Citizen’s Arrest and Self-defence Act (Bill C-26)

Elizabeth May: Madam Speaker, as we approach Bill C-26, a lot of members of Parliament are mindful of the notion that hard cases can make bad law. There is the specific case of David Chen and the Lucky Moose. We would have wished that the police on the scene had exercised some common sense and discretion by not prosecuting the individual. Now we have a law where a lot of us are concerned that there could be an increase in injuries, and even deaths, from people trying to take the law into their own hands, feeling empowered by what the House is doing with Bill C-26.

Since I am the only person planning to vote against this legislation, its passage is a certain thing. I ask my friend whether he thinks there is any way the House can send a message to Canadians that they should avoid taking the law into their own hands.

Sean Casey: Madam Speaker, that is a difficult question because here we stand as legislators expanding the rights of citizen’s arrest. We as legislators debate the bill and express our concerns over it, but what enters the public psyche is what it reads through the media.

We as legislators can do so much, and I believe we are doing it here today, but it is extremely difficult to control the message. There will be elements of society who, as my colleague points out, would feel empowered by these expanded notions. As she indicated, hard cases make bad law. There will undoubtedly be cases going forward where the expanded right of self-defence or defence of property will be used to justify inappropriate actions.

It is my hope and expectation that the coverage around those hard cases informs Canadian judgment. I think it is more likely that will impact public opinion than the debates we have here as legislators, which by necessity are at times on the theoretical as opposed to practical level.