January 25th, 2011 – Matt Gurney, National Post
Shoplifters. Burglars. Home invaders. All too often, they are deemed “victims” of the very people they attack: peaceful law-abiding citizens, many quite literally minding their own business.
From store-owner David Chen’s attempts to fight shoplifters, to Port Colborne, Ont. home-owner Ian Thomson’s attempts to fight off arsonists, courts and the police treat many Canadians who defend themselves no better than the thugs who would do harm to their persons or property. Over time, this attitude has eroded Canadians’ sense of personal responsibility for their own security — or made them too fearful of the consequences to act on it.
Thomson’s plight speaks eloquently to this bleak truth. Last August, three masked men pelted Thomson’s rural Ontario home with at least six flaming Molotov cocktails while he was sleeping inside. Thomson, who legally owned handguns, stepped out and fired several shots, driving off the attackers without harming them. He notified police of the incident and turned over surveillance film from security cameras installed around his home. The police arrested two men … and then arrested Thomson as well, for firearm-related offences. The Crown is seeking jail time.
In 1995, Ottawa resident James Morrow endured an even worse ordeal. A man with whom Morrow had a business dispute kicked in his apartment building’s door in a drunken rage. The man proceeded to Morrow’s unit, where he claimed he had a gun and was there to “blow [Morrow’s] head off.” Morrow immediately called 911 and spent a harrowing nine minutes on the telephone with the operator, during which time police failed to arrive. The intruder finally smashed down the door and entered his home, whereupon Morrow, also a legal handgun owner, shot him dead. Morrow was charged with murder; his court battle lasted two-and-half-years, despite being a textbook example of a legitimate use of force according to the judge dismissed the charges against him.
The cases of Thomson and Morrow illustrate the nature of such confrontations. Faced with an imminent and grave threat to their lives, with nary a cop in sight, what other options did these men have? Had they not acted in self-defence, both might well be dead.
In some cases, the police not only fail to show up to calls from citizens, but make it plain that they have no intention of protecting them or their property.
That was the situation facing New Brunswick resident Lawrence Manzer. In March of 2010, when his neighbour discovered three intruders in his backyard at 2:30 a.m., he phoned Manzer, who stepped on to his porch holding an unloaded shotgun. Manzer and his neighbour had suffered repeated acts of vandalism on their properties before this confrontation; previously, the police had shown themselves uninterested in responding to such minor crimes. Yet this time, the police acted — arresting Manzer for threatening the public peace. His case remains before the courts.
On a broader scale, there also is the disgraceful abandonment of the people of Caledonia by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). Since 2006, the residents of this Ontario town have faced threats, intimidation and outright assault at the hands of natives enraged by a land claim dispute involving a housing development. Instead of protecting the terrorized homeowners, the OPP refused to intervene lest they further “inflame” the situation.
And of course, there is the case of Toronto store-owner David Chen. After suffering daily harassment by shoplifters and manifest indifference by the police, in May 2009 Chen finally made a citizens’ arrest of one of the most notorious repeat offenders. Instead of thanking him for doing their job, police charged Chen with assault and forcible confinement. Acquitted of both counts last October, his actions may prove a tipping point. Last week, the federal Conservatives announced that they would introduce legislation to change the rules for citizens’ arrests, to ensure other well-meaning individuals do not face a repeat of the Chen fiasco.