Keep the pressure on Trudeau, say Bill C-71 opponents
Sean Chase/Daily Observer More than 200 people packed Cobden Agricultural Hall Wednesday night to protest Bill C-71 which will make major changes to Canada's firearms laws. Many believe this is the Liberal government's attempt to bring back the long-gun registry.
COBDEN – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will back down on Bill C-71 if his political neck is on the line, insist opponents of Ottawa's plan to tighten Canada's firearms law.
More than 200 concerned citizens and gun owners packed the Cobden Agricultural Hall Wednesday night to denounce Bill C-71, An Act to Amend Certain Acts and Regulations in Relation to Firearms, which many claim will bring back the long-gun registry. The bill was tabled in March and has received second reading in the House of Commons sending it to the committee level.
“There will be very little time to debate this bill,” warned Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MP Cheryl Gallant, who rode an overwhelming wave of opposition to the original long-gun registry when she was first elected 18 years ago.
The legislation proposes changes to the background check system and new mandatory record-keeping practices for vendors. Currently when a person applies for a gun permit, authorities do a background check that goes five years into the individual’s past to look for criminal convictions, mental illness associated with violence or a history of behaviour that includes violence or threats to commit such acts. Under Bill C-71, authorities assessing applications for a gun permit will now consider all those factors going back for the applicant’s entire life. Tony Bernardo, executive director of the Canada Shooting Sports Association, said this could disadvantage first responders and military personnel who have been treated for post traumatic stress disorder. He contended a government bureaucrat could now deny these individuals who have served their country a permit with no opportunity to appeal the decision unless they pay to go through an expensive legal challenge.
“It was okay to give you a full automatic weapon, a pocket full of hand grenades and a pistol and walk amongst the children of Kabul, but it's not okay to buy a .22 rifle because you had PTSD 15 years ago when came back,” said Bernardo. “This about what the dishonour does to our veterans.”
Another change will be in regards to transport authorizations for firearms. Currently, an authorization to purchase either a restricted or prohibited firearm automatically results in an authorization to transport that weapon for specific purposes, and there is no discretion for the chief firearms officer on whether to approve that authorization. Under Bill C-71, those authorizations would be at the discretion of the chief firearms officer. The only authorizations that would be automatic with the purchase of the firearm now are the authorizations to transport that weapon to the owner’s home following the purchase and to approved shooting clubs or ranges in the owner’s province of residence.
Bernardo sharply criticized public safety minister Ralph Goodale for downplaying any notion that this is the Liberals attempt to bring back the long-gun registry, which was abolished by the former Conservative government in 2012.
“(Goodale) tells you this thing is not a gun registry,” said Bernardo. “It is a registry. They are verifying your activity.”
Freelance writer and filmmaker Christopher Di Armani, who was among the guest speakers at the public meeting, implored those who are concerned about C-71 to flood the offices of Members of Parliament and government ministers with letters and emails noting the pressure could kill the bill. As an example, Goodale's office began receiving 1,600 letters a day after the bill was announced. He accused Trudeau of pushing the bill through before opposition can be substantially mounted against it. Di Armani said it was his belief that Trudeau's fear of losing power and a second term will lead the Liberals to scrap C-71.
“Justin Trudeau has backed down from every promise he has made,” said Di Armani. “C-71 will cost him the only thing he cares about – seats in the House of Commons.”
C-71 will also designate the Swiss Arms and CZ-858 families of rifles as restricted rather than prohibited. In addition, businesses or private sellers who are selling or giving a non-restricted firearm will now be required to verify that the person they are providing the gun to holds a valid firearms license through the Canadian Firearms Program. Ultimately, many fear Bill C-71 could turn lawful gun owners into unlawful ones.
“A lot of people are not going to want to give up their firearms,” said Stan Mercredi, president of the Pembroke Outdoor Sportsman's Club. “There's hunters and farmers who use it everyday for their property and way of life. I can tell you right now, a lot of people are saying 'I am going to bury my firearms because the government is not going to tell me I can't defend my property and my family.'”