Calgary police consult Crown over possible charges in sovereign citizen dispute

CALGARY – Calgary police say they will consult with the Crown on whether they can get involved in a two-year dispute between an Alberta pensioner and the man she says has claimed her rental property as a sovereign “embassy.”

Rebekah Caverhill says she has been billed for renovations the man did inside the home and that he had a lien placed on the property.

Caverhill says the man, Andreas Pirelli, called himself a “Freemen-on-the-Land,” is only paying about half the rent, and has already ignored one eviction notice.

Police initially referred Caverhill to the civil courts, but Acting Insp. Julien Gagne now says officers are consulting with Crown prosecutors to see if there are any criminal charges that can be laid.

“We’ve been providing her guidance as to what actions to take regarding the civil portion of her matter,” said Gagne. “We’re also consulting with the Crown prosecutors office to determine if there’s anything criminal stemming from the overarching interactions and involvement with our alleged offender.”

Gagne said it is unlikely charges will be laid, but investigators want to make sure.

Gagne said so-called sovereign citizens haven’t been as serious a problem in Canada as they have been in the United States, but he does note there is a mandatory training course about the movement that all Calgary police officers are required to take.

“It’s basically a training module on identifying who they are and what ideologies they follow. It’s basically about officer safety based on what’s happened in the past south of the border,” said Gagne, adding police are keeping a close eye on the movement.

“We’re monitoring to make sure it doesn’t become as big a problem as it has been in the United States and obviously we work with our partner agencies south of the border as well to help us gauge the trends,” he said.

“We’re not seeing that really being a huge issue for us right now.”

The Canadian Press sought comment from Pirelli on the possibility of charges, but he didn’t immediately respond to an email.

He responded to Caverhill’s initial allegations with a warning that he has trademark claims on the name “Andreas Pirelli” and “The First Nations Sovran Embassy of Earth.”

The Law Society of British Columbia and B.C. Notaries have both issued warnings about Freemen. In a bulletin last year, the society said the group may number as many as 30,000 in Canada.

RCMP and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police are developing awareness materials for frontline officers and the movement is the subject of upcoming policing seminars in Vancouver and Toronto.

The FBI considers the movement a domestic terror threat in the U.S. but a Freemen-on-the-Land spokesman told The Canadian Press earlier this month that violence is not advocated and has no place in the movement.

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