I was pleased last Thursday when the Prime Minister announced the Citizen’s Arrest and Self-Defence Act. The legislation will expand the circumstances in which citizens’ arrests can be made, and simplify the self-defence and defence of property provisions in the Criminal Code.
This legislation would expand the legal authority for a private citizen to make an arrest within a reasonable period of time after they find that person committing a criminal offence either on or in relation to their property, ensuring the proper balance between the power of citizens and those of the police.
Currently, the ability to make a citizen’s arrest is only permitted if an individual is caught actively engaged in a criminal offence on or in relation to one’s property.
This legislation would authorize an owner, a person in lawful possession of property, or a person authorized by them, to arrest a person within a reasonable amount of time after they find that person committing a criminal offence.
Clearly, this citizen’s arrest authority applies when it is not feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest.
However, Canadians also want to know they are able to protect themselves against criminal acts and that the justice system is behind them, not against them. In the past couple of years, we have heard of a number of cases, most recently the case of Toronto store-owner David Chen, who made a citizens’ arrest and was then charged and subsequently acquitted.
Canadians like David Chen who have been the victim of a crime should not be re-victimized by the criminal justice system.