Bizarre rental case brings Freeman-on-the-Land movement into spotlight

The Calgary duplex at the centre of a dispute between an Alberta woman and a Freeman-on-the-Land.

TORONTO – Calgary Police are consulting with Crown prosecutors to see if charges can be laid in a bizarre rental case that has brought the Freeman-on-the-Land movement under scrutiny.

Rebekah Caverhill rented out half of her Calgary duplex to a “Freeman” who has since declared the home an embassy, changed the locks, and charged her for renovations—resulting in a lien against her home.

Police initially referred Caverhill to civil courts, saying it was a landlord-tenant dispute. Police are now consulting with the Crown but Acting Insp. Julien Gagne said it’s unlikely charges will be laid.

Watch Nancy Hixt’s report here:

RCMP Sgt. Julie Gagnon said the national police force is aware of interaction police have had with followers of the Freeman movement. She said in recent years, the RCMP has received correspondence from its followers, but would not specify if it was violent or included threats.

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“Individuals associated to this movement are a concern because some followers advocate violence to promote their views and this may involve violence toward police officers,” wrote Gagnon in an email to Global News.

Gagnon said RCMP and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police are creating “awareness material for front line police officers to increase their awareness and understanding of the ideology, and to help them better deal with proponents of this movement.” She said there’s no indication Freemen pose a specific threat to the general public at this time.

The Law Society of B.C. and B.C. Notaries have both issued warnings about Freemen in the past, and the law society estimates there are as many as 30,000 in Canada.

In the United States, the FBI considers the movement a domestic terror threat, and a 2011 FBI report cites several cases where followers have clashed with law enforcement, including the 2010 shootings of two Arkansas officers during a routine traffic stop.

But Director of World Freeman Society Robert Menard told Global’s The Morning Show that while he’s aware that some Freemen in the U.S. engage in violence, he doesn’t know of any in Canada who advocate violence.

“I think it’s pretty ludicrous that the moment you start questioning the government; the source, nature and limits of government authority, they automatically come out and start labeling you as a potential domestic terrorist threat,” he said in a Sept. 11 interview. “Using words bringing love, compassion and truth –I don’t think are the actions of a terrorist.”

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Menard described the mandate of the society as looking for less intrusive government and greater freedoms. He said they “embrace the law” and research to see which laws are applicable, as well as which require voluntary actions and granting consent.

Watch the full interview with Menard here:

While some Freeman followers avoid taxes, mortgages and utility bills, Menard said it’s more about deciding where the payoff lies.

“Such things like the income tax act. You’re not bound by that act unless you do have a social insurance number, [but] you’re not obliged to have one…I do masonry work, I operate under contract,” he said. “There’s nothing that says you need a social insurance number in order to engage in lawful contracts.”

Menard also drives without a licence, saying he exercises his “right to access the highways as mentioned in the Criminal Code of Canada.”

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But when asked if there’s a danger in various interpretations that could lead to a lawless society, Menard dismissed the idea.

“Your question is based on the assumption that we are disobeying the rules, but that’s not the case. What we do is we actually look at the rules and instead of assuming that they’re applicable, we find that… they’re not applicable unless you engage in certain actions. So we don’t engage in those actions.”

Attempts to reach Menard for his reaction to the Alberta rental case were not returned by time of publishing Tuesday, but comments will be added when available.

With files from Tamara Elliott, Nancy Hixt and a file from The Canadian Press

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