High River gun grab: Jonathan Denis says he wasn't allowed to comment on report

Alberta's former justice minister says he was muzzled from speaking after a report was released that detailed the RCMP's failings in seizing firearms during the 2013 flood in High River.

'I took it right up to the premier's office and was denied,' said Denis

Former justice minister, Jonathan Denis speaks to a justice studies class at Bow Valley College on Nov. 20 (Meghan Grant/CBC)

Alberta's former justice minister says he was muzzled from speaking after a report was released detailing the RCMP's failings in seizing firearms during the 2013 flood in High River.

A press release was issued by Jonathan Denis' office in February but he says Progressive Conservative communications officials told him he was not allowed to hold a press conference regarding the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission's report.

"I took it right up to the premier's office and was denied," said Denis.

High River was the hardest hit community in Alberta's 2013 floods. All of its 13,000 residents were forced out with hundreds having to be rescued.

Jonathan Denis, a registered firearms owner himself, spoke to a justice studies class at Bow Valley College on Friday about the gun seizure in High River during the 2013 flood. (CBC)

Through social media and word of mouth, already anxious residents came to realize the RCMP had seized hundreds of firearms, and in some cases, broken down their doors to do it.

A total of 609 guns were taken from 105 homes, some that were seized had been properly stored.

Outrage grew and even the prime minister's office weighed in on what became known as the High River gun grab.

The incident created bad blood and mistrust of Mounties by many High River residents.

The commission's report found RCMP officers improperly took the guns from the High River homes and blamed the error on poor leadership and failure to communicate with the public.

Denis, a registered firearms owner himself, spoke to a justice studies class at Bow Valley College on Friday, explaining he doesn't know why he wasn't allowed to comment on the report but called it "the wrong decision."

Recommendations 

The report made 10 recommendations including creating a national crisis communications handbook, guidelines for the seizure of firearms, ammunition and contraband during a disaster and special forms to ensure better note-taking.

But it's still unclear if any have been implemented — and that's another of Denis' criticisms.

"This should not be a report you can simply leave on the shelf," he said. "There should be some accountability to all Canadians because we don't know when the next disaster will be." 

The RCMP were contacted for comment Friday morning but have not responded with any information.

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