** update – the Freeman on the Land member has been taken into custody on a 2010 arrest warrant. Officers went into the duplex around 2 am and arrested him. The ordeal appears to be over! My original blog post appears below.
I’ve been a landlord before and as much as I’d love to own a bunch of income properties, the whole landlord thing scares the rent out of me. And now, because of an Alberta woman’s experience, there’s another reason to shy away. Although it’s not likely it would ever happen to you or me it did happen to Rebekah Caverhill of Calgary.
The retired woman owns a duplex in an upscale neighbourhood in Calgary and took on a new tenant almost two years ago. He was given a referral by a friend and said he was a handyman. She gave him three months rent free in exchange for having him spruce up the place. Well he spruced it up alright. He tore out cabinets, removed all the doors and painted the floor of one room black. But that was the least of her problems.
She tried to talk to him and he refused to let her in the home. He said he’s a Freeman on the Land and that the place was now his “embassy” and that SHE was trespassing. Police won’t help her because they say it’s a civil matter. So she’s not collecting rent and has essentially lost the home to a squatter.
Experts estimate there could be as many as 30,000 Freeman on the Land members in Canada. CSIS is watching them and calls them “domestic extremists”. In the US, the FBI has declared them a domestic terror threat.
What’s a Freeman on the Land? From what I gather, members declare themselves sovereign citizens and distrust and reject any government intervention, from registering vehicles to paying taxes. They introduce themselves by surname (belonging to the family of…) and hold, in their words, “God’s laws above the laws of man.” The Anti-Defamation League describes members as “one of the most problematic domestic extremist movements in the United States.” It goes on to say that members are mostly middle-aged or older men who are financially stressed, angry at government regulation or want something for nothing. “Something” could be someone’s house and it doesn’t appear that authorities are in too big a hurry to help Ms. Caverhill get hers back.
***UPDATE: A Calgary judge has ordered the man to vacate the home by 12:01 am Saturday. It also turns out that the 48-year-old tried a similar move in Montreal, changing the locks and declaring someone else’s home as his embassy. He allegedly threw that landlady down the stairs, breaking bones. A man who tried, and failed, to represent the accused in court told the judge there have been several thousand death threats against him.
*this blog post also appears at www.blackburnnews.com