Alberta premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, provide details about Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act., in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta to prevent lawsuits against homeowners who stand up to criminals

Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer says the government will be introducing amendments to existing legislation

Alberta is making changes to prevent homeowners from being sued if they injure people committing crimes on their properties.

Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer says the government will be introducing amendments to existing legislation and make them retroactive to the start of 2018.

“This is just the beginning of the steps we’re going to take to combat rural crime,” Schweitzer said Wednesday.

Schweitzer didn’t link the change to the case of Edouard Maurice, but said it’s a story he keeps hearing from rural Albertans talking about crime.

Maurice was charged after he shot and wounded an intruder who had been ransacking a truck on Maurice’s property near Okotoks, south of Calgary, in February 2018.

The charges were eventually stayed. But the intruder, Ryan Watson, is suing Maurice for pain, suffering and lost wages. Maurice is counter-suing.

Premier Jason Kenney has said the lawsuit against a law-abiding citizen trying to defend his property is an outrage. The premier also contributed to an online fund to help pay Maurice’s legal bills.

Schweitzer said the proposed change will provide safeguards for people protecting their properties, but the ban on a civil lawsuit would not apply if a homeowner is convicted in criminal court.

“(This) will strengthen Albertans’ rights to protect their security and property,” said Schweitzer.

“These measures will ensure that a criminal trespasser has no right of civil action against a law-abiding property owner who is defending their property and family.”

The ban was one of a number of initiatives Schweitzer announced. He said they reflect feedback he has received at town-hall discussions about crime in rural areas.

He said the government will also be changing the roles of 400 peace officers, including fish and wildlife officers, traffic sheriffs, and those in the commercial vehicle enforcement branch.

The plan is to give them more training so they can assist police on emergency calls in rural areas starting next fall.

Sheriffs and wildlife officers currently carry firearms and Schweitzer said the plan is to arm commercial vehicle officers as well.

“(This is) to assist the RCMP and other police services to ensure security is deployed in response to 911 calls more quickly and effectively.”

NDP Justice critic Kathleen Ganley said her concern is that peace officers will be asked to take on more work on top of important duties they already have.

“We’re not seeing additional boots on the ground,” said Ganley.

“It’s all very well to say that fish and wildlife officers can respond to calls, but that doesn’t alter their arrest powers.

“(And) they were already doing work … that we’ve heard from municipal and rural communities needed to be done, and, in fact, they needed more of.”

Ganley said she might be OK with the ban on civil lawsuits, but wants to see details of the proposed changes first.

Among the other changes proposed by Schweitzer are new rules to compel scrap metal dealers to keep track of who sells to them so as to combat criminals who steal and sell scrap metal and copper wire.

He also wants community groups to be able to submit victim impact statements at sentencing hearings to outline how communities suffer from crime.

The government will also move to provide more help to anyone trying to collect outstanding payments on restitution orders.

— By Dean Bennett in Edmonton

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

On Feb. 26th, practice kindness and wear pink to symbolize that you do not tolerate bullying

Bullying is a major problem in our schools, workplaces, homes, and online

Town of Castor and Covenant Health working together to address helipad deficincies

This work is coming after a late 2019 review of the Castor helipad

Catholic Women’s League celebrates a century at the national level

Eight hand-made quilts were presented for use in the hospital’s palliative care room

Bashaw filmmakers produce striking short film

Documentary showcases how a unique ecosystem is surviving

Change to grants and recreation fees approved at Feb. 10th council meeting

In a unanimous decision, council has voted in favour of changing the way grants are handled by the Town

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Wetaskiwin RCMP Investigate Shooting incident in Poplar Grove

VW sedan may be linked to Wetaskiwin gun incident

Wetaskiwin RCMP seeking witnesses to car-jacking

Armed theft resulted in two subjects facing multiple charges

Federal emergency group meets on pipeline protests as rail blockades continue

There’s mounting political pressure for Trudeau to put an end to the blockades

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Most Read