On November 22 Durham Ontario dairy farmer Michael Schmidt was granted bail and released from serving a 60-day jail sentence pending the farmer’s appeal of a conviction for obstructing a peace officer; Schmidt posted a $2,500 bond to secure his release. Schmidt had been convicted on October 19 for the offense; subsequently, Justice Ronald Minard of the Ontario Court of justice sentenced Schmidt to sixty days in jail with time to be served over fifteen consecutive weekends. The farmer had served eight days of his sentence at the time bail was granted. Four others–Enos Martin, Robert Pinnell, George Bothwell and John Schnurr–were charged with a similar offense; Schnurr was found not guilty and charges were dropped against Martin, Pinnell and Bothwell.
The charge against Schmidt stems from an October 2, 2015, raid of his farm. Schmidt and 70 supporters were at the farm when government officials possessing a warrant were blocked from leaving the premises in a van containing equipment and dairy products. The officials left only after leaving the seized materials at the farm; multiple provincial and municipal government agencies participated in the raid.
The government obtained a warrant to search the farm on the grounds that it needed to investigate Schmidt to determine whether the farmer was violating the Ontario Milk Act. The Act prohibits the sale or distribution of raw milk for human consumption; many believe this provision only applies to raw milk sold or distributed to the general public.Schmidt only distributes milk to individuals who own shares in his farm; he distributes no milk to anyone who isn’t a shareholder.
Schmidt is appealing the conviction for the obstruction of a peace officer as well as a court ruling holding that the 23 months the case went on did not violate the speedy trial provision contained in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Canadian Supreme Court has interpreted this provision to mean that, if it takes more than 18 months between the time charges are brought and the end of trial in provincial court cases, there is an automatic presumption the delay is unreasonable. In Schmidt’s case the Justice agreed with the Crown’s argument that the presumption shouldn’t apply because there were exceptional circumstances in the case.1
A petition on Change.org to free Schmidt that drew over 7,500 signatures helped draw greater attention to the draconian sentence given the farmer who was only trying to keep the government from confiscating the private property of his shareholders; property the government arguably didn’t have jurisdiction to take. The petition noted that when tainted meat from Maple Leaf Foods was found to have killed 22 people and sickened many more in 2008, the Crown never brought charges against anyone with the company. Schmidt has produced raw milk for over 30 years; no one has ever accused him of making anyone sick.2
For the last 23 years the government has unsuccessfully tried to shut down Schmidt’s efforts to provide healthy dairy products to educated and informed consumers; its endless harassment has cost taxpayers millions of dollars and made a North American icon out of a small farmer in the process. Schmidt might not have been able to change the law but he has had a huge impact, substantially increasing the demand for and supply of raw milk since the time the government started persecuting him. There are significantly more dairy farmers in Canada today distributing raw milk through herdshare and farm-share programs; Schmidt’s decades long campaign of non-violent resistance to unjust laws has emboldened them. The situation in Canada with the prohibition on raw milk sales in all provinces is becoming more similar to the situation in the U.S. with the interstate raw milk ban; greater numbers of otherwise law abiding citizens are violating these laws with regularity. It’s time for provincial and municipal governments in Canada to acknowledge reality, leave Schmidt alone, and stop interpreting provincial raw milk laws to cover distribution to farm and dairy animal owners.
Michael and Elise Schmidt are trying to raise funds to cover the cost of his court battle. Those supporting freedom of choice are encouraged to back Schmidt’s fight by donating at GoFundMe.com/foodrights. The farmer is a little more than halfway to reaching his goal of raising $100,000.
Top photo from Owen Sound Sun Times by Don Crosby, “Raw milk advocate Schmidt released pending obstruction appeals”, November 23, 2017. Accessed 12/1/2017 at http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2017/11/23/raw-milk-advocate-schmidt-released-pending-obstruction-appeals
1. Don Crosby, “Raw Milk Advocate Schmidt Found Guilty of Obstruction”, The Owen Sound Sun Times, 20 October 2017. Accessed 11/30/2017 at http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2017/10/20/raw-milk-advocate-schmidt-found-guilty-of-obstruction
2. Laura Redman, “FREE Ontario FARMER Michael Schmidt – CHANGE CANADA’s ARCHAIC RAW MILK LAW”, Change.org, November 2017. Accessed 11/30/2017 at https://www.change.org/p/kathleen-wynne-free-ontario-farmer-michael-schmidt-change-canada-s-archaic-raw-milk-law
Michael Schmidt in front of the Walkerton Court House at an earlier stage of the Obstruction trial on August 25th, 2017. [Source: The Bovine Press, “Michael Schmidt was Convicted in Walkerton Court of Obstruction”]
Raw milk activist and farmer Michael Schmidt was convicted yesterday (Oct. 19th, 2017) in Walkerton court of obstructing a peace officer. The charge arises from a raid on Glencolton Farms on October 2nd, 2015 in which investigators were prevented — by the crowds of supporters — from leaving the farm with equipment which they had seized. They were eventually allowed to leave once the equipment had been removed from the truck. Read the full post
Graphic from Facebook post by the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPA) shared 11/14/2017 on Glencolton Farms. Here’s the opening excerpt from that post:
Chances are slim any of you spent the weekend in jail. At 6:00 pm Friday November 10, 2017 raw milk farmer, food rights advocate and social activist Michael Schmidt entered the Central North Correctional Centre, a maximum security prison in Penetanguishene, Ontario. It is both a remand facility and one where time is served for a range of minor offenses and serious crimes. For Michael, it was the first of a 60 day “rehabilitation and deterrence” sentence to be served on weekends.
NHPPA connected with Michael before his 3 hour drive from farm to prison and asked him to send this post’s accompanying selfie. “When I was there to get processed [earlier in the week] I was asked by a guard what my obstruction of an officer was for and I just said one word, “Milk”. Then the whole high security dynamic of what they were doing suddenly changed. Other guards came up to me and said “You’re the one!” I heard a guard say “you are the most ridiculous inmate we’ve got from the government”. We had wonderful talks and a couple shared that they that they had grown up on farms and drank raw milk. It was a remarkable experience so that, in a way, I’m looking forward to going in there because of what it does. It reflects back to the intention of the government that they want to punish. And for the wrong things. At the same time it brings out exactly what’s wrong with government. I have no idea what kinds of inmates I’ll be with but it doesn’t worry me at all.”
NHPPA asked about where his younger children were told that their father was going on weekends. “The night before I had to leave we had a really exciting time! We went on the computer together and looked up all the pictures we could find of the jail. I told them, “Look, this is where I’m going to sleep, and this is where I’m going to play with the other inmates, and that’s the room where we all eat and so on”. They asked if I will get to go outside. I said, “No, no. They want to make sure that I will stay warm. There’s also a big fence around it so that no one can come in and steal Papa”. So, they were totally fine. I also told them if “they don’t clean up your rooms, then Papa can’t go to jail!” They cleaned their rooms quickly that night. It was completely turned around. It’s an excitement now. I promised I will tell them everything about how it is on the inside, and if possible, that I would take them with me next time but that they might not be let in because only Papa has done “so much work to be there.”
“All I can say about my adult children and how they feel comes from one comment from my daughter in Germany. She read that I got sentenced and that the judge had said that he has to send a warning to others and a deterrent to Mr. Schmidt that his behaviour and actions are unacceptable. My daughter wrote something like, “as if this is going to stop my dad”. So, they’re all totally fine.”
Original item posted on NHPPA Facebook page