Rural residents have reached the boiling point when it comes to rural crime, with folks saying they are ready to take matters into their own hands.
In a recent story related to rural crime and self-defence, RCMP had a clear message for people, leave guns out of the issue. That story brought passionate response from readers who want to see changes to self-defence laws.
Canada’s Citizen’s Arrest and Self-defence Act in the Criminal Code states that a person is not guilty of an offence if they believe on reasonable ground that force is being used against them or another person, or they are protecting themselves or another person from that use of force, or that the act is reasonable in the circumstances.
Figuring out what is “reasonable” isn’t set out in black and white.
Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins has been working on this very issue of rural crime with several MPs and has been speaking with area residents to determine the biggest concern. Changing self-defence laws is not an easy task.
Calkins says rural residents, and police, are at their whits end; people want clarification on how they can defend themselves and police — already stretched thin — are seeing a “revolving door” of criminals doing the same criminal acts.
The question of “reasonable force” when removing someone from a person’s property is a difficult one to answer. “Who gets to determine what reasonable is?” asked Calkins.
The task force that Calkins has been working with hopes to create some changes to property crime laws that appear to protect the criminal more than the property owner. But seeing any kind of immediate change is not going to happen.
“We know that there’s a lot of judicial vacancies right now, which is an issue,” explained Calkins. “We also know that courthouse space, and time is an issue.”
“We also know that prosecution resources is an issue.”
Further to that RCMP have stated more resources are needed to handle crime and RCMP recruitment is a slow process.
“When you factor all of this together, the thieves have figured out that the people in rural Alberta are easy prey,” said Calkins.
Criminals are organized and have a specific “shopping list” of items they’re looking for.
Calkins says constituents want to see more stringent property crime laws and more ability to protect themselves and their property without fearing prosecution.
Changes to the Criminal Code
Canadian laws are more strict when it comes to crimes against people. Calkins referred to a shop owner in Toronto who caught and conducted a citizens arrest of a man who stole from him. That shop owner ended up facing the more serious charges of assault, kidnapping, unlawful confinement, plus the charge of carrying concealed weapons, believed to be box cutters.
“There’s an imbalance. The thieves who are simply there to deprive of property, it seems they have far greater protections under the law than people who are trying to defend their property,” stated Calkins.
His frustration goes further with the tabling of Bill C-75, which is intended to amend the Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Calkins says he disagrees with the majority of the bill. Calkins sees this as making the “revolving door” of crime faster.
The amendment proposes to, “…hybridize most indictable offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years or less, increase the default maximum penalty to two years less a day of imprisonment for summary conviction offences and extend the limitation period for summary conviction offences to 12 months.”
“Are they going to get more convictions? Yes. Are they going to get more meaningful convictions? Absolutely not,” stated Calkins. “It’s just going to be a paper shuffling process, the slap on the wrist will happen quicker and they’ll just be back on the street.”
Changing the laws a difficult task
Changing self-defence laws in Canada to allow residents to use firearms is something Calkins feels is quite difficult to accomplish.
Many MPs would be uncomfortable with the notion of people discharging firearms, said Calkins. “Frankly…I don’t want to shoot anybody either.”
“I don’t want my family that lives on a farm…shooting at people,” stated Calkins.
“What I really want is a justice system that actually, when we do get bad guys, we actually remove them from repeating these offences and actually have a punishment suitable enough.”
He feels the justice system is not suitable in protecting citizens from theft and property crimes. Despite those issues, Calkins — who says he understands property owners’ frustration — advises rural residents use caution and restraint when possible.
“Most of these folks have been victimized numerous times,” said Calkins.
“Just keep in mind that if you’re going to use severe force, you have to be fearing for your life, and just understand you will get caught up in the judicial system.”