Politics

Shooting survivor quits panel over 'timid' Liberal record on assault-style guns

Mass-shooting survivor Nathalie Provost has quit the federal firearms advisory committee in frustration, saying she is "extremely disappointed" with the Liberal government's failure to crack down on assault-style rifles.

Nathalie Provost was shot 4 times during the 1989 attack by a gunman at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique

Nathalie Provost poses for a photograph following a news conference at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal on November 28, 2014. The mass-shooting survivor has quit the federal firearms advisory committee in frustration, saying she is extremely disappointed with the Liberal government's failure to crack down on assault-style rifles. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Mass-shooting survivor Nathalie Provost has quit the federal firearms advisory committee in frustration, saying she is "extremely disappointed" with the Liberal government's failure to crack down on assault-style rifles.

Provost, who was shot four times during the 1989 attack by a gunman at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique, said she feels used by a government unwilling to take the steps needed to make Canadians safer.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of Provost's resignation letter sent Monday to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the cabinet members responsible for firearms issues — Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair.

Provost, who served for more than two years on the advisory committee, said the government repeatedly ignored her calls for an overhaul of the firearms-classification system — a move that could tighten restrictions on some semi-automatic rifles.

She claimed the committee contributed nothing to the Liberal firearms bill, C-71, recently passed by Parliament — legislation she considers very timid.

Provost was not granting interviews Monday, letting her letter speak for itself.

She has long been active with PolySeSouvient, a group that pushes for stricter gun control and includes students and graduates of the Polytechnique engineering school.

In late 2016 the Liberals made Provost vice-chair of the firearms advisory committee, which counsels the public safety minister on Canada's gun policies, laws and regulations. At the time, the committee was chaired by a former Supreme Court justice and has counted a police chief, a competitive sport shooter, an emergency physician and a farmer among its members.

Provost blasts the 'obviously useless' consultation

Provost said she saw the appointment as an opportunity to take concrete action to improve public safety. But she said she was surprised in early 2018 when Goodale introduced Bill C-71 "without any discussion" with the advisory committee, putting its members in a difficult position.

The legislation expanded the scope of background checks on those who want to acquire guns, strengthened record-keeping requirements for sales and required purchasers to present valid firearms licences.

Some firearms owners accused the Liberals of targeting law-abiding hunters and target-shooters, while gun control advocates said the bill did not fulfil a Liberal vow to get assault-style rifles and handguns off Canadian streets.

Federal Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair said last month that more must be done to address gun violence, but he also signalled no new measures would be coming soon. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Goodale, said Monday the government was grateful to Provost for her service. He also defended the government's "substantive action" to fight gun violence, including Bill C-71, $86 million to combat smuggling and $214 million for community-level prevention and enforcement efforts.

"And we will seek a mandate from Canadians to strengthen public safety," Bardsley added.

Last August, Trudeau asked Blair to study the possibility of a ban on handguns and assault-style rifles after a deadly shooting in Toronto. A summary of federal consultations said Canadians were divided on the idea.

In her letter, Provost blasted the exercise as a scientifically discredited and "obviously useless" consultation that delayed any further legislative action until after the fall election.

Blair said last month that more must be done to address gun violence, but he also signalled no new measures would be coming soon.

Future steps could include efforts to prevent theft, illegal diversion and cross-border smuggling of handguns. The government is also open to the idea of allowing municipalities to decide exactly where, or even if, firearms can be stored within their boundaries, Blair said.

However, any additional gun control initiatives are expected to be planks in the Liberal election platform. Goodale and Ottawa-Vanier MP Mona Fortier are co-chairing the party's national platform committee in advance of the October ballot.

The Liberals could immediately ban a range of rifles by regulation, Provost said.

By limiting efforts "to timid measures or half-measures," the government provokes the fierce opposition of the firearms lobby without delivering worthwhile improvements, she added.

"In fact, the pro-gun lobby will oppose any tightening — be it modest or daring — so why not move quickly to prioritize public safety?"

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