CALGARY – The provincial government is increasing fines for trespassing on rural properties.
Premier Jason Kenney announced changes Thursday to Alberta’s Petty Trespass Act by increasing penalties to $10,000 for a first time offender and $25,000 for a second offence. Up to a six month term in jail is also a possibility.
The fines have increased from the previous $2,000 for a first offence and subsequent $5,000 for a second time offender.
The announcement was made outside the Jumbo Valley Hutterite colony, near Lethbridge, where animal rights protesters targeted a turkey farm last month.
Kenney called the act an illegal invasion of private property that was both "dangerous" and "harassing" to the property owners.
"Farmers shouldn’t have to worry about people entering their workplace, interfering with their lives, or threatening the health of their animals," said Kenney. "This incident made it clear our farmers need stronger protection. We will act to protect our farms and ranches from radical activists."
As a result, the UCP government is now cracking down on agriculture protesters in an effort to protect ranchers and farmers.
Further amendments to the Animal Health Act will increase fines for protesters who breach biosecurity protocols on farms. Protesters placing biosecurity at risk can be fined $15,000 for first offences, then $30,000 plus imprisonment of up to one year for repeat offences.
The Provincial Offences Procedures Act has also been amended to increase the maximum amount of compensation awarded by the court from $25,000 to $100,000.
Animal Justice, a national animal law organization, denounced the province's plan calling it an attempt to "target animal protection advocates with unprecedented fines and jail time".
"Citizens are rightfully outraged that governments have failed to police animal welfare conditions in the farm industry," said Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, in a statement released Thursday. "There are no welfare standards, no public inspections, and no meaningful oversight for the tens of millions of animals confined behind closed doors on farms."
"Instead of this unprecedented crackdown on compassionate citizens, Alberta should create laws to protect farmed animals from abuse and suffering."
The province also announced Thursday its plans to fund 50 new Crown prosecutors to be tougher on criminal behaviour.
Alberta is the first province to enact such legislation, although Ontario is currently working on implementing similar enforcement.