A homeowner in rural Alberta who was charged by police after shots were fired during a confrontation on his property was met with applause from about 150 supporters after he made a court appearance Friday in Okotoks.
Edouard Maurice, who is 33, faces three charges of aggravated assault, pointing a firearm and careless use of a firearm.
RCMP south of Calgary were called to the property on Feb. 25 about a homeowner allegedly confronting two people rummaging through his vehicles.
Shots were fired and one of the suspects was later found with an arm injury and was taken to hospital.
About 150 rural landowners showed up at the courthouse in Okotoks, Alta., to support Maurice as he made a brief appearance accompanied by his wife Jessica and carrying his daughter. One supporter waved a sign that read “Keep your city out of our country.”
“We would like to thank the community for the overwhelming support that they’ve given in this difficult time,” said defence lawyer Tonii Roulston.
“These are individuals who have had no interaction with the criminal justice system.
“This is an unfortunate and unfair position that they’ve been placed in.”
Rural crime on the Prairies has been in the spotlight recently following the acquittal of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley in the shooting death of Colten Boushie, an Indigenous man who was on his property.
Many of Maurice’s supporters said it’s important to support the family since it could happen to any one of them.
“This is something that a lot more of us are going to run into if there’s not some change in our laws,” said Bill Ferguson, who lives near Vulcan, Alta.
“I feel it’s ridiculous that we can’t protect our own home and family.”
Eric Johaniuk from High River, Alta., said he was outraged when he heard Maurice had been charged.
“The problem is the crooks are getting nothing. It’s just a laugh. You have no right to defend yourself,” he said.
“It’s getting pathetic. There are just no more rights for anybody.”
Organizer George Clark told the crowd that rural property owners are being bullied and aren’t allowed to stand up for themselves. He said it’s not the RCMP’s fault.
“They’re acting on orders to lay charges because of all the other events and the political happenings. Our system is broke”said Clark to loud applause.
“We need better politicians, both provincially and federally … particularly federally to start stepping up and changing the damn laws.”
Maurice’s court appearance came on the same day the Alberta government announced $10 million would be put towards fighting rural crime in the province.
A fundraising page has been set up to help pay Maurice’s legal fees and had raised more than $12,000 as of Friday afternoon. A bucket was also being passed around in front of the courthouse with plenty of $20 and $50 bills being dropped in.
“We understand that any one of us could have found ourselves in their shoes. They need support for the legal fees and stuff like that,” said Cory Morgan, a blogger and former candidate for the now-defunct Wildrose Party.
“They’re not alone in this nightmare they’ve found themselves wrapped up in.”
Eddie’s wife Jessica Maurice declined a Global News request for comment but in a statement on Facebook called the past couple of weeks “difficult.”
The statement went on to say:
“Eddie and I are overwhelmed with all of the support everyone has given us. We appreciate knowing the community is behind us during this difficult journey. It means so much knowing we are not going through this alone.”
The matter was set over until April 6.
— With files from Christa Dao, Global News