Montreal

New federal gun-control bill slammed in Quebec

The province calls the bill "complicated," Montreal says it is "disappointed" and a lobby group describes it as a "ridiculous empty shell."

Province, Montreal and advocates say proposed law falls short

Quebec Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault said Wednesday giving cities the power to ban handguns was 'complicated'. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

The Quebec government, the City of Montreal and gun-control advocates are all criticizing firearm legislation introduced by Ottawa yesterday.

Bill C-21 would introduce a voluntary buyback program for prohibited firearms including assault weapons, allow municipalities to ban handguns and increase criminal penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking.

Speaking to reporters at the National Assembly Wednesday, Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said the province welcomes any effort to address gun violence, but that this bill falls short.

"What bothers us in that bill is that they delegate the power to control or to forbid guns to the municipalities, which would be really complicated," Guilbault said.

All parties in the National Assembly later unanimously voted in favour of a motion put forward by the opposition party Québec Solidaire, asking that Ottawa give the province the power to ban handguns.

The City of Montreal released a statement expressing disappointment in the federal bill.

"The bill as tabled raises enormous issues of applicability for cities, since the responsibilities given to them go well beyond municipal powers," the statement said.

"By offloading the power of action over handgun control to cities, we're missing a golden opportunity to establish clear, harmonized and effective rules across Canada," the statement continued.

"It's a cop-out. It's a way to pass this hot potato to jurisdictions that don't want it," Heidi Rathjen, spokesperson for the gun control lobby group PolyRemembers, told CBC in an interview Wednesday.

Rathjen said a municipal ban would be difficult to enforce and easy to get around.

"What good is a ban in Montreal if Laval doesn't have a ban? It needs to be federal. Everybody says that," Rathjen said.

"The Liberal government would be better off putting forward something real instead of this ridiculous empty shell of a bill that's good for talking points but not good for public safety."

Ottawa pitches issue back to province

Speaking to reporters in an online news conference Wednesday, Blair said his government would work with all other levels of government to fight gun violence.

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair says provinces can give the municipalities the power to ban certain firearms. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

He said some municipalities had been asking for the power to ban handguns.

"We've said we're prepared to support those municipalities," Blair said.

He then threw the issue back at provinces.

"Those municipalities also work and operate under the jurisdiction and authority of the provincial governments, and if the provincial governments choose not to allow municipalities to do that, that's their choice,"  he said.

Blair didn't directly answer if Ottawa was willing to give provinces the authority to ban handguns.

Guilbault said she hoped to speak to Blair soon about the issue, and the City of Montreal said Mayor Valérie Plante would meet with Blair Friday to discuss the issue.

Broken promise

Rathjen also took issue with the buyback program for banned weapons being voluntary. She said the Trudeau government promised a mandatory program as was adopted in New Zealand and Australia after mass shootings there.

Heidi Rathjen with the gun control lobby group PolyRemembers says the Liberal government broke its promise to make a buyback program for prohibited weapons mandatory, (CBC News)

"They reneged on their promise and that's why we're outraged," Rathjen said.

She said a voluntary buyback program would do almost nothing to improve public safety.

"It just takes one and you have a mass shooting. Most of the mass shooters in the United States and Canada are legal gun owners of legal assault weapons," she said.

Rathjen also said the voluntary program could be easily reversed with a change of government. The federal Conservatives oppose the buyback plan.

"If you don't remove the guns, all the gun lobby has to do is wait for the next Conservative government to come into power, and they just flip the switch, and we're back to square one," she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked why the buyback program wasn't mandatory during a news conference Tuesday.

He didn't directly answer the question.

About the Author

Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal.

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