Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Mar.  7, 2011)


Good guys finally get a break


  By John Martin


2011 is shaping up to be a pretty decent year for ordinary Canadians. The federal government recently introduced proposed changes to the Criminal Code that would see an expansion of the right to citizens' arrests and self-defence.

A handful of high-profile cases have served to highlight the absurdity of the present state of legislation in these areas.

First we had the case of David Chen, the Toronto area grocer who, along with his employees, was charged for detaining a repeat shoplifter. The ultimate insult was an additional charge of being in possession of a concealed weapon; a box cutter. The guy is a grocer and police wanted to charge him for having one of the tools of his trade on his person. That sure says something for the quality of recruits coming out of police academies these days.

To add even more insult, the Crown cut a sweetheart deal with the thief in return for his co-operation in helping to lock up Chen. After howls of outrage over the charges, the grocer was eventually acquitted, much to the disgust of prosecutors.

Then we have Ian Thomson. He awoke to find three masked men fire bombing his home and screaming aloud, "are you ready to die?" Ian, a former firearms instructor, grabbed a legally owned handgun and fired three shots in the air, scaring away the creeps. Police eventually arrived and charged him with pointing and using a firearm among other offences. The most serious of these charges have since been dropped.

There's a long legacy of similar cases in this country. A homeowner or small business person attempts to protect himself, his family, his home or business and ends up being the one Crown wants to throw in jail.

Clearly there's a need to guard against vigilantism and trigger- happy homeowners who may be prone to impulsive over reaction. But the pendulum has swung so far the other way that the typical citizen has virtually been deprived of any right to self-protection whatsoever.

Police, prosecutors and the previous federal government have long been quite content with this arrangement. The firearm registry itself was little more than a mischievous strategy to criminalize homeowners before the fact who might attempt to protect their family.

Despite provisions in the Common Law regarding self protection and a legislated right to self defence, lawmakers and criminal justice practitioners have long made it their mission to ensure that citizens and property owners are virtually helpless when under threat or attack.

To do otherwise would force them to acknowledge individual rights. And in a country where group rights and government rights always trump the individual, this just wasn't going to happen.

Until now.

It appears the federal government is serious about restoring some sanity to the self-defence provisions of the Criminal Code and in a move that must be absolutely horrifying to so-called progressives, has actually sided with law-abiding citizens over criminals.

2011 still has a ways to go. Hopefully additional common sense reforms are on the way.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2011