The Dundas Federation of Agriculture (DFA) held their Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, March 3, online. The outgoing President, Marty Derks, has served in that role for the last three years. Ryan Devries was elected as the new President. Jackie Kelly-Pemberton, Director for Zone 11 of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), presented an update for members of the DFA.
Constable Jim Blanchette, Community Mobilization Officer, SD&G OPP, was the guest speaker, and made a presentation to the members and attendees. He addressed Bill 156, Bill 136, and mental health. Bill 156, which is law as of December, 2020, is an Act to protect Ontario’s farms and farm animals from trespassers and other forms of interference, and to prevent contamination of Ontario’s food supply. This bill has attracted a lot of attention from animal rights activists, and Constable Blanchette outlined how the Bill would protect farmers from interference by activists.
He also noted that there have not been any conflicts between protesters and farmers in this area since the passage of Bill 156. He explained that it is always a good idea to call the OPP in the event of any incident involving trespassers on your farm. The government must respect the right to peaceful protest, but this must be take place on public property. As soon as someone trespasses on your land for the purpose of protesting, or interfering with your farm practices, you can, and should, call the OPP. He acknowledged that farmers have the right to arrest a trespasser themselves, including the right to use appropriate force, but that it is a better idea to call the OPP.
Those convicted can face fines of up to $25K, and jail time of up to two years. He noted that protesters videotape everything, and that protest groups are linked. The Provincial Liaison team is in place to work with protesters, to facilitate peaceful events, and to dialogue and work with all those affected. Protestors cannot breach the peace, block or obstruct routes, cause a disturbance or riot, wear a disguise, disobey a court order, or harm or injure people or animals. Bill 156 extends the animal protection zone to anywhere your animals are, or are travelling. In short, anywhere that farming activity reasonably or customarily happens is included in the animal protection zone. The phone number to call is 1-888-310-1122.
Constable Blanchette also discussed Bill 136, Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS), which replaced the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The OPP can take calls regarding cruelty or animal suffering, but there are provincial inspectors with a standardised code of contact assigned to respond and investigate. Bill 136 provides the strongest penalties for cruelty to animals in Canada. The phone number to call is 1 833 9 ANIMAL (1-833- 926-4625).
SD&G OPP have asked for funds from the Counties to continue the Mobile Crisis Response Team (MCRT). With the MCRT, a nurse rides with the OPP to any mental health calls. Involuntary arrests are down 42% since September, 2020, when the program began. Diversions are up 45%. Covid-19 has really increased the need for mental health services, and has put a great deal of stress on people. The OPP want people to know that help is available, that recovery is possible, and that it is not shameful or weak to ask for help. Younger people tend to be more open to asking for help, and more aware of when someone isn’t doing ok. Middle-aged men are the least likely to accept that they need help. The message in the presentation was overwhelmingly positive, stressing that asking for help is never a bad thing. There are many resources, starting with your family doctor.
Crisis line: 1-866-996-0991
Youth crisis line: 1-877-377-7775
OPP Mobile Unit: 1-888-310-1122
Canadian Mental Health Association’s Winchester Office: 613-774-6258
Conex (Mental Health, Addictions, & Problem Gambling Services): 1-866-531-2600
211 for any Ontario Government Service
Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH) Addictions & Mental Health Services & withdrawal: 613-361-6363