Yukon Liberal candidate Larry Bagnell at an announcement at city hall in Whitehorse on July 8. As a campaign promise, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is proposing giving handgun regulations to municipalities and some Yukoners are unsure about that. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Liberal campaign gun promise raises questions for Yukon municipalities

Liberals vow municipalities could implement handgun bans

Association of Yukon Communities (AYC) president Tara Wheeler says a campaign promise by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau that would give municipalities authority to ban or restrict handguns in their communities raises a lot of questions.

Yukon Liberal candidate Larry Bagnell said the proposal would allow municipalities to work with provincial or territorial governments on the legislation for their specific communities.

“We’re pretty excited,” he said, framing the campaign promise as a victory coming out of a call issued by big cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to address gun violence through a national ban.

This would give those cities the authority — working with their provincial governments — to address the issue as they see fit without impacting other jurisdictions like the Yukon, where it does not seem to be an issue.

It gives the authority to the local people, he said, noting he expects there isn’t a desire by communities in the Yukon for a ban so it’s unlikely any would pursue it.

Wheeler, however, already sees some issues for Yukon communities.

“It’s kind of confusing,” she said in an Oct. 1 interview of Trudeau’s proposal.

How would municipalities, particularly those without a police force, enforce such a ban? How could it work if one community in a territory or province enacted a ban or restrictions and others didn’t? Would charges end up being heard in bylaw breaches or in criminal court, Wheeler wonders.

Emphasizing her views do not necessarily represent the position of the AYC, as members have not yet discussed or come up with a position on the proposal, she said she doesn’t see it as a way of stopping crime.

Typically, she is in favour of municipalities gaining more control over their communities, but in this case it would add unnecessary pressure and an increased workload to communities where resources are already stretched thin.

The topic of gun control is already very divisive in any community, making for a lot of political pressure that would be placed on municipal governments to address an issue that could require more resources than small communities have at the ready.

She acknowledged in bigger cities which have their own police forces, such a ban might be more realistic.

As she pointed out as well though “there’s a lot of small rural communities across Canada.”

Meanwhile in Whitehorse, deputy mayor Jan Stick said at this point the proposal is a campaign promise which hasn’t happened yet so it’s not something that’s been a major focus for municipalities.

That said, she commented that small municipalities without their own peace officers likely couldn’t enforce such a ban or restrictions. Certainly, you wouldn’t send a bylaw officer out to deal an offence involving a handgun ban, she said.

As for RCMP, Stick was quick to point out municipalities try to work cooperatively with the police force, but ultimately have no jurisdiction over the RCMP.

She said she just couldn’t see how such a ban would end up in the jurisdiction of municipalities, though if the concept were taken further in the territory there would have to be discussions with AYC and the Yukon government.

Ultimately though, Stick doesn’t see it as a possibility in Whitehorse.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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