Friday, April 3, 2009

Property Defense a Crime?

Colby Cosh reports on the circumstances of a farmer that has Alberta talk radio on fire, in the National Post:
Brian Knight, 38, runs a farm near the hamlet of Tees, east of Lacombe; its rodeo venue is home to an annual donkey and mule show. Last Wednesday morning, Knight heard some noise and confronted three men outside his home. Two made the smart choice to hop into their truck and vamoose, but the third, hoping not to leave empty-handed, had jumped on a nearby four-wheel ATV and sped off on it. Knight got in his own truck, chased down the stranger on his ATV, and rammed it off the road. When the suspect fled, Knight fired a shotgun at him. No details of the ammunition have been provided, but buckshot or road salt would be good guesses; in any case, it amounted to distinctly less lethal force than a policeman might have used in the same circumstances. (No word on whether any staplers were found on the perpetrator.)

The lightly injured thief kept running, but was eventually rounded up by Knight's neighbours and kin. In a moment of deranged inspiration, he even tried to make off with another truck in which he was left to bleed while the cops were called. Knight now faces seven criminal charges, including assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and dangerous driving. The thief was taken to Edmonton, bandaged up and released by police without bail after being charged. The RCMP will not name him, but a local spokesman warned: "Don't take the law into your own hands. Contact the police as soon as possible, because all you're going to do is get yourself into trouble."

Perhaps only in Alberta do people still understand that this is nonsense -- that the police's privilege of investigating and punishing crime is derived from our primary right of self-defence, which we delegate but do not abandon, and that property is an extension of ourselves, and may be defended in the same way and for the same reasons we are allowed to defend our persons. No RCMP officer is transferred to an aboriginal community without abundant cultural-sensitivity training. Maybe something similar, perhaps involving a careful reading of John Locke's philosophy, should be done before assigning them to the Alberta countryside. (If Knight is found guilty, do you suppose he will get the benefit of a "sentencing circle" made up of other farmers from around Tees?)

I don't like the precedent. If somebody breaks into my home and I smash their head in with a baseball bat does that make me criminally reckless?


  1. Also, police used to be proactive against crime. They were on the beat, and on the lookout for crime. The only proactive work they still do, is traffic enforcement.The cops have figured out traffic enforcement is a money making gig. Now a days the police just act as the middleman between you and your insurance company. Any victim of crime is quick to find out, the cops do not provide a value added service.

  2. I have heard a few of these self defense stories in Canada. In short our self defense laws are a joke. The US has much stronger self defense laws.
    I guess this fits in with the, government should do everything theme. Self reliance, are you kidding, that was some sort of out dated pioneer code.
    This story is an insult to any law abiding citizen.

  3. This was news to me. I had heard of it in Europe but I didn't know they were criminalizing self-defense in Canada.

  4. I've known of this ever since taking Grade 13 law. If someone broke into your house armed with a knife and you shot him dead it would mean getting charged with manslaughter at the very least. Only if you could prove your life was at immediate risk could you use excessive force and get away with it.

    It is ridiculous but the other extreme is a bit crazy too. I've read a news story of a Texan shooting someone in the head for merely trespassing. That is going over board in my opinion.

  5. There was one in Texas a few years ago. A repo guy
    was reclaiming a pickup truck, because the owner was behind on his payments. The owner shot and killed the repo man. There was some cattle rustling law still on the books, that made the shooting legal.
    How`s that for having a bad day.
    In Canada you can only use enough force to "disable" someone attacking you. In Strack`s example, using a gun against someone with a knife, would mean manslaughter charges. Our self defense laws are a joke.

  6. Sorry, I have to add another one. There was one case in Canada a while back. A home owner was up on murder charges. He shot someone entering his house. The intruder was screaming out, "I am going to kill you" as he smashed down the front door. The home owner got a not guilty verdict. The Judge also asked the Crown Attorney "what would you have done in the same situation". Now for the bad news. The guy spent his entire life savings on lawyer fees. I think (if I remember correctly) he also lost his job, due to jail and court time. The guy got a not guilty verdict, but his life was now in complete shambles. How is that for a made in Canada nightmare.