Alberta justice minister blasts feds for not letting people use pepper spray for self-defence

Alberta’s justice minister issued a scathing statement on Tuesday night, blasting the federal government for not approving his request to amend the Criminal Code in order to allow people to carry pepper spray for self-defence.

“Once again, the Trudeau Liberals show that they’re soft-on-crime — siding with criminals instead of victims,” Kaycee Madu’s statement reads in part.

“They offer lip service rather than tangible action when it comes to hate-motivated crimes.”

A little less than two weeks ago, Madu said he had written the federal ministers of justice and public safety, calling for them to consider allowing people to carry pepper spray for self-defence, something currently classified as a prohibited weapon.

READ MORE: Alberta justice minister calls for Criminal Code changes to allow pepper spray for self-defence 

Madu made the request in the wake of recent crimes in Alberta that police believe have been motivated by hate.

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“(The federal government seems) to take the shameful stance that Canadians themselves are responsible for not standing up against hate instead of putting the blame squarely on perpetrators,” Madu said Tuesday.

A joint statement issued by federal Justice Minister David Lametti and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair on Tuesday said the country needs “all Canadians to step up and stand against hatred and intolerance” but that they had concerns about making the use of pepper spray legal for the purpose of self-defence.

“When looking at this request, we have to be mindful that all weapons that are prohibited have been prohibited for a reason, as they are extremely dangerous when they fall into the wrong hands,” their statement reads. “When confronted with a problem, the solution cannot simply be to increase accessibility to prohibited weapons. This can actually lead to further violence.

“Rather, we need to address complex issues such as mental health and addictions as just one through a continuum such as prevention, and when appropriate, enforcement.”

READ MORE: Alberta to launch security grant to protect religious, cultural organizations from hate crimes 

Madu said that he believes, as it stands, the Criminal Code “punishes victims rather than protecting them.”

“(The federal government has) no desire to change a system where a woman could end up in jail longer than her attacker — simply for trying to defend herself,” his statement reads.

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“Albertans need action on this file. They need to be able to defend themselves, yet their federal government doesn’t seem to care.”

The statement from Lametti and Blair also touched on Madu’s criticism of their government over elements of Bill C-22, which seeks to repeal mandatory minimum penalties for drug offences and some gun-related crimes. The federal government argues the minimum penalties aren’t effective and unfairly impact Indigenous and Black offenders.

In February, Madu said he was “deeply concerned about the decision to gut tough sentencing provisions for gun crimes.”

“Removing tough, mandatory penalties for actual gun crimes undermines the very minority communities that are so often victimized by brazen gun violence,” he said at the time.

“I also find it disingenuous for Ottawa to exploit a genuine issue like systemic racism to push through their soft-on-crime bills.”

READ MORE: Alberta justice minister blasts feds’ attempt to repeal mandatory minimum sentences for some firearms offences 

In their statement on Tuesday, Lametti and Blair said Bill C-22 sees their government turn the page “on failed Conservative criminal justice policies that have not kept us safe and not deterred crime.”

“We know that the use of mandatory minimum penalties have resulted in the over incarceration of Indigenous peoples, Black and marginalized Canadians, groups that are disproportionately victimized by hate crimes,” their statement reads.

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READ MORE: Liberals aim to tackle systemic racism in the justice system with proposed law 

With regard to hate-motivated crimes, the federal ministers noted that on Monday, Blair announced 150 projects aimed at supporting communities at risk of hate motivated crimes have been “recommended for development.”

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