Oshawa, ON — The preliminary inquiry into the charges against sheep breeder Montana Jones and raw milk champion Michael Schmidt completed another week on Friday, August 14 under a media blackout, due to a publication ban placed on the proceedings at the request of the Crown.
Michael Schmidt said, “After watching the Canadian Food Inspection Agency witnesses last week, I am deeply disturbed by what I learned about the inner workings of the CFIA. However, I am very pleased with how the case is going. I’m looking forward to the trial, when the jury and the public will finally be able to hear this evidence and form their own opinions as to who is guilty of what.”
Schmidt, Jones and Robert Pinnell are charged with several offences stemming from April, 2012 when the CFIA ordered that dozens of Jones’ apparently healthy rare-breed sheep be slaughtered so that their brains could be examined for signs of disease. The sheep were surreptitiously removed from the farm before the CFIA could carry out the destruction order.
The sheep were recovered approximately eight weeks later. When slaughtered and tested, all were negative for disease. Jones has never been compensated for the loss of her sheep. Instead, she faces charges relating to their disappearance.
The charges were laid in December, 2012, but the preliminary inquiry did not start until February, 2015 due to motions brought by the Crown and delays in providing full disclosure of Crown evidence. After several days of hearings, the Crown demanded that a publication ban be imposed before any CFIA personnel testified. The ban was opposed by the accused as a violation of freedom of the press, but Judge Lorne Chester granted it nevertheless.
Karen Selick, litigation director for the Canadian Constitution Foundation, said, “We can’t help wondering what the CFIA wants to hide by not having the testimony of its personnel be published.”
The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), a registered charity that provides pro bono assistance to clients whose constitutional rights are at stake, is supporting the defence of Jones and Schmidt.
Selick, the lawyer who represented Jones during negotiations with the CFIA before the sheep disappeared, has herself been subpoenaed by the Crown as a witness against her own client. Consequently, she can no longer represent Jones or her co-accused. Selick noted that the Crown had also tried, unsuccessfully, to remove lawyer Shawn Buckley from the case. Selick said, “The government has used every possible tactic to deny the accused capable representation in court, and to exhaust the funds available for the defence.”
The CCF has turned to crowdfunding to raise money for the case. The campaign can be found on Indiegogo at http://igg.me/at/MontanaJ.
Another week of preliminary hearings has been scheduled for September 14 – 18, 2015 at the courthouse in Oshawa.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation (“Freedom’s Defence Team”) is a registered charity, independent and non-partisan, whose mission is to defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through education, communication and litigation.