The Durham dairy farmer is on speakerphone as he drives to the Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene to begin serving his 60-day sentence. As per the rules, he has to get there by 6 p.m.
He was found guilty of obstructing a peace officer during an Oct. 2 raid on Glencolton Farms in Priceville, east of Hanover, where 70 raw milk supporters created a blockade. Schmidt and four others were charged in the raid where provincial officials were gathering evidence relating to the production and processing of raw milk.
However, charges against two were dropped, one was found not guilty and one will go to court on Nov. 23. On Oct. 19, Schmidt, 63, was the only person of the five convicted.
“This was the people’s property and people’s cows and milk,” he said.
“They keep picking on me and now they’re putting me in jail. These things are backfiring, politically. It’s another overreach of government instead of trying to sit down and say, ‘Let’s figure out what you’re doing is legal or not.’”
Last Wednesday, he was told by a judge he would have to spend weekends in the notoriously harsh prison, leaving Friday evenings and exiting on Monday mornings. He will also have 30 days to pay a $100 victim surcharge.
He won’t be placed on probation.
Schmidt said the raid on the farm — where he works and lives — turned into a standoff. He said the operators of the farm refused to let government officials who seized equipment to leave the property, by using parked tractors at the entrance of the farm, blocking a cube van used as the officials’ transportation until the lead investigator agreed to give back what they took.
He said there was no violence during the raid.
Another farmer, Lewis ‘Skip’ Taylor, who is one of the owners of the farm told the Toronto Sun the cooperative (130 families) is fully behind Schmidt and they all want to be compliant with the law.
“This sentence is very harsh. Michael was fighting for food rights for himself and his community,” Taylor said of the judge’s ruling.
Taylor added that because members were the only ones drinking the raw milk they were consuming, no law was actually broken since there was no commercial purpose. He added that more than 250,000 Ontarians drink raw milk “under the table.”
“It’s oppressive what’s happened,” Taylor said.
The Crown recommended a 30-day suspended sentence but the judge wanted 60 days in jail, a rarity in court decorum, Taylor said.
Schmidt said he’s not intimidated going to jail. He’s been to there before about 10 years ago when Toronto wanted to create a dump nearby.
The farmer said he plans on appealing the conviction and the sentencing.
Source: The Toronto Sun