, to the extent that some people are wary of mixed member proportional representation because they're concerned about minority Parliaments, I would point to this Parliament as an example of where Canadians got better results for the real and more meaningful dialogue that's taken place in this Parliament.
It's not always perfect. I haven't always been satisfied with the results. It's a challenge when there's give-and-take. Let's face it. In a majority Parliament, it's easier to get up and just say what you want to say when you know that the government is going to do what it's going to do anyway. The government doesn't listen very much. I think it could have listened more in the context of this Parliament, but having a minority Parliament actually forced more listening. It forced more negotiation and more compromise. I think Canadians are the better for it.
To those in this debate who have often said that we need majority governments because they're strong and they're decisive, I would say that this minority Parliament has put paid to those concerns. In the face of a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis, it was challenging not only for Canadians in their day-to-day lives, but it was also challenging for Parliament in the very mechanics of how it works. It's one thing to have a crisis and still be able to assemble in the chamber. It's still difficult to make the right decisions, do it in the right way and do it in a timely way, but we had the added factor of Parliament not being able to meet in its normal way.
Even in the face of that serious challenge and the administrative and logistical challenges of having a Parliament meet virtually, we were able to rise to the occasion. As I say, there are aspects of the response that I wish were different or that could have been better, but I know that we got a better response because I was part of the NDP negotiating team that leveraged real results out of the government, which they would not have done on their own. If we had had a majority government, Canadians would not have been as well served. If a minority Parliament can generate those kinds of results and that kind of steady leadership in the context of a global pandemic, surely to God they can do it in normal times too.
I'm hopeful that people, that we as a country, will see this as an example of how we can move past the concern about minority Parliaments and get more comfortable with the idea that Parliament really is a place not just for people to go to expound their views on matters and then have the party that happened to get the most seats, usually with only 40% of the vote, do whatever it is they were going to do anyway, but that it be a place where people come and express their points of view and then have some legitimate back-and-forth debate and negotiation and come up with a way forward that is perhaps different from what either party suggested at the outset but hopefully is better for the input and some of that give-and-take that happens in the context of this Parliament.
There may be people who say that electoral reform is the last thing you need to think about during a pandemic. Certainly, there are some pressing concerns, but I think the pandemic has shown how that background infrastructure of a first-past-the-post system can make things far more challenging, as it has in the case of this summer and the speculation about a possible election while things are still not great.
It has also, on the positive side, shown just how well minority Parliaments can work. I think that ought to give Canadians cause to think hard about what kind of voting system they want, what kind of change is possible and how well things can work if we adopt some of the practices that aren't new and theoretical but are being practised elsewhere.
Well-functioning democracies have other ways of voting. The first-past-the-post system is only one way of doing it. It's not a particularly good way of doing it. It's a way of doing it that is designed for a two-party system, which is not what Canada has. I think it's about time Canada had a voting system that was well adapted to the actual political preferences of Canadians and to the political practices of our elections and of our Parliament.
That's why I'm excited about this motion. I'm really glad to have worked collaboratively with Fair Vote Canada to design this motion. I look forward to, I hope, a good proposal for how we can have a truly citizen-led process that engages Canadians and brings us to the point where we can move beyond the first-past-the-post system to something that will serve Canadians better.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you for that, Mr. Blaikie.
Mr. Turnbull.
View Ryan Turnbull Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ryan Turnbull Profile
2021-06-18 13:51
Yes, I wanted to thank Mr. Blaikie for moving this motion. I remember when he tabled it, it definitely piqued my interest on a number of different levels. I'm not looking at this through exactly the same lens as Mr. Blaikie, but I appreciate his commitment to electoral reform and the really in-depth thoughts and suggestions he has around that.
I wasn't in the last Parliament to witness all of the work that was done on that, and I know that it didn't maybe move forward in the way that we had all hoped, but I do want to say that I'm very supportive of this study, this motion. The thing I want to point to, which for me is really important, is just the use of the tool of a citizens' assembly or a citizens' jury, as it is sometimes called. Coming from a background steeped in social innovation, I see how these participatory action research mechanisms or processes can really lead to a much healthier democracy and have citizens really truly engaged in a way that perhaps they don't get to engage with government.
I want to just express my support for the tool. I think what's intriguing about this study and the way that Mr. Blaikie has crafted it is that it does enable us to actually think through how we might use a citizens' assembly, because of the way it's structured, with the terms of reference, the composition of such an assembly and a timeline for completion of such an assembly.
I'm thinking about how this could also be a tool and a study, if we were to undertake it, if it is indeed the will of the committee to undertake this, where we could apply some of the learnings from this to topics other than electoral reform. Where I'm looking at this is not to take out that aspect of it, but I wondered if Mr. Blaikie would be at all supportive or consider it friendly to slightly broaden the language so that we can get the most out of it.
That's one of my thoughts, to have it also at least be open to looking at the use of citizens' assemblies on other persistent social issues. There are ones that come to mind for me that are particularly important, and I know citizens' assemblies have been used within Ontario, for example, on local health integration networks in the past. It was a tool that was in use for various purposes. I think it's a really exciting opportunity to look through that lens and consider how we can do things a bit differently and get citizens truly engaged in the process and innovate new policy solutions, etc.
I'm excited by that prospect. I'm really supportive of the motion overall. I would just ask if Mr. Blaikie wouldn't mind giving me his thoughts on whether he would be willing and open to perhaps a friendly amendment that might just slightly broaden it so that we could get even more out of it.
The only other thought that I have related to this is that, obviously, we're coming to the end of our session so our timeline is short. How do we really get started on something like this? I can't foresee our doing this throughout the summer. That's not my sense, so how do we get the most use out of what we have left of our time before next Wednesday? I wonder about your thoughts on that.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Maybe we can hear from Ms. Vecchio as well, and then if Mr. Blaikie needs to respond, he can do it to both.
Ms. Vecchio.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much.
Daniel, thank you very much for putting forward this motion. I know since we've started this PROC committee we have not actually had a lot of opportunity to discuss motions. I think I took the floor on two motions where, I apologize, Daniel, none of yours got forward because we had a filibuster. I'm sorry, Daniel, that we haven't been able to discuss other things.
I also would look at this committee meeting today and just recognize that we came here for special business. I appreciate all of the work that we're doing, and I think that returning to this great discussion would be best for Tuesday. I don't want to move a dilatory motion right now, but at the same time I kind of do, to say let's get back to this on Tuesday, because I think this is the first opportunity we've been able to talk about it.
I'm sorry, Daniel. I'm going to ask if the meeting can be adjourned just for the day and that we get back to this on Tuesday.
Thank you.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
I have a quick point of clarification on that, Madam Chair, before we have the vote. I recognize it's a dilatory motion, and I won't be debating it.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
It's middle dilatory.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
I want to know, if the meeting does adjourn in this fashion, does that mean we'll come back to this topic at the beginning of the next meeting?
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, if you've moved it. It seems like there's some will there. We're seeing a lot of thumbs-up from fellow members.
We'll vote to adjourn.
(Motion agreed to: yeas 11; nays 0)
View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
I know we're adjourning, but I've never seen an adjournment so nice in the last number of months. How happy and joyful.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We're generally all very nice to each other. I've had some comments from people who have subbed in and have said that. Despite our being in the filibuster or other difficult matters, we still have been able to maintain some level of composure and collegiality, so I appreciate that from everyone.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
If I could, Madam Chair, I just want to offer apologies to Mr. Barrett and Mr. Tochor, who I'm sure subbed in today anticipating a longer and more joyful conversation about electoral reform.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I know I will enjoy this on Tuesday.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
Perhaps they'll have to visit us again on Tuesday.
View Corey Tochor Profile
CPC (SK)
I'll come back if asked, for sure, any time.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I will be enjoying this on Tuesday. I'm probably the one member here who was on the electoral reform committee, so for me this will be somewhat of a flashback as well. I'm happy to have had that experience.
We will adjourn for today, and we'll see you all back on Tuesday.
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting 39 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.
Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, March 10, 2021, and the motion adopted by the committee on May 11, 2021, the committee is commencing the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-205, an act to amend the Health of Animals Act.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021, and therefore members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website, and the webcast will always show the person speaking rather than the entirety of the committee.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind all participants in this meeting that screenshots or taking a photo of the screen are not permitted.
To ensure an orderly meeting, I would like to outline a few rules.
Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. If you are on the video conference, please click on the microphone icon to unmute your mike. For those in the room, your microphone will be controlled as normal by the proceedings and verification officer.
Just a reminder that all comments by members and witnesses must be addressed through the chair. When you are not speaking, your mike should be on mute.
Kody, you have your hand up.
View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2021-06-15 15:33
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As you know, last week we were unable to meet because of the resources available to the committees as the extension of sittings in the House has continued, so we had conversations. I sent an email to my colleagues on Friday, expressing that I thought it was important to finish all three of the panels we had agreed upon and move to clause-by-clause on Thursday. I've had conversations with Ms. Rood, Mr. MacGregor and Mr. Perron, and I'll now move:
That, notwithstanding the motions adopted by the committee on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, regarding Bill C-205, an act to amend the Health of Animals Act, the witnesses that were scheduled to appear on Thursday, June 10, 2021 be rescheduled to Tuesday, June 15, 2021; that clause-by-clause consideration of this bill commence on Thursday, June 17, 2021; and that amendments be submitted to the clerk of the committee no later than 12:00 p.m. (EDT) on Wednesday, June 16, 2021.
That is the text of the motion. I believe it has been distributed to my colleagues.
Mr. Chair, I would also say to my colleagues as we go to vote on this, that given the conversations I've had with my colleagues, I understand the clerk has prepared for the adoption of this motion, and I would ask that we go forward with that at this time.
Thank you.
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Mr. Blois.
The committee has heard the motion. Are there any comments on the motion?
Go ahead, Ms. Rood.
View Lianne Rood Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I also had conversations with Mr. Blois and Mr. MacGregor. While I appreciate that we wanted to hear all of the witnesses, I had suggested a friendly amendment that we hear from a full panel of witnesses for one hour today and then move into clause-by-clause to ensure that we can finish this bill and report it back to the House before the end of this sitting session.
In the spirit of goodwill, we will accept Mr. Blois's motion to have the witnesses appear here today, so we can finish this fulsome study on the bill, but I would like to add that I was not appreciative of how this came about, and I think we could have worked together a bit better. We usually work together great. In the spirit of goodwill, we will support your motion, Mr. Blois, and then we'll move forward with the witnesses today.
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Ms. Rood.
Are there any further comments on the motion, before we take a vote? I don't see any hands up.
(Motion agreed to)
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
We're going to change to a witness panel. We'll let our witness in and do sound checks. I'll just suspend, and once it's ready, we'll come back.
Mr. Blois, do you have something to add? I see Mr. Steinley also.
View Kody Blois Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Kody Blois Profile
2021-06-15 15:36
I thank Ms. Rood. We want to focus on getting this bill back to the House, and my hope is that we'll be able to do that concretely once we finish up on Thursday.
I would note that Mr. Komal is here from the CFIA. My understanding, and the clerk can explain this, is that there were supposed to be two witnesses for the first panel. I think it was Ms. Lazare who was unable to be here today.
If it pleases the committee and the other members, perhaps if Mr. Komal is willing, he could sit and be available. I believe he has testified. If that goes against what the committee wants, it certainly will not proceed in that way, or if that's what Mr. Komal doesn't want either. However, given the fact that he was here on the basis that the motion might or might not have passed, he does have some expertise from CFIA. If not, I'm happy just to proceed with what the clerk has available.
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Mr. Blois, for the suggestion.
Mr. Steinley, I assume that it's on the same topic.
View Warren Steinley Profile
CPC (SK)
Yes. I just want to make it clear that we'll do one witness and two full rounds. If we have to, we can suspend for a few minutes while the other witnesses do their sound check, and then we can start the second round of witnesses as soon as possible.
I appreciate Mr. Komal's expertise, but he has already been a witness. I was hoping the plan would be that we'd go with the one witness, do the two full rounds, and if the opportunity is there, maybe start the second round a bit sooner, as soon as possible.
That would be my suggestion, if that's okay.
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
I don't see any other hands. We'll have to decide on Mr. Blois's suggestion.
Mr. Drouin.
View Francis Drouin Profile
Lib. (ON)
I will side with Mr. Steinley on this one. With no disrespect to the gentleman from CFIA, we have heard his testimony and we should give priority to those who haven't had the opportunity to appear.
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
I don't see any other comments on that.
Is everybody agreed to continue as we had planned? You can raise your hand if you agree that we just go ahead with the original plan.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: It looks as though we have a majority on that.
Mr. Komal, I certainly thank you for taking the time to join us today. We'll see you probably on Thursday, with the clause-by-clause. It's no disrespect and it's not because we wouldn't want you here, but we'll just concentrate on the other guests. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Jaspinder Komal
View Jaspinder Komal Profile
Jaspinder Komal
2021-06-15 15:39
It isn't a problem, sir. There are no hard feelings.
Thank you so much.
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you.
With that, we'll suspend. I don't know if the witness is ready or not.
We'll just suspend the meeting for now.
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
I call the meeting back to order.
With that, I welcome Dr. Jane Pritchard, who is the interim registrar of the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia.
Welcome to our panel, Ms. Pritchard.
We'll start with a five-minute opening statement, if you wish. The floor is yours.
Jane Pritchard
View Jane Pritchard Profile
Jane Pritchard
2021-06-15 15:42
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. Thank you for the invitation. It's definitely a very new experience for me, so I hope this all works out for everyone.
My name is Jane Pritchard. I am a veterinarian who has lived and worked in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, as well as the Netherlands and China. I've worked for both the Alberta and the British Columbia ministries of agriculture, in a number of positions.
I graduated from the Ontario college of veterinary medicine in Guelph, Ontario. I've taught at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Early in my career, I worked in traditional small animal practice and equine and mixed animal practice in British Columbia. I moved many times in my career. My CV looks like I couldn't hold a job. I've been a diagnostic pathologist in three different laboratories in Canada; a field veterinarian in southern Alberta; a beef specialist; a public health veterinarian; a director of veterinary diagnostic laboratories; a regulator of dairy farms, fur farms and game farms; the chief veterinary officer for British Columbia; and the chair of the Canadian Council of Chief Veterinary Officers. As well, I'm a member of the National Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Council and the executive director of the plant and animal health branch with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture. I am currently the interim registrar for the College of Veterinarians in B.C. This was a post-retirement whim job.
Please understand, though, that today I do not speak for any of the organizations that I previously worked for or currently work for. I speak as someone who has worked for many years to ensure animal welfare and biosecurity.
In December 2014, I was the chief veterinary officer and the director of the provincial veterinary diagnostic lab in B.C. when the Fraser Valley experienced an outbreak of pathogenic avian influenza. The poultry industry had done a lot of work and survived to 2014, after the 2004 outbreak, because of the lessons they had learned during that outbreak. They had enhanced their biosecurity. They had developed strong traceability. They had learned to quarantine.
Biosecurity has remained a significant part of my work in British Columbia, with the constant threat of avian influenza within the Fraser Valley and the poultry industry, but also the swine industry as it met new challenges from new diseases such as porcine epidemic diarrhea and now African swine fever.
Throughout my pretty varied career, I have remained committed to animal welfare. I was directly involved in bringing in the national standards for slaughter without stunning in Canada and upgrading the B.C. mink farming regulations to enforce the national mink code of practice on farms. I am currently serving on the working group tasked with the review and revision of the national dairy code of practice. This is despite never having had animal welfare as part of my job description.
I support holding our livestock producers accountable for transparency in their actions and also for the humane treatment of all the animals raised on our farms. I have always endorsed the use of science to guide the industry in determining what is good welfare.
Equally, I take issue with the disregard for animal welfare by animal activists who trespass, occupy and threaten public safety while terrorizing livestock and breaching biosecurity on farms in Canada. I support anything that will prevent these vigilante acts that inflict trauma on the animals, the individuals and the farm families. To me, these acts are nothing short of cruel.
I am sharing this so you're aware of what has informed and influenced my remarks today. I hope I can be helpful.
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you so much, Dr. Pritchard.
Usually we have more than one witness here, but today all the attention will be on you. Our members are all collegial and respectful. Take your time. It will be good. Although I will be, don't feel that I'm interrupting if your time is up. I'll try to let you finish your sentence, but I might be cutting you off so that all our members have a chance to ask questions.
With that, we'll go to our first panel. Mr. Barlow, who is the sponsor of the bill, will lead off with six minutes of questions.
Go ahead, Mr. Barlow.
View John Barlow Profile
CPC (AB)
View John Barlow Profile
2021-06-15 15:46
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Ms. Pritchard. Don't feel any pressure whatsoever that you are literally in the spotlight for the next hour. Certainly, it's great to have somebody with your experience and knowledge in this field to provide us with some great insights.
I wanted to touch on some of the things we've heard so far and to get your opinion on what you feel is possible. We heard from CFIA officials that Bill C-205 would be difficult to implement and enforce due to current resources.
You talked about the avian flu that was in the Fraser Valley in 2014, and we've seen the impact of BSE and the concerns with African swine fever. I also kind of tie it back to COVID, where, if we've learned anything, it's that when you prioritize something from government officials and they're given the right direction and adequate resources, you can overcome some obstacles.
Do you feel that with the right resources, and understanding the potential risk that is there with the right priorities, Bill C-205 could be implemented and enforced?
Jane Pritchard
View Jane Pritchard Profile
Jane Pritchard
2021-06-15 15:48
Certainly, I am not an expert in saying what resources the CFIA have or don't have available to them. In my personal interpretation, reading the bill through, as a person who has supported the development of regulation and continues in a career that regulates, I guess there are a couple of ways of looking at it.
If I was writing the guiding notes on this, and someone was putting together the regulation, I think it could be interpreted that as long as the person who has entered the premises, or the enclosed space or building, did not follow the required biosecurity processes for that building, then they have broached the biosecurity.
For all the industries I've worked with, every barn has a standard. If you don't follow that standard, then, essentially, to me, you are broaching it.
If there's also a trespass, an undocumented trespass, the CFIA wouldn't be documenting the trespass. The biosecurity issue could be addressed quite simply by whether protocols were followed or not followed.
View John Barlow Profile
CPC (AB)
View John Barlow Profile
2021-06-15 15:49
Thank you for that.
I want to go back to the last comment you made in your introduction about these acts being nothing short of cruel, and that you want to support anything that would address the stress, mental health and anxiety issues that this has on a farm family and processors, but also on the animals themselves.
How important is it, Dr. Pritchard, in your opinion and in your experience, that the federal government show some leadership here and have this type of legislation that would, if anything, act as a deterrent and show those activist groups that there are consequences when they do not follow biosecurity protocol and they cross that line, going onto private property and into enclosed spaces to do this unlawful activity? How important is it for the federal government to show leadership here and have those deterrents in place?
Jane Pritchard
View Jane Pritchard Profile
Jane Pritchard
2021-06-15 15:50
I have two things, really. One, having the additional federal legislation always helps, because federal trumps provincial. Showing that there is clear support at the federal level always helps as a provincial enforcer. It's always helped to have that backup.
The other part of it, though, is that the federal legislation piles on, so there is an additional deterrent that's brought in. Also, my experience with developing national policy versus provincial policy is that it's always better to have something where it doesn't change from province to province, so there is no excuse that, “Oh, well, it was different in B.C., so I was unaware.”
That “I was unaware” excuse is something that provincial legislatures sometimes face, because people have crossed jurisdictions and there isn't a consistency between them. Certainly, with animal welfare and animal health, we really appreciate anything that develops consistency across the provinces.
View John Barlow Profile
CPC (AB)
View John Barlow Profile
2021-06-15 15:51
Yes, I think that's something we've certainly spoken about at this committee. Some provinces, like B.C. for example, are in the process of putting in legislation to address trespassing, but in B.C. and Manitoba, it hasn't passed yet. Alberta and Ontario, from my understanding, are the only two, so you have no consistency across the country, which I think is why this is so important.
You've also touched on the fact that.... One of the instances we had was a group of protesters going from a hog farm in Abbotsford to a turkey farm in Alberta. From your experience, can you just explain what the risks are of these protesters going from one farm to another—this was within a couple of days—potentially harming animals but also spreading infectious diseases or other dangerous bacteria or viruses?
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
I will accept a very short answer because we're out of time, but go ahead.
Jane Pritchard
View Jane Pritchard Profile
Jane Pritchard
2021-06-15 15:52
The very short answer is that influenza is a disease in which the strains mix and can change and potentially become zoonotic and affect people. Certainly, when you start mixing a pig strain, which is one that crosses into people, with a turkey strain, which is one that crosses into others, then you get a strain that may affect all species.
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Dr. Pritchard.
Now we'll move to Mr. Louis for six minutes.
Go ahead, Mr. Louis.
View Tim Louis Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I appreciate it.
Thank you, obviously, to all our witnesses.
I want to say thank you to Dr. Pritchard. I have to say that your stock has gone up exponentially with the fact that you're appearing today with your dog at your side.
Jane Pritchard
View Jane Pritchard Profile
Jane Pritchard
2021-06-15 15:53
I might have to pick her up. I don't know why she's whining. She's usually good.
View Tim Louis Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think the chair would allow that, and we appreciate it.
I'm here in Kitchener, just down the road from University of Guelph, your old alma mater. Everyone says hello, and things are going well there.
With the testimony we've heard and the stakeholders we've heard from, we've all agreed that strong biosecurity measures are essential to protect animal health and well-being. We've also heard about protecting the mental health of farmers, and then the marketability of farm products.
A lot of the testimony we've heard is saying that the introduction of a pathogen or a pest in Canadian livestock is most likely through routine animal health management practices such as moving animals between herds or flocks without appropriate biosecurity measures, or movement of service providers in previous contact with other animals and environments, or movement of contaminated equipment, manure or carcasses. We've heard about wildlife vectors and herds being close to wild animals. Is there a way you can kind of broadly give an order of prevalence for the major root causes of biosecurity issues?
Jane Pritchard
View Jane Pritchard Profile
Jane Pritchard
2021-06-15 15:54
The most common transmission is when animals, or humans directly in charge of the animals, move between premises. That's the number one thing that you're shutting down with biosecurity.
In 2014, certainly one of the possible introductions—and it was pretty high on the list as a possible introduction—was the fact that there were B.C. Hydro vehicles going through fields. They were going from farm to farm through fields, putting in something.
In 2014, it was a strain of pathogenic avian influenza that was coming directly from wild animals, and I'm pretty sure that they basically carried duck poop from one farm to another farm and continued the infection. Something takes it onto the farm, and then someone takes it onto the barn, so yes, it could have been that a farm worker accidentally took it into the barn by not being careful or not changing footwear in a barn, but the introduction onto the property was actually thought to be transmitted by vehicles.
There are so many different things, and that's why, when you do an epidemiological investigation of what caused it and how it moved from here to there, you never really get the final answer. You're so lucky if you get that smoking gun. You get that it could have been this or it could have been that. When you're posed with whether it could be this threat, for someone who is unaware of the biosecurity measures that should be taken and isn't taking them, we don't know where they've come from and where they're going. That's a clear threat to me, because there are so many things that can do it. If you can say no to something that clearly would cause a problem, that's helpful.
When there are so many things—will wind carry it, will dogs carry it, do birds carry it, do insects carry it—you never know. Some things you can't stop, but if there's something you can stop, why would you not stop it?
View Tim Louis Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you. As far as where we as a government can dedicate our resources goes, would you suggest that we can improve the...let's say on-farm management, or should it be in broader education? What kinds of resources can we use to help with these major outbreaks or major pathogen concerns?
Jane Pritchard
View Jane Pritchard Profile
Jane Pritchard
2021-06-15 15:57
Most of the industries are addressing that. Doing that is in one's own interest in order to remain viable as an industry. My personal experience is mainly with swine and poultry in the Fraser Valley. For anyone going onto a poultry farm in the Fraser Valley, there's an anteroom. Before you go into the barn there's a line at which you have to change your footwear and your outer clothing. As a veterinarian, you can't be in another barn that day, and you have to have changed everything in between farms.
How you perform biosecurity to protect a farm is well known. The measures are fairly intense for even just a broiler barn, and they go up, based on the value of the bird inside, to the point that they're not going to let a visitor in unless the actual barn is empty. They're just not going to let that happen. They go all the way up to the very high biosecurity swine barns, for which you have to shower in and shower out. Literally, there's that point going in and out at which you have just come through a shower and you are naked and you're putting on a whole different set of clothes, on the other side of the barn, that stay in the barn. That's a very high level of biosecurity.
These things are very variable. For instance, if you go to a dairy farm, people don't seem to really pay a lot of attention other than not letting onto the premises or into the barn, hopefully, people who have been in another barn, and trying to be aware of that. Different industries have different relationships with biosecurity, and I guess the ones I'm more familiar with—and certainly the ones that come under more scrutiny by the animal activists—are mink farms and poultry farms. On swine farms and even on mink farms there is a very high level of biosecurity.
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you very much, Mr. Louis.
Thank you, Dr. Pritchard.
We'll move on to Monsieur Perron.
Mr. Perron, you have the floor for six minutes. Please go ahead
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Pritchard, thank you for making yourself available today. We are glad to welcome you.
You are in favour of Bill C‑205, of course. I would like to start by talking about current legislation. Some who are opposed to the bill tell us that these break-ins are already covered in the Criminal Code.
What can we tell them to justify passing Bill C-205?.
Jane Pritchard
View Jane Pritchard Profile
Jane Pritchard
2021-06-15 16:00
My experience is very local on this. After the swine farm occupation in British Columbia, I organized a meeting dealing with One Welfare, which is dealing with both human and animal welfare. At that meeting were the RCMP officers who had responded to the family farm the animal activists had invaded, as well as representatives of processors, and not directly that farm family but friends of that farm family and the veterinarians who attended that farm.
I think the largest problem in opposing anything like this is when you understand the trauma this causes. I completely agree that the provinces need to step up and address the trespassing, but to me it's clear that someone should not be able to come onto your property, cut a chain, open a door and walk in. If that can't be enforced, I don't know.... We need to be able to do better on that. We need anything that continues, as I said, to make it more consistent across the provinces and that adds to the penalty to make it somehow or other a deterrent to this continuing to happen, because this causes significant trauma to the people who go through it. They clearly have post-traumatic stress disorder from this. More than a year after the event, they could barely talk about it. The emotion was building up in them as they tried to address this. It was clearly painful, and there were discussions about how the children had been shamed on social media and continued to pay the price and had to change schools. It's just painful. It's just painful.
I think anything that contributes to, as I said, a consistent national approach and to increasing this as a deterrent is a step in the right direction.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much.
You mention post-traumatic stress disorder and so on. Do you feel that it could also give rise to regrettable incidents? We don't really know how people will react if they feel attacked on their own property.
Jane Pritchard
View Jane Pritchard Profile
Jane Pritchard
2021-06-15 16:03
Farmers are farmers. Certainly I wouldn't say this about ranchers in some provinces, because when animal identification came in I felt a little threatened going on to some ranches, but farmers aren't going to take this into their own hands. I have never heard a farmer say that they were going to do that. What they say is that when their neighbour is impacted, they are going to go and stand beside them.
Some purchasers of the processors just walked away from them when they were impacted, but the ones who stood up and said they wanted to help and they stood beside.... They come out and they literally stand on the property and show that the farmer is not alone in this, that the bullying is unacceptable.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you.
Let me go back to the enforcement of provincial legislation. According to a number of witnesses, it seems that having to prove damages also makes enforcing the legislation difficult. That would be one of the strengths of Bill C‑205. It would remove that burden. If I understood your opening statement correctly, you could start from the simple fact that the required protocols had not been followed. Since an offence would already have taken place, that would remove the burden of proof.
Did I understand you correctly?
Jane Pritchard
View Jane Pritchard Profile
Jane Pritchard
2021-06-15 16:04
I spend all day reading regulation and trying to figure out how to enforce it. Being reckless as to whether entering such a place could result in the exposure of animals to a disease or toxic substance means.... To me, if you're not following the protocols, it could.
I feel that the burden of proof is not to show that a disease was transmitted but that it could have been transmitted. I feel that the bar for burden of proof is much lower.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
Okay, thank you very much.
Earlier, you said that you are not an expert on the resources of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Do you believe that there can be an effective partnership with local police forces at a certain point, whereby they could simply document the offence?
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
Dr. Pritchard, we're out of time on this one, but go ahead with a very quick answer, please.
Jane Pritchard
View Jane Pritchard Profile
Jane Pritchard
2021-06-15 16:05
Very quickly, when I have spoken to the RCMP, certainly in the Fraser Valley, the officers wish to have that kind of a relationship, but there are not a lot of resources for them to develop that expertise and support.
Definitely we all work together when we have disease outbreaks. I am sure there is a way of doing it.
View Pat Finnigan Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Dr. Pritchard and Monsieur Perron.
Now we will go to Mr. MacGregor.
Go ahead, Mr. MacGregor, for six minutes.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you so much, Chair.
Thank you, Dr. Pritchard, for informing this committee as we examine Bill C-205.
You were chief veterinary officer of British Columbia—also my home province. Can you tell me a bit about some of your main duties in that role?
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