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Misfire at the Village of Burns Lake meeting

Councillor gets nonsupport for C-21 discussion
Petition letter people can sign at Woods N Water store.

Crickets. Nobody moved. It was a silent gunfight. Town councillor Charlie Rensby was left shaking his head in bewilderment.

During the customary round of councillor reports at every public meeting of mayor and council, Rensby said, as a matter of normal course, “there is one thing I’d like to bring to the attention of council that greatly affects our citizens. Recently amendments were made to Bill C-21 by the federal government around gun laws. Before, Bill C-21 was targeting handguns and now they are fully targeting hunting rifles. A number of my hunting rifles are now included on this list. This greatly affects traditional hunting practices for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and it is right now in the hands of the NDP (holding coalition voting power), people such as our MP, to stop the Liberal government from doing this. So I would like to ask council to please write a letter to MP Taylor Bachrach asking him to stand up for the traditional hunting rights of his constituents.”

“Is that a motion?,” asked mayor Henry Wiebe, as chair of the meeting.

“Yes, motion,” replied Rensby.

“Seconder?,” said Wiebe, per normal protocol.

Then again after a pause, “seconder?”


“Defeated,” said Wiebe without choice.

For those accustomed to municipal government meetings, this was stunning. A seconder would only have triggered an opportunity for open discussion that no councillor is required to wade into, it need not be contentious, and then a free vote of conscience.

None of councillors Kristy Bjarnason, Kevin White, Darrell Hill or Wiebe saw fit to even hold a dialogue about one of the most common conversations at the national water cooler, and one that certainly impacts local residents, one way or the other. It is not a matter of fruitless ideological division, as some modern debates are, but one with practical outcomes at stake. Bachrach himself went on the record with the Lakes District News expressing his concerns over the sudden amendments, so it wasn’t a matter of the letter being a personal attack on the local Member of Parliament.

What, then, was it a matter of?

Rensby, by now a veteran of the council table, was caught off guard and couldn’t remember seeing another moment like it. And he has seen other letters to higher government from the floor of a Burns Lake council meeting, so this isn’t new practice.

Rensby will still facilitate a public letter for Bachrach and other federal officials. He and Woods N Water proprietor Paul Hilliard have joined forces for a petition people can sign, available now at the outdoor recreation store.

His lingering question was why? He doesn’t believe it was a case of no other councillor feeling as he did of Bill C-21 being worthy of examination. He worries that he has done something behind the scenes he is unaware of to draw the ire of other councillors. But if so, he said, he’s open to hearing that without turning four backs on all the community’s firearms owners.

“I’ve seconded so many things I don’t initially agree with, but always allow there to be further discussion,” Rensby said.

Then he said something equally surprising. “As upset as I was, I can’t say anything bad about them, because we all work very well together,” and he added that he has been at past council tables that weren’t as pragmatic. “I genuinely like my council colleagues. They mean a lot to me.”