Gun owners caught up in the Liberals’ controversial new gun bill could get compensation, says Marco Mendicino
OTTAWA — Gun owners whose guns end up being banned under a sweeping new gun bill may be eligible for compensation, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Friday. , as the Liberals struggle to contain political backlash over their latest push to regulate guns.
Whether newly banned guns would be eligible for a buy-back program already underway for those banned by the federal government in 2020 is among the questions swirling in the contentious debate around its new gun bill. , known as C-21.
While the bill began as a proposed law to institute a handgun freeze and other gun control measures, late last month it morphed into something much broader: legislation that would establish an updated definition of the technical specifications that should ban a firearm in Canada and a massive new list specifying which firearms will now be banned.
Opposition Conservatives called the decision to add these provisions through amendments « underhanded » and an effort to ban almost all guns or shotguns in Canada, while New Democrats called the proposals for « surpassing » that came out of nowhere.
The Liberals had said the changes were coming when the bill was originally tabled in May. On Friday, Mendicino pushed back against the idea that by choosing this legislative path, the government was deliberately avoiding scrutiny, arguing that there has been a vigorous national debate about the scope and size of Canada’s gun laws since years.
« It’s not a new concept, to be clear, » he said.
What also frustrates gun owners and their advocates is the fact that after the 2020 ban, some bought guns they thought would remain legal, only for the government to now seek to ban them, giving credence to their fears that despite saying otherwise, they are hunters the government wants to attack.
“They said, ‘We respect hunters, we don’t chase them.’ It’s seven years of lies,” said Conservative Public Safety Critic Raquel Dancho.
Mendicino said the Liberals were trying to reduce the « noise » created by the Conservatives about the proposed ban, which he said is deliberate misinformation intended to sow fear.
One of the principles of the 2020 ban was that Canadians should be compensated if their lawfully owned firearms were banned, he said, and the same principle should apply this time around.
« We haven’t made a final decision on this yet because we don’t yet know what the final outcome of the amendments or the bill will be, » Mendicino said, « but it’s very important to me that we are seen as fair and equitable to law-abiding gun owners.
The Canadian Coalition for Gun Rights says the proposed amendment, along with the evergreen new definition, would add « several million » additional rifles and shotguns to the list of weapons now banned in Canada.
The new ban would include the SKS, a semi-automatic rifle that was used in the recent fatal shooting of two Ontario police officers.
This weapon was not included in the May 2020 decree which deemed more than 1,500 “assault type” rifles and variants illegal. It is estimated that there are millions of SKS rifles in Canada, as it is a relatively inexpensive military weapon from the 1950s that later became popular with hunters.
But Mendicino said just because the weapon wasn’t included on the 2020 list doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be banned now.
“Weapons designed for war, for the battlefield, have no place in our communities. It is the judgment of this government,” he said.
« It is the intention of this government to focus on these weapons and not on shotguns. »
But the fact that widely used shotguns like the SKS are among those that could be shelved has caught even some non-traditional critics of the government’s gun agenda – New Democrats – off guard.
With their amendments, the Liberals are fueling political divisions across the country and pitting rural Canadians against their urban neighbours, said NDP MP Charlie Angus.
“They need to restore the confidence of Canadians, both urban and rural, that they are doing the right thing,” said Angus, who represents the riding of Timmins-James Bay in northern Ontario.
« I think they made some serious mistakes with this amendment and they need to fix it. »
The Liberals are increasingly bleeding political support into rural pockets across the country to the NDP and the Conservatives.
Mendicino spent part of the day on the phone Friday with hunt groups in one of the few Liberal territories with a rural riding, the Quebec riding of Pontiac, assuring them that any guns they take are not counted in the invoice.
But when it comes to gun control issues, that’s also a politically sensitive topic for New Democrats.
In 2011, two New Democrat MPs were punished by the party’s interim leader after they voted with the then Conservative government to scrap the long-gun registry, reviled in parts of the country, including their own ridings, but supported by the New Democrats.
One of the MPs, Bruce Hyer, eventually left the NDP caucus to sit as an independent. He joined the Greens before losing his seat in the 2015 election to the Liberals.
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