Lucky Moose: How a headline-grabbing plant theft in Toronto changed Canada’s citizen’s arrest laws


– [Peter K] There was this
sort of career petty thief,
in Chinatown named
Anthony Bennett.
– He was considered
a specialist.
He only stole plants.and anything
expensive, he put it
on top of the bike and
then he just, just go. – If we had tried to stop him or keep him until
the police came,we would be in trouble
for doing that.
– Because he was doing
it for years and years we didn’t actually
think anybody was evergoing to do anything or
be able to catch him.
What he did was the only thinganybody could do to actually
finally catch the guy.
– David Chen was carrying
on honest business,
working long hours.He didn’t look for trouble.Trouble, in the name of Anthony
Bennett, looked for him.– That day, Anthony Bennett
shows up with his bicycle.
– [Peter L.] He
stole some plants,
it was not noticed at the time.They had surveillance camerasso someone realized what had
happened and showed David Chen.
– And he could see there that
he rode away on his bicycle.
Then, he came back.When he came back, David
went up and said to him,
“You owe me some money.”And he argued with David
and then suddenly took off.
– And Mr. Chen at that
point has a choice, either I can let this guy go and he’ll be back
to steal again, or I can chase after him
and try to apprehend him. – So David chased him.– He was on a bike, he kind
of threw the bike at Chen
and took off down the alleyway.They catch him down the
alleyway and around the corner.
Mr. Bennett fights back.– One of David’s delivery truckscame back and saw the chase.And so the truck came
up and helped David.
They got some twine
and they tie his handsso he couldn’t kick them
or hit them anymore.
– And they ended up getting
him in the back of their van,
and they’re driving
him back to the store.
Meanwhile, a couple of
people who had seen this
call 9-1-1 and the police came,and at that point David
Chen sees the police,
he stops the van, he gets out,
he opens up the back door,
and he says, “here’s the thief.”– They thought, great,
the police is here now. – The police were a
little bit taken aback by the circumstances
of the situation.– They are taking this
case not as shoplifting,
they are taking this
case as kidnapping. – He is arrested, Chen. And Chen’s colleagues
are arrested.– He carries a box cutter
because he’s forever opening
cartons to dump out say
lettuce or oranges to sell. – In the eyes of the police
those were concealed weapons.– The box cutter never figured
in the chase and the arrest.
But they still charged him, and because of those
two serious offenseshe had to spend the night
in the police station
and go to bail
court the next day.
– The original
charges were assault and forcible confinement,
and kidnappingand carrying a concealed weapon.– Before David Chen ever
gets to know Anthony Bennett
and before this thing
happened there’s already a pre-existing condition of
frustration among the grocersover the fact that they
are not getting the support
from the police that they want.– They felt so helpless.They didn’t feel like
the police served them. They felt like the police ruled, and in David’s case,
ruled with an iron fist.– To the police, there
are too many shoplifting.
To the police, there are
too many cases like that.
What would you do? When you see somebody
shoplift, so you say, “Mr. Shoplifter, do you
mind to stay behind? “We just called the police it
might take about three hours “maybe five hours so, you know, “I’m sorry for
your inconvenience would you mind to stay?” Do you think any shoplifter
will actually stay? (light percussion music)– The way the law read,you could only enact a
citizen’s arrest in a situation
where you catch
someone red-handed.– [Peter L.] The problem
for us was, arguably,
the crime had already been
committed 59 minutes earlier.
– In shoplifting, it’s really
hard to pin down when it was
that the person was
committing the crime. Because when they were taking
the stuff off the shelves,they were still in the store
capable of paying for it.
Once they’ve left the store
they have finished committing
the crime already, and
according to the law
at that time you’re not
entitled to arrest them.
Mathematically it’d
be fascinating to say:at which infinitesimal pointwas the person actually
doing the shoplifting?
It’s quite absurd, I thought. – So despite the public
outcry in David Chen’s favor, he at the end of the day was
technically breaking the law.– I was frustrated that I wascompletely ignored by
all levels of Government.
Nobody responded. I just got very
frustrated and I thought why not try the system itself
and I called my own MP.– Mr. Speaker I’m pleased to
rise today to introduce a bill
that would amend the criminal
code where a citizen’s arrest
is only permissible
if a perpetrator is in the process of
committing a crime.It was called the
Lucky Moose Bill.
It really addressed the issue
of reasonableness of time. When just such an incident
occurred last year in Toronto’s Chinatown,
the Minister of Immigration vowed to change the law. A year later all
they’ve delivered is false hope and
disappointment. – The whole thing
just felt like that they were sending a message
to all the store owners.They’re going to hang David
from the highest tree,
to make sure no one else
would try to do what he did.
– The crown did not look
very good going into this.
They looked like they were
on the wrong side of history.– Anthony Bennett
became their good-guy;
he had to be their star witness.To a point that even though he in the meantime had
stolen from someone else.– I installed a
camera because of him.
And I recorded it,and I called the
police, and showed them.– He actually at some point
gave me quite a lot of
admissions, and,
most importantly,got him to admit that when he
came back the second time
he was there to steal again.He testified on a Wednesday,and then on the Friday he
was arrested for charges that had occurred
months earlier. Now I don’t know why he
was arrested on the Friday, why he wasn’t
arrested months earlier, I can’t explain why the
police did what they did, but it seemed odd.– I remember that day very
well because when we showed up
in the morning, there were so
many cameras on the sidewalk that there were tourists
taking pictures of the cameras.And the judge decided, from
the first round of stealing,
to Anthony Bennett showing up, that is a continuous act, he solved my math problem.– [Peter K.] By the
time this was all over
and David Chen had been found
not guilty on all charges,
David Chen was a
bit of a folk hero.
– Throughout that
one-and-a-half year,the media made him
as a celebrity.
– Now that Mr. Chen has been
acquitted of all charges,
will the Prime Minister
stand-up today, adopt my bill,
pass it, or will he
continue to allow victims of crime to be
victimized twice! (cheering)– Generally,politicians want to latch
onto somebody who is famous.– And so Harper and his retinuedecide to show up
at the Lucky Moose.– Of course the media loved it.People were climbing all
over for a good angle.
– The Government, which had
been following the debate
all the way through, said, “you know what, we’re going
to write our own Bill.”– David and I got invited
to go and testify in Ottawa.
We flew in together there
was a real feeling of a
‘Mr. Smith Goes to
Washington’ about it because the moment we arrived
we were grabbed by people, left and right. So many people just
came up to say, “Oh I just want to
shake your hand, David.” – We store owners
don’t want to fight. We just want to make a
living for our families.– People have a deeply
ingrained sense of justice.
And their sense of right and
wrong was really offended by the prosecution
of David Chen.– This new section adds that
a person can affect this
citizen’s arrest within
a reasonable time
after the event took place. – In Chinese, the word
democracy is made up of two characters that
mean citizen and decide, citizen’s decide
means democracy. These proposed amendments
take a step towards giving Canadians more chances to
decide and shape their lives. We’re not comfortable with people taking
care of themselves, I think it’s a cultural
thing; it’s very deep seated. But because we
don’t recognize it, that’s why, you can see as
David’s case demonstrates, we’re so conflicted. (light percussion music) (low drumming music)

3 comments

  1. In Canada you don't need the cops to make the crown press charges. You can take your evidence to the crown and make the crown make the cops do their damn jobs.

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