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

$2 raise for some health care workers in Alberta over a month late

Delay isn’t from Alberta Health, spokesperson confirms

$30k traffic safety program for 46 St. to be implemented

The road leading to the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain… Continue reading

Wind warning issued for central Alberta

City of Red Deer and Lacombe under wind warning

Only 13 new COVID-19 cases confirmed by Alberta gov’t Saturday

There’s currently only two active cases in province’s central zone

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of the world of summer sports

In a typical year, there are plenty of summer sporting events and tournaments held across Canada

SpaceX’s historic encore: Astronauts arrive at space station

SpaceX Dragon capsule pulled up to the station and docked automatically

Ottawa pledges millions to promote holiday travel in Canada during pandemic

Funding announced include $30 million originally earmarked for attracting foreign visitors

Sweats are in, slacks are out: Could ‘work-leisure’ become business as usual?

Many desk-dwellers are opting for sweatpants as work-from-home era has loosened up dress codes

Minimum wage goes up June 1 in B.C. as businesses face COVID-19 challenges

Increase is part of the government’s pledge to implement a $15 per hour minimum wage

In hard-hit Quebec, families struggle to mourn those lost to COVID-19

The province recorded more than 50,000 confirmed cases and over 4,300 deaths as of Friday

Most Read