Expanded citizen's arrest powers and abuse concerns


A new bill expanding the powers of citizen's arrest has come into force. It was inspired by the case of a Toronto shopkeeper who was arrested after he detained a shoplifter. But beyond empowering citizens, some worry the legislation is ambiguous and could be abused by the private security industry.

At least right now if we doing citizen's arrest, we no get a charge. Before I get a charge. Right now if you are doing this thing there, the police, they wouldn't charge you. That's all we need.

David Chen's long struggle with the law is likely over.  This week, what was Bill C-26 came into force. Officially, it's the Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act but people in Chen's neighbourhood know it as the "Lucky Moose" law, named after his downtown grocery store.

In 2009, David Chen spotted a man he believed had repeatedly shoplifted from the grocery and made a citizen's arrest.  Along with two employees, he ran after the thief, caught him, tied him up and locked him in the back of a delivery van until the police arrived.

The man pleaded guilty to stealing. But David Chen was also charged ... with kidnapping, assault, and forcible confinement. He was later acquitted. Under the new law, shopkeepers acting as David Chen acted are unlikely ever to go to court in the first place.

Chi-Kun Shi - David Chen's lawyer and spokesperson

For more, we spoke to Toronto lawyer Chi-Kun Shi who believes the new citizen arrest law doesn't go far enough in protecting shop-owners.

Vanessa MacDonnell - Assistant Law Professor at the University of Ottawa

But law professor Vanessa MacDonnell has serious concerns with Bill C-26. She worries that the unintended consequence is putting more power into the hands of private security guards who are not accountable to the public in the same way that police are.

According to the Association of Professional Security Agencies, security guards have made sixty-five thousand citizen arrests in Canada in the past thirty years. We aired a clip from Kyle Waterman, security manager at the St Vital mall in Winnipeg.

Rick Dykstra - Parliamentary Secretary to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney

We invited the Minister of Justice, Rob Nicolson, to be a part of this discussion. He originally sponsored Bill C-26 in November of 2011. There was no response from his office, but the department of Citizenship and Immigration did respond. We were joined by Rick Dykstra, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Jason Kenney.

This segment was produced by The Current's Jessica deMello, Suzanne Dufresne and Farrah Richardson.

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Other segments on today's show:

Building parks to keep out sex offenders

Do university job guarantees coddle students?

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