Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently met with David Chen -- a Toronto store owner who apprehended and tied up a shoplifter last spring -- to discuss a bill that would make it easier to carry out citizen's arrests. (Alex Urosevic/ QMI Agency file photo)
The Conservatives will table a bill aimed at protecting people like Chen in Parliament's next session, which starts Jan. 31, Harper's spokesman confirmed Saturday.
"The prime minister had indicated yesterday during his meeting with Mr. Chen that the government will find ways to improve the law. I anticipate that our government will indeed move towards that direction during the next session," said Dimitri Soudas.
Harper met with Chen and investment banker Ricky Chan in Toronto on Friday. Chen made national headlines last fall when he went to trial for capturing thief Anthony Bennett at his Chinatown grocery store.
On May 23, 2009, Chen caught Bennett stealing from his store on security footage and when the thief came back later that day, Bennett and two other men nabbed him, bound him and locked him in the back of a delivery van.
Chen was arrested and charged with assault and forcible confinement. Citizen's arrests are only legal when the criminal is caught in the act.
Bennett later admitted in court that he returned a second time to steal more, and Chen was found not guilty.
Bennett has since pleaded guilty and served 30 days in jail.
But the charges against Chen sparked national outrage, prompting the Liberals and the NDP to table bills to make citizen's arrests easier. Harper vowed in November to change the Criminal Code in light of Chen's case.
Liberal MP Joe Volpe and NDP MP Olivia Chow both tabled bills in 2010 that would give Canadians a longer timeframe in which to make citizen's arrests. Soudas couldn't say if the Conservative bill will be similar to those.
"I cannot talk about the details of a bill. I can say that the prime minister gave clear directives weeks ago, before the end of the last session (to the minister of justice) to work on the aspects of the current law that should be improved," he said.
Chow, whose riding includes Chen's grocery store and who acted as an interpreter for Chen during his ordeal, said she hopes Harper puts his money where his mouth is, noting this isn't the first time he's promised to tackle this issue. She said her party will likely support the bill.
"The NDP is always ready to work with others to get things done for hard working store owners. We won't play any political games. Let’s see the wording, and if it is good for people like David Chen and all the store owners from coast to coast, then yes, of course we will be fully supportive to fast track the bill and get it done," she said.