Canadian ranchers, farmers get serious about security

Following a bump in crime rates in many parts of rural Canada, some farmers and ranchers are turning to high-tech security systems to help them monitor their properties.

Surveillance cameras popping up alongside tractors on growing number of Canadian farms

Alberta farmers fight back

7 years ago
Duration 0:37
Featured VideoCrime on the rise has some seeking protection

It took a stolen truck, a police chase and a smashed gate to get Bruce Stigings to start thinking about security on his southern Alberta farm.

Last September, police stopped a stolen vehicle in the nearby town of Innisfail but the truck took off, with the police in hot pursuit.

Bruce Stigings says he installed security cameras that he can check at any time on his smart phone to help monitor his Alberta farm after noticing more crime in his area. (Colin Hall/CBC)

The chase wound down country roads and through a field next to Stigings's home before finally ending when the stolen truck smashed into his front gate

The impact left Stigings on the hook for thousands of dollars in damage and left an impression on more than just his gate and wallet. 

Stigings's rural home has been outfitted with an electric gate and 24-hour security cameras to help the retired farmer monitor his central Alberta farm. (Colin Hall/CBC )

These days, cameras are always watching Stigings' acreage, and the retired farmer can check on his property from anywhere just by swiping a few buttons on his cellphone.

He does it at least two to three times a day, he says.

"As often as I feel I need to, depending on what's going on in the area," he says.

And what's been going on, according to Stigings, is a noticeable increase in crime.

In fact, data from Statistics Canada shows crime is on the rise in many parts of rural Canada, led by a 10 per cent bump in rural Alberta in 2015.

Statistics Canada says that crime in many rural communities climbed in 2015, led by Alberta with a 10 per cent increase. (CBC)

More farmers and ranchers are now looking for ways to protect their property.

Stigings says he spent about $2,000 on a security system that includes cameras and monitors inside and outside his home.

And he says many of his neighbours are considering taking similar steps after their own brushes with criminal activity.

"We have a neighbour that we rent land to and they have been broken into twice in the last two years — had their car stolen, a gun stolen. It is serious when that is happening."

Break-ins, gunfights

Some of those residents end up calling Chris Sobchuk of Allan Leigh Security and Communications in Brandon, Man.

He says an increase in rural crime has meant a boom in his business.

"We do about 12 trade shows a year and I would say that at least 50 per cent is going towards farmyard security, where it used to be three, four, maybe five per cent.

Sobchuk says he hears many stories from customers about everything from break-ins to gunfights on rural properties in Manitoba.

People have been telling me they have been having home invasions —like, they have actually been locked into rooms in their house.- Chris Sobchuk

"They are having fuel stolen. They have ATVs and snow machines. Their shops are being broken into," he says. "People have been telling me they have been having home invasions — like, they have actually been locked into rooms in their house."

Sobchuk believes that the increase in rural crime is due in part to the downturn in the energy sector, which has left thousands of young men in Western Canada out of work.

Chris Sobchuk sells security systems to rural home owners around Brandon, Man. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

One province over, a group representing rural communities is doing more than installing cameras.

At their annual general meeting, members of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, or SARM, voted to push Ottawa to expand the right to defend property in Canada, citing fears over the growing incidence of crime in their communities.

Feeling 'threatened'

SARM president Ray Orb said that the motion passed with more than 90 per cent support. 

"Our members are feeling a little bit threatened," he said. "They are worried about their own safety and the safety of their families." 

But increasing a landowner's right to defend their property is a touchy subject in Saskatchewan, where a farmer is awaiting trial for the shooting death of a First Nations man on his land.

Gerald Stanley is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Colton Boushie after the 22-year-old drove onto Stanley's farm near Biggar, Sask., last year.

Debate over increasing the ability for property owners to defend their land was front and centre at the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipality's AGM. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

But Orb says that while his group wants landowners to have more leeway to defend their property, he doesn't want to see more gunplay.

"We are not condoning that ratepayers take action against perpetrators but instead they call the RCMP," he said. "Or if they have a rural crime watch program, that would be their first contact." 

Stigings likes the initiative from his neighbours in Saskatchewan and said he would like to have more rights when it comes to defending his rural home from criminals.

"I believe that people should be able to protect their own property," he said. "The laws shouldn't be there to protect the guilty, they should be there to protect the innocent people."

But Stigings adds that what he would really like to see are tougher sentences that keep criminals behind bars longer. 


Erin Collins

Senior reporter

Erin Collins is an award-winning senior reporter with CBC National News based in Calgary.