Popular Chinatown grocer David Chen, who is facing kidnapping, forcible confinement and assault charges for allegedly chasing down and nabbing a suspected thief, is “a victim of crime,” says Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.

Kenney vowed yesterday to raise with MPs the Chinese business community’s plea to reform a section of the Criminal Code that prevents retailers from apprehending shoplifters outside their premises.

After emerging from a private meeting with Chen at his Lucky Moose Food Mart on Dundas Street W., Kenney said he was open to exploring whether “any modifications” were needed for Section 494 of the Criminal Code to give shopkeepers a right to use reasonable means to protect their property. Currently, storeowners can only arrest someone found committing a criminal offence on the property itself.

“He employs 10 people and has a family of four. And it is not easy to make ends meet,” Kenney said of Chen.

Still, Kenney stopped short of commenting on whether Chen should have been charged, saying it would be “inappropriate” to do so. He also brushed off suggestions that his appearance was merely a public relations stunt meant to garner ethnic votes.

For his part, Chen said he was pleased with the meeting. “I’m very happy the minister came to see us, asking how we work and how we do every day.”

Chen’s charges stem from an incident in late May when a man allegedly stole a box of tree plants from his storefront. When the suspected thief returned to the shop, Chen and his employees chased him down, bound his hands and feet, put him in a delivery truck and contacted police.