After a number of inquiries by the Western Standard to Alberta RCMP on details of firearms seized at the Coutts border protests, it has now been disclosed there were prohibited weapons involved.
The first inquiry on the status of the weapons seized was sent to RCMP on February 18. The inquiry asked whether any of the firearms were considered illegal, or unregistered where the handguns were concerned.
With no reply, another request was sent on February 19. The first reply from RCMP came on February 24 when Media Relations Officer Cpl. Gina Slaney inquired if someone had responded to our questions.
Slaney said she was “out of the loop” due to having taken a few days off and indicated she would forward the e-mail to “someone who may know.”
On February 25, Cpl. Deanna Fontaine replied stating RCMP was “still in the process of examining the firearms that were seized with our experts.”
After a lengthy analysis of the photo of seized weapons with firearm expert and Canadian Shooting Sports Association Director Tony Bernardo, it was determined that assessing the status of these weapons should have been easily established within a short time in the hands of RCMP forensics.
Bernardo said based on what he could see, all the long guns looked to be legal and are common hunting rifles and firearms used in sports shooting or competitions. He was unable to determine whether the handguns would have been considered legal in Canada, however, all handguns are considered restricted.
Speaking to the multiple magazines in the photo, Bernardo said depending on whether they had been altered to allow for more than five rounds of ammunition would determine if they were prohibited or not and he would not be able to determine that from the picture.
“The standard magazine holds 30 rounds, but in Canada, you can only buy them legally with a capacity limit of five rounds.”
As for the ammunition, Bernardo said, “there is nothing illegal about that quantity of ammunition.”
“Although it looks like a lot, that isn’t very much for someone who attends shooting competitions.”
He also pointed out what RCMP referred to as “body armour” in the photo looked like “protective vests worn by competition shooters” or hunters and said they are not prohibited in Alberta.
With this information, the Western Standard replied to Fontaine the same day to inquire why, after the cache of weapons had been with RCMP for more than 10 days, it was taking an extended amount of time to determine their status.
It wasn’t until Tuesday in a phone conversation with Cpl. Fontaine that details on the seized weapons were provided.
According to Fontaine, all the weapons included in the photograph from the seizure were found in the three trailers in Coutts. One of the firearms was considered prohibited, 12 firearms were non-restricted, and 21 magazines were found to be over-capacity and thus prohibited. It was not disclosed whether the restricted handguns were registered or not.
Fontaine also said Jerry Morin, one of the men charged with conspiracy to commit murder, was apprehended separately at a different location from the group in Coutts and was found with two firearms in his possession, neither of which are included in the photo.
“I don’t like how they did business on this one,” Fontaine told the Western Standard referring to the delay in getting the status of the seized weapons and the confusion around the arrests of those involved.
“The news release is confusing to me, so if that’s the case for me, I’m sure it is confusing to you in the media.”
Due to the main investigator being away and the RCMP “managing other cases at the same time,” information “didn’t get conveyed to our media spokespeople,” said Fontaine.
“We owed it to the public to follow up on this,” she said and apologized on behalf of the RCMP.
The Coutts protest wrapped up quickly following the execution of a search warrant during the early morning hours of February 14 where RCMP searched three trailers and seized 13 long guns, two handguns, multiple sets of body armour, a machete and a large quantity of ammunition and high-capacity magazines.
The RCMP said they were tipped off to the small organized group within the larger Coutts protest.
“Information was received that this group had access to a cache of firearms with a large quantity of ammunition,” said RCMP in a release.
“The group was said to have a willingness to use force against the police if any attempts were made to disrupt the blockade.”
Original Coutts blockade organizers denied any association with those arrested and decided to bring the blockade to an end and began rolling out of the Coutts and Milk River area the next day.
Eleven individuals were arrested at the time, while two other individuals were taken into custody later that afternoon.
Chris Carbert, 44, Christopher Lysak, 48, both of Lethbridge, Anthony Olienick, 39, of Claresholm and Jerry Morin, 40 are facing conspiracy to commit murder charges, along with possession of a weapon for dangerous purposes and mischief over $5,000. Chris Lysak was also charged with uttering threats.
Ursula Allred, 22, of Magrath, Luke Berk, 62, of Red Deer, Evan Colenutt, 23, Justin Martin, 22, Stewart Eastin Oler, 22, and Janx Zaremba, 18, all from of Raymond, Johnson Chickow Law, 39, of Calgary, and Joanne Person, 62, of Coutts, have all been charged with possession of a weapon and mischief to property over $5,000. Jaclyne Martin, 39, of an undisclosed Alberta location, was taken into custody with Jerry Morin then released and only faces a charge of mischief to property over $5000.
Lysak was denied bail by Justice Vaughan Hartigan on Wednesday morning after attending a bail hearing in Lethbridge on Tuesday. Morin is before the court for his bail hearing Wednesday afternoon, while Carbert will appear on Thursday and Olienick is scheduled for Friday.
Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
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