Raw milk operator waits for judge’s final decision — Chilliwack Times

Paul J. Henderson, from the Chilliwack Times

Former agister Alice Jongerden with Felicity at "Our Cows" (formerly "Home on the Range") farm

“Fraser Health will wait for a B.C. Supreme Court judge’s decision on whether the former operator of a Chilliwack raw milk dairy is in contempt of court before the public health body tries to shut down the new incarnation of the dairy.

Alice Jongerden appeared in New Westminster on Thursday to answer to the civil contempt of court charge.

Fraser Health has been trying for several years to shut down Jongerden’s Home on the Range Dairy, which distributed raw milk to about 450 people.

In March, an injunction was issued to stop the flow of raw milk, but the milk continued to be distributed with the label “Not for Human Consumption.”

That label proves to be the crux of the judge’s decision, according to Fraser Health spokesperson Roy Thorpe.

“In our mind the intent was still to distribute for human consumption,” he told the Times Monday.

According to an affidavit filed in court and signed by George Rice, manager of environmental health for Fraser Health, Jongerden is “on a campaign of public defiance in support of the production of raw milk for human consumption.”

Jongerden was forced to resign from the dairy because of the contempt charge, but raw milk advocate Michael Schmidt from Ontario has stepped in to take over the dairy, which has been renamed Our Milk.

After the Oct. 14 court appearance, Jongerden, Schmidt and their supporters passed around and drank from bottles of milk outside the court.

On Sept. 28, the two drank milk in front of Chilliwack’s Fraser Health offices in a similar stunt. No one at the Fraser Health office reacted and Thorpe said they recognized that move as “a political-style demonstration and Schmidt has a right to his viewpoint.”…”

Read it all on the Chilliwack Times website.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Raw milk operator waits for judge’s final decision — Chilliwack Times

  1. aed939

    The physical transfer of common property among owners and their agents does not constitute distribution to the public.

  2. latte_girl

    I encourage anyone following the Home on the Range story to check out the original BC Supreme Court judgment from March (go to the BC Supreme Court website, search judgments, and type “raw milk” – use the quotation marks – in the key words search).

    Whether or not you agree with the decision, the judge did an excellent job in outlining her reasons for the injunction. Namely, that the BC legislation was broader than the Ontario legislation (which allowed for private distribution of raw milk). The BC legislation did not allow for any distribution of raw milk.

    That’s right, an ABSOLUTE NO. Renaming the dairy, harassing the Health Authority, and labeling the milk “not for human consumption” isn’t going to change the word NO.

    The only basis to challenge the decision, which would consequently open the raw milk market significantly, lies in having section 7 of the Public Health Act Transitional Regulation (which deems raw milk a health hazard) repealed. Or if not repealed, at least set forth a specific code of preparation and distribution for raw milk producers to legally follow.

    I also hope that their lawyer has been smart enough to emphasize that Section 15 of the Public Health Act, under which Home on the Range was charged, that a person must not act in a manner that “will” cause a health hazard. While someone “could” get sick from raw milk, it is not a foregone conclusion as the word “will” implies. In court, semantics can be everything.

    I wish Alice Jongerden good luck in her fight. She appears to have the ultimate uphill battle.

    • Walter's Dad

      To latte_girl:

      Thank you. Finally! Someone else on this site has it right!

      The media circus around this case has, for most readers, blinded them to what the foundation of the charges really are (and what really needs to be done to change it, as you’ve pointed out).

      One subtle correction (although I’m no lawyer): because the Transitional Reg prescribes raw milk as a health hazard, the mere act of distributing it is enough to contravene Sec 15 of the Public Health Act. The Health Authority does not have to prove that the milk “could” or “will” have made anyone sick.

      Apparently Home on the Range has a real lawyer now, so it will be interesting to see how he’ll approach this. Constitutional challenge perhaps?

  3. latte_girl

    My understanding was the same as yours: because the Transitional Regulation is so tightly worded that unpasteurized milk for human consumption is a health hazard, the rest is mainly posturing. But I’ve spent enough time working on court cases to know that posturing is sometimes beneficial.

    Ultimately, the legislation has to be modified. But this too is not a simple task. Even if the BC government was to change the legislation for the province (as all current charges are under provincial law), the federal Food and Drug Regulations also specify that milk has to be pasteurized. Currently, I am living in the United States (though I normally live in BC). Raw milk sales of some form are allowed in most states. However, the American federal government has decided to “crack down” on raw milk distributors. First, they’ve been introducing new, tougher legislation that supersedes the state legislation and prohibits what were once legal sales. For example, no more raw milk in Nevada as the only state approved provider was from California. The federal government will not allow raw milk to cross state lines anymore. Second, they’ve been enforcing legislation with federal officers and federal charges (think of the Rawsome food raid). Similarly, winning a provincial case in Canada may only provide temporary relief.

    The legislation has to change at two levels.

    In addition, my understanding from reading the reasons for judgment in Michael’s case, the cow-share model has been tried in BC before (Pellikaan 1986) and failed. That means the precedent does not favour Jongerden. The case is over 20 years old so it’s not in the on-line database.

    But Pellikaan is a good example about why proper legislation is needed. He was distributing a sub-standard product that really could have made people sick. In contrast, Michael Schmidt has been leading by example what cow-share legislation should look like: proper care of the animals, sanitary milking and bottling conditions, product testing, screening of interested share members, and educating share members on the proper care to prevent contamination after purchase.

    But right now, there is nothing stopping a “Pellikaan” from setting up a cow-share in Ontario. This is one reason I consider Michael’s victory very fragile. Should a “bad” cow-share be set up and a contaminated product be given to its members, it would entrench the idea of universal pasteurization even deeper.

  4. Good discussion
    In regards to substandard raw milk production ,I agree that the danger lies in the circumstances that now every one without standards jumps in and creates chaos or a repeal of the ruling based on an outbreak.
    However we also need to understand that it has become very clear that if the Government or whoever is interested to squash the raw milk movement they will use anything to create an outbreak.
    Has been done before .
    To create standards and accreditation is a very important step to ensure trust and credibility.

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