Families, survivors of gun violence call on Goodale to table gun control bill
OTTAWA – Survivors and family members of victims of gun violence are calling on Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to bring forward tougher gun laws.
At a press conference in Ottawa Thursday, the group, which includes the families of victims of the École Polytechnique, Dawson College, and Quebec City mosque shootings, said that they had initially made the plan to travel to Parliament Hill to support the government’s gun legislation, because the minister had said in October that he’d bring forward before the end of the year.
Though, in a meeting with the group earlier this week Goodale said that’s not happening, according to Heidi Rathjen, a survivor of the École Polytechnique shooting.
A spokesperson for Goodale told CTV News that the government will not be introducing anything before year’s end, but "in the near future" he will introduce legislation consistent with what was promised during the campaign: a multi-pronged plan to “take pragmatic action” and make it harder for criminals to get and use handguns and assault weapons.”
The Liberal platform promises included:
- repealing changes made by the previous Conservative government around the transportation of restricted and prohibited weapons without a permit
- requiring enhanced background checks for people seeking to buy a handgun or other restricted firearms
- ensuring people who want to buy a firearm show a validated license
- having firearm sellers keep records of gun inventory and sales
Rathjen told reporters this delay does not inspire confidence that the government will move forward with a strong bill in an urgent manner.
The group is calling on the Liberals to provide a specific timeline on tabling a gun control bill, saying they've been waiting too long.
"Over the past two years, Canadians have witnessed many tragedies committed with guns, many of them legal, often despite red flags which could have prompted preventive measures and maybe made a difference," said Rathjen, who was joined by other survivors and family members of victims around the podium for the press conference.
These survivors and family members of victims said that the Canadian government has been silent on changing the rules here, while the country has witnessed “unprecedented carnage” south of the border with some assault weapons that are legally available in Canada.
Semi-automatic rifles can be purchased in Canada under the certain conditions. The kind of semi-automatics used in the Las Vegas shooting, for example, fall under the restricted category. That means buyers must hold a proper licence, an authorization to transport, and be a member of a recognized gun club.
The group calling for tougher gun laws say the current rules are “weak” when it comes to the availability of assault weapons and permits to possess guns.
"This is a life and death issue which requires urgent government action," Rathjen said.
There were 2,076,840 individual firearm license holders in Canada as of Dec. 31, 2016, according to the RCMP’s latest Commissioner of Firearms report.
'This is Canada'
"Unbelievably, we’re even worse off today," said Megan Hennigan, a survivor of the Dawson College shooting 11 years ago. She was shot twice, once in in the hip and once in the arm, and says she’s had lasting physical consequences.
Hennigan said it’s "ridiculously messed up" that, in Canada, a modified version of the semi-automatic weapon used by the gunman is legal to own.
"Mr. Trudeau we expect you to keep your word when it comes to gun control laws. Get these guns off our streets, get them out of communities keep them out of the hands of dangerous people. This is Canada, we are Canadians, and we expect and we deserve common sense Canadian gun laws," Hennigan said.
Since coming to office, Goodale’s office says it has taken steps on gun control, including reversing a ministerial directive that let gun manufacturers determine the classification of their own products; rejigging the makeup of the Firearms Advisory Committee; and allocated $327.6 million over five years to reduce gun crime and gang activity.
As well, Canada will host a summit on criminal guns and gangs in 2018.
With a report from CTV Vancouver