By Patrick Meagher
SPENCERVILLE — “If you don’t know your rights, you haven’t got any.”
That’s Spencerville crop farmer Shawn Carmichael’s take after a verbal confrontation with an Ontario government inspector who pulled into his father’s farm yard in a pickup truck on Oct. 11.
Carmichael was helping his father build a new house when he saw a white government pickup truck drive slowly by on Ventnor Road, just east of Spencerville. It turned around and then pulled into the farm laneway.
Carmichael, who has acted as a paralegal in court for other farmers, said he has read enough of the law to know what a provincial inspector can and cannot do.
He’s also seen enough government overreach and intrusion to argue that a bureaucrat is usually not your friend. He said he marched right up to the inspector, and told him to get back behind the wheel and “get to hell off the property.”
When the inspector didn’t leave, Carmichael recalled telling him: “If you push me, I will make an example of you. You don’t realize the gravity of the situation you stepped into. I’m not saying this because I have little man syndrome but because I know the law.”
Carmichael said he was called a “hillbilly.” But not so hillbilly, as it turns out, as Carmichael was quick to turn on the sound recorder on his phone to record the conversation.
The war of words ended, Carmichael said, when he called a police officer and put him on speaker phone. Carmichael said the police officer advised the inspector to get off the property “unless you want a high hoe up your ass.”
Carmichael said the inspector told him to get a lawyer and left.
Farmers need to know that when anyone steps on a property, he must come directly to the front door to gain consent to enter the property, Carmichael said, adding that he doesn’t have consent if he is told to leave. If he doesn’t leave, he is trespassing, he said.
Don’t engage in conservation with him because a judge might construe the conversation as consent, he opined. Turn on your smart phone video to get the audio of the conversation, he said.
If consent is not given, the law allows you to use “reasonable force” to remove someone from your property. In public settings, that often means seeing two big men grab both sides of a trespasser and carry him to the edge of the property. But Carmichael said he doesn’t advise using force when it’s a government official who could call for police backup. It might take a trip to the police station before anyone can figure out who was really in the wrong, he said.
He added that there are some exceptions to trespassing. They include:
• An Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals officer can go into a barn without consent or a warrant if he or she believes an animal is in immediate danger.
• A Children’s Aid Society official can go into a home without consent or a warrant if he or she believes that a child is in danger.
• A police officer can go onto a property without consent or a warrant while in pursuit or suspects illegal drug possession.
• A municipal official can go onto a property without consent or a warrant to speak to a non-owner contractor if the property has entered into a contract (such as a building permit) with the municipality.
Carmichael argued that too often government bureaucrats prey on people’s ignorance of the law to go onto property and it’s usually not to the property owner’s advantage. “They (farmers) need to be aware of it because there is going to be more and more intrusion all the time,” Carmichael said. The Ministry of Labour has hired more than 100 safety inspectors in the past year, he added.
If a warrant is issued, make sure that it is signed and dated for the day and time that the official is on the property and that it was signed by a judge or justice of the peace, he said. It is not common but not rare that an unsigned warrant is waved about to gain access. “We’ve seen that happen enough times.”