Police charges

Calgary police say they are consulting the Crown over whether criminal charges are possible in the case of a Freeman claiming rented property as a sovereign "embassy." (CBC)

Calgary police say they will be consulting with Crown lawyers on whether they can get involved in a dispute between an Alberta pensioner and the man she says is claiming her property as a sovereign "embassy."

Rebekah Caverhill says she has been billed for renovations the man did inside the home and that he had a lien placed on the property. Caverhill says the man called himself a "Freemen-on-the-Land" and is only paying about half the rent. She says he has also ignored one eviction notice.

"I can say that we are speaking with the complainant on the matter," said Julien Gagne, acting inspector with the Calgary Police Service. "We're trying to guide her through the civil legal process and we're trying to determine if there are potential criminal charges that could come out of this."

Police had initially told Caverhill the matter should be dealt with in civil courts because it is a dispute between a landlord and a tenant. 

While police are now working with the Crown, Gagne says it's not likely any criminal charges will be laid.

If law enforcement officials find the tenant illegally swore a lien on the property, as Caverhill alleges, there could be a potential for criminal charges. 

This is the first case police say they are aware of involving a Freeman claiming property as a sovereign nation, however they would not give specific numbers on their interactions with Freemen in Calgary. 

While they say the movement is not as big as in the U.S., Calgary police officers do undergo mandatory training to learn how to deal with the so-called sovereign citizens.

"It's basically a training module on identifying who they are and what ideologies they follow. It's basically about officer safety based on what's happened in the past south of the border," said Gagne, adding police are keeping a close eye on the movement.

Incident stresses importance of background checks

One of the lessons police are urging to public to take from this incident is the important of full background checks on potential tenants.

"It's really important to contact prior landlords and check all references for people who are potentially going to be renting your property," says Gagne. 

Part of the difficulty for law enforcement officials and landlords lies in the process governing landlord and tenant relations.

In order to evict someone from a property, landlords must follow a strict process — and sometimes that means the tenant gets what they want in the meantime.

"It can be very frustrating," Gagne admits. "Unfortunately, there is a process to remedy [the situation] and it has to be followed."

Overall, police say the case will be resolved in the end — despite lengthy processes.

"As frustrating as it might be and as time-consuming as it might be, at the end of the day justice will be sought out and the complainant will get what she deserves," Gagne says.

The tenant did not respond to a CBC request for an interview.