Government and First Nations leaders are continuing to react to a resolution calling for more property and self-defence rights for people living in rural Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) passed the resolution Tuesday, instructing SARM to lobby the federal government to expand the rights of property owners to allow them to protect themselves, their family and their belongings from intruders.
The resolution, proposed by the Rural Municipality of Kindersley, passed with 93 per cent support.
“I think the rural people feel pretty much defenceless,” SARM president Ray Orb told radio host John Gormley Wednesday.
“It stems from frustration (over rural crime). They want to be able to protect their property better.”
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) strongly condemned the resolution in a statement released Tuesday.
“We at the FSIN believe that this resolution propels and encourages violence,” wrote vice-chief Kim Jonathan.
“Any strengthening of the rights of individuals to defend their property will result in an increase in violent confrontation and the deaths of more innocent people … No property is more valuable than a human life.”
On Wednesday, Saskatchewan Justice Minister Gordon Wyant criticized the resolution, echoing the FSIN’s concerns over vigilantism.
“We’ve seen some devastating results in the United States where they have stand your ground legislation,” he told reporters.
“It’s certainly not something we’re particularly supportive of.”
Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale offered a similar argument in a brief statement released Wednesday evening, saying Wyant had offered a “thoughtful position.”
“While the frustration expressed in SARM’s resolution is understandable… the approach it suggests has failed to produce good results in other jurisdictions,” he wrote. “Policing functions need to be performed by trained professionals.”
RCMP neutral on rural crime resolution
The RCMP offered no comment on the resolution itself, but in a statement Wednesday said, “As the provincial police force, it is our job to enforce the laws as they exist.”
The statement went on to say property owners can do their part by securing property, being observant and reporting crime and suspicious activity.
Additionally, the force encouraged communities to explore other resources such as rural crime watch or citizens on patrol programs.
Calls for more Sask. RCMP
Another resolution, which also passed with massive support, called for SARM to lobby the RCMP to dedicate new resources to deal with “agricultural-related thefts” involving missing fuel, equipment and livestock.
Delegates expressed frustration over the thefts, which they consider a growing problem, and believe at least two new RCMP officers are needed to address it.
“There are people that need to be concerned about it. Like a B-train full of canola is over $100,000. And a cattle liner of cattle is worth about $80,000,” said Harold Martens, reeve of Excelsior, northeast of Swift Current.
Martens added he wants these new officers to come armed with a good understanding of rural issues, especially those pertaining to the prairie province.
“The difficulty is that a lot of the people that come for training in Saskatchewan in the RCMP don’t come from the rural part of Canada, or the western part of Canada, so there is a training process necessary to deal with that,” Martens said.
There’s been no determination on how much such an initiative would cost, or how it would be funded.
The SARM convention wraps Thursday.
– With files from 650 CKOM’s Chris Carr.