Po­lit­i­cal ri­vals in Canada set­tle mat­ter with gun duel

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitic­s - BY BARRY BROWN

TORONTO | Who says Cana­dian elec­tions have to be bor­ing?

With a na­tional vote just weeks away, two can­di­dates of the fledg­ling pro-gun Peo­ple’s Party of Canada had to de­cide which of them would rep­re­sent the party at a lo­cal Greater Saska­toon Cham­ber of Com­merce de­bate in the west­ern prov­ince of Saskatchew­an. The so­lu­tion: a live-broad­cast shoot­ing con­test at a lo­cal gun range, and may the best marks­man win.

“They’ll set­tle their dif­fer­ence at the Ri­fle Shoot­ing Range,” read a Face­book flyer, which featured side-by-side pic­tures of the ri­fle-tot­ing, camo-clad ri­vals. What could go wrong? In a coun­try that has long prided it­self on its high stan­dards of ci­vil­ity and low lev­els of vi­o­lence com­pared with its south­ern neigh­bor, gun rights, in­di­vid­u­al­ism and free speech are among the most im­por­tant val­ues to sup­port­ers of the new party. But the up­shot of the episode also il­lus­trates the dif­fer­ences in pol­i­tics of gun own­er­ship in Canada and the U.S.

Af­ter re­ject­ing sug­ges­tions to solve the mat­ter through a bean­bag toss and po­tato sack race, PPC can­di­dates Mike Friesen and Guto Pen­teado set­tled on a Robin Hood-like con­test of shoot­ing skills at a gun range run by the Saskatchew­an Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion. They alerted the lo­cal press about their plans to broad­cast the duel live on Face­book.

“It’s all about pro­mo­tion. This is big­ger than gun rights; it’s about prop­erty rights and free speech,” said Mr. Friesen, a tree doctor from Saska­toon.

Mr. Pen­teado, the PCC can­di­date in the small city’s other district, grew up on a farm in Brazil and learned hunt­ing from his fa­ther. He moved to Canada 17 years ago and fell in love with Saskatchew­an’s coun­try cul­ture. A li­censed hunter and gun owner, Mr. Pen­teado said a shootout to de­cide which can­di­date goes to the de­bate would rep­re­sent “pro­mo­tion about the good side of guns as a sport be­cause all we see is very bad news about mass shoot­ings, and this is a very bad im­age for gun own­ers and the guns them­selves.”

“We live in the coun­try­side, we love the na­ture, we love the in­ter­ac­tion with an­i­mals and ev­ery­thing like that,” Mr. Pen­teado told the na­tional CBC news net­work. “I’m re­fer­ring to the good con­no­ta­tions about red­necks. We’re not stupid. We’re good red­necks.”

Ques­tion­ing the ‘mes­sage’

The du­el­ing duo’s an­nounce­ment of a shootout quickly at­tracted na­tional at­ten­tion, in­clud­ing cov­er­age from Canada’s big­gest me­dia out­lets. Not all of the re­ac­tion was fa­vor­able.

Charles Smith, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal stud­ies at St. Thomas More Col­lege at the Uni­ver­sity of Saskatchew­an, told the CBC that the event was insen­si­tive, es­pe­cially right af­ter an­other mass shoot­ing in Texas. Us­ing guns to set­tle dis­putes re­in­forces the mes­sage that guns and vi­o­lence are nor­mal, he told the broad­caster, and “that’s not a mes­sage po­lit­i­cal par­ties should be send­ing in 2019.”

The can­di­dates, how­ever, thought the at­ten­tion was fan­tas­tic. So Mr. Friesen was sur­prised when the prov­inces’ po­lit­i­cal re­porters who had as­sem­bled at the gun range were told that there would be no gun­fight at the SWF cor­ral.

Mr. Friesen im­me­di­ately sus­pected a con­spir­acy “be­hind the scenes.” But Robert Fre­berg, past pres­i­dent and cur­rent fundrais­ing chair­man for the lo­cal fed­er­a­tion that owns and op­er­ates the gun range, said the prob­lem wasn’t pol­i­tics but plan­ning.

The range has a com­plete ban on pho­tog­ra­phy to pro­tect mem­bers’ pri­vacy, Mr. Fre­berg said. Also, Mr. Friesen’s mem­ber­ship had ex­pired and he an­nounced his event with­out wait­ing for per­mis­sion to hold it, Mr. Fre­berg said.

“When he phoned and told me he wanted to re­new his mem­ber­ship, he thought that was enough,” Mr. Fre­berg said. “But ap­pli­ca­tions for mem­ber­ship and events go through the board. We tried to han­dle this in a pro­fes­sional man­ner and gave him an op­tion to wait. He didn’t do that. At the end of the day, nei­ther man was a mem­ber, so they had to stay out­side.”

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