NOTES ON BILL C-71 STATUS as of February 2023 and some 2018 SENATE CORRESPONDENCE

NOTES on Status of Bill C-71:

Subsequent to the 2018 discussion with Senator Pratte copied here and lobbying from many quarters the upshot was that the Senate did nothing to recommend amendments to Bill C-71 and the Bill was passed taking until May of 2022 for final implementation of most provisos subject to an amnesty to Oct. 30, 2023, for confiscation of the 1,500 prohibited firearms listed in the May 2020 Order in Council plus several hundred additional “variants” subsequently listed in the Firearms Reference Table by the RCMP. As of early 2023, there are 5 ongoing challenges in Federal Court with regard to the May 2020 prohibitions that will likely result in an extension of the amnesty deadline. As well the so-called “buyback program” for the May 2020 prohibited firearms has yet to be formulated into any kind of administratively feasible implementation plan and cost estimates for invocation are running into the billions of dollars.

R. P. Alton, Feb. 26, 2023

April 15, 2018

To: Senator Andre Pratte
Senate of Canada

cc All Senators, MP Terry Sheehan(Sault Ste Marie) and MP Carol Hughes (Algoma, Manitoulin, Kapuskasing)

RE: Bill C71 Discussion

Senator Pratte, I want to thank you for your reply to my April 2nd letter to you and your colleagues regarding draft Bill C71. All too often Canadian citizens become cynical after making input to politicians on policy matters because their concerns are seldom acknowledged with other than form letters so it was refreshing to receive your detailed response expressing your views. Having said that, I’d urge you to take another careful look at what C71 is proposing; and I encourage all Senators to keep in mind that at this stage it’s only a draft and that you have the full and complete authority to send it back to Parliament with needed revisions. A great many Canadians view the Senate as a meaningless entity, being the whipping boy of the government in power, but I don’t see it that way even though I supported Mr. Harper’s “triple E” view which in truth supported its basic raison d’etre.  To be sure, the Red Chamber’s deliberations have a vital role to play in the vetting of draft legislation to ensure that Canadian citizens of all minority groups are not bullied in ways such as the mean-spirited effort that the recreational firearms community (RFC) is currently experiencing with the launch of C71.

The Trudeau government has attempted to brainwash the populace into believing that C71 will improve public safety but that’s not true; and I’m sure on further examination you will see through the smoke and mirrors. If safety was the focus we’d be seeing a concerted effort to bring in measures to counteract the proliferation of serious gun crimes by drug gangs in our big cities and action to circumvent the apparent ease with which criminal gangs can smuggle in illicit firearms across our border with the USA and onto our shores from abroad; but discouragingly, despite this being the only real problem with guns, we’ve seen no such effort under C71. There’s no bolstering of resources for the Canada Customs border-watch function nor for that of the RCMP.  Instead, what we see is yet further discrimination towards the RFC in so many ways.

First I would point out that there isn’t another example in Canada wherein any group of Canadians is subject to the absolute authority of a police force to make regulations that apply to their activities. This should never happen in a true democracy; and yet that’s exactly what we are faced with in C71 which proposes to give the RCMP  authority to unilaterally classify firearms as prohibited without reference to Parliament. As a retiree having enjoyed a career in the Ontario government service in a variety of senior management capacities I can assure you I do understand very well the proper roles of the administrative and political levels. It’s the job of civil servants to make recommendations to their Minister and from there, if the Minister sees fit to take a policy recommendation to Cabinet proposing legislation, then with Cabinet’s agreement he/she will put a Bill forward for Parliamentary debate. In this case, the Trudeau government is abrogating its responsibility in its attempt to make the RCMP its scapegoat for future firearm prohibitions, even though ironically, contrary to this intended direction, this Bill itself is declaring certain specific prohibitions to come into force by June of 2018, objectionable to the RFC for sure, but nonetheless an appropriate process by the Minister not delegated to the RCMP. The RCMP with its expertise should only make recommendations to the Minister they report to, that’s the system in place now and it should remain so because fundamentally it is inconsistent with Canada’s Constitution to delegate law-making to a police force. There’s a big difference between the delegation of authority and abrogation of responsibility; the former is only legitimate when administering a law that has been passed by Parliament in the first place i.e. in this situation the RCMP would enforce a prohibition that Parliament enacts.

With respect to gun crime statistics you hit the nail on the head in that most serious gun crimes are gang-related. Statistics can be spun variously and the old saying that “they are like a bikini, very revealing but conceal all that’s vital” holds true. Senator if all the information was on the table you would be hard-pressed to find any serious gun crimes committed by licenced firearm owners. Unfortunately, as a result of the licencing system and the natural propensity of even mature adults to overlook the paperwork necessary to renew firearm licences which come under the Criminal Code, there will always be some “paper criminals” so to speak. This incongruity has been pointed out to Mr. Trudeau’s team but they refuse to take this out of the CCode and put it into administrative law as it should be. The Harper government handled this by virtue of continuously rolling over amnesties but that ended in December 2017 and what we have now is a 6 month, very finite grace period; miss that and you are a “paper criminal”, no exceptions, with prison gates opened to welcome you in; so I’m sure you can see that we need to change the law in this area as such oversights should never be deemed criminal offences. On the matter of gun-related crime statistics, I would refer you to the research of Professor Gary Mauser of Simon Fraser University which has shown that gun crime statistics compiled in Canada are somewhat convoluted thus leading to very erroneous conclusions.

On the matter of background checks, it should be noted that those of us that have purchased firearms since the Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC) came into force in the late 70s and was then replaced by the Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL)  under the Chretien government’s 1995 Bill C68, have already been on the system for almost 40 years so to bring in a lifetime background check system is superfluous. What would make more sense would be a lifetime PAL rather than the current 5year rollover process that’s subject to ridiculous fees and creates a needless and costly bureaucracy to administer; and this licence should only be subject to cancellation if the licencee committed a serious, “non-paper” gun crime measured against specific, well-defined criteria. The CPIC system is accessed by the RCMP daily so red flags would be quickly acted upon; it has always been thus so the lifetime window dressing in C71 is truly meaningless. And besides, as we all know, except in very special circumstances, a citizen’s mental problems and doctor files are protected by privacy legislation so unless that can of worms was opened and dealt with the political pronouncements pursuant to C71 simply won’t happen.

Finally, as I’m sure you know there is a serious concern in the RFC regarding the duplicity of Mr. Trudeau’s team in the matter of their promise to not return to a long gun registry (LGR). Despite that commitment what we in fact see in Bill C71 is the makings of a “back-door registry” via the invocation of processes at both the commercial and private level of long gun transfers that amount to just that. Forcing sporting equipment establishments that are licenced to sell firearms to maintain personalized sales records of long guns for 25 yrs. not only creates a serious hardship to them but is in fact keeping a registry of private long gun ownership data. Since the Harper team wisely abolished the LGR in 2012 the process followed for private sales has been efficient and perfectly safe e.g. if you and I are duck hunters and you wanted to buy a shotgun from me there was an onus on me to see your PAL and ensure it wasn’t expired by examining the relevant term dates on the licence along with your picture emblazoned thereon; and in turn you needed to similarly see my PAL to ensure it was in effect thus knowing I could legally own such a gun and legally sell it to you; pretty simple and foolproof I think you’d agree and this has been ongoing since 2012 with absolutely no safety issues whatsoever; no need to call the bureaucracy to invoke a complicated and costly process, just two law-abiding citizens enjoying their hunting culture within the law. The verification process being thrust at us under C71 is the same as the redundant process that existed pre-2012; it’s totally unwarranted and nothing more than a sound bite to make the government appear to be doing something useful; but most significantly it will once again create a LGR of sorts given the personal data being created and stored; and additionally this will waste copious amounts of taxpayer dollars in the process.

Senator I’ve copied your colleagues with this message, I hope with your approval. I look forward to the Senate having an intensive debate on Bill C71 and listening carefully to organizations making committee presentations thus giving you the opportunity to examine the details methodically and separating fact from fiction. Your exercise of due diligence on this file will deservedly put the Trudeau government’s feet to the fire and hopefully, with appropriate amendments, ensure respect for the civil rights of law-abiding firearm owners in Canada. I’ve also copied the two MPs in my local NE Ontario region where our hunting culture thrives and law-abiding firearm owners comprise a voting block of several thousand. Yours truly, Ron P. Alton.  April 9, 2018 Email letter from Senator Andre Pratte to R.P.Alton in response to concerns expressed to Senator Pratte re Bill C-71

Yours truly,
Ron P. Alton

April 9 , 2018
Email letter from Senator Andre Pratte to R.P.Alton in response to concerns expressed to Senator Pratte re Bill C-71

Thank you for your e-mail and for bringing your views to my attention.

For my part, I am in favor of bill C-71. As a matter of fact, I will sponsor the bill in the Senate. The bill comprises measures that will improve public safety, while they will not change anything, or at worse very little, for law-abiding firearm owners.

Amongst the measures that I support, bill C-71 will provide that the final word on firearm classification belongs to the RCMP specialists, not to politicians. I believe police officers are better suited to fight crime than politicians.

 Background checks will extend further than five (5) years, which is a wise decision considering someone’s past violent behavior or mental problems, even if they happened longer that five (5) years ago, may be relevant to the decision to issue a firearm license.

Fortunately, gun violence is not as serious a problem in Canada as it is in the United States, by far. Still, we should not underestimate it. As you probably know, according to the latest Statistics Canada data, in 2016, «for the third year in a row, firearm-related homicides increased in number and rate. In 2016, there were 223 firearm-related homicides, 44 more than the previous year. This represents a rate of 0.61 per
100,000 population, a 23% increase from the rate in 2015 and the highest rate since 2005. The higher number and rate of firearm-related homicides is due to increases in all firearm types, with the exception of sawed-off rifles or shotguns.» This is due in large part to an increase in gang-related murders, but not only. For instance, in 2016, 50 homicides were committed using rifles or shotguns, compared to 30 in 2013.  

There are more firearms than ever in circulation in Canada. For instance, according to the latest report published by the Commissioner of Firearms, in 2016, there were 839295 restricted firearms registered in Canada, nearly 180000 more than three (3) years earlier.

This is why it is prudent to take additional measures in order to protect public safety. That being said, I can assure you that Bill C-71 will be studied thoroughly in the Senate. All points of view will be heard and amendments will be considered.

Best regards,

André Pratte