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Deciding what we want is sometimes difficult. There are usually  so many options — do I go with Ford, Toyota, or Hyundai? Wheat-free, gluten free, or grain free? Yoga, running, or pilates? We have the ability to choose what brand, style, or taste we want in nearly every area of our lives, but when it comes to dairy in Canada, pasteurized milk is the only legal option. Why is this the case?

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Michael Schmidt has been asking this for over 20 years. He’s a raw milk farmer that manages Glencolton Farms in Ontario, Canada. His farm is a collective with about 50 share holders. His raw milk operation attracts many eager customers who swear by his product and just want to be left alone to make their own choices. I mean, even the Queen of England loves drinking raw milk, so much so that she had some sent directly to her grandchildren at school for lunch. Supporters of Schmidt say they and Schmidt are being harassed by the government and have tried to initiate dialogue with the Premire of Ontario for support many times without making any headway.

Earlier this month Schmidt’s farm was raided, again, days after York Region public health ‘received’ a complaint. He’s basically in a standoff with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance, and the police. But will he give in to their demands? Never. He is a huge advocate of justice, transparency, and privacy, and says he will not back down in the face of fear or bullying by the government. It’s true, Michael Schmidt’s life story is colourfully laced with run-ins with the law. This is not his first time in the circus.

Schmidt is currently under investigation for a charge that simply doesn’t fit the ‘crime.’ The Ministry of Natural Resources had set up surveillance cameras on public property without labelling the cameras or  obtaining the residents’ permission to place them there. These cameras were found in the ditches around their homes, and Schmidt and others believe the surveillance is linked to his milk production. Neighbours of Schmidt took it upon themselves to take down the cameras and work to discover who placed them there (and why). They found over 80,000 images and video on SD cards of citizens jogging, walking dogs, and moving through day-to-day life. They called the police to find out whose cameras they were but were unsatisfied when police refused to disclose their ownership and instead demanded the cameras be handed over.

Schdmit refused and cited an infraction to privacy, transparency, and justice as his main reason for not giving them up. Now he is being charged with theft under $5k for not sitting by while the government invades the privacy of his community. Schmidt is a social activist like we (the CE team) haven’t seen in a long time. His ongoing struggle with the government has been a 21 year battle and his raw milk farm has been raided over 5 times.  Schdmit has been detained and thrown into jail, and has also been placed into solitary confinement where he went on a hunger strike. He was not in jail of his own free will, and, arguing that the state does not have rights over his body, refused to eat.

He went on another hunger strike trying to get a simple dialogue going with the Premiere of Ontario about the ways in which he was selling milk and operating his farm. All Schmidt and his advocates ask for is their right to choose what they put into their bodies; while the government may deem it hazardous, they believe raw milk is healthy for them and would like the right to personal autonomy when it comes to their own health.

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This group of people is fighting for way more than the right to drink raw milk. In a way, they are a microcosm of the greater threat to our privacy and rights, and the more we go along with whatever the state says without question, the more we give up our individual sovereignty. I think it’s coming down to informed consent. Why does the state think it knows best when it comes to what we put into our bodies? We can be appreciative of being informed of a potential risk or danger while still retaining the ability to make choices for ourselves.

This is far from over. Stay close as we follow Schmidt and the Glencolton Farm.

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