The right to defend your property is a dicey issue in the Canadian legal system. Two property owners responded with gunfire to intruders and were charged under Canadian law. The first case came to a conclusion with a conviction for careless use of a firearm against a 19 year old First Nation (Native Canadian) man. Gerry Bigchild was given a conditional sentence for the conviction which means that he will do community service and then have no criminal record upon successful completion . . .

Bigchild shot a trespasser aboard a stolen ATV on his property and was promptly charged with several of the Canadian version of felony weapon and aggravated assault offenses.

A jury chose to find him not guilty of the more serious charges and instead convicted Bigchild of the lesser weapon charge. Bigchild was apparently a good kid that found himself in a volatile situation on family property, so the judge gave him a light sentence under Canadian law.

But it is clear that Canadian criminal law prevents any clear defense of property without fear of arrest. The individuals involved in the shooting were clearly a case of criminal vs. landowner, yet the landowner was charged with the most serious offenses.

The other case is similar to the first case because another landowner used a shotgun to prevent three criminals from stealing his ATV. Farmer Brian Knight [above] was also charged with assault and assault with a weapon, but these charges were withdrawn with Knight’s guilty plea to the criminal negligence charge.

Knight will be sentenced for his conviction on May 26. The interesting question is whether he will serve time for the crime; a likely prospect given the gravity of the crime under Canadian criminal law.

The court of public opinion in western Canada would not have charged or convicted either man for what was essentially an invasion of their property. The individuals involved in both incidents were demonstrably good guys or bad guys- no shades of gray for anybody in either situation.

But it is tough to pick out the good guys under Canadian law, a country where protecting one’s property might land you in the jail cell right next to the lowlife that started the whole problem.

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19 Responses to Two Cases of Canadian Justice and the Right to Protect Property With Armed Force

  1. They should change their motto to “CANADA, THE LAND OF SHEEP”. I’ve been to Canade several times and it’s a great place, but the criminals seem to have all the rights. I don’t know why they even bother locking their doors, because it would be easier for them to just let the badguys take everything they own. Hopefully our gun haters will all move to Canada and join all the other SHEEP.

    • All too true, Joe. I’ve watched the news in my home province and seen a guilty charge for a man who had a burgler stumble down his basements steps. The man broke a leg and was rushed to hospital. The man claimed that the steps were dangerous and were the reason for his fall. The homeowner (victim) was charged and found guilty. The criminal had claimed a handsome injury settlement and the homeowner has a criminal record and higher insurance rates. Good times.

    • Bring the guns laws from the US to Canada so canadians can protect themselves. The police, military, bad guys and a select few people in the public sector have guns for their own defence. The rest of don’t. Justice? What justice? If I had a gun for protection I would only use it for that purpose. Can I use a weapon that is legal in Canada, like perhaps a crossbow or a baseball bat?

    • The judges and justices of the peace like to hug a thug in Canada.
      O you poor boy, your 17 and shot somebody, you black and don’t know right from wrong.
      6 months out in 2
      get double and triple time for waiting for trial.
      I would like to slap some of these idiots and then fire them; are they that stupid!!!
      In Canada you will do more time for cheating on your taxes than murder somebody.

    • I’m with you Mark, now I know why vigilantes once ruled the west. It’s time to bring back the vigilantes because the so called justice (or should I say injustice) system is outdated and useless.

      • huh, again I am agreeing with you, Joe. I was just talking to the wife the other day about dead or alive bounty hunting and how back in the day you sent someone out to settle a score. I can’t say whether or not it was/is a good thing but it would certainly keep folks on the up and up.

  2. While I too believe a thorough and painful ‘attitude adjustment’ is in order for anyone attempting to steal my ATV, in and of itself, simply stealing an ATV does not rise to the level that would legally sanction the use of deadly force in any US state that I’m aware of.

    Many states (mine included) now feature ‘Castle Law’. Almost every state provision for use of lethal force in self-defense or defense of other persons.

    But, unless that ATV is in your living room, or the bad guys is taking your Polaris 4×4 at gunpoint and you have a reasonable fear of losing your life, use of deadly force will get you (at least) a big lawyer bill.

    There’s a lot of minutae in the statutory doctrines of equivalent force, but in short, if you can’t sell a jury that you realistically believed you were about to die, you don’t get to pull the trigger.

    • Well said porschespeed. Unless that ATV was being driven straight at you in an obvious attempt to run you down, I don’t see how these situations would merit deadly force.

      • Thanks Ryan and PT but I’m not breaking any new ground. This is what any quality instructor, cop, or lawyer will tell you.

        Or, from the interview with Ayoob…

        Most of the time, if you had two professionals in that Starbucks, one says “look they’re robbing the barrista,” and nobody’s being pistol-whipped, the money is being handed over, the other one will probably say, “Yes, they are. How’s your latte?”

        Flawed though it is, we have a legal system in our country to deal with the miscreants.

  3. What porschespeed said.

    Where I live defense of property like the ATV case would get you the same result. Unless he was coming right at you trying to run you over, your life was not in danger. To my knowledge my state does not protect lethal force unless great bodily harm, kidnapping, rape, or homicide is gonna happen to you or someone else.

    Although I agree Canada is not the best place for any human rights, defense, free speech, or a fair justice system.

  4. I’m torn. About the only thing I couldn’t afford to replace, if it was stolen, is my house. Not saying I’d enjoy buying a new car, but I could swing that. So, in a matter of theft, I don’t want to shoot. Our police agencies are capable of dealing with theft, and besides, that’s what insurance is for. And, right or wrong, firing a firearm to prevent theft (or worse) has large implications on the shooter, legal and monetary. It’s better all around to just let the guy steal it. Push come to shove, I’ll be seen as the victum, unlike a bleeding (or dead) ATV thieve.

    Still, there’s something wrong with the legal system if one is not allowed to protect ones own property. It strikes me as building the notion that ones property is not truly theirs. That is to say, if the state says you are not allowed to exert force so as to prevent theft, then who really owns the item? Also, are we to assume that the theft of an item is somehow trivial to one and all? For a good deal of people, losing their car represents not only a the loss of an investment but also the means of transportation, their mode of getting to work, and can destroy their ability to provide for themselves. The lower the income, the more vital any given piece of property is to a person. And all the harder to replace.

    I dunno. I would not want to return to the days of duels, where men shot each other over mere words. Yet I’ve got no sympathy of someone getting shot while attempting a crime. Theft is a form of violence.

  5. There’s a guy on trial right now from Welland, near the border with Buffalo. Three guys torched his home with Molotov cocktails while he and his family were still sleeping in it. He came out with a revolver and shot 2 or 3 rounds with the intend to miss in order to scare them off. He’s been criminal charged and the crown prosecutor wants to seem him go to jail. As for the criminals, well, the police and state aren’t too interested in pursuing them.

    Here’s a link to the story about Ian Thompson
    http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/01/20/man-faces-jail-after-protecting-home-from-masked-attackers/

    Here’s another story about a veteran who defended his home with a shotgun. Never fired it either.
    http://www.canada.com/news/Retired+soldier+charged+after+carrying+defend+property/3896047/story.html

    Sadly, I could list many more examples of this but in this country, we don’t have the right of self-defense. We also don’t have property rights either.

    • As far as I could research, there is the right to self-defence, but obviously the Crown and the police are twisting the law to their own ends, leading to a de facto suspension of the law.

      Don’t feel too picked on – they do that down here in the States too.

      • Porschespeed, under the constitution there is only the right of self-defense when fleeing is not possible. This translates into a privilege of self-defense, not a right of self-defense.

        For example, during in the 90s, in Ottawa a man in a 3rd story apartment shot and killed an intruder who was in a fit of rage, broke through the man’s door, and threaten to kill him. The man, reasonably as this was all recorded on a 911 call, acted in self-defense. The crown prosecutor tried to throw him in jail for manslaughter because in her opinion, he could have jumped off his 3rd story balcony instead of defending himself in his own apartment.

        • Interesting illumination. Always glad to get the facts on the ground from a local.

          FWIW, many US States had very similar law until recently-ish with (not universal) adoption of ‘castle doctrine’ and/or revisions to extant statutes.

          Before ‘castle law’ in MO I had the right to equivalent force (I don’t get to use a gun ’til the attacker does) but using any available retreat was still the primary requirement to “defense”.

          Not the best analogy but it seems to represent the legislative thought process: If you are driving, you are legally required to do whatever you can to avoid an accident, even if the other yutz is on the wrong side of the divided highway driving drunk straight at you.

  6. If our so called justice system were to start excecuting all these lowlife criminals, we would cut the repeat offender rate by 100 percent. Instead of the 3 strikes law you get one at bat, you screw up and you’re dead.

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