Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he would never reinstate the gun registry, nor would any Canadian government disarm the people. His legislative track record says otherwise.
On Sept. 22, 2010, Trudeau – then just a backbencher MP in opposition – voted against a private member’s bill to remove rifles from the federal gun registry. After the bill fell two votes short of passing, he walked out of Parliament and engaged protesters who favoured the bill.
“I mean the fear in here is that the first step towards registering your guns is just the first step towards taking away guns. That’s never going to happen because in Canada we have a culture that has, that has grown up with guns and it respects the need to, to go out into the wilderness and shoot things from time to time,” he said.
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If this rationale and wording seem a little odd, remember this man said he lowered household plastic consumption through “like drink-box, water-bottle sorta things.” Those still skeptical can watch how he promised to never take away guns on YouTube (I filmed his comments).
Two years after he voted to keep the long-gun registry, Trudeau condemned it in his quest for the Liberal leadership. On Dec. 1, 2012, he told people at a Hawkesbury, Ont., campaign event: “The long-gun registry, as it was, was a failure and I’m not going to resuscitate that … I grew up with long guns, rifles and shotguns. … Yes, the RCMP guarding me had handguns and I got to play with them every now and then.”
“I was raised with an appreciation and an understanding of how important in rural areas and right across the country gun ownership is as a part of the culture of Canada. I do not feel that there’s any huge contradiction between keeping our cities safe from gun violence and gangs, and allowing this important facet of Canadian identity, which is having a gun.”
Divisive election games didn’t need to be played over gun issues, he said, adding, “There is no concept, no idea that gun ownership is ever going to be under attack for law-abiding hunters and farmers across this country.” He even recalled strapping a rifle to his back when he led students on a hike in Greenland.
By 2018, Bill C-71 proved those assurances were fickle. The bill extended background checks on gun owners to their lifetime, not just the previous five years. Gun owners would need permits to transport restricted or prohibited firearms anywhere but a shooting range. This included trips to gun shows or gunsmiths.
Canada’s gun culture be damned.
Furthermore, Bill C-71 required that gun purchases be registered at point-of-sale. It also authorized a program, not yet implemented, that barred owners from selling a gun or giving it to a family member without permission from the Canadian Firearms Program. If granted, the parties of the transfer would be issued a purchase reference number which would be stored in a database with their personal information and personal acquisition licence number.
What’s that? A gun registry?
It can’t be. The Liberal platform introduced soon after committed to “protecting the rights of hunters and farmers, by not bringing back the long-gun registry.”
So they hadn’t just done that, right?
Soon the disarmament that could never happen became real. On May 1, 2020, the government announced 1,500 models of “assault-style” guns would be banned: those that were rapid-fire, high-powered or had a wide chamber. Some of these guns weren’t restricted before.
Indigenous Canadians could keep using these guns to exercise their treaty rights to hunt. Otherwise, anyone’s cultural need “to go out into the wilderness and shoot things” was irrelevant.
The new gun prohibitions were made by order-in-council on May 1, 2020, then incorporated into Bill C-21 in February 2021. However, the legislation may face constitutional battles for its overreach. The bill empowers municipalities to enact bans on gun storage and transportation, even though municipalities are typically provincial jurisdictions.
Bill C-21 undermines Canadian gun culture by banning replicas of prohibited weapons, even if they’re airsoft or paintball guns. The bill also imposes jail sentences if commercial advertisements depict gun violence. Never mind that banning paintball ads with guns aimed at players will save as few lives as federal advice to wear masks while having sex during the pandemic.
While Bill C-21 disarms Canadians, it empowers the government to pack heat. The legislation authorizes security details at the Bank of Canada and the Royal Canadian Mint to carry firearms, as well as any employee of any Crown entity so authorized by the governor-in-council.
It’s a good thing Canadians can trust their leader and government. Otherwise, we might be worried about other regimes in history that took guns from citizens in the name of safety, only to oppress them with impunity later.
Lee Harding is a research associate for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
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