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SECD - Standing Committee

National Security, Defence and Veterans Affairs



OTTAWA, Monday, November 6, 2023

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security, Defence and Veterans Affairs met via videoconference this day at 3 p.m. [ET] to examine Bill C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms).

Senator Tony Dean (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators, welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security, Defence and Veterans Affairs. I’m Tony Dean, representing Ontario, and the chair of the committee. I’m joined today by my fellow committee members, and I’ll ask them to introduce themselves, beginning with our deputy chair.


Senator Dagenais: Jean-Guy Dagenais, Quebec.

Senator Boisvenu: Good afternoon to our guests. I’m Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu from Quebec.


Senator Oh: Victor Oh, Ontario.

Senator Plett: Senator Don Plett, Landmark, Manitoba.

Senator M. Deacon: Welcome. Marty Deacon, Ontario.

Senator Cardozo: Andrew Cardozo, Ontario.

Senator Richards: Dave Richards, New Brunswick.

Senator Duncan: Pat Duncan, from the Yukon.

Senator Boehm: Peter Boehm, Ontario.

Senator Yussuff: Hassan Yussuff, Ontario.

Senator Kutcher: Stan Kutcher, Nova Scotia.

The Chair: Thank you, colleagues. To my left is the committee’s clerk, Ericka Dupont.

For those watching the session, we today continue our study of Bill C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments, all with respect to the regulation of firearms in Canada. Today, we’re hearing from five panels of witnesses over five hours, consisting of firearms owners, organizations and Indigenous governments and representatives.

On our first panel, we have the pleasure of welcoming James Smith, President and National Range Officer Coordinator, International Practical Shooting Confederation of Canada; by videoconference, Dr. Sandra Honour, Chair of the Board, Shooting Federation of Canada; and Brian A. McIlmoyle, Director, Airsoft in Canada.

Thank you all for joining us today. We invite you to provide your opening remarks, to be followed by questions from committee members. I remind you that you each have five minutes for your testimony.

James Smith, President and National Range Officer Coordinator, International Practical Shooting Confederation of Canada: Good afternoon, honourable senators. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to present here today. I’m presenting on behalf of the Canadian International Practical Shooting Confederation, or IPSC.

IPSC in Canada represents about 5,000 law-abiding members who currently must conform to the Firearms Act, and we feel that the current act provides for adequate protection for all Canadians. IPSC is the largest shooting sports association in the world, with 109 member countries, and in Canada, IPSC competitors represent the most organized group of elite handgun shooters.

IPSC Canada, since its inception, has instituted an additional safety course to assure safety in addition to the federally mandated RPAL and licensing. The Black Badge course has over 300 volunteer coaches and officials committed to introducing new athletes to the safe conduct of our sport. IPSC athletes in Canada compete and train at their local clubs on a weekly and monthly basis to advance their skills, the best from each province qualify to compete at the nationals, and the best of those are chosen to advance to the World Shoot.

This sport is more than a hobby; it is a lifelong commitment to perfecting skills and marksmanship to compete at the highest level. Much like the Olympics, the World Shoot is held every three years, with continental championships interspaced in off years. There have been proud Canadian athletes representing Canada at these international competitions since the 1970s, with an average of 60 athletes attending every three years.

IPSC athletes come from all walks of life. They are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, grandmothers, grandfathers and even grandchildren. They come from all parts of society. We have construction workers, IT professionals, bankers, military, police, law enforcement, and we even have judges. If you were to attend an IPSC competition, you would be amazed at the diversity of the athletes, with representatives of all races, genders and disabilities.

In earlier testimony, there was reference to IPSC becoming the gateway to handgun ownership in Canada. I would like to put this in perspective. We are a volunteer group. If we were to get an exemption to make us equal to Olympic athletes, there are simply not enough instructors or the infrastructure in place for more than a few thousand additional members per year.

Bill C-21 does not outright ban handgun ownership, but the result for IPSC Canada is that, as a sport, we will see a slow demise as our athletes age when no new athletes are introduced and existing competitors’ equipment wears out with them unable to source replacements. Since the ban was introduced by order-in-council, we have already seen a slow decline in participation as new prospective members have been unable to purchase handguns.

We have also had members unable to continue participating in our sport for unforeseen reasons. We had one member whose home was destroyed in a wildfire, and his firearms were destroyed with it. He is unable to access new guns. We also had another member who was travelling to Thailand to represent Canada in the World Shoot, and they lost his luggage. He has not recovered his luggage, and he is unable to replace those firearms and unable to compete in the sport that he’s dedicated his life to practising.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have listened to testimony from multiple anti-gun groups who have referred to model gun legislation in other countries, like Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Europe in general. All of the countries mentioned have athletes competing in IPSC and allow exemptions in some form for IPSC athletes to purchase, possess and use handguns for the purpose of competing. Australia has been mentioned as a model of successful gun control legislation. In correspondence with the regional director of IPSC Australia, he has outlined a licensing procedure with provisional training periods and then full licenses for IPSC athletes. New Zealand recently added new gun control legislation and has chosen to allow IPSC athletes to own handguns for the purpose of training and competing.

Laws that are conceived to reduce gun violence and gang activity cannot possibly further that objective by targeting our competitive sports representatives who, if this becomes law, will have no sport at all. In summary, we would ask the Senate to move an amendment to add International Practical Shooting Confederation of Canada to proposed section 97(1).

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Smith.

Sandra Honour, Chair of the Board, Shooting Federation of Canada: Thank you, committee members. I’m the volunteer chair of the Shooting Federation of Canada board of directors, certified coach and referee. I’m here representing the current and future members of the Shooting Federation of Canada, which include recreational shotgun, rifle and pistol clubs and their members.

The Shooting Federation of Canada supports Canada’s high-performance athletes, including, but not limited to, Olympians and Paralympians, and those trying to become high-performance athletes in the International Shooting Sports Federation sports, which is the IOC-recognized international sport governing body.

The Shooting Federation of Canada is not a lobby group, and we have no political affiliation. We are simply the national sport governing body that, along with provincial and territorial sport governing bodies across this country, support the infrastructure, athletes, coaches and officials of the ISSF sports.

I contend that target shooting is one of the most inclusive lifelong sports in the world, and one that Canadians who are aware of it consider valuable. Target shooting sports provide a level playing field that few other sports do. It allows gender identities, cultural heritages, sizes and physical abilities to become null and void, and these people can compete against each other. Target shooting is an international sport with about 109 countries around the world belonging to the ISSF.

There are unintended consequences of Bill C-21 that are impacting our Olympic pistol sports, such as the loss of local, viable ranges, the facilities unable to maintain Olympic sports equipment, restricted recruitment due to lack of instructors, parts and gunsmiths with expertise in pistols being lost, and the lack of importers of competition equipment.

We need adequate participation in the sport to have Olympians. Adding more needless hurdles negatively impacts the ability to have the number of athletes participating in the sport to find potential Olympians. When it comes to Olympians, their number is much less than the athletes who train to compete. Think about hockey and how many people play hockey versus how many are in the NHL. The Olympics have even higher levels.

The Olympic target shooting sports require mastery of amazing skills, and no one starts at the Olympic sport. Compare this to other sports. Do we start potential Olympian swimmers in a 50-metre pool, divers on a 10-metre platform or skiers on moguls? By requiring that training, competing or coaching in Olympic and Paralympic events are the only valid reasons to possess a competition pistol, Bill C-21 is essentially doing to pistol target shooting sports the equivalent of making the ownership of a bicycle illegal unless a bike owner trains, competes or coaches in velodrome cycling. A healthy sport should at every level have pathways toward elite excellence and toward recreational participation. Participation in sports at all levels provides significant social value. Bill C-21 does not allow our potential athletes to have a recreational opportunity to begin to see if they like to shoot, nor a place to go when they retire from national team aspirations.

Olympic and Paralympic events change over time. Bill C-21 as proposed now is so narrow that Canadians are unable to participate in some of the events at the world championships, which may be Olympic events within eight years.

We recruit athletes from several routes, including the other handgun disciplines you’ll hear from. What we need most is the ability for local clubs to provide safe, competent pistol shooting instruction and experiences on bigger paper, larger targets and metal targets, to find these athletes who are interested in our sport. Our sport needs these opportunities — with and without formal competition — to be available across this country as a pathway to high-performance recruitment.

Sport matters. Target shooting is a lifelong sport. With the current Bill C-21, you’re taking the opportunity away from Canadians without having a significant impact on violent crime. In Bill C-21, the Olympic sport of pistol shooting is not really exempted. The bill is just simply proposing a slower strangulation of our sport than the death of other pistol shooting sports in Canada.

I’m asking you to value this lifelong, inclusive sport. This bill suggests that it’s easier just to kill our sport rather than ask how to maximize public safety and allow target shooting sports to thrive. That starts with working with our sports organizations, which has not been done up to this point. Some minor amendments to Bill C-21 and some good solid work to find out how our organizations can support some of the issues that are facing our enforcement system in Canada could go a long way toward helping achieve what we really want in Canada, which is a safe community.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Dr. Honour.

Brian A. McIlmoyle, Director, Airsoft in Canada: Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to testify. My name is Brian McIlmoyle. I’m the director of Airsoft in Canada, or ASIC. Again, thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Airsoft is a sport that employs devices that propel 6-millimetre low-mass projectiles that are used in games of tag at a distance. With basic eye protection, the sport is safe and rewarding, and it is growing in Canada since its introduction in the late 1980s to today. Airsoft in Canada is an advocacy organization, representing stakeholders in the sport of airsoft in Canada, from end-users — players — to retailers and importers of airsoft devices. ASIC works to bring forth to government and regulators the issues that affect the sport of airsoft and its safe continuation as both a sport and source of enjoyment and livelihood for thousands of Canadians.

Bill C-21 as originally introduced in Parliament would have destroyed the sport of airsoft. It would have eliminated access to airsoft devices, obliterated hundreds of businesses and eliminated the livelihoods of thousands of Canadians — not to mention the loss of enjoyment, personal development and exercise that the participants of the sport enjoy. Thankfully, through the advocacy of ASIC and other organizations in Canada, parliamentary legislators became aware of the devastating impact of their proposed legislation and amended the bill. The bill before the Senate has had the parts of Bill C-21 that would have destroyed the sport of airsoft removed. The status quo pertaining to airsoft was maintained, and a new recognition of the sport of airsoft, its significant economic inputs and very positive social impacts for participants was recognized. To that degree, the airsoft community is thankful for the recognition and for the approach to remove the elements of the bill that would have impacted the community.

With respect to Bill C-21 in general, I believe it is important for the Senate, as the chamber of sober second thought, to apply the same approach to the bill and the other provisions that would impact the firearm community as the parliamentary legislators had applied to airsoft. All legislation is a trade-off of restrictions against freedoms, and in a free and open democracy and in democratic societies such as Canada, more restrictions must reach a high bar of net positive impact to warrant the curtailing of existing privileges and freedoms. Bill C-21 seeks to largely re-legislate existing law to provide the appearance of providing enhanced public safety without actually addressing the factors impacting public safety. The airsoft provisions are a case in point. They effectively obliterated what are toys to claim an enhancement of public safety against risks that are almost never manifest while at the same time not addressing the core risks in a meaningful way. The other provisions of Bill C-21 seek to do the same regarding firearms: re-legislate an already effective control regime to provide government with the claim that they have taken action while, at the same time, impacting public safety to a negligible degree. In my view, this action does not meet the necessary high bar of lawmaking that would curtail the livelihoods and impact the existing privileges and freedoms of Canadians for meagre returns to the citizens of Canada.

That’s the completion of my statement. I’m prepared to answer any questions or add additional clarification as necessary.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. McIlmoyle.

We will now proceed to questions. Colleagues, our guests are with us until 3:55 p.m., and we’ll do our best to allow time for each member to ask a question. With this in mind, four minutes will be allocated for each question, including the answer. I will hold up this card to indicate that 30 seconds remain in your time. I ask that you keep your questions succinct and identify the witness you are addressing.

I now offer the first question to our deputy chair, Senator Dagenais.


Senator Dagenais: My first question is for Ms. Honour. When this bill was sent to us, we were told steps had been taken to enable athletes to keep competing in the sport. That’s what Minister Leblanc told the committee.

What changes could be made to this bill so that it would be acceptable to athletes like you?


Dr. Honour: There are a couple of changes.

When you look at Bill C-21 and clause 43, proposed section 97.1 (b)(i) and (ii), if we could do things like include all the pistols that are commonly used in International Shooting Sport Federation-recognized pistol disciplines, this would allow all of our ISSF — the Olympic organization sports — to be trained and competed with.

The other thing is taking that wording of “training, competing or coaching” and changing it to “participation in organized target shooting sports run by government-recognized sport associations.” Making that shift could allow people like the IPSC as well. It makes sure that the government recognizes that we have a responsible sport organization and that we have ways to identify those that participate. They couldn’t just own a pistol; they would have to participate in our sports. That would be great.

The other thing I suggest is that for the things that people say happen with legally owned pistols in this country — whether they be stolen or they are involved in domestic violence or suicide — the Ministry of Public Safety could work with our organizations to help us better educate and better recognize issues of mental health and be able to actually make a positive impact to ensure that our athletes and those people that participate in our sport fall within normal behaviours and things we want in our society.


Senator Dagenais: When talking about your firearms-related activities, you’ve said that people are trying to deny you your cultural heritage. How would you describe what you call your cultural heritage, and how would you compare it to Indigenous people’s constitutional heritage?


Dr. Honour: I don’t want to compare myself to the Indigenous situation because we have special provisions for them. What I will say, however, is that as a Canadian, part of our culture includes people learning to hunt with their families and learning to shoot targets and safely utilize firearms. I’m a third-generation Canadian. It’s been part of my family — my entire family — and I think it’s important that we get to maintain that and not have people who don’t necessarily have that same background dictate to us what our culture is.

Senator Dagenais: Thank you.

Senator Plett: My first question is for Brian McIlmoyle. I once participated in an airsoft game at a youth camp that my son was a director of. Other than a couple of good welts on my arms, I thought it was a great sport and a way to teach some people lessons. I certainly have never heard of anybody murdering somebody or even robbing a bank with an airsoft gun, so I find it kind of ironic that we put that into this gun bill.

Sir, you have stated that Bill C-21, as currently drafted, creates a legal ambiguity on the possession of airsoft, which will have a very serious impact upon your sport. Are you satisfied with the amendments made in the House of Commons? Would you have any additional amendments that you might recommend to clear this up?

Mr. McIlmoyle: That’s a very good question.

Essentially, the effect of the committee meetings with the parliamentarians was to simply remove the provisions that would have affected airsoft in Bill C-21. This didn’t, in fact, resolve all of the issues with airsoft. As it still exists, it’s not completely regulated clearly, and there’s still some ambiguity with respect to the legal status of these items, particularly with respect to import. The clarification necessary to CBSA would radically reduce their workload in trying to figure out what to hold and what to let go through. Some very clear regulation with respect to the legal status of airsoft guns to be developed in the future with consultation with our organization would be helpful.

Senator Plett: Thank you, sir.

Mr. Smith, we have heard a number of times now — the minister even saying — that this doesn’t impact sports shooting, doesn’t impact target shooting and doesn’t impact the Olympics. Yet, you don’t go from having an interest in target shooting to becoming an Olympian; you actually have to do some training and practising on the way. Certainly, some senators here would appreciate the fact that to become good in your sport, you have to do some practising. How do we go from just having an interest in and being a target shooter, sir, to becoming an Olympic champion when the government says we’re not going to allow you to practise?

Mr. Smith: I would say it’s probably impossible, if that’s the case. Sandra outlined a good process there with government-recognized sporting institutes that could have their athletes listed and still be able to access. Other than that, not having Bill C-21 would probably help too.

Senator Plett: We wouldn’t have any gold medallists, I assume?

Mr. Smith: We would have no gold medallists.

Senator Plett: Thank you.

Dr. Honour, do you have any comments on that?

Dr. Honour: No. As I said, we have to have the ability to step on and off the high-performance pathways to be able to create Olympians, then have Olympians happily retire and not just sit on the couch and suffer from incubating Type 2 diabetes and dementia. Our sport is just such a lifelong sport that people can do it into their 80s, if they can go to a recreational and not necessarily Olympic event.

Senator Plett: Thank you very much.

Senator Oh: Thank you, witnesses, for being here with us.

I’m going to go directly into the impact. When the minister was here before our committee, he stated clearly that nothing will affect the sportsmanship and sportsperson in the firearms clubs. My question to all of you is this: Would you agree that sportspersons, firearms clubs and hunters are not impacted by this bill? Second, how many individuals in the shooting sports in Canada are impacted by Bill C-21?

Mr. Smith: I would answer that we are definitely impacted. We are already starting to see the impact. We’ve had people lose their firearms in the wildfires. They can’t replace them. There’s no avenue at all for them to replace those firearms.

What was your second question?

Senator Oh: How many individuals in the shooting sports in Canada are impacted by Bill C-21? I believe it’s a big number, is it not?

Mr. Smith: It would be a very large number. I don’t have it. Our organization is only one sport, and it has about 5,000 members. At the recreational level of the sport throughout the country, I suspect it would be 100,000.

Dr. Honour: I would back up those numbers. The problem is that a gun range is almost always a not-for-profit corporation that’s being run, and we need the members from all the sports to keep a facility operating. When you impact the pistol sports, it affects the rifle sports and the other sports that are being shot on the same facility because the membership is required to own a firearm, and that membership then helps support and maintain the equipment to ensure the operation of those facilities.

Senator Oh: Thank you.

The Chair: Mr. McIlmoyle, do you have any thoughts on this?

Mr. McIlmoyle: Yes. I’m a licensed firearm owner as well as an advocate for airsoft. We are seeing a chilling effect across the entire community from these restrictions coming into play. Membership at shooting ranges is down, and competitions are withering on the vine. The impacts of this have been immediate and widespread, and they will continue to be immediate and widespread. It is not just the social aspects with respect to people being cut off from their main source of social activity but also the economic impacts of people who used to make their livelihoods supporting these organizations and competitions. The impacts are widespread, deep and very disturbing for many people.

Senator Oh: Mr. Smith, are you aware of any country in the world that has implemented a similar bill to Bill C-21?

Mr. Smith: No. The U.K. probably has the most severe gun control, and they still have IPSC representation at international matches. North Ireland has ownership of handguns, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, so there are people in the U.K. who travel to those locations and store their firearms there and compete in pistol sports. They would probably be the most severe gun control in the world.

Senator Oh: It is nice to hear that. Thank you.

The Chair: Mr. McIlmoyle, we understand you’re having some interpretation problems. Are they cleared up now?

Mr. McIlmoyle: It is not. We’re still working on the problem.

The Chair: Okay. Bear with us, and we’ll try to fix it.


Senator Boisvenu: Welcome, witnesses.

My first question is for Ms. Honour. I gather you have quite a lot of members — thousands, is that right?


Dr. Honour: Yes, we have thousands of members in the Shooting Federation of Canada.


Senator Boisvenu: When the minister testified before this committee, he said, “I don’t think hunters or sports groups oppose this legislation.”

Do you know of any sport shooting or hunting groups in Canada that support this bill?


Dr. Honour: No, I am not aware of any sport shooting or hunting groups that support Bill C-21.


Senator Boisvenu: The minister seemed to think that lots of people support this bill.

My second question is for Mr. Smith. I put this same question to police representatives and shooting range managers. The thing that concerns me the most is this: If this bill were passed as written, what impact would that have on the thousands of shooting ranges across Canada? Also, what impact would it have on people in law enforcement and the military who use these shooting ranges for their annual recertification?


Mr. Smith: The result will eventually be the closing of all those facilities as people are unable to participate as a result of attrition through age, equipment breaking, etc. I can only speak for Nova Scotia, but our local club that I manage is a non-profit club run by our members, and all HPD shooters in Halifax use it. We have a very good relationship. Without that range, they would not be able to do their qualifications. They start on August 1 and finish November 15. They are there every day. That facility will no longer belong. I would hazard to say that at least probably 75% of ranges in Canada are private clubs owned by the members, and the rest would be commercial ranges. As we lose members, we’ll get to a critical mass where we will no longer be able to afford to keep the lights on, and we’ll have to close.


Senator Boisvenu: You’re a large confederation with lots of members. Have you had a chance to share your comments with the minister or his representatives?


Mr. Smith: I testified at Parliament and shared those concerns.


Senator Boisvenu: Do you feel those people understood where you were coming from or were open to amending the bill so as to minimize the impact on your members?


Mr. Smith: There was discussion. During the parliamentary amendments at committee, there was certainly some discussion, and actually, some of it came to a vote, and it came down to a tiebreaker by the chair.


Senator Boisvenu: Are your proposed amendments in the bill before us now?


Mr. Smith: No, they are not.

Senator Boisvenu: Thank you.

Senator Richards: Thank you, witnesses, for being here.

My nephew is a lawyer and also a sports shooter. He has his own pistols. Mr. Smith, do the shooting facilities offer the pistols with which you practise? Sooner or later, do the participants want their own pistols to use? If they supply their own, with this bill, would it be almost impossible to continue the sport?

Mr. Smith: That is correct. At our facility, we do have some firearms that we use for juniors to start with, but typically, by the time they become 18 or 19, they acquire their own and move through the program with them. It’s not only at the range where practice time is needed. They practise off air with what we call dry fire so they are not actually firing the firearm. They are just practising with the trigger and the sights.

Senator Richards: Sure. In a way, they are vetted, aren’t they, these people that come to your range?

Mr. Smith: They are all vetted through the Canadian National Firearms Association, and in order to become a member, you have to have your Restricted Possession Acquisition License, or RPAL, or your Possession Acquisition Licence, or PAL.

Senator Richards: Of course.

Dr. Honour, there is a very heavy burden on the scrutiny and legal, judgmental oversight that makes many turn away from pistol shooting or not consider it as a sport or even as a hobby. Would you agree with that statement?

Dr. Honour: I would say it’s a big hurdle to join the sport and become competitive in it, yes.

Senator Richards: Thank you very much.

Senator Duncan: Thank you very much to the witnesses who have come before us today.

My question is largely for Dr. Honour and concerns the sport of biathlon. I am not an expert on firearms or on Bill C-21. My understanding is that biathlon does not use a weapon that is currently covered under this legislation. I believe you mentioned an amendment that would ensure that a recognized sports organization would be involved in the licensing or dealing with weapons and the authorization to use them. I’m wondering if your amendment that you propose would provide future comfort to those involved in the sport of biathlon in that, in fact, the guns would not in the future be covered under such legislation. Or perhaps, has the sport of biathlon or the sports organization been involved at all in your discussions? I ask this because, of course, biathlon is part of the Arctic Winter Games, an international sports competition.

Dr. Honour: In my understanding, we do not represent biathlon. They are their own association. They are not impacted by Bill C-21. The use of their firearm is allowed.

In terms of the proposed change that I’m asking for in Bill C-21, it really is to deal with clause 43 and inserting proposed sections 97.1(b)(i) and (ii), which is about pistols, the firearm type being a handgun, so that it would identify which handguns are allowed and who can own those handguns.

Senator Duncan: If I can follow up, then, if we were to include that amendment, would it provide comfort for future legislators and future individuals involved in biathlon? Yes, they are a separate organization, and their weapons or guns are not covered under this legislation, but forward thinking —

Dr. Honour: Biathlon is not impacted. The problem is that any government can then say, “We don’t accept your organization. We will no longer recognize your organization.” There is always a threat that our government will not recognize shooting sports. However, I’m trying to find a way in our current government system so that we can find a balance between the government wanting to have control of firearms and our ability to operate our sports.

Senator Duncan: Your suggestion is to have this amendment?

Dr. Honour: Yes.

Senator Duncan: Thank you.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you all for being here this afternoon.

My first question is to our witness Mr. Smith in an attempt to really understand some of this. I’m wondering how International Practical Shooting differs from shooting sports that are recognized by the Olympics, Paralympic Games, Jeux de la Francophonie, Commonwealth Games and all those games in terms of the equipment.

At the Olympic level, the pistol, the rifle and the shotgun events are governed by the International Sports Federation, which has a rule book, as you know, about this thick, on the construction and calibration of these precise firearms. It’s regulated by really strict guidelines and staggering amounts of minutiae that dictate everything from the trigger pull weight and barrel construction to the thumb rest, ergonomics and ammunition specs. I’m not a shooter, but they are very niche firearms which serve one specific purpose tailored to their events.

Are the firearms used a standard kind that you could walk into a gun shop to purchase, or are they also very tailored to these events without much use outside of competition? I’m trying to understand that technical difference.

Mr. Smith: Just to start, we also have an international rule book that is recognized in all countries that participate in the sport. For the actual firearms that are used, we have different divisions. We have a division that starts with a firearm that you can go buy — just a basic firearm. It’s called production, so it’s a production firearm. There are then several other divisions with the open division, which would be the highest level of firearm that is tailored exactly to the sport. An analogy might be like race cars where you might have your stock car and your F1 race car. It goes through all those iterations. The production gun would be $1,000 to purchase, and an open gun would be $15,000. Most members would probably have two, as backup, so they would have $30,000 invested into the sport. They might not be able to continue.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you.

Ms. Honour, congratulations on the recent performances in Santiago. It’s great to have shooters qualify for the Olympics. It’s the first time since 2000. I want my colleagues know that. Around this issue of Bill C-21, you have been dealing with a lot of roadblocks over the last two quadrennial periods, with facilities and keeping membership fulsome, for sure. We recognize the challenges you have. You’ve heard today about the minister being in the room and us asking the minister questions a little while ago. He assured us that elite level Olympians and Paralympians, right down to novices, would be able to train with the exceptions provided in this bill. Were you and your group consulted? Did you have an opportunity for input? If this bill is passed, do you think there will be more clarity on what to expect moving forward?

Dr. Honour: The Shooting Federation of Canada was not asked to participate in the committee that discussed Bill C-21, nor did we have letters answered to us after we wrote to the minister several times to request. In terms of any contact, what we have had is with the Ministry of Public Safety on the wording of the letter and what kind of screening we’re doing to identify athletes who would like to import or transfer ownership of a pistol.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you.

Senator Cardozo: Thank you to our witnesses who are here in person and online. This is a complex bill, and we really appreciate your time with us.

I want to ask my question to Sandra Honour, if I can. It’s regarding the culture of recreational gun shooting. You made, at one point, a comparison to bicycle riding. You suggested that people needed to do more before they became an expert, a competitive bicycle rider. I would say it was an interesting analogy because it helps frame that, but the difference, though, is that bicycles cannot be used to kill people.

I put that because I think that’s part of the criticism that we certainly hear in this committee, concern about the culture of recreational shooting. You did mention that it’s a forum where people can meet and develop friendships. I understand that and I get that. There are many ways that we, as citizens, develop our friendships and get to know people. People have said to us that there is a serious crisis, an epidemic, of domestic violence, and they juxtapose that versus a hobby. Could comment on that in light of what you talked about in terms of the friendships and social atmosphere that people can develop in the field?

Dr. Honour: We definitely have community in all of the different shooting sports. I think this is where we could provide service. You have identified places where legal guns can be used in the act of a violent crime. As a community that cares about responsible firearm ownership, what could we do to help? We have never been asked what we could do, what courses we could provide, what information we could move to our community that own pistols, that belong to our clubs, to help reduce any issues around domestic violence and suicide. You are not asking us to be a part of the solution. You just identify us as a problem, and that’s it, a blanket statement. I think it’s a two-way street. We could support community change and identification as a part of a community that really cares about responsible firearm ownership. We could do work. If we understood how to identify issues like mental health issues, if we were more educated as people who instruct and manage gun clubs, we could do more for the community than to just only make legal pistol ownership illegal and no longer have any responsible people owning pistols.

Senator Cardozo: Are you aware of any gun clubs that do that kind of awareness raising or help women’s groups?

Dr. Honour: I know IPSC Black Badge is incredible. You can talk to them. They have an incredible safety program. All the range officer training that gun clubs do has a strong component. Do we have a strong mental health component? No, we are weak in that. Could we do more? Absolutely, if someone worked with us on it to actually tell us what we could do to improve on that. The Shooting Federation of Canada is working on mental health with our athletes, but it’s more around anxiety and issues around competing, not necessarily mental health in day-to-day life, but we have opportunities. All sport is working toward a safe sport environment in regard to both mental health and the safe operation of the facilities.

Senator Kutcher: Thank you all for sharing your thoughtful considerations around the issues related to target shooting sports and this bill.

My question is for Mr. Smith. Welcome to Ottawa. I understand that the IPSC has some chapters in countries that have quite restrictive gun legislation. You mentioned the U.K. and Australia, but I also understand that Japan has a chapter. Could you share with us, so we have a better understanding, more details about how people who are involved in target shooting sports in those countries are finessed there? What kind of processes are there in place in those countries that have the more restrictive legislation? Could you share the details of that?

Mr. Smith: I can’t speak to every one. We have a member in Nova Scotia who lives in the U.K. He travels to the Channel Islands to compete and practise. He also has a cottage in Nova Scotia and has a valid RPAL in Canada and flies over to compete in Canada and picks up his guns and flies back to other countries to use them. I don’t know all the countries. I did reach out to the section coordinator that runs Australia to ask about it and had some correspondence back and forth. You are basically a novice, and you spend six months going to the club and using other people’s firearms. After that, you apply. It takes a year to qualify. I’m very familiar with that. I know Russia has centres where the firearms are kept. There are 109 countries. I’m not familiar with every one of them.

Senator Kutcher: It would be impossible with 109 countries.

Would it be possible, as a request, for you to do some research on this? Let’s pick Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan, for three countries. They’re more like-minded with us than Russia. Could you help us understand how they do it? What fail-safes are in place for them? Would that be possible?

Mr. Smith: Yes. I did provide that information to the CQ committee when I testified there. As I said, I did reach out to Australia, because I think at least three times in testimony they’ve been raised as the model.

Senator Kutcher: Yes, but those three.

Mr. Smith: Yes, I can do that.

Senator Kutcher: Thank you so much. That would be fantastic.

Sandra Honour, thank you very much for being with us and sharing your thoughts. This issue that you raised is an important one about the role of the shooting organization in proactively addressing concerns around suicide with guns. I thank you very much for raising that as an issue. We know that many different organizations, for example, sports organizations with young people, are now bringing in mental health literacy into those organizations, teaching people how to identify individuals who might be suicidal and what interventions can be done in the organization. Have your organizations had any discussions with the federal government or your provincial governments or any mental health groups to help you develop those capacities? Is there a willingness to do so, if you haven’t?

Dr. Honour: As a national sports organization, there is an absolute willingness. The other sports have that opportunity, and we are going to be able to piggyback on some of those other sports in terms of their learnings and how to manage that. We will absolutely be bringing it into the leadership and the coaching and the officials and that type of work at the sports organization. What would be great is if we could get that to the clubs.

Senator Kutcher: Thank you.

Senator Yussuff: Thank you to the witnesses for being here.

My question will be both to Sandra Honour and, of course, James Smith and is to deal with the concern that you have in regard to the legislation and future membership because of the Bill C-21 ban on handguns and use of handguns. Maybe there are two parts to it. Membership in the organization is a serious responsibility, and obviously, if there were an exemption based on what was proposed in the other place, there would be a higher degree of vigilance as to how you would police that because anybody could join just to get around the handgun restriction. Could you elaborate on some of your thoughts about this? This is an issue that has been raised publicly. I would like to get your thoughts in regard to this.

Mr. Smith: As I said in my opening statement, IPSC, since its inception in Canada, had a requirement to have an extra training course above and beyond what the government required. We call it a “Black Badge” program. It’s a two-day course where we vet the people. It’s some training. It’s the rules. It’s a bit of everything. We have a limited number of instructors. If everybody comes and says they want to join, it’s just not going to happen because we don’t have the facilities. In addition to that, we have a requirement that you have to participate on a yearly basis or you lose that black badge and are no longer able to participate. We certainly would cooperate and do that vetting. As members come in and left, we would let everybody know that that’s how it works.

Dr. Honour: Similarly, that could be done in the ISSF sports as well.

Senator Yussuff: To follow up on your answer, what is the requirement to maintain membership and ensure that someone who joins your organization is actually engaged in the competitive nature of what is required?

Mr. Smith: We track participation at the competitions at the provincial and national levels. If you go a year without participating, you go into a six-month probation. If you don’t participate in that six months, you have to go through all the training again.

Senator Yussuff: Would that be the same, Ms. Honour, in regard to your organization?

Dr. Honour: No, we are not currently at that level, but could be if required.

Senator Yussuff: In regard to the amendment that was proposed in the other place, that amendment deals specifically with some of the concerns that you have that the committee dealt with and, obviously, didn’t support, but they did look at it. Were you satisfied with the amendment as it was proposed?

Mr. Smith: Yes. It could have gone a little further, but the writing was on the wall and we would take whatever we would get at this point to have our sport survive.

Senator Yussuff: Thank you, both, for your testimony. Thank you for being here.

The Chair: Colleagues, I’m afraid that brings us to end of the panel. There were more questions lined up, so that’s a mark of the quality of the presentations that our three witnesses brought to us today.

We greatly appreciate your time, expertise and contributions today, and we finish by commending the three of you for the very hard work that you do in representing your various communities. Thank you very much for that and for joining us today.

For the next 55 minutes, we have the pleasure of welcoming Matthew Hipwell, Owner, Wolverine Supplies; William J. Klassen, Former Police Officer, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Yukon; and, by video conference, Lynda Kiejko, Civil Engineer and Olympian, Pistol.

Thank you all for joining to us day. I invite you to provide your opening remarks, to be followed by questions from our members. I remind you that you each have five minutes for your testimony. We begin with Mr. Hipwell.

Matthew Hipwell, Owner, Wolverine Supplies, as an individual: Good afternoon, senators and guests. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak before you this afternoon and touch on a few points concerning Bill C-21.

The handgun freeze implemented by Bill C-21 and the Liberal government currently has done nothing to reduce our handgun crime in Canada since its implementation in October of 2022. Do we know what this freeze has actually done for public safety to date now that we’re a year into it? I’m going to suggest we can’t because the freeze that was on the sale and transfer of handguns within Canada only affected those Canadian handgun owners who were legally licensed and able to lawfully possess those firearms. The freeze did not prevent the criminal element in Canada from possessing a handgun or acquiring one. Nor, as we know, do the criminals care about any of those laws. They only affect those who want to enjoy their chosen sport or hobby. We have even heard from chiefs of police and the RCMP who have stated legal handguns are not the problem, but the statements from professionals at the front lines have been ignored so far. We’ve missed an opportunity to enhance public safety. To appease the public, we have focused on what was easy, and that was the legal handgun owners who were fully licensed. We did not address our open borders or handguns on the streets. We still have media reports of shootings where handguns were used. Like I asked previously, has there been a reduction in crime in the first year?

Firearms classification is not complicated, although over the years, individuals have built their careers on classifying firearms. The exception is when it comes to handguns. They are clearly defined by barrel length, calibre, number of shots — i.e., magazine capacity — and any one of us can determine that. I bring this up because Minister LeBlanc has said that he wants to re-establish the Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee to independently examine the classification of existing models that fall under a new prospective definition of a prohibited firearm in Bill C-21 and to identify those that qualify as hunting firearms and exclude them by a future decree — for example, an order-in-council. What is the prospective definition of a prohibited firearm under Bill C-21? We don’t know. It hasn’t been developed. But if we stuck with simple classifications — barrel length, magazine capacity, the action, et cetera — any one of us, including the manufacturers and retail customers, would know what the class of their firearms would be and how to use them.

Everyone from a manufacturer, importer, distributor or retailer to an owner wants to comply with firearms laws and regulations, but when these are not clearly defined and constantly reinterpreted, we are placed in the precarious position of leaving us liable to lose money and face possible criminal charges. Where’s the media education for the firearms owners so they are aware that their firearm is now prohibited? There are many people out there today who use their firearms as tools and are certainly not well versed in gun law. How many firearms like the Ruger Mini-14, which was prohibited a number of years ago, are used as a farm gun today where the farmer takes it out to deal with a rabid skunk? Manufacturers have been accused of trying to evade the law when they are only trying to comply with the regulations that are laid out because the goalposts keep moving.

With respect to new offences in sentencing, I’ve taken this to heart from my former experience. We have talked about increasing sentences from 10 to 14 years. These sections do not help us unless the tools in our justice system are there to implement these new laws. During my years in law enforcement, it was clear the justice system had many revolving doors, as police officers and justice officials just became frustrated with catch and release. Let’s address the system before we need to add longer sentences.

We have new offences listed under Bill C-21. One, for example:

Authorization to transfer cartridge magazine to individuals

(2) A person may transfer a cartridge magazine that is not prescribed to be a prohibited device only if the individual holds a licence authorizing him or her to possess firearms.

Now we need a licence to possess a magazine. A magazine for a firearm will need a licence to purchase or possess? How many 22-calibre magazines are out there in Canada today? The number is staggering.

I realize I’ve only touched on a few points from Bill C-21 this afternoon, and I hope you can see the legislation has many areas that need improvement. I am supportive of commonsense and accountable firearms legislation and something that does not infringe on the privileges of law-abiding Canadians.

Thank you very much.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Hipwell.

William J. Klassen, Former Police Officer, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Yukon, as an individual: Good afternoon, senators, and thank you for the opportunity to talk with you about Bill C-21 and how it will affect firearms owners like me.

Since I was a boy on the farm, I have used and owned firearms for pest control, target shooting, hunting for meat, and in my work. I am an active member of the Yukon Handgun Association, and I speak in part on behalf of its members.

I agree with our Yukon Liberal member of Parliament who voted against Bill C-21. I also agree with other witnesses who have appeared here and have stated that Bill C-21 is seriously flawed and recommended that it be scrapped.

In my view, the current firearms laws, if properly enforced, are all that is needed to keep Canada and Canadian communities safe. If the Senate, in its sober second thought deliberations, decides to pass the bill, then it should make some substantial amendments. I fully support the amendments suggested in the brief sent to you by the group of seven researchers, policy experts and subject-matter experts.

I have time to speak to only two aspects of the bill, the semi-automatic rifle ban and the handgun freeze.

If I understand it correctly, sections 15 and 16 of the bill propose to ban semi-automatic, centre-fire long guns with detachable magazines capable of holding more than five rounds. That is unnecessary. All semi-automatic, centre-fire long guns are already restricted to five-round magazines. Some of the firearms that are termed assault-style rifles are used by many Canadians for hunting and target shooting. Why ban those? Where is the evidence that such legally owned guns are used in crime or that banning them will make Canada safer?

The list of prohibited firearms includes the ArmaLite AR-10. Three years ago, the Yukon government bought AR-10-type rifles — actually, SIG Sauer 716s — for their conservation officers, arguing that they needed semi-automatic rifles to deal with conflicts with dangerous wildlife. There have been at least three instances in recent years where Yukoners were killed by grizzly bears. Why should Yukoners and other Canadians not be able to own the same type of firearms that conservation officers need to protect themselves? Many Yukoners spend considerably more time in the bush than do conservation officers, but the ban will prevent them from owning and using AR-10-type rifles to protect themselves.

Over the years, I have collected more than a few handguns, three of which were the issue sidearms of RCMP members with whom I served. These revolvers have considerable historic and sentimental as well as real economic value to me. The freeze on handgun transfers by order-in-council in October 2022, which has been strengthened under this bill, has destroyed the considerable economic value of my collection. I may not transfer them to my children or grandchildren, and I may not sell them. I can donate some of them to a Yukon museum, but an income tax receipt will not come close to equalling their real value. My executor may well have to surrender many of the handguns from my estate to be destroyed.

Where is the evidence that banning and destroying this valuable property will make Canadian communities safer? Canadian handgun owners must take instruction, pass tests and have their spouses or partners agree to their receiving a restricted firearms licence for guns that they may then only use at RCMP-licensed ranges. Licensed firearms owners are not the people responsible for shootings in Canada. Preventing them from trading or selling these restricted firearms will not make Canada safer.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Klassen.

Lynda Kiejko, Civil Engineer and Olympian, as an individual: Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for having me here today.

I’m the volunteer president of the Alberta Handgun Association. I’m also a current national team member on the pistol shooting team. I have recently returned from representing Canada at the Pan American Games. This was my third time representing Canada at the Pan Am Games. I’m a three-time Pan Am Games medallist, a Commonwealth Games medallist and also a two-time Olympian in pistol shooting. Both my father and one of my sisters are also Olympians in pistol shooting sports.

Target shooting is one of the most inclusive, lifelong sports in the world and one Canadians should consider valuable. Target shooting sports provides a level playing field that no other sport really provides. All people, all body shapes, all genders, able‑bodied, otherwise, it doesn’t matter. We can all compete shoulder to shoulder against each other on a level playing field.

The limitations that Bill C-21 now presents, and some of the rules that have been created, create issues specifically for me and for future athletes like me. If my gun becomes broken, I can no longer acquire parts. I can’t have warranty work done outside the country. I have no access to new firearms and the latest models with which to compete on the international scene, and the delay on import and export licenses is significantly a concern.

Currently, I already have to bite my nails waiting to receive my export permits when I get named to a team with less than six weeks departure. I received my export permit for the Pan American Games after I arrived at the airport to depart for the games. It has caused me excess stress leading up to the games. It did nothing to improve your safety overtop of the existing regulations that are already in place. It only really impacted me and nobody else.

I have at least two teammates who are currently struggling with acquiring new firearms. One firearm was ordered before the handgun freeze was put into place, and it was issued. My understanding is it’s still sitting in import purgatory. One has been trying to move through the regulations as they sit today to acquire a new firearm under the regulations that have been introduced to the market after the handgun freeze was put in place. More than a year later, both these individuals do not have the required equipment in their hands to participate in their events. By removing the ability to enter the sport, new shooters are struggling to acquire the equipment to participate.

Bill C-21 is requiring athletes to prove they are training for the Olympics before they even start into the event. It makes no sense. Athletes rarely start off a new sport with the sole purpose of making the Olympics. Sport is intended to promote activity for life. Why are we putting such an additional pressure on the shooting sports only to produce Olympians? Participation in other shooting sports provides an avenue to enter into the International Shooting Sport Federation, the ISSF events. It covers a greater opportunity for competition than just Olympic events. There are more events within the ISSF World Championships than are contested at the Olympic games. Bill C-21 removes the option to compete at an international competition just because the Olympic Games has now a limited subset of what the ISSF covers. This also doesn’t take into account any of the other international bodies that are also handgun events.

Bill C-21 would limit the ability to take an RPAL course required to own a handgun, any ability to require a handgun, ranges qualified to shoot a handgun, and the list keeps going on. For what? What goal is being achieved by the regulations of Bill C-21? My guns and those of my teammates are not the guns we are trying to remove from the streets. Our guns have never been on the streets. These regulations are impacting me directly and doing nothing for illegal guns, nothing for violent crime and nothing for public safety. Bill C-21 has a pretense of doing something while doing nothing productive.

I have been competing in pistol shooting for 31 years. I have been part of the national team for the better part of 24 years. I became an Olympian seven years ago. Without all of the training leading up to my first Olympic Games, I would not have become an Olympian. What happens if I retire from my sport? Will you confiscate my firearm? Would you confiscate a swimmer’s swim suit? What about a soccer player’s ball? What about a tennis player’s racquet? Where is the recreational element for shooters? Olympians come out to participate after their rigorous training is done, and it is part of the motivation for future athletes. By requiring the Olympic or Paralympic discipline as the only valid sport to train, compete or coach to have the equipment to take part, there is a significant restriction on future athletes.

Sport matters. Target shooting is a sport for life. With the current Bill C-21, you’re taking it away from Canadians, without significant impact on violent crime. As the Senate, I implore you to include all pistols commonly used in ISSF disciplines, the world championship sports and at participation in organized target shooting sports to the training and competition section. This should not be just restricted to the Olympic or Paralympic disciplines. There are a lot of other disciplines with which we actually collect people to go to the Olympics. IPSC has their own international sport federation. I implore you to look —

The Chair: Ms. Kiejko, I’m afraid —

Ms. Kiejko: Thanks very much.

The Chair: I’m sorry to have interrupted you. Let me just say congratulations on behalf of all of us in this room on your many sporting accomplishments. Well done.

We’re now going to proceed to questions. The panel finishes at 4 p.m. As with the last panel, I’m limiting each question, including the answer, to four minutes. I’ll hold up this card to indicate that 30 seconds remain in your time. Please keep your questions succinct and identify the person to whom you’re addressing the question. The first question goes to our deputy chair.


Senator Dagenais: My question is for Mr. Hipwell.

Mr. Hipwell, you’ve said it’s impossible to please everyone, especially when it comes to gun control in Canada. I believe you responded to PolyRemembers’ demands by saying you wanted to find what you called a reasonable approach.

Given the current state of things with Bill C-21, do you think it’s still possible to reconcile legal gun owners’ position with that of people who want to make all guns disappear? What do you think would be a reasonable approach?


Mr. Hipwell: Thank you. That’s a very good question.

I believe, yes, we can find a middle road, but there needs to be a little more work done. We need to be able to hold people accountable. We’ve heard this afternoon that there are many different levels of what that accountability looks like, from licensing to additional training. You talked about storage and transportation regulations. That’s another aspect. We have heard mental health being spoken of highly. We all know the impact that’s had on various individuals. A lot more things need to take place. I don’t think it’s just for one body to make those decisions.


Senator Dagenais: As someone who sells guns, what do you think of the Liberal government’s buy-back program?


Mr. Hipwell: Regarding the repurchase relating back to the OIC from May 1 of 2020, first, if these guns were so bad and the government wanted to remove them from the streets, why haven’t they repurchased them now? It’s been three years, and those guns are still sitting locked up securely in homeowners’ safes, vaults and cabinets. That’s not the road we want to go down.


Senator Dagenais: I’d like to hear your thoughts on the definition of the semi-automatic weapons the government wants to take off the market. For starters, do you sell these? Who buys these combat weapons?


Mr. Hipwell: There are many different types of semi-automatic firearms, and that’s a very broad statement. There are different calibres, from rim-fire to .22 to shotguns, which your bird hunters and competitive sports shooters, to various other centre-fire hunting rifles and target-type rifles. They are used in many different walks of life — some that aren’t recognized, and some that are for a livelihood. For an example of a semi-automatic firearm that’s used in predator control, I took a phone call from a customer on my way here today who was having problems. He’s already had 27 coyotes he’s had to dispatch this fall, and the winter hasn’t even begun. There’s a time and place in many parts of the country.

Senator Oh: Witnesses, thank you for being here with us.

My question is for our Olympian, Lynda Kiejko. I want to thank you very much for representing Canada and putting our country on the map of the world. My brother is also an Olympian shooter, so I understand how professional and hard-working all of you are and the high level of discipline in your work.

The minister has been to our committee. He came on October 23. Referring to the Olympic level of competition, he said that we are not affecting the ability of these elite athletes to access the firearms they need for the sports competitions. However, we also heard from the Chief Firearms Officers from Alberta and Saskatchewan, who told us that not a single application for firearms acquisition has been approved for Olympic-level athletes since the federal government issued the order-in-council banning the sale and purchase of handguns. Can you tell us if it is your understanding that what the minister has said is correct?

Ms. Kiejko: No, the minister is not correct. The Bill C-21 regulations are trying to carve out a bit of an exemption for handgun owners, specifically in the Olympic sports. However, from what we’ve seen currently, we’re having lots of problems. There’s no way to actually get approval or importation of a new type of firearm. There are some brand new ones on the market that are cutting edge, and Canadians will not have access to those firearms. I have a teammate who has literally been trying — I compete alongside her, and I train alongside her on a regular basis — for probably over a year now to import one of these new cutting-edge firearms specifically for competition. It’s one of the only things you can use it for, and it’s specifically for an Olympic event. It’s been to no avail. We’re not having any luck, and she’s not having any luck with it.

The truth of the matter is that Bill C-21 cuts down our ability to compete on an international scale. Whatever we have within the country right now is all we’re going to be able to attain. If anyone new coming into the sport wants to move into the 22 events, they will not be able to. They will have to borrow. We are literally having to supervise new athletes coming in and lend them our equipment. Everybody’s handgun is kind of customized to your hand. You need a customized grip. It’s like borrowing someone else’s sneakers and trying to run a marathon in them. It’s not something that works really well. You have to have your own equipment.

Senator Oh: I hope the minister listens to what you say.

Senator Plett: Hear, hear.

Senator Oh: I hope we have more young athletes like you representing us in the future. Otherwise, we will be wiped off the map. Thank you.

Ms. Kiejko: Thank you.

Senator Plett: My first question is for both Mr. Klassen and Mr. Hipwell. You’re both ex-law enforcement officers.

Since 1976, gun control measures have ramped up significantly: Bill C-83 in 1976, Bill C-51 in 1977, Bill C-17 in 1990, Bill C-68 in 1995, Bill C-10A in 2003 and Bill C-71 in 2018. Along with these were measures that were introduced by order-in-council. This is a pile of gun control bills, and in spite of all these measures, the sponsor of Bill C-21, Senator Yussuff, noted at our last meeting: “When I was young and went to school, gun violence was not a thing.”

I want to make our communities safer as well. I think we all do. Can you explain to me why gun control measures are going to succeed in making our communities safer with this bill when all others have failed to do so? I know I’m asking opponents of the bill rather than proponents. I maybe should have asked them that question, but please go ahead.

Mr. Klassen: I think Mr. Hipwell said it earlier. For the most part, the people who commit gun crimes pay no attention to the laws, so adding more laws and regulations for those of us who do comply with the existing laws is not going to have, in my view, a positive effect. I have a small example. I live in the Yukon just outside of Whitehorse. Within the last three months, four kilometres from where I live, the police — the RCMP — raided the home of a young man who was under court order not to be in possession of firearms. He had no firearms licence. He was a drug dealer, and he was found with several firearms. In my view, Bill C-21 will have no effect on someone like that who ignores even court orders to not be in possession of firearms.

Senator Plett: I will ask Mr. Hipwell another question. I’m sure the answer to this one will be very similar to yours, although I don’t want to put words in your mouth, Matt.

Some witnesses who appeared before our committee last week were supportive of the ban on assault weapons, but it is the definition of those that is in large part the problem. What it seems to have come down to is the look of a firearm rather than what it actually does. In Canada, as you know, we have many semi-automatic rifles that are used for hunting. Certainly well over a million semi-automatic rifles are in legal hands and are non-restricted firearms. How does one pick and choose these guns and classify them as assault weapons but leave them in circulation — like the non-restricted semi-automatic firearms that may shoot exactly the same ammunition — and claim that some of these guns are safer than others? How do you pick and choose?

Mr. Hipwell: How do you pick and choose between them? That’s very challenging. I’m not an expert in that area to be able to pick and choose between the different types. They all have different features — the ergonomics or the fit, much like the example of a grip on a pistol. Some of these rifles are smaller. They are designed for smaller shooters. I’ve heard of grizzly bear examples. I’ve heard of wild boar examples where semi-automatic firearms come into their own. There’s environment and predator control. With a coyote population explosion in parts of the country, these types of firearms come into their own and are tools to protect people’s livelihoods.

Senator Plett: If a wild boar was coming after you after it had been shot once, you’d probably be happy to have another bullet in your clip.

Mr. Hipwell: I haven’t encountered it, but I’m sure that might be the case.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you all for being here this afternoon.

My question comes in two parts and goes to Ms. Kiejko. Welcome back. We’re thrilled that you got back. We know the rest of your team is certain to be back by today, and we’re so glad you were able to make it this afternoon.

Looking at this legislation, of course, we are told — and we see — there are exceptions for people in your position, not only elite athletes like yourself but also those who are training. When I asked a question about this of the minister, he assured the committee:

It’s not only the persons who go to these international competitions representing Canada, it’s those who are training and getting ready to, one day, hopefully, have the opportunity to do that.

Also — as I note — the bill provides exceptions for those who are training, competing or coaching in a handgun shooting discipline that is on the program of the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, or the International Paralympic Committee, or IPC. I take this to mean they don’t necessarily need to be training for the Olympics but simply participating in a sport recognized by these agencies. Why do you think this won’t be the case?

Ms. Kiejko: How do you prove that you’re training for that? There are 15 different Olympic disciplines. Paralympic disciplines, I believe, are a very similar amount. Really, when it comes right down to it, how do you prove you’re training for it? One of the International Practical Shooting Confederation witnesses said that they have a regulated amount where they track where everybody is, what everybody is doing and how often they have been competing. Our events don’t necessarily track it the same way. You can go back and look at the listings, and you can figure it out. However, we don’t actively track how often someone competes to make sure they are still competing, training and working toward it. There are some people who trained a few years ago, and they had some life changes and weren’t able to come back. Then, three years later, they jump right back into it. We’re totally supportive of that. They could have definitely been training away from it. They just may not have been able to come to a competition due to a whole bunch of life things.

I think there is a huge limitation by just saying that we need to only look at the Olympic events and not do anything with that. There are some other Olympic events where, if they want to bring them in, they might bring them in or they might not. There are some Olympic events that once were Olympic events but no longer are, but they are still competed in on the world championship stage. Those are still supported by the International Shooting Sport Federation, ISSF. Those events are a whole bunch of guns that would no longer be allowed under the regulations.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you.

I’m going to dig deeper on something else in your experience. I think it’s that trained participation piece that you’re talking about. Let’s look at something you touched upon a little earlier. Having worked on many Olympic Games, two of the biggest challenges are the logistics of getting the horses to the riders out of ships and quarantine, and getting guns and ammunition to the athletes. Those are the two biggest challenges of the games. I know you’ve been through it. You started to talk about it. What is that like for you, and how do you see that perhaps changing as a result of Bill C-21?

Ms. Kiejko: I think one of the other witnesses has mentioned it. If somebody’s firearms are lost in transit, what do you do to replace them? I literally had to compete a year ago at one of our championships with somebody else’s gun. Again, it was awful. It doesn’t fit, it didn’t suit me and it did not work. My performance was definitely subpar. What if I had never gotten them back? What would I have done? I don’t know. Under the regulation, I wouldn’t have had a firearm to continue competing with. I wouldn’t have gone to the Pan Am Games this year. I wouldn’t have made the team this year because my guns would be gone.

We’re looking at logistics. I am entrusting my firearms to the airline to be able to get it to me. There are logistics. There are rules, permits and everything in place. Right now, I have a whole bunch of permits I have to apply for before I leave the country to be able to get back into the country. I’m at the mercy of the government to get all of that done in place. If I dare to apply late because I get named to a team late, then there is nothing I can do and there is no way I can rush those permits.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you.


Senator Boisvenu: My question is for Mr. Klassen. I’d like to draw on your experience as a police officer.

This bill pits two of our society’s values against one another. Firearms have been around for about 800 years. The history of firearms goes back to the 13th century, more or less, and people who strongly support this bill are looking at things from a philosophical or utopian perspective according to which Canada must eliminate all firearms. We’ve heard the arguments.

There are also those who say this bill is flawed, people such as directors of sporting organizations and Olympians, as we saw earlier, and law-abiding hunters who use these weapons within the bounds of a very safe firearms culture. As we saw after the act was passed in the 1990s, successful gun control takes citizen and gun owner buy-in.

My question is simple. Do hunters and gun owners support this bill? If not, what’s the future of gun control in Canada if most gun owners don’t support a bill?


Mr. Klassen: Thank you for the question.

The firearms owners I know, mostly the members of the shooting club of which I’m a member, to the extent that they understand the bill — and it’s not a bill that is easily understood, because when you read the legislation — and I have some experience in doing that — you have to cross-reference it to all these other bills that are being amended at the same time. So to the extent that shooters understand the bill, no, they do not support it.

Many of the members of the handgun association own handguns. Perhaps that’s obvious. They are negatively affected by this bill because it has resulted in the loss of the value of the firearms they own, and the value of those firearms is not insignificant; that is to say, it is significant, as the previous witness mentioned. If you own several handguns, you’re into the tens of thousands of dollars. Looking at the loss of the value of that, and in my case, given my age, from my estate, yes, it leads to opposition to the bill.


Senator Boisvenu: Bill C-68 was passed in 1995. In 2004-05, 50% of the information in the Canadian Firearms Registry was incorrect. Police offers would frequently show up at an address that had no indication of guns being present, only to find guns there. The registry did very little to protect police officers even though protecting them was one of its main reasons for being. If this bill passes, might we end up five years from now with gun control being neither better nor worse than it is now, when Canada has one of the best gun control regimes?


Mr. Klassen: As a former peace officer, when I went to a home where there was some concern about the possibility of firearms being present, I always assumed that there would be a firearm there.

The registry was certainly not perfect. In my own case, I transferred a handgun from the former registry to the new registry, and when I received my registration certificate, it said I only owned the frame and it had no barrel, so I had to re-register it because of that error. There were many errors. I have a friend who was not used to using computers, and he tried to register his firearms online. He registered them three times, so he suddenly owned three times as many firearms, according to the registry, as he actually owned because of that error.

Senator Boehm: My question is for Ms. Kiejko, following along from what Senator Deacon was asking you about, but first, I join others in congratulating you on your amazing sporting career.

We have heard from victims groups about the so-called Olympic exception. They are concerned that people might fall between the cracks in that context, but I would imagine that in the many sporting events that you have participated in — maybe not so much the last one in Santiago at the Pan American Games but for others — there are athletes representing other countries that have enacted laws that would outlaw guns of certain kinds. I’m thinking, in particular, perhaps in the context of the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games. Maybe when you’re not as tense as you would be in competition, but when you relax with your colleagues, have you had a chance to talk about laws in other countries and how they are applied? Do other competitors face the same tensions that you would in getting their permits before getting on the plane? I would be interested whether you have heard others’ views.

Ms. Kiejko: I haven’t necessarily heard other views. There are definitely a few, like some of the challenges that some of my Great Britain teammates have gone through. They literally have to go to a different country to be able to train for their event, and they have to store their firearms somewhere completely different. I would say it’s a huge disservice. I actually personally do a lot of dry firing. I have three young children at home, and the majority of my training actually occurs after they go to bed, which gives me very small windows during the day to be able to do my training. To not be able to have my firearms at home with me to be able to do that dry training, I can’t even imagine the challenges that some of my other competitors might actually be under or how they even manage that situation entirely.

I have had conversations on the flipside where people look at me and shake their heads, wondering how on earth I even manage. “How do you get your guns out? You might be arrested getting back into the country because your own country didn’t give you the permit to get there?” That’s even though I’m taking out the same thing that I have owned legally within the country. It’s a bit staggering to some that we jump through so many hoops just to be able to go, compete and then come home to represent a country that doesn’t seem to be very proud of us.

Senator Boehm: What would you say to the groups that are concerned about the so-called Olympic exemption?

Ms. Kiejko: I would ask them why. I understand that the sporting tool that we use can be seen in a very negative light, but I think any Olympian, any sport competitor in any sport, respects their sport and respects the tools they use in their sport. I would have a hard time. I would really want to understand where they are coming from and if they are focused only on the tool or on the practice that goes into it and the intentional practice that goes into competing in any sport at a high level. Any competitor at a high level has a high respect for their sport, for their competitors and for the general public around them. We’re expected to be role models for the general public. That’s just the expectation.

Senator Boehm: Thank you very much.

Senator Kutcher: Congratulations, Ms. Kiejko, and thank you for bringing forward the issues that Bill C-21 may have on target-shooting sports. I think it’s an important issue.

My question has two parts. The first part has been taken by my seatmate, Senator Boehm, so I won’t repeat it. The second part is this: realizing the challenges that your sport would have, but at the same time balancing the right of people not to be shot, are there any changes that you would make to the bill that would protect your sport, while at the same time protecting Canadians from gun violence?

Ms. Kiejko: That’s a really double-edged question. In my opinion, I’m not sure there is a whole lot of Bill C-21 that I would necessarily keep because I don’t think any of it addresses gun violence. If you’re looking to address gun violence, then you need to look at the places where gun violence is being committed. If you’re looking for that, it is not at the gun range. It’s not in competitive sports. If that’s the case, then pretty much all target sports need to be exempt from the restrictions that Bill C-21 is trying to implement. If you’re trying to literally deal with the violent acts that are happening, you need to look at where they are happening and who they are being perpetrated by. In the majority of cases, that’s being handled by illegal firearms, and Bill C-21 will have no impact on illegal firearms or illegal firearm ownership. Bill C-21 will create more people who don’t want to be a criminal and potentially end up creating more criminals than we want. I don’t want to be a criminal. I want to follow the regulations, and I want to continue participating in my sport. Through additional regulations, you’re going to create accidental criminals, and that’s not really the case. It’s not making you any safer.

Trying to deal with the socio-economic factors that are creating gun violence, gangs and problems on the streets, being able to implement and enforce the regulations that we have and reinforce the RCMP and give them the tools required to help keep the streets safer and do their jobs appropriately, those are things I would see as being a better regulation than putting additional things into Bill C-21. I’m sorry, I don’t have a whole lot of hope or support for Bill C-21 as it sits today.

The Chair: Thanks very much.

Senator Dasko: Thank you to our witnesses for being here today.

A couple of my questions have already been asked by my colleagues, but I did want to dig a little deeper after Senator Deacon’s questions. I wanted to ask about the sports in the Olympics and other international events that involve shooting or guns. I wanted to know if you knew or could give me a number of Canadian athletes who might be involved in shooting competitions in the Pan Am Games, which is where you competed so successfully, in the Olympic Games and in other international events. Can you give me a sense of how many Canadian athletes are involved in shooting in any of these international events like, for example, the Pan Am Games? I just want to get a sense of the numbers.

Ms. Kiejko: I’m going to preface this by saying that the numbers once you get to the international level is significantly less than the numbers that are competing within Canada to work towards those numbers. In the most recent Pan American Games, we had 14 athletes competing. In the last Olympic Games, I was actually the sole Olympian there. We are very fortunate we have qualified two athletes for the next Olympic Games from these last Pan American Games.

When you’re looking at, say, world championships, then you can expand that. I think we only had a handful of Canadians. I can’t count them all up. We’re looking at between 5 and 10 at world championships. Most of that was actually due to the financial cost of getting to the world championships. It cost each of us between $6,000 and $8,000 to go to world championships because we didn’t have any financial support. That’s a lot for some of our athletes. If we had fielded a full team, then we probably could have had at least 30 people at world championships.

Within Canada, there are a whole lot more who are competing within Canada because we would have between three and five athletes per event who would then compete in it, depending on their own self-funded basis.

Senator Dasko: Right. When you said 14, is that the number of Canadians at the Pan Am games who were in shooting competitions?

Ms. Kiejko: Yes.

Senator Dasko: 14.

Ms. Kiejko: 14.

Senator Dasko: That is quite significant, actually. It’s more than I would have thought.

Tell me about the new firearms issues. Why is it that you would not be able to have access to developing technology?

Ms. Kiejko: Because it’s a new handgun. There is a new firearm that is being manufactured, and it’s taking some technology from several different types of firearms. It’s kind of taking the best of a few different versions that are on the high competition level. It’s being manufactured from Germany, I believe, and trying to export that firearm from Germany, with the German firearm rules, and then import that firearm into Canada, there is a minimum export process of at least six months to be able to get it out of Germany, and then we have the import process to be able to get it into Canada. No one has been successful because you can’t do that. There are very few limited import licenses for this specific type of firearm or this manufactured firearm. The ones who do it haven’t been able to navigate a way to do it yet.

Senator Dasko: Right.

Senator Richards: Thank you for being here. Congratulations, Ms. Kiejko.

My question is for Mr. Klassen or Mr. Hipwell. Maybe I’m the odd man out here, but I think this, in a way, targets rural and northern Canadians and people who use guns for a livelihood or for hunting. I think it’s an extremely elitist bill made by people who have perhaps never used weapons or never grew up on a farm. I don’t know what you think of that, but I would like your opinion on that. That is what I said in second reading about it.

I also think that if you’re going to make semi-automatics illegal, you’re going to put three quarters of my friends on the wrong side of the law. I think those on the wrong side of the law would never give up their semi-automatics. I would like either of you to comment on that, if you could.

Mr. Hipwell: The first part of your question was about creating a divide between rural and urban Canadians. I’ll speak on the handgun side. I’ll use IPSC as part of my example because that’s a sport I’m more familiar with and I did compete in. I’ll use the province of Manitoba. I’m going to say 80% of the shooters live within Winnipeg. You have 80% who are in an urban environment. Yes, in some cases you are seeing examples from rural Canadians and of rural Canadians, but it’s not just affecting rural Canadians. When we get into southern Ontario, where we have a large following with IPSC — I don’t have the number; I’m sure Mr. Smith would be able to get those numbers for you — there are a lot of urban Canadians who are also being affected by this legislation.

Senator Richards: That’s handguns? Yes.

Mr. Hipwell: Correct. I’m just speaking of hand guns.

Senator Richards: Great.

Mr. Klassen: Thank you, senator.

When it comes to firearms use in Northern Canada, yes, Indigenous or Aboriginal people certainly use them as part of the way of maintaining themselves. Obtaining meat from the wild, or country food, as it’s sometimes called, is an essential part of their lives. Whether the bill is elitist or not, as I said, witnesses have been here have either suggested doing away with it, not passing it, or at least substantially amending it.

Earlier legislation, as I think Senator Plett was referring to, even that long gun legislation, was not understood by some of the older First Nations people I knew who would go into a firearms store — in this case, Canadian Tire in Whitehorse — to buy a rifle. They would be asked for their firearms license. They didn’t have one, and they wouldn’t be sold a rifle. A little while later, a younger Aboriginal man would come in and buy the same firearm, and you could be quite confident that it was going to the older man in the community and there would be no record of where that firearm was being stored. I think there is a lack of understanding in legislation like this that there are still people in this country who have great difficulty with our system of laws. All they know is that they need a firearm to get a moose.

I recall another Senate committee that came to Whitehorse in 1995, I think it was, and there was an older First Nations man from the community of Ross River who said, I think tellingly, “If you take my gun away, how am I going to live?” He said to the senators, “I can’t sit at the table, look at paper and make money like you guys.”

Senator Richards: That’s pretty well what I was also saying about rural Canada and about many people in the Maritimes. Thank you very much.

The Chair: Colleagues, we are running out of time, and there are still several senators on the list, so we will now go to three minutes each.

Senator Yussuff: Thank you, witnesses, for being here.

Mr. Hipwell, you don’t have an issue with those who have a firearms license being able to purchase ammunition, do you? I think you made reference in regard to a magazine. As you know, ghost guns are an issue that we are struggling with in the country. There is a real challenge as to how we can get control of that, recognizing the technology is evolving pretty quickly. The legislation will put restrictions wherein you will have to have a license to purchase some of this equipment, obviously so as to not get into the wrong hands. Is that an issue? Why would it be an issue?

Let me finish on this point. A criminal who committed a terrible crime on Danforth in the city of Toronto went in and bought ammunition, even though back then he didn’t have a license. He was able to purchase ammunition in regard to the gun, which was obtained illegally and used to commit the crime of killing individuals in the Danforth shooting.

You don’t have an issue with putting restrictions on purchasing ammunition and other equipment that will bring some continuity to how the law can be maintained so criminals are not doing bad things, do you?

Mr. Hipwell: No. I think that’s a little bit misunderstood. As it sits today, to purchase a firearm, the serialized item, and ammunition, you require a firearms license. That’s already in place. My example there was now it was going to be an offence for the magazine that belongs to that firearm. If I were to give you the magazine that belongs to that firearm and you don’t have a firearms license, that is now going to be an offence. Now we’re talking a part of it. How is that going to be controlled? There are firearms manufacturers who you will hear from later today. The number of magazines they manufacture in relation to the number of firearms is probably 5 to 1, maybe 10 to 1, so you have all these parts. I don’t see how it is going to curb and enhance public safety by saying that you now need a license to have a part.

Senator Yussuff: It would certainly allow us to track those who are purchasing these parts so they don’t end up being put into ghost guns, if that’s a possibility.

Mr. Hipwell: I’m not sure how we will track it.

Senator Yussuff: If you require a license to do so, we would know who was purchasing this equipment.

Mr. Hipwell: So we will start today with a license for all those parts, but what about all the parts that are currently in society?

Senator Yussuff: Maybe you can’t solve every problem with one piece of legislation, but certainly, going forward, it’s looking to ensure people who are purchasing these things have a license to do so because you want them to be responsible for what they are doing.

Mr. Hipwell: The next part to that is how do we educate everyone that that is now the law, much like Mr. Klassen’s example here with the transfer of a firearm? A lot of people don’t understand. We have gone from the serialized piece, which is the expensive part, the part that we can track and control because it has a serial number like a VIN on our vehicles. Now we’re going to a small component and we want to try to track it? I think we can come up with better ways to help our law enforcement resources and put our money towards other areas that would be more effective.

Senator Duncan: Thank you very much to all our witnesses.

Thank you, Mr. Klassen, for being here. You spoke of your work in public service as an RCMP officer, but you didn’t mention your work with the Department of Environment or renewable resources. You spoke very eloquently about the use of the semi-automatic rifle by the Department of Environment. If you could, I would like you to perhaps briefly address the background that would have gone into the minister purchasing those semi-automatic rifles.

Mr. Klassen: Actually, the Minister of Environment in the Yukon Legislative Assembly tabled a legislative return that outlined the process that they had gone through, the firearms instructors in-house in the Department of Environment where, yes, coincidentally, I was the deputy minister of that department for a time. The in-house instructors in that department tested a range of semi-automatic rifles, and they determined that the SIG Sauer 716 was the firearm that best met the needs of the conservation officers. Last week, I spoke with the former senior conservation officer about the use of those firearms. He said that they had been used in dealing with some grizzly bears at a bison kill, and they were very effective. The training the officers received is extensive.

But also outside of government, there are instructors in the handgun club to which I belong who are actually experts in the use of these semi-automatic firearms so that training could also be provided to civilian owners.

Senator Duncan: Under Bill C-21, as a Yukoner, if I had this training, I couldn’t buy one of these same weapons. Is that what you’re saying?

Mr. Klassen: I’m sorry, the system was failing me. I have a hearing impairment and didn’t hear —

The Chair: I think we have to end. I’m sorry.

That brings us to the end of this panel, colleagues. We’re a little bit overtime.

I extend a sincere thanks to Mr. Hipwell, Mr. Klassen and Ms. Kiejko. We greatly appreciate the contributions and time you took to share your expertise with us today. Congratulations, Ms. Kiejko, and thank you for the work that all three of you do in representing your communities so well. We had many more questions for you today, but thank you so much for the amount of information and advice you could squeeze in in the time available.

We will now continue with our third panel of the meeting. We have the pleasure of welcoming, by video conference, on behalf of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, Mr. Tony Bernardo, Executive Director; Master Warrant Officer (Ret’d) Richard James Ostashower, Instructor, Canadian Firearms Safety Course, former Military and Police Firearms Instructor; and in the room with us today, Richard Edward Terry McCullough, Vice President and General Manager, Savage Arms Inc.

Thank you for joining us today. I invite you to provide your opening remarks, to be followed by questions from members. I remind you that you each have five minutes for your testimony. We begin today with Mr. Bernardo.

Tony Bernardo, Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association: Good afternoon, everybody. The Canadian Shooting Sports Association, CSSA, is one of the largest firearms associations in Canada, with a membership of 37,000 individuals. We have existed in various forms for 66 years. Over 75% of our members own and shoot handguns, and we are one of the regulatory bodies for sport shooting in Canada.

You have been listening to firearms experts. They have told you the problem and have given you the science to reduce gun crime. What I don’t understand is why is the government not listening to them? Why is this government directing its efforts against the law-abiding as opposed to directing them against the criminal misuse of these objects? From all of the evidence you’ve listened to, it seems clear the government is engaged in a witch hunt against millions of lawful Canadian citizens. Yet expert after expert has told you the same things, from Marcell Wilson to the former OPP Commissioner, Chris Lewis.

Bill C-21 will not stop or lessen gun crime, and it’s totally focused on the law-abiding. Every measure we have has shown the current government pogrom against lawful gun owners has failed to curtail violence with firearms; in fact, the problem increases each year. Clearly, this 30-year-old approach doesn’t work.

Please also address as well the devaluation and confiscation of the handguns. This bill does not simply freeze transfer of handguns; it mandates their fiscal destruction. Finally, let me address the confiscation without compensation. Worse, it doesn’t have the courage to confiscate them from me. It takes the cowardly route of confiscating many millions of dollars of private property from grieving spouses left behind when their loved ones perish. It literally robs large sums of money from the purses of widowers and widows at their worst moment of vulnerability and leaves this obscenely immoral issue to another government to deal with.

England didn’t deal with it that way. Australia didn’t either. Even New Zealand had the fidelity to pay compensation to its citizens. Yet this government chooses to ignore the experiences of our Commonwealth partners and British common law. Even this government recognized how wrong this was when they enacted the May 2020 order-in-council confiscation of modern sporting and hunting firearms. They pledged fair-market compensation for the theft of those firearms.

The May 2020 order-in-council guns, you want to take them away from me; the Bill C-21 handguns, you want to take them away from my grieving widow.

As of last year, media outlets have reported that 661 repeat offenders, all arrested for committing other serious crimes, were also charged with 1,514 counts of breaching firearms prohibition orders, yet our Public Safety Minister refuses to lift a finger to fix Canada’s broken firearms prohibition order system to address this serious public safety issue. The CSSA even went so far as to present a system to remedy the firearms prohibition order problem, but no response was received from the federal government.

Thank you for hearing our concerns. We will leave you with my statement given on October 18, 2022, before the House of Commons SECU Committee:

The people who are using guns now aren’t the lawful owners who have registered guns and done the background checks and been trained and safely store them. Those are not the people committing the violent crimes. It’s people who are using smuggled guns from the United States. That’s the vast majority of guns used in crimes, handguns.

There are all kinds of laws in effect now that those people are disobeying, so adding more laws for the lawful owners isn’t going to impact the criminals, who don’t care about laws. They commit them all, including murder.

According to Chris Lewis, the former OPP Commissioner, “ … banning lawfully owned handguns is just not going to solve the problem.”

Please pay the deepest attention to this matter. The confiscation of legally owned property from lawful Canadians who have committed no offence is a slap in the face to the liberties our country has enjoyed. You have the power to change this fraudulent bill. Respectfully, please do so, and thank you for your service to Canada.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Bernardo.

Richard Edward Terry McCullough, Vice President and General Manager, Savage Arms Canada Inc., as an individual: Honourable members of the Senate of Canada, I’d like to thank you for inviting me here today to testify. For the last 16 years, I have been in the role of vice president and general manager at Savage Arms Canada, which currently stands as Canada’s largest rifle company. I’m also in my sixth year as a volunteer board member of the Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development Agency, having served as the board chair in 2020. I am also a former member of the board of the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association.

Savage Arms is an iconic gunmaker founded in 1894 by a gentleman called Arthur Savage in Utica, New York. It is currently headquartered in Westfield, Massachusetts, and the company has manufacturing facilities in Lakefield, Ontario, and Westfield, Massachusetts. Savage Arms began in 1969 as Lakefield Arms in the village of Lakefield, Ontario. The company was, in turn, acquired by Savage Arms in 1995, and today the Canadian division of Savage Arms Canada employs between 80 and 225 persons. We manufacture anywhere between 150 to over 336,000 rim-fire rifles in Lakefield, Ontario.

I want to reiterate some of the comments made by previous witnesses, one being our CSAAA president. Our Canadian firearms industry plays a pivotal role in the Canadian economy, contributing over $8 billion annually to our national GDP and providing employment for over 45,000 individuals. However, we are currently weighed down by a regulatory environment that has become a substantial burden and source of anxiety for our industry.

Some of the previous witnesses brought some great insight. Dr. Christian Leuprecht said that about 90% of the handguns seized in the commission of a crime or that are possessed unlawfully in Canada have been smuggled into Canada by various organized crime groups.

The current government came into power claiming it would engage in evidence-based decision making, and instead, the bill amounts to decision-based evidence seeking. As has been commented on by several of the expert witnesses, including Mr. Bernardo, going after law-abiding Canadian handgun owners will do nothing to control gun crimes that we see in our cities and towns.

It’s certainly an organized crime gang element that really does not care about the laws and certainly cannot abide by cities choosing to ban handguns. Enforce the bans on shooting people. Enforce the bans on illegal handgun ownership.

I understand there’s a large group of folks who have already commented on law enforcement and our Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. One of the comments I did want to read was a national headline. There were several of them. One is “Canadian police chiefs won’t back handgun ban, say it wouldn’t stop flow of guns into the country.” Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer said, “The firearms laws in Canada are actually very good right now. They’re very strict.”

We have really seen several times that experts — as we say, a group of seven academic scholars and doctors have come together and written to the Senate. We all agree.

I’ll finish by saying that attention must be focused on bolstering policing efforts. Really, that’s what we see. Rectify the flaws in our catch-and-release bail system and fortify our border services.

I’d like to thank you very much. I’m ready for any questions you might have.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. McCullough.

Master Warrant Officer (Ret’d) Richard James Ostashower, Instructor, Canadian Firearms Safety Course, former Military and Police Firearms Instructor: Honourable senators, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for hearing me today. There are many things I wish to say.

I have read and researched the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Criminal Code since starting with the Calgary Police Service, CPS, in 1989. I have found little if any correlation to public safety in Bill C-21 as it relates to these critical documents. There are several direct discrepancies — if not outright contradictions — within this bill as it relates to the Charter and the Bill of Rights, especially the enjoyment of property.

I must point out that I have maintained contact with many people of varying ranks and positions within the Calgary Police Service, the RCMP and the military, and I’m regularly kept abreast of many of the circumstances and situations they are labouring under. After speaking with several extremely knowledgeable people — and I’m fortunate to know very many — I have decided against speaking out about how Bill C-21 affects me personally. I shall emphasize instead several points that have multiple effects on our country writ large.

The first point I wish to make is about the negative effect some of the bans have and will continue to have on our society’s safety. I’m referring to the inability of police and military, as well as public agents and armed guards, to purchase for private use and practice firearms that are either similar or, in some instances, identical to their service firearms.

I recently met a young woman in a local shooting range who had purchased a Glock 17 — 9 mm semi-automatic pistol for those who may not be aware of it — and was practising with it. She obviously had well-taught drills and skills, so I asked her what her regimental number was — her police identifier. The young lady told me that she had failed the RCMP recruitment course at Depot Division in Regina because of her difficulty with firing the RCMP-issue firearm. She’d subsequently applied for and been accepted to the Calgary Police Service and was preparing for that. Her devotion to never quitting was evident through her tenacity in learning how to handle what would become her service firearm. She had paid the better part of $1,000 for the gun — although I didn’t ask for specifics — and only she knows how much time and ammunition she has spent practising with it. Obviously, this happened before the handgun freeze, so this is an option not available to others of the same ilk.

I spoke with someone who told me she had learned of a recent gun show in Irma, Alberta, not far from Canadian Armed Forces base Wainwright, where I have spent many years. A military couple at this gun show came up and spoke with her, and she questioned them, of course, about what they do and their views on what’s happening now. Their response was that we, as a military, are hurting. We have 25 rounds of ammunition per annum to practise with and 25 rounds to do a basic weapons proficiency test with. That’s it. Granted, these must be young soldiers and probably not infantry, but they still have to know how to use their firearms.

Having served over 40 years in the Canadian Armed Forces and almost 13 years with the Calgary Police Service as a civilian member of the firearms unit, I know that these are new developments. When I was in the army, especially attached to combat arms units, there was never a shortage of training ammunition. In fact, I spent over 10 years on rifle teams where it was not uncommon for an individual to expend upwards of 1,000 rounds a day, and we would be shooting for five days a week for months and months at a time.

We had shooting teams, as I said, in both organizations, and I was proud to be part of them. I know that after 10 years of being on various shooting teams, I fired well into the millions of rounds of ammunition. Part of being accepted as an expert witness in Alberta in both the provincial court and Court of Queen’s Bench — able to deliver opinion evidence on firearms, ammunition, explosives and other weapons — was my history of shooting and utilizing many different firearms systems.

While I was with the Calgary Police Service, there was a requirement to qualify with one sidearm three times a year — once every four months. Wednesday evenings —

The Chair: Mr. Ostashower, I’m sorry to interrupt. Could you wrap up please in the next 15 seconds or so? Thanks.

MWO Ostashower: Certainly.

They no longer have that. They now qualify twice a year. The big problem is liability. What happens when somebody who is not trained and not allowed to keep their proficiency shoots the wrong person? Everybody loses at that point: the person who’s shot, the person who does the shooting and the family.

For myself, my firearms — and I won’t go into them — are now literally not worth the price of scrap metal because I can’t even do that to them. They are wall hangers in my vault.

Bill C-21 is bad law, and you, honourable senators, have the ability to stop it. I ask of you, with all humbleness and respect, to you bring this into consideration.

Thank you, sir.

The Chair: Thanks very much, Mr. Ostashower.

We’ll now go to questions. We have to finish at six o’clock. We have four minutes for each question and answer, with the 30‑second warning card that you’re familiar with. We go to the deputy chair, Senator Dagenais, for our first question.


Senator Dagenais: I’ll get right to the point. My questions are for Mr. McCullough.

Mr. McCullough, you sell components to repair guns, and we know the new 3D printing firearm manufacturing phenomenon is very worrisome.

Can people who illegally manufacture plastic firearms buy the components you sell and incorporate them into illegal weapons? What kind of control do you have over that?


Mr. McCullough: That’s a very interesting question. Thank you, sir.

With our particular Savage Arms models and designs, I would say no. We do not sell those types of components. If someone was to be nefarious and buy a Savage Arms rifle and start taking it apart and trying to re-engineer, that could be possible. However, we make rifles that are not in the 3-D printing and 3-D metal. But it is the technology, and 3-D printing is available now in metal, as you know, for aerospace parts.


Senator Dagenais: I checked out a website for a Quebec business that sells hunting gear. It sells some of your Savage Arms Canada Inc. products, including various magazines that can hold up to 10 rounds. Bill C-21 would limit the number of rounds in semi-automatic weapons.

Is that limit realistic? Do you think it will make people safer? Is it true that it’s easy for people who want to circumvent the law to modify a magazine? I believe it can be done by unscrewing a single screw. Correct me if I’m wrong.


Mr. McCullough: For rim-fire ammunition, if that’s what you’re referring to, we sell 10-round magazines, yes. If I’m clear, with centre-fire ammunition, you’re not allowed more than five rounds for hunting. It has already been testified that five rounds is the most you can get in a centre-fire magazine today in Canada. Ten-round would only be available in rim-fire, unless you were at a specific range, and then you would be allowed a 10-round magazine. But my understanding on the centre-fire side is that’s the absolute maximum in Canada — 10 rounds.


Senator Dagenais: You’re in charge of an American company that makes and sells guns and gun parts in Canada. I don’t doubt that Bill C-21 will impact your business in many ways, but can you quickly compare American and Canadian gun buyers? I’m sure you have different marketing strategies for each country.


Mr. McCullough: I want to be clear. We are manufacturing firearms in Lakefield, Ontario. We’re not a retailer in that sense. I wouldn’t know the American laws per se to comment on this state.


Senator Dagenais: Don’t you sell guns in the United States? Don’t you do any business with the United States?


Mr. McCullough: Yes. We sell our rim-fire rifles in the U.S., and Savage Arms is also manufacturing firearms in the U.S. We export 94% of all the firearms we make to America and the world. Again, as the other witness testified, to be up on every single country’s firearms laws — I would not profess to know that.

Senator Oh: Thank you, witnesses, for joining us.

My question is around compensation for handgun sales and the purchase ban. The government has offered no compensation for its decision to ban the purchase and sale of handguns. These firearms have been acquired legally and in good faith by licensed firearms owners, and the government decided to arbitrarily ban their sales and purchase. Do you have any estimate as to the monetary impact on restricted firearms owners of these measures? Do you believe that the government should offer compensation for this action, which obviously has a negative impact on the value of these firearms?

Mr. McCullough: On the first, I would defer the question to Mr. Bernardo, who is more able to answer it.

The second question, however, I will answer. Yes, absolutely. I believe, as was already testified, that this is a grab. People have value in their collections and in their estates. I met a gentleman at the Clays for Kids shoot last month, a cancer fundraiser, who had literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in an 1880s handgun collection, for example. The monetary value would be huge. If the government is going to arbitrarily make these guns illegal, I think they have a responsibility to compensate the owners.

Senator Oh: This is similar to people who collect art for their retirement.

The Chair: Mr. Bernardo, did you want to answer the first question?

Mr. Bernardo: Yes, I would. Thank you very much.

Senator Oh, there are a number of large collections. There are a number of small collections. Some of the collections might be only two or three handguns, and those collections would be worth, for example, $2,000 or $3,000. The larger collections, as Mr. McCullough said, could be worth well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The point is that it doesn’t matter if it’s $1 or $100,000. The federal government shouldn’t be taking money from Canadians through confiscation of their legally acquired property. There is no compensation scheme attached to this. I would guesstimate that the overall value of handguns would be into the hundreds of millions of dollars across the entire country.

Senator Oh: Thank you.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you all for being here with us today.

Mr. Bernardo, as we look at witnesses, I try to have a look at your websites and learn what I can about you ahead of time, usually in committee. On CSSA’s, I found some commentary on the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel, which I’ll quote here. It makes sense.

An old saying reminds us, “You don’t need a gun until you NEED a gun.”

The world saw this proved true in the most horrific ways over the weekend. Hamas terrorist atrocities in Israel continue, with no end in sight.

It’s a stark and brutal reminder of why the Americans have the Second Amendment in their Constitution.

There cannot be a right to life without the corollary right to possess the tools required to protect and defend that life.

Israel forgot that historical lesson and, to the world’s horror, is paying the price for it today.

This post did give me a chance to stop in my tracks to pause and reflect, as I believe promoting firearms for personal protection is misguided. Research consistently shows that families living in homes with guns face substantially higher risks of being killed by a gun than those who don’t. It’s statements like this one that make me think we need this handgun freeze because, if people think owning a gun protects them and their family, perhaps they bought into a false and potentially deadly notion.

Is this one of the reasons why the CSSA opposes this bill? Thus far, discussions on this bill have really focused a lot on hunting and sport shooting, not weapons for self-defence.

Mr. Bernardo: Thank you, senator. I think I can address this concern.

First, the article you were reading was a reflection on the U.S. Second Amendment. Second, self-defence is legal in Canada. You are allowed to defend yourself. While in Canada we do not permit the use of firearms for that purpose, in the gravest extreme, it’s happened many times. People have defended themselves thousands and thousands of times in our history, not with just handguns but with rifles and shot guns too, particularly in rural environments where they are defending themselves from animals. I think we can all agree that if you have the right to life, you have the right to defend that life. The Criminal Code of Canada reinforces that. I don’t think there is any question about that.

The particular commentary that we were talking about, which you read on the website, was specifically addressed to the situation in Israel because, at one point in time, Israel had wide open laws. The federal government there went to a centralized storage facility. You had to store your firearms in a central storage facility, which was misguided to begin with. However, they did that. As soon as the Hamas killing started, people realized that they really needed those firearms. The federal government threw the doors of the facility wide open and said, “Come and get your firearms. If you don’t have any, we’ll give you some.” It was more a comment on that very specific situation rather than on Bill C-21. I hope that answers your question.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you.

Senator Plett: Mr. Bernardo, the minister was at our committee a week ago and made some assertions. One of them was about sport shooting clubs. He didn’t know of any that didn’t support the bill. Yet, everyone in front of us has said they certainly do not.

He said something else:

Again, the premise that this affects law-abiding gun owners who pursue sports activities, such as hunting or sport shooting, is a phrase that is often used. We have been explicit and careful to ensure that these measures do not target those people …

Farmers or people in rural communities … sportspersons, people using firearms in northern and Indigenous communities, they are not targeted or affected or included in these measures that we’re trying to have adopted …

In this quote, the minister says that persons engaged in sport shooting, for example, are, in his words, not targeted, or impacted by the bill. To me, it would seem that Bill C-21 is almost virtually exclusively about that. For me, this statement is almost a shocking level of untruth.

Mr. Bernardo, would you agree that sports persons, fire clubs and hunters are not impacted by this bill? Do you know how many individuals in shooting sports in Canada are impacted by Bill C-21?

Mr. Bernardo: Thank you, Senator Plett.

I totally agree with you. The minister’s remarks were — let’s be charitable — somewhat less than truthful because, frankly, Bill C-21 only affects the law-abiding. It has no affect whatsoever on the criminal use of firearms. It is strictly about the law-abiding. Right now, approximately 1.2 million handguns are owned by approximately 400,000 Canadians. Again, I’m paraphrasing these numbers off the top of my head. So yes, it affects only the law-abiding. There is not a single thing in C-21 that affects the criminal use of firearms. Not a thing.

Senator Plett: You’re saying that about 400,000 people would be negatively impacted by this bill? That is, 400,000 law-abiding citizens would be negatively impacted by this bill?

Mr. Bernardo: That is correct, senator, as well as their families, because you have to understand that, for a lot of people, these collections are investments towards, for example, their retirement years, and when they can no longer sell them, the value of that investment plummets to absolutely zero. This is the federal government literally stealing the money out of the bank accounts of families left behind. It is a heinous act, and it should be changed.

Senator Plett: Thank you very much, Mr. Bernardo.

Mr. Bernardo: Thank you, sir.

Senator Cardozo: Thank you to our witnesses for being here.

Just on the question of guns that are handed down from generation to generation, Mr. McCullough, I will ask you: What would be the range of value of those guns today?

Mr. McCullough: Mr. Bernardo mentioned it, but I’ll give you an example. You can buy an Italian Perazzi shotgun that ranges from €50,000 to — I think the top of the line is around €250,000 — maybe €200,000. You can imagine the value of that one shotgun as well as other products such as handguns and things like that. The value can be as much as a Rolex watch, for example. You can buy a very good serviceable tool for $60, or you can buy one for $250,000.

Senator Cardozo: Does an antique, which may be in the family for two or three generations, increase in price?

Mr. McCullough: It all depends not so much on the age but on the specific model of the firearm. Does it have provenance? Is it workable? Is it collectible? Tony certainly knows a lot more about this on the handgun side than me. It’s like any other question of value. It’s not necessarily age that makes it valuable.

Senator Cardozo: My other question is with regard to an issue of culture, about which I asked a previous witness today. An earlier witness talked about the fact that gun clubs and so forth provide a certain culture for people. You get together and get to know each other. We’re all members of various kinds of groups in our lives, and certainly some people choose to be involved in a gun club, for example, where one of the things they do is recreational shooting. On the other side, we have heard from women’s groups who are really concerned about the lives of people who are affected by intimate partner violence. They are not seeing it as a downtown-Toronto versus farm-in-Alberta kind of dichotomy, but rather that women are killed by their male partners in homes across the country. Sometimes in rural areas, there is less support for women to escape the home and so forth. Their point of view is, “It’s our lives versus somebody else’s hobby.” That’s one of the points that was made to us. Would any of you gentlemen care to comment on that cultural aspect of this whole issue?

MWO Ostashower: I have had a lot of experience, especially with the police and the shooting community in general, over probably a period of sixty some odd years. I personally know and shoot with several women and young girls, some as young as mid-teens, who enjoy the sport for what it is. I briefly worked in the domestic violence unit in the Calgary Police Service and have no misapprehensions about what you are referring to or what these other witnesses referred to about a genuine fear of not being able to escape or having that type of scenario thrust upon them.

The overarching majority of firearms owners know and respect the rules for safe storage. Those rules were written initially in Bill C-68, which came into effect in 1995, to provide a calming-down period. The firearms are locked up in a domestic or urban situation. First of all, the firearms are locked up, so that has to be overcome by disengagement —

Senator Cardozo: Do you mind if I interrupt?

The Chair: I shall have to interrupt, I’m afraid, because we’re about a minute over.

Senator Cardozo: I had another tiny question.

The Chair: Apologies.


Senator Boisvenu: Thank you to our witnesses. My question is for Mr. Bernardo. We know that Bill C-68, which was passed in 1995, was a financial fiasco for the government of the day. According to some, we spent between $2 billion and $3 billion on a practically useless registry. Now, the government is about to spend that much again if we account for weapons that were declared illegal in 2020 and the handguns the government will eventually have to buy back.

How will the government hunt down gun owners — and a hunt is exactly what it’ll be — to round up all those now-illegal weapons? Based on past experience and Bill C-68, which was a failure, and all the totally useless information about firearms, how is the government going to round up all those weapons if hunters don’t obey the law?

What a bill like this needs is for honest owners to obey it. If they don’t obey it, how will the government round up all the weapons it made illegal?


The Chair: Senator Boisvenu, could you restate your question?


Senator Boisvenu: Basically, I was saying that Bill C-68, which led the government to spend somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion to keep track of gun owners, is now widely recognized as a failure both financially and in terms of the relationship with hunters. Hunters didn’t update their info, rendering the registry useless.

Now, according to some, the government is planning to invest $750 million. However, if we account for all the weapons that are now illegal, including handguns and the 1,500 semi-automatic weapons, that is likely to end up being more like $2 billion.

Any buy-back program relies on hunter compliance because hunters will have to voluntarily surrender their now-illegal weapons, but it’s clear that hunters and honest gun owners are not participating in the program.

How will the government find these supposedly illegal hunters who own these weapons now and get those guns back when there is no valid record of them? How is the government going to get all those weapons back if hunters and owners don’t participate in the program?


MWO Ostashower: Senator, the short answer to that is that many of the firearms described in Bill C-21 are, in fact, already restricted. Of course, all the handguns are and many of the long guns, although by no means all. Theoretically, the RCMP is fully aware of which restricted handguns or long guns are where. It’s simply a matter of looking it up, very much as one would look something up in an automobile registry. For those firearms that are not restricted, however, there is no realistic method of finding out where they are.


Senator Boisvenu: Bill C-68 said the registry had to keep that info up to date, but is the RCMP’s info about the people who’ve owned these weapons for 20 or 30 years up to date?


MWO Ostashower: No. As a matter of fact, when I was with the firearms unit, one of the last conversations I had in 2000 with my counterpart at the firearms registry service in Ottawa, at the RCMP, was his estimation that as much as 50% of the information they had on firearms was incorrect, either by locale, name, serial number, make, model, number of shots, anything along those lines.

He further volunteered that he was under the impression that, at that time, there were already 75,000 AR-15s in Canada manufactured by Colt and others, but mostly by Colt, that had been brought in before there was a requirement for them to be registered. Therefore, they fit into the same category of previously unregistered and unregulated with respect to those firearms. Very few people turned them in or came forward and said, “Yeah, I have one. What do you want me to do with it?”

Senator Dasko: Thank you to the witnesses for being here today.

My question is mainly for Mr. Bernardo. You spoke about your opposition to the handgun restrictions, but I was looking at a very significant survey of Canadian gun owners conducted by Environics this year. They have reported that 65% of gun owners in Canada favour banning assault-style firearms, 63% favour restrictions on the sale, purchase or transfer of handguns, and similar percentages support a number of other aspects of the bill or restrictions and measures that are being taken. Mr. Bernardo, is it possible that your organization, and maybe some of the other firearms organizations that we have heard from, represent a minority of gun owners in Canada? The majority support some of these crucial and very reasonable measures in the bill.

Mr. Bernardo: Thank you, senator. I appreciate the question.

First of all, we’re not talking about lifting restrictions. Handguns are extremely restricted now in Canada. As a matter of fact, you have to have a permit to do absolutely anything with a handgun. You can’t fire them, you can’t own them, and you can’t do anything without the RCMP issuing a permit for you to do that. We’re not talking about that. We’re talking about the ban of handguns and the ban on the transfer of handguns, which, of course, can only be transferred to somebody who is already allowed to own them. You’re dealing with transferring a handgun from one handgun owner to another handgun owner or from a store to a handgun owner, all of which are conducted within the purview of the RCMP regulations. We’re not asking for those regulations to be lifted or changed; we’re asking them not to be added to by a draconian bill.

Senator Dasko: Thank you for that, but I’m just reporting that most gun owners in Canada favour these kinds of restrictions, including the restrictions on the sale, purchase and transfer of handguns. That is what this research is showing. It is also showing support for the buy-back program and other aspects of federal involvement. I just wanted to make that point because we have heard from you and others about your opposition to the bill and what the bill says about handguns and assault-style weapons, but Canadian gun owners, as a whole, seem to support this. I’m suggesting that perhaps the members of the organizations have come here to represent their members, but they don’t represent gun owners as a whole in Canada. That’s what I’m suggesting to you. I just wondered if you might agree with that.

Mr. Bernardo: I certainly would understand where that sentiment comes from. Certainly, handgun owners are in a minority amongst the overall community of firearms owners, but I would also remind you that democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for lunch. This really relates to that. We have people who have committed no crime, and they have jumped through every hoop the government has laid before them, and now we’re looking at punishing them because they are in a minority, where the object of government — at least democratic government — is to protect minorities from intrusion.

Senator Dasko: Thank you.

Senator Kutcher: Thank you to the witnesses for being with us today.

My question is for Mr. Ostashower. A previous witness talked about an interest of target shooting organizations becoming more involved in suicide prevention. My question is about your work as a police firearms instructor. I apologize that I couldn’t find Canadian data on this easily. If someone else knows, please inform us. The American data I found from Blue H.E.L.P. is that police officers have a much higher risk of suicide than any other profession. They have more than triple that of officers who are fatally injured in the line of duty, and 54% of police officers are more likely to die by suicide than the general population. In 2019, the Police Executive Research Forum in the U.S. put together a whole host of information about suicide and police officers. As a police firearms instructor, when you are doing your firearms instructing of police officers, do you discuss the issues of suicide prevention, suicide and gun use in suicide? Is that part of the course you teach? Are you aware of any specific Canadian guidelines that the Calgary Police Force or any other police force follows along that line when you instruct officers in firearms?

MWO Ostashower: Thank you, senator.

The short answer is “no.” Bear in mind that I left the Calgary Police Service in 2002 and continued on with other things, so any information I would have with respect to what’s currently being taught would just be hearsay. As I said earlier, I’m still well connected with the RCMP, firearms people and the Calgary police firearms unit — their firearms training unit, in particular. When I was there, we didn’t have suicide prevention courses per se for policemen. Certainly among the civilian members, there was none of that. I believe some action was taken later on, service-wide, for sworn members and non-sworn members to become more aware of some of the signs of potential suicide, as well as actions that could be taken.

With respect to American information, I can’t tell you. I can tell you that as a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, there are certainly orders of magnitudes more suicides there than there had been pre-1990, for example. Suicides among the police have always been a “not unusual” as opposed to a “common” event. I’ve known many people over the years who have had the proverbial .38-calibre heart attack. There’s not a lot that can be said about that.

The Chair: Thank you.

We are just a little bit over time, so this does bring us to the end of our panel. On behalf of the committee, thank you, Mr. Ostashower, Mr. McCullough and Mr. Bernardo, for being here and sharing your expertise and experiences with us. You know there’s been a great deal of interest in what you’ve shared with us today. It has been very helpful and clearly appreciated by committee members around the room, so thank you very much.

Colleagues, we now have the pleasure of welcoming, by video conference, from the Assembly of First Nations, Regional Chief Terry Teegee, British Columbia, Assembly of First Nations; and Julie McGregor, Legal Counsel, Assembly of First Nations.

Thanks for joining us today. I invite you to provide your opening remarks, which will be followed by questions from our members.

Terry Teegee, Regional Chief, British Columbia, Assembly of First Nations: First of all, I want to acknowledge the territory I’m calling from, the Lheidli T’enneh, Dakelh people north of Prince George.

Good evening. I am the AFN Regional Chief of British Columbia, and I am one of the portfolio holders for justice and policing, along with my colleague, Regional Chief Ghislain Picard from Quebec. I’m grateful for this invitation to address you today regarding Bill C-21.

I appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security a year ago, last November, speaking on concerns that First Nations expressed about the first version of this legislation, which was widely criticized by many First Nations across Canada. The federal government has never provided evidence of deep consultation with First Nations on the contents of Bill C-21, nor was consent obtained with respect to any potential effects the bill might have had on constitutionally protected rights, inherent rights, treaty rights and section 35 rights.

As a First-Nations-elected leader and national representative who knows and understands the serious issues facing our communities, I have to say I’m deeply concerned about Bill C-21 proceeding without First Nations consultation and input into the new amendments to this legislation.

Topic one, resolution 39, 2022, opposition to Bill C-21. Last December, First Nations in assembly at the special chiefs assembly passed emergency resolution 39, 2022, in opposition to Bill C-21, federal gun-control legislation. Through this resolution, First Nations in assembly call on the Government of Canada to conduct proper and adequate consultation with First Nations as required under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act prior to enacting any legislation impacting First Nations’ inherent, constitutionally and protected treaty rights to sustenance hunting and harvesting.

First Nations in assembly also advocate to amend to Bill C-21, including amending the red flag and yellow flag provisions to ensure that First Nations’ inherent, constitutional and treaty rights are respected and clarify how the red flag and yellow flag provisions will apply to First Nations and First Nations citizens; . create an oversight mechanism to ensure that the Chief Firearms Officer consults with First Nations to ensure that orders do not restrict First Nations’ access to firearms commonly used in sustenance hunting; ensure additional provisions to support First Nations police services and ensure that the resources they require to maintain law and order within their jurisdictions is provided, specifically in relation to root causes of gangs and gun violence; and ensure additional provisions be implemented to support First Nations’ prevention programs for youth in relation to gang violence and illegal guns, as well as provincial programs targeting gender-based violence and violence against First Nations women, girls and gender-diverse peoples.

Topic two, discretion of the firearms officer. This current version of Bill C-21 continues to grant the Chief Firearms Officer wide discretion over First Nations peoples’ use and ownership of firearms used in the practice section 35 rights to hunt. This becomes even more crucial for First Nations families who rely upon the harvesting of wild meat for sustenance purposes. First Nations peoples are already over-regulated when it comes to the practice of section 35 harvesting rights. This will only add to those constraints. We are, therefore again calling for the amendment of Bill C-21 to include the creation of an oversight mechanism to ensure that the Chief Firearms Officer consults with First Nations to ensure that orders do not restrict First Nations’ access to firearms used in sustenance hunting and practice of section 35 rights.

Topic three, definition of “prohibited firearms.” Last week, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, Dr. Ivan Zinger released his annual report, which found that 32% of all federal inmates in Canada and 50% of women are Indigenous compared to 25% in 2013. The report describes the country’s prison system as disturbingly and unconscionably indigenized, with many lingering hallmarks of colonialism that contribute to the ongoing marginalization, criminalization and over-imprisonment of Indigenous peoples in Canada. The over-policing and criminalization of First Nations peoples are national disgraces, according to the government’s own watchdog.

We cannot afford to enact more laws that have the potential to criminalize First Nations for practising their culture and feeding their families. I am not convinced that this version of Bill C-21 has completely remedied the overarch with respect to hunting rifles. It is unclear what effect the technical definition of “prohibited firearm” will have on future generations of First Nations hunters. Perhaps the question could have been clarified during consultations and engagement with First Nations, but that has never occurred; rather what we have heard anecdotally is that hunting associations and outfitters were consulted about this version of the legislation more than First Nations. Therefore, AFN recommends that Bill C-21 be withdrawn until such time that First Nations have been fully consulted on the effects of the technical definition of “prohibited firearm.”

Fourth, I would like to address the addition of clause 72.1, the non-derogation clause. Hunting is an integral part of First Nations culture. It is a part of First Nations’ relationship to the land and provides a direct connection to the languages, cultures and teachings of our ancestors. While inclusion of the non‑derogation clause in clause 72.1 is a welcome addition, the wording is likely to be neutral in effect. Given the broad nature of the clause, it is unlikely to be interpreted as preventing provisions in the bill from negatively impacting or infringing section 35 rights. In practice, such a broadly worded non‑derogation clause could simply act as a reminder that section 35 rights exist.

The wording for clause 72.1 does not meet the requirements of the constitutional duties in Sparrow or Haida because it only requires that the bill be construed as upholding section 35 rights. There is no requirement for a duty under the bill to comply with the test in Sparrow or minimal impairment or justification for proven rights or the test under Haida to accommodate impacts of asserted rights. Also, there is no mention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or the principle of free, prior and informed consent anywhere in the bill. Therefore, the AFN recommends that clause 72.1(1) be amended to comply with the relevant case law with respect to section 35 rights and the principle of free, prior and informed consent under the UNDRIP Act to be added.

I thank you for your time. Thank you, mahsi’choo.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Teegee.

We will now proceed to questions. We will finish at 7 p.m., but we might run a little bit over. As with the last panel, each question, including the answer, is limited to four minutes. I will hold up a card to indicate when 30 seconds remain. I offer the first question to the deputy chair.


Senator Dagenais: My question is for Mr. Teegee. Mr. Teegee, Bill C-21 ostensibly protects women who are victims of family violence at the hands of partners who have guns in the home.

In cities, we hear about this kind of thing when someone is murdered, but there must be many other cases of intimate partner violence that don’t make headlines. Because your constitutional right to own weapons is recognized and protected, these Indigenous women won’t be better protected once the bill is passed. What kind of danger do you think they’re in? What can they do? What kind of intervention can you provide if there’s violence involving a firearm?


Mr. Teegee: The issue of violence in First Nations communities and against First Nations women and gender-diverse peoples can’t be understated in terms of what can be done. I think one of the issues is providing programs within First Nations communities to understand the root causes of violence and, further to that, in terms of policing, providing enough resources for our First Nations policing in our communities. Right now, we’re in the midst of developing legislation to go from program funding to essential services funding. However, the issue of jurisdiction continues to come up. Further to that is jurisdiction over policing within our First Nations communities. First of all, we need more resources toward the prevention of violence, understanding violence and how that looks in First Nations communities and adopting policies within our First Nations laws, if you will. We need more resources for our First Nations policing within our communities to allow our policing to have enough resources to properly police. Right now, we don’t have enough policing. We don’t have enough resources funding. Many police forces are utilizing equipment that is outdated, and more often than not, most of our police forces have been going to other jurisdictions, such as municipal and provincial police, because we can’t compete. The sooner we get legislation that enacts really essential services funding and more resources, the sooner that can be prevented.


Senator Dagenais: Thank you, Mr. Teegee. If people have the right to bear arms for hunting, do you think it would be a good idea for the law to distinguish between members of your community who live on reserve and those who live in urban centres? Just between you and me, there aren’t a lot of bears and deer in big cities.


Mr. Teegee: I think that’s a blanket disparaging comment because many First Nations that live in urban areas also go back to their territories — or go within their territory — and go hunting. They go sustenance hunting. During COVID, many of our people, whether they were urban or back home, had to go out and fish and hunt in rural areas, and they still do. There are many that live off reserve, and we get that. There are many reasons for that. There is not enough housing or not enough job opportunities back home, so they live in urban centres so they can have a job and can have a home. It is not their fault in terms of why they live in urban areas. But whether we live off reserve or on reserve, we still have protected rights under section 35 to hunt and sustain our own diets, our own way of living and our own culture and practices and to do exactly what we’ve done since time immemorial.

Senator Plett: Thank you, Chief Teegee, for being here.

I agree that certainly in 2023, people can get into a truck and go out to get the moose. They don’t need to wait for the moose to come to them, so I fully support your last comments.

Chief, last year, when the government introduced its amendments to add a range of hunting rifles to the list of prohibited firearms, the chiefs’ assembly of the Assembly of First Nations, or AFN, passed a resolution for these amendments to be withdrawn, which I think you already referred to. While the government backed down on the legislation itself, it has now promised to work through its internal regulatory process. The minister told our committee on October 23 that he would work through the regulatory process to, “ … quickly put into place a regulatory framework that we think will answer many of those questions and concerns — ” — that the anti-gun groups have raised. Again, it would not be by legislation but by regulation.

The PolySeSouvient group was in here as well, and they told our committee on November 1 that they are looking for:

… prohibiting all centerfire, semi-automatic firearms designated to accept magazines with more than five rounds, not only illusive future ones, and to limit magazine capacity to five rounds for all guns …

By “all guns,” I would imagine they mean not just semi-automatic rifles but also all other rifles, including bolt action rifles. They say that they have been addressed by the minister and that he supports their objectives.

Chief, how concerned are you about this regulatory process that will likely be even less transparent than the legislative process has been? Are you concerned that hunters, including First Nations hunters, will again be targeted?

Mr. Teegee: That’s yet to be seen, especially in terms of this bill. We went through this a year ago in terms of consultation. There definitely has to be more discussions with our First Nations. I really don’t want to get into the specifics of the technicalities of what is allowed, whether it has five bullets versus semi-automatic. I think the point I’m trying to make is that there needs to be more consultation with our First Nations, with our hunters and with our people who rely on hunting and also sustenance hunting, more specifically. Further to that, with regard to our constitutionally protected rights, whether that be inherent section 35 rights or treaty rights, we deserve more, seeing that many First Nations do rely on hunting as part of their livelihood.

Senator Plett: How much consultation did the government do with you not after they introduced the bill but prior to introducing the bill? What consultation was there prior to them introducing this bill?

Mr. Teegee: Minimal or none at best. I would say not enough, certainly. This is why we passed a resolution last December.

Senator Plett: Thank you. So there was no consultation, and now they are saying they will do things through regulation. I would be very concerned if I were in your position, chief. Thank you very much for your answer.


Senator Boisvenu: Thank you very much, Chief Teegee. I really appreciate your very detailed memory. It’s certainly much more detailed than the bill before us.

Were your communities particularly affected by the government’s 2020 decision to prohibit some 1,500 models?


Mr. Teegee: Right now, I’m unaware of what models were affected by that list, so I don’t know. Julie, do you have any comment on that?


Senator Boisvenu: You raised a number of interesting points, including the red flag, yellow flag and orange flag definitions. You also talked about the definition of assault weapons, the role of the Chief Firearms Officer and the regulations.

I’d like to follow up on Senator Plett’s question. Based on your experience with the current minister’s lack of consultation, are you concerned about the next steps and the government adopting regulations following more or less consultation with your communities?


Mr. Teegee: Yes, I am concerned. I made that statement in my opening remarks about how we haven’t been adequately consulted in terms of protecting those inherent rights that we have never given up. Certainly, in this case, there needs to be more consultation in the development of this legislation. In the end, nothing has changed since a year ago, last November when I presented. Certainly, the amendments don’t go far enough, and we are concerned about the protection of the hunting rights of our First Nations peoples.


Senator Boisvenu: If I understand correctly, your position today is this: As long as the very unclear parts of the bill — those relating to the red flag, the Chief Firearms Officer’s role and the definition of assault weapons — are not clearly defined, you feel this bill should not be passed.


Mr. Teegee: No, I don’t think you should, until there is adequate consultation. I think the amendments that were included for First Nations and the four concerns I raised in this presentation should be included.


Senator Boisvenu: If it’s passed without consultation, will you take the matter to court based on the law’s impact on your communities?


Mr. Teegee: Not necessarily myself, but perhaps there are many First Nations hunters that would take it to court as perhaps a class action infringement of their rights. We have seen infringement time and again with this colonial system of governance. I wouldn’t doubt that there would be a challenge to this legislation.

Senator Boisvenu: Thank you, chief.

Senator Yussuff: Thank you, Chief Teegee and Ms. McGregor, for being here.

I heard your opening statement. The bill, as you’re aware, has been amended to include section 35, recognizing First Nation rights, in the legislation. You raised some concerns about how this might be interpreted given some legal precedent, including Sparrow and Haida and, more importantly, how the firearms officer might give meaning. It is not unusual for firearm officers to have different interpretations of the law. I respect the point that you are making that there would need to be some clear recognition in regard to how section 35 will apply and, more importantly, how firearms officers will apply this law. Before the government was to enact regulation, it would be prudent for the government to understand the importance of this section 35 in the legislation and to ensure that firearms officers take this into consideration in how they apply the legislation. The inclusion of section 35 is a significant development given that the government did not include it originally in the drafting of Bill C-21. Maybe you can comment on the importance of this section. I recognize you need further consultation by the government in regard to how this legislation will be implemented.

Mr. Teegee: Section 35 rights are protected rights by the government in terms of our ability to hunt and sustain our lives in terms of sustenance hunting, and also protected rights that we have never given up. Whether it’s the Sparrow decision or the Haida decision, there needs to be better recognition of those rights, especially in regard to how the federal government conducts itself. That may infringe upon those rights. This is the crux of the issue. If it’s not clearly defined or can be interpreted in different ways, then those rights will be infringed upon. Our concern is more broadly in terms of the interpretation of those rights. More often than not, whether it was Sparrow, the right to fish; or Haida, the transferring of forestry rights to different companies, those need to be consulted because it has an adverse effect on our First Nations. If this is not clearly defined, it will have an adverse effect on our ability to hunt in the ways we are all used to. I don’t know how to clearly define it, but nevertheless it could have an adverse effect on our peoples if this bill does go through.

Senator Yussuff: I’ll repeat one of the questions you were asked. Violence against women, not only in First Nation communities, is an issue we all have to take seriously. While the red flag laws currently are available to police forces, this just gives another venue to those who might see it necessary to try to protect someone from harm. I think we all would agree that any measures that could protect women from harm is a good thing, but I do recognize the point that you’re making. We need to make sure it’s not applied in an uneven fashion that is prejudicial to the interests of communities who have been marginalized in the history of this country. Do you see any value in the context of red flag laws playing a role in trying to prevent harm against women in communities whether that is a First Nation community or other communities across this country?

Mr. Teegee: Anything to prevent violence against women and children and gender-diverse peoples is a good thing. In this case, however, there needs to be clarity on both the red flag and the yellow flag provisions and how those will affect First Nations peoples. It’s not understood in this case. That’s really the issue that we’re trying to understand. How would this affect First Nations that are really trying to sustain themselves? Violence is an issue as well that needs to be looked at in terms of this case or many other cases in terms of violence in Indigenous communities.

Senator Yussuff: Thank you.

Senator Dasko: Thank you, chief and your colleague, for being here today.

My question was going to be about the red flag. Maybe I’ll approach it differently from my colleague who just raised the point with you. I’ll paraphrase what Professor Pam Palmater said when she was here testifying last week. I’ll approach it by offering what she said and then just perhaps by asking you about your response to it. She is a scholar at Toronto Metropolitan University. She said that Indigenous peoples have collective hunting rights but don’t need handguns or assault weapons. She then went on to say, “And we have to balance these with safety and with the concerns and needs of children and women. There is no absolute right.” That’s how she ended her comments. I think I paraphrased that accurately. How would you respond to her comments?

Mr. Teegee: Professor Palmater has a good background in terms of violence, especially in urban areas. Assault rifles and other forms of handguns are a concern with gang violence. These are issues that need to be addressed. I’m concerned about how prohibiting some of those weapons can this get caught up in terms of infringing upon First Nations’ rights to hunt. Whether it’s handguns or assault-type rifles, I don’t know how many First Nations utilize those for hunting, but the more traditional usage is the long rifle. At least in my case, long rifles are utilized to take down big ungulates. I’m not sure about other types of guns. I don’t know in terms of that, but I certainly know that some of the weapons you described in terms of handguns and assault rifles are used a lot in terms of gang violence, which is of great concern. We have seen increased gang violence within First Nations and our communities back home, especially as we have more prevalent sales of drugs, for example, and the current opioid crisis many people are experiencing in terms of trying to deal with the trafficking of drugs. In the end, I think the way we categorize weapons has to also be addressed, I suppose, and I think that comes with more consultation with First Nations and our First Nations communities.

Senator Dasko: Thank you.

Julie McGregor, Legal Counsel, Assembly of First Nations: Can I supplement that answer?

Senator Dasko: Yes, please.

Ms. McGregor: It is a balance between the safety and well-being of Indigenous women, children and families with the right to practise our culture. There are things that the government can be doing on the side of violence prevention, as Chief Teegee mentioned. One significant part of that is the implementation of the 231 Calls for Justice Action from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. I guess what we’re getting at, at the heart of this, is that First Nations people are the only ones who are here being asked questions in terms of choosing the right to their culture, which is a constitutionally protected right, and the human right of the safety of their women, children and families. If you were to ask First Nations people whether they want safety or the right to practise their culture, they will say both because both are integrally important to our communities. So the balance is there. There has to be a balance. When looking at the initial intention of this bill, it was to prohibit handguns, and then it slowly got snowballed into prohibiting guns that could be used for hunting. As we say, there needs to be some sort of a balance drawn between them. We can’t have communities not being able to practise their traditional rights because they are constitutional rights. That’s the thing. We’re the only group here — Indigenous people are the only ones who have the constitutional right versus the safety of communities. There is a lot more that the government could be doing in terms of violence against Indigenous women.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. McGregor. That’s very helpful.

Senator M. Deacon: I think I’m near the end, and parts of my questions have been asked regarding red flags, but Julie, there were a couple of times when questions were being asked and I think you had some things you wanted to contribute and respond to. What I’m actually going to ask at this moment is, based on what we heard in testimony this afternoon, is there anything you would like to add to what Chief Teegee has said or anything that you think we need to know about this bill that helps make it better?

Ms. McGregor: Just going back to your opening remark about red flags or any sort of laws associated with gun prohibitions, it’s never the law on the face of it. It’s how they are implemented and how they are regulated. The wide discretion provided to law enforcement has traditionally not been helpful to First Nations, and Regional Chief Teegee spoke to the over-representation issue. First Nations people are often over-policed or over-regulated when it comes to natural resources as well. While red and yellow flag laws are important and on the face of them valid, their applicability within First Nations communities always seems to be a problem, and that’s because of systemic issues with racism and how the lives of First Nations people are overly regulated and monitored.

I do want to touch on a few other things, if I may. First, speaking to the non‑derogation clause, as the regional chief said, it is quite welcome that we have a non‑derogation clause, and it wasn’t there in the original version of the bill, but it is very broadly worded. If you look at constitutional law and First Nations rights under the Constitution, the onus is on the First Nation to prove that their right exists, and then the onus shifts to the Crown to prove that there is infringement and that there is minimal impairment of that infringement. Nevertheless, it starts with the First Nation having to prove their rights. That’s been so in all case law throughout Canada where First Nations have to take the time, money and effort, taking money away from other much-needed issues to fight in the courts, often for decades, to prove that they have a right. The non‑derogation clause doesn’t fix that problem.

Another issue with it is that it can be sidelined so easily. We can say, well, we recognize there is a section 35 right, but nevertheless, we’re going to do this. Part of the constitutional law test for proving a right, so that the court will look at whether a right is infringed, is whether the First Nations have been consulted adequately. That’s speaking to Sparrow and Haida, as Regional Chief Teegee said.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you.

Senator Plett: I was going to ask with regard to the red flag, but I think we have taken care of that, so I will ask a different question.

Chief, I think you fairly clearly said that you were not consulted at all before the bill was introduced, and as has already been mentioned, under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, government ministers have often repeated the commitment, “Nothing about us without us.” Chief, what does that pledge mean if, on a bill like this, there are no consultations before the bill is introduced?

Mr. Teegee: Well, clearly that doesn’t meet the standard that we want to adopt, especially with legislation that may have very adverse effects on our Indigenous peoples. If we look at the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it has been law here in British Columbia for four years, and two years federally, so free, prior and informed consent means that there would be proper consultation with First Nations, and I would say even deeper consultation if it has any adverse effects on Indigenous peoples, especially with regard to our inherent rights. There was very minimal consultation before this bill came to us as First Nations, and further to that, without proper consultation, I would say it is actually the reverse of the intent of UNDRIP in terms of consultation and free, prior and informed consent and many articles that speak to our ability to hunt, fish and sustain our lives from the lands.

Senator Plett: I would say that I certainly agree with that.

Senator Boisvenu asked you whether you would challenge this in court. You said no, but possibly a number of individual hunters would do so. Why would you as an organization, and other Indigenous organizations, not challenge this in court? To me, it would be pretty close to breaking the law on the part of the federal government if they invoke a bill such as this without free, prior and informed consent.

Mr. Teegee: Well, first of all, the organization itself isn’t a rights holder, so further to that, it would take a First Nations community and/or individuals to uphold their rights. Second, we would probably intervene if there were a case, similar to some of the issues that we have perhaps intervened in before, just to make sure that some of the provisions that were already recognized are being upheld, such as Bill C-15, UNDRIP. I think that’s not to say that we wouldn’t get involved. Certainly, we would help and support our First Nations if they saw it necessary to go to court on any matter, whether it’s this issue or, as we have seen before, child welfare or any natural resources rights.

Senator Plett: Thank you very much, chief, for your time.

Senator Yussuff: Thank you, chief.

It goes without saying that we fundamentally recognize your nation’s right, but equally, others across the country, the fundamental right to go to court at any time to seek the legal interpretation of the courts with regard to protecting your rights. I don’t think that’s up for discussion here.

More importantly, on the point of what the bill does in terms of dealing with guns, this is essentially a handgun ban. There is no long-gun ban in this bill. I just want to get you to acknowledge that. It’s quite possible the government may bring in regulation in regard to other guns they may seek to restrict, but that is not currently in Bill C-21.

Mr. Teegee: All I can say is that what we’re trying to prevent here is unintended consequences of infringement of First Nations constitutionally protected rights, especially the right to hunt, fish and sustain our livelihood.

Senator Yussuff: Thank you.


Senator Dagenais: My question is for Mr. Teegee.

Mr. Teegee, if you want to do something to keep Indigenous women safe, I think we have a good opportunity to do that here. Can you suggest amendments to Bill C-21 to better protect the women in your communities from violent partners who have weapons in the home?


Mr. Teegee: Well, yes. Certainly, I think this is why we need more consultation, to make this legislation better for the protection of Indigenous women, children and gender-diverse peoples. I think there is definitely always room for improvement in this legislation, I suppose you could say, but I think overall, the way it’s structured and the way everything was executed is poor at best, I would say, because this could have been done better in terms of those protections.

I see Julie would like to say something. Julie, do you want to add to that?

Ms. McGregor: Regional Chief, I was just agreeing with you that greater consultation and engagement with First Nations would have been ideal in terms of looking at how violence happens in our communities. There is a wide range of it across the country. There are guns and gangs violence in certain areas, and in others, it’s more of a domestic issue. The violence that is perpetrated against Indigenous women has so many root causes, as we have said before. To try to encapsulate all of that in this one bill, Bill C-21, I think would be difficult. There are practical things that could be woven into the legislation, and if the principles of UNDRIP and even just the duty to consult were fulfilled in these circumstances, we could have woven those interests into the legislation. We did not have that opportunity.


Senator Boisvenu: Again, I want to thank our guests. My question and comment are for Chief Teegee.

I too am from a remote part of northern Quebec. In those communities, hunting is more than a sport; it’s a way of life. My grandparents lived up there years ago, and, for them, hunting was about survival. That was the case for Indigenous individuals as well as for White settlers. In northern Abitibi, hunting was part of a subsistence lifestyle.

Here’s my problem with the bill. It will give federal bureaucrats in Ottawa a mandate to draft regulations that will apply to the lifestyles of people living in remote regions. I have major reservations about the minister’s and the department’s interest in consulting your communities in such a way as to ensure that these regulations respect your traditions and your rights.

Do you share those concerns?


Mr. Teegee: Certainly I’m worried, as I stated in my opening comments.

Also, I think you bring up a good point in terms of understanding culture, whether you are in an urban centre or from my community. I’m from Takla Nation, and certainly, many of our people utilize long guns for hunting, and not just hunting but also trapping and other uses that really supplement our economy, if you will.

I think the unintended consequences of those regulations or this law to overstep those boundaries and infringe upon our constitutionally protected rights is always a concern. That’s what we’re bringing up here. That is the crux of this issue. We have examples of developing and co-developing legislation, such as Bill C-91 on languages, Bill C-92 on child welfare, even Bill C-15 on UNDRIP, wherein there was a lot more and deeper consultation and perhaps you could even say co-development on that list of legislation with our Indigenous peoples, which made it a lot better.

Senator Boisvenu: Thank you, chief.

The Chair: Colleagues, this brings us to the end of this panel.

On behalf of this committee, I want to thank you, Regional Chief Teegee and Ms. McGregor, for joining us tonight and sharing your extensive commentary on Bill C-21. It’s greatly appreciated. It was very helpful. Thank you, at the same time, for the work that you do for your constituents and constituencies. I’m sure it is appreciated. We are impressed and enormously grateful to you for joining us this evening and sharing with us.

Continuing with our final panel this evening to examine Bill C-21, we have the great pleasure of welcoming, on behalf of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, President Natan Obed and Will David, Director of Legal Affairs. Thank you so much for joining us today. We invite you to provide your opening remarks, which will be followed by questions from our members.

Natan Obed, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: Nakurmiik, thank you, Mr. Chair. It’s wonderful to see you all here this evening. Thank you for the opportunity to present to you on the amendments to Bill C-21.

I just wanted to start by saying that, across Inuit Nunangat, our relationship with firearms is quite different than most Canadians’ interaction and relationship with firearms. That is largely because of the ubiquity of firearms in our homes, but it is also the social conditions and environment in which we live, where we have 54% overcrowding and there are many scenarios where there are multiple generations who live in one dwelling. The administration or implementation of laws, especially those designed to prevent gun violence or those to ensure that those who perhaps perpetrate domestic violence do not have access to those weapons, takes on a very complicated reality across Inuit Nunangat. The challenges that we have faced based on the lack of infrastructure and the lack of ability to administer justice in many cases also lead to that. That is just a preamble, before I get into my formal remarks, regarding how different the perspective is. At the same time, from a policy perspective, it is important to understand how important it is to ensure that the safety of Canadians is first and foremost in the mind of the Government of Canada. Ensuring there is safety for those who need it is also a principle that we share.

I appreciate the invitation to discuss Bill C-21. The legislation before you, which addresses the revocation of firearm licences, warrants careful deliberation due to the implications it has for Inuit hunters on our harvesting rights. While we believe the legislation strikes a careful balance in theory, we are concerned that the realities of the social and legal infrastructure gap in Inuit Nunangat will lead to inequitable application of the legislation which will compromise the safety of Inuit communities in the harvesting rights of Inuit. It’s critical to recognize that harvesting rights in Inuit Nunangat are tied to food security. Limitations on harvesting rights directly impact the harvesters, families and communities to access food.

One of our concerns with the bill is that it proposes an automatic revocation of firearm licence under circumstances of domestic violence or a protection order. While the intent to safeguard communities is clear and supported in principle, the lack of a precise definition for “acts of domestic violence” or “stalking” introduces uncertainty. It leaves significant discretion in the hands of the Chief Firearms Officers, which could lead to an inconsistent application of law, affecting the lives of Inuit harvesters.

Clause 70.3’s provisions, allowing for a conditional licence, is not guaranteed but rather subject to the discretion of the CFO. This is not an equitable measure, particularly when considering the geographical and logistical barriers Inuit face when accessing CFOs. The officer responsible for Nunavut, for example, is located in Winnipeg. The distance is more than geographical; it is also cultural and practical. We must ask whether such officials can adequately assess and understand the unique circumstances and necessities of Inuit hunters. The process to apply for such a conditional licence must be clear and accessible in order to avoid unintended prohibitions on Inuit who hunt for subsistence. Complex forms, electronic forms or forms not available in Inuktitut are simply not accessible for Inuit, eliminating the value of this provision. It is not simply about livelihood; it is about maintaining cultural practices that are intrinsic to our communities’ well-being.

The red flag system is another example of a balanced measure that creates a mechanism that could disrupt Inuit households disproportionately. Inuit often live in multi-generational homes. Thus, the seizure of firearms could have unintended repercussions on entire families, not just the individuals targeted by the provisions of the bill. The confidential nature of the application process and the prospect that the target of the application or their household wouldn’t even know about the application could also lead to actions being taken without adequate notice or understanding of a family’s circumstances. On the other hand, the limited access to justice faced by Inuit also means that applications themselves would likely be hampered simply by the fact that Inuit may not be able to apply in the first instance.

In closing, while the protective intentions of Bill C-21 are commendable, it’s imperative that the legislation reflects the realities of all Canadians, including Inuit. ITK is concerned that the implementation of this legislation will not be effective in reducing gun-related violence in Inuit Nunangat simply because our realities are so different than the realities of downtown Montreal or Toronto.

In addition, any measure that impacts the right to hunt must be implemented with the utmost caution, ensuring that Inuit harvesting rights are upheld and that the means to access food and sustain our way of life are not compromised.

I’d also like to add that there is also the real issue of safety across Inuit Nunangat. Whenever we go on the land, whenever we are outside of communities, there are real and existential threats, such as polar bears, that most Canadians don’t necessarily have to think about when you go for a walk in the woods. These are also considerations that just aren’t in the minds, perhaps, of policy-makers and legislators and ones that are imperative to our safety as Inuit in Inuit Nunangat.

Nakurmiik. Thank you for your attention to these issues.

The Chair: Thank you very much, President Obed.

Colleagues, we will now proceed to questions. We are finishing at 8 p.m. this evening. As with previous panels, I’m limiting each question, including the answer, to four minutes. I’ll hold up this card to indicate that 30 seconds remains in your time. I offer the first question, as is the norm, to our deputy chair, Senator Dagenais.


Senator Dagenais: Thank you, Mr. Obed. You touched on this in your remarks, but would you be so kind as to give us an overview of the impact of firearms in a community like yours? You talked about domestic violence. Are you able to respond quickly to an incident of intimate partner violence if a woman is threatened by an armed partner, which, unfortunately, can be the case when there are guns in the home?


Mr. Obed: Thank you for the question.

I’m trying to understand the key considerations of the question. Across Inuit Nunangat, we have police forces. We have the ability for intervention if there are acts of domestic violence. Often, there are protocols around the safety of the family and then the seizure of weapons in certain scenarios. Those protocols already exist, but the challenges in the application and how to do the least amount of harm to the family unit in the application of law is key to the considerations that we bring here today.


Senator Dagenais: As you know, the subject of police forces comes up often in more isolated or remote regions. It’s important to understand that, when the police can intervene, it takes some time between the call for help and the response. Unfortunately, as I experienced in my own career as a police officer, in many cases, the crime has already been committed by the time officers arrive.

When there’s a gun in the home, the temptation is strong to commit intimate partner violence after a heated argument. It can take a while for the police to respond. That’s why I’m asking you this question. Obviously, we can’t be against doing the right thing. People have the right to hunt. However, unfortunately, when guns are available, that can lead to intimate partner violence and the need for rapid intervention.

Do you think Bill C-21 can be improved or serve as one more tool to prevent intimate partner violence against women?


Mr. Obed: Yes. Our position and our intervention here today speak to the unequal application of the potential provisions within the act. We seek equity within the application and the means necessary, whether it be federal, provincial or territorial, to ensure that the intent of the piece of legislation can be carried out in our small, remote communities. Some of the challenges that could be faced would be long waiting times for the processing of particular pieces of the implementation of this legislation at the individual level and, therefore, harming community just through the basic lack of process. We see this in many other related areas when it comes to accessing justice, especially when it comes to firearms.

Will David, would you like to add?

Will David, Director, Legal Affairs, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: In the final report of the National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, I could refer you to pages 681 and 683 of the report. It summarizes testimony by Chief Jean-Pierre Larose, with what is now known as the Nunavik Police Service, who details several of the capacity challenges related to response in remote communities in Nunavik, as well as the effect of seemingly neutral administrative criteria that in the context of northern Quebec can serve to hamper and hinder both investigation and response.

Senator Boehm: Thank you, President Obed and Mr. David, for being with us today.

I wanted to continue along the lines of Senator Dagenais a moment ago. Members of this committee, as you recall, were in Nunavut as part of our study on Arctic security. We met with you and with others. One of the things that stood out for me was you mentioned protocols. Various informal arrangements seemed to exist very well, including for hunters who would have their guns, go and hunt, then come back and voluntarily give them up. They would be stored and locked up until they would need them again. How successful have these programs been? Is there any potential application as the fine matters get worked out in terms of the application of Bill C-21 when it’s passed, I’m assuming? How do you see that?

Mr. Obed: For the ability for Inuit who would otherwise not be able to access their own firearms, to harvest for their community, to spend time with elders on the land and to be living a healthy life and supporting community, any opportunity that we can afford for people to do that is welcome. Any legislation or the implementation of legislation that allows for a holistic understanding of the community’s needs within the administration of justice is in line with Inuit traditional justice practises.

In these types of programs and scenarios, it’s very clearly for a particular purpose, scenarios that are de-escalated. They also have peer groups so that there is a positive interaction happening in relation to the administration of justice rather than being exclusively punitive. If in this legislation there is flexibility for communities to work with governments for self-determination in the application of these measures, then you will get better outcomes, ones that work for Inuit communities in much better ways.

Senator Boehm: Thank you.

Senator Plett: Thank you for being here, President Obed.

You mentioned just in your closing comments about some of the different circumstances. I’ve had the opportunity to travel a good part of the North in our country and spent time in camps with polar bears 100 yards away from the camp. Certainly, I can identify, at least in part, with a person who would want to be sufficiently armed when they are out there. That is one reason why, of course, a government should consult with different organizations, because circumstances are different.

The minister was here at our committee, and he said:

We engaged with First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations, rural and northern communities, victims’ groups, and with the firearms community and sportspersons and sports shooters across Canada to hear their perspectives and to ensure that we respect their traditions and way of life. These consultations have informed our path forward.

I have asked a number of witnesses from different organizations what the consultation process was, and even the witness just before you, Chief Teegee, said they had been zero. The minister keeps saying he’s consulted with everybody. What consultation was there with your community and your people?

Mr. Obed: Thank you for the question. I’ll pass it to Will David.

Senator Plett: Thank you.

Mr. David: Put simply, there was none. The minister had reached out and offered, and we had reached out and requested, but that consultation never occurred. We’re still waiting.

Senator Plett: Thank you very much.

President, under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, government ministers have often repeated the commitment, “Nothing about us without us.” I think UNDRIP was pretty clear in what it was supposed to be. It was debated at length. It was discussed at length. What does that pledge mean if, on a bill like this, there are no consultations before it is introduced? What’s your impression of the respect that the government has for UNDRIP when they do not consult?

Mr. Obed: Well, from a practical measure, it was very positive that the Government of Canada passed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. The Government of Canada has also, within the timelines that it has pledged, worked with First Nations, Inuit and Métis to create an associating action plan for implementation of the act and implementation of the actions that the government must take to comply with UNDRIP. We actually don’t yet know how much money that will cost and what concrete measures the government will take to implement the action plan that it endorsed on Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21 of this year.

We are still waiting to understand not only that piece of legislation but also the co-developed principles for legislation that we have endorsed with the Government of Canada for pieces of legislation that directly affect Inuit, and also the Inuit Nunangat policy, which the Government of Canada adopted as of April 2022, and how all of that will meaningfully impact our day-to-day work on the development of legislation and policies or programs that affect Inuit.

This is a great example of something that is central to our relationship with Canada, something that has, in a historic way, always been difficult, all the way back to the long-gun registry and the inability for Inuit to be heard and our concerns to be adopted into the administration of that particular exercise.

I would just summarize my point by saying it’s disappointing, but I remain optimistic. It will take processes like this to be able to hold the government to account for the things it has pledged to do with us.

Senator Plett: Hope springs eternal. Let me just say you would probably agree that, as the Prime Minister knows how to pause certain carbon tax issues, maybe he should put a pause on Bill C-21 until after June.

Mr. Obed: It’s hard enough for us to understand the legislative processes of the Government of Canada, so I’m not going to necessarily tell it what to do within timelines. This is an important piece of legislation, and if our concerns can be adequately addressed, then that is our ultimate goal.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you both for being here today. It’s greatly appreciated.

I’m not sure, but you may have heard some of the earlier sessions where we were talking about the red flag laws a little bit. I’d like to come back and follow up on that again. It’s our understanding that the red flag laws don’t pre-empt someone going to the police for an emergency prohibition order, though there is a concern that the police could wash their hands, not have time or say, “You can look after it yourself.”

On the other hand, with all these requests being fulfilled under the current regime, have you already been given the kind of uneven level of policing that we heard about? You talked about Winnipeg being remote, but given that uneven level of policing that you experience, might it be advantageous to allow someone to bypass the police completely?

Mr. Obed: I’ll pass this question to Will David.

Senator M. Deacon: That’s fine. Thank you.

Mr. David: The red flag system is definitely a central point of concern for us. I suppose the system itself presumes that there are police to enforce it, yes. It also presumes that there are effective provincial courts available in all communities at all times. There’s a real challenge there in terms of whether or not someone seeking an order has access to the means to be able to do it. From the perspective of trying to prevent violence, the red flag system itself may not be entirely helpful within all communities within Inuit Nunangat. On top of that, it allows for one to apply for an ex parte order, so you could have police, where the red flag system is available, showing up unannounced to seize firearms from people who are not aware that those police are basically showing up to seize those firearms.

The entire system itself seems set up to work well in areas where there’s a lot of legal and enforcement infrastructure. The problem here is that we don’t perceive that there is adequate infrastructure to actually make the provisions effective, either for community safety or for the delicate balance that the legislation seeks to strike between, essentially, section 35 rights holders and harvesters and then victims or potential victims of domestic violence.

Senator M. Deacon: I think that’s part of it. I know some of the challenges are inconsistent policing and different pieces. I wondered if there is already under way another way of managing this without the bill. Because you have inadequate policing and because you talked about what the legal system is to back it up — those are obviously challenges that have been around for quite some time. Is there already a way that you are finding your own way to address it?

Mr. David: Sure. We’re here, basically and as is often the case, responding to a piece of legislation that was drafted without extensive input. That’s fine, because it’s dealing with societal issues.

What I would refer to on that side is not that different from what you heard on the previous panel, which is essentially the Inuit action plan for the National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. A lot of our solutions are found within that Inuit action plan. The reason it’s so critical for us to have a distinction-based action plan is precisely to balance not only the legal enforcement infrastructure gaps but also the reality that firearms are a necessity within Inuit communities and the fact that violence and violent crime is also a reality.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you.

Senator Yussuff: Thank you for being here.

Section 35 principles are very important in the context of rights holders. At the same time, there are things in this bill that try to address some other delicate issues. I think you stated eloquently that, especially in the North and in your community, the system is not what it is in downtown Toronto. That’s reality — equal access to the court and recourse mechanism. You also stated clearly that the Chief Firearms Officer is not in your community; they are very far away. Given they have legal responsibility in enforcing legislation, because they are far away, their ability to impact even the basic requirements of their duties are very distanced as to when they show up, if they show up at all. I guess it would be fair to suggest that the application of the intent of the legislation would need to have a very different approach as to how we would treat certain sections of Canada.

Having recently been up there to visit, meet you and look at Arctic security, there is a need for us to understand this. I also appreciate the point you’re making here, because it’s unique to the North; it’s not specific but is very unique. It’s a different part of the world. Despite the fact that we’re a big country, the law doesn’t apply itself equally no matter how we might want or desire that. In the North, it’s important for us to recognize that if this law is going to have any impact.

I think the point you said about self-determination of application is an important principle we need to understand. Could you elaborate a little more in some very specific ways about how we can empower — specifically, in your community and in your territory, how this could be a meaningful way to apply this legislation and recognize the principle but, at the same time, recognize the uniqueness of the North?

Mr. Obed: Something I haven’t brought up yet is in relation to the amount of violence and self-harm that happens within our communities, whether it be suicidal ideation or attempts, domestic violence or other forms of violence. Unfortunately, per capita, we have much higher rates than the rest of the country. That is also another reason to consider distinctions-based, Inuit-specific considerations for the implementation of this legislation.

Our realities didn’t come out of a vacuum, and in many cases, it has been government policy and government legislation that has created scenarios that have exacerbated challenges within our communities and then kept them as the status quo. The lack of upstream investment or the lack of infrastructure, whether it be administrative infrastructure from the federal government down to the provinces and territories, or the basic infrastructure for housing or for health care services — you can’t overlook the absence of those in relation to the particular challenges that you’re trying to serve within this legislation. If there aren’t women’s shelters or housing options for all parts of the community, if there isn’t an ability to heal and the ability for health services to be delivered — all of that plays into the application of this particular piece of legislation.

An Inuit-specific implementation of this act would ensure equity for all those who wish to use it and would also find partnerships to be able to enforce the provisions and regulations stemming from the act itself. We want to do all we can, especially in relation to domestic violence, so that those experiencing domestic violence in our communities have every opportunity to avail themselves of safety and pathways to safety. We can do both. We can do that and we can ensure that there aren’t punitive measures that lead to our community not being as functional or healthy through the implementation of this legislation.

In some cases, legislators tend to say that the good outweighs the bad. We don’t mind if there is collateral damage for a particular small population if it supports a larger initiative. From public policy, of course, that’s the lens the Government of Canada applies. Our communities are so small. We know each other. Whether or not there are challenges, we live with our relatives, families and community members. It’s not like Ottawa where there are a million people. There are 800 or 900 people.

Restorative justice, the ability to work through challenges and the ability to implement federal legislation with an imagination on the good of community rather than just an individual nature of an offence being administered is really what we’re trying to get at here.

Senator Cardozo: Thank you, President Obed and Mr. David.

The points you have just made us aware of in the past few minutes are important and part of what I want to talk about. In terms of the need for this kind of legislation, we have heard from women’s groups that are particularly concerned about domestic violence. Across the country, there is a real view that there is a crisis or an epidemic. As you noted, unfortunately, in Inuit communities, the rates might be higher. We’re trying to get at some of that, and you have outlined some of the problems with the red flag and yellow flag.

I look at subclause 72.1(1) of the bill, which says:

The provisions enacted by this Act are to be construed as upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and not as abrogating or derogating from them.

Does that give the government the ability to construct a series of regulations that would talk about the Inuit action plan you mentioned coming out of MMIWG? The issues you’re talking about, in some senses, go way beyond this bill in dealing with safety and the criminal justice system at large. My question is in two parts: Is there enough in clause 72 of the bill, in your view, from which can come some regulations that address it, and is there another much larger piece that needs to be dealt with beyond this bill?

Mr. Obed: First, I think the larger thing being dealt with is actually in another bill that is in Senate committee, which is Bill S-13 on the non‑derogation clause. I was here for another lively round of conversation about that about two weeks ago. That’s more a simple placeholder, saying that this legislation can’t change section 35, in layman’s terms.

The larger picture has to tie into the UNDRIP Act implementation. It has to tie into the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee and the processes we are following on our joint party areas in that space.

From the legal perspective, I’ll pass the mic to Will David for a response.

Mr. David: The approach that you’re suggesting on regulations is precisely the reason we would be seeking passage of Bill S-13 — cases like this and elsewhere — because it would address, in our view, regulatory and policy issues.

The question that I think this committee needs to grapple with — I do not have a good answer for you on it — is whether or not the totality of circumstances on this legislation in terms of interference with section 35 harvesting rights rises to such a level that the legislation itself creates derogation or abrogation of the section 35 right. It is a serious concern that I have only because such a vulnerability could lead to a collapse of an otherwise laudable legislative regime and could undermine several not only noble but necessary purposes and principles that are embedded within the legislation itself. The impact on harvesting rights is a serious concern that I can’t understate.

Senator Cardozo: Could you tell me a bit more about harvesting rights?

Mr. David: If the legislation creates enough tangible or legal barriers to the ability of the Inuit to harvest consistent with the treaty rights that the rights holders negotiated with Canada, rights holders themselves — as you heard on the last panel — could contemplate a challenge to the legislative regime. It’s more likely than not to occur if the balance itself isn’t very carefully struck precisely because there hasn’t been a lot of consultation on that point in the legislation.

Senator Cardozo: Excuse my ignorance, but what harvesting would you be talking about? Is it seal harvesting?

Mr. David: It would be any kind of harvesting that would require a firearm. It has been litigated in the past, so it’s not fresh. There was dialogue on this at the house, which was quite disturbing.

Senator Cardozo: Thank you.


Senator Dagenais: My question is for Mr. Obed.

Mr. Obed, do you have any statistics on the number of firearms owned by members of your community? You say that these are small communities where everyone knows each other. If not, wouldn’t it be useful for your police officers to know how many firearms are in your community?


Mr. Obed: I don’t have the statistics on how many firearms are in Inuit communities. We will go back and see if we can come up with a number for you. I am not actually aware of any particular data sets that exist around it, but perhaps there are.


Senator Dagenais: You mentioned police intervention. It’s important to understand that, given the size of the territory, the limited number of police officers is always a problem. It would be useful for the police to know how many firearms are out there. When the police receive a call, the response is quicker and more effective if they already know that firearms are inside the residence. I would appreciate it if you could send us that information in writing. Thank you very much.


Senator Plett: I want to go back to some of the consultation processes and so on and so forth. Some have certainly argued that circumstances in the North are extremely unique, yet very little allowance has been made for that in this legislation. It’s kind of a one size fits all. One example of that was the amendment proposed late last year to ban semi-automatic long guns. It was an amendment the government backed away from in the bill itself but, of course, there is the threat to bring it back in another form, perhaps through the regulatory process. Again, do you feel you are being listened to? Are there amendments to this bill that you might suggest that might address some of your concerns?

Mr. Obed: I’ll start with the very fuzzy understanding we have about which types of firearms come under the jurisdiction of this particular piece of legislation. We as ITK have not formally worked with the Government of Canada on understanding what may or may not be on a list. Within our communities, our focus really is about harvesting and firearms that play very straightforward ways in which we can harvest. Of course, perhaps there may be gun collectors in Inuit Nunangat as well. However, the large majority of Inuit who own firearms do so for the express purpose of safety and for harvesting. We welcome any conversations with the government around the particular list that may seriously affect our ability to harvest.

For the last part of your question, I will pass it to Mr. David.

Mr. David: The bill is too complex for us to be able to offer constructive amendments at this point. We’re trying to provide assistance just by scoping the nature of the issues. Thank you.

Senator Plett: I appreciate that.

One last question, President Obed. Senator Cardozo just asked about the government’s ability to craft regulations to address some of your concerns. However, as we all know, the drafting of regulations is even more opaque than the legislative process. You have testified that you were not consulted in the drafting of this legislation. How much confidence does that give you in a planned regulatory process when you haven’t even been consulted in the legislative process?

Mr. Obed: Historically on matters such as this, and in ministries such as this particular one, Inuit have not had extensive interactions or an extensive relationship with this particular ministry or its public service. There are other pieces of legislation where, if you asked me that very same question, I would actually have high confidence, such as with Indigenous Services Canada where we have had co-management of legislation, most recently with An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. However, in this particular instance, we have seen no government-wide implementation of the structures that we have tried to build with the Government of Canada on systematically upholding our rights and allowing for our participation in things such as legislative processes like regulations. Therefore, we have very little confidence that we would participate and be able to co‑develop those regulations.

Senator Plett: Thank you very much, both of you, for being here this evening.

Senator Cardozo: I just want to carry on from the point that I had raised earlier and that Senator Plett raised. What would your preferred process be in terms of regulation? I ask this in the context of, as a committee, we have various options. One is to turn back the whole thing. The second is to make amendments, which means it goes back to the other house. A third option is to send a message to the minister — to the government, et cetera — that would be appended to the bill as we pass it back to the chamber. In that, we can make various observations about what needs to happen. I’m just thinking aloud, but we could consider talking about the need for the issues that you have raised about Inuit and the North. We could talk about what a proper consultation process would be for regulations because, across the government, we have seen places where they have done good regulations and places where they haven’t.

In a previous life, I was at the CRTC. We would start by just asking what people think. The second step would be to put out draft regulations and, at each step, get feedback. At the third step, we would put out the final regulations. There are a range of ways people can do consultations for regulation, notwithstanding your lack of experience with this particular department.

Does any of that mean anything to you? Is that useful?

Mr. Obed: These are central questions that we have been trying to answer with government. I can speak to my experience since being elected in 2015 and working with the government since then. We are trying to systematically change the relationship between Canada and First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

For Inuit, we have an Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee. We have tried to populate the priority areas of that with shared priorities that we both agree on and a work plan that gets into the very things that you’re talking about, namely, legislative co‑development, not only in the development of the legislation but also in the regulations. We have a number of different shared priorities when it comes to both the legislative and the policy realms. It has been frustratingly inconsistent for the Government of Canada to live up to the things that it has said it would do with us and in the time frames that it has pledged to work with us on them.

In this particular piece of legislation, though, I would ask Will to answer more specifically on that.

Mr. David: To be quick on this one, when a regulatory development could impact on section 35 rights, there will be a duty to consult with rights holders, in this case Inuit treaty organizations, on potential impacts on those rights.

One of the reasons why President Obed is talking about broader co-development processes or the UN declaration is that if we fall back on a rights-based dialogue in the context of this legislation, then the focus of the dialogue becomes only about section 35 rights. We lose the ability to really engage in a dialogue with government about several priorities that are identified within the legislation and we lose the ability to have the contextual conversations necessary to ensure that we have an overall regime that is both orderly and respects rights. It reduces a lot of the dialogue into a binary conversation that I think our rights holders are more than capable of having. However, to be able to have a vehicle such as a co-development process, where we can talk about a multiplicity of different priorities at once, allows for a much better conversation around balancing. It serves the interests of Canadians, and it serves the interests of the Inuit far better than to have a simple conversation only about one element or tranche of issues within this legislation or others.

The Chair: Colleagues, we have reached the end of a very long meeting today that commenced at 3 p.m. It seems like a long time ago.

Let me say this: We could not have ended on a better note. We are so appreciative that you both found the time to come here and speak to us, President Obed and Mr. David. This is complex legislation that has been designed to deal with complex issues. I don’t think we have heard a more thoughtful interrogation of how that complexity meets and intermingles than we have from you this evening. I’m not surprised, but we are grateful for that. On behalf of the committee and the Senate of Canada, we thank you both for this. It has been very rich. We have learned a lot, and we are impressed.

In parallel, I also want to thank my committee colleagues who have stayed with this through five long hours and brought the very best from a long list of witnesses today with thoughtful and probing questions.

We will continue our examination of the bill on Wednesday, November 8 at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time in room B45, with Senator Dagenais in the chair of that session. That being said, I wish everyone a good evening. Thank you again.

(The committee adjourned.)

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