Raw milk farmer faces charges related to cameras found near his farm

Michael Schmidt faces charges after phoning police to report the unmarked cameras

An Ontario farmer and raw milk activist says he's facing charges related to two cameras found in an area around his farm.

But Michael Schmidt calls the charges "a joke'' because he was the one who phoned police to report the unmarked cameras after they caused concern among neighbours in his community.

West Grey Police say that in early August the Ministry of Natural Resources reported that two of their cameras were missing in the region.

Police say 61-year-old Schmidt has been charged with theft under $5,000 and mischief in relation to the cameras.

They say Schmidt has been summoned to appear in court in Walkerton on Oct. 26.

READ: Public health officials raid raw milk farm

Schmidt says neighbours and friends took down the unmarked cameras earlier this year when they noticed them alongside area roads, and he then called police to report the devices and ask who they belonged to.

Schmidt noted that his summons to court—which was delivered on Thursday afternoon—comes just days after about 20 officials from Ontario's ministries of agriculture, natural resources and finance raided his farm. In that situation, officials began seizing equipment but left after members of Schmidt's raw milk farming collective gathered to express their outrage.

"It's a joke,'' Schmidt said of the camera-related charges he's facing. "This is just another way to make my life as complicated, as difficult as possible.''

Schmidt said one camera was noticed near his farm in July and concerned neighbours took it down to examine it. A second camera was then found on another nearby road.

Schmidt said the cameras were particularly concerning because they were near a private school and along a road where people jogged, walked and biked.

After reporting the cameras to police, Schmidt said he was told by a detective that the cameras were "trail cameras'' for observing wildlife and was asked by police to return them.

Schmidt said he doesn't have the cameras since neighbours took them to a lawyer's office.

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"There was never any involvement of mine removing these cameras and hiding these cameras,'' he said. "I was the one who went to the police and told them about it and asked them about these cameras.''

Schmidt currently runs a farming collective that produces raw milk products that are distributed to its members.

The Ontario government maintains the unprocessed milk poses a significant risk to public health. Ontario does not, however, ban the consumption of raw milk and farmers are allowed to drink the milk produced by their own cows.

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