Ochapowace, FSIN call upon RCMP to assist in trespassing incident
- EFN Staff | April 25, 2019
A press conference was held on April 25th with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Executive and Ochapowace First Nation’s Chief and Council to address a trespassing incident.
Ochapowace First Nation creates business partnerships for self-reliance and self-sufficiency. One of those partnerships is leasing their lands to non-Indigenous farmers. But when a land tenant does not pay his land rental, an eviction notice is given to honour the community’s trespassing bylaw.
“We issue agricultural land use permits to multiple valued customers including our own and non-Indigenous farmers,” said Chief Bear at the press conference. “After great concern and failed attempts to collect past due land rent from one of our non-Indigenous farmers, we took enforcement measures to ensure effective management of our lands by issuing the farmer a notice of forfeiture and trespass for failing to fulfill his obligation to the terms and conditions of an agricultural land permit agreement between our nation and himself.”
She added the notice of forfeiture was a business decision on their part as well, the Ochapowace First Nation Bylaw 2005.01 for trespassers took effect. The eviction notice was given on April 8th and they had a week to leave the Indigenous community due to failure to pay rent. The farmer’s son was spotted on the reserve and was approached by staff to clarify why he was trespassing on their lands. It was then that they spotted a rifle in his vehicle.
“Last week, the son of the farmer was found trespassing on our land attempting to harvest the crop illegally,” said Chief Bear. “The farmer was once again reminded of their terminated land permit with Ochapowace First Nation. And that he was also trespassing on our land. He was asked by our staff to remove his farm equipment off our land and leave. Not only was he trespassing on our land but was noticed by one of the staff members to have a rifle sitting on an open gun case in his truck. Our staff left the scene.”
Chief Bear added her staff members followed up with the boy’s father on Hwy 9 to ask about the gun inside his son’s truck. He responded his son uses it to shoot gophers on the leased land.
“The first concern is the illegal trespassing and gun issue on our lands,” she said. “We currently do not have our own police force to enforce our laws and bylaws. Until then, we must rely on the local RCMP authorities for policing services.”
Their second concern is the lack of response from the RCMP to their call regarding the trespassing and gun issues on the Ochapowace First Nation. On April 16th, the Esterhazy RCMP was notified of the trespassing incident only to be told there was nothing they could do. FSIN is working internally with the RCMP on this matter to find out more details regarding the incidents and how the matter was handled.
“Our most immediate concern is that the RCMP did not follow up on this serious incident,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron in a media release. “The staff reported seeing the gun, which was within reach in the farmer’s truck, and did the right thing by calling the RCMP rather than risk becoming involved 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.”
Chief Bear said she and the Ochapowace First Nation call upon the RCMP to enforce their trespassers bylaw which is recognized by the Federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.
“We ask the RCMP to become actively involved and assist us in this matter,” she said.
The farmer rented about 2,400 acres of the Ochapowace First Nation land for agricultural purposes.