Courting Sheep—Almost ONE YEAR year since I was arrested on multiple criminal charges related to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) destruction of my healthy flock of heritage Shropshire sheep, and three years since CFIA invaded my life.
Raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt was also charged, and he and I have yet to have a proper bail hearing, since each of the five or so appearances have been repeatedly postponed for various reasons by the Crown and the court.
As part of the imposed bail conditions back on December 6, 2012, we were forced to surrender our passports; agree not to leave Ontario; and promise not to communicate with one another except in the presence of our lawyer (whom the Crown wants to remove).
Those conditions seem uneccesarily limiting for the nature of the alleged offences. Schmidt and I need to be able to communicate to organize legal defence fundraisers for our case.
Do the CFIA and the Crown believe that he and I might secretly plot to bring my sheep flock back to life?
To further muddy the waters of justice, the Crown brought an application to remove constitutional and criminal lawyer Shawn Buckley from the case. They claim a potential conflict of interest might possibly arise in the future—though we the accused see none and wish to proceed. Michael Schmidt and I have chosen Shawn Buckley, and our choice of legal representation is our constitutional right.
The Crown then argued that we should not be allowed a bail hearing review until the motion to remove our lawyer was resolved. The matter was adjourned to a subsequent date. The Court held that Schmidt and I have a right to a bail review and if the Crown is alleging the potential for a future conflict is a problem, then the Court will make a decision on that at the bail review. So in effect, the two issues are now tied together and the alleged potential conflict must be resolved before the court can speak to the bail review.
It has gone on for months, and months and months, and we are nowhere near the actual trial date yet.
More and more resources are being depleted as the issue drags on…some say it is just another government tactic to drain our finances. Certainly it does ensure that the incredible number of government employees involved will continue getting a paycheque for a long while to come on this case alone. Each court appearance brings a cast of superfluous CFIA clones to various rural towns, who spend Canadian taxpayers money on travel and hotels, then spend their day watching, waiting and snoozing in the courtroom.
Now we are awaiting a new date to appear in the Superior Court of Justice for both matters, which will likely not be until some time in January or February of 2014.
Meanwhile the cost of our legal defence mounts higher with each delay, despite the generous assistance of the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF). Please help us keep going with your support by coming out to the next court date and if you are able, donate here or if you wish a charitable receipt, directly to CCF http://theccf.ca/donate/form/ and under “Please use my donation for…”, be sure to specify “Jones/Schmidt defence”.
THE LONGER STORY
Along with other heritage breed livestock, I raise Heritage Shropshire sheep
, a breed that is on the Rare Breeds Canada Endangered livestock list. The British genetics in my Wholearth flock had pedigrees dating back to the early 1900′s when the first British stock was imported here. Despite protests from the British Rare Breeds Survival Trust, the CFIA wiped out the sheep and all my years of dedicated genetic work. The CFIA have paid ZERO compensation to me for destroying my healthy animals nor offered to replace them from English breeding stock. There are now less than 80 registered ewes in Canada.
How could this happen?
Three years ago the CFIA swooped down on my little heritage farmstead
and declared that a ewe I sold many years prior (to a livestock hauler and farmer in Alberta) had tested positive for a sheep disease called Scrapie. There had only been 10 cases in all of Canada the year before, and it’s not a human health risk. The Scrapie infected sheep did not have the traceability I.D. ear tag that was there when I sold it, apparently the owner “didn’t have it”, but CFIA were told it was originally my sheep. The CFIA agreed it was quite possible that it had been infected in the time since it left my farm.
Scrapie is easy to spot, and my flock NEVER had a single sign or symptom. The CFIA went ahead and conducted live tests that have an 88% accuracy rate in detecting the disease. The ‘dead’ test on obex brain tissue has only slightly higher accuracy. As I predicted…all tests came back negative. But that wasn’t good enough. But that wasn’t good enough. The CFIA issued an order to kill them anyway.
I offered many other risk free alternatives and suggested we work together to find out if indeed any illness had ever been in the flock
. “Kill first—ask questions later” is not the best option to conserve a rare breed.
The CFIA did not even respond to my proposal.
The CFIA wouldn’t listen to over 5,000 petioners on Change.org either.
The CFIA is not pleased that I made public their unjust actions public knowledge.
I am horrified at the degree of harm a government agency can do with an incredible amount of money and a superfluous number of relatively incompetent employees. Who was I to suggest that our government re-examine their protocols regarding agricultural biodiversity?
I was advised to roll over, let the CFIA kill my healthy sheep, take their compensation money and move on. Other commercial sheep producers did…why shouldn’t I?
Why? Because their policy to kill healthy rare sheep…ANY endangered livestock for that matter… is very wrong.
They demanded I hire an excavator and have a deep grave dug, and said they would kill them before my eyes and leave me to bury them all. A 15-foot pit was dug at the top of my hill overlooking the farm…the hill they grazed peacefully for so many years.
Then the CFIA told me they changed plans, and decided to load my sheep for a stressful 5 hour transport to a killing facility at a pet food plant near Ottawa, and that I would have top pay the bill.
There were many calls, emails and messages from outraged people saying they’d take, hide or move the sheep to protect them.
The CFIA arrived early April 2 to kill the flock, but the sheep were gone, with only a note left.
Months later they were discovered on a distant farm, and CFIA killed them and their newborns. All of the the tests cane back negative.
My farm is still in quarantine, CFIA has effectively halted my farm income and ensured that each day revolves around them, and defending my right to live peacefully. They have attacked, stripped bare, twisted up and torn down—it’s non-sensical…am I that much of a threat? I was just quietly living and farming with a few animals, growing vegetables, selling at local farmers’ market…well, I was. Not now.
The CFIA continued to issue press releases announcing the high risk to the nation and “dangerous” nature of the missing sheep situation. The CFIA claimed they understood what a severe impact their procedures had on “affected” producers (implying that my destroyed flock they killed had indeed been infected with disease—they weren’t) …and how difficult it must be and announced publicly that they properly compensate producers for their losses. Simply not true.
Armed with search warrants, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency investigators and Ontario Provincial Police raided my home, Michael Schmidt’s and two others on August 2nd, 2012.
The CFIA charged myself and raw milk activist farmer Michael Schmidt and 2 others with numerous criminal offences including conspiracy, for allegedly trying to save Canada’s heritage sheep and preserve our country’s agricultural biodiversity.
If convicted, I face up to 12 YEARS IN JAIL and fines of $1.5 million. Apparently I am FARMED (with truth) & DANGEROUS (to an unjust government).
Now, I face imminent foreclosure and an astonishing $100,000. legal defense fee for the upcoming criminal trial.
If I lose the farm—they win. And that is just wrong…another wrong added to the CFIA’s long list of nonsensical wrongs. And if I lose my spirit?
The domino effect of the CFIA’s invasion meant selling off my heritage turkey breeding stock because I had no way to feed them. My beautiful pastured Tamworth pigs too, and two white Percheron mares. My farm truck died last fall. Then my car followed suit in December.
I tried to make light of the notion of being a secluded hermit with no way off the farm…tried to make it just another challenge. I sequestered myself away.
Christmas was a dismal blur.
All through winter a kind neighbour brought hay to feed the few remaining animals. I had wanted to sell the other sheep because I couldn’t afford to care for them—CFIA wouldn’t allow them to leave. Since the firewood ran out I’ve been burning the little scrap ends from a nearby pallet manufacturer. Some nights it’s been 7° Celsius, sleeping in hat and fully clothed layers cuddled up with dogs under mounds of blankets.
To my sheer horror, a rat…a FEW bold rats…appeared in my kitchen the day before the CFIA raided my home with a search warrant as if to herald their arrival. It took a long time to rid the rodents from my life. The CFIA, however, are still in it.
No, it’s no way to live.
Depression doesn’t introduce itself on arrival. It’s the uninvited dark guest that you one day realize has been there for some time. I considered asking it to leave since I realized it moved in with the CFIA.
Since their raids, I launch into anxiety attacks whenever I hear a car (is it THEM again?), with pounding chest pain, shortness of breath, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate and immobilization. It strikes me at any time. I can’t look at photos of my now deceased sheep. I break down crying while sorting old pedigrees. I end up in tears when I see something that should be joyful, like the first robins of the year, or the sound of the first spring peepers. I end up sobbing when I realize I can’t feel the beauty around me or on the farm anymore. The world has been muddied.
I’m told my symptoms are of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but I still seem too paralyzed watching the downward spiral to alter its course. I must change it now before it’s too late.
On the saddest grey days a sprinkle of light rain seems enough to dissolve my frail being into the thawing ground, along with vague images of a former life. But even then, surely I’m stronger than an unthinking, faceless, draconian government body.
Last week an unkempt strange man trespassed on my property, filmed me through my windows, and left a notice declaring the locks would be changed. The bank is moving in.
People ask me how I can stand all the stress and pressure. I’m not always sure I can. But I hold the thought that what the CFIA has done is so very wrong, and what they continue to do is so very wrong.
More people need to know what our government is doing with the power we have vested in them, on the pretence of protecting us. I refuse to believe that the gross misuse of power wielded by this government body might go unnoticed.
First, I need to ensure the farm will not be lost. Then, to raise funds for legal defense against the CFIA’s charges, and to raise awareness about how their policies are affecting all of us, and work to get them changed.
The encouragement of all those who have been following this story has been a huge support to me. It constantly reminds me that we are all in this together…no matter how different our personal suffering or challenges. This is not the worst thing that ever happened to anybody, but it IS happening, and it needs to stop.
With your help, we’ll breathe life back into this farm once again.
Thank-you so much… please help spread word of this situation and share.