The Animal Health Act aka The Gag Act

I’ve been following Alex Morton as she pursues answers on the effect Salmon Farming is having on our Wild Salmon Stocks. The virus outbreaks she has been sounding the alarm about are now happening.

While I’ve been appalled at the revelations in the Cohen Inquiry on the role the regulators at Fisheries and Health Canada have played in suppressing needed information and research, I’m horrified to hear Alex say that she will now be silenced by a new BC law. The act she is concerned with is “The Animal Health Act” that apparently will allow the province to silence any media or other coverage on the massive IHN salmon virus outbreaks presently taking place.

While I’ll be firing off letters to CC and others I’m wondering if other’s are concerned about this chilling legislation. Relevant Links to a Province news story about this gag law and Alex Mortons blog follow. … story.html

If you agree with me this legislation is counterproductive to an informed citizenry, you may also wish to send letters to some or all of the following;

Christy Clark, Premier
Don McRAE, Minister of Agriculture
Gary Coons, MLA
Adrian Dix, MLA

This might just be another one of those BC Liberal laws that won’t survive a Charter challenge. I don’t understand the rationale for preventing public disclosure.

Anyway, easy way around it is to just post the information, anonymously (through a Tor node), on a non-Canadian site.

Streisand Effect would kick in, especially since the courts have ruled that linking to a site does not equal publication.

Thanks Mig - I’d certainly hope that the courts would be an effective defense for free speech. It’s a bit chilling to think that in order to speak out on an issue, a Canadian would need to be prepared to Bankroll a “Charter” challenge in opposition to both their government and an industry group. As for the rationale, no matter how it’s dressed up, this is to protect the economic interests of a particular industry sector. In this case, it’s the agriculture industry. In the future, it may be deemed to be in the “National Interest” to protect the economic interests of the energy industry in the same manner. … story.html

It doesn’t affect the media or the public.

[quote=“crazy Horse”]

It doesn’t affect the media or the public.[/quote]

It obviously will affect the media and the public. If you don’t have a source for a story the media can’t disseminate it nor can the public read about it. What you mean to say is that the media and public won’t be held to account if they violate this order.

Yes, that is what I was referring to.

Thanks Soggy, your point about shutting down sources is very valid. We’ve seen how federal scientists are being muzzled and the resultant negative impact on informed debate. Certainly there were some sorry examples that came out during the Cohen inquiry where Federal departments attempted to suppress and deny any information that was starting to emerge on the ISA virus.

Crazy Horse, thank you for the link to the subsequent Province article. I’d like to accept Govt. assurances at face value. Minister McRae and ministry employees including the chief Vet are saying the law does not apply to media and concerned citizens. However West Coast Environmental Law is saying the Act is open to interpretation and potentially can be used to silence the media and concerned citizens. See their critique of the act at … 20copy.pdf. Interestingly the Lawyer for West Coast makes the same point that Mig made earlier that this wouldn’t survive a Charter Challenge. (If you have the ability to defend yourself).

The act has also generated concern from BC’s Privacy Commissioner. See … 7(3May2012.pdf. Of interest is the commissioner’s link to her order F10-06 to the ministry to disclose results of random testing at fish farms. That order while dense reading makes some exceedingly good points about balancing the need for confidentiality and the public’s right to know. This is after all the reason FOI came into being and the Animal Health Act is trying to circumvent the intent of and the safeguards built into the Freedom of Information law and regulations.

The backdrop to all of this is now the third Salmon Farm in two weeks being quarantined due to an outbreak of the IHN virus which also impacts pink, chum, coho, sockeye, Atlantic salmon and Pacific herring. While reportedly not harmful to humans, we have major infection sites on our coast that may impact our wild stocks.

I started following the Farmed Salmon debate and Alex Morton’s work as I simply did not know whether Salmon Farming was a good thing or not. My opinion is any restriction or attempt to restrict the flow of information to the public about the risk/benefits of this industry is offensive. All in all, I remain concerned that this Act as written is not in the public’s best interest whether or not it can be used to Gag the Media and private citizens.

Thanks to Alex Morton and the people she mentions below that were instrumental in stopping this ill advised legislation. … malHealth/