Canadian law permits equal/proportional force in self-defence, so if one of these fellows pulls a knife he could be looking at jail time. (source)
Self-Defence As We Move Into 2023, written by Danny Y.; Audio by Jonathan Fader

In concrete terms, 2023 should be no different from 2022. New Year’s Day is an abstract celebration for yet another revolution of the planet around the star; the sun still rises and sets, and the continuity of existence remains unbroken from each day to the next.

Yet for some, the New Year marks the opportunity for shifting into new habits and severing ties with old ones. Perhaps you are one of those that are prospecting such a shift, looking for something that can help increase your physical activity while also learning real-world skills. If so, Krav Maga is a great place to start.

As we hurtle head-first into 2023, it might be useful to know the backdrop of what self-defence means in Canada. Below are a few snapshots of the state of things as they might relate to your own physical safety and security.

Self-Defence Laws

In Canada, self-defence laws are poorly defined. Americans have the “right to defend their own castle” but in Canada, any response to someone invading your castle must be “reasonable in the circumstances”.

In America, if someone breaks into your house and you shoot / stab / bludgeon them with a spatula, no one blinks an eye.

In Canada, it’s not so cut and dry, and prosecution of YOU as the VICTIM has been a topic of much consternation.

In 2017, two men were tied up in their own home and threatened at gunpoint in Porters Lake, Nova Scotia. Somehow, one of the victims was able to snatch a shotgun from one of their assailants and shot one of the suspects in the leg as they fled from the scene. The Crown (government prosecutors) actually charged the victim with weapons offenses for actively defending himself against home invaders with a firearm said invaders had themselves introduced to the scenario. These charges were later dropped.

On the other hand, just this week (again in Halifax) a man was stabbed to death in self-defence while he and an accomplice attempted a home invasion. This time, after a lengthy investigation, police concluded that they would not lay any charges against the knife-wielding resident.

Looking at these two similar events side-by-side, the fact that charges were laid at all in the first case should speak volumes about how loosely-defined laws leave room for emotions and politics to drive the agenda. In some ways, it could be said that you, as the victim, are just as liable as the perpetrator, and so knowing how to respond with force is just as important as knowing how much force to respond with.

This latest stabbing incident may set the tone for future self-defence cases; however, given that nothing went to trial and no precedent was set, and given the fragmented and diverse approaches to public safety and enforcement, it remains to be seen if 2023 will see a change in how the Crown interprets headline-worthy acts of self-defence.

Firearms Laws

Firearms in Canada is a contentious topic and subject to tremendous emotional discourse. 2022 was a tumultuous year for firearms in Canada.

There is a current, active movement by the Liberal / NDP coalition government to carte blanche ban all firearms. Bill C-21 essentially proposes to render a vast majority of currently legal firearms as illegal. It started as a ban on handguns specifically and has since evolved into what amounts to a blanket ban. Currently the Bill has become a matter of true politics and it is uncertain as to its fate.

By October of this year, the Government will also have to decide how to implement a ban it introduced back in May 2020.

In Canada, firearms ownership and use is a legislated privilege, not a right (as it is with our Southern neighbors). It is anecdotally noted by law enforcement that the majority of firearms-related offenses involve illegally acquired firearms, however the current Liberal / NDP coalition government will not implement firearms tracing to make it easier to trace illegal firearms activity. This could be interpreted as a preference towards an ideological opposition of firearms in general (as opposed to evidence-based policy).

All of this to say, should one ever be so unfortunate to be involved in a firearms-related life threatening incident, any training in self-defence should also include some kind of training in handling firearms; learning how to safely handle one as a bare minimum. Should there be a ban, it would become increasingly difficult to provide training for proper firearms handling, and yet likely do nothing to reduce the number of incidents involving illegally acquired firearms.

2023 will be a watershed year for firearms laws and policies in Canada, and could shape the future for decades to come.

In British Columbia

An article published in the Vancouver Sun on January 3 rounds out our look at the backdrop of personal safety here, locally in the Lower Mainland.

A quick read reveals that the legal system in Vancouver really does nothing to prevent repeat incidents of “small-scale” violence by the same individuals. Such offenders are released with little to no repercussions and free to re-offend without consequence.

Further, we find that the court repeatedly sides with or fails to address violent offenders rather than protect the overall public good. In various news articles, opinion pieces, and Reddit observations, we find ourselves awash in sentiments that point towards an increasing frustration with the inability of the justice system to address petty crimes. Unfortunately, perpetrators of such crimes are exactly those that could target you, on the SkyTrain, on the sidewalk, in public spaces, or even at home.

Conversely, in October we saw the Minister of Housing, David Eby, step up as Premiere. He has already started to propose several sweeping changes intended to improve the housing situation and decrease the prevalence of anti-social behavior stemming from a lack of core needs and mental health support.

Time will tell as to the efficacy of these policies. Given the continued growing pains felt in and around the Lower Mainland, truly the best path to personal safety is to proactively develop skills that will hone situational awareness, good judgement, and break free from unsafe situations.

Written by Danny Y. – UTKM Yellow Belt

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