Provincial law in Canada to ban information on farm-based disease outbreaks

When someone asks, What’s wrong with Kansas, I reply with, What’s wrong with Canada?

My journalism friends have long complained that the flow of information about public health – public anything – is a tinkle in Canada compared to other places.

According to a report in The Province, British Columbia’s Liberal government is poised to further choke off the flow of public information, this time with respect to disease outbreaks.

The Animal Health Act, expected to be passed into law by month’s end, expressly over-rides B.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, duct-taping shut the mouths of any citizens – or journalists – who would publicly identify the location of an outbreak of agriculture-related disease such as bird flu.

"A person must refuse, despite the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, to disclose . . . information that would reveal that a notifiable or reportable disease is or may be present in a specific place or on or in a specific vehicle," Section 16 of the Act reads.

It is quite conceivable that the provincial government, in the event of a disease outbreak at a farm, would delay releasing a warning in order to protect the farm in question or the industry it’s part of.

In that event, should you as a citizen hear about the outbreak, or if you were an employee at an affected farm, you would be breaking the law by speaking publicly about it or bringing concerns to the media.

Will the law also apply to farms identified as sources of foodborne illness, like tomatoes from a B.C. greenhouse, or BSE traced to a B.C. farm, or stupidity traced to a government bureaucrat who lives on a farm?

The proposed law will probably have no practical effect because there is no animal disease or foodborne illness traced to B.C. farms; it’s all imported.

Canada, where complacency rules.