Right to self-defence never abolished
By Lorne Gunter, Edmonton Journal January 23, 2011
YouTube - Surveillance camera video of firebomb attack
is conducting an all-out assault against self-defence. Few politicians, Crown prosecutors, judges, law professors and police commanders believe ordinary Canadians have any business using force to defend themselves, their loved ones, homes, farms or businesses. It seems every time someone repels a burglar or thief, he ends up in court, too.
Consider the case of David Chen, the Toronto green grocer who was acquitted last year of assault and unlawful confinement for detaining a career criminal he caught shoplifting from his store. Crown prosecutors had so convinced themselves that Chen's defensive actions posed a greater threat to public order that they offered a lighter sentence to Anthony Bennett, the shoplifter, in return for his testimony against Chen.
Then there is Joseph Singleton, the Taber oilfield consultant who returned home to his acreage last May to find his home ransacked and a thief fleeing. When the burglar started ramming his car, Singleton took a hatchet and, using the flat side, hit the thief twice on the side of the face. Without questioning Singleton -- based solely on the say-so of the burglar -- police last October charged Singleton with assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm.
If officials aren't out to end the right to self-defence, why would they side with criminals against law-abiding citizens?
The latest example of the campaign against self-defence comes from southern Ontario. About six years ago, Ian Thompson moved to a rural property near Port Colborne to find peace and quiet. Almost immediately, he had a run-in with his neighbour over the neighbour's unwillingness to keep his chickens in his own yard. Ever since, tension between the two has escalated.
Then early one Sunday morning last August, three masked men showed up outside Thompson's home and started lobbing Molotov cocktails at the house while Thompson was inside. A former firearms instructor, Thompson took a revolver from his gun safe, loaded it, then went outside and fired two or three shots in the direction of the arsonists.
Thompson has surveillance cameras around his property. When he gave tapes to police to aid their search for the firebombers, police charged him with pointing a firearm and careless storage of firearms. Officers also turned up at his home and confiscated his collection of seven firearms and seized his firearms licence.
Police are so opposed to citizens defending themselves that even if criminals show up at your rural home, far from a police station, and try to burn it to the ground with you inside, you are considered the criminal if you shoot at them.
Thompson's case has caused some to call for the entrenchment of the "Castle Doctrine" in Canadian law. Several American states already have such statutes that recognize a person's home as his or her castle and gives homeowners the right to use deadly force to protect their homes, family and property.
Frankly, there's no need to copy the Americans. Canadians already have the right to use force -- even deadly force -- to protect themselves. We need simply to return to our legal roots.
When Canada became independent at Confederation in 1867, Canadians retained the rights they had at the time as British subjects. These included three "absolute rights": the right to personal liberty, the right to private property and the right to self-defence, up to and including the right to kill an attacker or burglar.
William Blackstone, Britain's famous constitutional expert, argued the right to self-defence included the right to kill even an agent of the king found on one's property after dark, uninvited. He also traced the right to armed self-defence back to the time of King Canute (995-1035) when subjects could be fined for failing to keep weapons for their own protection.
Even in Upper Canada for much of the 19th century, it was the law that all adult males be armed, at their own expense. In part, this was so a militia could be formed quickly for defence of the colony and in part so individuals were prepared to defend themselves and their property.
These rights have not been extinguished just because Canada has become modernized and urbanized, or because our officials would rather pretend they don't exist and never have.
To be sure, our right to self-defence is not a licence to kill. The force ordinary citizens may use in self-defence must be proportionate to the threat they face. You cannot shoot someone for poking a finger in your chest or cutting you off in traffic. But the real possibility that attackers might burn you up inside your own home -- as they allegedly intended to do to Ian Thompson -- would seem to justify shooting at them with a handgun, even if you end up killing them.
The right to self-defence conflicts with the belief modern lovers of big government have that only the military and police should be allowed to use force, so self-defence has to be treated as a crime.
In truth, it is an individual right that existed before government and, so, cannot be extinguished by government.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
Video at: YouTube - Surveillance camera video of firebomb attack
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