Calgary

Ottawa denies Alberta's request to let people carry pepper spray for self-defence

The federal government has denied Alberta's request to amend the Criminal Code to allow people to carry pepper spray for self-defence.

Increasing access to prohibited weapons isn't a solution, federal government says

A file photo shows a row of pepper spray canisters in a gun shop in Germany. Alberta's request for the federal government to remove pepper spray from the list of prohibited weapons in the Criminal Code has been denied. (Reuters)

The federal government has denied Alberta's request to amend the Criminal Code to allow people to carry pepper spray for self-defence.

Provincial Justice Minister Kaycee Madu sent a letter to both his federal counterpart and the public safety minister two weeks ago, arguing victims of recent hate-motivated violence in the province would have benefited from carrying pepper spray. Madu also asked Ottawa to establish mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of hate-motivated crimes.

Pepper spray is illegal to carry and its use can result in criminal charges. 

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair responded in a joint statement, saying that, while the government will always stand up for victims of hate, the requested changes to the Criminal Code won't address the issue. 

"We have to be mindful that all weapons that are prohibited have been prohibited for a reason, as they are extremely dangerous when they fall into the wrong hands. When confronted with a problem, the solution cannot simply be to increase accessibility to prohibited weapons. This can actually lead to further violence," the statement read. 

"Rather, we need to address complex issues such as mental health and addictions as just one through a continuum such as prevention, and when appropriate, enforcement."

The ministers also said that adding another mandatory minimum penalty won't reduce hate crimes. 

"Similar to the first proposal, this one could have unintended consequences. We know that the use of mandatory minimum penalties have resulted in the over incarceration of Indigenous peoples, Black and marginalized Canadians, groups that are disproportionately victimized by hate crimes," the statement read.

Madu said in an emailed statement that the federal government is siding with criminals instead of victims and accused the government of offering lip service instead of action. 

"In fact, they seem to take the shameful stance that Canadians themselves are responsible for not standing-up against hate — instead of putting the blame squarely on perpetrators," he said. 

"They have no real solutions when it comes to stopping crime in its tracks; they rather leave Albertans empty-handed and vulnerable when faced with a potential assault or other related crime."

On Monday, Blair announced 150 projects to support communities at risk of hate-motivated crime have been selected for development through the government's security infrastructure program, representing $6 million in investment.

Groups like community centres, educational institutions and places of worship are able to submit applications for funding for next year's program. 

With files from Elise Von Scheel

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