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Tory bill aims to clarify citizen's arrest, self-defence

Handcuffs are pictured in a April, 2010 file photo.

Musadeq Sadeq/AP/Musadeq Sadeq/AP

The Conservative government has reintroduced a bill that would define self-defence and citizen's arrest.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says crime victims should not be revictimized by the criminal justice system.

Current legislation heavily restricts citizen's arrest, allowing it only if perpetrators are caught in the midst of a criminal offence on or involving the arrester's property.

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The proposed legislation would authorize an owner or authorized person, like a store employee, to arrest a suspected criminal within a "reasonable amount of time" after committing an offence.

Under the proposed law, the authority to make a citizen's arrest would only apply if a police officer is not available to do the job.

The bill would also reform "self-defence" and "defence-of-property" provisions in the Criminal Code.

Police, prosecutors and the courts have described those existing provisions as confusing and overly complex.

The new legislation aims to make it easier to determine whether people who claim to have defended themselves, others or their property should be charged with or convicted of a crime.

"The legislation in no way compromises the principle that police are the first line of protection against crime," said Robert Goguen, Mr. Nicholson's parliamentary secretary.

"Police will continue to have the responsibility to preserve and maintain public peace as Canada's first and foremost criminal law enforcement body. The legislation simply recognizes that the police cannot be everywhere at once and that Canadians must be able to protect themselves and their property in urgent situations."

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The bill follows the controversial Safe Streets and Communities Act, which will impose mandatory minimum sentences, curb house arrest, and boost some penalties for drug crimes and sexual predators.

Several provinces have complained the new legislation will cost them millions as jail and prison populations inevitably rise.

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