Landowner liability, metal theft, and biosecurity risks: Manitoba government seeking feedback for rural crime legislation

The Manitoba government is asking for input for possible legislation aimed at addressing several rural crime-related issues, including metal theft, landowner liability regarding trespassers, and risks to animal biosecurity.

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen, speaking in Portage La Prairie, Man. on Monday, said the province is considering adopting legislation similar to other provinces that would make trespass and occupiers’ liability laws easier to enforce, and potentially reduce landowners’ liability when people are on their property without their knowledge or consent.

“This could include amendments to The Petty Trespass Act, to ensure the law is easier to enforce and to prevent confrontations between landowners and trespassers, and to The Occupiers Liability Act to ensure a landowner’s legal responsibility for injury is fair and reasonable when someone is on their property without permission,” says the province.

Regarding metal theft, the Manitoba government is proposing new legislation that would require scrap metal buyers to collect and maintain records on sellers and their transactions, with the intent of creating a paper trail for law enforcement, as well as preventing having the province be a destination for stolen metal from other jurisdictions, and to reduce rural crime, as metal is often stolen from isolated locations. The provinces notes thieves often sell stolen copper wire, catalytic converters, and other valuable metals for cash, which is used to purchase methamphetamines.

The province is also looking to address a growing concern for livestock and poultry producers by amending The Animal Diseases Act, to “enhance biosecurity and reduce hazards at food production premises with livestock or other animals.”

Both Ontario and Alberta have recently passed legislation aimed at addressing the risks associated with an increasing number of cases of activists trespassing on farms or at processing facilities, as well as interfering with the transport of live animals. The Manitoba government says it’s looking at taking a similar approach, which would involve restricting who can enter areas designated as as “biosecure areas” or “animal protection areas”

“Agriculture and food production is an important part of Manitoba’s economy and is a vital contributor to the health and wellbeing of people,” noted Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen. “Our goal is to ensure that food produced in Manitoba is safe for human consumption and that food safety will never be compromised.”

The province says it will be engaging law enforcement agencies, municipalities, farm groups, business groups, and Indigenous leadership on the proposed changes. Individuals are also invited to fill out an online questionnaire before October 31.

“Community safety and crime prevention are among the top priorities of Manitoba municipalities, and local councils have been ringing the alarm on increasing rural crime rates,” says Ralph Groening, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities. “We commend the provincial government for seeking feedback from rural Manitoba to help combat rural crime and protect Manitobans in partnership with municipal officials and stakeholders.”

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