Montana Jones shares her perspective on three days of court hearings last week:
The government wants Michael Schmidt and I to please pick a different lawyer. I’m not surprised. They say it’s due to a potential conflict of interest in the pending trial. Others wonder if they’re just not so keen at the prospect of going head to head with Shawn Buckley, our British Columbia based constitutional and criminal lawyer specializing in the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations.
It’s almost three years since the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) wolves first descended onto my farm, and this past week of judicial dancing through court hoops suggests we’ll have to endure the shadowy predators lurking for a long while yet.
Tomorrow marks one year since the CFIA killed the last my heritage Shropshire lambs, on suspicion they might develop a disease called Scrapie.
In total the CFIA has killed over seventy of my rare breed sheep, despite live testing that indicated they were negative for a disease that poses no human health risk. All came back negative post-mortem as well.
Prior to one of the “depopulation” dates (the CFIA prefer that term to “groundless eradication”), thirty-one of the flock went missing. They were found months later on the Chesley, Ontario farm of Mirko Malish, in Grey County. Interestingly Mr. Malish has not been charged and is now a witness for the prosecution.
Raw milk activist and farmer Michael Schmidt, myself, Robert Pinnell and journalist Suzanne Atkinson have subsequently been arrested with a multitude of criminal charges ranging from conspiracy to obstruction to transporting a quarantined animal, and face significant fines and jail time if found guilty.
This continuing drama all stems from allegedly trying to stop a blind government body from killing robust rare livestock to see if they are healthy. I spent the last 14 years dedicated to conservation breeding efforts to prevent Canada’s rare heritage sheep from becoming extinct, yet in a heartbeat, the CFIA’s actions have reduced their population to less than 100 registered breeding animals.
This past week found Michael Schmidt and I back in court, with Shawn Buckley arguing the Crown’s application to remove BOTH of our counsel. Prosecution lawyer Damien Frost claims there may potentially be a conflict during the future trial, some time, perhaps, possibly, maybe, and that we should not be permitted to have either of our chosen legal representation. Just in case.
Our strong legal defense team also included Litigation Director Karen Selick of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, who has been an invaluable treasure of knowledge and dedication to this case.
Frost’s reason for demanding that Ms. Selick step down cited the possibility that the Crown may want her as a witness. She was present on my farm April 2nd, 2012, when the CFIA arrived to kill them and discovered they were gone. That same morning there were also 80 or so other people present—supporters holding a peaceful “Save Our Shrops” rally to protest the killing. Why not call them as witnesses? She is now off the case, leaving only Shawn Buckley to defend Michael Schmidt and I.
After a two-day session the case remains unfinished. A legal issue arose regarding the question of whether or not, on a pre-trial application in a Criminal proceeding, the Crown may cross-examine an accused on issues outside of an affidavit. Defense lawyer Buckley says they cannot, and is filing an appeal on that evidentiary issue.
The third day involved a long overdue bail hearing application that was heard in Cobourg’s Superior Court of Justice. Our previous 4 appearances suffered multiple bumping of dates ever since Michael Schmidt and I were arrested on December 6, 2012. Our passports were seized and a requirement states that we not speak to one another except in the presence of our lawyer—whom they are trying to remove. Confused yet? Nine and a half months later we’ve yet to have a proper bail hearing. The travel restrictions (not allowed to leave Ontario) and non-communication order seems unnecessarily binding. Perhaps the Crown feels Michael Schmidt and I might conspire to rustle my now dead flock of sheep?
The issue was bumped again. Now a new record will be filed on our bail hearing application and a new date fixed.
So after a heavy week, nothing really has changed, unless you count an even greater excess of time, energy and taxpayers money (yours).
Watching the CFIA theatre unfold like a badly acted play leaves my head shaking. I’ve been forced to look at for three years so far.
But court is proving to be…uplifting. This past week was a genuine, inspirational pleasure. An immersion with Michael Schmidt, Shawn Buckley and the nuances of justice have heartened me—good will prevail. I’m so very honoured to be associated with them. Our side is a harmonic convergence of clarity, belief, ethics and right thinking.
Buckley’s balanced, informed submissions throughout the court sessions underlined his ability to present compelling rationales with a grounded presence. Even the CFIA appeared impressed, then quite ruffled, as he eloquently articulated points for the two of us. We’ve not even begun the actual trial, but it’s clear there is no finer representation for this case. No wonder they want him removed as our legal counsel.
After the last session, Michael’s response to our intensive, airless days in court was to round up local fare in the form of incredible baguettes, loaves and treats from MillStone Bread, cheese from A Matter of Taste, and lead us off to the beach for a barefoot, sunny fall picnic by the lake.
Our side is (f)armed with truth, principles, love of the earth, and a wish to do no harm. I can’t say the same about the black shadowed predators lurking.
Sept 21 2013