A question-and-answer session with OPP Sgt. Pierre Chamberland on the growing anti-government, sovereign citizens or freeman movement. Advocates of the anti-government group called Freeman-on-the-Land or the so-called ‚Äúsovereign citizen‚Äù movement have been gaining more media attention for their cause.
[box] Brian Alexander, of Kamloops, B.C., is seen after an interview with The Canadian Press in White
Rock, B.C., on Monday August 26, 2013. Alexander is a self-proclaimed Freeman-on-the-Land and one of a growing number of Canadian followers of the so-called “sovereign citizen” or “Natural Persons” movement. [/box]
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is watching with great interest as members such as Brian Alexander and others go on a media campaign with their cause.
Following is an edited, emailed question-and-answer session with OPP Sgt. Pierre Chamberland.
What is this group about and how many members do they have in Canada and in Ontario?
Individuals who adhere to the Freeman philosophy attempt to sever all ties with government in their daily lives using the process they call ‚Äúde-registration‚Äù from birth certificates, driver‚Äôs licenses, health cards, social insurance numbers and the like. They support unobstructed travel and property rights, including the right to grow, harvest and sell crops like marijuana, and unrestricted access to and use of firearms to sustain their respective lifestyles. There are approximately 500 known members (and many more supporters) in many areas across Ontario.
How do their beliefs run afoul of the law?
Police believe those involved with implementing Freeman or sovereign citizen beliefs and rights, especially the hard-core believers, appear to advocate activities such as trespassing or ‚Äúsquatting‚Äù on private property or crown land, unobstructed travel, and unrestricted access to and use of firearms to sustain their respective lifestyles. They further believe that police are corrupt and that they have the claim of right to their properties that they can protect at any cost.
Have you charged any members in Ontario and if so how many and what would be the range of those charges?
Police services throughout Ontario, including the OPP, have conducted investigations where individuals who follow the Freeman philosophy have been charged with offences under provincial statutes such as the Highway Traffic Act arising out of traffic stops. When grounds exist these individuals have also been charged with offences contained within the Criminal Code of Canada.
Are they loosely organized or are they getting more organized?
Historically, the Freeman movement has presented itself as loosely organized, with no real identified leader. Police have not witnessed this group organizing itself into a traditional hierarchal structure.
What are the chief safety concerns?
Obviously, public and officer safety could be compromised should a dispute arise in those circumstances where law enforcement attempt to seize or remove property or people when they believe they have claim of right to it. In the United States, at least 28 officers have been killed since 2001 during encounters with anti-government extremists or ‚Äúsovereign citizens.‚Äù Police in Ontario have had frequent interactions with so-called ‚ÄúFreemen,‚Äù including at the roadside and in court over the past several years.
Do you have any of the members or the group as a whole on a watch list?
Can‚Äôt answer operational questions, but the OPP Hate Crimes/Extremism Unit continues to monitor activities and interactions with those who claim Freeman or sovereign citizen status.
Are you aware that Dean Clifford, one of the members, is speaking in Toronto in November? What do you know about him and this event, and will you be monitoring this?
Can‚Äôt answer operational questions, but the OPP Hate Crimes/Extremism Unit continues to monitor activities and interactions with those who claim Freeman or sovereign citizen status. The OPP and other law enforcement and regulatory agencies are aware of this movement‚Äôs philosophies and their activities.
What other police units are you working with in investigating this?
The OPP continues to work closely with all law levels of enforcement agencies both in and outside of Ontario to monitor their activities including municipal and aboriginal police services and the RCMP and CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) to name a few.
Are you aware they carry guns? Do they do so legally or illegally?
We are aware that there are members in this movement who have firearms. Anyone in Canada who possesses a firearm who abides with the legislation that governs firearms can own them legally. Anyone who does not is in illegal possession of a firearm and is subject to the consequences.
What is the OPP role in this area?
We respect the rights of everyone to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The OPP has no role to play in the philosophies or ideological beliefs and will enforce the law as we are mandated to do. Our role is to keep the peace and ensure public safety.
What should the public do?
From a public safety perspective, concerned citizens should contact their local police service and describe the activities underway. The OPP Hate Crimes/Extremism Unit continues to monitor the activities of and interactions with those who claim ‚ÄúFreeman‚Äù or ‚Äúsovereign citizen‚Äù status and will advise its officers and law enforcement partners accordingly.
Source: The Star