Canada

Committee debating gun control amendments won’t be hearing from independent experts

‘There’s some witnesses that didn’t have an opportunity to speak to that amendment. It would be legitimate to allow them to do so’

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The public safety committee won’t be calling independent, non-government experts to help members wade through controversial amendments to the government’s gun control legislation, after failing to reach an unanimous consensus on the issue.

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Calling amendments that the government attempted to quietly insert into already wide-ranging gun control measures “poorly-presented,” Bloc Quebecois MP Kristina Michaud urged fellow committee members on Tuesday to allow independent experts to address their concerns.

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“With this massive amendment, there’s some witnesses that didn’t have an opportunity to speak to that amendment,” she said in French.

“It would be legitimate to allow them to do so.”

Quietly tabled by Liberal MP Paul Chiang in November, amendment G4 would widely increase the definition of a “prohibited weapon” to include “a firearm that is a rifle or shotgun, that is capable of discharging centre-fire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner and that is designed to accept a detachable cartridge magazine with a capacity greater than five cartridges of the type for which the firearm was originally designed.”

Despite Liberals MPs taking to social media dismissing furor over the amendments, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Monday the government is “listening to feedback” from concerned citizens to “make sure we’re not capturing weapons that are primarily hunting weapons.”

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Concerned the Liberals’ hunting gun ban would encroach on inherent and treaty-granted hunting rights, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) issued a statement Tuesday afternoon expressing their concern.

“Government has been chipping away at our rights since we signed the treaties, and Bill C-21 is no different,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron.

“First Nation hunters have been taught from an early age how to hunt, to be respectful to the wildlife and to be mindful of conservation and safety. Government needs to live up to their Treaty obligations instead of trying to legislate on matters that impact our ability to feed our families and our Nations.”

Michaud had proposed setting aside two meetings to allow the experts to speak.

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“It would be helpful to move the process forward if we had answers to our questions,” she said.

As the committee was already in the midst of debating amendments, committee chair Ron McKinnon called the idea “problematic” and suspended the meeting to confer with the clerks.

Upon his return, McKinnon said only unanimous consent from committee members would permit the convening of a subcommittee to discuss calling independent experts to testify.

As members didn’t proffer their unanimous consent, Michaud’s efforts died on the committee floor.

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Michaud accused the government of secretly slipping the amendment into Bill C-21 during the committee stage without consulting stakeholders.

“Groups have said to us for the past few weeks that they were not consulted,” she said in French, drawing parallels to the government’s intention to include airsoft guns in C-21 — a move also made without consulting the industry.

“Part of this amendment has never really been presented properly, the government really hasn’t clarified this for us,” she said in French.

“This is mainly what the Bloc Quebecois is reproaching the government for, they did it all backwards, it’s really difficult to try and find your way through such a binder and explain to constituents what it’s all about.”

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As for the voluminous list of firearms listed in the 300-plus page amendment G-46, Public Safety Canada’s Rachel Mainville-Dale explained paragraphs one through 86 are firearms prohibited in the 1990s, 87 through 96 are those banned via the May 2020 order-in-council, and paragraphs 97 to 232 were additional firearms — yet to be outlawed — that would complete the May 2020 ban.

Murray Smith, a technical specialist for the RCMP’s Canadian firearms program, explained the list is not an exhaustive one, as sections of the criminal code already prohibit firearms — whether on the list or not — of certain characteristics, like being fully automatic or a sawed-off barrel.

When asked by committee member Taleeb Noormohamed if, for example, the inclusion of the Ruger No. 1 rifle meant all Ruger 1s were prohibited, Smith said only those rifles chambered for calibres capable of producing muzzle energy greater than 10,000 joules.

“Other Ruger No. 1 rifles, which are chambered for different cables that do not produce that level of energy will remain in the existing category, which broadly speaking, is non-restricted,” Smith said.

“The effect of the law is not new, the only part that’s new is that the firearm now appears in print in the schedule, whereas it didn’t appear in print in the former regulations.”

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