The Last Spike in Raw Milk’s Coffin?

Glencolton farmer Elisa van der Hout leads a group of OFOF farm-share members on a tour of the farm’s dairy barn in April of 2017.

The injunctions being sought at Newmarket Court next Monday and Tuesday may well be the final nail in the coffin of raw milk, if Ontario milk director Gavin Downing and the Region of York have their way.

The proposed injunctions would shut down the “milk plant” at Glencolton Farms, located about two hours northwest of Toronto, in Grey County near the town of Durham, and would also prohibit the continued distribution of raw milk from the farm to people in York Region. The injunctions would prohibit even advocating the consumption of raw milk. Simcoe Region and Peel Region have subsequently joined the injunction application, so people in those jurisdictions would also be affected, as well.

This farm has, in the past, faced numerous raw-milk-related charges, most recently arising from a raid in 2006. However, in the past, charges have been on the level of regulatory offenses. If the injunctions being sought are granted by the court, any continuation of these activities could result in criminal charges, not only for the persons named — Michael Schmidt, Elisa Van der Hout, and Markus Schmidt — but also for any John or Jane Doe, and for the Christian Community church which has been a distribution site.

On October 2nd, 2015, police and regulators were prevented from removing equipment following yet another raid on Glencolton Farms. Supporters and farm share members came out on short notice, and blocked their truck from leaving the farm with the seized equipment, even while facing the threat of arrest for their action. Eventually it was negotiated that they would let the truck leave without the equipment. Five of those present were subsequently arrested and charged with obstructing police.

The trial of those arrested began in March of this year, and is scheduled to continue in June. One feature of this trial noted by one observer was the presence of many heavily armed police both inside and outside the courtroom. The only reason that has been suggested to account for this unusually heavy police guard is the suspicion that the defendants may be linked to the “Freemen on the Land” movement.

Perhaps someone somewhere has confused the “Freemen on the Land” with the “Ontario Landowners”, a political action group based in rural Ontario which has already sent two MPPs to Queen’s Park — Jack MacLaren and Randy Hillier. Randy Hillier sponsored a private members bill back in 2008, to study the raw milk issue. Members of the Ontario Landowners have come out to publicly support the food rights cause on numerous occasions.

Glencolton Farms farmer Michael Schmidt has also engaged personally in the political process, seeking to run as candidate for the local provincial Green party, and for the Progressive Conservatives.

Judging by the stories in their monthly magazine, a recurring theme which seems to trouble the Ontario Landowners is government overreach, seen most frequently in the form of petty tyrants in the largely-unaccountable layers of bureaucracy which form much of the de-facto government of this province, particularly in areas such as bylaw enforcement, animal protection, and environmental law.

The Ontario Landowners flexed their political influence most recently in helping choose Patrick Brown as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party.

It should be noted that Canada is the only G8 Country with a complete prohibition on raw milk. In the United States, 16 states have legalized raw milk since 1994, bringing the total number of States in which raw milk is legal in some form, to 42.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the court proceedings in Newmarket this coming Monday May 29th and Tuesday May 30th (both at 9 am) to watch the future of food rights in Ontario being decided.

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