Thanks very much for including me.
I apologize for not submitting a written brief, but time did not allow us to pull it together and get it translated, so we're happy to provide a written backup to arguments that I'm going to be presenting today.
I want to quickly touch on the issues of firearm gun death and injury in rural communities, why the Coalition for Gun Control thinks this is something that needs to be addressed, and touch on some of the data, some of the solutions.
As many of you around the committee table have heard, there is a lot of talk about problems of urban violence, and a lot of focus on issues related to gangs in the cities.
The irony, of course, as you have probably heard from previous witnesses, is that rates per 100,000 of violent crimes, particularly involving firearms, are actually higher in rural communities. In fact, if you look at victims of police-reported firearm-related violent crime by province and territory, broken down by urban and rural areas, you see that in spite of all the attention that's focused on places like Toronto, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and so on, they are much higher than the Canadian average. Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have twice the rates of firearm-related violent crime as Ontario does.
We also know from reports that have come recently from StatsCan that while approximately 17% of Canadians are in rural communities and policed by police there, and while about 18% of property crime, i.e., theft of automobiles and so on, occurs in rural communities, it's roughly proportionate to the population and not significantly higher than in urban centres.
We see 25% of violent crime occurring in those very communities. For those of you who have looked at issues like domestic violence, you will know that rural communities have much higher rates per 100,000 of domestic violence incidents, including firearms in particular, than large cities. If you look at specific phenomena, like the murders of police officers, very few in fact are killed, particularly with guns, in large urban centres. The vast majority are killed in the line of duty in smaller communities, again, in part because of the prevalence of firearms.
The same thing is true if we look at suicide. Why would we talk about suicide in a discussion focused on rural crime? We would talk about suicide in this context, because if you take a public health perspective on violence, violence against the self is considered a form of violence. If you look at the factors that influence suicide rates, if you look at the root causes and so on, the risk of suicide and the risk of homicide, particularly among young men, are very similar.
The same kinds of factors, such as inequality, exclusion, mental health issues, substance abuse and critical events in the life cycle, can precipitate suicide or homicide. Many of you are familiar with suicide by cop and other phenomena that show this to be the case, or domestic violence incidents, which, when firearms are involved, end in suicide half the time. The links between suicide and homicide are particularly interwoven when we look at rural communities.
That's why when we think about how to prevent violence framed in a public health model, we look first at the root causes. We look at what the precipitating factors are that lead people to engage in criminal or violent acts. We know that gender is a factor. We know, as I said, inequality, lack of opportunity, mental health issues, substance abuse, addictions and so on are certainly things that have to be addressed at a community level.
We also know, from both public health and criminology literature, that access to means plays a big role. That can mean access to the keys of an automobile, for instance. If people do not lock their cars, they're more likely to be stolen than if they had locked their cars or there are anti-theft devices in place or there are video surveillance tools.
It also means that access to firearms increases the lethality of violent encounters. Guns don't cause violence or crime, but they make it more likely that it will end with dead people.
Finally, the third dimension we look at is the response after the fact, which can affect the severity of the consequences. We know that in rural communities, access to emergency response services, whether it's firefighters, police or ambulances, is reduced and the time to respond is longer.
We know that in rural communities there is less access to things like shelters and other kinds of supports that have been shown to reduce the likelihood, for example, that women will be killed.
We know that mental health supports are much less readily available in rural communities. There are huge lineups, even in large centres, but it gets worse and worse the further and more removed you are. Support for victims, to prevent revictimization, is also lessened.
It's important to look at all of those issues when we are trying to come up with a solution.
The final point, which is a bit self-interested but I think needs to be said, is that we also know that increasingly a large proportion of firearms recovered in crime are sourced from domestic firearms owners. This is not just true in Toronto, or from the recent study that was conducted in British Columbia, but also in smaller communities. We've seen the reports from police. The availability of firearms in smaller communities cannot only increase lethal violence in those communities, particularly when appropriate controls are not in place, but it can also fuel violence in other places.
I am not sure if MP Dabrusin is there or not, but certainly when it came to the Danforth shooting, it appears that the gun was stolen from somewhere in Saskatchewan.
From our perspective, in the context of a crime prevention strategy, whether we're looking at urban or rural communities, we need to consider reducing access to firearms for dangerous people. Certainly we have many cases of small communities where this has been reinforced. For example, we have Judge Marlene Graham, who ruled that in the investigation associated with the death of Corey Lewis in Okotoks, a big problem was the lack of screening around firearms. We have lots of evidence to show that controls on firearms reduce lethality.
We know that firearms have a gender dimension. A study that was done in New Brunswick, for example, showed that of the one-quarter of women living with firearms in that community, 66% said that knowing firearms were present made them more fearful for their safety and well-being. They said it affected their decision on whether to tell others or to seek help for abuse that they received. We have to recognize that there is a need in rural communities, as in urban centres, to break the code of silence around domestic violence.
I want to end by saying that we know firearms serve legitimate purposes, particularly in rural communities. We have to respect hunting, pest controls, and indigenous rights, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have rigorous controls. It certainly doesn't mean that we shouldn't be considering a ban on handguns and assault weapons, which don't serve a useful purpose in rural communities anymore than in urban communities.
We really have to fight the highly gendered notion that having more guns makes us safer, because, in fact, having more guns in people's homes often makes them more at risk.
I want to quote Barbara Frey, the UN special rapporteur on human rights, who said:
||Male-dominated societies often justify arms possession through the alleged need to protect vulnerable women, though women actually face greater danger of violence when their families and communities are armed.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much. Good afternoon to everybody.
My name is Fred Priestley-Wright. I'm 83 years old. I live in rural west central Alberta. I am a professional. I am an aeronautical engineer by profession. I worked as an aerodynamicist on the Avro Arrow and then under contract to the U.S. Air Force doing aerodynamic analysis of some of their aircraft. That contract was up in three years and I returned to Alberta and worked in the oil and gas industry, and then went into ranching where I presently live.
My incident occurred on November 4. I'll go through it quickly. I had finished lunch. It was a -20°C day, with some snow. I worked in the office all morning. I was going to my small sawmill after lunch to saw logs, to make lumber. I went out to my truck, which is 162 feet from my house. I started my truck. It was -20°C. I left it running. Yes, the keys were in it. Yes, that is theoretically a no-no. In reality, we all do it, for very good reasons. I had forgotten my cellphone, so I went back to the house, 162 feet. The cellphone was on the shelf just inside the door. I picked it up and went back.
There was a strange white truck in my yard. I hadn't seen it before. My truck was leaving the driveway, leaving the premises. I looked at the white truck. It wasn't a local truck; nobody was playing games. I took my cellphone out and started to phone 911, and my truck reappeared across the lawn and almost ran me down, and stopped beside the white truck. The passenger got out and was retrieving something that they had left from the white truck, which turned out to be stolen. I went to the driver's side and I opened the door and I said, “What is going on?” The driver put it in gear, backed up—the door was open and knocked me down—and then closed and locked the door. So I went to the other side, to the passenger side where the individual was removing whatever it was from the white truck, the stolen truck. I asked him the same question, “What is doing on?” He grabbed me, and the other fellow got me from behind, and they put me down. When they were putting me down, they said, “We're scared. The RCMP are after us, and the mafia is after us.” Right away, I thought, "I'm facing a drug case here."
They put me down on the ground. The driver got back in the truck. My guard dog chased him back to the truck. The other one cut my throat, kicked my head continually—I would suggest, if I can guess properly, about six times. The first kick was to my right eye, damaging it severely. There were several kicks to my jaw, which did significant damage to my jaw. Another one or two were to my neck, and I have a neck problem now. Then finally he kicked me in the chest, causing me excruciating pain. All the time he was doing this, he was waving a knife in front of me.
I guess I more or less passed out from the extreme pain from the kick to the chest, and I just barely remember him nudging me with his foot like a hunter would do with a deer to see if it was dead or not. Then he proceeded to get into the truck. He was taking his time about it, and my wife had come out because she had heard a commotion, and from the corner of the garage said, “What is going on?” Then they both hurried up and left the area.
She phoned 911, and the RCMP appeared and called an ambulance and whatnot. What has happened to me? I'm just going to read some of my impact statements I made to the court.
In terms of the physical trauma, the knife slash to the neck was a clean cut and bled heavily. There is right-eye damage. Sight is severely distorted. I can't read a book without frustration due to horizontal double-vision. I have to read with one eye closed now, which is hard for an 83-year-old who has used both eyes for most of his life. I have serious jaw fractures and no feeling in my lower lip and right side of my face due to significant nerve damage. I can't chew properly; food falls out of my mouth when I eat because of the numbness of my lip and face. During the healing process, my jaws were wired shut for four weeks. I required considerable dental work. Teeth had to be removed and so on. The pain in my neck will never go away.
I guess I was close to dying. This happened on November 4. On October 31, I had finished 18 or 20 years as a municipal councillor in the fourth-largest rural municipality in Alberta. I was euphoric. I had no more responsibilities. I had time to work on my bucket list, so to speak. On November 4, this accident or intrusion, or whatever you want to call it, happened. That took care of my bucket list, so to speak.
At this point in time, as of today, the knife slash has healed satisfactorily, but my right eye is permanently damaged. I have to close my right eye in order to read. I'm an avid reader, but I can't do that anymore. The jaw fractures have healed more or less okay. The right side of my face is partially distorted and it is obvious, especially to me every time I look in the mirror. It required four titanium plates to reconstruct my jaw: one on each side, one down here.... I had two jaw fractures.
The nerve damage to the right side of my face has not repaired. I'm stuck with this for the rest of my life, and it results in terrible difficulties eating. I'm very reluctant to eat in public because the food drools down my face and I can't feel it. I can't chew properly, so we don't go out for dinner anymore.
I think that's an interesting explanation, but I don't think it aligns with the evidence. If that were the explanation, then what you would see is lots of police officers shot in urban centres but not dying, in contrast to police officers being shot in rural areas and dying. I don't think there's any evidence to support that.
The last police officer who was shot and killed in Toronto, for example, was Todd Baylis in 1994. There have been three police officers since then killed in the greater Montreal area. But if you look at the other 20 or 30 who were killed, it's Lac-Simon, it's Edmonton, RCMP, RCMP, RCMP, RCMP, Kativik, OPP, RCMP, RCMP Saskatchewan, RCMP Saskatchewan, Windsor, Laval—I would count that as part of the greater Montreal area—RCMP, RCMP, RCMP, RCMP.
If you look at the geographic breakdown, the explanation is, frankly, that often police officers go on calls, and in those communities they're more likely to be going to a home with a firearm. If you look at the circumstances under which police are shot and killed, it's typically not in a shootout with a gang in an urban centre. It's typically someone who's disturbed in the midst of a domestic violence incident, or someone who's suicidal, or in some cases, for example in the case of Mayerthorpe, someone who had a beef against the police. We saw that in Moncton, as well.
If arming for self-protection worked, the United States would be the safest country in the world. Last year they had more than 10,000 firearm murders, which was substantially more than we had.
I'll reiterate what the data show. The data show that property crime in urban and rural contexts are about the same. What's different is violent crime. I actually think the availability of firearms in rural areas is part of the problem, not the solution.
If you compare the United Kingdom, Canada, the U.S. and Australia, you will see that the rate per 100,000 of murders without guns is roughly the same, but when you put guns into the mix, you see massive differences. The United Kingdom, which has 60 million people, had 27 gun murders last year. They had just as many stabbings, beatings and stranglings as we did on a per capita basis, but they had 27 gun murders.
I think people who are arguing for arming for self-protection may really believe that to be the case. They may be buying into American-style rhetoric, but there is absolutely zero evidence—like, zero evidence—in the public health or criminology literature that's credible that suggests that that will make us safer.
I'll go back to what the United Nations has said about the impact on the safety of women. Where there are more guns, you're going to see more dead women, more suicides and higher rates of interpersonal violence with firearms. That evidence is absolutely clear.
I would really urge the committee to recognize that many people who are fearful and frustrated—and I can understand the frustrations with the justice system—may desire to take the law into their own hands. The Supreme Court of Canada has said repeatedly that there is no right to bear arms in Canada. Our laws were designed to not encourage U.S.-style arming for self-protection. I think that will take us down a path of no return. If people think violent crime is a problem now, more guns will make us far less safe.
Good afternoon. My name is Dale Larsen. I'm currently assistant deputy minister, policing and community safety services, with the Ministry of Corrections and Policing, Government of Saskatchewan.
I began my career with the ministry in 2013. Prior to that I was chief of police at the Moose Jaw Police Service.
I'm joined by Cory Lerat, currently an executive director with police quality and innovation, and also responsible for the CSO/peacekeeper program and first nations policing in our department.
Cory's previous police history was with the RCMP. He retired as an inspector with 30 years' experience.
In 2012, the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities informed the Ministry of Corrections and Policing that their policing resources were insufficient to adequately address their community safety needs, primarily those high priority, low risk to harm policing calls in their communities, such as enforcing traffic safety, alcohol infractions and crime prevention initiatives.
Police leaders have known for many years and research has verified that the majority of calls for assistance that police officers attend are non-criminal in nature. Upwards of 80% of that police demand is non-criminal.
A large percentage of these calls, even though high priority, are low risk to harm from an officer safety perspective, calls such as traffic complaints and collisions, bylaw infractions, not-in-progress reports of minor thefts and mischief, and crime prevention initiatives that do not require the attendance of an armed, fully trained police officer.
With this in mind, the CSO/peacekeeper model is meant to offer municipalities, rural municipalities and first nations an additional option to support and enhance current policing services within their boundaries and increase crime prevention initiatives at the community level.
The alternate enforcement model was developed in collaboration with SARM, SUMA, RCMP, Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police, Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers and the ministry. It was important to work with stakeholders not only in consultation but in program design and implementation.
The development of the CSO program began in April 2013 with a literature review to examine models of delivering a low risk for harm policing model to enhance and support the policing services provided by existing municipal, RCMP and first nations police services The review examined low risk for harm policing programs based on models from the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, and in particular, the Province of Alberta and their peace officer program. From the review, a model defined as a provincial program within current community policing strategies evolved. Providing an opportunity to enhance community safety and crime prevention through building partnerships with community stakeholders, it focuses on crime prevention and intervention, as well as low-risk suppression. It has come to be known as the community safety officer/peacekeeper program.
The literature review also outlined a structure based on four areas: functions, governance, training and competency, and an evaluation and outcomes area.
From concept to reality, the city of North Battleford, with 13,567 residents, a Saskatchewan city with one of the highest crime severity indexes in the nation, was chosen as the proof-of-concept site for the CSO program. The community safety officer program was launched in North Battleford in 2014. Today the program employs six officers and is an integral part of the city's community safety strategy. Even though community safety officers are distinct and separate from regular police officers, they are considered to be a vital element in support of the Battleford RCMP detachment.
The ministry discovered early on that the partnership between CSOs and the police agency of jurisdiction is absolutely critical to the success of the CSO program. F Division RCMP assistant commissioner Curtis Zablocki provided support for the program, commenting that by expanding CSO authority to “take on some of the lower-level investigations, the RCMP will be able to target more serious criminal activity.” North Battleford recently reported that, year to date, their community safety officer unit has dealt with 6,105 calls for service and has issued over 3,300 citations for different offences in this city.
Another early success of the program was in Edenwold, Saskatchewan. In an attempt to reduce their rural crime problems, the Rural Municipality of Edenwold, a small rural municipality of 233 residents, was also an early participant in the CSO program. Edenwold has found that their CSOs not only deter theft but also help prevent road damage through enforcement against overweight vehicles. The RM of Edenwold now contracts out the services of their CSOs to three other neighbouring rural communities.
The Saskatchewan CSO peacekeeper induction course is the minimum training requirement for issuance of a special constable appointment, and it's delivered through an MOU between ministry and Saskatchewan Polytechnic for the delivery of the six-week induction training, consisting of four weeks in class and two weeks online. There are some exemptions from the induction course that are considered on a case-by-case basis and that must be approved in writing by my office. The CSOs, once trained, are authorized to carry the following intermediate weapons and restraint devices: OC spray, baton and handcuffs. CSO/peacekeepers do not carry firearms.
CSO/peacekeepers are also provided their boundaries relative to the low risk to harm limitations of their authority. Traffic enforcement activities are not allowed on highways within their jurisdictions that have posted speeds above 90 kilometres per hour. They do not attend or participate in any way with occurrences where weapons are suspected. If CSOs encounter an assault or other potentially violent event in progress, they contact the local police service. Likewise, if impaired driving offences are detected, they contact the local police agency as well. CSO/peacekeepers are not authorized to engage in motor vehicle pursuits.
Upon successful completion of the CSO/peacekeeper training program, they are provided authorities under several provincial statutes, as well as enhanced authorities to attend not-in-progress Criminal Code property offences of theft under $5,000, and mischief, for the sole purpose of receiving information, evaluating and liaising with the local police of jurisdiction, as required, as well as non-injury motor vehicle collisions within their jurisdictional boundaries. Their employment also includes the authority and powers of peace officers under the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to the service of summonses, subpoenas and legal documents.
Under program reviews, in July 2017 an evaluation of the community safety officer induction course was completed. More recently, in August 2018, a complete CSO program evaluation was delivered, and these recommendations are still moving forward.
In spring 2018, as part of the rural crime strategy, the minister hired one full-time staff dedicated solely to the CSO/peacekeeper program, and to implement the recommendations from the two reviews.
On discipline and public complaints, the CSO/peacekeepers are directly employed by the municipality, rural municipality or first nation, providing employers control of the schedule and deployment of their CSO/peacekeepers within the geographic boundaries pursuant to their special constable appointments.
I'll try to just re-emphasize some points that I made in May or June of this year.
Rather than considering myself an expert in the field of firearms violence, which I am not, following 35 years in rural practice as both a family physician and an emergency physician, and a coroner, I feel I can bear some degree of witness to the issue of firearms accessibility and rural death.
Prior to beginning in rural practice in Perth, Ontario, just south of here, I have lived in Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver, and have served three years of active service in the Canadian military. During that time, I rarely encountered a firearm injury or death.
Having been a rural emergency physician, however, and as a coroner, I've seen more than my share of firearm injuries and death by long-gun suicide. Of the three murders during my 35-year tenure in Perth, I had been involved on two of them—I don't know why I'm the lucky soul—including the difficult experience of investigating a double murder-suicide by long gun as a consequence of intimate partner violence. That is a memory that, 25 years later, still stays with me to this day. It reminds me constantly of the need to prevent firearms access for those who shouldn't have them.
I should note that we consider, as an emergency physicians group, the issue of the public's health an entirely non-partisan issue. This may explain why I, as a rural, licensed gun-owner and a member of the Conservative Party, view the issue of prevention of firearms misuse and injury equally through a non-partisan lens. It just isn't partisan for me. I'm not an anti-gun guy.
As a member of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, this will be my fourth appearance before a committee, dating back to when Warren Allmand was a chair, in 1994. That probably makes me an old guy.
As a rural physician, and more specifically as a coroner, I have marvelled at the absolute disconnect between public discourse on gun control with its seeming single-minded focus on illegal hand guns, gun-related crime, gang violence and homicide, and my reality on the ground, which is suicide by legally owned long guns. Such a focus on crime has, in my view, prevented us from taking a very real opportunity to reduce firearm death and disability associated with suicide and...its prevention. Eighty per cent of all firearm fatalities in Canada are due to suicide.
In rural Lanark County, just south of Ottawa, where I live and practise, gun crime is practically unheard of. However, suicide by long gun is not at all uncommon. This is where this government and those that follow it must focus their efforts. Reducing accessibility to firearms, particularly for those at risk of self-harm or intimate partner violence, is where we need to focus our attention. It will obviously not solve the problem, which is complex and multifactorial, but it will be a small but important step in the right direction of reducing the tragic legacy of death by suicide.
I presented in May or June, and I'm not going to go through that again. You have all the data from StatsCan, I'm sure. What our association would call for is greater research. StatsCan is great, but it would be great to have research on how guns are used in terms of suicide, intimate partner violence and homicide so that we can focus our efforts on getting a bang for our buck—that sounds awful—in terms of appropriate action towards reducing firearms access and death. We believe there needs to be a much more rigorous screening of those individuals at risk. We also believe that physicians should play an important role by incorporating the well-established practice of reporting those individuals at risk. We do it for flying, for driving, and for people who have shown a tendency towards child abuse. Why not for guns?
There may be no clear subset of people where these efforts can be identified and focused, but I think we can all agree that the actively psychotic individual with paranoid delusions who wants to murder the Government of Canada probably shouldn't own a gun. I think we can agree that somebody who's involved in intimate-partner violence should not have access to a gun. That's where we, as a profession, and we, as a society, need to make that small but important step in mandatory reporting of individuals at risk.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, vice-chairs and committee members. Thank you for inviting me to address you today. It's always a pleasure to appear before this committee.
Unlike my last appearance, I appear today as an individual in my personal capacity as a criminal defence lawyer. Although my practice is based here in Ottawa, I regularly defend clients and try cases throughout this region. My work often takes me through small towns and villages, from Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry in the east to Renfrew and Lanark Country—like Dr. Drummond—in the west and all places in between.
I have seen first-hand the unique challenges faced by rural residents as both victims of crime, and all too often, the subjects of criminal charges themselves. I found last week's testimony by Edward and Jessica Maurice to ring particularly true in this regard. Their story, sadly, is one I have heard many times before: Rural residents confront intruders on their property. Sometimes the intruders are armed themselves. Invariably, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. Like the Maurices, they are faced with an awful decision either to act in self-defence or to risk unimaginable consequences.
At the outset, I should distinguish between two entirely separate concepts. There is an obvious difference between vigilantism, which is a crime, and the act of self-defence, which is a long-recognized right in both the common law and the Criminal Code.
To be a vigilante is to act unlawfully, to seek retribution or vengeance for real or perceived wrongs. It is to take the law into one's own hands. It is antithetical to the rule of law in a free and democratic society. It should be discouraged and punished by the criminal justice system.
Self-defence, on the other hand, is something else entirely. For as long as the modern common law has existed, the right of individuals to use proportional and reasonable force in repelling unlawful threats has been recognized and protected. It is enshrined in our criminal law.
However, it has often been my experience that it is the property owners acting in self-defence who are themselves the subject of criminal charges. In the end, many of those clients are ultimately acquitted or, like Eddie Maurice, have their charges withdrawn before trial, but this is little consolation. By that point, they have been arrested, charged and often placed on strict bail conditions. Some don't get bail at all and must await their trials in custody. These arrests are highly publicized. In the Internet age, I often tell clients that it is not the criminal record that should be most feared, but the Google record. Web searches by neighbours, prospective employers and others turn up in the news and social media stories about their arrests and alleged wrongdoing.
Then of course, there is the expense. In Canada, notwithstanding one's ultimate vindication, there is little one can do to recover legal fees expended to defend against even the most baseless criminal charges. As my clients often realize, much as the Maurices did, the process is often punishment itself. What can be done to rectify this?
In my view, the starting point is the current self-defence provisions in the Criminal Code. To be clear, these sections were recently amended and consolidated by the previous government in 2012. It was a long time coming. In fact, as far back as 1995, the Supreme Court stated that legislative action “is required to clarify the Criminal Code's self-defence regime”. Indeed, the previous provisions were criticized by that court as being “highly technical”, “excessively detailed” and “internally inconsistent”. But there is more to be done, particularly in light of over five years experience with how even the new provisions are being interpreted and applied by police and prosecutors.
Canadians deserve consistency and predictability in the application of the criminal law. More important, it is fundamental to the rule of law that the boundary between illegal action and legal self-defence be clear to all. I offer for this committee's consideration a number of practical steps that can be taken to further clarify the Criminal Code's self-defence provisions.
First, Parliament should consider codifying the existing common law self-defence principles in the Criminal Code. While these may not change the ultimate outcome where a case goes to trial—of course a judge knows the law and will instruct the jury accordingly—it would give clear guidance to law enforcement when they are considering a threshold question of whether or not to lay the charge, that is, whether reasonable and probable grounds exist to believe that an offence has been committed.
These recognized common law principles include the following:
One, the accused bears no onus to demonstrate that there was no reasonable way of withdrawing or retreating, from Ward, the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Two, people in stressful and dangerous situations do not have time for subtle reflection, from Mohamed, the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Three, a person defending himself against an attack, reasonably apprehended, cannot be expected to weigh to a nicety the exact measure of necessary defensive action, from Baxter, the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Four, what is relevant to assessing a claim of self-defence is how the accused perceived the relevant facts and whether the perception was reasonable. In other words, an accused person is entitled to be mistaken so long as that mistake was a reasonable one. That is from Pétel, the Supreme Court of Canada.
Next, Parliament should consider an amendment to the Criminal Code that would clarify the circumstances in which an accused person would not bear the burden of establishing the evidentiary basis for a claim of self-defence. At present, in order for a court to consider a claim of self-defence, the judge must find that there is an “air of reality” to the defence, in other words, that the possibility exists in the evidence. While this does not formally shift the burden of proof to the accused, that is often the practical effect. Once this air of reality is met, the Crown must disprove the claim of self-defence beyond a reasonable doubt.
I would recommend an amendment to the Criminal Code establishing that the air of reality is automatically met where the accused is on his or her own property and the victim is trespassing or otherwise unlawfully there.
Finally, I would propose a wholesale streamlining of the existing self-defence provisions. We can look to other jurisdictions for guidance.
For example, in New Zealand, the law is phrased as follows:
||Every one is justified in using, in the defence of himself or herself or another, such force as, in the circumstances as he or she believes them to be, it is reasonable to use.
I conclude with this thought: Rural victims of crime should not find themselves twice victimized, once by criminals, and again by the criminal justice system. Much can be done to ensure fairness in how the Criminal Code is applied and enforced, and to restore the bond of trust between rural Canadians, law enforcement and the courts.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.
We have to distinguish between somebody being charged with an offence and someone being convicted. In my experience, I've seen many cases where individuals are charged, but then the charge is withdrawn or they're acquitted after a trial.
The threshold to lay a charge is reasonable and probable grounds, and particularly in a province like Ontario where charges don't have to be approved by the prosecutor, you're relying on the policing policy and the individual knowledge and experience of the first officer to respond to a scene. Particularly where a firearm is used, or where there has been a violent incident, often I have seen that the first instinct of the officer is to lay a charge, and then say, “We'll let the court sort it out.”
The trouble with that is, of course, as I said, that the process is the punishment. This means a person is going to have their liberty restricted, sometimes by being placed in custody, strict bail conditions and an incredible expense, not to mention the stigma that's associated with having criminal charges hang over your head.
So it begins on the ground level, and it doesn't matter if you're acquitted or vindicated. Clients always say that no one remembers that follow-up small-print story at the end of the day. People remember the front-page news when you were paraded off in handcuffs for exercising your right to self-defence.
I dispute your comment about there being no other choice. Of course, there's a choice. There is no excuse for drinking and driving no matter what the rurality index is of your given community.
I'm going to try and focus on firearms, because that's why I thought I was here, but it does raise the issue that when we encounter somebody who has been drinking and driving—and has either come to our emergency department or been brought to our emergency department in Ontario and probably every other province in this country—we have a legal obligation, a mandatory obligation, to report that individual as somebody who may be unsafe to drive, because if they drink and drive, they could do it again. There's a mandatory reporting provision which on pain of death if we don't do it gets us into a lot of trouble.
By the same token, we encounter people quite often in the emergency department who are thinking about suicide, or ruminating about suicide, and then practically in every rural home there's a firearm— not every rural home, but a significant number of them. When somebody comes in with suicidal ideation or thoughts of suicide, or significant depression, it should be part of our process—it isn't actually, but it should be—to ask about the presence of guns in the home, and to make sure that during that period of severe depression, or suicidal thoughts, that they don't have access to a weapon.
Currently, we don't have the legal right to notify the police that somebody, who has presented suicidal thoughts, has a weapon in their home. That is something that we need to resolve. I understand there are concerns about the confidentiality process, and the fact that medicine is based on the ability to freely discuss items of concern with a physician without fear of government reporting, but that is a fact.
Your second point was with respect to....