Why is pepper spray illegal in Canada?

Pepper spray is one of the many non-lethal self-defense weapons that has gained popularity and acceptance in recent times. It comes in handy for people with no self-defense skills whenever there’s a threat to their safety. However, as effective as pepper spray is, there’s a prohibition in Canada. So, why is pepper spray illegal in Canada?

Every country has unique laws guiding the use of self-defense gadgets. For example, although pepper spray is legal in some countries, it’s illegal in Canada because people can carry it as an offensive weapon—used to hurt, intimidate, and incapacitate other humans—rather than as a defensive weapon.

Still, you might be wondering why this reason is enough justification for the prohibition. In this article, we’ll discuss the details about why pepper spray is illegal and everything else you need to know. 

Why do police use pepper spray?

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police use pepper spray due to its potency to incapacitate and immobilize an aggressive offender, control crowds, and suppress protests. But it’s prohibited for the citizens, despite how useful it’s for self-protection. This has generated so much controversy amongst the Canadian population, but the government’s stance remains resolute. 

You could be criminally charged in the country if you’re caught with pepper spray. So, yes, pepper spray is instrumental in preventing and escaping any form of direct or conditional threat to safety like assaults and kidnapping. Regardless, its possession and use are criminal under the provision of Canada’s Firearms Act.

The only exception that permits the possession and use of pepper spray in Canada without criminal conviction involves when you intend to use it for animals. Precisely, there’s animal repellent pepper spray which is legal, and pepper spray for personal protection, which is illegal.

The most popular animal repellent spray is bear spray. However, you mustn’t get caught using the bear spray for personal protection. This is why it’s essential you know the differences between the two because ignorance is never excused by law.

Differences Between Pepper Spray and Bear Spray

Bear spray is a chemical weapon designed to protect humans from bear attacks. It’s also a non-lethal weapon often confused for personal protection pepper spray because they share similar composition. The following are some of the differences between the two:

1. Pepper spray is illegal, while bear spray isn’t 

If you participate in outdoor activities like hiking and camping, bear spray is necessary, which is why it’s legal. It reduces the risk of being a victim to bear attacks. It’s okay to carry this to the city, it’s allowed, but pepper spray isn’t.

2. Pepper Spray isn’t human-friendly; bear spray is

People confuse both sprays because they share the same composition, which is the Oleoresin Capsicum (OC). It’s extracted from an oily resin of cayenne peppers. The concentration of this substance in bear spray is about 1%, while it’s usually between 1-3% in pepper spray.

3. They spray differently

Another difference that helps identify pepper spray and bear spray is their canisters which have different designs. For example, pepper sprays require 4 meters distance to be effective, while bear spray requires at least a 7.6 meters spray distance between you and a charging bear. So, you need to get the right one for the right reasons.  

Some Effects Pepper spray

Pepper spray is known as desmethyl dihydrocapsaicin. It’s called lacrimator because it has an inflammatory agent that causes excruciating pain, severe burning, and uncontrollable tears. Whenever people use pepper spray, here are the most common effects:

1. Burning Sensation

This is the first effect you would feel after being exposed to pepper spray. It’s usually intense, hot, and excruciating because the spray contains a substance extracted from chilly pepper. This pain might last between 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the proximity of a face to the spray. 

2. Temporary Blindness

There’s a temporary loss of sight, mainly when the eyes are the target. This reduces mobility until the substance wears off or you wash it away. The most effective way to get rid of it is to use soap to wash it off. 

3. Nasal Irritation

The spray activates and stimulates the mucus membrane, which brings about irritation of the nose. This can persist for an extended period, except you remove it by washing it with warm water. A humidifier can also be helpful.

4. Difficult Breathing 

When the pepper spray affects the nose, throat, and lungs, it becomes pretty difficult to breathe, and this can have different effects on the person. This includes issues like gasping for air, chest pain, gagging, and loss of consciousness. So although it’s not life-threatening, it can be a terrible experience.

5. Complications

It’s uncommon to go through complications from exposure to pepper spray. Still, close contact can be critical as it could lead to injuries of the eyes, skin, and problems in the respiratory system. In addition, people who treat asthma and pulmonary diseases may experience lasting effects, which might also lead to complications. In addition, in some cases, pepper spray can lead to cyanosis. 

Some Treatments 

The primary treatment for exposure to pepper spray is to flush the affected area with lots of water. Although soap can be helpful, it could also be an irritant if not carefully used, and that could worsen the situation. Milk is also very effective for irritation caused by treating pepper spray.

Moving to a different location can be helpful as you expose the face to fresh air. Also, once you blink the eye rapidly, the effect tends to wear off in a short time. Usually, if you perform any of these treatments effectively, the spray can wear off in 10-30 minutes.

The Bottom Line

The most crucial fact about pepper spray is that it’s very effective for self-defense and protection. You can eliminate any threat before becoming a victim. However, Canadian law doesn’t permit it. So, it’d be best to avoid its use. However, you can always look towards other legal means to defend yourself, as the government of Canada encourages self-defense.

Thais R

I moved to Canada in 2016. This was the best decision that I ever made. I created this website to share what I’ve learned with anyone who’s thinking of moving or travelling to Canada.

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