By Ian Cumming
During the last two weeks of February, in an Ontario courtroom, lawyers prosecuting charges brought by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) hope to persuade a judge that there is enough evidence to go to trial.
A farmer could present the evidence in a day, but these are government-paid lawyers, so a fortnight has been booked for a pre-trial hearing, not a trial.
The case on which evidence will be weighed is that of Michael Schmidt and Montana Jones, regarding the quarantined Shropshire sheep that CFIA wanted to slaughter due to fear of scrapie. But before the slaughter the sheep disappeared from Joness farm.
Full disclosure requires revealing that I have been served a summons to appear as a witness.
Ontario Farmer reporter Suzanne Atkinson already pleaded guilty to her involvement in the case. She has since resigned from Ontario Farmer.
Hence there will be no pre-process spilling of that which the upcoming trial will reveal, not that I even pretend to know more than a fraction of the facts. Then, perhaps, there possibly wont be a full airing of all that happened, with the hired lawyers and investigators knowing the all-important requirement for CFIA to save face and to scare farmers.
Last fall, Atkinsons lawyer offered to tell the CFIA of the sheeps location if all those charged were dealt with at once, with no jail time.
“No way,” CFIA answered. “We want Michael Schmidt to go to jail.”
This showed a lesser worry about the ramifications of sheep with supposed scrapie out in the general public, then in letting Schmidt go free.
Government can do that.
In England I was toured by and interviewed Adrian Tomlinson, the Queens herdsman at Windsor Castle, who brought raw milk every morning to nearby Eton for princes William and Harry to legally drink when they were there as students.
Then I came home to watch Michael Schmidt be criminally charged for raw milk. Officially, by the Queen.
In order to jail Schmidt on something else, in the Queens name, CFIA have bumbled through Ontario and Quebec in Inspector Clouseau-style since the spring of 2012, hiring inspectors who dont know the difference between an Allis Chalmers and an Ayrshire.
Let alone a Shropshire versus a Texel.
However, their obvious ignorance has never been a reason to temper their bluster. Which, for someone not used to it, or predisposed to fear, can be intimidating.
In a completely unrelated CFIA case which I wrote about a couple of years ago cattle trucker Alvin Boyce was caught at the border with some dairy cattle vaccine, legal in the U.S. but not here. It came out in an interview with an OMAFRA vet that if the smuggler farmer had filled out some forms for his own use as many producers do the Johnes vaccine would have come in legally.
Alvin was harassed, threatened with criminal charges and, after ongoing interrogations by a tough CFIA inspector, Alvin dropped dead of a heart attack.
When I phoned the inspector, as a reporter regarding Alvins case, he threatened to visit and interrogate me regarding my source for several semen smuggling articles I had written. I told him to get stuffed.
A government too thick to legalize a proven Johnes vaccine Johnes is considered a problem is one thing. A government agent treating a cattle trucker with undeclared dairy vaccine, like a cocaine smuggling Columbian gangster, symbolizes pig-headed stupidity.
Remember when Johnes became a dairy focus here in Canada and producers were told that the new elisa test was 100 per cent reliable with “no false positives?”
About six years ago, I wrote about CFIA allowing heifers to go to Russia, that had been in a Canadian-based group where some failed the elisa test for brucellosis. Herds here were quarantined. Yet CFIA officials assured me on the record that those that failed the elisa test were “false positives.”
When were they telling the truth? Perhaps CFIA doesnt know. Because saving face has nothing to do with the truth.
Can they answer who were the CFIA inspectors at the Maple Leaf facility, when 23 people later died from consuming its bad meat?
Ian Cumming is a former Glengarry County dairy farmer and now farms with his son in northern New York state.