By R.P. Alton
The fundamental tenets of reasonable Canadian firearm-related law have been in place for many decades spanning the gamut of regulations on criminal background checks, safety certification, safe storage, transportation and use. Subsequently, with a continuous barrage of supposed safety-tweaking changes, law-abiding Canadian hunters and others thought they had seen every gun control curve ball imaginable thrown at them but then in 2022, Bill C-21, “An Act to Amend Certain Acts and to make Certain Consequential Amendments (firearms)”, hit the echo chambers of liberal gun control ideology and reverberated off the walls of over 2 million God-fearing Canadian families exceeding by any measure the liberal-proud authoritarian policies we’ve been engulfed in since the Chretien government force-fed Canadians with Bill C-68, the 1995 Firearms Act, sponsored by Allan Rock, Minister of Justice, who’s famous quote, “only the police and military should have firearms”, symbolizes the ethos of the Liberal Party of Canada. C68 marked a turning point in our traditional right to property as it forced a licencing requirement on us to own what we already legally owned and it was backed up by a newly concocted registration system for our duck guns and deer rifles, the long gun registry (LGR), because according to the liberals, in the interests of public safety, it was necessary to know where each and every duck gun in Canada resided and, despite the fact that many of these were family heirlooms just like grandma’s jewellery, it didn’t matter because the dictates of big government decreed it so thus laying the groundwork for the intrusive inanities of what was to follow.
Over 2.2 million Canadians have been forced to hold mandatory firearms licences pursuant to C68, a Possession & Acquisition Licence ( PAL), to legitimize gun ownership and this is a puzzling direction for the government to have taken given that handguns in Canada have been registered since 1934 but there was never a licence requirement to own them and there shouldn’t be now. Prior to the enactment of C68 Canadian law required citizens wanting to purchase any firearm to hold a Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC) and this ensured that criminal background checks had been done; the policy was implemented by the government under Pierre Trudeau in 1979 and served the intended purpose very well for many years and we should still be operating under that system as the change to PAL’s was redundant, an administrative waste of taxpayer dollars and nothing more than a demonic assault on the freedoms of law-abiding Canadians. Pierre Trudeau once said, in reconciling with the long-held evils outside of heteronormativity, that “the government has no business in the bedrooms of the nation” and by the same token that philosophy should apply to our gun cabinets if we are truly living in what he called “a free and democratic society”.
Nothing in our history has been more divisive than so-called gun control except perhaps for the Separate School debates in the early years following Confederation or the conscription policies during the World Wars; but the striking difference that resonates with the firearms file is the non-exhaustive nature of liberal gun control fallacies that serve only to discriminate against law-abiding firearm owners while claiming to enhance public safety without a stitch of supporting evidence. Draft Bill C21, sponsored by Marco Mendicinio, Minister of Public Safety and National Security who replaced Bill Blair in the recent Cabinet shuffle, is the latest iteration of the continuing saga and it follows on the heels of Bill C-71, “An Act to Amend Certain Acts & Regulations in Relation to Firearms”. These Bills taken together are an out-and-out assault on the cultural rights of traditional Canadian families that revel in their multi-generational pursuits of hunting and target shooting sports as the intent and direction of the liberal government’s push for this legislation is meant to eliminate the use of property that has been legally owned and used for decades and to prevent any new ownership of such property, all under the guise being championed by the liberals that the guns in question are only “assault weapons”. That’s hogwash and a good example of the politics of make-believe since only full automatic firearms used by the military fall within any definition of assault weapons and they were prohibited in Canada in 1978.
Bill C-71 was drafted under the guidance of Bill Blair, a double-dipper that took up federal politics after a long career with the Toronto PD ending as Chief of Police for a number of years. Blair’s effort with C-71 was no surprise as it was never lost on the recreational firearms community (RFC) that Blair, when Chief, had been openly supportive of the LGR and Toronto Mayor Miller’s and PM Paul Martin’s advocacy to ban the ownership of handguns in Canada, a position in stark contrast with his predecessor, Chief Julian Fantino, who had stated that the LGR had not helped the Toronto PD solve one crime. Blair’s stance deliberately ignored the reality that virtually all handgun-related crime in Toronto is committed by gang warfare using guns smuggled across the border. Blair fit right into Trudeau’s need for an abolitionist in Cabinet. Chretien’s Bill C-68 had invoked the diabolical LGR and after 17 long years of bitter debate and the waste of billions of taxpayer dollars, money that could have done something meaningful like bolstering the resources of our border security to prevent handgun smuggling, the Harper government finally abolished it in 2012; but C-71, despite liberal promises to never bring in another LGR, saw to it that a back door registry was created under the edict requiring firearm dealers to keep detailed sales records for 20 yrs. allowing open access to the authorities thus demonstrating once again that liberal promises mean nothing, a well-demonstrated trait that even those that assuage their selective amnesia must admit given the magnitude of historic lies such as Chretien’s promise to abolish the GST in the lead-up to his 1993 majority. Chretien once said that “a proof is a proof” in the context of policy validation, an interesting test, and I don’t recall seeing him squirm since his dumping of C-68 on law-abiding firearm owners proved to be completely useless in curbing crime.
Bill C-21 was originally being drafted to incorporate the May, 2020 prohibition order of 1,500 models of semi-automatic centrefire rifles and several hundred additional variants that have been added to the list by the RCMP along with the companion administrative framework for what the government called a “buyback program” being designed to pay compensation for firearms on this list turned in for destruction. RFPs were issued in an attempt to find a contractor to implement the buybacks and after three attempts a proposal by IBM Canada was selected to the dismay of firearm owners as the proposed compensation schedule recently announced is an insult to the true valuation of the various firearm models. An amnesty to October 30, 2023, is now in place and it needs to be extended as the battles are far from over. A similar program was invoked in New Zealand after the horrendous 2019 mosque shootings by a deranged terrorist and to date, well past the government’s deadline, estimates are that less than 25% of the estimated prohibited firearms have been turned in for destruction. Similar results are likely here since a large number of the firearm models on the May 2020 list, as in NZ, were not restricted and thus not registered so “Big Brother” has no idea where they are.
The next chapter of draft Bill C-21 is focussed on handguns and, after years of liberal rhetoric, was initiated in the summer of 2022 with Melanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Marco Mendicino holding a news conference and waving their heroic flags of gun control self-righteousness announcing the government’s cleverly concocted sudden ban on the importation of handguns using as their authority “The Export and Imports Permits Act” administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There was no debate in Parliament to justify this policy and no consultation with the firearms industry so it has now become obvious that Trudeau loves surprise attacks on this file using quick and efficient Orders in Council to get what he wants. Joly is the failed candidate for the mayoralty of Montreal that jumped into the liberal pork-barrel of federal politics in 2015 at the personal urging of Trudeau, re-elected twice since then, and moved through various lesser Cabinet positions leading to her current appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs with little relevant experience to justify her appointment. Mendicinio is a former prosecutor so at least there’s some technical relevance to his Cabinet appointment. The import ban was in essence pre-emptory since C21 was in draft and there’s no authority in the Firearms Act to invoke an import ban; it was specifically aimed at preventing firearm dealers from restocking their shelves since the sale of handguns in Canada had mushroomed dramatically since Trudeau became PM with 1.1 million registered as of 2020 according to RCMP data, a 71% increase since 2010. It’s doubtful that Joly even knew she had authority within her mandate to invoke an import ban until she was put up to it and, despite her legal background, it didn’t speak well of her perspective on the economic impact given there was no reaching out to the 4,500 firearm businesses in Canada via the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association (CSAAA), a callous decision considering the economic fallout on hard-working families in the sector and also antithetical to the norms of policy development in her Ministry thus demonstrating that when it comes to liberal attitudes towards the RFC it’s OK to do whatever you want to whomever you want whenever you want and to hell with the mere pedestrian aftereffects of the intrusions since any means justifies the ends of anti-gun ideologues. CSAAA data puts the jobs created by its industry at 48,000 and the contribution to Canada’s GDP at $5.9 billion and this of course is multiplied several times over if the pursuits of the RFC were taken into account.
Before the dust had settled on the import ban controversy the door to handguns was slammed shut in October when, unbelievably, the government, out of left field, announced a policy to ban the purchase and transfer of handguns in Canada and introduced a regulation by Order in Council to implement this policy once again bypassing Parliament, the peoples’ House (it’s called the Commons for a reason), and without any consultation with stakeholders. Not only does this policy discriminate against the owners of handguns and their family inheritance rights, it will also serve to eliminate any recruitment to Canada’s elite corps of international-level handgun competitors thus deliberately phasing out our longstanding excellence in this sport, not on the playing field but by government fiat. Shamefully, The Shooting Federation of Canada which oversees the certification of our national shooting teams was not consulted before this policy announcement.
This policy does not include any buyback program and only allows for continued ownership and restricted use of handguns for the life of current owners unlike the semi-auto rifle ban of May 2020 that requires mandatory confiscation. This is the point where things get very complicated as the liberals cited as their authority to ban handgun purchases and transfers Section 117 of the Firearms Act; this is the section of the Act that gives the Governor in Council the authority to pass a host of regulations (via Orders in Council) with transfers being cited within the matrix but, and it’s a big but, I believe the ambit of reference to transfers here is entirely permissive with no underlying authority to invoke bans. I conclude this since Section 23 of the Firearms Act makes transfers perfectly legal, it’s the Section that authorizes them in the first place and nothing in Section 23 speaks to bans so that in essence means that the authorization to pass transfer-related regulations under S117 is meant only to put regulations in place that detail the processes of transfers that S23 makes perfectly legal. Under our system of regulatory controls, it’s the section of an Act that spells out the legal authority that enables the making of regulations under that specific authority. A regulation cannot legitimately be made to contradict the section of an Act so I believe in this case that the liberals have deliberately obfuscated on the issue, an extreme example of socialist obscurantism, and reached above the law to invoke their purchase and transfer ban. In my view, their action vitiates the ban and authorizes nothing more than blatant promiscuity with the obligatory rudiments of the legislative system deliberately showing contempt for Parliament and deceiving all Canadians. The only legal means to invoke this ban in my view would be a repeal of Section 23 to include the authority they don’t now have and this is exactly what they’ll do in Bill C-21 if they eventually pass it into law. In the meantime, the policy they’ve invoked has turned the 4,500 firearm businesses in Canada upside down and interfered with the lives of over a million law-abiding Canadian handgun owners all of which have significant financial implications.
Draft Bill C-21 went through 2nd Reading in the House of Commons and then went on for review by SECU, the House Committee on Safety and National Security. Near the end of the Committee deliberations, after all, witnesses had been heard, an amendment to Bill C-21 was put forward by the government to SECU in late November through their errand boy, MP Paul Chiang, who sits on the committee, another sneak attack without it having had any debate in Parliament. The amendment expanded dramatically on the May 2020 prohibition list and included a long list of semi-automatic centrefire rifles and shotguns to be declared as a new category of prohibited firearms based on their design feature to potentially accept removable magazines capable of holding more than 5 rifle cartridges or shotgun shells. As in the case of the May 2020 prohibited list the government deemed all such firearms to be “assault weapons” but in this round, there was no buyback offer.
The redundancy of this amendment is evidenced by the fact that Canadian law already prohibits detachable magazines for centre-fire semi-auto rifles capable of holding more than 5 cartridges; they don’t exist in Canada as they are prohibited devices and even owning one is a criminal offence so the only way a criminal could obtain one would be to smuggle across the border. Additionally, shotgun magazines are restricted to 3 shells under the “Migratory Birds Convention Act”. Thus, as all of the firearms listed in the amendment are ordinarily used for hunting and target shooting and, are already limited to carrying capacity by law, as are those on the May 2020 prohibition list, it’s plain to see that the amendment is a deliberate façade targeted at the unwashed portion of society, particularly the social justice warriors that pollute the internet, mainly urbanites, and intended to keep them snorkelling around the periphery of current firearms law, believing what the liberals feed them, with no deep dive into the facts.
The amendment is meeting with a firestorm of opposition from all quarters of the firearms industry and the RFC and has also been the subject of a resolution by the Assembly of First Nations who oppose it given the impact on sustenance hunting and, notwithstanding Trudeau having Jagmeet Singh in the bag, there are even some NDP members joining opposition from Conservative benches. Additionally, there are now five provinces and territories officially opposed to the C21 amendment and the May 2020 prohibitions (AB, Sask, MB, Yukon, NB). Alberta is currently developing its own Firearms Act as has Saskatchewan to put up firewalls to undemocratic federal intrusions and they will likely be joined by others. Trudeau has been formally advised by these jurisdictions, all of which are policed at the provincial level by the RCMP under contract, that they will not commit any resources to administer and enforce the proposed long gun confiscations. Also, and of historical importance, “The Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act”, passed in November as promised by new Premier, Danielle Smith, sets the stage for rebuffing any federal policy that adversely affects Alberta’s citizens or the Province’s ability to manage its own natural resources. This developing federal/provincial schism is reminiscent of the carbon tax challenge from several Provinces thus adding to the mounting legacy of Justin Trudeau’s divide and conquer philosophy with bifurcations of the country knowing no bounds in his tenacious drift from reality to reform Canada into a statist model for what he sees as Canada’s globalist fit into the “post-national” World.
While Trudeau has busied himself focussing on firearm prohibitions that only persecute law-abiding firearm owners the country has experienced an escalation in crime under his watch with a 32% increase in violent crime and a 92% increase in gang-related shootings based on Statistics Canada data. The wisdom of PM Harper’s government to get tough on crime is coming home to roost since Trudeau’s liberals passed Bill C-5, “An Act to Amend the Criminal Code and The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act” that repealed the former’s minimum sentence legislation and, unbelievably, also brought in so-called bail reform under Bill C-75, “An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential Amendments to other Acts”, that now has 1,100 firearm offenders out on bail in Toronto alone. The recent murder of OPP officer Grzegorz Pierzchala by just such a person is a tragic result of a broken system that surely will spawn changes but probably not so long as Trudeau is at the helm. We have seen how opportune the liberals have been in bringing in their gun control edicts riding on the backs of grieving Canadian families and using fresh-off-the-press USA shootings to gain sympathy: C68 followed on the heels of the 1989 murders at Ecole Polytechnique in Quebec, C71 was drafted following the 2017 Quebec mosque shooting and the 2018 Danforth shooting, the May 2020 semi-auto rifle prohibitions were announced soon after the April 2020 mass murders in Nova Scotia and the C21 prohibitions now being challenged were drafted with the horrible 2022 Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, NY shootings still in the news. What goes largely unreported by mainstream media, and thus not picked up on by the public at large, is the fact that the maniacs that commit these heinous crimes almost always obtain their guns illegally and if not obtain them under false pretences through loopholes in the gun control rules of the day, often failed background checks, but you never hear the liberals mention any of that.
C71 gave the authority to establish prohibitions to unelected bureaucrats, the RCMP; this repealed legislation brought in by the Harper government to keep such policy-making at the Cabinet level. PM Harper had it right since any proposal to limit long-established freedoms must of necessity be tied to the Minister and debated by Parliament as any such direction has serious civil rights implications. This RCMP systemic aberration is widely seen as another example of Trudeau’s contempt for Parliament.
Too, it’s obvious that the RCMP has run amok in the creation of the current prohibition lists by deliberately ignoring the traditional use of these firearms and this is at the heart of current court challenges. There are already five cases in Federal Court challenging the May 2020 prohibitions brought forward either directly or via sponsorship by Canada’s National Firearms Association (NFA), The Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights, The Canadian Shooting Sports Association, and by individuals and businesses impacted by the prohibitions. Additionally, the CSSA has now launched a challenge to the handgun prohibitions and with the introduction of the C21 amendment, more challenges will come forward in the days ahead. It was recently announced that Alberta’s Justice Minister, Tyler Shandro, has been granted intervenor status by the Federal Court in challenges filed to date and it seems likely that other Provinces will follow this lead.
At some point, I would hope that Ontario will step forward and give Trudeau some resistance on this file given Premier Ford’s constituency of hunters and competitive target shooters, the largest of any Province, but I don’t expect Quebec to do much since recent Provincial governments there going back to Jean Charest have shown a negative attitude towards law-abiding firearm owners having established Quebec’s own LGR that exists to this day despite the 2019 efforts of the NFA to challenge it at the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds. A large percentage of PAL holders reside in these two Provinces; but Trudeau’s calculation that he’s only dealing with licenced gun owners is a gross miscalculation of reality. You don’t have to own non-restricted long guns to hunt or to shoot in competitive target shooting competitions; you can borrow them so long as you are certified with the relevant safety training and thus no PAL is required. I would conservatively estimate that for every PAL holder, there are at least two other family members that hunt and shoot but do not personally own guns and that number in some families runs to three or more so the fraternity in reality is probably upwards of ten million, a far cry from the 2.2 million PAL holders, maybe 20% of Canada’s population, many of whom are kids not yet old enough to vote, but they soon will be and they’ll have long memories.
Interest in hunting and competitive target shooting sports in Canada has been growing steadily, especially amongst women and kids, partly through the efforts of organizations such as “The Canadian Sportswoman Society”, “The Canadian University Shooting Federation” and “The National High School Rodeo Association” but also through the efforts of hundreds of gun clubs across the country, the many Provincial competitive shooting associations and hunting and conservation associations such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.
Taken together, given the federal/provincial entanglement complexities and the likelihood of appeals, the legal challenges now underway and those to follow will quite likely take us through to the next election without resolution and thus without the government having the full authority to implement the provisos of C21 even if it passes with NDP support and subsequent liberal-controlled Senate approval. This will result in prolonged amnesties for individuals and the sequestering of currently lawful equipment and a devastating situation for firearms businesses many of which will no doubt go bankrupt as they are kept in limbo. Pierre Poilievre, the recently elected leader of The Conservative Party of Canada has been critical of Trudeau’s unwarranted gun control policies affecting law-abiding Canadians in lieu of actual crime control, and especially the underhanded way in which Trudeau has avoided Parliamentary debate; he has committed to a full review of our firearms law if he forms the next government and if that happens it won’t be a moment too soon!
Ron P Alton