The Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association says proposed changes to federal gun legislation are misaligned and unprecedented in terms of gun ownership and private property rights. Recent amendments to Bill C-21 propose banning large numbers of hunting and sporting rifles. If the bill passes, the association worries that club memberships will decline.
“This is a multi-billion dollar seizure of property, is what they’re talking about,” club member Glenn Prior said.
He notes that two issues are at play: a handgun transfer (sales) ban and an amendment to prohibit many centre fire semi-automatics. Under the transfer ban, a gun owner who dies would not be able to will the gun because government intends to curb the increase in handgun numbers in Canada.
“OK, so stop the import, we don’t make them in Canada,” Prior said. “Stopping me from selling one to you…what does that have to do with crime? We probably have the most stringent (gun ownership) rules in the world. There’s no emphasis on the real problem, which is the gangs.”
Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns addressed Bill C-21 Friday in Parliament. He criticized the Liberals for promising to keep people safe from gun violence, then making a last-second amendment that would hurt rural and coastal communities.
“This bill was supposed to protect people, not go after hunters, farmers or Indigenous peoples,” Johns said in the House of Commons. “Will the prime minister listen to the outpour of concerns and clean up his mess?”
Jaime Battiste, Liberal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said C-21’s intent is to ban handguns and assault weapons such as AR-15s, “full stop.” He acknowledges some confusion and concerns about the bill, but said the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security will get it right.
“We will always respect Indigenous hunters and their right to pass on that knowledge to their children, like I plan to pass on to my son,” Battiste said.
Johns has discussed the issue with many individuals — and with fish and game clubs in the Comox Valley and Parksville — who don’t see a reason to have a handgun in a crowded city, or military-style assault firearms in communities or near schools. However, he said the Liberals expanded the bill at the last minute without the NDP’s knowledge or consent.
“The goal of the legislation was to get dangerous handguns off of our streets, but not criminalize hunters, farmers and/or Indigenous peoples,” Johns said in an interview. “We won’t support amendments to the bill that ban (guns) primarily used for hunting or protecting farm animals from predators, and that don’t respect treaty rights. There’s time for the government to get it right.”
Johns said that Canada ranks fifth out of 23 countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) for age-adjusted gun mortality. Canada’s firearm mortality rate is eight times that of the United Kingdom and Japan, and about three times that of Australia and the Netherlands — countries where strict gun control legislation exists.
Bill C-21 follows on the Order-In-Council (OIC) imposed in May 2020 to ban assault-style firearms. The bill broadens “red flag” and “yellow flag” laws to protect women from gender-based violence and allow for temporary suspension of licences while eligibility is determined. It also increases the maximum penalty for firearms trafficking.
The bill, which has received second reading in parliament, must pass the Senate before it can become law. Courtenay Fish and Game encourages people to communicate their concerns and objections in writing to senators, MPs and to Marco Mendicino, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety.