When Michael Schmidt arrived at the Ontario Superior Court in Newmarket at about 8 Wednesday morning, a court security guard greeted him like an old friend. “I’ve been coming here for ten years, and know some of these people well. The security guy told me that each time I come, I bring more people with me.”
On this particular day, Schmidt brought about 300 people with him, the largest demonstration ever on his behalf. They were in good spirits, much more animated and outspoken in demand of their food rights than I’d ever seen before—radicalized might be the description that is beginning to apply.
It was a testimony to Schmidt and his cause that such a turnout materialized on a frigid and damp morning, since the actual court case is only in its infancy. The proceedings on Wednesday, which took about an hour, were devoted to scheduling future hearings and determining technical issues, like whether to combine two complaints against Schmidt—one from the York Region and another from the Ontario dairy director.
Or possibly people are simply becoming ever more outraged that the legal beat against Schmidt refuses to end, and has been renewed on entirely new grounds….after 22 years of farm raids and trials. I recalled in my talk to the crowd how the last time I was in Newmarket in January 2010, the legal assault against Schmidt was already 16 years old, and how that January day, he was acquitted by Judge Paul Kowarski. But because Canada doesn’t prohibit double jeopardy, like the U.S., Michael’s acquittal could be appealed and in effect, he was re-tried. The Ontario government jumped on the opportunity to keep the case alive, and found judges to overturn the acquittal.
Schmidt has ignored that conviction, and the fine that came with it, insisting he has done nothing wrong in providing milk to members of his herdshare. His persistence, together with his ongoing resistance, appears to have enraged Ontario officials and the dairy cartel they support, and so this latest legal case represents a new wrinkle in the seemingly endless legal entanglements thrust upon him.
This new case, though, is perhaps the most sinister of all the legal cases, since it seeks an injunction to prohibit all distribution of raw milk, not only by Schmidt, but by members of his herdshare. Moreover, the herdshare members would be banned from even encouraging others to drink raw milk–in other words, the complete criminalization of raw milk.
As in a number of other cases, Schmidt is defending himself. His wife, Elisa, who is a defendant, is also defending herself. A Toronto lawyer, Davin Charney, appeared to defend a church that has been charged because its parking lot is a drop point for the Schmidt herdshare, along with the herdshare itself.
What isn’t clear is how a raw milk prohibition would be enforced, especially if herdshare members organize huge demonstrations where hundreds or even thousands of people peacefully but willfully violate the injunction. Given the mood at Wednesday’s rally, it’s not difficult to imagine such an outpouring.
“It’s easier to get crack here than raw milk as it is,” said one young woman demonstrator.
“I understand now why Trump is so popular in the U.S.,” said another.
“This isn’t about raw milk,” said another. “It’s about our freedom to choose.”
Schmidt captured those sentiments in his talk to the demonstrators. “We are not asking for permission,” he stated. “This is our right.”
He seems also to have retained his refreshing perspective on the seemingly never-ending grind of legal problems. “This is like Stratford,” he said to the demonstrators. “Each of these court cases is a performance. Except I don’t have to pay.”
(For another account of the day’s events, see The Bovine.)