Yukon pushes back against Bill C-21 during roundtable with Mendicino

Among the Yukoners at the roundtable, a former deputy minister to the province admitted he would purposely indulge in civil disobedience and not surrender his firearms.

Yukon pushes back against Bill C-21 during roundtable with Mendicino
THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
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Yukon's Liberal MP Brendan Hanley hosted roundtable discussions on Bill C-21, where residents broadly expressed their dissatisfaction with the federal government.

Yukoners disagreed with the proposed amendments to ban long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, intended initially to ban handguns.

Canada's Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino attended the in-person meeting at Whitehorse alongside 15 Yukoners and many others who watched online. They consisted of trappers, hunters, sport shooters, and gun collectors. 

Long-time Yukon resident Bill Klassen spoke, telling Mendicino, "I came to Yukon in 1966 as a young constable in the RCMP. I worked as a game guardian and a wildlife technician ... and in those three roles, I carried a sidearm."

Klassen shared that if the Trudeau Liberals passed their proposed amendments, they would ultimately ban some firearms in his collection.

"I intend no offence, Minister Mendicino, but I can't agree with your description of the laws," he said. "I've obeyed the law."

"As a former deputy minister at the Yukon government, I've enforced the laws. And I recognize a bad law when I see it."

Klassen admitted he would purposely indulge in civil disobedience and not surrender his Parker shotgun, Weatherby rifle, or Ruger.

Indigenous hunter Lewis Wilson also took issue with the proposed amendments, adding that "firearms are a way of life."

"I live 110 miles from the nearest city," said Wilson, who resides in rural Yukon with his partner. "There's only one way to get there: a plane or helicopter."

He told Mendicino that the amendments would take away the ability for people to defend themselves, referencing that a grizzly bear mauled a mother and her infant child at their trapping cabin in 2018.

"We take it very seriously," said Wilson. "My partner is 102 pounds. We have a 45-70 lever action rifle, but she can't use it. A semi-automatic rifle is the only one she can shoot that is strong enough [for her] to defend herself."

Mendicino addressed the concerns presented at the roundtable, noting much work remains and that he wanted ongoing dialogue with Canadians.

Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai released a statement following the roundtable, clarifying he would defend the interests of the Yukon and that he disagreed with Bill C-21 in its current form.

"Last night, Yukoners respectfully shared their positions on Bill C-21 at a roundtable with Minister Mendicino, who has committed to engaging and making appropriate changes to Bill C-21 after hearing from Yukoners and others living in more rural and remote parts of Canada," said Pillai. "Yukon's Minister of Justice Tracy McPhee shared our government's concerns directly with Minister Mendicino during bilateral meetings."

While the premier commended Liberal MP Hanley for advocating for and defending the province's interests, he also urged the federal government to "listen to Yukoners" and "make changes to the amendments to Bill C-21."

"As a lawful gun owner, avid hunter, and member of a family who has worked a trapline on the land for generations, I sincerely appreciate the concerns," said Pillai of those residents who attended the roundtable.

He added that the way of life of many Yukoners, from licensed and subsistence hunters to Indigenous families working traplines, is at risk should the proposed amendments pass.

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