Canada's Raw Milk Laws Put to Test By Ontario Court of Appeal
by News Desk | Aug 02, 2012
Provincial public health and milk marketing regulations that have prevented the sale or distribution of raw milk in Canada for the past 80 years are about to be challenged in the Ontario Court of Appeal.
The often precedent-setting Ontario Court of Appeal, where same-sex marriage in Canada first got its stamp of approval, is second only to the Supreme Court of Canada. And the high federal court reviews only about 3 percent of Ontario Court of Appeal decisions.
Conflicting and some say confused lower court cases over the fate of raw milk dairy farmer Michael Schmidt, who was first acquitted in 2010 and then convicted in 2011 for distributing raw milk through a cow-share successful appeal request. (Unlike the U.S., the prosecution in Canada can appeal when they lose).
Schmidt, who was sentenced on similar charges in 1994 when he was fined $3,500 and placed on probation for two years, was operating a cow share scheme for 150 families, who had paid $300 each for shares of 26 dairy cows.
Dairy farmers and their immediate families can drink raw milk in Ontario, but it is illegal to sell or market any milk or cream that is not pasteurized. Schmidt was charged in an undercover operation.
Now with the twisted outcomes, the Ontario Court of Appeal has agreed to hear the case. Pro bono counsel, Karen Selick, from the Canadian Constitution Foundation is representing Schmidt in the appeal.
Selick says Schmidt is a "big advocate for food freedom," and "we litigate for liberty."
When the case is scheduled, which will probably happen sometime within next six months, a panel of three or five judges will be named to hear the appeal at historic Osgoode Hall in downtown Toronto.
The Ontario Court of Appeal hears about 1,000 appeals and over 1,000 motions a year.
Raw milk has not been legally sold anywhere in Canada since 1991. Underground commercial sales of raw milk, however, are increasing as a byproduct of the local food movement.
While pasteurization of milk and cheese products to control disease-causing bacteria has been one of the most effective public health measures of the last century, many people like the taste or claimed benefits of raw products.
At stake for Schmidt this time is a $9,150 fine and one year of probation.