Farmer urges more self-defence legislation

Eddie Maurice is still dealing with the fallout of using his gun to defend his rural property but he says he would do it again.

The farmer from Okotoks, Alta., was arrested and charged last February after he fired warning shots to scare off two thieves.

A ricochet bullet injured one of them, and resulted in RCMP charging Maurice with careless use of a firearm, pointing a firearm and aggravated assault.

The charges were dropped in June, but Maurice is still missing a gun seized during the investigation and a sense of security.

“When you live in the country like we do, your neighbours cannot hear you scream,” he told the House of Commons’ public safety and national security committee, which is examining rural crime.

He and his wife, Jessica, said the RCMP’s decision to charge him led to four months of stress, anxiety and fear.

They said changes in RCMP policies and procedures are required in cases where people have to defend their own property.

Despite living a seven-minute drive from the police station, it was two hours before three officers came to the Maurice home to charge him. Maurice said he never should have called the police and he wouldn’t do it if a similar situation occurred.

At town hall meetings on rural crime the family has received standing ovations.

There were rallies at Maurice’s court appearances.

The couple said people they talk to want to be able to protect themselves.

“Hiring more police alone is not going to solve the issue of rural crime,” said Jessica Maurice.

She said the crime rates in their area have more than tripled in the last five years. People are frustrated and frightened.

She said the federal government should strengthen laws that allow self-defence.

“Rural citizens are starting to take justice and protection into their hands,” she said. “They aren’t reporting it and you can be sure the criminals aren’t reporting it either.”

Eddie said he believes people won’t call the police and are setting up plans to deal with incidents themselves and with neighbours.

“People are basically saying they’re just going to shoot, shovel and shut up from now on. They don’t want to be the next Eddie Maurice.”

Committee members asked if RCMP should review their priorities for response.

Jessica said the fact that only one officer is on duty until morning and two are required to attend firearm calls are concerns.

“Until you have enough coverage there’s no point in addressing priorities, I think,” she said.

Jessica also said she hoped the committee, made up largely of eastern and urban MPs, gained an understanding of rural reality.

Meanwhile, Eddie said he hopes the RCMP can find his firearm.

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