Police broke into homes, seized firearms without warrant in flood-stricken Alberta town
HIGH RIVER, Alberta, July 4, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Conservative leaders in Canada are crying foul after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) confirmed last week that officers had entered into evacuated homes in the flood stricken town of High River and seized "a few hundred" firearms.
“We just want to make sure that all of those things are in a spot that we control, simply because of what they are,” said Sgt. Brian Topham. “People have a significant amount of money invested in firearms … so we put them in a place that we control and that they’re safe.”
Floodwaters swept through the city of Calgary and surrounding towns in recent days, causing unprecedented damage and provoking widespread evacuations. Local residents of High River, with a population of about 13,000 and located 37 kilometres south Calgary, say they are not convinced by the RCMP’s explanation, and suggest that police took advantage of the chaotic situation.
Resident Brenda Lackey said she found it “absolutely incredible” that police broke into people’s homes and took belongings.
“When people find out about this there’s going to be untold hell to pay,” she said.
“It’s just like Nazi Germany, just taking orders,” said another resident, according to the Calgary Herald.
While police maintain that they were conducting a search and rescue operation looking for stranded people and animals, a police video of the event shows officers paddling toward a flooded house listening to a radio call that mentions picking up firearms at specific locations.
Police have also maintained that they only seized guns that were "unsafely stored" and that were clearly visible. However, residents have also disputed this, with some telling of how guns that were hidden behind dressers, in closets and under blankets and stored according to proper storage regulations outlined in the Firearms Act were also seized.
At one point last week about 30 officers set up a roadblock with a spike belt to prevent outraged residents from returning to their homes to secure belongings.
The RCMP have since announced that they will begin returning the firearms to their owners after the Prime Minister’s office ordered them to do so. Owners of the firearms are required to call the police to make arrangements and must present a valid firearms license to obtain their guns.
In a news release the RCMP defend their actions, claiming that many of the gun owners “have expressed appreciation to the RCMP for its assistance is protecting their possessions.”
But according to Tony Bernardo of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, the police are “lying through their teeth about the whole thing,” questioning claims that they were simply looking for stranded people and animals.
Bernardo told SunNews that people should care about this because Canada’s founding documents “say the police cannot enter your home and take your property without a warrant, pure and simple.”
Charles Adler suggested yesterday on his SunNews show Canadian Common Sense that the RCMP seized the firearms in an effort to stigmatize gun owners.
“We can take their guns from time to time, and make them, perhaps, not want to own them,” he said in reference to his thoughts behind the police motivation for the seizures. “We can stigmatize them, brand them.”
Speaking on the topic of “dictatorships”, Adler said that an “inquiry needs to be held on why High River residents on top of everything else they have been dealing with, had to endure their property rights being trampled on by those who actually get paid to enforce people’s rights.”
Author and culture critic Michael O’Brien told LifeSiteNews.com, “Crisis situations are a test of individuals' moral character, and they are also a test of governments' competence and motivations.”
O’Brien said that in crises “hidden corruption becomes evident,” adding that the “actions of the RCMP in High River indicate attitudes beneath their surface PR self-defense that do not bode well for civil rights in this country.”
“They exceeded the law, and this undeniable fact speaks volumes,” he said.
Brian Lilley, Senior Correspondent for Sun Media on Parliament Hill, said on his show Byline that the RCMP actions “smack of how a full blown police state would act”.
“We’re talking about police violating basic rights, breaking into homes seizing private property. This is a violation of rights.”
Lilley said that those who have sworn to “help and protect” citizens should be accountable for “not doing their jobs, for going above and beyond the law, somewhere where they should not be going.”
O’Brien agrees with Lilley that accountability is needed as a “real check” against the “spread of all kinds of grave harm done to innocent citizens."
"In High River, it looks very much like the RCMP decided to ignore the basic distinctions between criminals and law-abiding citizens. We as citizens need to have full knowledge of our rights and duties under the law, for the law, not individuals, is the best protector of civil order and civil freedoms.”
“We should also keep in mind that civil servants are precisely that—servants of the community. Generally, the police are the good guys, sometimes heroic, sometimes not. But they must be accountable for their actions, otherwise private homes and families become vulnerable to whatever ultra vires [beyond the powers] policy may ferment beneath the surface, hidden from the public eye,” he said.
Minister of Public Safety
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