The outcome of a two-day hearing set for today and tomorrow in the Ontario Court of Justice at Newmarket may send raw milk drinkers in Canada down a more political road after years of fighting court battles.
The hearing will determine if the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Ministry of Health were correct in January when they filed applications for injunctions against Michael Schmidt, Elisa Vander Hout, Glencolton Farms, the Agriculture Renewal Coop, and any other Canadian who provides, distributes, or recommends raw milk.
“People interested in procuring raw milk want this case to appear before a jury,” she says.
Our Farm, Our Food Coop, a 200-member organization, has filed a motion to intervene as an added party in the proceedings that are scheduled to begin today. It says that would give raw milk drinkers a voice by allowing them to defend their right to “foods of choice.”
“In response to the court action instigated by various health units and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, mothers, fathers, pastors, and other interested parties have filed over 70 affidavits with the court to show the public interest in this cases,” said Vander Hout, adding “it is not as simple as the crown implies.”
While saying the court proceedings have “given the public a voice,” Vander Hout also says political action might be the next move.
“The message is loud and clear: people want access to the foods of their choice and demand respect for that. Canadians don’t want the government conducting armed raids on innocent, peaceful farmers to take away food choice.”
A political opening was achieved earlier this month when raw milk supporters presented a petition with more than 5,000 signatures to the House of Commons, meaning it will now receive a formal review.
Raw milk producers and their customers have a long history of appearing in Ontario courts. Earlier this month, raw milk dairy farmer Michael Schmidt was acquitted of theft and mischief charges related to the disappearance of surveillance cameras that were found in a ditch near his Durham area farm.
The government failed to prove Schmidt had any intention to steal the cameras or deprive the Ministry of Natural Resources, which owned the cameras, of their use.
When Schmidt discovered the cameras, he sought out local law enforcement to have them returned to their owner. When they were returned to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the memory image cards were blank.
Schmidt told the Ontario Court in Walkerton that the government was wasting money, asking, “Why do you have to go through the criminal justice system to nail me on something?”
His farm was the target of an October 2015 raid that included armed local police and resulted in seizures of milk samples and computers. It not unusual for Schmidt since he’s been raided and subjected to court charges going back about 22 years.
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