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UPDATE: The wider implications of citizen’s arrest legislation

The Globe and Mail reports today that, “The prime minister’s office confirmed on Saturday that a bill (to make citizen’s arrests easier) would be tabled soon after Parliament resumes Jan. 31. …The NDP says it will support Conservative government legislation to make citizen’s arrests easier. New Democrat MP Olivia Chow said Saturday she supports a decision by the Tories to introduce a bill to amend the Criminal Code.” This has come about because, “(Toronto shopkeeper David) Chen made national headlines last fall when he was acquitted of assault and forcible confinement after catching and tying up a shoplifter in Toronto. Catching a thief in the act is a requirement of the law when making such a citizen’s arrest.”

The wider implications of this citizen’s arrest legislation could prove to be interesting.

For example, Canada’s War Crimes Act states that those who have committed or aided and abetted the commission of war crimes or crimes against humanity are not to be allowed entry into Canada. In 1999, I was part of a group that wrote then Minister of External Affairs Lloyd Axworthy to deny former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger entry into Canada due to his role in the 1973 coup against the democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende, his support for the invasion and subsequent genocide in East Timor, and more. When Axworthy didn’t take the appropriate action to enforce the War Crimes Act, we attempted a citizen’s arrest of Kissinger. The Toronto police arrested the four of us with trespassing and breach of peace.

Today, we might look at climate change, the tar sands, even the rights of Mother Earth. When Canada signed the 1997 Kyoto accord it made a legal obligation to cut emissions by 6 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. That legal obligation was broken and Canada’s carbon emissions increased by about 26 per cent between 1990 and 2007. Last August, the Edmonton Journal reported that the Liberal party report on tar sands and water, “says the federal government is ignoring its responsibilities under the Fisheries Act, which prohibits the deposit of deleterious substances into fish-bearing waters. Industry is breaking this rule by depositing contaminants in the river through leaky tailings ponds and airborne sources…”

We look forward to seeing the text of this new legislation in a few week’s time.