Shots exchanged over warning gunfire

OTTAWA — Standing up for victims has clashed with the issue of public safety over the issue of warning gunfire.

OTTAWA — Standing up for victims has clashed with the issue of public safety over the issue of warning gunfire.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson raised some eyebrows earlier this week by agreeing that firing shots over the heads of thugs and thieves may be considered reasonable under a proposed new law.

Nicholson’s musing prompted an angry exchange Thursday during question period.

“What is he going to say to the family of the little girl crossing the road down the street when somebody fires a warning shot at somebody entering their property?” interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae demanded of the justice minister.

“Does he not understand the danger of promoting vigilante justice in our society?”

Nicholson fired back that Liberals can’t figure out who are the real victims of crime.

“If people are coming onto other people’s property to set fire to their car, breaking into their house or attacking their family, those are the bad guys,” said Nicholson.

“Why can the Liberals not ever figure that out? How come they cannot figure out who the real victims are and stand up for them for a change?”

The heated to-and-fro comes as the Conservative government is proposing to simplify and expand the Criminal Code sections that cover citizen’s arrest, self defence and defence of property.

During an appearance Tuesday at the House of Commons justice committee, Nicholson agreed with a question from Tory backbencher Brian Jean that firing a warning shot over the head of a repeat thief coming onto a rural property to steal an all-terrain vehicle would be “reasonable” under the circumstances.

His comments were not welcomed by groups representing the legal profession and front-line police officers.

Eric Gottardi of the Canadian Bar Association said it was “particularly unfortunate” that Nicholson chose to endorse even the concept of warning shots — especially at a time when the government is expanding the notion of citizen’s arrests.

Jean, a Fort McMurray lawyer, said in an interview Thursday that brandishing a weapon was the kind of thing that happened when he was growing up in the rough northern Alberta resource city.

But people who raised guns or fired them to ward off thieves often ended up before the courts, said the Tory MP, which usually found such use of force was not reasonable.

“I think that is reasonable now, to be able to take a step beyond what you would expect others to do,” said Jean.

Representatives of the CBA and the Canadian Police Association told the justice committee Thursday that increasing the latitude for citizen’s arrests could endanger the public.

Jean, part of the Conservative majority on the committee, said the witnesses seemed to be saying “there was a duty so step away and allow people to steal things.”

“I don’t think that duty exists. I don’t think it’s ever existed and I think it’s ludicrous.”

Asked about Nicholson’s comments on warning shots, Jean responded: “I actually think this legislation will clarify the law for Canadians and it’ll make criminals stay away. I think criminals will take it more seriously now.”

While criminals might be deterred by the increased prospect of meeting a gun-toting property owner, Jean did not agree that gun owners will be emboldened by the very same law.

“To go to the next step and take a weapon out and fire it is a big, big step for people, even in rural Alberta. People don’t do that,” said Jean.

“They don’t brandish weapons that are loaded at anybody. And I would suggest very, very few people would fire a weapon. And a lot fewer would fire at somebody trying to run away.”

Jean added that shooting over the head of a fleeing thief is out of bounds.

“Firing a weapon at somebody that’s trying to escape with a quad (ATV), that’s not acceptable. That is not reasonable in the circumstances. And I can’t imagine any judge in any province or territory in this country agreeing that would be a reasonable use of force or a reasonable defence of property.”

Just Posted

Case of former MLA facing sex-related charges in court

Former Sylvan Lake-Innisfail MLA Don MacIntyre’s case returns to court on May 3

Central Alberta pharmacists decry fee reductions for services

Government funding cuts to Alberta pharmacies will hurt patient care, said about… Continue reading

Horses left in trailer found in the ditch near Bentley returned to owners, no charges laid

Two horses found in an abandoned trailer near Bentley have been returned… Continue reading

RCMP close intersection where Humboldt Broncos bus, transport truck collided

REGINA — Police have closed the intersection where the team bus for… Continue reading

Supreme Court upholds law in cross-border beer case, averting trade shakeup

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed the constitutionality of… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer’s newest public art unveiled

Red Deer’s latest “ghost” sculpture is a love letter to the game… Continue reading

WATCH: This is a story about a stoned raccoon at a fire station

An unusual pair showed up in the pre-dawn hours at Fire Station… Continue reading

Plastic makers’ credit ratings may be hit by pollution rules

Plastic packaging makers may be less credit-worthy in the future as governments… Continue reading

Black Press Media acquires two new Alaska newspapers

New Media Investment Group to acquire the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal while Black Press Media takes on daily newspapers in Juneau and Kenai Alaska

‘Dining of the future’: vegan restaurant boom fuelled by meat eaters

Foodies say Canada is in the midst of a renaissance in plant-based… Continue reading

Northbound QEII traffic to return to northbound lanes as contruction continues south of Red Deer

Though the Hwy 2/Gaetz Avenue interchange still has months until completion, some… Continue reading

Howard commencement to feature “Black Panther” Boseman

WASHINGTON — The “Black Panther” is returning to his alma mater to… Continue reading

Armed police will patrol rail stations at royal wedding

LONDON — British officials say armed and undercover police officers will patrol… Continue reading

Power largely restored across Puerto Rico after blackout

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s power company said Thursday that… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month