Monday, March 22, 2010

Stelmach's Police State

The principles of fundamental justice and ideals of a free and democratic society are being so actively stripped right before our eyes, that as a born and raised Albertan I am contemplating leaving the place that my family helped to build.

When receiving the bronze commemoration of our family farm being a century old there was never a more proud moment for my grandfather. Yet the Alberta rancher I know...born at the end of WWI, made it through the Great Depression, WWII, countless droughts and market killers like BSE...would be appalled to see how our government has positioned itself through the propogation of fear to where its armed officers will be demanding its citizens to "show your papers" or be summarily detained and searched.

Dozens of my grandfather's best friends died overseas to help Europe escape from that type of government...and we now blindly accept it coming here.

My rant I suppose has been building for some time as Alberta has been rallying to provide massive State authority to take private property from its citizens even if there is no proof that they have done anything wrong; cities like Calgary have laws that make it illegal, punishable by jail, to make someone uncomfortable on public property, to participate in a gathering in a park, to curse in public, to put your feet on a bench, and on and on.

Enter the latest outrageous grant of State power under the guise of "anti-gang legislation"...the Body Armour Control Act.

Now, I know, the first reaction from people will be, "but this is just a law to prevent gangsters from wearing body armour which allows them to riddle our streets with bullets with can you have a problem with that?"

Well, here's how.

Firstly, alleged gangsters who are wearing body armour now are often carrying firearms, which can you believe, are not lawfully owned or registered. Therefore, forgive me if I have trouble believing that a guy toting an illegal handgun on his way to kill a rival (oh yeah, murder is also illegal) is going to stamp his feet like a dejected 3 year old who's mom just took his soccer ball for refusing to clean up his toys and go back into his house and sulk because the body armour he is wearing has suddenly become illegal for him to possess.

In case you missed my point in the sarcasm, the Body Armour Control Act will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on improving community safety or reducing shootings or lowering risks to the general public (which, the police don't want to tell you are risks that are all way down and have been going that way consistently for years).

What the Act will do is make any law abiding citizen who would choose to protect themselves with a form of clothing have to submit to fees and regulations of a permit process or become a law doing nothing but possessing an item that is completely legal to possess.

So my critics will say, "okay, maybe it's not the most effective tool in the police toolbox, but anything that helps them can't hurt, right?"

Well, that's where they are wrong.

What no one seems to have clued into is the police-state provisions that are built into this legislation. The Act provides that a police officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that you are in possession of "body armour" in a public place can WITHOUT WARRANT search you and any personal property in your possession. A car is personal property by they way.

Now if you are found illegally possessing body armour (i.e. when demanded to "show your papers" you come up short), then the horrible teeth of the Act come out...the body armour can be seized!! Oh my!! The gangsters will be devastated!! It might be an overnight courier before they will ever be able to replace it!!

But wait...

Maybe, just maybe, this whole thing is a elaborate smoke-screen. No...the government would never deceive its citizens would it?

Of course, it's hard to dismiss the possibility that what this legislation actualy represents is a completely obvious see-through method to allow the State to demand papers from any citizen with a bulky sweater, search their person and all personal property for the evil "body armour" (some of the Kevlar stitching can be abrasive, you could get a serious raspberry if someone rubbed their bullet proof vest against your arm!) and have a back door entry to indiscriminately search for things that they really want (drugs, guns, money, your religious faith, political affiliations, baby pictures...the State's interests are endless really) and never have to get those damn troublesome warrants.

I mean, really, how can you run an effective police state if you have to deal with independent judicial officers who sometimes say "no" you can't abuse the citizen that way?

"Now who's fear-mongering?" my critics will no doubt jump at the chance to point out that police never do bad things and even if they wanted to, they would need reasonable grounds to believe you are possessing "body armour"...only bullet-proof vest wearing gangsters have to fear police harrassment from this new law, so come on with this police-state stuff...right?!

Well, let's take a look at what "body armour" is under this legislation. It's "a garment or item designed intended or adapted for the purpose of protecting the body from an item or object used to, or adapted to, stab, pierce, puncture or otherwise wound the body."

Now, for those of you thinking that hockey equipment could be "body armour", well, you're right, but the State has thankfully decided to exempt sports equipment from the Act. They have also exempted workplace safety equipment that is required by an OHS code so you don't have to stop wearing safety glasses...although clearly they could otherwise be "body armour".

So what of my grandfather the trailblazing Alberta rancher? Well, he's got a conundrum. See, OHS legislation doesn't apply to the farm, so, if he chooses to wear safety glasses, leather gloves, a welding apron, or perhaps even coveralls...he may well be subjecting his person and his vehicles to warrantless search. After all, I rather doubt that my gramps will be filing for his body armour permit for his work gloves...the lawless maverick that he is.

So now to my I pack up my family and head to a different place where government is appropriately constrained by a citizenry that actually protects its civil liberties with vigor? I could. But that seems entirely un-Albertan to me. And why should my family leave after over 100 years of building this province? No. I can tell you what I plan to do.

I have already ordered my body armour. Should get it this week. And I plan to start wearing it. Not because I fear the false threats that the State has conjured up with the assistance of the supposed independent media. No, I will be wearing overt body armour, so the police can see it. And when they ask me to "show my papers" (after Bill 12 rams through the legislature with scarcely a thought of any debate) I will see where that goes...if I get my way, it will go into a courtroom.

My apologies, Primier Stelmach, but you have no right to send your soldiers to search me. My right to life liberty and security of the person may not provide a "right to bear arms" as for our neighbours to the south, but a protective vest presents no risk of harm to anyone, and using my desire to protect myself from harm as a way to purportedly subject me to what would clearly otherwise be an unlawful detention and search simply crosses the line.

Wake up Alberta.

Oh, and in case you still think I am just being some kind of alarmist, for fun, have a read of the judgment of a member of our Alberta Court of Appeal in a case called R. v. Cornell.

Criticising what he called the "indiscriminate habit of balaclava-clad police conducting searches in private homes" in our province, Justice Ritter wrote a useful reminder, "Canada is not a police state."

I might suggest a re-write, your Lordship..."Canada is not supposed to be a police state."

Michael Bates
Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyer


Blogger Joe Albertan said...

Great piece, it would seem that the dictitorial state we live in called Alberta knows no limits when it comes to removing rights under the Stelmach government. Bill 36 is another example of how that is happening in another area. The fact that they can have absolute power and take away land rights is something that is going to be a game changer in the next provincial election.

If your not fa,miliar with Bill 36 you can contact me through my blog at by e-mail at

3:53 p.m.  
Anonymous Darryl-Bruce: McDoWell said...

Too right Michael: 'Canada is not SUPPOSED to be a Police State.'

The truth is stranger than fiction.

Recently, I was unlawfully arrested by the Calgary Police to specifically deny not only my right to trial, scheduled by Justice Wilson, but also to deny my right to fight lawfully in the courts for my tortured daughter.

I am looking for at least 'one good man' to stand up and sue three Provinces, their agencies and agents for the ongoing unlawful acts against my soul, my liberty, my daughter and my property.

If you are not the one, please direct me to the right lawyer/firm who will take on this battle for contingency of the massive winnings. $50 million I think would be good as per a suggestion from an old acquaintance - for the denial of my rights under Canadian law. Contact me at: apostledbm at

12:27 p.m.  

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