Self-Defence With Guns: Alberta Watchdog Decision Shows Criteria

TheGunBlog.ca — Alberta’s police watchdog said today an RCMP officer “acted reasonably” in self-defence by shooting at a suspected violent criminal in 2017.

Why It Matters

  • Many people don’t know that Canadian law recognizes the legitimate use of force for protection against human attackers, including potentially deadly force using guns and ammunition.
  • Today’s two-page press release on the decision provides insight into how the reviewers assessed the legitimacy and reasonableness of the force in this police incident.
  • The excerpt below shows some of the general considerations to distinguish a “good shoot” that is legitimate self-defence from a “bad shoot” that could be a serious crime, possibly murder.
  • Today’s statement is notable for analyzing the officer’s counter-attack in the context of Section 34 of the federal Criminal Code relating to “Defence of Person.” The criteria and wording are in line with many other reviews of police shootings, which often focus on Section 25 on “Protection of Persons Administering and Enforcing the Law.”
  • The full text shows the terrifyingly risky situations into which police place themselves to keep us safe and enforce the law. Thank you for what you do.


  • Report Author: Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT)
  • Event Date: 22 Sept. 2017
  • Immediate Event: An officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police fired several shots from their pistol at a man in a truck as the driver accelerated toward the officer behind a spike belt. No injuries resulted.



The following excerpt, with emphasis added by TheGunBlog.ca, is quoted from today’s statement:

Under S. 25 of the Criminal Code, police officers are entitled to use as much force as is reasonably necessary to carry out their lawful duties. With potentially armed and dangerous individuals at large, the situation was already high-risk. The driver of the motor vehicle was stopped in circumstances where it was not possible for the involved officers to know whether he might have potential association or possible involvement in the earlier events that had resulted in an individual having been shot or the suspects at large. In this situation, the driver’s attempt to escape, the manner of his operation of the (stolen) motor vehicle, including the speed and the decision to drive directly at the officer, created a risk of imminent death or grievous bodily harm to the police officer. The risk was objectively serious and immediate. Furthermore, under S. 34 of the Criminal Code, any person, including a police officer, is entitled to the use of reasonable force in defence of themselves or another. At the point where the driver put the truck in motion in the direction of the officer, the officer was lawfully entitled to act in self-defence. The use of force ceased within a reasonable time frame, and the driver was arrested without further incident. While the officer’s shift had technically ended, he maintained his authorities as a police officer in the province of Alberta and at the time that the driver drove at him, he was entitled to act in the lawful execution of his duties in the face of an individual who was committing criminal offences in that moment, as a police officer, and as a person entitled to defend himself from grievous bodily harm or death.

The force used in response to that escape attempt was reasonable given all of the circumstances.