Why critics are slamming Alberta’s ‘ill-advised’ proposal to fight hate-motivated attacks with pepper spray


EDMONTON — If you can’t beat them, spray them.

Alberta’s justice minister is calling on the federal government to legalize pepper spray following months of what are believed to be hate-motivated attacks around the province.

In a letter to his counterparts in Ottawa, Kaycee Madu said the little canisters — currently prohibited under federal law — could be a good “self-defence” option when someone is being attacked by potential racists.

Madu also asked that the federal government establish “strong minimum sentences for those convicted of a racist, hate, and bias-motivated assault.”

“It is sadly ironic that a vulnerable person carrying pepper spray for self-defence could quite possibly receive a longer sentence than her attacker,” wrote Madu.

“Alberta, like other province (sic), has also seen an increase of drug-fuelled attacks,” he continued. “Pepper spray would again be helpful in allowing personal defence when absolutely needed.”

Muslim women, in particular, have faced increasing attacks recently around Alberta that police say appear to be hate-motivated. Since December, Edmonton has seen at least nine such attacks reported against Muslim women, most of whom were Black and wearing a hijab. Those attacks involved assailants wielding knives, firing guns and throwing fists.

But Irfan Chaudhry, a hate-crime researcher at MacEwan University in Edmonton, says the province can’t just spray away hate, calling the request from Madu to legalize pepper spray “a terrible idea.”