Ottawa’s ‘door is open’ on gun ban
Federal government is giving power to provinces — but will they use it?
The federal government says it will introduce a mandatory assault weapons buyback, an expanded list of banned “assault-style” firearms, and give provinces the power to ban handguns after failed efforts to hand that power off to cities.
And it’s calling on provinces like Ontario to come to the table.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino acknowledged Wednesday that Premier Doug Ford has resisted calls by cities like Toronto to ban handguns.
“My message is, let’s work together. Let’s find ways to get handguns and other guns off the streets,” Mendicino said.
“This is a government that is prepared to take the steps that are necessary. We’ve already put into place some additional restrictions and prohibitions on assault-style guns. We banned 1,500 of them and we’re prepared to do more. We need to do more.”
The government’s throne speech Wednesday said “gun violence is on the rise in many of our biggest cities” and pledged renewed action.
But the Liberal government will not propose a national handgun ban, instead promising to “move forward with any province or territory that wants to ban handguns.”
Mendicino said he’s ready to work with every level of government to make that happen.
“My door is open. If the government of Quebec wants to work with the federal government to take additional strong action against getting guns out of our communities, we’ll be there.”
The problem, says gun control advocate Heidi Rathjen, is that no province has demanded the power to ban handguns, and many oppose a ban.
Even following a recent spate of shootings in Montreal, Quebec Premier François Legault has been less than clear about whether he would ban handguns, said Rathjen, a founder of the group Poly Remembers.
Cities experiencing gun violence want a national ban, not a piecemeal province-by-province approach, she said.
Rathjen was among the students who survived the 1989 Polytechnique shooting in Montreal. She was in a nearby study room when Marc Lepine opened fire there, killing 14 women.
“The refrain of wanting to ‘work with any province that wants to get handguns off the streets’ is basically the federal government saying it has no intention of legislating to counter the proliferation of legal handguns and will rely on provinces to do the heavy lifting, despite the fact that not one provincial government has indicated any interest in doing so,” said Rathjen.
“From our perspective, the insistence on pushing the local/provincial approach virtually guarantees that nothing will happen.”
A senior federal government official conceded the past offer to give the power to municipalities — which are under the jurisdiction of the provinces — hadn’t worked to advance bans on handguns.
Mendicino insists he is ready to talk to all levels of government.
However, a spokesman for Ontario Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones said she recently met with Mendicino and committed to work with Ottawa on “shared priorities when it comes to tackling gun and gang violence, including further investments and tools for enforcement and prosecutions, as well as other, tailored legislative reforms.”
But Stephen Warner made clear that Ontario province is not looking at a handgun ban, and said the Progressive Conservative government’s focus is “on action that makes a real difference” in reducing gun and gang violence.
“The statistics are clear, 80 per cent of guns being used in crime are obtained using illegal means — including from across the border — and half of the gun-related deaths in Ontario were gang-related,” Warner said.
Mendicino, a former federal Crown prosecutor, said he raised the issue of more joint collaboration with the United States on combating gun smuggling.
The Liberal election platform made several other promises to toughen gun-control laws, including making it mandatory for owners of banned assault weapons “to either sell the firearm back to the government for destruction and fair compensation or have it rendered fully and permanently inoperable at government expense.”