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Changing our Approach to Citizen’s Arrests

Every day from February 21st -28th, I am going to talk about a different Crime Issue that has an impact in our community. I know that people in Brant are concerned about their safety and so are New Democrats.

This article talks about how a single criminal act created a situation where one of our New Democratic MP’s showed the true nature of political leadership.  The story of Lucky Moose and Olivia Chow to me is a story about grass roots representation and doing what one can to sidestep the political games and get something done for the community.  That’s good representation.  That’s what happens when you’re in it for the right reasons.

David Chen, the owner of Toronto’s Lucky Moose Food Emporium, had witnessed someone shoplifting. The person stole some items, left for a short time, and then returned to Mr. Chen’s business. Upon the thief’s return, Mr. Chen and two of his co-workers called police, and then proceeded to detain the man until officers arrived on the scene. When the police arrived, they charged Mr. Chen the store owner with assault and forcible confinement for his actions against the man he caught stealing from the store.

Trinity-Spadina NDP MP Olivia Chow heard what had happened, and launched a petition to make amendments to the Criminal Code to protect store owners in this situation. The petition received 10,000 signatures, which she then presented in the House of Commons. The resulting Bill, Bill C-565 – An Act to amend the Criminal Code (arrest without warrant by owner), was presented in the House of Commons for first reading on September 29th, 2010.

On November 2nd, Olivia presented her Bill before the House seeking all-party consent. It was denied. The National Post, in an article the following day, summed up the events, and Ms. Chow’s efforts:

“But during Question Period, Stephen Harper indicated that his government would be pursuing Criminal-Code reform in this area, presumably along the same lines advocated by Ms. Chow. We hope this reform comes soon. And when it does, Ms. Chow will deserve much of the credit.”1

The National Post was able to call it a mile away; the Conservatives would waste time, energy and tax payer’s money to create their own Bill instead of working with New Democrats on the one that was already done.  The Conservative’s Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen’s arrest and the defences of property and persons) (Citizen’s Arrest and Self-defence Act), offered practically the same changes to the criminal code as those proposed in Olivia Chow’s Bill. 

Marc stands alongside NDP Leader Jack Layton, MP Olivia Chow, and other New Democrats at the Stop The Meter Rally in Toronto

Imagine not passing a bill you agree with in a timely fashion because you don’t want another party to get credit for it?  That’s not trying to make parliament work and it’s not real leadership.

This is one of the biggest differences between local and national New Democratic representation and the representation we get from the current government.  We take the lead in proposing ideas for judicial changes that help protect Canadians. We take the lead in making sure that our laws work for law-abiding citizens, while punishing those who break the laws.  Instead the current government recognizes the idea, refuses to support it, then tries to put forward the same idea later as if they thought of it. 

For the Harper’s government the Lucky Moose bill Olivia Chow presented didn’t work because it didn’t fit the Conservative talking points that they are the only party tough on crime.  It also didn’t fit the narrative they have tried to portray that New Democrats are weak on crime.  And because it didn’t fit their messaging they played political games. 

I say let them.  We see through it.  Voters in Brant don’t like their elected representatives trying to trick them.

Leadership is proposing legislation that protects your rights. Leadership is not taking an idea from someone else, saying you won’t support it, and then trying to bring it in the backdoor.  Leadership isn’t about credit it’s about results.

Leadership goes further. Leadership is doing what’s best for Canadians, no matter who presents the legislation for passage into law. That was how we felt when we worked with the Conservatives on Employment Insurance reforms; or when we negotiated with the Liberals to get results on health care and housing issues, and that’s what Ms. Chow showed when Bill C-60 passed in the House just a few days ago:

“I presented a 10,000 name petition in the House of Commons last year demanding action and change. Now I’m pleased that Stephen Harper agrees, and is taking measures to help hard-working store owners to protect their property and not be punished.”2

For Olivia and the rest of the New Democratic caucus getting results for the people we represent is how we do business.  If it will get things done, let’s share the credit.  It’s in our roots.  That’s what Tommy Douglas did to cement health care in this country.  This is the kind of leadership New Democrats continue to show on important issues that affect people right here in our community, and it’s the same kind of leadership I would show as your MP.




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