RCMP might be in contempt of Parliament over Bill C-71

Displaying information on its website that gave the public and gun store owners the impression Bill C-71 was already in force has landed the RCMP in trouble.

An RCMP bulletin to gun stores and placed on their public website said the Swiss Arms and some Czech CZ 858 rifles are going to fall under the prohibited classification. The issue is that while Bill C-71, as proposed, will create a new prohibited classification for these models, at the time of the bulletin in April, the bill had not yet been passed.

Alberta Conservative MP Glen Motz (Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner) raised the issue with the Speaker of the House of Commons, who ruled the RCMP is in prima facie contempt of Parliament. The issue was sent to a parliamentary committee for further investigation.

“As soon as our office became aware of the RCMP providing information on their website that left Canadian firearms owners with the impression that Bill C-71 was already in law rather than still going through the Parliamentary process, it was raised with the Speaker of the House as a Question of Privilege,” Motz said.

He said he would have preferred the bill be withdrawn and the government concentrate on gangs and criminals, but barring that he is looking for an apology from the RCMP and the government.

“The fact is, the RCMP breached the rules of the House of Commons and needs to explain how this happened, if the Minister of Public Safety or his staff directed them to do so, and what steps are being taken to hold people to account to ensure this never happens again,” he said.

At press time, the final vote on the bill has been delayed until later in September.

“Bill C-71 isn’t law yet, so the RCMP absolutely shouldn’t be pre-determining the will of Parliament,” said Shawn Cayley, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters’ (OFAH) manager of communications. “The bill hasn’t even finished moving through the House of Commons yet, and it still needs to go the Senate before coming back to the House. In our minds, this bill still has a long way to go and there are many opportunities along the way to influence it. The OFAH will be focused on this bill throughout the fall, and plans to work with as many MPs and senators as possible to bring some logical measures into Bill C-71 that will better protect the interests of law-abiding firearms owners.”

Debate continues about whether Bill C-71 will create a gun registry by requiring gun stores to maintain a record of each sale, and for individuals to validate PALS for private sales.

At press time, one Conservative amendment to ensure the bill was not a registry had been accepted, while more than 50 other proposed amendments were rejected.

“When the Liberal MPs accepted the Conservative amendment at the front of the bill to ensure this was not a gun registry, it came as a surprise that all the subsequent amendments to take action on the registry issue were rejected,” Motz said. “It is yet another way the Liberal government has been very misleading in work on this Bill — claiming to consult those who were in fact not consulted, failing to consult First Nations, and using misleading statistics and misleading statements.”

Scott Bardsley, communications advisor for the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, maintained Bill C-71 wasn’t creating a registry. He said storeowners, not the government, will be maintaining sales records and these will only be available by court order.

“Licence verification under the proposed legislation concerns only the licence, never the firearm. No information about the firearm is exchanged. The following information is retained, and nothing more: the reference number issued to the seller, indicating the buyer’s licence is valid; the date of transfer and the licence numbers of the buyer and seller.”