What is a citizen's arrest?

One of the trends I have observed with a number of bills and private members bills in Ottawa is that many propose to limit, penalize or otherwise restrict, actions which occur in our day to day to lives. Very few bills enhance the rights of citizens however, on March 11th, Bill C-26 came into force that does expand and better clarify the ability to make a citizen’s arrest. As many of you may be aware, under the previous laws governing a citizen’s arrest it was far more likely that the law abiding citizen who was attempting to make the arrest would be in trouble rather than the person doing the crime. Many may recall a real-life situation when a small grocery store owner in Toronto who had been victimized repeatedly by shoplifters made a citizen’s arrest and successfully caught a shoplifter only to be subsequently charged with a number of criminal offences including forcible confinement.

Although the shop owner was eventually acquitted the lengthy and extremely costly legal battle was not unlike being victimized a second time and all for attempting to protect his family livelihood from a criminal.
Bill C-26 The Citizen’s Arrest and Self Defence Act, was introduced by our Government in November of 2011 and implemented several important changes that now underpin new rights for all citizens. The most significant change in the new citizens arrest law is that a citizen’s arrest can be made within a reasonable period of time after he or she finds someone committing a criminal offence occurring on or in relation to property. This power of arrest would only be authorized when there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is not feasible in the circumstances for the arrest to be made by a police officer. The new citizens arrest laws also allows for a reasonable use of force, taking into account all the circumstances of the particular case.
To be clear, the intent of this weeks report is NOT to advocate for vigilantism nor to suggest citizens take the law into their own hands but rather to provide information so all citizens can be aware of these changes and hopefully avoid misuse and misunderstanding. A citizen’s arrest should never be viewed lightly as it is a serious and potentially dangerous undertaking. Law enforcement officers are highly trained professionals and generally, reporting criminal actions to the police is the best course of action. The main intent of the new citizens arrest law is to provide more legal guidance and clarity in those situations when crime occurs where there are reasonable grounds to believe that it is not feasible in the circumstances for the arrest to be made by a police officer. If you have further comments or concerns on Bill C-26 that has now come into force do not hesitate to contact me at your convenience.
This week the House of Commons will again be in session with continued debate on a number of Bills that I have referenced in previous reports. Government Bill C-55 “Response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. vs Tse Act, Senate Bills S-9 “Nuclear Terrorism Act” and S-12 “Incorporation by Reference in Regulation” will be on the floor of the House of Commons early in the week. If you would like more information about any of these pieces of legislation, please contact me at [email protected] or by phone at 1 (800) 665-8711. On Thursday, March 21, our Government's Economic Action Plan budget for 2013 will be introduced by the Honorable Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. In next week’s report I will provide further information on some of the measures within the 2013 Economic Action Plan.

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla. His blog is DaninOttawa.com and previous MP reports are on line at http://www.danalbas.com/

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

Dan  is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active Members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and also continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern. 

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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