Intelligence sharing key to countering 'sovereign citizen' tactics: police

OTTAWA - Training for frontline officers and better information sharing between police and government agencies can help protect law enforcement officials from potentially aggressive "sovereign citizens," says a newly declassified briefing to Canadian police chiefs.

The presentation, prepared for a meeting of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, calls the libertarian-inspired philosophy "a growing concern" that poses a "threat to officer and public safety."

Enforcement agencies are becoming increasingly wary of sovereign citizens, members of the Freeman-on-the-Land movement and other like-minded people who resist police and government authority.

Adherents say they shun violence and merely want to live free of government-imposed shackles.

However, police say those who espouse the ideology have been involved in numerous violent encounters with law-enforcement and government employees in the United States and, to a lesser extent, in Canada.

Freemen commonly claim they do not require a driver's licence, insurance or vehicle registration, police say. Advocates also frequently assert a right to have weapons for self-protection and produce or possess illegal drugs, as well as demand that the Bank of Canada allow them to withdraw funds even though no account exists.

Other actions flagged by police include squatting in unoccupied homes or open areas, creation of self-styled personal identification papers, filing of lawsuits against officials, and issuance of a "bill for services rendered" after an interaction with a police officer.

"These bills indicate that if they are not paid a lien will be placed on the 'offender's' (officer's) property," the presentation says.

The briefing was assembled for the 2012 annual conference of the chiefs of police in Sydney, N.S., by assistant RCMP commissioner Gilles Michaud, deputy Ontario provincial police commissioner Scott Tod and a senior lawyer with the Mounties.

The presentation called for increased communication between law enforcement and government agencies such as the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, the federal Correctional Service, the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canada Border Services Agency, National Defence and provincial police.

It also recommended training frontline members and judicial officials on the burgeoning movement, whose Canadian devotees may number in the tens of thousands.

A copy of the presentation was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act along with a pamphlet prepared by the chiefs of police that helps explain the Freeman-on-the-Land ideology.

"This movement is based on a decentralized, libertarian ideology, which is often motivated by personal gain, self-gratification or justification of illegal behaviour," says the pamphlet.

The phenomenon has already attracted the attention of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which noted last year that law-enforcement agencies had seen "an increase in the number of incidents related to (Freeman) anti-government ideology in Canada."

Other Canadian branches flagged by police in the briefing include the Moorish Divine and National Movement and the Kinakwii Sovereign Nation.

An Alberta landlord recently became entangled with an apparent Freeman-on-the-Land advocate who changed the locks to a rental property, placed a lien on it and claimed the premises as his "embassy."

In Nova Scotia last year, a Court of Appeal judge denied bail to self-proclaimed Freeman contesting his conviction for firearms offences and uttering a threat to kill police officers.

The judge said public respect for the administration of justice would be "seriously eroded" should he order the release of someone "who still proclaims his Freeman-on-the-land beliefs that the laws of Canada simply do not apply to govern his conduct."