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Canada’s Repressive State

We ought not to be surprised at Canada’s treatment of the truckers and those who oppose vaccine mandates. Canada has form for the kind of repressive measures we’ve seen recently that would once have been the preserve of a totalitarian state.

For over 25 years, the Our Farm Our Food group have been campaigning for the freedom of people to eat what they want. Since 1994, a co-operative of about 150 families, has owned a farm in Ontario from which Michael Schmidt, an outspoken advocate of unpasteurised milk waged a campaign to be allowed to sell to the public the milk the farm produced. It is unlawful in Canada to sell any dairy produce that has not been pasteurised.

Schmidt and the co-operative tried to get round this by using the fiction of ‘cow-sharing’ agreements. A person could buy a share in a cow, have it looked after by the farmer, who milked it for the owners who then consumed the milk from their own cow. This arrangement had been accepted in various US states as lawful and the rather naïve Schmidt believed it would work in Canada. He had underestimated the repressive instincts of the Canadian state which turned its full force against Schmidt as the figurehead of this defiance of the Canadian ‘health’ regulations.

In 2010 he was acquitted by a magistrate of 19 charges of distributing unpasteurised milk. But the Canadian authorities did not accept the magistrate’s decision and instructed the prosecution to appeal to the Ontario Court of Justice. The higher court found him guilty of thirteen charges of breaching the ban on selling and distributing raw milk, fined him $9,150, put him on probation for a year and issued a perpetual injunction preventing him from distributing raw milk in the state. The Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal.

He embarked on a five-week hunger strike in 2011 to protest against the injustice of his treatment. In 2013 he was found to be in contempt of court for breaching the injunction and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment suspended for a year. Again an appeal was dismissed.

Schmidt refused to keep his head down, making it quite clear that he believed people ought to be free to eat and drink what they want, particularly if it is good for them. The authorities raided his farm numerous times, seized computers and business records and destroyed milking equipment. The health enforcement agencies even installed secret CCTV cameras in trees around the farm and bugged Schmidt’s house.

 One particularly oppressive raid and stand-off in October 2015 resulted in a trial of four of the owners of the farm. The police put on a great show of force with four heavily-armed police officers in court during the ten-day trial and three more stationed outside. Eventually, after various adjournments over nearly two years, the court found Schmidt guilty of obstructing a ‘peace’ [sic] officer and sentenced him to 60 days which he was allowed to serve at weekends. This was later reduced to a month’s house arrest.

The police did their best to blacken the defendants’ reputations by wrongly claiming (deliberately, the defendants said) they were members of the Freemen of the Land, a libertarian organisation classed as ‘extremist’ by the Canadian state. The Freemen are treated as a serious threat to the state’s increasingly repressive totalitarian grip, probably because in their hearts lives the same yearning for liberty that originally attracted their forebears to the New World. Smearing them in this way caused a great deal of trouble for them and their families. Their names were added to a national database of people, such as jihadists, who pose a violent threat to the state. All the state agencies and enforcers were alerted to their dangerous proclivities, which affected their lives in a host of damaging ways. The authorities were determined to make an example of them.

The onslaught against unpasteurised milk producers has not abated. On October 27 2021 Schmidt’s farm, along with two others, were subjected to a great show of force in pre-dawn raids by armed police. Although Schmidt’s wife bravely refused entry to the police who wanted to search the house and seize computers and records, they broke into the locked dairy barn anyway and seized some dairy products and other things. So far no charges have been brought.

Even though there is a strong demand for unpasteurised milk in Canada and considerable support for Schmidt, the state will go to almost any lengths to prevent its distribution, even if it has been tested for pathogens and proved to be safe. The embargo is necessary, say the authorities, to ‘maintain a strong food safety system’. Unpasteurised milk ‘may contain harmful bacteria and cause serious health conditions’. The state is determined to treat untreated milk as if it were poisonous. Anybody producing it risks more oppressive treatment and heavier penalties than if they were busted for drugs. Just as they have done with the truckers, the government threatened to take the farmers’ children into care if their parents gave them unpasteurised milk to drink.

Until Trudeau’s state set about destroying the lives of the ‘extremist’ truckers one might have been forgiven for believing Canada to be a less violent, more benign version of its southern neighbour. But in its government’s response to events of the last two years it has bitten with the teeth of repression that it has been sharpening for a long time. Just like Australia and New Zealand, the Canadian state’s inclination to force conformity on its people reveals the dark side of the Anglophone countries’ obedience to the rule of law.

By Philip Walling

Having been a farmer and practised as a barrister, I am now a writer with two books published so far: Counting Sheep (2014) and Till the Cows Come Home (2018).

I am interested in everything to do with the countryside, rural history, humanity and the way we live now.

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