Mendicino undermines provincial jurisdiction on firearm rights

Trudeau’s Cabinet renewed its conflict with Alberta over firearms, claiming they have jurisdiction over the provinces on ‘gun control’ legislation.

Mendicino undermines provincial jurisdiction on firearm rights
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Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino claims firearms regulation is federal jurisdiction — a direct assault on the Alberta Firearms Act.

The minister visited Alberta Wednesday to extend an olive branch to the province to encourage collaboration on Bill C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms).

"It is well-established now for over two decades that when it comes to firearms regulation, that falls within the domain of the criminal law and, by extension, the federal government. And the Supreme Court of Canada determined that over 20 years ago," Mendicino told reporters.

"Notwithstanding that, all levels of government have to work together, and there is no going it alone when it comes to keeping our community safe. I'm committed to working with my counterpart here in Alberta."

Amid a second crack to kickstart Bill C-21 after a temporary hiatus in February to refocus its efforts on gun confiscation, the UCP has gone on the offensive concerning firearms and property rights.

Former Justice Minister Tyler Shandro introduced the bill on March 7 to counter Ottawa's 'buyback plan' to confiscate prohibited firearms.

In May 2020, Cabinet signed an Order in Council banning over 1,500 models of previously legal firearms. Last October, it froze the purchase, sale, transfer, and import of handguns, which effectively prohibited handgun ownership in the country.

Bill 8, the Alberta Firearms Act, gives the province the tools to protect its jurisdiction over firearms, including the proposed requirement of a provincial license for gun seizures in Alberta.

"The constitution lays out the division of powers between the federal and provincial levels of government. It ensures that provinces possess the right to manage public safety, property rights and security within their borders, a responsibility that inherently includes firearms regulations," Alberta Justice Minister Mickey Amery told Rebel News.

 "If the federal government chooses to breach this division of powers, Alberta will take all measures to defend itself and protect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Alberta and its citizens."

During a March 15 media roundtable, Shandro criticized the feds' gun grab that "criminalizes thousands of [law-abiding] Canadians."

"If they are going to have a confiscation program, we have to ensure the province is involved in licensing, and we will be advocating for sensible legislative changes rather than ones, like Bill C-21 and the order of council, that are targeting law-abiding Canadians and criminalizing thousands of Canadians overnight for owning legally acquired property," he said.

A UCP press briefing in March revealed the province had over 340,000 licensed firearm owners and over 650 firearms-related businesses in service.

The then-minister added that Bill 8 also rectifies the broadly defined powers of section 7 of the Municipal Government Act by reaffirming provincial jurisdiction on the transport and storage of firearms.

According to government sources, it builds upon Bill 211, the Municipal Government (Firearms) Amendment Act, 2020, to prevent municipalities from passing firearms bylaws unless authorized by the province.

A reporter accused the UCP of overreach, but Shandro explained that public safety is a provincial jurisdiction. He also expressed concerns about municipal employees seizing firearms.

"I think we've all seen reports from the federal government enacting more prohibitive gun control legislation and reports that they're communicating with municipalities to enforce the seizure of guns at the municipal level," added Ward 13 City Councillor Dan McLean.

Staff with the city administration confirmed there had been no communication since the province proposed Bill 8.

Bill C-21 also earned considerable pushback from sport shooters, hunters and some First Nations firearms owners, with the explicit fear the feds would target legitimate gun owners.

Mendicino clarified that's not something Albertans need to worry about.

"We respect gun owners, and we're gonna spend a lot of time across the country, in rural and border communities, to address concerns around inadvertent overreach," he said at the time.

However, the Liberal Party and New Democrats tabled sweeping amendments to Bill C-21 last November to ban semi-automatic shotguns and rifles purchased legally for hunting purposes. It earned widespread opposition from NDP and Liberal MPs alike.

On December 29, 2022, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) quietly proposed using PEI as the confiscation pilot. However, Public Safety Canada cancelled the pilot project on January 12 — two days after it surfaced in the public.

Before the backtrack, PSPC staff wrote that phase two would commence in the spring in collaboration with other government departments, governments, and industry partners. 

Tony Bernardo, Executive Director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA), said his group supports laws that improve public safety but not the confiscation plot by the federal Cabinet. 

"Targeting legal firearms owners and confiscating their property cannot be the solution as these two actions do not address the real issue of criminal violence with illegal guns on our streets. Many Canadians already know this, but the federal government seeks the path of confusion and distraction to sell this red herring to Canadians," he said. 

"The plain truth is they will waste billions of taxpayer dollars on confiscating legal firearms from lawful Canadians while criminals continue to ignore the laws already in place." 

The CSSA said it is committed to restoring the respect Canadian firearms owners deserve and ensuring the personal freedom to keep and use their property — a point of order that Mendicino opposes.

"I think what we've done is we have, with a scalpel, carved out those guns which have no place in our communities, including AR-15 style assault rifles," the public safety minister told reporters on July 12.

He pinpointed the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting for why Canadians want "responsible gun control laws."

However, Amery pushed back, calling his remarks "unhelpful." 

"The statements made by Minister Mendicino undermine the trust Albertans have in the federal government to respect our province's rights under the constitution," he said.

"We firmly believe engaging in constructive and respectful dialogue with the federal government on such issues is crucial."

On March 22, the Alberta Firearms Act passed on division with a vote of 28-7 and received royal assent six days later.

Bill C-21 completed its Second Reading in the Senate on June 21 before Parliament adjourned for the summer recess.

 

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