The B.C. Liberal government now wish to make changes to The Animal Health Act which will in effect prevent anyone but the government from disclosing information regarding outbreaks of disease in animals and fish. These changes are according to the BC Liberals, required to protect the public from panic.
The proposed changes will be accompanied by draconian fines of up to $75,000 and up to two years in prison. According to media reports, a person breaking this law, but not charged under the act, can be levied an “Administrative penalty” under Sec. 80(2) of the act” : As were a judgment to the court with which it is filed. No mention of a court, a judge or any due process.
A frightening prospect, a gag order with teeth.
Bill 37 if passed in its present form will override the Freedom of Information Act and take away the right of free speech on anything pertaining to outbreaks of disease in food production.
Apparently, ministry employees, animal health inspectors and laboratory workers are specifically barred from discussing information about farm disease outbreaks.
The B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner has already, without success, protested some changes contained in Bill 37.
How convenient for the friends of the BC Liberals, who operate fish farms in this province. No doubt fish farms will be covered by the legislation.
Presumably no one will now dare to disclose information on viruses or diseased fish present in B.C. fish farms.
If this bill passes, it will be a sad day for British Columbia, freedom of information, free speech and perhaps the health of the public.