'Freemen' take over Grande Prairie cabin, trappers say
Alberta RCMP are investigating reports that armed squatters - claiming to be Freemen-on-the-Land - have taken over at least one cabin near Grande Prairie and have threatened the owner with violence.
The province has been trying to evict the same group from Crown lands in the area since June.
“We're used to protecting ourselves against predators and nature and the environment. We sign on for that,” said Brian Bildson, of the Grande Prairie Trappers' Association.
“We don't sign on for a bunch of crazy guys running through the bush, thinking they can declare a nation out there.”
Bildson says a friend and fellow trapper hasn’t been able to use his cabin, east of Grande Prairie, since Tuesday.
Earlier this week, the trapper confronted three men who he said were squatting in his cabin and told them to leave the property.
The squatters threatened to return to the cabin with guns. Bildson says they have also taken over a trap-line.
“He has to be concerned about his personal safety when he's confronted by more than one individual, back in the bush, taking a pretty assertive stance and telling him that they own that property.”
Hunters in the area later spotted the squatters carrying guns.
Grande Cache trapper Albert Steinwand, says the cabin owner told him he hasn’t been able to return to the cabin since.
“It's getting scary,” said Steinwand.
“About one o’clock in the morning, there was some shots right close to his cabin. They're definitely trying to scare him, you know.”
Calls to the trapper who owns the cabin have not been returned.
"It's getting scary"
Trappers say the men claimed to be Freemen-on-the-Land -- a group who consider themselves sovereign citizens, not bound by government laws.
The same group of squatters has been occupying Crown land near Grande Prairie since May, according to Wayne Wood, spokesman for the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
In an email to CBC News, Wood says the province got a court order to evict the Freemen in June, but it has so far been ignored. He says there have been reports of other conflicts with the group in the area, including cabins being taken over, and that the province is working with the RCMP.
Grande Prairie RCMP helped serve the eviction notice, but have now expanded their investigation after reports of armed men taking over property.
"We're working to look at how large of an area and how many properties or structures have been affected by this group," said Corp. Roy Kennedy.
"That's the highest threat we can face when firearms are involved."
Kennedy says there are now about 20 officers working on the investigation.