In an effort to prop up the Canadian Firearms Act imposed on Canadian gun owners by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Anne McLellan was appointed as the Minister of Justice in 1997 (a post she held until 2002). In propping up the Canadian Firearms Act the Ministry of Justice came up with the slogan Aiming for Safety for the promotion of the Canadian Firearms Program, a component of the Canadian Firearms Act. I remember all this at the time and then as now when I review the transcriptions of Anne McLellan’s public pronouncements on creating a “culture of safety and responsibility around the ownership and use of guns” I still register shock and disbelief. Is she really that obtuse? How does making gun ownership a crime, enabling bureaucrats to prohibit makes and models of firearm arbitrarily and demanding that hunters and sport shooters register themselves and their property with the state do anything for safety and responsibility around the ownership and use of guns? In short, it does nothing of the kind; Aiming for Safety is nothing more than a euphemism for gun prohibition.
First and foremost, the state does not engineer culture except in the most authoritarian and totalitarian of societies. The recent internet hoax concerning the supposed decree imposed in North Korea in which all men in North Korea will be required to wear their hair in the fashion of their fearless leader Kim Jong-un illustrates the lunacy that it is the business of the state to engineer culture. On the imposition of this culture of safety on Canada’s hunters and sport shooters, McLellan was careful to offer credit to those elements of Canadian society who were clamouring for gun prohibition in making the following statement in the House of Commons on September 22, 1998:
Mr. Speaker, this morning I spoke at a press conference and thanked Canadians for their ongoing support of our government’s firearms control program.
I specifically thanked CAVEAT, Victims of Violence International, La Fondation des victimes du 6 décembre, the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime and the family members of victims who are here to ask the government to hold firm and implement its plan.
I also took the opportunity to thank the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, municipalities, educators, child support agencies and the almost 700 member agencies of the coalition for gun control which have been tireless supporters of this program. (Debates of Sept. 22nd, 1998)
September 22, 1998 was the date the FED UP II rally was held on Parliament Hill in which, as Garry Breitkreuz noted, “between 20,000 and 30,000 law-abiding citizens rallied on Parliament Hill in a last ditch effort to get the government to see the error of their ways.” (The Debate is Not Over) McLellan had this to say about the citizens rallying on Parliament Hill, which included my father and myself, “today opponents of gun control are demonstrating on Parliament Hill. Some will make wild and outlandish claims. Let me make one thing clear. We will not be deterred by inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric […] The debate is settled. The debate is over.” (Debates of Sept. 22nd, 1998)
It is true, McLellan offered assurances that prohibition was not on the agenda, stating, “let me make it perfectly clear, the Government of Canada unequivocally respects the legitimate rights of gun owners. Our new Firearms Act is not about confiscation.” (Debates of Sept. 22nd, 1998) However, since then, the following motion was introduced by the Young Liberals of Canada at the Liberal Party of Canada’s biennial convention held in Montreal on February 20-23, 2014, for consideration of Liberal Party of Canada policy:
WHEREAS the Australian Conservative government of John Howard successfully reduced the number of firearms in that country through proactive initiatives such as gun buybacks which led to decreases in the rates of firearm-related crimes, homicides and suicides;
BE IT RESOLVED that the primary objective of a Liberal government firearms policy shall be reducing the number of firearms in Canada through initiatives inspired by the Australian model. (Fewer guns less violence)
The motion was not passed, but given that this is what Young Liberals are thinking, this does not inspire confidence in Anne McLellan’s assurances delivered when she was serving as Minister of Justice in the Chretien Liberal government in office in 1998.
In spite of the inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric on the part of Canadian gun owners, one troubling example of how this culture of safety is taking shape includes the decision by the University of Toronto in 2007 to close the Hart House Rifle and Revolver Clubs, though they had operated safely on campus for 88 years and been the training ground over the years for a number of sport shooters who competed internationally in the Olympics, the Commonwealth and Pan-Am Games. Patrick Haynes, assistant coach of the Canadian National Pistol Team, observed “in Europe every university has shooting teams. As a result, they’re getting people involved in the sport at a great age […] as a result those countries are dominating at the Olympics and other international levels. So to get rid of Hart House is distracting our ability to compete internationally.” (as cited in the National Post) The reason given for the closure of the Hart House Rifle and Revolver Clubs, as stated by Rob Steiner, an assistant vice-president of the university, was “it was generally felt that the presence of a gun range on campus 80 years ago might have been consistent with our academic values […] in the last 10 years those values started to deviate. This is really a values issue.” (as cited in the National Post) In other words, the decision to close the Hart House Rifle and Revolver Clubs had nothing to do with safety and everything to do with prohibition.
Second, the idea that Anne McLellan and the Chretien Liberals decided there was a need to create culture of safety and responsibility around the ownership and use of guns is both stupid and insulting. In the long standing culture of hunting and the shooting sports in Canada safety, especially gun safety, has always been paramount. Historically, it is true that both the federal and provincial governments have had a legitimate interest in fostering safety in hunting and the shooting sports. With regard to the shooting sports, the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association (DCRA) was founded in 1868, incorporated by an Act of Parliament 63-64 Victoria Chapter 99, and assented to on July 7, 1890, with the express purpose to promote and encourage the training of marksmanship throughout Canada. Furthermore, there are Provincial Rifle Associations for each of the following provinces: Alberta Provincial Rifle Association (1902), Manitoba Provincial Rifle Association (1872), Nova Scotia Rifle Association (1861), Ontario Rifle Association (1868), Prince Edward Island Rifle Association (1861), Province of Quebec Rifle Association (1869), Royal New Brunswick Rifle Association (1866), Saskatchewan Provincial Rifle Association (1885), Newfoundland and Labrador Shooting Association.
In addition to the national and provincial rifle associations, across Canada there is a multitude of shooting clubs. Firearms Canada maintains a comprehensive listing of gun clubs in Canada. One of these gun clubs with which I am familiar is the Eastern Ontario Shooting Club (EOSC), a club whose ranges I use in sighting in my Browning X-Bolt Medallion rifle, left-hand, 30.06 and Excalibur crossbow in getting ready for the deer season. The motto of the EOSC is “Our sights are on safety” and it, like countless other shooting ranges, be they for rifle and pistol shooting or skeet and trap ranges for shotguns, stresses safety. People who are interested in taking up shooting sports are introduced to the sport under the strict supervision of seasoned club members who serve as range officers, seeing that safety regulations are strictly observed. Shooting sports remain an integral part of Canadian culture, a safe and popular past-time Canadians have enjoyed going back in the history of Canada even before Confederation in 1867.
Provincial and Territorial governments maintain ministries and departments of natural resources to manage wildlife resources, set hunting seasons, bag limits, issue hunting licenses (seeing that first time applicants undergo hunter safety training and examinations before getting their hunting license) and determine what kinds of guns may be used for hunting in more densely populated areas. The federal government manages migratory game bird hunting, issuing licenses for this purpose. In conjunction with the various ministries and departments of natural resources, groups representing the interests of hunters such as the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) (founded in 1928), take part in the training and mentoring of new hunters, conservation projects, and has a roster of more than 100,000 OFAH members. Along with the larger organizations, such as the OFAH, there is no shortage of smaller hunting clubs, the familiar deer and moose camps that groups of hunting buddies form and manage, there are professional guides and outfitters, all of which stress safe and ethical hunting practices.
Given the reality of the long standing safe and peaceful hunting and sport shooting culture that exists in Canadian society, where did Anne McLellan and the Chretien Liberals get the notion it was necessary to create a culture of safety and responsibility around the ownership and use of guns? The Canadian Firearms Act has nothing to do with safety and responsibility. The only purpose it serves is to advance gun prohibition through taxation and regulation on lawful gun ownership. In light of the recent reclassification of the Swiss Arms and the CZ858, despite having been lawful to own in Canada since 2001 and 2007 respectively, Canada’s gun owners have no choice but to stand firm and make no more concessions to gun prohibitionists. What is needed is a repeal of the Canadian Firearms Act (in its present form), a return to the process of certification, rather than licensing, of those who want to lawfully acquire and use firearms and the return of the classification system for firearms (non restricted, restricted and prohibited) to the purview of parliament and with the addition of new or revised regulations subject to a full public review. If hunting and sport shooting are to remain an integral part of Canadian culture, nothing less will suffice.
Posted by Geoffrey