OTTAWA — Justice Minister Rob Nicholson is stressing that proposed changes to the federal citizen’s arrest law do not signal an endorsement of vigilante justice.
There appears to be all-party agreement that the Criminal Code needs to be updated to clarify when a person can detain someone committing a crime on their property and when they can use reasonable force to protect themselves.
The high-profile, 2009 case of a Toronto shop owner charged after he detained a repeat shoplifter helped galvanize public opinion on changing the law.
The Conservative government has introduced a bill that strips out hundred-year-old legal language and makes the Criminal Code easier to understand.
But Nicholson told a committee studying the bill that the changes don’t give people a licence to chase down a thief if they didn’t actually witness the crime take place.
The Conservative minister did raise some opposition eyebrows when he said he would consider it reasonable under the new law for someone to fire a warning shot over the head of thief, in certain circumstances.