Skip to content

Eleventh hour alterations to Bill C-21 causes uproar

Sudden changes to Bill C-21 concern firearms owners
Paul Hilliard, owner of Woods N Water in Burns Lake. (Submitted photo/Lakes District News)

Eleventh hour alterations to Bill C-21 has caused a national political uproar, and triggered worries right here in the Lakes District.

The proposed legislation was aimed at gun control, and had set its sights on restricting handguns. It was not a unanimous viewpoint, but the public discourse seemed to favour the new rules. However, an amendment less than two days before it was unveiled in the House of Commons added a whole other element – hundreds of kinds of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns – would also be joining the list of prohibited firearms.

Public sentiment in Canada, due to an already tight regimen of gun policies, circled around clamping down on guns used primarily for human casualty because those were different than guns used for hunting and innocent sport. The new slate introduced without prior public consideration goes deep into the nation’s hunting cabinet.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach was asked for comments but did not respond by deadline. Heather Preachuk and husband Paul Hilliard are the proprietors of Woods N Water Sports & Recreation. The hunting and fishing store won the 2022 Paul Sandercott Business of The Year title at the recent Burns Lake & District Chamber of Commerce awards event. They report that the new legislation is mysterious to them, despite being in the industry, but from what they have already learned from the scanty communication, their revenues are set to take a noticeable hit.

“I’m not against gun control. As a business owner that sells guns, to say that, is kind of an odd thing,” said Hilliard. “It’s the truth. I’m not against gun control. I’m 100 per cent for stopping that crap going on on the streets. What they are doing [with Bill C-21] is not geared towards that. It’s a parlour trick: watch my left hand” while the right hand slips something by undetected.

The critics of the bill have accused the governing Liberals and coalition NDP of using this as a tool to ply for urban votes, looking tough on crime while really just punishing those who had been exemplary firearms owners throughout Canada’s gun control debate, because these guns were far from any controversy.

Outcry is swirling around the kind of guns on this new, enormous list [the amendment was more than 400 pages, apparently listing hundreds of heretofore legal rifles and shotguns] but outcry is also coming from people who care little for gun legislation but care greatly for democratic process which this bill has seemingly taken a shortcut across. The short-notice slap-on tactic is under fire.

“Anti-democratic, for me, was how last night I could go out and do whatever I was doing, and today I’m not allowed to. Why not? The only harm I did last night was shoot holes in a can,” said Hilliard, who challenged anyone to show a connection between the listed guns and criminal human harm.

He hoped Taylor Bachrach would stand up in the House of Commons and honour the data, the need for careful public oversight, and the wishes of his constituents who, Hilliard said, were like him: in favour of public safety, in favour of appropriate gun control, but deeply against the contents and process of Bill C-21.