One of the Conservative Party Member of Parliament running for leadership of the party, Kellie Leitch, is vowing to legalize pepper spray as a way to reduce violence against women. Currently mace, tear gas, pepper sprays, or any spray or gas designed for use against humans is prohibited for civilian ownership in Canada.
Leitch in her bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada has vowed that should she become Prime Minister that she would make it legal for anyone to carry and use cans of mace or pepper spray for self defense. While the sprays would become legal for self defense, they still would be prohibited for use as a weapon in any other instance. This campaign promise is coming to address the latest data collected by Statistics Canada in 2011 outlining that 173000 women had been a victim of violence in that year.
Now we will give credit where it is due, and for a Canadian politician to acknowledge the use of any tool in the use of legal self defense it is a step in the right direction. It is however a baby step in the right direction, and it does show that politicians are out of touch with the laws that they are pioneering in their campaign promises and the bills they create.
The problem arises in that pepper spray is already legal for civilian ownership and use, but the express purpose is to be used against wildlife and domestic animals such as dogs. It would be far easier and a far greater acknowledgment of the Canadian citizens right to self defense to allow any item to be carried for the express purpose of self defense against other humans. Currently in Canada any item that is carried for the purpose of self defense against humans can be considered a weapon by Police and Crown prosecutors. By attempting to make a single defensive item legal for use against humans it still doesn't address the issue that any item, no matter what it is, is currently considered a weapon if carried with intent of defensive use against humans. To add to this if an item is carried in a concealed manner it opens the door to charges of carrying a concealed weapon.
Furthermore using any item in an aggressive manner to attack another human without justifiable cause of self defense is already illegal. Removing items from the prohibited weapons list for the use of self defense, while still somehow keeping them as a prohibited item if used as a weapon can open a host of legal ramifications for a person that does use the item in legal self defense. This isn't to say that self defense is illegal in Canada, which is a common misconception, because justifiable self defense is legal within our framework of law. However it is a common tactic with Crown prosecutors to charge any person that has defended themselves with use of a weapon. While these charges may not stick, they are punitive and can cause the defendant tens of thousands of dollars to fight in a court of law. By adding ambiguity to the law it only opens the door to further options of punitive charges to be laid against a person that is claiming legal self defense.
Without addressing the key issue of making any item carried for use against humans to be considered a legal tool for self defense and not a weapon this appears to be pandering to the Conservative membership base, which largely believe in the right to self defense, for votes in Leitch's favor. Again we do acknowledge that not many Canadian politicians of any party want to grab the political hot potato that is self defense laws in Canada and Leitch has seemed to embrace this portion of the debate. It does show however that along with most Canadian politicians that Leitch doesn't fully understand the legal quagmire that is Canadian self defense law, the punitive charges that are laid against Canadian citizens, or the human right to basic tools for self defense and the preservation of life. It will be interesting to watch if Leitch continues with her view of legalizing mace and pepper spray, or expands that view to include all tools for self defense.