Gun registry foe takes aim at Bagnell

Candice Hoeppner is taking her fight against the federal long-gun registry to Whitehorse. The Manitoba Conservative MP speaks tonight at a meeting organized by the Yukon Fish and Game Association. It's at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre at 7 p.m.

Candice Hoeppner is taking her fight against the federal long-gun registry to Whitehorse.

The Manitoba Conservative MP speaks tonight at a meeting organized by the Yukon Fish and Game Association. It’s at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre at 7 p.m.

Hoeppner’s visit is part of the Conservative’s strategy to torment those Liberal and NDP MPs who oppose the registry, but are being urged by their political leaders to keep it alive.

Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell is one of them.

He’s long been opposed to the registry as an undue hassle for many rural Yukoners who own a long-gun to hunt. But he’s also made it clear he won’t quit the Liberal party over a whipped vote to preserve it.

And he suspects the Conservative ploy to stir up public resentment over the registry may backfire.

“With the hyped-up Conservative campaign on this trip, a lot more Yukoners have approached me who are in favour of the registry,” he said. “I’ve never had that before.

“It’s still a divisive issue in rural ridings. But I think more people are supportive of it than in the past.”

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is forcing his members to toe the party line when they vote on Hoeppner’s bill to kill the registry in several weeks.

MPs are traditionally allowed to vote their minds on private members bills. But Ignatieff says he needs to whip his members because the Conservatives routinely apply party discipline to its members.

Bagnell’s lately put a cheerful spin on the Liberals’ planned reforms of the registry.

They propose making the registry less of a nuisance by making first-time failures to register a noncriminal offence, streamlining paperwork and eliminating fees for new licences, renewals and upgrades.

But that likely won’t do much to calm the registry’s fierce critics. Among them is Gord Zealand, president of the Yukon Fish and Game Association, who invited Hoeppner to town.

“Obviously, in the Yukon, we know the wishes of the majority of the population. In the end of the day, is (Bagnell) going to go with that? Or is he going to go with the Outside politics?”

His organization, which represents about 1,000 hunters and fishers in the territory, has opposed the registry “since day one,” said Zealand.

“We want to bring as much pressure as we can put into this to persuade (Bagnell) that there are a lot of people in the Yukon who are very concerned about this issue. And if you decide to go with your leader, there will be repercussions come next election.”

If Bagnell and other Liberals banded together to kill the registry, it’s unlikely that Ignatieff would turf them all from the party, said Zealand. He wants his MP to show more backbone.

“If they all said, ‘We have to stand up for what our constituents want,’ is (Ignatieff) going to get rid of them all? I doubt it.”

But some Yukoners support the registry.

“If it’s too unwieldy, I’m sure there are provisions that can be made to improve it. But scrapping it, I don’t think is in the interest of women and children, and the public in general,” said Charlotte Hrenchuk, director of Yukon Status of Women Council.

Hrenchuk is no stranger to criticism of the RCMP. But on the matter of the gun registry, she trusts police.

“If the RCMP and chiefs of police think it’s helpful to them, then yes, it’s accomplishing some of the things it’s set out to do,” she said.

Police chiefs maintain the registry is a useful law-enforcement tool. Some frontline officers dispute this, noting that most criminals fail to register their weapons and that urban gangs prefer illegal handguns over hunting rifles.

A recent RCMP report calls the registry an effective crime-fighting tool. But critics have noted the report offers little evidence to support these claims.

Ignatieff notes that all types of gun deaths have declined since the registry was brought into force. He neglects to say gun deaths began to fall in 1979, well before the Liberals’ introduction of gun registry in 1995.

What it has done is infuriate the many rural Canadians who have refused to register their firearms.

The registry’s ballooning cost in early years served as another affront: it was supposed to cost several million to establish, and ended up costing more than $2 billion.

The vote will be a close one. According to the latest tally conducted by Aaron Wherry at Maclean’s magazine on Tuesday, there are 149 votes against C-391, 148 votes in favour.

Seven NDP votes remain undecided. NDP Leader Jack Layton says he won’t whip his members.

Gun control in Canada would continue even if Hoeppner succeeded and the registry disappeared. Canadians would still need a licence to own a gun, and safety and background checks would still be required.

Bagnell won’t be in town for the meeting. He’s presently in Yellowknife to join Ignatieff’s “Liberal Express” tour across Canada.

“I’m not sure why (Hoeppner) has chosen to come to the Yukon when I’m not there,” he said. “This was planned long ago. She planned her trip recently.”

Contact John Thompson at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Togo member Katie Moen sits in a sled behind a snowmobile for the ride from the airport to Chief Zzeh Gittlit School. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Coming together: How Old Crow became one of the first communities in the world to be fully vaccinated

Team Togo and Team Balto assembled with a mission to not waste a single dose of vaccine

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. If council moves forward with bylaw changes, eating and drinking establishments could set up pop-up patios in on-street parking spaces. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Patios may be popping up in Whitehorse this summer

City considers program for downtown restaurants and bars

The Yukon Coroner's Service has confirmed the death of a skateboarder found injured on Hamilton Boulevard on May 2. Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News
Whitehorse man dies in skateboarding accident

Coroner urges the use of helmets, protective gear, while skateboarding.

The new Yukon Liberal caucus poses for a photo during the swearing-in ceremony held on May 3. (Yukon Government/Submitted)
Liberal cabinet sworn in at legislature before house resumes on May 11

Newly elected MLA Jeremy Harper has been nominated as speaker.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s baby bison, born April 22, mingles with the herd on April 29. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Yukon Wildlife Preserves welcomes two bison calves

A bison calf was the first 2021 baby born at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

A map provided by the Yukon government shows the location of unpermitted logging leading to a $2,500 fine. (Courtesy/Yukon government)
Man fined $2,500 for felling trees near Beaver Creek

The incident was investigated by natural resource officers and brought to court.

The site of the Old Crow solar project photographed on Feb. 20. The Vuntut Gwitchin solar project was planned for completion last summer, but delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Old Crow is switching to solar

The first phase of the community’s solar array is already generating power.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
One new case of COVID-19 in the Yukon

Case number 82 is the territory’s only active case

Flood and fire risk and potential were discussed April 29. Yukoners were told to be prepared in the event of either a flood or a fire. Submitted Photo/B.C. Wildfire Service
Yukoners told to be prepared for floods and wildland fire season

Floods and fire personelle spoke to the current risks of both weather events in the coming months.

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is the first all-woman expedition to summit Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team summits Mt. Lucania

“You have gifted us with a magical journey that we will forever treasure.”

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

Whitehorse goings-on for the week of April 26

The Yukon Department of Education in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. The department has announced new dates for the 2021/2022 school year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Yukon school dates set for 2021/22

The schedule shows classes starting on Aug. 23, 2021 for all Whitehorse schools and in some communities.

Most Read