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Indigenous leaders are criticizing the RCMP’s response to reports of trespassing on First Nations land, saying police failed to follow up on complaints that an evicted farmer had an exposed gun in his vehicle.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) outlined the incident in a press release sent Tuesday morning. It said a farmer who had previously been evicted from the Ochapowace First Nation’s lands over failure to pay rent was spotted again last week.
“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,” Ochapowace Chief Margaret Bear said in the release.
Bear said police did not come to the scene despite several reports to the Esterhazy RCMP.
“They come on our land and take whatever they want, and the police won’t do anything about it,” she said.
The RCMP responded to the criticism in a statement on Tuesday, saying its chief operations officer, Chief Superintendent Alfredo Bangloy was advised of the concerns on Wednesday of last week.
“During a follow-up conversation the following day, Chief Superintendent Bangloy committed to looking into the concerns raised by the FSIN. These efforts are on-going and the Saskatchewan RCMP would like to thank the FSIN for raising their concerns,” the statement said.
The FSIN, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, added its voice to the criticism.
“Our most immediate concern is that the RCMP did not follow up on this serious incident,” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said in the release. He said Ochapowace staff did the right thing by calling police instead of risking their safety in a “dangerous situation.”
“The RCMP should have attended the scene immediately. This situation could have escalated and ended in tragedy. Our Treaty and traditional lands are to be respected at all times and each First Nation will assert their jurisdiction on their own lands as they see fit.”
Ochapowace First Nation is located about 180 kilometres east of Regina.
Trespassing has been a fraught subject for First Nations and other rural residents, especially in light of proposed provincial amendments to the Trespass to Property Act that some Indigenous leaders say will affect their traditional rights.
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