Ottawa

Pig-slaughter case sees Ottawa man cite charter

An Ottawa man who faces charges after slaughtering a pig and sharing the meat with a friend wants a judge to hear his case so he can mount a defence based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

An Ottawa man who faces charges after slaughtering a pig and sharing the meat with a friend wants an Ontario court judge to hear his case so he can mount a defence based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mark Tijssen said his family has been slaughtering their own animals for consumption for generations. Provincial authorities charged him after finding he had provided meat to a friend. ((CBC))

Mark Tijssen was charged under the Ontario Food Safety and Quality Act last November after a friend left his home in the eastern Ottawa community of Carlsbad Springs with 40 pounds of pork from a pig they had slaughtered.

He faces charges of operating an unlicensed slaughterhouse and failing to have an animal inspected.

Under provincial law, people can slaughter an animal and consume the meat for personal use, but it is an offence to share that meat with others without being licensed.

In an appearance before Justice of the Peace John Balkwill to seek the return of equipment seized during a raid, Tijssen argued that a provincial court judge, and not a justice of the peace, should be hearing his case.

Tijssen, who is representing himself in court, said the right to security of the person is protected in the charter and argued that buying commercially inspected meat can put his family at risk.

"At the heart of the case is food choice," said Tijssen, a major in the Canadian Forces who said his family has been slaughtering their own meat for generations, "our right to choose what we consume and to control what we consume.

"I think you'd be hard-pressed to divorce security of person from the food that you consume," said Tijssen, who uses the example of the 2008 listeriosis outbreak from a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto that led to the deaths of 23 Canadians.

"Where they cross a line is where they enter my premises and tell me what I can do with my animals on my property that I'm going to consume and telling my friends the same thing," Tijssen said. "With commercially produced meat, you have no control over what you are consuming.

"Mine is safer," he said. "Mine I control."

Raw milk advocate offers support

Michael Schmidt, the Durham, Ont., dairy farmer who was acquitted in January of selling unpasteurized milk, was in the courtroom Tuesday to support Tijssen.

Schmidt, who runs a raw milk co-op, became a lightning rod for debate over the safety of raw milk. Advocates of raw milk — which is legal to drink but illegal to sell — extolled its flavour and health benefits, while health officials and the Dairy Farmers of Ontario argued raw milk is unsafe because of concerns about E. coli and other bacteria, saying it isn't fit for widespread distribution.

Schmidt said Tijssen's case is another example of why food safety laws need changing.

"This is clear infringement on the personal liberties of an individual person," Schmidt said. "The government has no business in the stomach of the people."

Justice of the Peace Balkwill said he doesn't have the authority to send the case to a provincial judge and told Tijssen he would have to make the appeal himself to a higher magistrate to take over the case.

The trial before the justice of the peace is scheduled for February.

With files from the CBC's Laurie Fagan