Farmer turns to Constitution for defence at raw milk trial

Here’s Kate Hammer of the Globe and Mail reporting again on what we hope will be the landmark raw milk trial of farmer Michael Schmidt. Nice that the Globe editors have assigned someone who’s covered the story before. Here an excerpt from Kate’s report:

“NEWMARKET, ONT. — Ontario’s dairy dissenter, Michael Schmidt, told a packed courtroom yesterday that the laws that criminalize the sale of raw milk compromise rights protected by Canada’s Constitution and are therefore invalid.

Mr. Schmidt faces 20 charges relating to the “cow share” program he operates from his dairy farm in Durham, Ont., near Owen Sound. Drained of funds after 15 years of battling the provincial government over the sale of unpasteurized products, Mr. Schmidt represented himself at his trial, which began yesterday in Ontario Court in Newmarket.

Mr. Schmidt pleaded not guilty on all counts.

It is not illegal to drink raw milk and Mr. Schmidt has attempted to tiptoe around the law by selling “shares” in his cows rather than bottles of milk. Co-owners pay for the room and board of their cattle at Mr. Schmidt’s Glencolton Farms, then enjoy the byproducts of their investment – raw milk and raw milk products.

About three years ago, Mr. Schmidt’s scheme came to the attention of the Grey Bruce Health Unit and the Ministry of Natural Resources. The ministry infiltrated the cow-share group and purchased raw milk cheese with the help of two undercover agents, lawyers for the Crown revealed in their opening statements.

Mr. Schmidt was not licensed as a milk plant under the Milk Act, and the raw milk products he distributed had been ruled “a vehicle for the transmission of harmful pathogens” by the Health Protection Appeal Board, now called the Health Services Appeal and Review Board.

Despite cautions from Justice of the Peace Paul Kowarsky that the Charter challenge could only be dealt with after the charges before the court had been addressed, Mr. Schmidt did not directly address the charges in his opening arguments.

“There is an idea about food that it will kill us unless we process it to death,” Mr. Schmidt said. But even these processing procedures can’t “guarantee the safety of our food supply,” he added. (Mr. Schmidt’s followers often cite the recent listeriosis outbreak as an example.)

The farmer, his vest fitting more snugly after months of tending to legal documents rather than fields and cattle, told the courtroom “the core issue at stake here is not really about milk. There is no law about drinking unpasteurized milk. It is about our rights.”

His comments were met with fervent applause from the audience, which was filled to capacity with nearly 40 supporters and cow-share owners. Twenty more waited in the hallway, occasionally peering into the courtroom through two small windows.

The day’s proceedings were consumed by a voir dire during which Mr. Schmidt sought to have a statement he gave to police thrown out. He made the statement in November of 2006, after some two dozen officers from the ministry raided his farm.

Mr. Schmidt was leaving the farm when he was stopped by two ministry vehicles. The cars blocked his exit and were followed by many more vehicles.

Witnesses who testified yesterday, including ministry officers and employees of Mr. Schmidt’s farm, described a tense but polite raid, during which investigators scoured the farm and cinnamon buns were served….”

Read the whole thing here.


Filed under News

8 responses to “Farmer turns to Constitution for defence at raw milk trial

  1. Kate can hardly be described as a reporter let alone a journalist, her reporting is as biased and inflamitory as I might expect of a grade school news reporter!

  2. this thing is being heard by a Justice of the Peace, not a judge?! that tells you everything you need to know.
    Out here in BC. a JP will excuse himself /herself from a matter if the Defendant challenges the constitutionality of a law
    I predict that the Powers-that-Be have directed he be allowed to win at this level of Court. His task now is to get in a good set of facts for the = inevitable = appeal by the Crown

  3. Pingback: Alice dictate: Raw Hamburger Ban « Alice the Camel

  4. Kyrie

    There is nothing wrong with Kate.

  5. thebovine

    I’d like to second Kyrie’s endorsement of Kate Hammer. I think she’s a fine journalist. I’m guessing Rick Adam (above) just doesn’t like the news she happens to be reporting.

  6. I honestly do not know enough about Kate to agree with your viewpoint, my observation and comment stems from several seeming rather loose comments Kate made, some in my view being needlessly inflamatory, or even they might better be described as inaccurate.

    Mr.Schmit as have others [myself included] have taken the time to read and research the law. And what is not prohibited under law is permitted.
    So many of the schemes now bedeviling society today have their roots in the period between 1912 to 1917, [further insight can be gained by researching the “Flexner Report” and the early history of the “FDA & AMA”] I suggest this so you can establish an insight as to how we arrive at the present state of affairs.
    To state that: “three years ago, Mr. Schmidt’s scheme came to the attention of the Grey Bruce Health Unit and the Ministry of Natural Resources” — seems unlikely as he and others have been on record with their local health board, attornies general, health and various ministries for far longer times than is suggested and often having received letters of comfort that no laws were being broken and prossecution most unlikely except be explicit complaint.

    Letters of comfort in hand implies that no one has…”attempted to tiptoe around the law”.

    To state :”his vest fitting more snugly after months of tending to legal documents rather than fields and cattle”…. needlessly adds little of substance to the story and as an involuntarily portly soul myself…[due to forced inactivity while recovering from iatrogenic MRSA during surgery.]
    I do not feel these several descriptions were needed, but failure to add to the understanding of the Constitutional and human rights issues involve in this matter is of neglect.
    Especially when so many health and food freedom rights issues have been handed over to corporate control and patent control of others than the humble farmer, whom since time began was the steward and guardian of the fruits that give life.
    Can you honestly declare you more trust the CEO’s of modern industry to protect you than the local farmers?
    Rick Adam

  7. thebovine

    OK, Rick, thanks for the clarification. Seems Kate has got some of her facts wrong. Hope she’s reading this.

  8. Raw Milk: Opinion of an old Aggie


    Fifty nine years ago. Professor (dusty) Keegan opened his first lecture to an

    OAC Freshman class with …

    “The time is coming when agricultural policy will be plotted by Bay Street and

    Queens Park, I expect there are sons of Bay Streeters in this class. Yeah! You’re

    here without the required farm experience cause you’ve been pounding sidewalk

    most of your lives. {pause} Ahem …. the only thing you ever raised was your hat!”

    I’d have forgotten this provocative remark had it not been for the raw milk

    issues that excite us today. Some of us milk-fed Aggies from the counties laughed

    at Keegan’s outburst, a few city-borns fretted, but for most of the class, it seemed

    to go over their heads. We who understood came from mixed farms – family farms

    with milk herds , the like of which supplied milk to weanling pigs, vealing calves,

    to cheese factories or butter-making creameries. Even back then, mixed (family )

    farms of this kind were becoming economically marginal, especially juxa

    -positioned with pure dairy farms. They were birthed and raised by the Ontario

    milk marketing boards , willing adolescents of the governments of Ontario for over

    half a century. There are hundreds of Canadian farmers outside the price-fixing

    monopoly because they can’t afford a huge buy-in contract to obtain a quota or

    meet a slew of regulations that reek of contrivance and guile. In large part, the

    demise of the family farm can be put at the door of the

    lack of a free market in the entire milk industry. I believe the hidden nut in

    Keegan’s outburst rested on that premise.

    The trial of Michael Schmidt should result in the legalized sales of natural milk and

    products there of with no caveat, whatsoever, as to location. Of course all cow

    herds should be government vetted, but for natural milk: it’s the customer who


    The judge should go further: Recommend that the Government of Ontario find

    why Americans in the free-market border states pay approximately one third less

    for their milk than our monopoly set price in Ontario.

    John D Lee
    Victoria, BC.

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