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'Unmitigated gall': Senator rejects minister's call to pass Liberal guns bill quickly


A battle appears to be brewing between senators and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, as he tries to see the Liberals' controversial gun legislation passed swiftly into law.

On Thursday, his office sent a letter to leaders of the different Senate groups and the chair of a committee, saying the minister is "eager" answer senators' questions about Bill C-21 "given the urgency of passing legislation to protect Canadians."

The letter comes with less than a month left before the House of Commons and Senate plan to break for summer, with the Liberals branding the legislation as a priority bill that it wants passed into law within weeks.

The bill seeks to turn a national handgun freeze into law, combat homemade guns and ban what it calls "assault-style" weapons -- measures Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised in what critics say is a misplaced effort to combat gun violence.

The government's attempts define which weapons are covered under a ban of guns it deems unfit for civilian use have led to outrage from the Tories, Indigenous communities and other firearms owners.

They argue that commonly used hunting rifles would fall under the proposed law -- which the Liberals say was not the intent.

Earlier in the year, the Liberals withdrew amendments to the bill that sought to enshrine a May 2020 regulatory ban on some 1,500 firearms models and variants and covered hundreds of additional guns.

In the wake of widespread backlash over the proposed definition, including from the NDP, the government decided instead that it would enact regulations through the Firearms Act to ensure that guns are classified before they can enter the Canadian market.

The regulations would not be retroactive, so would not apply to nearly 300 newer models of firearms that were not included in the 2020 ban.

Conservative Senate leader Don Plett accused Mendicino on Thursday of having "unmitigated gall" in asking senators to hurry when MPs spent months studying the bill before it passed in the House of Commons.

It was approved last month in a vote of 207 to 113 with NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green members of Parliament voting with the Liberals. The Tories stood opposed.

"Listen, we agree that one Canadian killed by gun violence is too many," said Plett, referring to a line in Mendicino's letter.

"But that cannot be why the government is taking decisive action to strengthen Canada's gun laws. There's got to be a host of reasons why we want to strengthen Canada's gun laws."

Plett said he plans to vote against the bill as it is currently written and try to block it from passing, saying he feels it punishes firearms users like sport shooters and is doubtful that it could be a bill he finds himself supporting -- even if the Senate amends it.

Speaking to reporters, Mendicino called on Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre "to tell his senators to get down to work" and underlined it is a matter of public safety.

"Somehow he expects that we are not supposed to give it sober second thought and indeed some kind of a vetting," said Plett.

"He basically says, 'I've looked at the bill, I say it's good, so give it your rubber stamp and let's move on with things.' Well, that's not how the Senate works."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.



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