Revelstoke resident Anna Minten says she is speaking out so nobody else has to go through what she experienced.
Friday night of the August long weekend was date night for Anna and her husband Emmanuel Levesque Dupere. Together they walked from her home at 903 Farrell Road to Woolsey Creek Bistro where they had a 7:45 p.m reservation.
On their way home after 9 p.m., they noticed a police car leaving their small neighbourhood, which is tucked away across the railway tracks near the Revelstoke Railway Museum.
As they approached their home, there were signs something was up. The lights were on and their dog Metta was tied up outside their home — something they wouldn’t do because there have been sightings of a cougar in the neighbourhood recently.
When they went inside, they found many doors had been opened and some things were out of place. On a stool near the door, there was a piece of paper.
It was a copy of a search warrant, which had been left behind by the Revelstoke RCMP; their house had been searched, including the space occupied by their tenants.
One of the tenants at the house, whose first name is Elyse, was home for part of the search. She said that about five police officers in three different patrol cars were there, at least one of the cars with lights on.
She was also confused about the situation. “Oh, you guys here for the cougar?” she asked.
The officers informed her they had a search warrant and continued to search through the home.
The police also broke the lock off of a small storage shed on the property, which was full of mountain bikes, old skis and lumber off-cuts when I took a look.
The search continued until sometime around 9 p.m., concluding just before Anna and Emmanuel got home after 9.
For Anna, it was a lot to process. Why had the Revelstoke RCMP rummaged through her home while she was away?
“I feel like I am a good person and this is pretty ridiculous,” she said.
The copy of the search warrant left behind shines some light on what was happening.
The alleged offence
The warrant provides just enough detail to piece together why the RCMP decided they needed to raid the home.
A search warrant application was filed by Revelstoke RCMP Cst. Faron Ling in a Burnaby, B.C. court. The warrant was authorized by Judicial Justice F.D. Hodge. It authorized the local RCMP to search the home on Friday, August 2 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Minten, who operates a wellness and healing-focused collective in Revelstoke, is a gardener in her spare time. Her husband Emmanuel, a carpenter, has even built a funky geodesic greenhouse on their large parcel on Farrell Road. They’ve got all kinds of food and medicinal plants growing on the property, part of their wellness-focused lifestyle.
Sunday, July 28 was the date of Revelstoke’s annual Garden and Art Tour, hosted by the Revelstoke Local Food Initiative. Local gardeners pair up with artists to display both the garden and the art works to the public for the popular Sunday afternoon event. Minten participated this year and said about 70 people came to tour through her garden.
Among the raspberries, tomatoes and flowers in Minten’s property were three cannabis plants. The police seized them during the search. Minten showed me where they had been, on a spot at the side of the property, away from the main tour area.
The warrant states that on July 28, the day of the garden and art tour, that the police had “reasonable grounds for believing that the following offences have been committed: Grown non-medical cannabis that is visible from public place, contrary to Section 56(g) of the Cannabis Control and Licencing Act.”
The warrant also said the officer had “reasonable grounds” to believe cannabis plants, other cannabis-related items, or documentation that will prove residence was on the property or in the house.
Justice Hodge gave Revelstoke RCMP a one-day window to search the property.
Visible from a ‘public place’
Cannabis laws vary from province to province. In B.C., you’re allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants on a property per residential dwelling, but they can’t be visible from a “public place.” There are many other rules and regulations, but that’s the basics.
The law in the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act defines public place as “any place to which the public has access as of right or by invitation, express or implied, whether or not a fee is charged for entry.”
It means roads, sidewalks and places you can legally access without permission, such as a public park or a restaurant.
The police left before Minten and Dupere came home and the couple hadn’t been able to contact police by Sunday afternoon, so they aren’t yet sure what the significance of the dates mentioned. They are not sure if they are facing criminal charges and were trying to find a lawyer over the August long weekend.
Are the police saying their plants are visible from a public place — Farrell Road — or are they saying that by inviting the public on her property for the garden tour that it was a public place that day, and therefore in violation of the “public place” definition?
The spot where the plants were located is roughly 50 metres from the roadway. The plants are mostly surrounded by high bushes, trees, a fence and two houses. About a 50-degree portion is open, facing the roadway. I walked to the road and looked back, and took the picture above, with Minten and Dupere standing where the cannabis plants were located. What constitutes “visible” from a public space seems likely to be something that gets hashed out in the courts.
In the meantime, can Revelstoke residents with four or fewer cannabis plants in their backyard, hidden behind a tall fence with gaps between the boards, expect police to come through the front door unannounced to search through their homes?
Minten said she’d been in touch with another gardener who took part in the garden tour and also had the legally allowed number of plants on their property. She said that gardener is now concerned their home will be the next to be raided by police.
Minten said that if her plants were in violation of the law, the police could have handled it differently, perhaps displaying some small-town touch by coming by when she was home to have a chat about the situation. She feels she’s well-enough known in the community and describes herself as an “open book,” and wondered why the search warrant needed to establish residency at her home.
“I was under the impression I was OK,” she said.
Minten said that she believes the officer who filed the search warrant application was among the visitors to her property on the garden tour.
She’s hoping to get some answers this week after the Revelstoke RCMP detachment opens up on Tuesday.
In the meantime, she intends to be vocal about the incident. “My heart hurts. My home has been invaded. I feel gross,” she said. “I hope nobody has to experience what I did and [I want] to restore the faith that [the police are here to] actually serve and protect.”
Update: August 6
The Mountaineer contacted B.C. courts to find the original search warrant and any associated documents, such as the search warrant application. A court worker at the Salmon Arm Law Courts said that the search warrant was issued through the Justice Centre, a Burnaby, B.C.-based court that provides 24-hour court services, allowing police to file for search warrants when a local judge is not available, among other services. She said that search warrants issued by the Justice Centre are physically mailed to the regional courts and are not available until they are received via the mail. She said the search warrant in question had not yet arrived and advised to check back later in the week.
Update Aug. 6: RCMP comment
The Revelstoke RCMP was not available for comment since the Mountaineer first called them on Monday afternoon and then left email messages on Tuesday morning.
However, the RCMP did issue a media statement by email at around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The RCMP confirmed that an off-duty RCMP officer bought tickets for and attended the Garden & Art Tour with “a family member” on July 28 and observed cannabis plants while on the tour.
“As the tour progressed participants were exposed to blatant violations of Section 56 (g) Cannabis Control and Licensing Act; non-medical Cannabis Plants growing in full view of the public,” the police stated in a media release. RCMP Corporal Mike Esson is the only officer quoted in the statement.
“As a result of observations made during the public tour, a search warrant was executed on a residence on August 2, 2019,” the statement continues. “Police seized marihuana [sic] plants and other items to support charges. The file remains under investigation.”
“The Cannabis Control and Licensing Act was created to ensure the production, possession and distribution of cannabis would be done in a safe and controlled manner,” Esson said in a passage of the statement directly attributed to him. “Unfortunately, the violations of CCLA by some of our residents has brought some negative light to Revelstoke and the Garden and Art tour. By not properly growing cannabis plants, the residents have opened themselves up to the possibility of theft of the cannabis and drugs falling into the hands of youth in our community.”
The statement encouraged residents to follow the laws when growing cannabis.
The Mountaineer spoke with a Revelstoke RCMP spokesperson, who responded about 48 hours after our original request. For more RCMP comment, see this Aug. 7 story.