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Canadian Provinces Respond to Federal Gun Confiscation Plea: Pound Sand

Charlie T Waite

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From Canada last week came a heartwarming story of how certain Canadian jurisdictions are responding to the central government’s plea to help it implement its draconian and legally-dubious firearms confiscation scheme.

Tyler Shandro, the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General for the Conservative government in the Canadian Province of Alberta, recently tweeted a copy of an August 19 letter from Marco Mendicino, the latest federal minister responsible for implementing Prime Minister Trudeau’s gun ban and confiscation (“buyback”).  

In the letter, Mendicino asks for Shandro’s “support in implementing the buyback program,” advising that “the intent is to begin collecting prohibited firearms by the end of 2022.” Mendicino states that the successful implementation of the “ambitious end of 2022 launch” will “require a collaborative, concerted effort,” and that “all orders of government will need to work together to ensure that the buyback program is accessible to affected Canadian firearm owners and businesses.” “I want to work closely with all my Provincial and Territorial counterparts,” Mendicino writes, referring to a possible meeting to “explore opportunities for partnership and collaboration that support the safe roll-out of this program in your jurisdiction.”            

If Mendicino expected that his appeal to make the gun grab “accessible to affected Canadians” would somehow promote cordial collaboration, he was much mistaken. 

“Alberta is not legally obligated and will not offer any provincial resources to the Federal Government as it seeks to confiscate lawfully acquired firearms,” begins Shandro’s letter in response (emphasis in original).

At a press conference on September 26, Shandro was as blunt in expressing his unequivocal opposition to such partnership and indeed, the entire federal program. “This is politically motivated confiscation, pure and simple, one that will do nothing to make Alberta a safer place or to reduce the criminal misuse of firearms. And so, I responded to Minister Mendicino by telling him that no, Alberta will not assist the federal government in this or any federal effort to strip lawfully obtained personal property from our residents.”

Shandro emphasized that the targeted firearms were acquired legally and have since been arbitrarily classified as “assault style” guns. “That’s a label designed to scare Canadians who are unfamiliar with firearms. It’s a description based purely on their appearance and not on any unusual danger that they pose or mechanical capability that they possess. Indeed, these guns are not materially different from any number of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns that continue to be legal for any qualified Albertan to own.”      

One concerning development is that staff at the federal Ministry of Public Safety report that “the federal government intends to conscript provincial RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] officers into acting as confiscation agents” for the so-called “buyback” program.  

Although the RCMP is a national police service coming under the direction of the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada, the agency may also provide police services at provincial and local levels pursuant to “police services agreements” negotiated between the federal government and provinces, territories and municipalities. In Alberta, for example, K Division RCMP, with approximately 107 detachments across the province, currently provides policing services based on a provincial police services agreement (PPSA). Under such agreements, the province and localities provide the funding and set the policing priorities.

Referring to the possibility of the RCMP in Alberta acting as Trudeau’s confiscation agents, Shandro pointed out that “Alberta taxpayers pay over $750 million per year for the RCMP and we will not tolerate taking officers off the streets in order to confiscate the property of law abiding firearm owners.”

That message was officially communicated in letters to the commanding officer of the RCMP in Alberta and to Minister Mendicino, invoking the terms of the PPSA. “The federal government does not set provincial policing priorities.” Moreover, the confiscation program is “not an objective, priority or goal of the province or the Provincial Police Service” nor is the deployment “appropriate to the effective and efficient delivery of police services” under the agreement.

In the event that the federal government nonetheless directs RCMP officers to confiscate firearms, “as they did during the 2013 floods – when the RCMP seized over 600 firearms during the notorious High River gun grab,” Shandro warns that Alberta will prevent that from happening by challenging such direction, or intention to take such direction, using the dispute resolution mechanism in the PPSA.

To create even more distance between Alberta and the actions of the federal government, Shandro advised that Alberta has already notified the court of its intent to participate as an intervenor in six currently pending legal challenges to the constitutionality of the federal gun ban and confiscation law.    

Alberta has also contacted government officials in other provinces with PPSAs, recommending that they take similar steps to “protect provincial jurisdiction and prevent political interference in RCMP operations,” and not waste tax dollars “to pay for a confiscation program that will not increase public safety.”

Already, on September 27, the Minister of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety in the neighboring province of Saskatchewan formally notified the commanding officer of the RCMP in that jurisdiction that “the Government of Saskatchewan does not support and will not authorize the use of provincially funded resources for any process that is connected to the federal government’s proposed ‘buyback,’” adding that “[w]e do not and will not support initiatives that only impact the law abiding, RCMP vetted, hunters, sport shooters, ranchers, farmers and others who use firearms for lawful and good reasons.”

Soon after, Kelvin Goertzen, Manitoba’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, announced his province was following Alberta and Saskatchewan. “In Manitoba’s view, any buy-back program cannot further erode precious provincial police resources, already suffering from large vacancy rates, from focusing on investigation of violent crime. We will be bringing these concerns, along with the shared concern of Saskatchewan and Alberta, directly to the federal government next month in meetings of Ministers of Justice and Ministers of Public Safety.”

In Ontario, the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA) is urging Ontario residents to contact their Premier and “politely encourage him to refuse to assist Ottawa’s gun confiscation efforts. Ontario Provincial Police are paid with Ontario tax dollars to serve Ontarians, not Ottawa’s lackeys.”

Shandro’s defiant letter to Mendicino, rejecting the possibility of any cooperation or support, concludes with a fitting prediction. “[P]reliminary estimates suggest that you will need to confiscate over 30,000 firearms in Alberta alone. We believe that Public Safety Canada does not have the capacity, wherewithal, or the resources to seriously attempt this effort. And, much like the long gun registry, we believe your efforts will fail in the face of opposition from the public.”

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