MONTREAL – Greek Orthodox nuns in a monastery northwest of Montreal are facing a $75,000 fine for allegedly selling cows milk.
The fine was imposed by the Federation des producteurs de lait du Quebec (PLQ), the group which represents Quebec dairy producers. The PLQ accuses the nuns at the Virgin Mary of Consolatory monastery of selling milk products without a permit, CBC reported.
The monastery’s administrator, Sister Macrina, told the CBC that “the nuns only own two cows, Guernseys which produce milk for the nuns themselves and their visitors — milk that is not for sale.”
“It’s not something we make business out of. Mistakes happen, we’re human, but you can’t fine me for that,” she said, the CBC reported.
The report also pointed out that the nuns do sell their goat milk products, but the goat milk products are not at issue with the fine.
Sister Macrina tried to reach out to the PLQ many times in the two years since the cows arrived at the monastery to “find out what its responsibilities are,” CBC reported.
“For two years I’ve been making phone calls, asking questions, just to be enlightened about what the law is, because I know it’s quite regulated. For all this period of time, no one was communicating with me; no one was answering my phone calls. I was totally ignored,” she told the CBC.
When she was finally contacted by the PLQ, she was asked about the number of cows, how much milk is produced, and how it is used. Since Sister Macrina does not work directly with the cows, she asked one of the nuns to give her the information which she then gave to the caller, CBC reported.
“The next thing I see is, I open a letter and I see a fine of $75,000 that I received from the PLQ,” she said, CBC reported adding that “the letter states the monastery has produced more than 38,000 litres of milk without a quota, and that it had 10 days to pay its fine.”
The letter was also received just two days before the August 29 deadline for payment, CBC reported.
“She said the federation’s investigation was neither fair nor transparent: she did not know the phone call was being recorded, and she wasn’t prepared with answers to their questions,” CBC reported, adding that “the nuns do not keep a registry of their cow milk production because they consume what the cows produce.”
Sister Macrina told the CBC, ”I understand the point of view of the PLQ, I understand they’re doing their job to keep control of abuse or misuse of the system, and I totally agree with them. But if you want to do something like that, do it respectfully. If we wanted to abuse the system, I wouldn’t have been calling them over two years’ time.
”If, God forbid, we have to pay this amount, it’s ruining the monastery. It’s destroying everything we’ve been trying to do for 26 years. We’re trying to build something — a heritage.”
PLQ spokesperson Francois Dumontier told the CBC, “The Quebec dairy producers have the mandate to apply the Quebec regulation on the milk marketing plan and on the dairy quota regulation. We have a legal mandate to apply those regulations. Obviously, nobody is above the law, and those regulations need to be respected, so that is why action has been taken.”
The spokesperson did not comment on the next steps, the CBC reported, adding that he said “the federation has shown a willingness to negotiate with the nuns to help them comply with provincial regulations.”