More than 200 people packed into the Alix hall Jan. 8 for a town-hall meeting with politicians and police officers to discuss the alarming increase in crime. The panel consists of, from the left, Inspector Peter Tewfik RCMP Central Alberta District, Bashaw RCMP S/Sgt. Bruce Holliday, Ponoka RCMP S/Sgt. Mike Numan, Alix Mayor Rob Fehr, Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr, Conservative Members of Parliament Arnold Viersen MP Peace River – Westlock and Blaine Calkins MP Red Deer-Lacombe. ECA Review/L.Joy
“Our self-defence laws in this country are a joke,” retired RCMP officer Bob Cole told a panel during a town-hall style meeting to discuss the startling increase in crime in Alberta.
More than 200 people packed into the Alix hall for one of Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins three public meetings he’s holding across his constituency to discuss the increase of rural crime and come up with solutions to take back to Ottawa.
Cole, who is also a Village of Alix councillor, said he’s heard all of the arguments for decreasing the ability of citizens to defend themselves but asked the panel if there were any plans to pressure the government to make changes to Canada’s self-defence laws.
“In rural communities, where you have a 30 to 40-minute response time, that’s a long time and when we don’t have the ability to defend ourselves properly we’re at risk.”
MP Calkins referenced an incident in Tees in March 2009 where a farmer was charged after he chased down a thief on his property, shot him with buckshot and, with the help of friends and family, held him captive until police arrived.
The farmer faced more charges than the thieves did, including criminal negligence causing bodily harm, pointing a firearm, possession of a weapon dangerous to the public, assault, discharging a firearm, dangerous driving and possessing an unregistered firearm.
MP Calkins said that in the eyes of the law, property crime is much less serious than a crime against a person.
“You point a firearm at someone in self-defence, or to scare (him) off, in the eyes of the law that is a much more serious offence.”
He said, however, he would like to see laws changed to better protect law-abiding citizens.
“If you’re defending yourself, or your own property, you should never get charged with more than the people who came to your place to take it in the first place,” said MP Calkins. “I would like to change the law to reflect that.”
Inspector Peter Tewfik, RCMP Central Alberta District, cautioned the crowd that when citizens take the law into their own hands and engage in pursuits they not only put their lives at risk but also the lives of others.
“We don’t want you to get hurt and we don’t want others to get hurt. We’re asking people to leave it to us.”
Stewart Staudinger, who lives west of Alix, disagreed.
“Advising us to sit back and not engage is part of the reason why we’re in this problem. We create a target rich environment.”
Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr said positive solutions to crime are needed.
“Criminality is the breakdown of the social fabric of the community or province. As we build that social fabric we reduce the number of people that descend into criminality. We need to build healthy communities that keep people out of desperation.”
In 2016, in a one-month span, the Alix hotel was robbed twice, a man was attacked with a machete during a home invasion and Bashaw RCMP fatally shot a suspected thief in a rural area south of Alix.
In November, Alix Mayor Rob Fehr spoke with MLA’s at the Legislature in Edmonton about his concerns with rising crime in Alix.
MP Calkins, along with his colleagues MP Earl Dreeshen and MP Jim Eglinski teamed up to create a Rural Crime Task Force to work with communities and law enforcement.
Inspector Tewfik said a minority of people commit the majority of crimes and RCMP are strategically targeting these criminals.
“By targeting these guys, revamping intelligence systems and making sure there is good coordination between detachments and taking those people off the streets it’s helping to reduce crime.”