Saskatchewan Justice Minister Gordon Wyant says he knows people are frustrated about rural crime, but they shouldn’t take the law into their own hands.
A resolution passed Tuesday at the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities convention says rural crime has increased and people don’t have sufficient rights to protect themselves and property.
The association will lobby the federal government to expand the rights and justification for people to defend themselves, persons under their care and their property.
Wyant said the provincial government would oppose any such law.
“We’ve seen in the United States where they have legislation like that and some of the … serious consequences that can flow from that,” Wyant said Tuesday at the legislature in Regina.
But he said the resolution is not surprising.
“Obviously the frustration is palpable at SARM and we’ve heard from a number of people in rural Saskatchewan that they’re quite concerned about rural crime,” said Wyant.
“The answer is to addressing, I think, through policing and through programming at the community level.”
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) executive said it is “shocked and disgusted at the violent intentions” behind the resolution.
“We at the FSIN believe that this resolution propels and encourages violence,” said vice-chief Kim Jonathan in a statement. “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.”
Last summer, a 22-year-old First Nations man named Colten Boushie was shot and killed while riding an SUV on a farmer’s property near Biggar, Sask.
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Gerald Stanley, 55, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and is out on bail.
The FSIN said the Criminal Code already has sufficient provisions for the protection of property.
“No property is more valuable than a human life, and the FSIN condemns any resolution that seeks to allow civilians to take the law into their hands. It is the responsibility of the police and RCMP to enforce the criminal code, not property owners.”
Discussions about a rural crime watch program with the RCMP are scheduled to take place Thursday at the convention.
Wyant said he’s also waiting to hear from a Saskatchewan government committee tasked with examining how to reduce crime.
“I haven’t seen the recommendations yet and once I do, we’ll be able to analyze what kind of resources we do need, he said.”
SARM president Ray Orb told the committee last December that people would especially like to see more RCMP officers.
The committee was formed last fall after people started voicing concern about rural crime.
On Sept. 19, police said three masked suspects armed with handguns allegedly approached a farmhand in west-central Saskatchewan.
Shortly after, there were media reports of farmers carrying firearms during harvest.