An unidentified particular person has requested the Ontario authorities to provide a full list of farmers and farm companies by title and Farm Business Registration (FBR) quantity.
The formal request, filed beneath the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, asks the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) to present the next data:
“List of all Ontario businesses with a Farm Business Registration. If possible I would like their FBR number as well, but at the very least, I just need the names of the businesses that are registered.”
The FBR quantity system permits Ontario farmers to access farm-specific packages, corresponding to property tax grants, danger administration packages, and extra. To qualify, a enterprise or particular person will need to have $7,000 in eligible farm gross sales in a yr.
The request applies for the interval from March 1, 2019 to February 28, 2020.
In arising with its response to the freedom-of-information (FOI) request, OMAFRA despatched letters to “a moderate sample” of producers, asking for suggestions. A supply says roughly 490 Ontario farmers and farm companies obtained the letter, dated June 26, 2020.
In half, the letter reads as follows:
“The Ministry is required, by the Act, to provide you with 20 days to let us know whether you have concerns about disclosing this information and why. We would like you to: review the information that the Ministry has provided (Appendix A – the information and Appendix B – section 17 of the Act); let us know by July 17, 2020 by responding to this email: if you agree to having the enclosed information released in its entirety; or, if you object to having the enclosed information (Appendix A) released in its entirety, please highlight what you object to having released and let us know in your email why this is the case. Please ensure that you are as detailed as possible as this will help us make a decision. For example, do you consider the information to be confidential and why, and what ‘harm’ do you believe could reasonably be expected to result from the release of the information?”
Under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act, anybody has a proper of access to data that public-sector organizations in Ontario maintain. OMAFRA states it’s required to comply with a course of for such requests. The Act, in sections 17 and 20, supplies exemptions for withholding data based mostly on “reasonable grounds that the request for access is frivolous or vexatious.”
At this time, the rationale for the request — and what the particular person intends to do with the data — has not been disclosed, however Kurtis Andrews, an Ontario lawyer specializing in agriculture legislation says he’s fairly positive he is aware of who’s behind the request.
“These are activists for sure,” he says, by way of e mail. “They have a long history of trying to manipulate FOI legislation for their purposes. The information, if provided, will be used against farmers, probably to set up a map with a list of addresses to target farmers for protests. This happened in Australia. The Act is being manipulated to breach farmers’ privacy interests.”
Andrews says the request needs to be opposed vigorously by any particular person who receives this sort of letter.
“In addition, farmers should be contacting their MPPs to ask the Ministry to deny the request altogether,” he says.
If OMAFRA refuses the request on these grounds, the particular person or group liable for the request may doubtlessly take authorized motion to transfer the method ahead. They would even have to show they weren’t planning to use the data for nefarious functions.
“Individual farmers really shouldn’t be expected to consult a lawyer to know how to properly deal with this. The government should be intervening to protect them,” he says.
OMAFRA says that it can not reveal the identification of the requester, and, as half of processing this FOI request, it was decided that session with producers on releasing this data could be needed beneath Section 17 (Third Party Information) of the Act.
“Due to the large number of producers impacted by this request and the challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak in reaching out to all producers, the Ministry is consulting via email with a sample of producers. 490 producers with a valid FBR number during the period of the request and whose email addresses had been previously provided to Agricorp were asked to respond in writing by July 17, 2020 if they had concerns with the release of this information,” says an OMAFRA spokesperson.
Information launched beneath an FOI access request is seen to be “disclosure to the public generally” and the federal government doesn’t have the flexibility to restrict the requester’s use of the data, OMAFRA says, nevertheless, data may very well be withheld based mostly on suggestions by third events impacted by the discharge of this data (such because the farmers and farm companies who maintain FBR numbers).
Individuals who obtained the letter and have issues with the discharge of the FBR numbers and names are to contact OMAFRA by e mail at [email protected] It just isn’t clear if those that didn’t obtain the letter may also submit their issues to the province.
In the letter despatched to producers, the provincial agriculture ministry says it’s going to make a choice on whether or not to present the requested data by August 10, 2020, and that the data could be launched shortly thereafter.