When I first read the story that follows, in the recent Dec. Jan. Landowner magazine, my first reaction was to note many similarities to the story of the raid on Michael Schmidt’s raw milk dairy farm in November of 2006.
First off, the alleged crime was victimless — no one was hurt, wronged, or got sick. Second, the style of “enforcement” seems similarly over the top. It makes you wonder — if these folks are ambassadors of the state — what kind of a state do they think we have?
Third, it could easily appear that the role played by “law enforcement officers” — in both cases from the Ministry of Natural Resources — was ultimately serving would-be corporate masters who would seem to be seeking a stranglehold monopoly on our food.
This Landowner magazine story is by Sarah Trant, and was originally titled “Bringing Home the Bacon”. A mainstream media news story about the same events was published in the Ottawa Citizen, and subsequently picked up by other media.
Links to those stories are provided at the bottom. It’s interesting to note the differences between the Citizen story and Sarah Trant’s report report for The Landowner, reprinted below.
Mark Tijssen is somebody who anybody would be proud to have as a friend and grateful to have as a neighbour. He, and countless others like him, are made of the stuff on which communities all across rural Ontario have grown, thrived and depend. A Major in the Canadian Forces, a single dad of two happy sons, a Sunday school teacher, and lynch pin of his community, Tijssen makes no bones of being proud of the rural heritage and traditions of his family.
He raises geese and turkeys on his three acre Carlsbad Springs lot (a small community set in the far reaches of rural Ottawa) and, along with a group of friends and neighbours, buys pigs, beef and lambs from local farmers for their own consumption.
Recently his group invested about $2500 to buy beef cattle which were subsequently slaughtered at the provincially licensed slaughter house in the neighbouring community of Russell. The carcases, stamped with the provincial seal, were then brought back to Tijssen’s three car garage to be cut and wrapped by him since he had learned the art of “butchering at my dad’s knee”.
Meantime he and a friend had decided to share the cost of a pig for their own use. Tijssen duly killed and butchered the pig on his property, and his friend left with her portion of pork setting in train a series of events that no one in their right mind could have imagined.
A kilometre or so down the road Tijssen’s friend was stopped by two MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) cruisers. “Monique is not a woman who has not knowingly broken a law in her life,” said Tijssen. “She couldn’t imagine what was wrong. The officials didn’t exactly treat her with kid gloves. They asked her if she was carrying any meat or meat products, ordered her to open her trunk and promptly confiscated the pork.”
Monique, devastated, confused and shaken, not knowing what she or Tijssen could have done that was wrong, called their Minister who was at Synod in Niagara Falls who then called Tijssen who, at that point had no inkling of what had happened.
Tijssen couldn’t imagine what he had done wrong. “My land’s zone agricultural,” he explains. “In my book that means that slaughtering an animal on my property is o.k. I was to find out about the regulations – of which I was totally unaware at that time – the next day. And it wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience!”
Tijssen got in touch with the chief of the local MNR who he knew only to be told, curtly, that his “case was under investigation.
“I was completely in the dark,” remembers Tijssen. “All I wanted to know was what was wrong.
That was when he found out that he was being accused of illegally distributing un-inspected meat. Tijssen pointed out that the meat had not been sold but rather had been bought for personal use which, he believed, was “legit. But I was told in no uncertain terms that ‘ignorance of the law is no defence’.”
Tijssen emphasises that “all the way along I told the truth. I told that official what I’d done with the pig” – a story he was to repeat as the event began to gather momentum.
Now another of Tijssen’s friends was to feel the heat. This time more officiously. Jim Barnes, just out of hospital, recovering from major surgery and far from the best of health, had driven over with a friend to borrow a table and a fridge from Tijssen.
On his way from the Tijssen property Barnes was pulled over by a convoy composed of four police cruisers (an MNR vehicle was parked on the side of the road) and was told that this was a truck inspection. “The constable wanted me to lift the cab of the truck but I was too weak to do so after my surgery”, says Barnes.
After a cursory inspection Barnes was handed a ticket for a minor insurance infraction. “The constable told me he had to fine me for something” says Barnes, astonishment still lingering in his voice. But this was just the beginning. Barnes was frisked roughly, told that charges were pending; meantime the truck would be searched and searched thoroughly. “I wasn’t read my rights – I was treated as if I was a criminal from the get go,” says Barnes.
The constables then took possession of the fridge, the table and a few other random items found in the cab. “They told me that this was evidence of an illegal slaughterhouse and they were taking it – no warrant, nothing! They just took it and told me to present myself at the Ottawa Police station in Orleans. ”
A considerably shaken Barnes, fearful that he could spend hours at the station being “grilled by whoever”, and feeling the effect of his recent surgery, spent no time getting in touch with his good buddy Tijssen who, in turn, contacted Ontario Landowners President Jack MacLaren. Malaren, all too familiar with the sometimes excessive force sometimes utilized by the city’s finest, advised Barnes not to venture near the station without legal counsel.
Barnes then ‘phoned the constable who, after berating him in the strongest terms for “keeping him waiting all this time, told me that if I didn’t go down to the station today I would be charged and that he would have my wife fired from her job!”
Assuring the constable that he would call him right back, Barnes made some more phone calls, the first being to his wife who told him not to worry about her. “They can’t fire me,” she told him. “You go ahead and don’t worry about me.” The next was to his close neighbour who happened to be a lawyer and, in due course, the two presented themselves at the station.
The following exchange amounted to very little but the attitude of the police was far from either courteous or respectful. The staff sergeant reiterating that should Barnes remain uncooperative he would have his wife fired from her position while Barnes himself could be charged. The precise nature of the charges was not specified then nor have they been since.
(As of going to press neither Barnes nor Tijssen have been charged. He, along with Tijssen, have filed complaints with the Police Review Board in Toronto who are responsible for assessing the appropriate actions of the police)
Barnes, who remains in a fragile state of health points out that he’s never so much as ever had a speeding ticket. “I respect the law and, until now, its representatives. I still don’t know what exactly it is I’m supposed to have done. Meantime I have the impression that I could be stopped at any time, slapped into handcuffs and taken away.
“It’s not a good feeling and I’m not in the best of health to deal with it. I don’t know where I’d be without my wife, my good friend Mark (Tijssen) and my neighbours. We’re all pretty tight around here.
“Somebody obviously had it in for Mark. If Mark knows or has a suspicion, he’s not telling!”
That feeling of closeness was commented on by OLA President Jack MacLaren who, accompanied by Carleton Landowners’ President Tom Black and some CLA members, arrived at Tijssen’s house when he appealed to them for advice.
“We arrived to find about twenty neighbours gathered at Mark’s place,” remembers MacLaren. “They were outraged. They all knew Mark. He’s one of those people who has time to help anyone. He’s a caring dad, a Sunday school teacher, and a community mover and shaker. Nobody could understand what had gone on let alone the invasive, accusatory actions of the public officials.”
To some degree Tijssen had been left in blissful ignorance of what had happened. That didn’t last long. It wasn’t until after he had been subjected to what can be best described as a home invasion by a bevy of police constables accompanying MNR officials, that he got in touch with the Ontario Landowners.
“The group turned up on Friday night on my doorstep,” says Tijssen. “I invited them in. They had no warrant and I told them that was just fine. When they asked me about whether I had butchered a pig I told them the truth, explaining that two of us had bought a pig for personal use and yes, I had killed it, cut it up, and divided it with my friend. I saw no reason to lie. It’s not in my nature.”
Tijssen’s cooperation didn’t get him anywhere. “They went into my garage which I opened for them and basically confiscated a good sampling of my butchering equipment.”
Tijssen was then interviewed at some lengths. “I kept on being asked about the pig until there was a quick change of gears and we got around to the beef. When I asked them what beef they were referring to they told me that it was the beef that was hanging in the garage which, the constable claimed he’d seen and of which somebody had supplied pictures.
“I couldn’t help myself,” admits Tijssen, “I was tired of being treated as a criminal so I simply said that if they had seen the sides of beef that had also seen the blue provincial stamps of the slaughterhouse. Apparently these had escaped their notice.”
What irks Tijssen is that his three-car garage is now labelled an illegal slaughterhouse.
“If the MNR guys knew their business they’d realise that this is just plain ridiculous,” says Tijssen. “There are no drains in my garage, there are permeable surfaces everywhere – not a speck of stainless steel in sight. There are no high pressure hose no drains. All essentials for any slaughtering operation.
“Anyone who was familiar with the slaughterhouse business would have taken one look and said very few, if any animals had been slaughtered there.”
Tijssen has held nothing back from the authorities. He admits that he was unaware of current government regulations regarding the slaughter and butchering of animals. He and Barnes have cooperated fully with the authorities. Despite all of this they have been threatened and, in Tijssen’s case, his personal effects taken.
No charges have yet been laid.
Many are questioning who could have reported what was, at best, a minor infraction, to the authorities. Many wonder who, in a quiet, closely knit community, would want to cause such personal injury to “one of our own”.
Meantime the last word must be Tijssen’s. Sitting in his warm kitchen with a homemade cider cake cooling on the counter, his tone ranges from exasperation to anger.
“This has taken a tremendous emotional toll on me, my boys, and my friends,” he says. “It wasn’t so long ago I was there, on Remembrance Day, in the uniform of a Major in the Armed Forces paying tribute to our vets and remembering all those who had gone before and paid the ultimate sacrifice, for a better world. A world free from despots. A world free from dictators. Where honesty and trust were valued.
“I wonder now whether their sacrifice was all in vain.
“I held nothing back. I told the truth. In return I was insulted and threatened. Is this the Canadian way? I hope not.”
Mainstream media versions of the story:
In other Landowner-related news:
Note how the Landowners are seen as having an impact on the political landscape in Ontario — read the first comment (by Chris) on the post linked to here about currently ongoing byelections in Leeds-Grenville and Ottawa West -Nepean.