Citizen’s Arrest and Self-defence Act

Ms. Elizabeth May: Madam Speaker, I think all members of the House have a lot of sympathy with the intention behind Bill C-26. People have been sharing personal stories. I will not forget the time that our gift shop on Cape Breton Island was being robbed. We called the RCMP and they said to stay out of the guy’s way and they would see when they could get there. We were not able to do anything about the fact that we were robbed. This is a typical story on Cape Breton Island, and nothing against the RCMP, but they tend to take hours to show up.

My own sense of how we respond to this now is that, given technology, the most useful thing in apprehending criminals is the advent of things like cell phone videos. There is an ability to get the evidence and give that to the Mounties later.

I agree that we must provide a statutory defence so that people who try to protect their business or their life and limb are not charged with a criminal offence. The concern I have is that it goes beyond prosecutorial discretion here and, by providing the idea of citizen’s arrest, no matter how much we say there is caution, how do we avoid people putting themselves at risk, feeling empowered to make a citizen’s arrest without the training to know how to handle a dangerous situation?

Mr. Rick Norlock: Madam Speaker, the hon. member mentioned something that is a very sensitive issue, and that is the length of time it takes police officers to attend the various occurrences to which they are called. I know police officers would like to be there instantaneously. That is the desire. As a former member of a deployed police force, the Ontario Provincial Police, I know that in rural parts of Canada there are vast areas that need to policing. The member comes from an area that is rural in nature and I know it takes some time.

The hon. member raised some other very good points. We do have tools in a modern age at our disposal that can assist law enforcement agencies to find the perpetrators of crime. If possible, people can snap a picture. We see many convenience stores with cameras, et cetera. Therefore, if there is a camera in the store and a person is readily identifiable, no one should put themselves or their customers in jeopardy.

The government does intend to have a degree of public information so that people know their rights, responsibilities and limitations.