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The Fight for Self-Ownership in Canada

By: Ryan Hildebrand - Sep 13, 2013, 1:09 pm

Can individuals live outside the bounds of a state and the statutes it proclaims? This is an interesting question and one of growing importance, given the rise in Canada of the “Freemen on the land,” or simply the “Freemen.”

Some argue that there is a social contract one consents to upon birth in a particular area, thus binding individuals to a state — and they don’t hesitate to impose their interpretation on those who disagree. This “contract,” however, implies two fallacies: that (1) such a contract is necessary for civilized living in a community, and (2) the individual has a choice in signing or accepting such a contract.

So, what do these “Freemen” believe, and how do they respond in the face of an all-encompassing state?

According to a leading Freemen website, “This society will guide people to becoming free human beings on the land and provide a system of Common Law remedy, communication and networking support so you can live life with peace and abundance. These systems are not Legal in nature, but Lawful to allow human beings to live under lawful definitions instead of Legal definitions, which separates a PERSON from a Freeman and a Human Being. A Freeman is a human being living in a Common law jurisdiction under God, who has revoked consent to be governed by human laws.”

Here, “Common Law” might better be substituted with “Natural Law,” as this passage invokes rights one acquires by his existence as a human being. That is in contrast to legislation and regulations set by politicians and their bureaucrats.

Brian Alexander
Brian Arthur of the Alexander Family, a Freeman in British Columbia, Canada. Source: Darryl Dyck, CP.

Applying this perspective has led Freemen to stop paying taxes of all types, in particular income taxes, as well as no longer using state identification, including vehicle license plates, driver’s permits, and birth certificates issued by the Canadian government. Freemen typically flaunt their distaste of firearms regulation as well, on the grounds of self-defense. They also eschew their legal birth names, invoking “So-and-so of the ____ Family” instead. In their defense, Freemen use legal language to stake their claims of state invalidation, and their rationale behind said claims.

Consider the explanation from Robert Menard, director of the World Freeman Society, on the Global News Morning Show.

As might be expected, Canadian authorities are not pleased with this movement, as it seeks to invalidate the sheer existence of the prevailing government apparatus. The Freemen fail to recognize the state’s moral authority over them, so these noncompliant individuals must be “significant safety and security concerns.” Safety and security concern to whom, the state?

Some individuals in the movement have been noted to be confrontational with authorities, but the same could be said of any sub-group in Canada or elsewhere in opposition to a government. Is somehow the action of the individual the shortcoming of the group or philosophy? Such labels have been utilized throughout history, especially by the establishment against upstart freedom movements, such as those used on Patriots by Loyalists during the American Revolution. This does not make those labeled a threat to the general public any more so than they were before such was applied to them.

In addition to direct action against Freemen by authorities, such as arrests, court appearances, and alerts as noted above, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has initiated a smear campaign to discredit the movement in their “Biannual Update on Terrorist and Extremist Threats.” How much of that is actual fact, as opposed supposition, embellished, or outright lies is anyone’s guess, but like a cornered wild animal, believers in the state will do whatever they can to legitimize its existence.

If enough people fail to believe in something, such as government, it then ceases to function. Current numbers of Freemen in Canada are estimated by various sources inside and outside the movement at approximately 30,000. That’s not terribly large in the grand scheme of things (Canada has a population of approximately 35 million), but it’s significant enough to be noteworthy.

Do these individuals have a case? Is someone required to participate in a government they find illegitimate? Although the counter-argument would likely be “they can just leave,” the onus is placed on the individual in a coercive and violent manner, which could easily be argued is immoral and illegitimate by the organization (Canada) initiating such measures. Although the Freemen of the land may reach their conclusions in a haphazard and byzantine manner, it does not make said conclusion invalid. It only needs refining.

Ryan Hildebrand Ryan Hildebrand

Dr. Ryan Hildebrand is a college instructor in New Orleans, Louisiana, and co-host of The Neo and Wim Show. You can follow his personal blog, NOLA City Blues, and his Twitter @NOLACityBlues. Read more of his featured PanAm Post column, "Self-Ownership."

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