Step 2: File a Farm Practice Complaint

Who Can File a Complaint?

If you are aggrieved by odour, noise, dust or other disturbance resulting from a farm operation conducted as part of a farm business as defined by the Farm Practices Protection (Right to Farm) Act, you can file a complaint with BCFIRB.

The BCFIRB decision Feehan v Ferguson (page 11) discusses what it means to be aggrieved.

If you are unsure of whether your complaint means you are aggrieved, contact BCFIRB.

What is a Farm Business?

A farm business is one in which one or more farm operations are conducted, and includes a farm education or farm research institution if the institution conducts one or more farm operations.

What is a Farm Operation?

A farm operation can include the following activities:

  • Growing or raising plants (including in greenhouses) and animals (including certain types of exotics)
  • Clearing, draining, irrigating or cultivating land
  • Using farm machinery, equipment, devices, materials and structures
  • Applying fertilizers, manure, pesticides and biological control agents (including ground and air spraying)
  • Cultivating specialty wood or fibre crops
  • Producing turf
  • Carrying on an aquaculture operation
  • Raising or keeping game
  • Raising or keeping fur-bearing animals
  • Processing or direct farm marketing.

A farm operation does not include an activity (other than grazing or hay cutting) if it

  • Is a forest practice as defined in the Forest and Range Practices Act
  • Breeds pets or operates a kennel
  • Grows, produces, raises or keeps exotic animals, except types of exotic animals prescribed by the Minister of Agriculture.

For example, see the BCFIRB dismissal decision Hodge v Eben (PDF), which discusses the meaning of farm business and farm operation.

If you are unsure if your complaint relates to a farm operation as part of a farm business, contact BCFIRB.

How to File a Complaint

To file a complaint, complete the application form and submit by mail or courier, along with a non-refundable $100 filing fee payable by cheque or money order to the Ministry of Finance.

The notice of complaint must be in writing and must contain

  • A statement (with as much detail as possible) of the nature of the complaint,
  • The name and address of the person making the application,
  • The name and address of the farmer, and
  • The location of the farm.

There is no time limit on filing a complaint. However, it is usually better to do so as soon as possible after you identify a disturbance.

A complaint may be refused by BCFIRB if

  • The subject matter is trivial,
  • The application is frivolous or vexatious or is not made in good faith, or
  • The person making the complaint does not have sufficient personal interest in the subject of the complaint (for example, they cannot smell the odours from where they live).

For example, see the BCFIRB decision Ofiesh, Elving & Knapp v Beckwith Farms (PDF; September 2, 2011).

BCFIRB cannot accept multi-party complaints (one Notice of Complaint submitted by several people). Each person must submit a separate Notice of Complaint.

For example, see the BCFIRB decision Miller v Panoramic Farms - Multi-Party Ruling Preliminary Decision (PDF; January 8, 2009).

What Happens When a Complaint is Filed?

The complaint process is governed by BCFIRB’s Practices and Procedures for Complaints (PDF).

The purpose of these Practices and Procedures is to encourage fair, clear, consistent and efficient practice concerning complaints.

BCFIRB strongly recommends you review these practices and procedures, as they outline your responsibilities and will help you navigate the complaint process. If you are involved in a complaint, you must proceed on the basis that these practices and procedures apply unless BCFIRB directs otherwise.

In most respects, these practices and procedures reflect practices adopted by BCFIRB over many years, and are consistent with the approach of various tribunals.

BCFIRB has the right to generally add to, amend, or repeal any or all of these practices and procedures at any time, or to make any other procedural order it considers necessary.

Approved methods in which parties are to deliver documents to BCFIRB is outlined in the following practice directive:

Steps in the Complaint Process

At any time during the complaint process, on its own initiative or at the request of a party, BCFIRB may require the parties to participate in a mandatory facilitated settlement to explore the potential for resolving one or more issues in dispute settlement of all or part of the complaint.

Once a complaint is filed, you will proceed through several steps. The BCFIRB Case Manager will help you throughout the complaint process:

  1. Written Notice of Complaint: When a completed Notice of Complaint and filing fee is received, BCFIRB opens an active complaint file. A letter will be sent to both the complainant (person filing the complaint) and the farm acknowledging receipt of the complaint. Included with the letter will be a copy of the Practices and Procedures for Complaints, which outlines the processes and procedures to be followed in the complaint process. BCFIRB will provide the farm with a copy of the Notice of Complaint.
  2. Case Management Conference Call: A case management conference call will be scheduled with the complainant, farmer and BCFIRB staff. The call has two main purposes:
    • To clarify the issue(s) of the complaint and the position of the farmer.
    • To discuss possible settlement of the complaint with the assistance of a “knowledgeable person.”
  3. Knowledgeable Person: At no expense to either party, BCFIRB may engage a knowledgeable person to assist in the complaint process. The knowledgeable person could be an agrologist or other person with relevant technical experience. The knowledgeable person will provide a report to BCFIRB.
  4. Site Visit: The knowledgeable person, along with a BCFIRB staff or board member, may conduct a site visit of both properties to assess the farm practices in question in a site-specific context.
  5. Potential Settlement: If both parties agree, the knowledgeable person’s report can be used to assist the parties in reaching a settlement of the complaint (for example, the report may make recommendations for one or both of the parties to mitigate the disturbance).
  6. Referral to Formal Hearing: If a settlement agreement cannot be reached, the Chair will decide whether to refer the matter to a panel of BCFIRB members or, after giving the complainant an opportunity to be heard, dismiss the complaint. A complaint can be dismissed summarily (without a hearing) if it is trivial, frivolous, vexatious, or not in good faith, or if the person making the complaint does not have sufficient personal interest in the subject of the complaint.
  7. Pre-hearing Conference Call: If the complaint is referred to a hearing, a pre-hearing conference call will be scheduled with the complainant, respondent, BCFIRB staff and BCFIRB member assigned to the complaint. The purpose of the pre-hearing conference call will be to:
    • Confirm the issues on the complaint that will be heard in the hearing
    • Set a date and location for the hearing
    • Set timelines for document and witness exchanges
    • Deal with any preliminary matters that need to be addressed before the hearing
  8. Formal Hearing: At a formal hearing, the complainant and the respondent farm will present their evidence and arguments to a panel of BCFIRB members.
  9. Decision: After the hearing, the BCFIRB panel will provide a copy of its written decision on whether the practices are “normal farm practices” to all parties. The decision will also be posted on the BCFIRB web site.

Note that BCFIRB cannot make decisions on issues related to environment or health.