CFIA, Michael Schmidt, Montana Jones in court for first two days of “Prelim”

Observed at the Cobourg & Lindsay Courthouses

Farmer Montana Jones, lawyer Shawn Buckley, and farmer Michael Schmidt, at an earlier court appearance from a few years back. This case has been dragging on for quite some time now.

On the first day of the preliminary inquiry for Montana Jones and Michael Schmidt, a miffed-looking CFIA investigator was observed hanging around the Cobourg courthouse at the end of the day.  He had set himself up in the courtroom first thing in the morning, with his computer and printer, all ready to take notes for the day—and presumably ready to pass notes to Crown counsel.  But he suddenly found himself subject to the same rule as ordinary mortals: namely, a court order excluding witnesses from listening to the testimony of other witnesses.

This particular investigator is the Crown’s chief witness, and is scheduled to testify at the end of the three-week prelim. The order excluding witnesses means he’ll have to miss the whole show.

Apparently the CFIA thought that an exception should and would be made for their investigator—that the court’s rules should be broken just for them.  The arrogance of this organization never ceases to amaze us.

But even though he could not sit in the courtroom where the evidence was being called, he was still hanging around the courthouse at the end of the day.  (Your tax dollars at work.)

Then he had the temerity to show up again on the second day, and Crown counsel tried to re-open the issue.  The Crown argued that the investigator’s presence was necessary in order for the investigator to find documents in the file and hand them to the lawyer—as if the other CFIA employee who regularly comes to court but seems to perform no specific function, or the lawyer’s young assistant who sits there typing notes the whole time, couldn’t do it.

Defence lawyer Shawn Buckley—the sole member of the defence team who’s been able to attend court—was forced to argue all over again that the rules have to apply uniformly to all witnesses. The judge again agreed.

Let’s hope twice is enough.

Meanwhile, the Crown has placed one of Montana’s and Michael’s lawyers (Canadian Constitution Foundation litigation director Karen Selick) under subpoena as a witness in the preliminary hearing, probably for the express purpose of ensuring that Selick would have to be excluded from the proceedings.

That would certainly not be the first tactic the CFIA has used to hamper the defence in this case.  They tried (unsuccessfully) to get lawyer Shawn Buckley bumped off the case.  They keep producing new “disclosure” even though the disclosure process was supposed to have been completed almost two years ago. One can’t help questioning whether they are genuinely interested in seeing justice done. Some people think they really just want to see Michael Schmidt go to jail, in any way that they can arrange it.  On that point, see this blog post by Ian Cumming.

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Story by Canadian Constitution Foundation staff.

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