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 as outlined below. The BCFIRB Case Manager will help you throughout the complaint process as described in this process flow overview.. Refer to resources for forms and guidelines
Disputes or disagreements between neighbours can arise for many different reasons, such as misunderstandings or conflicting expectations. Disagreements may start with issues unrelated to farm practices.
While any person aggrieved by a farm practice – someone bothered by dust, noise, odour or other disturbance – can file a complaint with BCFIRB under the Farm Practices Protection (Right to Farm) Act. BCFIRB encourages you to try to resolve your disagreement informally with your neighbour before filing. Cooperatively resolving a dispute with your neighbour can be challenging, but in the long run often leads to better relationships and better results.
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.
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”
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.
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.
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).
If a settlement agreement cannot be reached, the Chair will decide whether to refer the matter to a panel of BCFIRB members at a formal hearing 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.
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
At a formal hearing, the complainant and the respondent farm will present their evidence and arguments to a panel of BCFIRB members
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.
- Read about normal farm practices
Note that BCFIRB cannot make decisions on issues related to environment or health.
If the farmer does not cease (stop) using, or does not modify (change) a practice as ordered by BCFIRB, they are no longer protected under the Farm Practices (Right to Farm) Act.
As a result:
- The local government may enforce its bylaws (for example, noise or nuisance bylaws) and the farm can be subject to a nuisance lawsuit claiming damages or a court injunction.
- The party in whose favour BCFIRB makes an order can file a certified copy of the order with the B.C. Supreme Court. Once the order is filed, if the farmer continues to use the practice that BCFIRB ordered them to cease (stop) or modify (change), he or she may be found in contempt of court. Contempt of court may be punishable by fine or imprisonment. There is no time limit on filing a BCFIRB order with the B.C. Supreme Court.