EDMONTON - A 40-year-old Manitoba man with a history of firearm and drug charges has been arrested by Mounties probing claims that Freemen-on-the-Land took over trappers’ cabins south of Grande Prairie.
Mounties made the arrest Tuesday before conducting a search in the rural area southeast of Grande Prairie.
Fish and wildlife officers cleaned up the area and removed several “unapproved structures” on the Crown land.
As a result of the search of the area, police recovered two firearms along with ammunition.
“Once the arrest and judicially authorized search warrant was completed, the RCMP remained in the area to keep the peace to allow Fish and Wildlife Officers from Alberta Justice and Solicitor General to complete the eviction of (the accused) along with removing all structures and improvements from the land,” RCMP Cpl. Roy Kennedy said.
Forestry workers in the area were recently alerted that a group claiming to be freemen was threatening trappers in the vicinity of Misery Mountain and Karr Creek, roughly 80 km south of Grande Prairie, in an oil-and-logging area. The warning e-mail was distributed to Alberta’s forestry community, asking people to avoid the area as men have occupied a cabin and “will defend it with all necessary force.”
Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) last week confirmed it’s been dealing with freemen in the area since late May. Several people camped out in contravention of the Public Lands Act were sent an eviction notice in June which was not complied with. ESRD said last week it is aware that the group was attempting to claim the land as their own but were not aware of any threats of violence until recent “escalation,” including the taking of privately-owned trapper cabins.
Freemen are known to claim that all statute law is contractual and believe that they can declare themselves independent of government jurisdiction.
Gordy Klassen, owner of Trapper Gord’s supply store in Debolt and president of the Alberta Trappers’ Association, said he’s spoken with two trappers who’ve had run-ins with freemen in the area. He said the freemen have even set up a makeshift sawmill inside Canfor’s forest management area and are illegally chopping down trees.
Paul Fiola is charged with uttering threats, using a firearm in the commission of an offence and possession of a firearm while prohibited.