Frustrated residents of the previously flooded town of High River, are angry at delays in being allowed back in to the town.
The 13-thousand citizens were ordered out and the town completely evacuated during the flood, but as waters have receded, residents are eager to return home to assess the damage.
The RCMP has been refusing to let people back in as the evacuation stretched into its eighth day, causing a loud confrontation between about 30 officers and 50 residents at one of the roadblocks
When police laid a spike belt across the road, the crowd became even angrier.
“What’s next? Tear gas?” one resident shouted.
“It’s just like Nazi Germany, just taking orders,” shouted another.
Then they were further angered when they learned that members of Canada’s national police force, the RCMP, had been entering locked homes and confiscating firearms.
Sgt Brian Topham of the RCMP confirmed police had relied on forced entry to get into houses because of “urgent need”
On Thursday he told reporters that police had confiscated a “substantial “ number of firearms from residents homes.
“I find that absolutely incredible that they have the right to go into a person’s belongings out of their home,” said resident Brenda Lackey, after learning Mounties have been taking residents’ guns from their homes.
Sgt Topham added, ““We just want to make sure that all of those things are in a spot that we control, simply because of what they are,”
He said the guns will be returned to owners after residents are allowed back in town and they provide proof of ownership,
Civil liberties and firearms experts say that flood or no flood, emergency or not, police do not have the right to break into homes and confiscate property.
“This is without precedent, this is unreasonable search and seizure,” said Ed Burlew, lawyer and firearms specialist in Ontario. “The entry was illegal, it’s against the charter, it was unreasonable search and seizure. There’s no judge that would uphold the evidence obtained through an illegal entry into a person’s home.”
Commenting on the police actions, Alberta Premier Allison Redford said on Thursday, “These are exceptional circumstances, in an emergency situation we have to have our police ensuring that there is law and order,”
Andres McGrath, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Safety in the province said, “We have been advised that during the course of searching for individuals unable to make their way to safety, the RCMP discovered firearms that were insecurely stored. Those firearms will be held safely by the RCMP and will be returned to their owners as soon as possible.
There is no special provision in the Criminal Code that allows the police to enter the homes of gun owners during a time of an emergency,” said Solomon Friedman, lawyer and firearms specialist in Ottawa. “The firearms act is often used by police as a pretext to gain access to private residences that they would not be able to gain access to, the ironic thing here is that if these people were convicted paedophiles the police would not be allowed to enter their homes without warrant, it’s kind of sad that gun owners have to fight for the same rights as any convicted criminals.”
Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office waded into the controversy. PMO spokesman “ Carl Vallée said, “We expect that any firearms taken will be returned to their owners as soon as possible. We believe the RCMP should focus on more important tasks such as protecting lives and private property.”