Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Legal, law officials warn of growing popularity of sovereign citizen movement

Dene Moore INFO-TEL Multimedia

VANCOUVER - He introduces himself as "Brian Arthur of the Alexander family," and before he'll answer any questions, he asks a reporter to declare that she is not a government employee. He drives without a license and does not pay income tax. Brian Alexander is a self-proclaimed Freeman-on-the-Land and one of a growing number of Canadian followers of the so-called "sovereign citizen" or "Natural Persons" movement. Adherents have "freed" themselves from what they see as an overbearing government that has overstepped its bounds. "People can't afford to live and they're basically destroying society, in our view," Alexander says during a lengthy interview at his home in Kamloops. "They've created it themselves. Most of us are peaceful. We paid our taxes, we love our country and all that but when they start pushing at you, you tend to start asking questions and that's where this whole movement comes from." Alexander says violence is not advocated and has no place in the movement, but one official who has followed the rise of the sovereign citizen movement in Canada says there have been a number of confrontations in B.C. and elsewhere during routine traffic stops or legal proceedings. "We've seen that escalation already," says Ron Usher, of the Society of B.C. Notaries. Notaries have found themselves embroiled as many Freeman attach inexplicable importance to having notaries authorize documents the Freeman have invented to declare their status.
"What we've seen over the last year is an increasing level of frustration, an increasing level of desperation. People just don't like the idea that someone isn't going to help them with their fantasy," Usher says, noting the society discourages its members from signing the "nonsensical" legal documents. "They're very confrontational. We've had a number of instances now where they've needed to call police or security," Usher says. There have been a number of "hard take-downs" by police in B.C. involving Freemen who refuse to have a driver's licence and, sometimes, automobile insurance. The Law Society of B.C. and B.C. Notaries have both issued warnings about Freemen, which the law society said in a bulletin last year may number as many as 30,000 in Canada. "Since one of the tenets of the Freeman-on-the-Land movement is an unrestricted right to possess and use firearms, they raise significant safety and security concerns," says the bulletin, which advises lawyers who come across Freemen to take appropriate security measures. RCMP and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police officers are currently developing awareness materials for frontline officers, and the movement is the subject of upcoming policing seminars in Vancouver and Toronto. "The RCMP is aware of the Freeman-on-the-Land ideology and the interaction that some police jurisdictions have had with individuals who follow this movement. Additionally, in the recent years, the RCMP has received correspondence directly from followers of this movement," RCMP spokeswoman Julie Gagnon says in an email. "Individuals associated to this movement are a concern because some followers advocate violence to promote their views and this may involve violence toward police officers. There are officer safety concerns when dealing with followers of this movement during routine police interaction." There's no indication that they pose a threat to the general public, Gagnon says. (more)


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