On Saturday, October 25th, I arrived at my riding office for a meeting with two local farmers to discuss repeated break-ins to their barns, garages and other places with much of their valuable private property being stolen. Clearly this is a widespread problem across our riding, as my meeting with two farmers ended up being a meeting with over thirty people facing the exact same problem.
What I heard from these constituents was truly alarming. They have had quads and skidoos stolen, in addition to gasoline, trailers and even copper wire. Some have even performed citizens’ arrests, only to wait over forty minutes for law enforcement to arrive. Clearly the perpetrators of these crimes have no fear of legal repercussions , as the offenders have returned to their crime scenes to continue their unlawful activities.
It is incredibly frustrating to see law-abiding citizens as victims of repeat offenders who seem to have no fear of our police or court systems. Indeed, policing in rural Saskatchewan is a challenging issue due to available resources and our geographic realities. When our citizens cannot rely on a timely response to their 911 call, or even an assurance that a perpetrator who has been caught will face consequences, it is a real concern that some may take justice into their own hands. This would be a completely unacceptable result and it would be truly tragic for a neighbour's kid to end up getting shot because of these circumstances.
That is why I am hosting a town hall meeting for the community today. We must address this issue head-on as a community. There will be time for constituents to express their concerns, and we will hear from Provincial MLAs on the taskforce that they have created to address the issue of rural crime in Saskatchewan. We will also hear from our local RCMP on what your rights are as property owners to protect your private property so that you can have confidence in what action you can take should you find yourself in the middle of a break-and-enter situation.
Our previous government updated the Citizen’s Arrest and Self-Defence Act in 2013 in recognition of the unique difficulties facing rural property owners and those who police rural areas. There are clear laws governing what you can and cannot do to protect your property and it is my hope that we will all come away from Saturday’s meeting with a clear understanding of what these are.
Further, as a community we must work harder to understand the underlying causes of these repeat offenders and their crimes. While I cannot speak for the entire province, I can speak for my own riding and we know that these are specifically drug-related crimes.
Everyone that I spoke to last weekend was quick to acknowledge that this is not an issue rooted in our First Nations community and I want to clearly put that possible assumption to rest. Our community leaders, myself included, our law enforcement and other community agencies must take more responsibility for seriously confronting the causes and effects of drug-related crime in the Prince Albert area. It is my sincere hope that Saturday morning’s meeting was the start of just that.