Alberta seeks legalization of pepper spray for self-defence

First published at True North on July 21, 2021.

Citing a rise in hate-motivated crimes and “drug-fuelled attacks,” Alberta’s justice minister is calling on the federal government to allow the use of pepper spray for self-defence.

“I suggest consideration be given to allowing individuals, including vulnerable persons, to carry capsaicin spray, commonly known as ‘pepper spray,’ for self-defence,” Min. Kaycee Madu says in a letter to his federal counterpart David Lametti and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.

“As you are aware, pepper spray is currently a prohibited weapon. It is sadly ironic that a vulnerable person carrying pepper spray for self-defence could quite possibly receive a longer sentence than her attacker.”

Pepper spray causes temporary blindness and pain, which can allow someone under attack time to get away.

Madu points to an “increase of drug-fuelled attacks” in Alberta and across the country, saying Albertans should not be prohibited from accessing a tool of “personal defence when absolutely needed.”

Pepper spray has been designated as a prohibited weapon in Canada since 1995 as a “device designed to be used for the purpose of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person.” Someone convicted of carrying it could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The prohibition exempts sprays designed for repelling animals, but anyone found to be carrying or using these sprays for defence against people can still be charged.

In his letter, Madu says this is unacceptable.

“Our government wholeheartedly supports the notion of permitting Albertans, and indeed, Canadians, to defend themselves in circumstances where they are in serious risk of imminent danger,” he writes. “Vulnerable communities and persons would be well served by your government allowing them to effectively defend themselves, as an additional measure to the community safety measures we are undertaking.”

Former Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Kellie Leitch promised to “clarify” the laws surrounding self-defence in 2016.

“The law should not force women to be victims of violence when non-lethal means exist for them to protect themselves,” Leitch said at the time. 

Etobicoke gym bans vaccinated people

First published at True North on July 21, 2021.

As several businesses set out policies requiring staff and customers to be vaccinated, an Ontario boxing club is going the other way.

Fearless Boxing Club in South Etobicoke is barring the vaccinated from joining.

“For the safety of our members, the Fearless Boxing Club will no longer be accepting those who received the experimental Covid vaccine,” gym co-founder Mohammed Abedeen said in an Instagram story, which he later shared to Facebook.

“Our current members including doctors, nurses, teachers, parents and many youth feel safer waiting until more research is done on the side effects being discovered right now.”

Abdeen added the hashtag #JustSayNo to his post, which asked people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine to “please keep your distance from organic people for at least 28 days.”

There are no risks to associating with people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

In recent weeks, the debate about mandatory vaccines and vaccine passports has ramped up. While many provinces have rejected the idea of mandating vaccines or issuing passports, some Canadian businesses have taken matters into their own hands. 

Discover Fitness in Timmins, in northern Ontario, said last week the gym would only allow vaccinated people to work out there.

A Toronto lawyer set up a website to promote businesses with vaccine requirements for staff or customers, but shut down the project less than a week later due to backlash against the businesses.

London, Ont.-based national chain GoodLife Fitness said it does not intend to discriminate based on vaccination status.

The Fearless Boxing Club opened during Ontario’s lengthy lockdown, which has kept gyms closed for most of the last 16 months, and remained open despite public health restrictions.

Brad Trost disqualified, then reinstated, as Conservative nomination candidate

First published at True North on July 21, 2021.

Former Conservative member of parliament and leadership candidate Brad Trost has been approved to run as a nomination candidate in Saskatchewan after an earlier disqualification by the Conservative party’s candidate selection committee.

Trost, a prominent social conservative who served as a Saskatoon MP from 2004 to 2019, is seeking the nomination in Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, a seat currently held by longtime Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski, who is not seeking reelection.

Trost’s application to seek the nomination was initially rejected by the National Candidate Selection Committee (NSCS), though this decision was appealed to the party’s elected National Council. On Sunday, the National Council voted to reverse the NSCS decision, effectively approving Trost as a candidate, True North has learned.

Trost declined to comment on the situation.

“I’m a candidate in good standing,” Trost said. “There were some minor issues but they got resolved rather quickly.”

True North was not able to verify the reason for Trost’s initial disqualification.

A Conservative Party of Canada spokesperson confirmed that all candidates who submitted applications – including Trost – have been approved by the party’s National Council.

The other candidates vying for the nomination in the relatively safe Conservative seat are Moose Jaw mayor Fraser Tolmie and Kathryn Pollack.

A date has not yet been set for the nomination, which will allow the riding’s Conservative members to vote on who will represent them in the next general election, widely rumoured to be coming this summer.

Trost ran for the Conservative party’s leadership in 2017, coming in fourth place with over 14% of the points. Trost’s support was ultimately what pushed Andrew Scheer to his narrow victory on the 13th ballot.

Months later, the party fined Trost’s campaign $50,000, alleging it leaked the membership list to a Canadian firearms group. The Conservatives eventually backtracked on their accusation, citing “insufficient evidence” after Trost filed for judicial review in an Ontario court.

After the leadership race, Trost was defeated in a nomination by Corey Lochor, who went on to win the 2019 general election.

Chrystia Freeland’s office ran up $5k AV bill for two Zoom meetings

First published at True North on July 7, 2021.

Two virtual meetings attended by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland wound up costing taxpayers more than $5,000 in audio-visual expenses.

Documents released in response to an access to information request for information pertaining to Freeland’s remote appearance on a January panel at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda included a $5,099.13 invoice for “minister’s media events” on Jan. 26.

The breakdown of the invoice from Toronto AV firm Bespoke Audio Visual is redacted, but it shows the total billable amount, as well as the date and venue, which is the finance minister’s regional office in downtown Toronto.

Freeland’s public itinerary, as well as a version circulated internally in the Access to Information documents, shows only two events that day – the World Economic Forum panel and a virtual roundtable for the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce.

The World Economic Forum panel, which was on Stakeholder Capitalism, was conducted by Zoom. A Jan. 21 email from someone in Freeland’s office said she would be “using a laptop, nothing fancy, but will have a webcam/microphone for better quality.”

The email also said Freeland would likely have “no support staff with her. In other words, simple is best!”

Despite this initial plan, Freeland instead used her Toronto office and rented audio-visual equipment for the World Economic Forum panel and the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce roundtable, sitting in a room adorned with several Canadian flags.

Freeland attended Question Period virtually on Jan. 26 in between the two meetings, though it appears she did so through a simple computer set-up with a headset.

While the dollar value might not rank high as far as government expenses are concerned, it seems like an unnecessary cost, Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Franco Terrazzano told True North.

“Why are a few Zoom meetings costing us more than $5,000?” Terrazzano asked. “I don’t know too many Canadians that spend thousands of dollars for a couple of Zoom meetings. Freeland is our finance minister so she knows how broke the feds are. We need to see better leadership from her on saving money.”

The Department of Finance did not respond to a request for comment.

Feds have spent $2 million on gun buyback program that doesn’t yet exist

First published at True North on July 20, 2021.

The federal government has not purchased a single firearm under its promised gun buyback program, but has still managed to rack up more than $2 million in salaries and administrative costs.

This revelation comes from documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) showing the government has spent $2,017,334 to facilitate a buyback plan that has not bought anything.

CTF’s report confirms the costs have been incurred by the Firearms Buyback Secretariat, an office the Liberal government established to “provide advice and direction for the design, implementation, and management of the federal gun buyback.” There are eleven bureaucrats staffing the office, which was set up after Trudeau implemented an order-in-council on May 1, 2020 banning more than 1,500 variants of lawfully owned firearms.

The Liberals initially said a buyback plan to compensate gun owners for the prohibition would cost $200 million, though a Parliamentary Budget Office report earlier this year pegged the true cost at up to $756 million, not counting the administrative costs of running the actual program.

The Firearms Buyback Secretariat is expected to spend $4 million per year, which all goes to administration and operations.

The CTF has derided the program as a “boondoggle.”

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s gun buyback has all the makings of a taxpayer boondoggle,” said Franco Terrazzano, the CTF’s federal director. “This is going to cost a lot of money, but police officers are making it clear that it won’t make Canadians safer.”

These ballooning costs are no surprise to those who followed the Liberal government’s failed long gun registry in the 1990s, which was supposed to cost $2 million and ended up costing $2 billion.

True North is looking at the effects of Trudeau’s order-in-council on lawful gun owners and the firearms industry in a new documentary series, Assaulted: Justin Trudeau’s War on Gun Owners, hosted and produced by Andrew Lawton.