A recent incident in Okotoks, Alta., in which a homeowner was charged after allegedly shooting a trespasser on his land, has raised questions about what actions homeowners can legally take to protect their property.
Global News spoke with two legal experts who said there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to defending property and that “each case is different.”
The Criminal Code does allow for homeowners to use “reasonable force” when defending their property, after the former Stephen Harper government brought about changes in 2013 intended to strengthen the Code’s self-defence provisions. The changes allowed homeowners “more leeway in terms of defending themselves and their property.”
But Greg Dunn of Dunn & Associates said Tuesday that despite the recent high-profile trial of Gerald Stanley in Saskatchewan, there hasn’t been much opportunity for judicial consideration of these self-defence provisions following the legislative changes in 2013.
“Defence lawyers are a bit rocked on our heels in terms of advising on these types of things because there hasn’t been a lot of judicial consideration of these sections,” he said.
Lawyer Edward Burlew, who specializes in Canadian gun laws, told Global News that both police and the Canadian courts are concerned with “reasonable use of force.”
In other words, was the homeowner’s response proportionate to the threat to their property or person?
“Certainly, if you hit somebody and wound them the police are going to lay a charge,” Burlew said. “Unless of course, that person’s close to you or has attacked you with a weapon.”
But Burlew said it’s not always easy to determine what the courts will consider a reasonable use of force.