The so-called Lucky Moose Bill, legislation that allows for greater leeway in making a citizen’s arrest, came into effect on Monday.
Bill C-26, the Citizen’s Arrest and Self-Defence Act, stems from Toronto Chinatown grocer David Chen, who was charged after arresting a frequent shoplifter.
However, “we don’t support vigilantism,” Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said.
Chen was on hand as Nicholson introduced the bill outside Chen’s Lucky Moose store in Toronto on Monday. Under the new legislation, if Canadians witness a crime, they can make a citizen’s arrest within a reasonable amount of time – they don’t have to catch the perpetrator red-handed.
“We’ve made progress…I’m pleased that this has received widespread support. It was something whose time has come,” Nicholson said.
“People have a legitimate right to protect themselves, their families and their property,” Nicholson said, adding that the country’s self-defence laws, which were introduced in 1840, are out-of-date.
Last year, Nicholson noted a citizen’s arrest can only be made legally if it’s not feasible for police to catch the suspect, and it requires people to behave “reasonably.”
Police retain the foremost responsibility for maintaining public peace and someone making an arrest must call in officers as soon as practical and turn the suspect over to them, Nicholson said.
Chen and two co-workers chased and tied up a thief in May 2009, making what they thought was a legal citizen’s arrest. Instead, they ended up on trial in a case that outraged many, particularly after the accused man was once again arrested for theft while the trial was underway.
The charges against Chen were dropped.
With files from The Canadian Press