Parties on all sides of gun debate unhappy with revamped Bill C-21 legislation

Nunavut MP Lori Idlout says the NDP is taking a “wait and see” position with the Liberal government’s newly revamped Bill C-21 gun legislation.

“We’ll keep monitoring what’s going on,” she said. “I understand that the hearings will take us into the fall. The NDP will be there to make sure we really are continuing to fight for Indigenous peoples’ rights.”

Earlier this year, the NDP spoke out against the government’s amendments to the legislation that critics say would have banned a number of shotguns and rifles – including those used by Indigenous hunters.

But after considerable public pressure, the Liberals withdrew those amendments and the NDP said it believes the legislation is at least back on the right track.

“We’ve helped to make sure that we’re refocusing what the intent of Bill C-21 was which is to fight gang violence in urban centres,” Idlout said. “Focusing on handguns and military-style weapons.”

Last week, the Trudeau government announced a number of changes to the legislation.

They include existing gun owners who will not be affected by any new restrictions, a committee will be appointed to determine which semi-automatic rifles will be banned and recognition of section 35 Indigenous hunting rights are now included in the bill.

However, the Conservatives said they are unmoved by the most recent changes and Indigenous hunters remain in the same amount of danger of having their guns seized as before.

“It’s very clear that Justin Trudeau, yet again, has learned nothing from the so-called consultations that his cabinet has done over the last few months and this is another thing that he’s doing to show that he’s coming for hunting rifles and he’s not going to stop,” Raquel Dancho, the party’s public safety and national security critic, said.

The Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights agrees the revamped legislation is a step back not forward.

“The ministers and the rest of the Liberals have decided, ‘Well we’re not going to ban these guns now, we’re going to form a committee, the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee,’” CCFR CEO Rod Giltaca said.

“They will come up with lists of guns to ban that we haven’t banned in the future and they have committed to banning them by order-in-council like they did back in May 2020. So, the reason why that’s possibly worse is because there’s no criteria we know that the committee is getting.”

On the other side of the debate, gun control advocates are not pleased with the changes either.

Nathalie Provost is a survivor of the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique shooting and a spokesperson for the organization PolySeSouvient.

Provost said as it stands now, Bill C-21 will do nothing to stop high-powered assault rifles from falling into the wrong hands.

“The list is not complete and the definition applies only to new models,” she said. “The definition is based on the concept of designed for high capacity magazines and for us, it’s too weak.”

The government says it will appoint the firearms advisory committee within 60 days as the legislation continues to move through the committee process.

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