Lately, it seems that every year about this time, something big goes down on the raw milk scene in the farmshare community around Michael Schmidt. Last year it was the Oct. 2nd 2015 raid on the farm in which the threatened removal of critical milking machines and other equipment by authorities was stayed only by a crowd of supporters blocking Michael’s driveway at the farm, willing to put themselves at risk of being arrested and charged. Five of them were later charged.
Also last year about this time there were run-ins with York Region Public Health officials at the Blue Bus drop off site at a church in Thornhill. At one point the inspectors reportedly wanted to confiscate all the farmshare’s milk, but settled for taking samples, presumably to prove that the milk products really were raw.
This year the excitement is around two full days in court (Sept. 26th and 27th) in Newmarket for the entertainment of motions related to the applications by Ontario’s Milk Director, and by the region of York, seeking to criminalize the continued operation of what they’re calling “a milk plant” at the farm, as well as the activities of distributing the milk and related products to members AND even the advocating of the consumption of raw milk. These applications, which are being heard in court now, are the outcome of the raids that took place last year about this time.
The parties named in the applications (for injunctions) are ARC (Agricultural Renewal Coop), the Christian Community church, Markus Schmidt, Elisa van der Hout, and Michael Schmidt, as well as any Jane Doe or John Doe who traffics in or advocates raw milk. The church, ARC and Markus Schmidt are represented by lawyer Davin Charney. Elisa and Michael are representing themselves.
The first motion heard on Sept. 26th was regarding a request by the Our Farm Our Food coop to be granted intervener status at the proceedings. This request was agreed to by the lawyers for York Region and the Milk Director.
However, a related motion, to have Lewis (Skip) Taylor represent the Coop in the proceedings, did attract some resistance and opposition. Usually a corporation (the Coop is a corporation) is required to appear in court represented by a lawyer, although with the court’s leave, a non-lawyer may be allowed to represent the corporation, depending on a number of factors which were discussed in detail in Mr. Taylor’s case, both by Mr. Taylor and by the lawyer for York Region. The judge did not appear to have made a decision yet on this question.
The next motion which was heard by the court was a request to convert the applications by York Region and the Milk Director into actions. The conversion into an action would mean that the case could be decided by a jury rather than by a judge.
Lawyer Davin Charney spent much of the afternoon on Sept. 26th putting forward arguments in favour of this motion. However the other parties at the Court have yet to weigh in on the matter. We can look forward to several more hours of argument and discussion on this motion tomorrow, Sept. 27th on which date the court will commence at 9:30 am and probably continue until 4:30 pm.
According to Michael and Elisa there has been interest expressed in covering this story by Global TV, CBC News, and the Globe and Mail newspaper. Unlike the last time, there was no rally or demonstration, and no cow being milked on the courthouse steps.
There were about 50 farmshare members and supporters on hand when the court proceedings got underway around 11 am on Sept. 26th. There were still a few empty spaces, but the crowd of supporters filled most of the available pews in courtroom 401.