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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Canadian Courts Harass Farmer for 14years Over Sale of Raw Milk

Schmidt fined for contempt

Posted By Don Crosby
Posted 23 hours ago

Durham dairy farmer Michael Schmidt has been fined $5,000 and ordered to pay $50,000 in court costs after being found in contempt of court.

He was found in contempt Oct. 20 for disobeying a court order made May 17, 2007, by a Superior Court justice restraining him from selling or distributing unpasteurized milk products in York Region.

“The ruling is very interesting since it raises issues that I was not allowed to address in court,” said Schmidt, who received the sentence by fax Tuesday.

Superior Court Justice J. Boswell noted in his decision that the case was not about the merits of raw milk, nor about restrictions of personal choice, but was about the integrity of the administration of justice and the importance of respect for court orders. However, he cites as an aggravating circumstance that, “the contemptuous breach of the order accordingly involves an issue of public health and safety.”

Schmidt describes the contempt of court trial and the sentencing as an abuse of legal process by York Region and the Ministry of Natural Resources, knowing that the main issue surrounding the legality of what he’s doing has yet to be determined in a trial set for early next year.

“Do I accept this ruling? No, because the courts failed to ensure due process and did not wait until the other trial is finished,” said Schmidt.

“They are trying to undermine a proper legal process . . . why should I buy into that when I have been to Queen’s Park four or five times with proposals to resolve this situation as long ago as 14 years ago . . . then they throw in these contempt of court charges. As far as I’m concerned that stinks,” Schmidt said, adding, “the fine is a very good public demonstration of how they try to wear us down financially.”

The judge also cited Schmidt’s lack of remorse and his deliberate use of civil disobedience to challenge the law.

“In other words this was not simply an instance of rash error in judgment. It was planned and deliberate,” the judge wrote.

For the that’s just another troubling aspect of the judge’s decision.

Randy Hillier, Conservative MPP from Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington has taken an interest in the case and said he is troubled by the the idea that an act of civil disobedience is considered an aggravating factor.

If Michael had acted in a rash and with poor judgment, that would have been a mitigating factor. I prefer that people act with good judgment and be deliberate rather than patting them on the back for being rash and having poor judgment,” Hillier said Wednesday in an interview from his office in Queen’s Park.

Boswell credits Schmidt with being intelligent, well meaning and good intentioned, yet misguided, at least in this instance. “. . .he is otherwise a responsible, productive, member of society,” the judge wrote.

He said the fine is intended to discourage Schmidt from flouting the law as a means of changing to the law.

Hillier defended Schmidt’s use of civil disobedience in trying to get the provincial government to review the law that has banned the sale of unpasteurized milk in Ontario since the 1930s.

“It’s a complete and significant break with our long held traditions in the use of civil disobedience to amend unjust laws,” Hillier said.

Hillier said he knows of many cases involving First Nations residents in his area who were given small fines for acts of civil disobedience.

Huron-Bruce MPP Carol Mitchell asked Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Leona Dombrowsky, during question period on Tuesday, whether the government planned a review of the law banning sale of unpasteurized milk.

Quoting Dr. Murray McQuigge, the former medical officer of health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit, Dombrowsky said there were no good old days when it came to the harm that raw milk inflicted on thousands of people.

“To bring in legislation to allow the sale and distribution of raw milk would be tantamount to manslaughter” in the province of Ontario, said Dombrowsky.

Schmidt has six months to pay the fine and court charges. He said he plans to appeal.

His trial on more than a dozen charges relating to the sale of raw milk and the legality of a cow share program is set for Jan. 24.

Article ID# 1328675

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