North

Yukon MP urged to scrap long-gun registry

Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell is facing pressure to vote against his party on a Conservative backbencher's proposed bill to get rid of the national long-gun registry.

Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell is facing pressure to vote against his party on a Conservative backbencher's proposed bill to get rid of the national long-gun registry.

A longtime opponent of the controversial firearms program, Bagnell has been ordered by his party leader, Michael Ignatieff, to vote against Manitoba Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner's private member's bill to abolish the registry.

Ignatieff has declared Hoeppner's bill a whipped vote, meaning all of his MPs must vote the same way when the bill comes to a vote in the House of Commons on Sept. 22.

Those Liberal MPs who do not could face discipline.

With the vote expected to be close, the Yukon Fish and Game Association and some Yukon First Nations are urging Bagnell to support Hoeppner's bill, even if it means being punished by his party.

Could have deciding vote

"We know that right now, the votes are so close," John Carney, president of the fish and game association, told CBC News.

"It would be very ironic that the member of Parliament for Yukon is the deciding vote on something that, for a long time, he's indicated he doesn't support."

The association has written a letter to Bagnell on the issue, as has the Teslin Tlingit Council in southern Yukon.

Teslin Tlingit Chief Peter Johnston said First Nations do not want more regulation for a tool that they use for basic survival and traditional practice.

"As they build it up, as years go by, who knows what the implications might be back on the First Nations people?" Johnston said. "More in particular, I mean, it's our inherent right to have that ability to harvest."

Aboriginal rights an issue

Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo agreed, saying aboriginal peoples across much of Canada's North have self-government agreements that cannot be ignored.

"Treaty nations in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, they have the right and the jurisdiction that needs to be recognized," Atleo said.

Ignatieff and NDP Leader Jack Layton have recently proposed changes to the registry that address the objections of rural, northern and aboriginal Canadians to the long-gun registry.

Some of the changes include making a first-time failure to register a firearm a non-criminal ticketing offence and waiving fees for new licences.

Hoeppner, the author of the gun-registry bill, visited Whitehorse earlier this month to promote her bill and encourage Yukoners to pressure Bagnell to support it.

Hoeppner did not get to see Bagnell during her visit, as he was accompanying Ignatieff on a Liberal tour stop in Yellowknife.

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