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Liberals lower their weapons on rifle prohibition

Surprise amendments to Bill C-21 have been retracted
Cariboo-Chilcotin hockey superstar Carey Price, citing Indigenous rights to hunt, was one of the many Canadian firearms enthusiasts who said the proposed gun ban went too far. (Carey Price social media photo)

The federal Liberals shot down their own amendments to Bill C-21, the latest firearms legislation making its way through the House of Commons.

The bill was at first an attempt to cut back on handguns. It went through the process of first and second readings in Parliament, needing only to go through the comittee phase before coming back to the House for third and final reading.

The committee phase is where final details are gone over in great detail by a focus group of Parliamentarians and others close to the subject matter, to get the details right. It was at this stage in the process that the governing Liberal party chose to attach an amendment to the bill that would outlaw hundreds of other guns never part of the original bill and thus never scrutinized by any Members of Parliament.

While saying the intent was to rid Canada of assault-style weapons, the amendment actually included a large number of guns found commonly in homes across the country for hunting and family recreation.

After nationwide outcry, the amendments were cancelled at a committee meeting on Feb. 3. Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed announced the withdrawal, with Liberal house leader Mark Holland following up with an admission that including a swath of hunting rifles and shotguns was incorrect thinking, and there “were gaps and problems in the amendments.”

Holland pointed out that the 3D printing of guns, a practice used by criminals, was contained in the amendments and will still need to be outlawed, but that the package of amendments as a whole was best to be withdrawn.

While Conservativer leader Pierre Poilievre claimed victory, stating “my Conservative team and I have forced Justin Trudeau into a temporary but humiliating climb-down, today,” local MP Taylor Bachrach (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, neighbouring our riding) pointed out his NDP party’s stickhandling as at least part of the reason for the retraction.

Bachrach was already on the record as being unhappy with the amendments, and the party shared that position, using their official parliamentary arrangement with the minority-governing Liberals to pressure the issue.

“I don’t know if the readers want to get into all the esoterica of parliamentary proceedure, but the way it works is, a bill is brought forward in the House of Commons and debated by all the parties, and then it is sent off to committee. The rule is, you’re not allowed to propose amendments at committee that significantly alter the scope of the bill. That would be kind of a bait-and-switch, right?, because those amendments were never properly scrutinized. That’s not cool. There are proceedural rules preventing that,” said Bachrach. He pointed out the NDP House leader Peter Julian had asked the speaker of the House to declare the proposed amendments inadmissable when the bill came back to the House for third reading. The speaker had no jurisdiction to do so until it was reintroduced, but the Liberals, seeing the inevitable defeat of the amendments, withdrew them of their own accord.

“That’s great news to hear,” said Burns Lake councillor Charlie Rensby, the only one at his council table to motion in favour of sending the government a letter of opposition on the Bill C-21 amendments. “I think the fact that it failed goes to show how bad it was for Canadians. The fact that (all the other parties) all stood up against the Liberals is a true but small victory, speaking as a firearms owner. It’s worth saying that they would have been left with having to arrest a sizeable population of everyday Canadians in every small town in Canada, who wouldn’t comply. It just wouldn’t work. As happy as I am, Bill C-21 in its original form is still set to make handguns illegal in Canada, it’s still an attack, but the amendment cancellation is important.”

The co-owner of Woods N’ Water Sports and Recreation store in Burns Lake, Paul Hilliard, said he had seen a uptick in business since the proposed amendments were announced, as firearms enthusiasts rushed to get the guns that would possibly end up on the prohibited list and be evermore unavailable. He is relieved at this reprieve, but worries that it’s just another political tactic.

“I’m skeptical,” he said. “Anytime the Liberals do something, it is to distract from something else. I don’t know what, though. I’m glad that it is being shelved right now, but I’m not sure what they are up to; I’m very suspicious.”

Frank Peebles

About the Author: Frank Peebles

I started my career with Black Press Media fresh out of BCIT in 1994, as part of the startup of the Prince George Free Press, then editor of the Lakes District News.
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