In a last ditch attempt to save the raw dairy operation at Glencolton Farm, 21 Ontario farmers and consumers filed a constitutional challenge on February 8 in a Toronto Superior Court to the province’s ban on raw milk sales and distribution. One of the parties to the lawsuit is Elise Vander Hout, a WAPF chapter leader whose husband Michael Schmidt has been fighting for legalization of raw milk sales in Ontario for the last 24 years.
The petitioners (the term used in Canada is applicants) are asking for exemptions to the Ontario Milk Act, the Health Protection and Promotion Act, and the Food and Drug Regulations with the sum of the exemptions sought being “to allow the processing, sale and distribution of raw milk and/or raw milk products (raw milk) in containers having a detailed warning label advising of the risks of consuming raw milk directly to persons who wish to purchase and consume raw milk and/or raw milk products . . . .”
The 21 individuals filed the challenge in response to a January 5 decision by Judge P.W. Sutherland of the Superior Court of Justice in Newmarket who issued an order prohibiting all raw milk producers in Ontario from operating a raw milk plant without a license and from any distribution of raw milk by an unlicensed plant; under provincial law any raw milk produced by a licensed dairy plant must be pasteurized. See the “Quiet Dictatorship Strikes Again” for more background.
The main parties in the Newmarket case beside Schmidt and Vander Hout were the Agri-Cultural Renewal Cooperative Inc. (ACR) and Our Farm Our Food Cooperative Inc. (OFOF). In 2010 ARC purchased Glencolton Farm in its entirety, owning all the land, buildings, equipment and animals; former owner Schmidt still works on the farm but owns nothing of it. OFOF later purchased 100% ownership of the cows and hired ARC to care for the cows and manage the dairy operations at Glencolton Farm. The 143 members of OFOF invested $2,000 to join the co-op and have access to raw milk and raw milk products. Schmidt, Vander Hout, ARC, OFOF and the other defendants in the case have appealed Judge Sutherland’s ruling to the Court of Appeals for Ontario requesting that the judge’s orders and the appeal itself be stayed until the Toronto Superior Court of Justice has issued a decision on the constitutional challenge. Failure to obtain a stay would mean the end of Glencolton Farm’s dairy operation.
In an affidavit filed for the appeal Vander Hout describes the consequences of the Court of Appeal not staying Judge Sutherland’s orders:
“To date (February 12) I have complied with the orders of Sutherland, J. However, we are struggling to maintain the closed herd of thirty-two cows which we will soon be unable to afford. We are faced with the horrifying prospect of taking the entire herd to the butcher. Already it has been necessary to butcher three cows named Alera, Vanessa and Lana, whom we said goodbye to on January 18, 2018. This is a big loss to our herd and we are devastated at having to take this measure. If the whole herd is butchered, it would be impossible to rebuild in our lifetime . . . . As a result of the Sutherland J.’s orders, we have also had to stop milking one-third of our cows.”
Vander Hout goes on to state that the end of the dairy operation would mean a loss of $175,000 annually for Glencolton Farm, income amounting to one-half of the farm’s total revenue. Also lost would be the genetics of the rare heritage breed “Canadienne” cows that Schmidt has bred for over the past 30 years.
Petitioners are basing the constitutional challenge mainly on two clauses of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One of the clauses states, in part, “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression….”
The other clause provides, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”
In her affidavit Vander Hout states, “Many consumers, friends and members of my community have had extremely positive health improvements due to consumption of raw milk. I cannot, in good conscience, enjoy consuming health-giving raw milk on my farm with my family (under the Ontario Milk Act only dairy farmers and their families have legal access to raw milk), while others are left to suffer their ailments which led them to seek out access to raw milk in the first place.”
The petition describes the consumer parties to the challenge as “individuals who for many years have purchased raw milk, consumed it themselves and provided it to members of their families for the health benefits they believe it affords. Each holds, as a matter of conscience or religion, that she or he should have the right to obtain raw milk from farmers in Ontario for that reason . . . . Contrary to the principles of fundamental justice, the prohibitions against the sale of and distribution of raw milk have deprived the applicant consumers of its health benefits which are fundamental to their lives and security of person.”
Documents submitted as part of the appeal show the detailed health, sanitation and food safety protocols the farm meticulously employs and further illustrate how the Ontario laws have nothing to do with protecting the public health but rather only have the intent to prohibit competition to the Ontario dairy industry. The petition notes that there is no law prohibiting the consumption of raw milk which wouldn’t be the case if the product was truly regarded as a health hazard. The only threat to health is the senseless loss of a great source of nutrient-dense food if the Toronto Superior Court rejects the constitutional challenge.
The petition states, “The values that underlie Canada’s political and moral traditions demand that the Applicants should be free to hold and manifest whatever beliefs and opinions their conscience dictates so long as such displays do not injure their neighbors or their neighbors’ parallel rights to hold and manifest beliefs and opinions of their own.”
The Toronto court has the opportunity to uphold freedom of choice something that the corporate/bureaucratic dictatorship wants to crush. For 26 years Michael Schmidt has provided raw milk to Ontario families; whether he will provide any more will likely come down to the ruling in this case.
Those supporting freedom of choice in Canada are encouraged to make a donation at GoFundMe.com/foodrights.
Top graphic snipped from “Food Rights” video, published 19 Oct. 2015 on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8UWf_A3uFs
Updated 3/14/18 – title revised from “Farmers and Consumers File Constitutional Challenge to Ontario Raw Milk Ban”