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Fraser Health Authority wins round one in Chilliwack raw milk battle

Alice Jongerden of Home on the Range Farms prepares one of her 20 cows for milking on Jan. 6, 2010. Jongerden produces raw milk on her farm. - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE
Alice Jongerden of Home on the Range Farms prepares one of her 20 cows for milking on Jan. 6, 2010. Jongerden produces raw milk on her farm.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE

The Fraser Health Authority won the first round in its case against distribution of raw milk by a Chilliwack cowshare group in BC Supreme Court on Tuesday.

But Gordon Watson, cowshare spokesman, vowed to be his "prickly, cantankerous worst" when the courtroom battle resumes on April 2.

"The lawyer for Fraser Health got an order stating that its officers can go onto the farm property at any time, without a search warrant. But so what?" he said in an email to The Progress. "Under the Public Health Act they could have done that anyway, if and when they had good reason."

However, in August the FHA did obtain a search warrant to search the farm on Prairie Central Road to determine if a permanent court injunction issued last year against distribution of raw milk was being obeyed.

Following that search, FHA officials applied for a court finding that Watson and the farm's agister, Michael Schmidt, were in contempt of the injunction.

FHA officials have argued that the Public Health Act describes human consumption of milk unpasteurized by a licenced dairy plant is a "health hazard" and the sale of raw milk is banned for that reason.

Watson argued that the cows owned by cowshare members are private property, and that they can do whatever they like with the milk the cows produce.

FHA spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward said while the contempt hearing is adjourned, the justice also made two orders authorizing health officials to enter and inspect the premises without notice, and to post the original March, 2010 injunction order in conspicuous places around the farm.

Watson also said in his email that he is "on trial" for holding a "political meeting" that he described as a "Raw Milk Information Night" on Oct. 19.

But he also claimed that as a former election candidate for the Party of Citizens Who Have Decided To Think For Ourselves & Be Our Own Politicians that he has "qualified" freedom of speech protection as a lifelong politician.

"Everything I say on an issue of public interest is 'qualified speech'," he said.

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