Indigenous leaders call on RCMP to uphold First Nation trespassing bylaw
OCHAPOWACE -- A decision not to charge a trespasser by RCMP has the Ochapowace First Nation and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) calling for a review.
According to the FSIN, a family member of a former lessee who had been evicted from Ochapowace for failing to pay rent was spotted on the reserve moving crops from the nation’s land last April. Ochapowace nation staff approached the trespasser and while speaking with the man outside of his vehicle, a gun was seen in the man’s truck in an open case, with the barrel showing.
Richard Cunday, had previously rented Ochapowace land for farming for about 20 years.
Tim Bear, the Headman for Ochapowace said the nation has good relationships with the other families who rent the land, but the Cunday’s have been behind on their rent for about three years. After numerous attempts to get the rent paid, Bear says the relationship with the Cunday’s deteriorated.
When the rent wasn't cleared by April the nation issued an eviction notice and the family had two weeks to remove their equipment from the land.
Staff issued another notice in person to Owen Cunday, who had the gun in his truck.
Bear said that as staff was driving away, they realized they saw a rifle.
The staff members left and then called Esterhazy RCMP.
“I phoned the Esterhazy RCMP and mentioned there was a rifle in the vehicle and there’s a land dispute and he was trespassing. The lady then asked if they pointed the rifle at us. I kind of sensed that it didn’t seem to be that serious to the RCMP,” said Kenneth Bear, a manager Ochapoawce Farms Ltd, who went with two other staff members to speak with Owen.
“The RCMP has since agreed that their initial response to this incident was terribly inefficient and has recently apologized for their lack of an appropriate response at a meeting between the First Nation and RCMP last week,” The FSIN said in a news release.
The RCMP confirmed this in a statement to CTV News.
“Our initial review of the incident indicates that not all of our investigational steps were followed. As a result of our review, we provided guidance to all our officers in an effort to prevent this from happening in the future,” Saskatchewan RCMP Media Relations said in an email.
RCMP said after a full investigation it was decided that charges would not be laid and the matter is considered to be concluded.
The FSIN said the choice not to lay charges against someone they allege to be an armed trespasser is unfair, and want the decision reviewed.
“When our hunters are deemed as ‘trespassing’ on other people’s lands, the RCMP or conservation officers will enforce those laws with very little hesitation, but when it comes to First Nations’ lands no action is taken,” the FSIN said.
“Where is the RCMP when we need them the most? As our protectors, they are to be here to assist us,” added Margaret Bear, Chief of Ochapowace First Nation.
CTV News contacted the Cunday family but they declined to comment.