Prairie provinces say late changes to federal firearm bill would criminalize hunters and farmers

The Springfield M1 Garand Rifle (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba governments say they oppose changes to the federal government’s latest firearm legislation that were proposed by Liberal MPs at the committee stage earlier this week.

Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security brought forward several amendments to Bill C-21 on November 22 that would move most semi-automatic rifles and shotguns out of the “non-restricted” and “restricted” categories, and redefine them as “prohibited.”

One of the amendments says any centre-fire semi-automatic rifle or shotgun that can hold a detachable magazine with more than five cartridges would become a prohibited firearm. Another contains a 300-plus page list of specific firearms that would be prohibited, including including the SKS, which is said to be the most common semi-automatic rifle in Canada, and the single-shot Ruger No 1.

The three Prairie provinces say the amendments “will criminalize hunters, farmers, and target shooters who collective own hundreds of thousands of firearms that could soon be prohibited.”

“These men and women will be criminalized overnight. Saskatchewan will not stand idly by while the federal government yet again attacks law-abiding citizens instead of focusing on crime,” said Christine Tell, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety, in a joint news release issued by the three provincial governments on November 24.

“”If these amendments are allowed to proceed, Bill C-21 will be the most sweeping and arbitrary ban of firearms in Canadian history,” noted Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, who also called the amendments “unenforceable.”

Manitoba’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General Kelvin Goertzen said the federal government “should focus its attention and resources on illegally imported firearms, and those who commit crime with guns, instead of measures that target law-abiding citizens. Manitoba’s government stands united with Saskatchewan and Alberta in opposing the federal Liberal government’s confiscation plans.”

In addition to raising the same concerns, Conservative shadow minister for public safety Raquel Dancho says she also takes issue with the government introducing the significant changes to the firearms bill at the committee stage, after the legislation — with no stated intent of banning semi-automatic firearms — was debated in the House of Commons.

The public safety committee was scheduled to resume clause-by-clause consideration of C-21 and the amendments on Thursday, but according to the House of Commons website, the meeting was suspended.