Gun lobbies, gun control advocates favour end of latest Liberal bill as Commons recess nears

The absence of a controversial firearm bill among priority bills the Liberals want to get through Parliament over the next few weeks has both gun lobbies and gun-control groups relieved.

When Public Safety and National Security Minister Bill Blair tabled Bill C-21 in the House of Commons last February, the legislation was likely intended to take pressure off the government after its even more controversial firearm prohibition order last year.

The measure sparked a Federal Court challenge by gun owners and businesses and the court case continues.

At the time of the ban, supporters for stiff gun control in Canada favoured the move.

The surprise Cabinet order on May 1, 2020, prohibited thousands of assault-style rifles and provided a year-long amnesty for owners to comply with a compulsory compensation program and they were to turn in their newly illegal weapons.

But Bill C-21, which would eliminate the compulsory buy-out program while allowing owners of the designated rifles to keep under a grandfathering scheme, would require them to be kept under a secure storage system at home, unable to be used.

For owners who want to turn them in, the government would still provide compensation.

The option is strongly opposed by both gun owners and anti-firearm activists.

As the Commons nears its scheduled recess date nine sitting days away, June 23, it appears unlikely Bill C-21 will make it into the Public Safety and National Security committee for close scrutiny and evidence.

It is also possible a federal election some time after the summer recess, or even before then, could make the future life of the bill more dubious.

The Government House leader, Montreal-area Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez, informed the House last Thursday, during a regular briefing for the coming week, that the bill would be up for debate on Friday and also the coming Monday.

That was apparently changed as the government was preparing to put into place the steps that would lead to last minute debate and passage of four priority bills, including legislation from last spring’s federal budget.

Bill C-21 has had only two full debates in the Commons, the last one taking place May 28.

The bill has so far not appeared on an informal list of debate by June 18, but it could be voted into committee study by June 23, with little likelihood of going far in committee prior to the summer adjournment.

A spokesman for Blair did not respond to an emailed question about the prospect of Bill C-21 making it through before the recess or a possible federal election.

That is fine with Wendy Cukier, a founder of the Coalition for Gun Control, and Heidi Rathjen, a founder and co-ordinator with the prominent Montreal gun-control advocacy, PolySeSouvient, or Poly Remembers, founded in the wake of the mass shooting of 14 women at the Montreal Polytechnique engineering college in 1989.

“We called on the government to either overhaul the bill or go back to the drawing board, so we would rather not see C-21 advance to committee stage without a clearly articulated change in position from the government,” Rathjen told iPolitics in response to questions about the fate of C-21.

“I don’t think the Liberals can afford to wait much longer if they are to rebuild the public’s trust on this issue.

“Since C-21 is essentially a broken election promise, any new gun control promise will be meaningless as long as they continue to stand by this bill,” she said.

Cukier offered similar views.

“While it is disappointing not to have meaningful action on gun control, Bill C-21 was so deeply flawed, it’s probably better to start over,” Cukier said Friday.

She told iPolitics the coalition is also awaiting the passage of regulations to enforce another gun bill the Liberal government passed two years ago.

“This Bill was designed to improve screening of gun owners, to plug some gaping loopholes in the eroded controls over handguns and other restricted weapons, and to reinstate the 1977 controls over the sales of rifles and shotguns,” Cukier said.

A spokesman for one of Canada’s senior firearm lobbies expressed a tough stance against the bill, on behalf of sport shooters.

“C-21’s lack of inclusion in the government’s agenda demonstrates the bill’s lack of necessity,” said Tony Bernardo, executive director of Canadian Shooting Sports Association.

“Sport shooters are not using their firearms for evil, but gang crime is sweeping the country,” Bernardo said Friday in an email exchange from Oshawa, Ont., which is located east of Toronto.

“It is abundantly clear that gang violence is where the government needs to prioritize its efforts, not legislating against RCMP-approved and licensed firearms owners,” he said, reflecting common views of gun owners that have been prevalent through the Liberal government’s gun control program since 2015.


Source: Ipolitics