COLLINGWOOD - A protest outside the Collingwood courthouse on Tuesday morning turned some heads and may have damaged some bumpers.
The protest against fur farming was spurred by recent break-and-enter charges brought against Malcolm Klimowicz. The 35-year-old was making his first appearance in Collingwood court in a case being dubbed as the #MinkTrial by provincial activists.
“I’m personally not very happy with my tax dollars going toward something like this being taken to court when we’ve got serious offenders out on the streets that need to be addressed,” said Suzanne, who drove from Mississauga for the protest, but asked that her last name not be used. “He’s just exposing the truth behind fur farms.”
Klimowicz, of Kitchener, was charged by Huronia West OPP with break and enter, stemming from an animal rights excursion in July 2017 where he filmed minks in cages at a fur farm in Springwater Township.
He uploaded the video he recorded to YouTube and handed it over to the OSPCA.
Calls by Village Media to OSPCA officer Carole Vanderheide to inquire about the status of any OSPCA investigation into the farm were not returned.
Klimowicz has made a name for himself in the animal-rights community by spearheading a private investigation into five different factory farms across southern Ontario by filming conditions at the farms.
He is also facing a break-and-enter charge in Oshawa for a similar offence.
He says these two charges are the first time he’s faced any criminal charges as a result of his activism.
“I walked onto the farm and started filming. I didn’t break in or damage any property. I didn’t even open a door. I just walked around and filmed,” Klimowicz said of the Springwater charge. “They’re charging me with a break and enter under an obscure section of the law... a technicality that says it’s illegal to be present near penned animals.”
Klimowicz says he was prepared to deal with possibility of police hassling him over the filming, but believes these specific charges are needlessly punitive.
“I had no idea I would be charged with break and enter... I thought I might get a trespassing ticket,” he said.
Klimowicz says he is passionate about animal-rights activism and plans to raise as much awareness as he can about current Ontario practices.
“The fur industry in Ontario is self-regulated. The animals are suffering. It’s messed up,” he said. “I’m also running a campaign to end fur farming, because other countries have done so.”
“It’s all just for fashion. I think it’s disgusting,” said Klimowicz.
When reached for comment, Huronia West OPP Const. Gilles Doiron said he couldn’t comment directly on why it took so long for charges to be filed in regards to this instance.
“The investigation at the time was conducted thoroughly by the officers. The decision they made was to go forward with those charges,” Doiron said. “From here, that will be up to the courts to decide whether it’s a break and enter or if it’s a trespassing charge.”
Doiron also said that there are no pending charges or investigations currently underway into the Springwater Township farm that was filmed.
The majority of the approximately 25 protesters at the Collingwood courthouse on Tuesday did not come from Simcoe County, with most making the trek from the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Stoney Creek, Burlington and Toronto.
Although, one young protester did have a local connection.
Sophia Hurd, 11, lives in London, but said her family owns a cottage at Blue Mountain Village.
During the protest, three vehicles were involved in a collision in front of the courthouse. While there was damage to two of the vehicles, no one was injured and the protesters stopped protesting to check on the health and safety of the drivers.
OPP auxiliary officers, who were on the scene already to keep an eye on the protest, were able to clear the scene quickly and make sure none of the protesters were injured, either.
Klimowicz will next be in Collingwood court on Nov. 6.
For more information on Klimowicz’s efforts, click here.