An Ontario organic dairy producer has been found in contempt of court over charges that he defied a court order to stop selling raw milk, the Canadian Press news agency reported Monday.
A sentencing decision was reserved Monday in the Ontario Court of Justice in Newmarket in the case of Michael Schmidt of Owen Sound, who, representing himself in this case, urged the judge to impose “the highest penalty you can find,” CP reported.
But York Region lawyer Dan Kuzmyk, prosecuting the case, said he was reluctant to allow Schmidt to “throw himself on the sword of York Region” and become a martyr for raw milk, CP said.
According to a report Monday on the Toronto Star website, Kuzmyk instead suggested a fine of $5,000 for Schmidt, plus payment of York Region’s $53,000 legal bill.
Unpasteurized (raw) milk cannot be legally sold in Canada, due to concerns over risks of diseases such as salmonella, E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes, which causes listeriosis. Supporters of raw milk consumption cite what they say are its health benefits and flavour.
According to CP, Justice R. Cary Boswell emphasized that his ruling Monday has nothing to do with whether people do or don’t have the right to consume raw milk, but everything to do with whether Schmidt had ignored a court order last year to stop selling it.
“It’s not the milk here, it’s the principle that people need to make the decision of what they put in their bodies. When government tells them what they are allowed to eat or not eat, that’s a very sacred thing,” the Star’s Noor Javed quoted Schmidt as saying outside court.
Schmidt’s dairy venture is a co-op with about 150 members, who he says are receiving the milk from the cows they own, and who pay to board the cows at the farm — which means, he said, that he does not sell or distribute raw milk.
The Star said Schmidt defended himself in the contempt case to save money for a larger court case next year involving charges laid by the Grey-Bruce Health Unit and the province’s natural resources ministry.