Trudeau reiterates gun control commitment in wake of mass shooting
OTTAWA -- In the wake of the violent events in Nova Scotia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is pushing ahead with strengthening gun control in the country.
"In regards to gun control, we took very serious commitments in the election campaign and have moved forward -- and are moving forward on them -- to ensure that we’re strengthening gun control in this country," Trudeau said from the front steps of Rideau Cottage on Monday.
The RCMP says at least 18 people are dead, plus the shooter, after a man went on a rampage across Nova Scotia Saturday night and into Sunday. As the investigation into the violence continues, authorities have warned the death toll may rise.
Police have not said what kind of weapon the shooter used or whether it was legally obtained.
Trudeau's Liberals campaigned on a promise to ban assault rifles, which they said in their platform are "designed to inflict mass casualties and have no place in Canada." The plan would include a buyback program for all military-style assault rifles purchased legally in Canada.
"I can say that we were on the verge of introducing legislation to ban assault-style weapons across this country, it was interrupted when the pandemic caused Parliament to be suspended," Trudeau said.
"We have every intention of moving forward on that measure and potentially other measures when the Parliament returns."
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, speaking in a press conference Monday afternoon, said the government intends to bring forward both "regulation and legislation" to prohibit military style assault weapons. He also reiterated the government's pledge to put other preventative measures in place, such as stronger rules for gun storage and laws to ensure firearm access is suspended for those who present a risk to themselves or others.
"There have been far too many incidents of gun violence in our country and we are working hard to make sure that we put the measures in place that significantly reduce those incidents and keep people safe," Blair said.
The public safety minister said the timeline for this legislation remains uncertain due to the constraints the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on parliament's usual process.
"I think we've made very clear our commitment to strengthen gun laws in this country and we are working on doing that. The actual schedule for bringing forward that legislation, that is still to be determined simply because we are in uncertain times in Parliament, but it doesn't in any way imply that we are any less committed to taking the steps that are necessary to keep Canadians safe," Blair said.
Meanwhile, as Canada reels from the news of this tragedy, politicians took to their podiums today to express their heartfelt condolences.
Liberal MP Lenore Zann represents the Nova Scotia riding where the violence took place. She told CTV Power Play host Evan Solomon that the community is in "shock."
"I think the grief is only just starting to begin. And it will be coming in waves of grief, because as you mentioned earlier, so many of these people had jobs that are in various different parts of the community and so many of us are connected," Zann said.
"It's a small, small area and Nova Scotia is a small province and we’re all connected one way or another."
The prime minister, providing his daily morning press conference Monday amid the COVID-19 pandemic, chose instead to dedicate his entire address to the tragedy.
"This day is made all the more difficult because of the precious lives lost and the senseless act of one person," Trudeau said.
MPs held moment of silence held in the House of Commons and the flag on the Peace Tower is being flown at half-mast until further notice, in memory of the victims.
"Just how could this happen? We may never know why. But we do know this. No one man's action can build a wall between us and a better day -- no matter how evil, how thoughtless or how destructive. Canadians are kind and generous. We are there for each other and we look out for one another. As families grieve the loss of a loved one, all Canadians are standing with them," Trudeau said.
Const. Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the Nova Scotia RCMP, is among those who were killed during the incident. She died Sunday morning while responding to the active shooter situation.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer passed his sympathies along to Stevenson's family when he addressed the media Monday morning, calling the attack "senseless."
"When a tragedy like this strikes, communities come together to grieve and comfort each other. And despite the current health crisis, I hope that everyone who has lost a loved one, either through violence or through COVID-19, finds comfort and healing," Scheer said.
In his Monday morning press conference, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh acknowledged that the ongoing pandemic is preventing mourners from gathering -- adding to the pain of an already-devastating event.
"The loss of life and the senseless violence has all Canadians reeling and grieving together and I want to send all of our love and support to Nova Scotia and the community of Portapique," Singh said.
"People will not be able to come together and mourn the usual way, making this horrible senseless violence and tragic event even more painful."
Trudeau also acknowledged the added pain physical-distancing measures bring for those grieving the loss of loved ones together, but apart.
"This is something that we are dealing with right now that is heartbreak on top of other heartbreaks, and I know that everyone will be looking for ways to demonstrate their solidarity without putting further at risk communities, first responders, our health professionals and our seniors," he said.
The prime minister said that in order for Canadians to be able to show their support for the families impacted by this tragedy, there will be a virtual vigil at 8 p.m. AT on Friday through the Facebook group "Colchester Supporting our Community."