Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tory Minister Says Rae Can't Recognize Victims in Dispute over Warning Shots: Tories Fire Back at Rae over Warning Shots

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tory Minister Says Rae Can't Recognize Victims in Dispute over Warning Shots: Tories Fire Back at Rae over Warning Shots

Article excerpt

OTTAWA - Standing up for victims has clashed with the issue of public safety over the issue of warning gunfire.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson raised some eyebrows earlier this week by agreeing that firing shots over the heads of thugs and thieves may be considered reasonable under a proposed new law.

Nicholson's musing prompted an angry exchange Thursday during question period.

"What is he going to say to the family of the little girl crossing the road down the street when somebody fires a warning shot at somebody entering their property?" interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae demanded of the justice minister.

"Does he not understand the danger of promoting vigilante justice in our society?"

Nicholson fired back that Liberals can't figure out who are the real victims of crime.

"If people are coming onto other people's property to set fire to their car, breaking into their house or attacking their family, those are the bad guys," said Nicholson.

"Why can the Liberals not ever figure that out? How come they cannot figure out who the real victims are and stand up for them for a change?"

The heated to-and-fro comes as the Conservative government is proposing to simplify and expand the Criminal Code sections that cover citizen's arrest, self defence and defence of property.

During an appearance Tuesday at the House of Commons justice committee, Nicholson agreed with a question from Tory backbencher Brian Jean that firing a warning shot over the head of a repeat thief coming onto a rural property to steal an all-terrain vehicle would be "reasonable" under the circumstances.

His comments were not welcomed by groups representing the legal profession and front-line police officers.

Eric Gottardi of the Canadian Bar Association said it was "particularly unfortunate" that Nicholson chose to endorse even the concept of warning shots -- especially at a time when the government is expanding the notion of citizen's arrests.

Jean, a Fort McMurray lawyer, said in an interview Thursday that brandishing a weapon was the kind of thing that happened when he was growing up in the rough northern Alberta resource city. …

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