Rural shooting in Alberta sparks calls for action

Ranchers vow to support landowner charged in shooting, but rural crime watch group warns against using guns

Sympathies and concerns are both being expressed in rural Alberta following charges laid against a rural Okotoks-area man alleged to have shot and injured a person whom he believed to be stealing his property.

Edouard Maurice, who lives just outside Okotoks, is scheduled to appear in court March 9 on charges of aggravated assault, pointing a firearm and careless use of a firearm. Those charges arise from a Feb. 24 incident that occurred shortly before 5:30 a.m.

Arising from the same incident, Ryan Watson has been charged with trespassing by night, mischief, theft under $5,000, possession of methamphetamine and failure to comply with probation.

Phil Rowland, a rancher in the Blackie area, said he and others who live in rural areas plan to help Maurice fight the charges.

“I certainly plan on supporting him financially,” said Rowland. “We will buck up and we’ll make sure that he has enough financial wherewithal to fight this thing.

“There’s going to be one real expensive lawyer that he’s going to require and I think the rest of us need to rally behind him and help him out. Let’s face it, he was protecting his family and I don’t think there’s any higher cause for us people out in the hinterlands than to look after our families.”

Statistics support the view of farmers and ranchers that rural crime rates are on the rise. Police response to remote areas can be lengthy and may come too late to catch thieves and vandals. That puts rural dwellers in a precarious position.

“I know there isn’t any of us that wouldn’t protect our family with whatever means necessary,” said Rowland. “What that is, I have no idea. I don’t know what I would do if it happened to me but I’m pretty sure I would come up with a plan really quickly.”

It’s the use of a firearm in the incident that concerns members of the Alberta Rural Crime Watch Association. In mid-February, the group signed a memorandum of understanding with the RCMP to define their respective roles, among them to be the eyes and ears, not the guns, for the RCMP.

That MOU was a direct response to the increase in rural crime and the need to combat it.

“When a weapon is pulled out, someone could get seriously injured and it could go the other way,” said rural crime watch past-president Trevor Tychkowsky.

“We never encourage our members to do stuff like that. We do not encourage people to do vigilante or taking strong stances…. We do educate people to lock up their belongings as best that they can and report crimes.”

Tychkowsky said many incidents of rural theft are crimes of opportunity because houses, outbuildings and vehicles are left unlocked. That was the situation on the farm where he grew up.

“Those days are gone, as well as the days of knowing our neighbours. A lot of people don’t know their neighbours anymore. They don’t know the person down the road.

“We really need to get back to those roots of where we actually know our neighbours and know when they’re going to be gone, and watch out for them.”

Tychkowsky added that rural crime watch advises farmers and ranchers to report every incident of theft, vandalism or other crime to the RCMP.

That’s advice echoed by Conrad Van Hierden, a Fort Macleod, Alta., area dairy farmer and president of the local crime watch group. He said more reporting of crime might lead to higher staffing levels in RCMP detachments.

“You don’t have to always go through insurance but you still need to report all thefts and all vandalism. Our police detachments don’t get more members if things aren’t reported,” said Van Hierden.

He has had fuel, batteries and truck wiring stolen from his farm. As a member of crime watch, he also speaks against the use of guns.

“I don’t condone it at all but I know where it’s coming from,” he said about the Maurice case.

Landowners can be frustrated by repeated thefts and repeat offenders. Van Hierden said the courts should do a better job when cases come to court and he supports RCMP initiatives to better track and monitor repeat offenders.

“Our court system is not upholding the good work the RCMP do and what the good work rural crime watch organizations do,” he said.

“I think if we tighten up our policing and then push the judges to make mandatory no bail for certain offences, it will help us as farmers and land owners and citizens.”

Rowland said he also supports tighter control of convicted criminals.

“Truthfully, when they catch these guys, they need to deal with them,” he said.

“I don’t know if locking them up is the correct response but if they’re not going to keep them out of our society, then guys like Eddy over there at Okotoks (are) compelled to deal with them. You’re worried about your property and your family, I sure don’t blame him.”

Lindsye Dunbar, manager of the Western Stock Growers Association, said rural crime and home invasion is a growing concern for members and the Okotoks case has raised the temperature on that concern.

“Increasingly, we have become concerned over this type of theft and the possibility of home invasion for our guys who live out in the rural areas. It’s obvious that they’re becoming more of a target than they have in the past,” she said.

Rowland echoed the concern about police response times.

“The police, unless their car is pointed in the right direction and they’re in it and it’s warmed up, a timely response (is unlikely). A lot can happen in five minutes. So, if they’re 10 minutes away, that’s really great but the incident is done.”

Dunbar lives in Okotoks and said rumours are swirling in the community about the shooting. Speaking personally rather than for the stock growers, Dunbar said the use of guns as defence depends to some degree on the type of threat.

“I think there is a difference between shooting to protect property and shooting to protect your family, and they are completely different things. At the end of the day, it’s just a truck.”

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  • sharpur

    // I think there is a difference between shooting to protect property and shooting to protect your family, and they are completely different things. At the end of the day, it’s just a truck. //

    • Happy Farmer

      Fair point regarding property and family. However, I worked hard for that truck and if it is stolen I am the loser financially. Thats not really fair, is it?

      • sharpur

        It isn’t fair. I’ve had expensive sunglasses taken from my unlocked car. I’ve had an expensive, locked bike stolen and nice, economical bikes taken, locked & unlocked. It isn’t nice & its a hassle to replace items. The expensive bike being stolen felt like a kick in the guts. We do have insurance, partially for these reasons. There is a bigger picture here tho’. Many are assuming that most of this rural crime is being done by Aboriginal people. Maybe rather than more policing, we need to do something about improving the economic & employment opportunities for Indigenous people. I think we can all agree that colonization has not worked for the self esteem & condition of native people. We don’t even need to debate the details just recognize the harm done & the situation. I have a simple idea (that maybe isn’t so simple when you have to run it thru Indigenous Affairs dept., don’t know). Most reserves seem to need housing. They also seem to have a high youth unemployment rate. I propose that the youth who want to, could be trained in all the trades needed to build a house. They could then be hired to maintain the reserve housing stock & paid by the band.
        Also, many reserves need water treatment plants. Aboriginal youth could be trained to build the plants & maintain them afterwards. The Slate Slate Falls band just hired & trained a young native guy to run their new treatment plant. Good on them.
        I am positive that most Aboriginal youth would much rather be doing something productive that helps their community. They would also feel much better about themselves & encourage others to get a trade or profession. Often what happens is a non-Indigenous business builds the houses, community centres etc. and their is no pride for the Aboriginals in that. Again there is a condescending attitude that they can’t do these things but they can. OK, I’m really rambling but I am passionate about this. What do you guys think?

        • Harold

          It may sound like a good plan on the surface but has this same cut and paste plan worked for the white folk? It seems that the white folks are engaged in the same amount of crime don’t you think? The Constitution of Canada is what separates the indigenous from the rest of us and does in fact create the problems and the racism that we are seeing today. Imagine if you will that you just love the indigenous peoples and love what they stand for and wish to become a member under Treaty; can you do it and bring your constitutional rights with you? If you were indigenous could you join our culture and bring your Treaty rights with you? If the indigenous ripped up their Treaties they would all live with us – as one – under the Constitution of Canada. Who created this mess if it wasn’t the Queen or Crown itself. Can you see the root of the problem? Our anger along with the Indigenous should be focused at the crown and not between one another. For a long time the Indigenous have held onto the belief that we have stolen their land but it is foolish to believe that in this time and era that they could have maintained a Country all to their own. Eventually many would have migrated to Canada and taken up residence here. Had the King not segregated the indigenous, the process would have been more welcoming but the country would be just as full as it is today and with the same people but under a different rule of government and constitution. The Indigenous did not understand at the time that they were signing themselves into segregation and government handouts as payments for their segregation, a welfare state, and that they were not signing themselves into peace like they had thought. The natives were not Lawyers and the King took advantage of that and now all of us in Canada are suffering the consequences of our former king’s actions. I would challenge the native peoples and their lawyers to develop the constitution that they believe that they would have had if they had not signed the lesser Treaty.

        • Happy Farmer

          I am very well aware that crimes are committed by all kinds of people.
          Quite frankly committing a crime is a choice. There is no rationalizing or justifying the act of crime. None, nada. Crime is crime. My parents taught me this fact, my grandparents taught my parents, and so on. Who’s teaching the youth today? And what are they being taught?

      • Denise

        Don’t you have any insurance?

        • Happy Farmer

          Yes I have insurance. But putting in a claim invokes a whole host of negative impacts on me. So I am still in an unfair situation due to someone else’s choice.

          • Harold

            I am concerned that there are so many who believe that the law abiding should be punished by paying Insurance premiums to cover the crime and that they are looked down upon when they don’t punish themselves. The sense of wrong is placed upon the victim rather than the criminal. It seems that if a criminal steals from you that you are equally wrong if you do not cover the crime with your money. Your money is your labor and depending upon premiums and circumstance it could represent days upon days of your labor for which the criminal has labored and toiled not. What is more remarkable is how our conscience between right and wrong and crime has become so lackadaisical since the onset of insurance. Why don’t we have the same anger that we had when there was no insurance at all? Whether or not there is insurance, crime should reap the same height of public anger and outrage. The phrases “do you have insurance” or “you should have locked your car” is an excuse and it does excuse the actions of the criminal as if to say the victim is deserving of a crime. I consider this sentiment towards the victim as being nothing more than public insanity. What victim regardless of circumstance deserves the unjust actions of a criminal in any way shape or form? If we eliminated insurance altogether, perhaps our proper perspective would return. That being said, we were taught to say “it’s not fair” as kids when under the control of an opposing authority and powerless it led to our acceptance of the unfairness even when it was unjust to do so. (parent/teacher) criminals are not about fair, they have no intentions of being fair, so saying that “it is not fair” totally misses the mark because a criminal does not have any authority over you. (Keep the thought) Moving forward, “not fair” is of childhood and it is left behind and replaced with – it is unjust – or injustice – and that is the adult perspective. To recap, Is it “not fair” that someone steals your truck or your sunglasses or is it unjust and an injustice that they trespassed and removed your property, and you will send them to jail. Are you being “fair” that they go to jail or are you being just?
            On a side note; when the government says “fair taxation” they are lying through their teeth because they are “not fair” and they have no intention of being fair and it is impossible for them to be fair and you are their schoolboy under their Authority. Fair is when the Fed or the Province approach you with their balance and spending sheets to gain your approval and then they ask you to pay what you can reasonably afford to pay in taxes and then they take only what is reasonable but adjusted in your good times and bad times, and that is fair. They say “fair” taxation only because all of us have been conditioned and programmed by the school system to accept unfairness and powerless we grievously pay the tax. No one per say questions authority and asks the government to prove that the tax is just and no one is concerned whether or not the government spending is just because we are off to never never land with the word “fair”. I wanted to point out that the phrase “it’s not fair” is truly a nothing burger, and that it is self defeating when used, and that the phrase should remain amongst the children where it belongs notwithstanding the obvious exceptions that there are. You are still in an unjust situation due to someone else’s choice.
            .

    • Harold

      What if a criminal burns your property right down to the ground; at the end of the day, is it just property and it is not worth shooting to protect? Property and family are quite different things aren’t they but they are interconnected as one. At the end of the day it is just your body without your clothes; naked, and that is how everyone feels when they have been trespassed upon and violated. How did we become such a nation subservient to the criminal and now seemingly their apologists. You may see a difference in your mind’s eye, but in Law, self-defense is the actions of one preventing harm and/or injury – harm is property – injury is body – and they are both one. The theft of your truck – is harm – and your broken leg – is injury. To say that “it’s just a truck” is only in the absence of your own self-defense and it is not courageous and it is not noble and it does not place you upon the mat of the honored or the heroic but then you do choose your own legacy. I get it, perhaps you are more offended by a middle finger than you are offended by the one stealing your truck.

  • shanon5760000

    There’s a difference between shooting somebody when your life, family and property is threatened versus shooting somebody for trespassing on your property. Should everyone start shooting everybody for trespassing including the mailman. I own land and I get it but I also get that sometimes people break down and need help and come to the first place they see. It doesn’t give anybody the right to shoot them unless your threatened. There’s a fine line to that. I agree with the outcome with Colten Boushie. I don’t agree with what the farmer did in Okotoks. That farmer assumed the guy was going to steal and didn’t catch the guy red handed big difference between both cases. I hope the farmer is found guilty as rural community’s don’t need to start turning into the Wild West shooting at everything that steps foot on the property with poor judgement.

    • Happy Farmer

      Out here where I live, if your vehicle happens to break down and you come on my yard to ask for help, you will get help(not shot at). If, however, you come onto my yard drunk, spinning donuts, jumping into and onto vehicles, etc, I and many others will feel threatened. Don’t be surprised if a instrument of force is brought into the situation.

    • Harold

      A verdict is read after ALL of the evidence is heard in a Court of Law. A charge of guilty before the Trial commences (prejudice) gets the potential Juror excused from ever performing the duty. …. Further, I wonder where these idiots are who, without judgement, shoot and then ask questions later, and they are just cold blooded murderers in the waiting. … I am sure that a good Hollywood movie could be scripted as such and now all we need is the popcorn.

      • sharpur

        I think I like your comment.

        • Harold

          I call into question the people who hold the strongest of opinions and yet they have never heard the fact evidence and testimony that was presented to the Court. How just can their opinions be when they have ignored the facts of the case and they are willing to throw a man into jail and take away his freedom. People get their information from a Media source and blindly and irresponsibly they believe that the Media is a fact witness in the case. Does the Media Air the entire Court case and all proceedings and explain the arguments of law as they are presented? No they don’t because they are not lawyers; they are only reporters seeking sensationalism in order to sell the public a story. Who is a fact witness to an automobile accident; the driver’s of the car – or the Media – and who will be sworn to give a testimony; the media? Many people grab media tidbits and then they use Hollywood imagery that has been planted in their minds to fill in the blanks to come up with their verdicts. Hollywood picture Imagery has closed the public’s mind and they now believe that any Court hearing is now irrelevant and a minor procedure of their inconvenience. Today, most people are unknowingly betraying the very character that they think that they are and unaware of the forces causing it. How can any just man or woman call guilty without hearing ALL of the evidence and testimony. Are the media snippets and sound bites all that a Just man or woman needs to hear?
          Regarding your post “I think I like your comment”, I will tell you that you didn’t hear my comment because my character was altered by the editing of the WP. They dressed me up nicer than what I was and then sent me onto the stage with a new and improved script in my hand. No telling what I was before; maybe you would have hated it or even me; it is the WP Theater after all and I’m not complaining I am just observing. In my era it was sticks and stones that broke bones but in this much softer era it is now words that can break the soft bone that lies between the ears and sometimes I have a little trouble remembering that. Those of soft bone require a big brother or more self protection and like a dog they are more violent when the softer bone is hurt.

    • sharpur

      The problem with the Stanley verdict is that it wasn’t Boushie who was trying to steal from him and the “hang fire” thing is very questionable. I think Stanley should have been convicted to manslaughter or irresponsible handing of a weapon causing death. I agree with you on the case in Okotoks.

  • The crime watch people report the crimes after they occur, and they keep occuring. Mr. Maurice won’t have any trouble from this time forward.

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