Sask. government opens discussion on rural trespass laws and regional policing

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WATCH ABOVE: Provincial ministers were thrown into the bear-pit Friday, it's a rare opportunity for Saskatchewan's rural leaders to grill ministers on important issues facing their communities – Mar 16, 2018

Worries about rural crime generated a notable portion of the conversation at the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) annual convention.

During the annual bear pit sessions, where reeves and councillors can ask Premier Scott Moe and his cabinet any question, RM of Fertile Belt Reeve Arlynn Kurtz asked the province to introduce new trespass laws.

“What we need is a strong trespassing law. Private property is private property, so if you’re coming to my place and you need help you come down my driveway, you come up to my house, or if I’m in the yard you come up to me and say this is my issue,” Kurtz said.

“Any movement beyond that area should be deemed as trespassing. You want to enter my field, you should be asking permission. I should not have to post land. Farms are getting big.”

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READ MORE: Self-defence arguments surface at RCMP town halls to address rural property crime

Kurtz said that the cost of posting “no trespassing signs” on larger farm operations is expensive and doubts the effectiveness.

He wants to see a law where more onus is put on people coming onto farm land. This includes people like hunters and snowmobilers receiving written permission to cross someone’s land. Kurtz also called on tougher penalties for those caught trespassing on rural land.

WATCH BELOW: Rural crime a focus at SARM

Click to play video: 'Rural crime a focus at SARM' Rural crime a focus at SARM
Rural crime a focus at SARM – Mar 15, 2018

Both Moe and Justice Minister Don Morgan said they were open to further discussion on this matter, but there is no commitment that a law would change.

“In the context of what we do with the trespass laws and the obligation on a building owner to have signage put up, we can have that discussion,” Morgan said.

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“You have to balance the rights of other members of the public when they’re snowmobiling, hunting, out for a hike whatever else. What’s a reasonable expectation of them versus of a homeowner? So we want to have the discussion.”

Currently, property owners need to put up signage if they don’t want activities like hunting taking place on their land. Morgan says that switching the onus of consent to hunters and others receiving permission to use the land is a conversation to have.

Morgan says that the province is not interested in opening up discussion on American style castle or stand your ground laws.

Regional Policing

During Moe’s address to the SARM delegates he signalled that the province is looking at a regional policing model to further address rural crime concerns.

This would in addition to the Protection and Response Team (PRT) which currently sees RCMP, highways commercial vehicle enforcement, conservation officers and others working together to make sure the closest officer responds to a call.

READ MORE: Province announces team to lower crime in rural Saskatchewan

Morgan explained that a regional police model would see a central dispatch point in a given area that would dispatch the appropriate resources.

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“No matter where you live, no matter whether you have a detachment, you have the right to feel safe and secure in your own property. That if you call 911, you’ll have a response as quickly as possible,” Morgan said.

“And if there is a conservation officer or a highway officer nearby, they can give you some temporary assistance until an RCMP officer gets there. That’s the kind of model we have to work towards.”

The training of conversation and highway officers to be part of the PRT is still underway. More officers are expected to be ready later in the spring.

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