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432-00062 (Democratic process)

Paper petition

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons

We, the undersigned citizens of Canada, draw the attention of the House of Commons to the following:

Whereas, virtually all violent gun crime committed in Canada (including the recent shooting in Nova Scotia) involves illegal firearms, in the hands of those who are already not permitted to possess them;

Whereas the government must take action to strengthen enforcement, fight gun smuggling, and keep guns out of the hands of violent people;

Whereas targeting law-abiding citizens who have already demonstrated that they have the knowledge and character required to use guns safely will not improve public safety;

And whereas taking away the property of law-abiding citizens is a distraction from the important work that needs to be done keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.

We the undersigned therefore, urge the House of Commons and the Government of Canada to:

  • Reverse the Order in Council banning certain firearms imposed on May 1st;
  • Propose measures that will effectively address the illegal use of firearms by criminals, while respecting the rights of law-abiding citizens;
  • Ensure that substantial changes to Canada's firearms laws are only ever made by Parliament, not by the government or the RCMP acting unilaterally.

Response by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): JOËL LIGHTBOUND, M.P.

On May 1, 2020, the Government of Canada announced the immediate prohibition of over 1,500 models of assault-style firearms that are specifically designed for soldiers to shoot other soldiers. The prohibition limits access to the most dangerous firearms and removes them from the Canadian market.

For decades, police chiefs had been advocating for such a measure. In 1986, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police declared there was a “worldwide surplus” of accessible firearms that were designed for warfare and for the federal government to “take the steps necessary to end this increase in available weapons.” In 1994, the CACP declared that “military assault rifles” were produced for the “sole purpose of killing people in large numbers” and urged the Minister of Justice to enact legislation to “ban all military assault rifles except for law enforcement and military purposes.” Last September, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police declared their support for a prohibition on all military-designed assault rifles. In their view, “these weapons have no place in our communities and should be reserved for use by Canada’s military and law enforcement.” Additionally, the current Chief of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has declared that this prohibition “finds balance” as it “ensures the safety of our members” while not limiting “those that recreationally participate in hunting or those that actually live off the land.”

Between October 2018 and February 2019 the Government held extensive public engagement on the issue of banning handguns and assault-style firearms with the provinces and territories, municipalities, Indigenous groups, law enforcement, community organizations, and industry to help inform policy, regulations, and legislation to reduce violent crime involving firearms. While the engagement was framed by the examination of a potential ban, the discussion explored several potential measures to reduce violent crime including enhanced enforcement capacity for law enforcement and border services, investments to support initiatives that reduce violence, and strengthening safe firearms storage requirements to help prevent theft. Many participants expressed that a ban on assault-style firearms was needed in order to protect public safety.

We put in place an amnesty to give existing owners time to come into compliance with the law. The amnesty order also provides a temporary exception for Indigenous persons exercising S.35 Constitutional rights to hunt and for sustenance hunters to allow for continued use of newly prohibited firearms (if previously non-restricted) until a suitable replacement can be found. The Government remains committed to introducing a buy-back program during the amnesty period. However, the costs associated with implementing a buy-back program have not yet been finalized.

While the prohibition was a crucial initiative, it was only the first step in the Government’s gun control agenda. The Government also intends to bring forward targeted measures to further address the criminal use of firearms. We will strengthen firearms storage requirements to deter theft, and following hundreds of millions of dollars cut by the previous Conservative government we will continue to make the necessary investments to enhance our tracing capacity and reduce the number of guns being smuggled across the border. We will continue to also work with our partners from other levels of government to develop an approach to address handguns.

The Government also intends to build on previous investments in youth and community measures, because we know that better social conditions lead to a reduction in crime and violence.

These initiatives were identified as a priority by our Government, both in the Throne Speech and in the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and we are committed to addressing these important issues as soon as possible.

Response by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable David Lametti

Pursuant to the mandate letters of the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety, work is ongoing towards the implementation of a robust set of firearms commitments, including a prohibition on military-style assault rifles with a two-year Criminal Code amnesty and buy-back program, and imposing stronger Criminal Code penalties for gun smuggling.

On May 1, 2020, the Governor in Council promulgated regulations prohibiting certain assault-style firearms on the basis that they: (1) have semi-automatic action with sustained rapid-fire capability (tactical/military design with large magazine capacity; (2) are of modern design; and (3) are present in large volumes in the Canadian market. The Governor in Council has had the power to prescribe firearms as prohibited or restricted by regulation for several decades. This power was re-enacted in section 117.15 of the Criminal Code, which received Royal Assent in 1998.

In making the regulations, the Governor in Council was of the view that these firearms are not reasonable for hunting or sports shooting because of the risk that they pose to public safety.

An accompanying two-year Amnesty Order to protect law-abiding gun owners from criminal prosecution until they can come into compliance with the law was also made. 

The Government has also announced its intention to introduce a buy-back program.

The Government knows that the cross-border smuggling of firearms also poses a threat to the safety and security of Canadians. The Government is committed to taking action to prevent smuggled guns from entering Canada and also for introducing tougher penalties for trafficking and smuggling offences, in addition to continuing to make important investments in the Canada Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to strengthen border controls and reduce the number of guns being smuggled across the borders. These initiatives will build on work that is already underway.

The Minister of Public Safety has also publicly committed to additional reforms requiring amendments to the Criminal Code, including increased penalties for straw purchasing (a form of firearms trafficking); and, permitting an individual to apply to a court for an emergency weapons prohibition order to apply to another individual, otherwise known as “red flag laws.”

In November 2017, the Government has made available funding of up to $327.6 million over five years through the Initiative to Take Action Against Gun and Gang Violence to combat gun-related violence and gang activities, including by supporting law enforcement and community-led projects focused on crime prevention.

In addition, more than $200 million is now flowing directly to the provinces and territories to target initiatives that best meet the unique needs of individual communities to advance efforts in areas of prevention, gang exit, outreach and awareness training as well as enhanced intelligence sharing and law enforcement capacity. With the funding allocations, jurisdictions have made investments to support new law enforcement activities including specialized training and education initiatives and improving data collection and information sharing. 

Provinces and territories have also prioritized a number of prevention intervention initiatives. Building on these achievements, the Government has committed to invest additional funding to help municipalities meet the needs of communities at risk to fight gang-related violence and expand diversion programs to keep youth out of the criminal justice system.

Presented to the House of Commons
Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan)
October 5, 2020 (Petition No. 432-00062)
Government response tabled
November 18, 2020
Photo - Garnett Genuis
Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan
Conservative Caucus
Alberta

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