Lawrie McFarlane: If authorities won't stop thugs, self-defence should be an option

Alberta’s health minister, his wife and two young sons were mobbed and cursed at during a Canada Day celebration in ­Calgary.

Tyler Shandro was accused of destroying “thousands and ­thousands of Alberta lives” by one tormenter. “Lock him up,” yelled another.

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One of his sons was told to his face: “Sorry buddy, but your father is a war criminal.”

Shandro responded by holding his hands over the ears of the young boy, who was reduced to tears, as was his wife, Andrea.

Eventually, Shandro handed the children over a chain-link fence to escape the mob, and was seen hugging his family after leaving the scene.

I have what I’m sure will be a contentious reaction, but first, two prior examples of the policy I favour.

Back in the late 1970s, ­Saskatchewan’s NDP minister of revenue, Wes Robbins, was accosted by Conservative party leader Dick Collver in the foyer of the legislature.

Robbins, then in his 60s, was accompanied by his wife, Marion.

Collver, 20 years younger than Robbins, made a disparaging remark directed at Marion. More than likely he was drunk, since both his behaviour then and on previous occasions suggested as much.

In any event, Robbins didn’t argue the point. He simply drew back and decked Collver, ­earning him the sobriquet Sugar Ray Robbins.

Second example. In 1996, at Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau, Que., then-prime minister Jean Chrétien was swarmed by protesters at the first ever National Flag of Canada Day.

One of these, a young man, got in Chrétien’s face, ­leading the prime minister to take ­matters in his own hands, ­literally. He grabbed the young man by the throat and threw him to the ground, breaking one of his teeth. This was later termed the “Shawinigan Handshake.”

You can see where this is going. I’m not by nature a violent type.

But there’s a point where a man has to take a stand. ­Shandro found his wife and two young children the target of an ­up-close confrontation.

After handing their ­youngsters to safety, Shandro and his wife did their best to walk away, but the mob followed them, yelling obscenities. While they did eventually escape, was retreat the best option? If not, what should Shandro have done?

Well, his wife and children have just been accosted in the crudest of terms. Where I grew up — the coal fields of East Fife in Scotland — you didn’t take that kind of thing lying down.

There’s a further matter. Over the past year or two, public protests have become more and more confrontational.

In April, there were violent demonstrations in Montreal over a COVID-19 curfew. Back in January, a CBC photographer, Ben Nelms, was assaulted when a protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery turned violent.

Then again, where are the law-enforcement agencies in all of this? We had the absurd ­spectacle the other day of a group of thugs hauling down a statue of Captain Cook and throwing it into Victoria ­Harbour while police officers stood by and did nothing.

No one was arrested, and as far as I know, no charges have been laid.

The more this bedlam goes unchecked, the more we’ll see of it. If the authorities won’t keep public order, ordinary folks have the right to stand up for themselves.

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