• Nathaniel G. Sands

Oh, Canada, is our land glorious and free?

Dusan, a co-worker of mine, recently asked for my help. I knew something was up, having seen him over the past year or two not being his normal, upbeat self and had felt for a while that something had been weighing on him. He told me he wanted me to write a letter to The Conservation Officer Service of British Columbia and go to the papers about an incident that occurred to him on Mother's day of 2017, where he was pepper sprayed by a Conservation Officer on his own property, only to be charged himself with assaulting a peace officer - never having physically touched him! After hearing the story, reading the evidence, and visiting his property, it was clear to me Dusan and his wife were treated unfairly - abused, harassed and now out a lot of money in lawyer fees defending himself in court over false allegations. Of course I offered to help him.

Dusan Knapik is an immigrant. He is in his 60's and has been a hardworking citizen since fleeing from his home country over 30 years ago. This brilliant millwright works on heavy equipment of all sorts, and creates new ones. At my work if there's any welding, machining or fixing that needs done you know Dusan can do it. One of the machines I run has a lot of moving parts and frequently things go wrong. But usually Dusan isn't at work. Often I have to call him, where he guides me through fixing something, or decides e must come himself to do it.

You see, Dusan is also a farmer. In Whonnock, at the east end of Maple Ridge, Dusan has a property he's been cultivating for over 3 decades now. He currently has over 100 chickens, along with dogs, horses, and llamas. This man is one hard worker! After invoking my help, I visited Dusan at his home, where I was greeted lovingly by his wife and two horses. He proceeded to show me the property which backs a large wooded area, acres of forest leading to the north end of Whonnock Lake. Dusan also showed me where the officer jumped over his fence, approached an unarmed Dusan while wielding a gun in one hand and pepper-spray in the other, spraying Dusan twice with it from a distance of 12 feet, only to retreat back over the fence and into his car, calling in an assault on himself.

Having this farm which backs a forest for over three decades, Dusan has had to deal with conservation officers in the past. But there was no legitimate reason for a visit this day- especially it being Mother's day.

When I first met Dusan I was a little intimidated. Although he is in his 60's, and stands at 5'5, he emanates confidence and demands respect. Over the years we have gotten to know each other and he has told me much about his life. He was in the Army Special Forces and it seems he was quite the asset. After being denied by his authoritarian government to leave the country, he and his wife ran away to Canada, and never looked back.


Often I get lost in his stories. The fact is he has done so much! And having a thick accent doesn't help - Which is partly why I feel he was misunderstood and even targeted by this conservation officer. I mean, what circumstances could lead to an elderly farmer being pepper-sprayed on his own property on Mother's day?

Not only was Dusan victimized by this officer but also by the Conservation Officer Service itself. I wrote a three-paged letter to them over a month back, outlining the injustice in detail. Originally Dusan only wanted me to write this letter to them asking for an apology, as well as go to the papers to give his side of the story. I added some of my frustrations into the letter also:

"...we believe The Conservation Officer Service of British Columbia has in fact acted in a prejudice manner. Instead of serving to protect the integrity of the citizens it upholds to under sworn oath, and which is presented on the badge its officers wear, evidence was dismissed and manipulated, and further action must be pursued."

After reviewing the case and seeing the corruption by both the Officer and those in the service who worked on the case, having still not received an apology, I suggested Dusan sue them. He smiled at that idea. I don't know the legal system but have read all the evidence and statements and have begun preparing a case. I now only seek aid in getting in front of judge. Maybe you or someone you know could help?

Dusan did go to court where he was acquitted of the charges. This Officer has since been transferred, but never issued an apology, and as far as we know, never reprimanded for his actions. My co-worker is now out an obscene amount in lawyer-fee's, years of his and his wife's life spent in anxiety and distress, and has become a disheartened citizen. Knowing him for over 4 years now, I can't think of a harder working, more up-standing man. As he continues to walk with a purpose, even now with his age and a slight limp, I only hope justice is properly served, and that Dusan's faith in his country could one day be restored. I finished my letter to The conservation Officer Services with this:

"Their [Dusan and his wife's] rights and freedoms have been infringed upon and to not rectify this matter is to dishonour the flag that represents our unity and trust and the free country we claim to represent."

Happy Canada day everyone.

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