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What Tools can I use for Self-Defence in Canada?

Many people ask us if it's a good idea to carry self-defence tools, and which ones are best. There are pros and cons to using them, and it's important to know that there are only certain circumstances where you may be permitted to use them in Canada for self-defence purposes. If you do decide to use them, it's critical that you also know how to use them during an attack. We'll discuss all these points in today's article so you can make the best decisions for yourself.




What type of tools are legal for self-defence in Canada?


Self-defence tools and weapons are objects that can be used to enhance your self-defence. But there is a difference between the word "tool" and "weapon". The word "weapon" refers to an object thats primary function is to harm or kill, such as a bomb or grenade. Whereas "tools" are objects that have a primary function other than harming or killing, but could also be used to harm or kill as a secondary function. For example, a flashlight's primary function is to provide light, but it could also have a secondary function as a striking device.


In Canada, this distinction is key as it helps us understand what is permitted to be used for self-defence. Even though it is not expressly stated in the Canadian Criminal Code, the spirit of the law and case law has demonstrated that no weapon or tool is permitted to be used specifically for self-defence in Canada. The exception is that if you are using a tool that is intended for use for another function, and happens to be available for self-defence, it could be used. The other consideration for this is that it has to be used with a reasonable amount of force.


So which tools can we use for self-defence, if any? Any tool that has another primary purpose that also happens to be an effective self-defence tool MAY be permitted, as long as they're not carried with the primary purpose of them being a self-defence tool. So the key question is intent - what is your intent with using a specific tool? If it's for self-defence, it likely won't fly in court if you were criminally charged or civilly sued.


This means that you cannot carry a knife for the purposes of self-defence, but you can carry it if you intend to use it for work (such as to cut seatbelts if you're a first responder), or to open boxes or mail, or possibly defend yourself from coyotes or stray dogs when walking your dog. Now if you HAPPEN to have it on you and you needed a tool to use to defend yourself, it may be considered okay. Ultimately, if you were charged or sued as a result of this incident, the courts will judge the totality of circumstances which is why it's so hard to give firm clear answers on this subject.



Lets dive into the concept of "reasonable" a bit more. For example, you are out camping with your family and you have a hatchet to cut wood for the fire. You have a group of individuals approach with firearms. Could you use the hatchet to defend yourself and your family? Probably. Should you? Possibly, depending on the severity of the incident, and other possible options available. Would you get in trouble with the law if you did? Maybe, but maybe not. Now if you were at the mall and you are carrying a hatchet, it's not likely that you will be using it to cut wood there, so using it to defend yourself may be an issue.



The ins and outs of using tools for self-defence


Tools can be good because they increase the degree of impact when striking an attacker, in order to get them to stop attacking quicker. This can end the fight sooner, thereby reducing the probability of you getting hurt.


On the other hand, tools are not good because they can give us a false sense of security. It's one thing to have a tool for self-defence, it's a completely different thing to know how to use it, especially under extreme fear. Ever see those horror movies where the person being chased drops their keys as they're trying to get into their car? That's what adrenaline does to your body. It's called vasoconstriction, which reduces your fine motor skills and leaves only gross motor skills. In other words, you have no use of your fingers. The other downside of depending on a tool is needing to have with with you and accessible 24/7. This is why we teach mostly empty-handed defensive tactics in Krav Maga. The other downside of tools is that they can be used against you if the assailant was able to take it away from you.


When I ask people what they use for tools, they say "oh I'll just use my car keys". Right, but have you actually tried it? Do you realize how much it would hurt your hand to use your own keys? Have you practiced doing that under extreme fear and been able to strike someone without also hurting yourself? (Pro-tip, keys are alright as a tool but they can HURT your hand!!)


A couple of points specifically about carrying a knife. First, each municipality in Canada may have their own rules about carrying knives, such as the maximum blade length and if they can be a concealed carry or not, so check with your municipality. Second, a knife is not a magic wand - you cannot waive it and it will make the danger go away. If you would need to use it for your own protection, are you prepared to draw the blood of another person? If not, this may not be the best option for you.



How to effectively use a tool for self-defence


Okay, so you want to know how to use a tool for self-defence properly. First thing is you need to choose a tool that makes sense for you. One that properly fits into your hand and that someone can't easily strip from your grip. For example for women, a small flashlight that can fit into the palm of your hand, that your fingers can completely close around.


Second thing, is you have to have it ready and accessible at all times. Dave gets upset at me (and rightly so) for leaving my pocket knife in my purse. You need to be able to access it within a fraction of a second, so it can't be in your vehicle (especially when you're not in it), or in your bag, it has to be on you and where you can quickly grab it. We recommend creating a system to make it easier for your brain to remember under stress, for example, it always goes in your right front pant pocket.



Third is you have to know how to use it as a self-defense tool. How would you hold it? Where would you strike someone with it? How do you ensure you can retain it? This requires practice and training.


Fourth is you have to know how to draw it and use it under fear and stress. Again, it's one thing to think you know how to do it, it's a very different thing to do it well without fine motor skills! So practice and train. Set a time on a timer to see if you can meet it, and how you would strike. Practice, practice, practice. If you're not sure, we can show you how.



Finally


Tools for self-defence are good, as long as you have a primary intent for the tool other than self-defence. If you decide to carry one, ensure you know how to use it for self-defence by practicing. And remember, you don't need a tool necessarily. You can actually defend yourself without any tool quite effectively by learning the right skills. Come take IKMF Krav Maga with us and we'll show you!


Disclaimer: Tip of Spear Inc. is not a law firm nor does it provide legal advice. This article is for information only and should in no way be used for legal guidance or anything outside of what it was intended for. If legal advice is required, please contact an attorney.

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