OTTAWA—Don’t worry, Carey Price. The federal government isn’t coming for your gun.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino made that promise Monday to the Montreal Canadiens goaltender after the gun control debate found a wider audience over the weekend thanks to a social media post in which Price trashed the government’s latest effort to expand the list of banned firearms in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the furor that’s erupted from the hunting community over proposed amendments to Bill C-21 that would massively expand the list of banned rifles and shotguns.
“We’re listening to feedback on (the legislation) now to make sure that we’re not capturing weapons that are primarily hunting weapons,” Trudeau told reporters Monday in Ingersoll, Ont.
“But we all know that we need to make sure that guns that are designed to kill the largest number of people as quickly as possible have no place in Canada, and we’re going to continue to move forward with that.”
Trudeau and Mendicino’s defence of the government’s agenda came on the eve of the Dec. 6 anniversary of the École Polytechnique shooting that has been a catalyst for gun control efforts. Mendicino will travel to Montreal on Tuesday to mark the event with survivors and victims’ families, many of whom have been outspoken in their demands for the government to go farther on restricting weapons in Canada.
Price became the latest prominent critic of the government’s proposed amendments to its pending firearms bill with an Instagram post that pictured him wearing camouflage clothing and holding a shotgun. In the post, the Habs player said he’s neither a criminal nor a threat to society.
“What (Justin Trudeau) is trying to do is unjust,” he wrote.
Price’s post did not say the firearm he was photographed holding would be caught up in the proposed amendments.
But the post was circulated by firearms rights groups, as well as Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro and gun enthusiasts, to bolster their argument that the government’s move would ban the firearms most commonly used by hunters.
To Mendicino, however, it was evidence of misinformation being deliberately circulated by the Liberal government’s political rivals. Based on the photos he’s seen, he said, Price’s gun won’t be banned under the new rules.
“You see now the consequences of that, where people are operating from false assumptions and confusion,” he said.
“We need to make sure that we have a thoughtful debate that is based on the facts and that is precisely what I have committed and the government have committed to doing all along.”
His critics continue to disagree.
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The bill began its legislative life focused on a handgun freeze, combined with measures to tackle firearms violence. However, the proposal for a wide swath of amendments while it was in the final stages of scrutiny by a parliamentary committee last month has sent even some of the government’s traditional backers on the issue into a tizzy and wondering what to make of it all.
“I understand the good-natured intent behind it,” said NDP public safety critic Alistair MacGregor.
“But we as committee members have not had enough time to properly consult with constituents, with hunters, with farmers, who may be adversely impacted by this, and for this very substantial amendment to drop on our lap at the eleventh hour is an abuse of process in our opinion.”
The controversial amendments follow two tracks.
One is a lengthy list of firearms that would be banned when the legislation passes. The second sets out a definition of characteristics that would render a gun illegal.
The so-called “evergreen definition” is meant to address the issue of new guns coming to market that the government thinks ought not be in anyone’s hands.
But by both that definition and the list, hunters are arguing that some firearms they’ve used legally for years would be deemed illegal, despite there being no evidence that they contribute to the scourge of gun violence.
The federal Conservatives pointed Monday to a massive gun seizure in Toronto, where nearly all of the traceable guns had been smuggled from the United States; the lone traceable gun from Canada had been stolen from its legal owner.
“The problem is not hunters in Wainwright, Alta., or in Happy Valley—Goose Bay on the East Coast, who are using their tools to feed their families,” Poilievre told the House of Commons on Monday.
“The problem is the illegal guns coming across the border.”
The committee studying the bill is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday. MacGregor suggested MPs are working towards a way to challenge the amendments, or at least get more time to study their implications.
The meeting Tuesday dovetails with a significant day in the history of firearms violence in Canada — the 33rd anniversary of the mass murder at Quebec’s École Polytechnique.
Fourteen women were killed in a shooting that has set the political stage for the debate over gun control in Canada ever since — including some of the pushback against Price’s post, which didn’t mention the anniversary despite his having played for a Quebec team for years.
In a statement Monday to Radio-Canada, the president of the company that owns the Canadiens said Price wasn’t aware of the “tragic event.”
Stephanie Levitz is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @StephanieLevitz
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