Comox Valley MLA/B.C. Agriculture Minister Don McRae says journalists and activists won’t be muzzled — or imprisoned — for reporting diseased animals at fish farms or other agricultural operations, as suggested by
critics of the Animal Health Act (Bill 37).
“Some people wish to interpret the act as if they were to speak about it as private citizens to the media that they would go to jail, and that wasn’t in the act at all,” McRae said of the legislation, which was not passed before the
spring legislative sitting expired last week.
He notes Section 16 of the act says ‘person,’ which refers to those who inspect or administer
the act. The next section lists five categories of people.
“Everybody else is totally fine,” McRae said. “We also do have a Charter of Rights
and Freedoms which kind of trumps a whole bunch of laws anyways.”
McRae said the Animal Health Act, which has not been updated since 1948, does
not reflect modern disease and government’s ability to react to it.
Rather than invent a new process, the Province looked to places where the act is working, such as Alberta and Ontario, and created a law to ensure the act is “effective and met the needs of animals and humans, according to
“It wasn’t like this was just popping up in British Columbia on its own,” McRae said, noting the Province consulted with the likes of provincial chief veterinary officer Dr. Paul Kitching and B.C.’s chief
medical officer Dr. Perry Kendall, as well as industry.
He added most diseases affecting land or ocean, such as IHN (infectious
haematopoietic necrosis), fall under federal jurisdiction.
“The reality is, by having an Animal Health Act, if there were a disease outbreak and the federal government wasn’t responding in a way the B.C. government felt was appropriate, with the act we could take course of action to protect people and animals as we see fit,” McRae said. “Without the Animal Health Act we rely on the federal government to do it. And they’ve done a good job but we don’t know the disease that’s going to come next, and that’s what it’s all about — preventing diseases
that maybe we haven’t seen yet.”