Basic rights trampled on?

While flood victims in High River feared for their lives, their homes and their belongings, the RCMP was busy doing door-to-door searches and seizing only firearms.

While flood victims in High River feared for their lives, their homes and their belongings, the RCMP was busy doing door-to-door searches and seizing only firearms.

And while the RCMP was carrying out what Canada’s top Mountie, Commissioner Bob Paulson, called last week “heroic work,” looters were helping themselves to the spoils — the very thing the cops said they were guarding against.

The legalities of the seizure of a “substantial number” of firearms, which angered many of the 13,000 residents, is likely be investigated at Paulson’s request. The RCMP contends it was acting in the line of duty, protecting expensive belongings from thieves.

Yet, while the police seized guns, CTV News recently reported thieves helped themselves to copper wire and pipes from evacuated homes. Reports over said some of the crooks were “quite brazen.” One thief pulled up in front of a home, telling the owner he worked for the town and tried to take away a metal filing cabinet. “And that’s what happened to a lot of people,” the resident told CTV News.

In another incident, a crew of thieves showed up outside a bakery with a front-end loader and trailer and made off with $150,000 worth of baking equipment the owner moved outside for an insurance assessment.

So why did the police zero in on guns? Why weren’t similar seizures carried out in Canmore and Calgary, where several thousand residents were forced from their homes?

Legislation gives police additional powers during a state of emergency to enter homes to check on residents’ welfare and ensure there are no safety issues. But in this case it’s argued the RCMP crossed the line and there was no justifiable reason for their actions.

Paulson wants to get to the bottom of the gun sweep and is asking for an investigation. “I am quite concerned by the sharp criticism that has arisen in the media with respect to the gun seizures from evacuated homes,” Paulson wrote Ian McPhail, the intern chair of the RCMP’s Commission for Public Complaints against the force.

Canadian Press reported last week that the top cop says he and a lot of Canadians have questions about the force’s actions in the devastated town of High River. “Naturally this is quite troubling to me, and I am sure to you, as indeed it must be to many Canadians who wonder what was going on in High River,” said Paulson.

To further complicate matters, the RCMP last week said the seized firearms can be reclaimed with the presentation of a “possession acquisition licence,” which is required under Canada’s gun laws. But the circumstances under which those guns were seized is ripe for a charter argument.

Critics charge the force was on a fishing expedition, a blatant violation under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — it’s called unlawful search and seizure. And short of caring for the well-being of flood victims, the charter must rein in powers that exceed what a state of emergency allows.

At the time of the seizure, RCMP Sgt. Brian Tobin said, “We just want to make sure that all of those things are in a spot that we control, simply because of what they are. 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.”

So in that safe place, how much jewelry did the Mounties store, or other valuables such as cameras, high-definition televisions, coin collections, laptop computers containing sensitive information — and other items high on the menu of looters?

Legal experts will argue that the RCMP is not above the law and in this case far exceeded the powers Canada affords to law enforcement agencies. Possible abuses under the state of emergency criteria must be at the forefront of legal challenges. Fishing expeditions are not allowed under the charter to determine if a crime has been committed. Search warrants are the proper procedure. Failure to abide by those rules means anything seized was done illegally and not admissible in court.

Paulson’s call for an investigation into the High River matter is commendable.

Rick Zemanek is a former Advocate editor.

Just Posted

Updated: Red Deer welcomes 2019 Canada Winter Games Team Alberta

About 250 Alberta athletes are participating in the Games

Syrian immigrants feel welcomed

Winter Social held at Festival Hall to promote multiculturalism

Small group rallies with pro-immigration message

Group wanted to counter misinformation on United Nations migration agreement

Trump says ‘things are going very well’ with North Korea

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Saturday that “things are going very… Continue reading

NDP won’t stop until Trans Mountain is built, says minister

Deron Bilous speaks at Red Deer chamber luncheon

VIDEO: Students in MAGA hats mock Native American at Indigenous Peoples March

Diocese in Kentucky says it is investigating the matter, caught on video by onlookers

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Kriechmayr edges Swiss favourite Feuz to win WCup downhill

WENGEN, Switzerland — It takes a special run to beat Switzerland’s best… Continue reading

WestJet plane heading to Victoria slides off Edmonton runway, no injuries

EDMONTON — A WestJet plane has slid off an icy taxiway at… Continue reading

Sam Bennett scores twice, Flames beat Red Wings 6-4

Flames 6, Red Wings 4 CALGARY — Sam Bennett scored twice including… Continue reading

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Most Read