By Connor Lynch
QUEEN’S PARK — Protests continued outside the Burlington hog plant last month where a protestor was killed.
On August 20, however, a small group supporting truckers and farmers also showed up. Police issued 29 tickets to animal-rights activists for blocking traffic, while no tickets were issued to the counter protestors, said Brussels Transport vice-president Tyler Jutzi.
Protests have since died down as the province fast-tracked restrictions on protesting in the street and feeding livestock in passing trucks. That portion of the new farm trespass law (Bill 156) kicked in on Sept. 2. A first-time offence carries a penalty of up to $25,000.
A protestor on the street outside the Fearmans Pork plant was struck and killed by a livestock truck in June. The Brussels Transport driver was charged with careless driving causing death. Halton Regional Police did not release his name, as the charges weren’t criminal, saying in a news release that “there were no grounds to indicate this was an intentional act.”
Ag Minister Ernie Hardeman fast-tracked the new law saying that it was a public safety concern “When people are stepping in front of trucks, the risk is too great,” he said.
He added that there needed to be a significant penalty for disobeying the law. The province also amended the provincial offences act allowing officers to issue tickets “to help law enforcement have everything they need to ensure people obey the law on scene and keep everyone safe. I’m more interested in keeping people safe than seeing how many we can get into court.”
Had the bill been in effect last month, protestors likely would not have been allowed in the street. Meantime, Brussels Transport has said it too has been subject to harassment and threats of burning the trucks.
The anomalous incident isn’t the only anomaly at work. Ag lawyer Kurtis Andrews pointed out that the regional police services allowed protestors to be in the street blocking trucks, something Andrews said “other jurisdictions (including Ottawa, where they have significantly more experience with how to deal with protestors on a daily basis) have published policies which clearly state that blocking a roadway is not acceptable as part of legal demonstrations.”
“The risks seem obvious to everyone, even before this tragedy,” Andrews said.
Andrews also noted that while there’s often the assumption that the job of the police, fundamentally, is to enforce laws, that’s not the case. Their most fundamental role is to keep the peace. Police have discretion in how that applies, and make judgements about what constitutes keeping the peace, he said.
Livestock trucking protections fast-tracked
By Connor Lynch