Above, Michael Schmidt at a raw milk conference in Guelph in 2014. Photo by Peter Redman
UPDATE: Michael Schmidt has been released on recognizance as a result of a pending appeal. Unless an earlier appeal date is issued, he is due back in court January 15.
BY DON CROSBY –
Raw milk advocate, Michael Schmidt of Durham, is currently serving 60 days in jail following a November 7, 2017 sentencing in a Walkerton court.
On October 19, 2017 Schmidt was found guilty of obstructing a peace officer on Glencolton Farms. Charges followed a raid that took place in October, 2015 by provincial officers who were reportedly gathering evidence relating to the production and processing of raw milk, the sale and distribution of which is currently illegal in Canada.
Five men, including Schmidt, were charged in the raid. Charges against two men were dropped while Georgian Bluffs’ John Schnurr was found not guilty. A trial for George Bothwell of Meaford is set to begin November 23.
Schmidt was also ordered to pay a $100 victim surcharge.
Schmidt has been serving the consecutive weekend sentence at the Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene since November 10, 2017. He is to arrive at the prison, an approximate two hour drive from his farm northeast of Durham, by 6pm every Friday and is permitted to leave at 6am each Monday.
His sentence was harsher than the Crown’s recommendation of 30 days’ house arrest.
Schmidt currently owes money for fines from previous convictions but has no criminal record.
Schmidt is not without support. At the time of publishing an online petition to free him had garnered over 6,400 signatures in seven days with signatories calling the law outdated and unfair and saying that consumers should have the freedom to choose.
In a statement to South Grey News, the petition’s author, Laura Redman said that milk is the only food in Canada that is illegal to sell in its raw form. “We're pushing for 10,000 signatures before [the petition is] delivered to Kathleen Wynne and Justin Trudeau,” she said.
Raw milk is currently legal to purchase in many states across the US and in parts of Europe and personal consumption is permitted in Canada.
The 2015 raid at Schmidt’s farm became a standoff between provincial officials and dozens of raw milk supporters who refused to allow equipment that had been seized to leave the property. Justice Ronald Minard said Schmidt encouraged his supporters to stand their ground.
Skip Taylor, a spokesperson for Schmidt said Schmidt has launched several appeals including the October 19 conviction and the November 7 sentencing.
Schmidt added that he filed an appeal to get back the $100 victim surcharge, which he has paid.
Where fines are concerned, however, Taylor said, “Michael's principle continues to remain resolute that he will never pay any fine.”
Taylor said that although Schmidt is apprehensive about serving time in a maximum security prison for defending food and human rights, he is willing to serve time to defend his principles and the rights of his community.
As he prepared to depart for Penetanguishene November 17, Schmidt said in a statement to South Grey News, “If you decide to make the world a better place for your children, then be prepared to go to jail.”
Photo courtesy of Glencolton Farms
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