Minister of Agriculture responds

The main reason government wants to revise the Animal Health Act is because it hasn’t been updated since 1948.

Editor:

(re: Liberals need to be open and transparent, Interior News, June 6)

The main reason government wants to revise the Animal Health Act is because it hasn’t been updated since 1948 and doesn’t have the tools to deal with modern disease outbreaks.

When crafting the new act, we looked both nationally and internationally to other jurisdictions to see what they had done.

We realized the best way to ensure disease outbreaks are reported early is to assure farmers their information will be treated in a confidential fashion.

The new Animal Health Act does that and the changes to the act are based on latest best practices in disease diagnosis and control.

The rules around reporting news of a disease don’t change with the new Animal Health Act.

As soon as a disease is actually confirmed, information is made public the same way it has always been, through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and/or Fisheries and Oceans Canada or the Province’s Chief Veterinarian.

What the new Animal Health Act guards against is incomplete or unconfirmed information being made public that would unfairly harm the reputation and livelihood of the families making their living as farmers.

We recognize, upon confirmation of a disease, it is essential the public receives complete, accurate and consistent information and advice on how they can protect their health.

Let me make it clear, the new legislation places no restrictions on the media or general public from reporting the presence of diseases to the public.

It also doesn’t change anyone’s responsibility to notify CFIA or the province’s Chief Veterinarian if they have reason to believe

that an animal in their care has a reportable disease.

Failure to report knowledge of an animal disease is an offence.

I assure you the new Act balances the need for protection of confidential information in the ministry’s possession with the public interest in receiving timely disease information.

Don McRae

B.C. Minister of Agriculture