CALGARY – Is it a good idea to let people carry pepper spray to be used in self-defence?
Alberta’s justice minister penned a letter to the feds, asking them to allow people–especially those most likely to be targeted in hate-motivated crimes–to carry pepper spray and use it if they are at serious risk of being in imminent danger.
The premier doubled down on the request Thursday afternoon.
Premier Kenney says the proposal to legalize pepper spray is perfectly reasonable – and calls on Trudeau to stop "virtue signaling" and crack down on hate crimes. #yeg #yyc #ableg pic.twitter.com/jYoezyaxiO
— Courtney Theriault (@cspotweet) July 22, 2021
“If, for example, a vulnerable woman can have a small tool to help defend herself from a violent attack, I think that we should absolutely permit that,” Jason Kenney said.
Kenney called out the Trudeau government, saying it needs to stop virtue signaling and let people defend themselves and establish minimum mandatory sentences for hate crimes.
“A non-lethal tool for individuals to protect themselves from violent attacks, I think, is perfectly reasonable. And, you know, it’s time for the Trudeau government to stop virtue signaling about the issue of hate crimes and to actually crack down on hate crimes,” he said.
“This is a government, the federal Trudeau government, that has widely repealed mandatory minimum prison sentences. We have had cases of vulnerable women attacked in this province in apparent hate crimes by people who went through the revolving door of the justice system and spent no time behind bars. That is unacceptable.”
Criminologist: Have we thought through the consequences?
But is allowing people to carry pepper spray a good idea?
“I really don’t think we know,” said Doug King, a criminologist and professor at Mount Royal University.
“Have we thought through the consequences of the misuse of pepper spray for the person who uses it?”
King wonders what happens if someone jumps the gun and uses it during a verbal accosting, or if they are being physically threatened in a public space and they spray and it spreads to a crowd rather than just the person they intended to defend themselves against.
He also wonders if Alberta law enforcement was consulted before the UCP called on the Canadian government to rewrite the criminal code.
Should Canadians be allowed to use pepper spray in self-defense? Technically, you can do that now, but run the risk of being charged with use of a prohibited weapon. Though, I'm told you're unlikely to be charged if you spray someone who comes at you with a weapon. #yyc #yeg pic.twitter.com/W7wV1Zg5t5
— Saif Kaisar (@StaySaif) July 22, 2021
However, he does concede that there would be some situations where pepper spray could be valuable in a desperate situation.
Plus, as it stands, King says using pepper spray in a self defence situation isn’t entirely illegal–it’s a little bit of a grey area.
“You can use as much force as is necessary to repel assault or threat of an assault, but you can’t use more force than is necessary to repel,” he explained.
“So, if I’m going to use pepper spray, I have to have reasonable grounds to believe that the person who is about to assault or is assaulting me is either using a weapon himself or is his intent harming me in terms of what’s called bodily harm. And there’s a legal requirement definition for that.”
In the event a victim uses pepper spray to subdue their attacker, King says it’s not very likely the victim will be charged with carrying or using that weapon with the current law.
In any case, the ball is in the feds’ court. So how will they proceed?
King says if the letter gets a response from Ottawa, it won’t be an immediate green light.
“If the Government of Canada is going to follow up with the minister and consider the recommendation, it’ll have to be in concert with the other provinces and territories. It’s not going to be something the federal government is going to say, ‘Oh, good idea, we’ll do it now.'”