Sask. residents need more rights to protect property, SARM resolution says

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Provincial crime reduction report due in 2 weeks

A resolution passed at the annual Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities convention calls for the federal government to expand self-defence laws.

The resolution argues Saskatchewan residents do not have the rights they need to protect themselves or their property, in the wake of increased concerns over rural crime.

Delegates at the SARM convention voted in favour of the resolution by more than 93 per cent on Tuesday.

The move comes just seven months after the death of Colten Boushie, a passenger in a car with four other people who was shot and killed on Aug. 9 on a farm near Biggar, Sask. 

The case ignited racial tensions in rural Saskatchewan, and made headlines across the country for weeks.

Lionel Story, a councillor in the R.M. of Kindersley, where the resolution originated, said it was not inspired by the shooting death of Colten Boushie, but that it highlights concerns about crime among Saskatchewan residents.

"At some point, we have to start confronting this and in rural Saskatchewan, we don't have the accessibility of the police force at our back door," Story said. 

The resolution drew condemnation from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations on Tuesday.

The FSIN said it was "shocked and disgusted at the violent intentions behind the resolution," adding it believed the resolution encouraged violence. The FSIN argued the Criminal Code already has sufficient provisions for people to protect their property.

"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," FSIN Vice-Chief Kimberly Jonathan said in a media release. 

Motion goes too far, dead man's uncle says

Alvin Baptiste, Colten Boushie's uncle, told CBC News he felt the rural politicians' motion went too far.

"It's almost like they're adopting laws from the States," Baptiste said.

He fears that if the motion becomes law, what happened to his nephew will happen to other people.

"There's going to be other people that are going to be killed the same as Colton."

Justice minister says it's a non-starter

Gordon Wyant, Saskatchewan's minister of justice, said the province would oppose legislation that he said would allow people to take the law into their own hands.

"I don't think that's something we support in this country," he said.

Citing the consequences of "stand your ground" laws in the U.S., Wyant said addressing rural crime through recommendations made by a committee on crime the province has put together, and ongoing discussions with SARM and the RCMP, is a more viable solution. 

Wyant speculated the federal government would not be supportive of amendments to the Criminal Code either.

"The answer to addressing it, I think, is through policing and through programming at the community level," he said.

'Frustration is palpable'

Still, Wyant said concerns are not falling on deaf ears.

"Obviously the frustration is palpable at SARM," Wyant said.

Wyant said the province is working with RCMP with regards to deployment in rural areas but there are no plans to increase funding for police. 

Story said communities are fighting a losing battle against the rising crime in rural areas. He would like to see rights expanded to protect people when they defend themselves and their properties.

Story asserted that would-be criminals know they can press assault charges if they are "hit too hard," and he said he would like to see laws which would not require a court appearance or criminal charges at all for use of force in self-defence.

"I think you should have a right to ask them to leave and use force if they won't," Story said.​