Rural crime and immigration were a couple of the hot topics as eight Alberta Conservative MPs met for a free-ranging discussion with the public Wednesday.
What rights do people have who find an unknown intruder in their home, asked several of the 80 or so in attendance at the Sheraton Red Deer hotel.
Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner MP and former police officer Glen Motz said people have the right to defend their homes, although each situation is different.
“If your life is threatened, the Criminal Code says you have the right, responsibility and authority to use as much force as necessary,” said Motz.
The question was among a few about rural crime lobbed at the MPs, a reflection of how important the issue remains for many central Albertans.
Alberta MPs joined forces on a rural crime task force that toured the province and produced a report, Toward a Safer Alberta, which came out last October.
The report includes dozens of recommendations, including considering a revision of the criteria for using “reasonable force” in defence of a person or property that takes into account the unique circumstances in isolated rural areas.
Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen said in Barrhead, in his riding, they introduced a text message system to track stolen vehicles and property, which recently successfully led to the arrest of someone who had stolen a van.
Part of the problem is a lack of RCMP resources, said Viersen, adding Valleyview detachment is supposed to have 12 officers, but is managing with seven.
The security of Canada’s borders and the number of illegal border crossings were other concerns raised by audience members.
Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan MP Garnett Genuis said that when it comes to Canada’s refugee system, “I believe we can use our heads and our hearts at the same time.”
Genuis was critical of the Liberal government’s focus on state-sponsored immigrants rather than those sponsored privately by family members, church and community groups.
Immigrants privately sponsored fare better and are less likely to require ongoing government financial support.
Red Deer-Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen said people are concerned about the tens of thousands of people walking freely across the border from the U.S. to seek asylum, a country where they were in no danger.
The border crossers put a strain on the immigration system and create huge backlogs for those who are trying to help relatives or others immigrate legally.
“Those are the ones that are probably even more frustrated with the way this government is handling things than the average Canadian,” he said in an interview following the meeting.
Other concerns raised included Bill C-71, which proposes overhauling gun background checks, introducing new record-keeping requirements for gun sellers, and more restrictions on transporting firearms.
One audience member said the legislation unnecessarily piles regulation on top of regulation and will do nothing to deter criminals.
Dreeshen, who was joined by Kevin Sorenson, MP for Battle River-Crowfoot, said gatherings like the one in Red Deer give MPs a read on the issues that are important to their constituents to take back to Ottawa for the spring session and which will be used to construct the party’s platform as it heads into an election this year.
A similar meeting was held in Edmonton on Tuesday.