Ottawa rejects Alberta's idea to legalize pepper spray for self-defence

The federal government has rejected Alberta's request to change Canada's Criminal Code to allow for carrying of pepper spray for self-defence. 

Last month, Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu posted an open letter to federal Justice Minister David Lametti and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair appealing to them to legalize the spray for self-defence, particularly for vulnerable populations to defend themselves against hate-motivated crimes.

"Albertans need to be able to defend themselves," he wrote. "Vulnerable people should be able to feel safe by carrying pepper spray."

Lametti and Blair responded in a joint statement dismissing the idea, noting that "all weapons that are prohibited have been prohibited for a reason." 

"When confronted with a problem, the solution cannot simply be to increase accessibility to prohibited weapons. This can actually lead to further violence," their statement reads. 

The letter also rejected calls from Madu for mandatory minimum penalties for hate crimes. 

"We know that the use of mandatory minimum penalties have resulted in the over incarceration of Indigenous peoples, Black and marginalized Canadians, groups that are disproportionately victimized by hate crimes." 

On Tuesday night, Madu responded to the rejection with his own statement, accusing the federal government of "siding with criminals instead of victims." 

"They have no real solutions when it comes to stopping crime in its tracks; they rather leave Albertans empty-handed and vulnerable when faced with a potential assault or other related crime."

The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police said in a joint statement last month that while they agree action needs to be taken in order to properly address hate crimes, allowing individuals to carry pepper spray could lead to "unintended consequences."