The legal situation confronting Michael Schmidt could hardly look more ominous.
He faces four counts of conspiracy, in connection with the disappearance last April of 31 rare Shropshire sheep suspected by Canadian health authorities of harboring scrapies disease. Conviction could mean a lengthy jail term of up to 14 years, he has been told. Three other farmers charged in the alleged plot to move the sheep and save them from mandated slaughter by the Canadian Food Information Agency (CFIA) are Montana Jones, Suzanne Atkinson, and Robert Pinnell.
Schmidt has been forced to surrender his passport in connection with the charges–a not insignificant penalty for a man who has over the last few years become the spiritual leader of North America’s budding food rights movement, and been in ever-greater demand as a speaker around the U.S. and Canada.
He was arraigned last week, to have mug shots taken and be fingerprinted, and it’s unclear when his trial will be held.
While Schmidt has faced much legal travail since his Glencolton Farm in Ontario was first raided in 1993 for selling raw milk–his conviction in 2011 of violating provincial dairy laws has been accepted for appeal by Ontario’s highest court–this current legal challenge is potentially the most serious the native of Germany has encountered.
Yet in the face of it all, he is not only at peace, but optimistic about the outcome. “It’s going in the right direction,” he told me earlier this week.
He has excellent legal representation, he feels. And when the case goes to trial, he is convinced, “it will open people’s eyes” to the real issues at stake–the state’s determination to control his nation’s food supply and, in the process, destroy crop and animal diversity and the small farms committed to providing good food. Last April, after the sheep disappeared from Montana Jones’ Ontario farm in advance of their intended slaughter under CFIA orders, Schmidt stated last spring, “The actions of the CFIA remind me of the history of my native Germany, where genetic cleansing became a tragic and horrible national policy.”
The connections to Germany’s history continue to reverberate for Schmidt in the Canadian government’s new legal offensive against him and the other farmers. He says he has taken much solace from a documentary film, “The Top Secret Trial of the Third Reich”, which contains film of the 1944 trial of German officers who failed in a planned assassination attempt of Adolph Hitler. (See the trailer; the film can be purchased for viewing online or via DVD.)
One of the defendants in that case was Adam von Trott, who was a close friend of the Schmidt family in Germany during World War II. “I knew of him from my grandmother,” says Schmidt. The outcome of the case against von Trott was pre-ordained, and together with other conspirators, he was hanged in August 1944.
The Nazis circulated film of the trial, intending to scare the populace and stimulate loyalty to Hitler, but when the Nazis learned it instead encouraged sympathy for the would-be assassins, the government ordered all copies destroyed. One copy survived, though, and it became the basis of the documentary Schmidt has been studying.
He finds it ironic that both the plotters against Hitler and the farmers in the Canadian sheep case were charged with conspiracy. In his case, he takes heart from conspiracy charges. “When they cannot convict you of anything, they throw up conspiracy charges.” He says that in his case, the authorities won’t find a conspiracy, “because there wasn’t any.”
Schmidt identifies with von Trott, who was “a humble man” willing to die to rid the world of Hitler and his “genetic cleansing” madness.
To some, it may seem a wild leap to compare the Nazis’ genocide with what is happening in Canada and the U.S. But to Schmidt, the similarities are uncanny. Today’s rulers in Canada and the U.S. seek the same kind of control via intimidation as the Nazis, to satisfy corporate benefactors. Because mass murder can’t be tolerated today, our rulers must be more sophisticated, more gradual, in their consolidation of control. As it moves along its inevitable path, he predicts, the consolidation will become ever more ruthless, and the political targets, like Schmidt, more numerous.
Schmidt also sees the case against him over the sheep as a statement by his government that dialog about such matters as control of the food supply is out. “Why is there no dialog? Why do you have to have blood on your hands before you meet?” The ultimate irony, he says, is that “those who order the killings go after the people who try to prevent the killings” of the sheep.
Schmidt expects to mount a serious defense, and also expects to be raising funds to pay for his legal defense. More to come on that matter.
The latest legal offensive against Michael Schmidt must be seen in a larger context of expanding government control intrusion into our lives, with the goal of rooting out those considered to be politically dangerous. (The U.S. and Canada, in this context, are one and the same.) The latest salvo is detailed on the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal. The Obama administration, reports the WSJ via government documents it obtained, has just implemented rules that “now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation.
“Now, NCTC can copy entire government databasesflight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited.”