It is "discouraging" that delegates at a convention of Saskatchewan rural municipalities passed a resolution to ask the federal government to expand self-defence laws to include property, says the head of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron was reacting to the resolution passed Tuesday by rural reeves and councillors attending the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) convention.
The resolution, which passed with a margin of 93 per cent, argues that amid concerns over rural crime increasing, landowners need more rights to protect themselves and their property.
"If I'm sitting at home and I can see with my own eyes that someone has broken into my own truck, am I going to think to myself: 'Am I going to kill someone and shoot them in the head point blank?'" Cameron says.
Last summer, farmer Gerald Stanley, 54, pleaded not guilty in the death of Colten Boushie.
Boushie was shot after driving onto Stanley's rural property near Biggar, Sask.,with a group of people, after they allegedly took a number of items from a nearby farm, according to RCMP.
Then, during harvest, farmers photographed themselves carrying rifles while out in the field, complaining about slow RCMP response times and increasing property crime.
The FSIN represents 72 Saskatchewan First Nations.
Cameron, who attended the SARM convention Tuesday, expressed shock over the adoption of the resolution. He said violence is never the answer, especially when it comes to preventing theft.
"It's one of our 10 commandments: Thou shalt not kill," he said. "We understand protecting property, but at what point do we have boundaries?"
No threat intended
Meanwhile, SARM president Ray Orb said the resolution was never intended to target Indigenous people. He said farmers just want the right to better protect themselves.
"I'm a little saddened that the FSIN feels that way," said Orb. "Obviously, the First Nations people feel a bit threatened by the resolution, but I don't believe they should be. They should take some comfort that we need to work together, and they are working with us."
Orb reiterated that many people in rural areas feel unsafe, and that more needs to be done to protect people and their property.
"There's been some fear from the rural people that they're not getting adequate RCMP protection," he said. "We're trying to get that message across that we need better protection for our rural residents that feel threatened."
He's hoping that programs such as Alberta's Rural Crime Watch could be implemented, as well as better communication between rural residents and the RCMP.
Meanwhile, a provincial committee tasked with looking at rural crime is set to meet in the next few weeks.
While Saskatchewan Justice Minister Gordon Wyant said the province would oppose legislation that would allow people to take the law into their own hands, he is sympathetic that many people in rural areas are getting frustrated by property crimes.
"Rural Saskatchewan residents need to feel safe in their own homes," he said. "I think the answer to this is to move forward, to look at the recommendations that are going to come out of the committee, and to continue our work with the RCMP."
The province said it has no plans to increase the number of rural RCMP officers, but it is working with police on deployment in rural areas.