VANCOUVER – The Liberal Party of Canada is the only federal party that will continue to defend gun control, while the Conservatives and NDP have shown they cannot be trusted to side with police and victims of crime, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said today.
“Stephen Harper has shown time and again that he will side with the gun lobby over the police who protect our communities and the majority of Canadians who want better gun control,” said Mr. Ignatieff at the Vancouver Police Headquarters, where he was joined by Vancouver East Liberal candidate Roma Ahi. “As for Jack Layton, the NDP refused to take a principled stand and put the life-saving gun registry at risk when it mattered the most.
“The Liberal Party stood firm to save the life-saving gun registry – and only the Liberal Party remains the clear choice for Canadians who are concerned about gun violence and illegal handguns.”
A Liberal government will implement a sensible compromise that maintains the integrity of the gun registry, while addressing the legitimate concerns of law-abiding gun owners. Under the Liberal plan:
- First-time failures to register firearms would be treated as a ticket, not a crime;
- Fees for new licenses, renewals and upgrades would be permanently eliminated; and
- The registration process – especially the forms – would be streamlined to make registration as easy as possible.
“We are proud to stand with frontline police officers, with emergency nurses and physicians, with victims of violence, with women’s rights advocates and with law-abiding gun owners with a plan that can address the concerns of all sides of this divisive issue,” said Mr. Ignatieff.
Stephen Harper has postponed the implementation of marking and tracing regulations that police need to stem the flow of illegal handguns from the U.S. three times. He also stacked the government’s firearms advisory committee with NRA-backed members of the gun lobby, and spent more taxpayer money on advertising victims programs than on the programs themselves.
“Police and Attorney Generals across Canada want marking and tracing regulation to stem the flow of guns across the border, but the gun lobby has applauded Stephen Harper for delaying them,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “And Mr. Layton has exchanged principle on gun control for endorsements from the gun lobby for six of his candidates.
“On May 2nd, only the Liberal Party is offering voters the choice of a Liberal government that will save lives by saving the gun registry and strengthening gun control,” Mr. Ignatieff concluded.
Firearms marking and tracing
Gun marking helps police trace weapons used in the commission of crimes to determine where they were diverted from legal use and to assist in breaking up gun smuggling rings. Once a firearm is legally imported into Canada, it should have to be marked by the importer, which helps police speed up gun crime investigations, trace the origins of guns used in crime, and identify trends.
Provincial Attorney Generals and the major police associations have urged the federal government to meet its obligations as a signatory to a United Nations Firearms Protocol and the Organization of American States Firearms Convention, both of which require the Government of Canada to mandate the marking of all imported firearms. According to the Attorney General of Ontario, Canada’s gun marking laws are less stringent than the United States, which has required import marking since 1968. According to the RCMP, half of all guns used in the commission of gang-related firearms crimes in British Columbia were smuggled from the United States.
In 2004, the Liberal government drafted regulations requiring gun marking so that Canada could live up to its international obligations dealing with illegal manufacturing and trafficking of firearms. These regulations were to come into force in April 2006, but have been consistently deferred by the Harper government.
Canadian Firearms Committee
The Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee was first created by Kim Campbell’s Progressive Conservative government. Historically it was composed of public health experts, sociologists who specialized in gun crime, and police experts. However in 2006, the composition was changed by the Conservatives to reflect an anti-gun control agenda. The panel was appointed by then Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.
In a newsletter, Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz told gun lobbyists, “Finally, you have a government that is listening because so many of you helped draft the Conservative Party’s firearms and property rights policies.” Mr. Breitkreuz highlighted the clear “difference” between the previous Liberal appointees and those appointed by the Conservatives. In particular, committee members Tony Bernardo and Steve Torino are publically affiliated with the National Rifle Association, and Dr. Mike Ackermann recently likened Canadian law enforcement to Hitler’s SS and Mussolini’s Blackshirts.
Last November, the government’s quarterly advertising report showed that $6 million was set aside to produce and run an ad campaign directed at victims of crime. Around the same time, the Public Accounts showed lapsed funding for the Victims of Crime Initiative in 2009 amounted to just under $4 million, or 45% of available funds. That means that in 2009-10, they spent $4.8 million on programs to help victims of crime, but nearly $6 million in 2010 for ads on how they helped those victims.