The Chief of the Ochapowace First Nation says the RCMP should lay charges against a farmer; she claims trespassed on First Nations land last week to harvest a crop.
“Our lands manager and our pasture manager approached the former tenant and informed them that they were trespassing on two occasions prior to this incident. This time, they stopped the farmer on the land and as they approached the vehicle, they saw the gun and fled, concerned for their own safety” said Ochapowace Chief Margret Bear.
The farmer was evicted for not paying rent.
Tim Bear a Headman for the First Nation says the Esterhazy RCMP was called several times to investigate the trespass complaint, but nothing was done.
“The farm’s manger called the Esterhazy RCMP and mentioned it was a land dispute and tensions were high. The RCMP just asked if a gun was pointed,” Bear explained. “The manager informed the RCMP of the location and that was it from the RCMP, no further involvement.”
Tim Bear says the RCMP called back on April 24, eight days after the incident to inquire if the First Nation wanted to make a statement.
He says the crop was harvested, with the farmer claiming the first Nations bylaw does not supersede “white laws,” and damaged the First Nations land.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations is demanding answers from the RCMP as to why it didn’t get involved.
Chief Bobby Cameron says the FSIN and the RCMP were set to sign a relationship memorandum of understanding, but that is now off, saying some RCMP detachments need an attitude adjustment towards First Nations.
“This is the type of treatment from certain RCMP detachments; don’t get me wrong we have some good RCMP folks out there. But there are some that need a serious case of attitude adjustment. A serious case of respecting protocol and First Nation jurisdiction,” Cameron said.
Cameron warns if the situation were reversed with an armed First Nations person trespassing, the outcome would be different.
“What if I was on non-First Nation land with a gun that was exposed and continued to go on to land I wasn’t supposed to be on? What would happen to me? I would probably get shot. If I wasn’t shot, I’d be put in remand, thrown in jail and charged with trespassing. There would be swat teams, there would be helicopters, we don’t know what would go on,” Cameron asserted.
In a statement, the RCMP says “not all of our investigational steps were followed.” Mounties also say they will be providing guidance to all officers to prevent similar incidents happening in the future.
(Photo: Ochapowace First Nation Chief Margret Bear left, Headman Tim Bear right. Credit Fraser Needham.)