Opening round in MNR and Grey Bruce Health Unit appeal of raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt’s Jan. 2010 acquittal

Raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt (right) shares a night lunch with visiting American raw milk reporter David E. Gumpert, in his farmhouse kitchen, under the watchful eye of filmmakers' cameras on the eve of his acquittal in January of 2010. That acquittal is now being appealed.

Judge Paul Kowarsky’s January 2010 acquittal of raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt has gone a long way toward legitimizing raw milk in Ontario. Subsequent to that decision, which was a year in the making, Michael Schmidt has been busy traveling around the continent speaking to groups of farmers and citizens who share concerns about raw milk, food freedom and the role of government.

Michael has also organized a series of Cowshare College courses over the past year at his farm in Durham to share with other would-be raw milk producers, the best practices he has developed over 30 years of raw milk production. The most recent of these Cowshare College courses takes place this weekend March 19th, 2011.

Michael has also leveraged his victory in Ontario on behalf of raw milk, to extend support to other farmers across the country, notably in B.C and Alberta, who were finding themselves in trouble with representatives of the law because of their raw milk related activities. In the case of one B.C. cowshare, Home on the Range, Michael even took over responsibility for the farm, enabling it to keep producing and supplying raw milk to cowshare holders after the farm’s former agister was ordered by the court to cease and desist.

Consequently the upcoming appeal of that January 2010 acquittal will be watched with interest by farmers, consumers and regulators from across Canada and throughout the United States.

The Appeal Gradually Takes Shape

Meeting were held as long ago as last summer to begin to set up a framework for the holding of the appeal. These meetings included Michael, his counsel, the judge, and lawyers for the Crown.

In December, 2010, the judge granted (in part) a motion by Michael’s lawyer, Karen Selick of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, seeking to introduce new evidence and new constitutional arguments during the appeal. That decision delayed proceedings a little and we are now looking at an April 13th hearing date for the appeal.

Also in December, lawyers for the  government served their factum, a document setting out a summary of their legal arguments, and the case precedents upon which they rely.  The appellants are  the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Grey Bruce Health Unit.

In their factum the Crown argues that Judge Kowarsky erred in acquitting Michael Schmidt in January of 2010. The factum goes on to list facts asserted about the case, and raises a number of issues regarding the law, perhaps the most important being:  “Is the defendant’s milk distribution scheme legal?”.

We hope to be able to post additional legal documents as they become available to us.

Read the whole 14 page Factum document to get the full picture.

Read Judge Kowarsky’s original Reasons for Judgement here.

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