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. 

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