Rural crime concerns get the attention of MPs

Rural crime.

It’s a term that some call nothing more than racist code, but for Nick Cornea, it is a reality that people in Canada’s cities and towns simply don’t understand.

Cornea, a 28 year-old husband and father of three, farms near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and is now at the forefront of a debate that has moved from the farm field to Parliament Hill. This week the Conservatives announced that they want the House of Commons Public Safety Committee to study trends in rural crime.

“I don’t know anyone that farms around here that hasn’t had to deal with this,” Cornea said during a telephone interview from his farm.

After growing frustrated with a lack of understanding about an issue he says is real and growing, Cornea started the Facebook Group, Farmers Against Rural Crime. It has grown from a few people he knew to more than 15,000 members in a matter of weeks.

“I’m absolutely shocked on how fast the support has grown for this page. People from coast to coast joining and showing their support,” Cornea said.

He’s had people join not just from Saskatchewan and neighbouring Alberta but from across the country. One farmer from the Annapolis Valley wrote to tell him they deal with similar problems in Nova Scotia.

So what are the problems?

Mostly theft but also vandalism and when you are in an isolated area, the threat of crime is never too far.

“Anywhere from 45 min to 3 hours depending on the severity of what that person is doing,” Cornea says when asked how long it would take for police to arrive at his farm if he called in with an active complaint.

RCMP under staffing is a known problem in rural Saskatchewan and that leads to long waits for police to arrive. In a city you can expect police within 15 minutes, that isn’t realistic for Cornea or most other farmers that have joined his group.

He hopes the group, which is showing strength in numbers, can convince politicians that something needs to be done. But as Cornea tries to do that, he must also battle against those trying to paint him and his group as a bunch of racists.

“In Saskatchewan ‘rural crime’ is a dog whistle term that means aboriginal people,” wrote Postmedia columnist Doug Cuthand last summer.

It’s a theme that has been expanded upon time and again by people that Cornea says don’t understand the problem. While he admits that in some areas, farmers do complain about problems with crime and nearby reserves, he says in his area it’s often committed as part of an initiation for street gangs from Regina.

“They get dropped off out here and have to steal so much or commit crime to get in,” Cornea said.

In Alberta he says he is mostly getting reports of crime on farms as a result of the economic downturn. Cornea says the reasons behind rural crime vary from place to place and are complex and he denies that the concern with rural crime has anything to do with racism.

“It hurts me that people banding together for change would be called racist,” Cornea said. “I have made many posts about how we do not put up with any racial terms or statements. I have a group of people that spend their spare time reading through memberships, posts and comments making sure people stay professional and things do not go across the line and become racial.”

Yet in the wake of the Gerald Stanley trial and his acquittal on second degree murder in the death of Coulten Bousie, race is everywhere.

The latest cover story for Macleans documents the sense of fear and betrayal that Indigenous people and white, rural residents both feel. Writer Kyle Edwards, himself an Anishinaabe from Manitoba, writes of the tension between both sides in much of the province.

And yet perhaps to illustrate Cornea’s point, some 700 kilometres away from Moose Jaw, Okotoks farmer Edouard Maurice is facing charges for shooting and injuring a man that was trying to steal from his farm in the early morning hours on February 25.

The shooting, coming just two weeks after the Stanley verdict, hasn’t received nation-wide attention because both the man doing the shooting and the man that was shot are white.

But for rural residents, the Maurice case is another example of the frustration they feel as crime increases and they are left to fend for themselves.

“This is not a problem, but a full blown epidemic,” Cornea said.

Now that politicians are noticing his group, he’s hoping that might change.

5 Comments

  1. We need more reasonable gun laws here in Canada. Things are not safe anymore. And using the dog whistle “racist’ has been over played! Knock it off. Crime is crime. And dangerous crimes leads to violence against the unprotected. These Farmers Need to be able to arm and protect themselves and their families so far from help. Conceal/Carry; Castle Laws; Stand your ground laws.

    • Very well said William. What we look at is the crimes being committed and our lives affected. So who is committing the crimes is of what is important here, and this results in the question of what can we do to protect ourselves when these terrorists invade our property and endanger lives and property. No one is mentioning any race, but if the shoe fits, wear it. The stats are not hard to get, and I would think if you are represented, or feel over represented, it may be a good time to have a look and see if there is any merit to this rather than continually shout racism. Our leadership in government , both on and off reserve, holds responsibility to uphold laws and dole out punishments for the thugs creating this environment. When they don’t, people will get tired of it and begin to look at ways to take this role into their own hands simply as a way to protect themselves without continual worry of terrorist attacks, invasions, thefts, etc. If you are a whiner that cannot see this, get over it and begin to be part of the solution instead of the problem.

  2. When you live in the country you well and truly are on your own. The average city dweller has no idea what it is like to live outside the “less than 3-5 minutes” from first responder help.

    Try an hour plus for my family.

    When a few bad guys decide to kick your door in, you are in trouble. Most country places do not have cellular service and if you are lucky you might get to a telephone – otherwise you get to “sit and watch” your wife and kids get raped.

    It has happened.

    Defend yourself and you go to jail.

    Politicians do not give a damn about the safety of those in the country. Not enough votes to matter – and in the end they only care about the votes.

    Sound sarcastic? It is not – it is the plain and simple truth.

    The police and the courts do not give a damn about the safety of those in the country.

    They talk a lot but talk is cheap and actions count – there is not action – only talk and it has only been talk for many years.

    You are on your won – if you never forget that, have at least one firearm and at least one big dog – you might get out of it alive when and if the bad guys come calling.

    But………

    You will go to jail when it is over.

    Self defense is “legal” in Canada – but you will go broke defending yourself as the government, the police, the courts and the media go all out to hang you for defending yourself and your family.

  3. Doug Cuthand is more RACIST than any white folk I know!

    I live in Sask, and hear him regularly in the media, and his racist rants and bias have tainted him to the point he has NO CREDIBILITY!

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