Could it possibly be that dairy farmer Michael Schmidt’s near-30-year journey through Canada’s legal system over alleged violations of the country’s strict raw dairy laws is finally at an end?
After all he’s dealt with in terms of police stakeouts, surveillance, imprisonment, hunger strikes, and multiple raids of his farm, to go along with seemingly endless court actions, Schmidt could be excused if he’s reluctant to make any absolute predictions. But it certainly looks more hopeful than in many years after the government declined to move ahead on charges against him and his wife, Elisa Vanderhout, alleging violations of Ontario’s dairy laws, which prohibit distribution of raw milk.
The ending of the case came after Schmidt and Vanderhout presented convincing evidence to the court that his primary government pursuer, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture investigator Glenn Jarvie, misled law enforcement about Schmidt’s actions. According to Schmidt’s motion seeking dismissal, supposedly anonymous complaints filed with police and agriculture authorities in 2019 that Schmidt was selling raw milk didn’t come from upset citizens, but rather from Jarvie himself.
In their complaint, Schmidt and Vanderhout say they “provided the Court with not one, but two expert opinions showing that the same person wrote Investigator Jarvie’s duty book notes, the handwritten envelope provided to Grey Bruce Health Unit in July of 2019, and the handwritten envelope provided to the Walkerton Crown Attorney’s office in August of 2019. The inescapable inference that flows from this is that Investigator Jarvie, himself, provided evidence against the applicants to the Grey Bruce Health Unit and the Walkerton Crown Attorney’s office. It is also clear that Investigator Jarvie intentionally misled the Grey Bruce Health Unit and the Walkerton Crown Attorney’s office in order to have the applicants charged with the offence before the Court.”
Additionally, Schmidt alleged: “Based on the records I had received by the crown the 2006 Glencolton Farm investigation took 5 months. The 2015 investigation took 7 months. This investigation has taken over 24 months. Based on disclosure provided by the Crown and a Freedom of Information request I filed I counted and listed so far 68 people who were involved or were engaged in this investigation. Based on disclosure provided by the Crown, I counted 45 licence plates of individuals being investigated and followed during this investigation. Based on investigators’ reports and notes, I calculated that during the 2019-2021 investigation about 788.5 hours have been spent on active surveillance, which does not take into account their work in their offices or any meetings related to this investigation. I was able to calculate these numbers as they are based on 22 surveillance reports and the investigating officers’ notes that were provided to me.”
Schmidt also alleged that the government failed to provide to him information about the full scope of the investigation: “In 2015 during the last investigation by the same lead investigator the Crown disclosed 1500 photographs which were taken during active surveillance. In this investigation, I only received 20 photographs in the disclosure related to their surveillance and none of them contained any evidence of alleged ‘milk distribution’.”
And just a reminder: Never once over the last nearly 30 years was there ever a report or complaint of illness from Schmidt’s milk, nor was there ever a government finding of pathogens in any of the milk investigators confiscated.
While Schmidt is understandably relieved by the withdrawal of the charges, he notes that the ongoing battle with Canadian regulatory authorities has been terribly costly in many ways. In addition to all the stress and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, one of his greatest pains has been to lose more than $100,000 in state-sponsored arts funding for his popular Symphony in the Barn, based on his supposedly criminal raw-dairy activities. The “Symphony” has over the years brought prominent classical musicians to his farm in Gray, Ontario, two hours north of Toronto, for well-attended night-time summer concerts and a winter German-style market.
Was all this destruction the work of a rogue investigator, or the result of a concerted and organized government campaign of destruction on behalf of Canada’s highly organized processed dairy industry? Perhaps one day we will learn the real story. (For further background on this case, search out “Michael Schmidt” on this blog.)