Michael Schmidt was sentenced November 6th to 60 days of jail time for obstruction of a peace officer. Citizen Beverly Viljakainen raises some questions about whether justice was done in the court proceedings leading up to that judicial ruling.
The case has been widely reported on in the news media. Here are links to a few recent media reports:
SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO’S DIFFICULTIES WITH DAIRY FARMER MICHAEL SCHMIDT
by Beverley Viljakainen, November 11 , 2017
1. Why, during the 2017 obstruction of a peace officer trial, were erased e-mails between the chief investigator of the 2015 raid on Glencolton Farms and the arresting officer of the local municipal police unit deemed by Justice Minard to be irrelevant when he supposedly had no way of knowing what they contained? This when both correspondents knew they would be laying obstruction charges and in no way considered the case closed. It is quite possible that the contents of these e-mails would have provided evidence crucial to the defence’s case, especially given that the arresting officer was under the erroneous impression that the five men eventually charged were members of an organization called Freemen of the Land, information possibly used to obtain the search warrant. When the defence questioned the grounds upon which the warrant was obtained, the Justice disallowed it, saying that Mr. Schmidt was on a “fishing expedition” and wasting valuable court time.
2. Why, after several months of a criminal trial supposed to get at the truth, did someone at the Walkerton Court House instruct the Offenders Transport driver, who was taking now-convicted offender Michael Schmidt to prison in Penetanguishene, to advise its staff that Mr. Schmidt was a Freeman of the Land when there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim? The admittance staff member greeted Mr. Schmidt with, “So you are a Freeman of the Land” and readily explained how he had come to know.
3. Why the constant presence of an unusually large number of heavily-armed “special unit” OPP officers throughout the 2017 obstruction trial? This, too, may have been due to the unsubstantiated belief that the men charged were Freemen of the Land, initiated by the arresting officer. During the proceedings, a man was leaving the courtroom in disgust, uttering a few choice words as he went, and was grabbed by two of these officers who injured his shoulder as they hauled him off. The two plain-clothed officers, also in constant attendance, who explained their presence as being for our safety, didn’t move from their seats to calm the situation, one even signalling to the man’s friend not to follow them out. Fortunately, he did not heed this advice and was able to have his friend released from the officers’ grip by telling them that he was witnessing an assault. The emergency room doctor at the Walkerton Hospital was also less than pleased. Was it the OPP who instructed the Offenders Transport driver to advise the Penetanguishene prison staff that Mr. Schmidt was a Freeman of the Land and, if so, on what authority and why?
4. How is it possible that Justice Minard could declare the testimony of all of the defence witnesses “useless” when each of them addressed the Crown’s acknowledged attempts to prove that Mr. Schmidt told them to block the laneways with their vehicles so that the raid squad could not confiscate food and equipment from Glencolton Farms?
5. Why was Justice Minard able to try the defence’s application for dismissal on the grounds that the time it had taken was beyond the new limits, rather than have it tried by an uninvolved and therefore more impartial judicial employee? His final calculation summarily brought the length of time to within the limits that would allow him to deny the application and continue with the trial. Subtracted was the entire time the defence witnesses gave their testimony; the sick time of two of the accused, for which a doctor’s note had to be provided, totalling no more than five days but counted as a month; and the periods of time that courtrooms were not available to make up for the sick time lost, on to which, if observers’ math is to be trusted, the Justice’s vacation time was also added.
6. Why is the interpretation of the Ontario Milk Act beyond consideration in any of the many charges against this one farmer, Michael Schmidt? This Act clearly applies to milk commercially produced, distributed and sold to the public, which is not what the Glencolton Farms operation does. Nor does Michael Schmidt or any member of his family own the farm. Rather, its legal structure consists of two co-operatives: Agricultural Renewal Cooperative, whose members are the farm workers, and Our Farm Our Food, whose members are the farm share owners for whom the products are produced. As much as they may want it, non-members are patently denied access to the dairy products, and the waiting list for membership is impossibly long since expanding the operation would jeopardize the benefits it enjoys by remaining small. One notably nefarious exception is the undercover Ministry of Natural Resources agent who, prior to the 2006 raid, was granted membership on compassionate grounds, so serious and convincingly presented was her made-up health condition. Her testimony did not convince the Justice of the ensuing trial that Mr. Schmidt was selling raw milk to the public, but his ruling was subsequently overturned, which left Mr. Schmidt supposedly guilty and fined.
7. Why is any attempt to question the interpretation of the Ontario Milk Act, on the part of the defence, always deemed “inadmissible” when it appears to so many legally informed minds not to apply to dairy farmers producing milk NOT for distribution and sale through commercial outlets to the general public?
8. Why, in his sentencing preamble, did Justice Minard constantly refer to Mr. Schmidt’s desire to change the law so that he could sell his product commercially to the public, ignoring all evidence to the contrary?
9. Why did this Justice almost never look at the defence when he was delivering rulings on procedures and other matters, almost all of his eye contact being with the Crown, the only lawyer before him?
10. Why the Crown’s and Justice’s persistent references to Mr. Schmidt as being unrepresented by counsel, in spite of reminders from him that he was not without representation, he was self-represented?
11. Why the Justice’s loss of temper to the point of shouting, his voice scaling well into the soprano range, his leaving the court in a huff at the mere hint of his authority being defied, regardless of the polite and respectful manner in which certain matters of process were being questioned by the defence?
12. Why is this entire, purely political matter being tried in a criminal court of justice? Where is the crime in thirty plus years of farm-fresh milk produced at Glencolton Farms for its members, there having been no incidence of harm, illness or death? The countless affidavits submitted to the courts over the years by members who have benefitted from this farm’s dairy products, after being medically advised to stop using commercial cow’s milk, speak volumes, but are considered irrelevant, given the criminal justice system’s mandate. If the Ontario Milk Act cannot be examined as to whether the accused is subjected to it or not, what are alleged breaches to it doing in the already and always overloaded judicial system?
13. How does this piece of legislation, whose albeit general wording definitely applies to producing, distributing and selling milk commercially to the general public, which the accused does not do, ever get reviewed when powerful institutions and vested interests refuse to participate in the process? Their refusal to consider quite viable options, such as have been legislated in other jurisdictions throughout the developed world, hardly justifies the harassment of Mr. Schmidt has been exposed to for the past 24 years.
14. Where is the pressure coming from for the Government of Ontario to continue spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars trying to shut down a successful dairy operation that is only assumed to be breaking the law and has done no harm?
15. Where is the political attention that a political problem requires to arrive at an appropriate political solution? As is, people who are willing to be responsible for their own health and that of others, who care about where their food comes from and how it is produced, who choose to support small local farms to nourish local economies, are being treated as criminals. Where is the crime . . . and who are the criminals?
There is another model of farming, quality food availability and community building being offered here. It will take much more than heavy fines, jail sentences of whatever length, closed doors, and deaf ears to deter those who have only the health and wellbeing of themselves and others in mind. In the meantime, the longer this abuse of power goes on, the more ludicrous it becomes to perpetuate the myth that we live in a democracy. In his sentencing presentation, Justice Minard dwelled somewhat on the importance of the search warrant to democracy, describing what could happen without this legal device as “disastrous”. Those present during the farm raid in question, as well as the earlier raids on Glencolton Farms, would be hard pressed to say that what they witnessed wasn’t exactly as the Justice portrayed and, to add insult to injury, carried out by government employees paid with their hard-earned tax dollars. A democracy we are not . . . yet! And, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “That would be nice!”