Black Eye for Canada’s Justice System?

In a recent post on his “The Complete Patient” blog, American raw milk journalist David Gumpert explains in some detail why the United States does not treat raw milk farmers as political prisoners, the way Michael Schmidt is now being treated in Canada.

“Why doesn’t America have a Michael Schmidt equal, a farmer who is a political prisoner? After all, raw milk availability has been just as contentious an issue in the U.S. as in Canada. There have been surprise raids, court suits, and trials. We have the same Big Dairy influences as Canada. And we have the farmer candidates—Alvin Schlangen, Vernon Hershberger, Amos Miller, Mark McAfee—who have been threatened with criminal charges

Yet they are all walking around free and continuing to make their raw dairy products available, while Michael Schmidt continues to be hounded and even thrown in jail.

The only way to explain it is through a very quick course in Civics 101. The main reason American farmers haven’t gone to jail is that the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution—the first ten amendments— has kept them out of jail.  Those amendments were tacked onto the Constitution after the actual body of the Constitution had been worked out in Philadelphia in 1787. The Bill of Rights was demanded by a number of politicians, led by James Madison, before they would ratify the Constitution, because of the bad memories people had of abuses by the British when America was a colony

These ten amendments provide for some of our best known freedoms— freedom of speech and religion, the right to bear arms,  and the prohibitions against self incrimination and search and seizure without a warrant. Those ten amendments also include several lesser known rights that have kept accused American farmers out of jail:

  1. Trial by jury. The Sixth Amendment provides that in criminal cases, “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury…” It was jury trials that acquitted Alvin Schlangen in Minneapolis in 2012 and Vernon Hershberger in Baraboo, WI, in 2013.  In his 23 years as a target of various government accusations, Schmidt has never been able to get a jury trial. Why not? Because it’s not guaranteed under Canadian law, as it is in the U.S.
  2. Prohibition on double jeopardy. The Fifth Amendment prohibits the government from trying an accused individual twice for the same crime. In other words, once a judge or jury acquits you, that’s it. But that’s not the case in Canada. Schmidt was actually acquitted by a judge of a variety of charges in connection with the sale of raw milk back in 2009. But, alas, the government appealed the acquittal—something that would be impossible in the U.S.—and he was convicted by a court of appeals.
  3. Other requirements. The Fifth Amendment includes a requirement of “due process”, the Sixth Amendment includes the right to confront witnesses against you, and the Eighth Amendment includes a prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” Various of these protections have come into play in cases involving Mark McAfee and Amos Miller. In his Canadian court cases, Schmidt has come up against a government playing fast and loose with due process, like disappearing emails….”

Up here in the frozen north, we like to think we are somehow better off than our neighbours to the south. And while we do have a working health care system, the contrast of the Michael Schmidt case with those of raw milk farmers in the United States brings home that not everything in Canada is better than in the States.

Here’s a link to a recent news story  in the South Grey News, detailing Michael Schmidt’s current legal situation with regard to this case

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