The federal government sent a representative to the Yukon to discuss a bill bound for parliament that would render some currently legal firearms prohibited.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino heard resounding opposition from the members of the public he invited, echoed by Yukon elected officials.
Mendicino was in the territory Jan. 17 to 19. A member of his staff told the News one of the focuses of the trip was engaging with hunters, trappers and other gun owners. A portion of the engagement was a roundtable discussion hosted by Mendicino and Yukon MP Brendan Hanley. The minister’s visit to the territory was set against the backdrop of Bill C-21, a piece of firearms control legislation going through amendments that would ban a variety of firearms. Some of those on the banned list are widely used for hunting.
The bill tabled last spring contains plans to enact bans based on firearms’ muzzle diameter, force they can exert, ability to accept detachable magazines and other characteristics that are not as clearly defined.
The details of the bill are the subject of a federal government committee that has extended its deliberation. Along with firearm prohibitions, Mendicino noted that the proposed legislation will raise maximum sentences for gun traffickers among other steps.
Only about 15 people were invited to the discussion. They were selected because they had previously corresponded with either the minister or the MP regarding Bill C-21. Media were not invited to sit in on the discussion in person but the discussion was livestreamed to both reporters and members of the public. Hanley chalked the small group that he and Mendicino invited up to the short notice the discussion was planned on.
None of those who spoke with Mendicino and Hanley were supportive of the proposed legislation. They each gave their reasons. Among them were longtime firearms collectors concerned about a loss of value in their collections; relatively new sport shooters encountering confusing rules; and hunters, trappers and resource-industry workers worried that the firearms they rely on to protect themselves from animals in the wilderness will be banned.
Two of the participants in the discussion suggested that the new firearms regulation is a cynical attempt to buy votes in urban areas under the banner of public safety while introducing regulations that will have major consequences for rural Canadians. Mendicino denied this interpretation.
Those viewing the discussion by livestream were not permitted to ask questions. The Yukon Party levelled criticism at the way the discussion around Bill C-21 was organized and called for a broader meeting. A Jan. 24 notice from the Yukon Party states that meeting details, including the opportunity to join online, were not circulated until the night before the meeting. The notice calls on Mendicino to hold a public meeting offering an opportunity for all Yukoners affected by the proposed firearms legislation to share their views.
On the day Mendicino was leaving the territory, Premier Ranj Pillai issued a statement that acknowledged the “serious concerns” that remain about the impacts of Bill C-21 on many Yukoners’ ways of life. Pillai also states that he is himself a lawful gun owner, an avid hunter and a member of a family that has worked a trapline for generations, giving him a deep appreciation for people’s concerns.
“As the Yukon’s Member of Parliament Brendan Hanley has made clear, the Yukon does not support Bill C-21 in its present form. We support and commend MP Hanley’s efforts to advocate for and defend the interests of Yukoners. I strongly urge the federal government to listen to Yukoners and make changes to the amendments to Bill C-21,” Pillai’s statement reads.
In October 2022, Opposition Yukon Party and Yukon NDP MLAs voted together on a motion urging the governing Yukon Liberals to ensure the territory’s policing resources are not diverted to assist with the gun “buy back” program that the federal government has proposed in conjunction with the bans enacted or proposed in recent years.
Mendicino’s staff offered the News a telephone interview with the minister to field additional questions regarding his visit to the Yukon. The minister was not available at the scheduled time or a rescheduled time later in the day with his staff, citing issues scheduling the interview around his travel.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org