After three years as the target of an animal rights group, and Niagara Regional Police responding “countless” times that nothing could be done to stop the protesters, Laura Sentineal of Sentineal Carriages says she sought to effect change at the provincial level.
She says she understood, if anything is to change, she would need to address her concerns through legislation about the safety of her horses and staff due to ongoing protests.
“Well, maybe we’ve got to do something and get (the police) some tools,” she said.
When Bill 156, the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2020, was introduced in December, Sentineal said it included some language she thought could potentially protect farms and workers from protesters. The bill aims to increase the likelihood of trespassers on farms being prosecuted and convicted.
But the proposed regulations weren’t “solid” enough for Sentineal to feel her farm would be protected, she said.
That sent her down the “very long path” of consulting with lawyers, peers and trusted contacts in the community to make a decision about how to move forward.
It was suggested she begin the process by speaking with to the provincial committee reviewing the legislation to make her concerns about the bill heard and to address how her business had been targeted by Niagara animal rights activists.
On Monday morning, Sentineal met with the committee via Zoom. She said her objective was to tell committee members that while she respects the right to protest, her family’s experience with the At War for Animals Niagara group went further than peaceful protesting.
“We’re looking for a bit of a buffer zone. We just want a little bit of justice.”
Her initial address was a “very honest, personal” account of what the last few years have been like from her perspective.
“We have lots of support and people have been wonderful. But as of right now, there’s nothing anybody can do. So, the direction I went with was basically asking (the committee) to consider our situation as the bill moves forward.”
She wants to be able to send her horses and carriages, staff and guests for rides and for them to “feel a sense of safety and security that they haven’t felt for three years.”
And while she said she doesn’t know what will happen next, she was “cautiously optimistic” that the bill may be updated to include protection for farms in similar situations to hers.