The Bovine reports:
More than 100 raw milk supporters from across the province made the trek through stormy weather to Toronto’s Osgoode Hall to hear the third-round appeal in Michael Schmidt’s raw milk saga last Wednesday Feb. 5th.
It had been snowing all night, piling up a good half a foot of snow, and as we drove down the Don Valley Parking Lot we heard on the radio that travel times across the city were doubled or tripled due to road conditions. At one point around Eglinton Ave., a lightly loaded pickup skidded sideways in our lane but miraculously didn’t hit any other vehicles. Of course, unlike us, the farmers from the countryside — the ones with two and three hour drives — made it there on time.
When we arrived, just a little before the mid-morning recess, we were ushered into the second courtroom (to hold the overflow crowd from the first) where we could watch the proceedings on a large TV screen. The screen was divided into four, one part for the presenting lawyer, and one for each of the three judges. During the break, Michael Schmidt was greeted by a steady stream of supporters, who were lining up to shake his hand and wish him well.
Court resumed at 11 with more presentation from Michael’s Canadian Constitution Foundation lawyer Derek From. Michael had started things off in the morning with a 20 minute presentation and Derek had taken it from there. While Derek had a presentation planned, he had to totally rearrange it to respond to the many questions posed by the three Justices. In contrast to Michael’s earlier raw milk trials, this level of judicial interjection and questioning was something quite novel.
Shortly after the court recessed for lunch, Michael was approached by a CBC TV reporter who told him that her camera crew had been waiting outside all morning to interview him. Several other TV and radio journalists were also there for the noon media scrum on the steps of Osgoode Hall. Snow was still falling as the reporters asked their questions.Then it was down to the cafeteria for a bite to eat and more conversations with raw milk enthusiasts.
In addition to being the location of Ontario’s highest court, the Court of Appeal, at which Michael’s case was being heard, Osgoode Hall is home to the Law Society of Upper Canada, an organization so conservative that it didn’t even change its name to recognize Confederation.
After lunch it was back to court where we listened to three Crown lawyers argue against raw milk, talking about how Michael really WAS operating a milk plant, how raw milk drinkers pose a hazard to others by way of spreading germs, and how the concluding disclaimers — about how the authors could not recommend consumption of raw milk — were really the most important part of the Gabriella and Parsifal studies. Those are the studies from Europe from 2006 and 2011 which find a correlation between raw milk and a lack of allergies in children.
They went on to argue that it’s impossible to eliminate pathogens from dairy farms and that differences in farm management practices don’t achieve a relevant reduction in pathogen levels and that there’s no way to eliminate e-coli from dairy cows. As for how some people get sick from pasteurized milk — that’s because of post pasteurization contamination.
The government position was stated that we don’t need to wait for an epidemic because we know that raw milk is an inherently dangerous food. Michael’s cowshare arrangement was likened to a Costco membership. The Crown lawyers argued that the word “public” in the HPPA (Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act) does definitely include the members of Michael’s cowshare.
In his rebuttal, following the Crown presentation, Derek From reiterated his earlier argument that Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was meant to incrementally evolve, and should apply to this case. He pointed to the many cowshare members in attendance and how that showed the level of concern people have over this issue — how they view it as essential to the security of their persons. He estimated there were 50,000 cowshare members in Ontario.
Derek From reminded that court that in spite of the transmission of disease argument, previous prosecuting lawyers had no qualms about shaking Michael Schmidt’s hand in the court room even though he was a known raw milk drinker, and presumably therefore a carrier and a spreader of dangerous pathogens.
After the court proceedings concluded, around 5 pm, about 40 or so raw milk supporters walked with Michael about 10 blocks to the Hart House pub for drinks and discussion. Thanks to Raoul Bedi for organizing that.
We won’t learn, for many weeks or perhaps months, what the outcome of the judges’ deliberations will be in this case. But according to lawyer Derek From, there is a possibility to apply to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, should Michael Schmidt lose this appeal. But just as this appeal of Justice Tetley’s 2011 conviction required the prior approval of the court, so would taking it to the Supreme Court be dependent on that court’s evaluation of the case.