What was meant to be a simple walk in the country with her grandchildren turned into a frightening experience for a Saskatchewan woman who had a threatening encounter with a rural landowner in Alberta.
Angela Bishop says she takes a five-kilometre walk or run every single day to keep active.
“I choose to walk on public roads in the country. In most instances, I walk alone and generally I feel safe. I was raised on a farm in northern Saskatchewan and my spouse and I own property that is smack dab in the middle of the country,” Bishop said.
She was driving with her grandchildren on a visit to Edmonton, Alta., this week when she decided they could all use some fresh air so she pulled onto a country road off the Yellowhead Highway to find a place to walk. She said the road was not marked private and appeared to be a public road. It was around 3 p.m. when she noticed a vehicle following closely behind her so she pulled over because she thought it was going to hit them.
“A middle-aged man pulled up right beside my vehicle so I was able to observe that he had a rifle,” Bishop recalled.
He came within inches of her vehicle and started yelling that she was tearing up his road and proceeded to act in a way she felt was very threatening.
She said she tried to diffuse the situation by calmly pointing out that she believed the road was public and by trying to explain who she was and what they were doing and that she actually wanted to get off the road.
“I thought that would kind of calm him down, trying to make these points through some of his – what I consider to be threatening behaviour – and he yelled back ‘I don’t give a f*** who you are, get off my road, I own all of the property around here,” Bishop recalled.
The man then drove in the same direction she was going and parked at the bottom of a hill to watch them. She tried going up the hill but almost got stuck and had to turn around. Fearing for her safety and her grandchildren, she decided to call RCMP for help.
“That was my fear and I’m the adult but I also wanted to say that my grandkids were terrified, it was a horrible experience for them,” Bishop commented.
When RCMP officers arrived, one spoke to the landowner who was still watching. Then the officers told her that he was scared because he had been the victim of property crime in the past.
“He didn’t seem scared when he walked up to my vehicle and started yelling and screaming at me,” Bishop commented, noting that his actions were not the actions of someone who was scared. If someone is scared she argues they should do what she did, try to drive away or call the police.
“Unless you’re actually really threatened it doesn’t give you a right to come chase people down roads with guns.”
Bishop is Metis and explains her grandchildren are visibly First Nations.
“I’d like to think that the colour of their skin had no impact or bearing on how this individual treated us and how we were treated by law enforcement. I’d like to think that, not just for my grandkids but for all of our grandkids whether we’re red, yellow, black or white,” Bishop said.
She also happens to be a lawyer who practices Aboriginal law – a fact she explained to police when they asked what kind of law she practised.
“I never said I’m not making this a race issue – the police officer said ‘I’m glad you’re not making this a race issue,’” Bishop explained.
Since posting her story publicly on Facebook, Bishop has had friends comment that if police won’t take her concerns about threats seriously then other Indigenous people “don’t have a chance.”
While she feels particularly concerned about the safety of Indigenous people who do deal with a racism across the prairies, she said this issue goes beyond race, it’s about safety for everyone.
In response to a backlash from people telling her she shouldn’t be walking in the country, she argues everyone has a right to be on a public road.
“No one should be scared to walk down a country road, nobody should be scared to walk down a public road anywhere.”
When asked if she has concerns about the impact of a Saskatchewan Government review of rural property rights and trespassing laws, she said she would have to research it further. But raised the question of why rural property owners should be treated differently than people who are the victims of property crimes in cities.
Bishop is meeting with RCMP to voice her concerns with the way police handled her situation and plans to pursue charges against the individual who threatened her.