By Ian Croft
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
With the federal government implementing changes both towards the Criminal Code, and firearm legislation, Alberta’s Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro took a moment to have a roundtable meeting earlier in March to discuss the provincial government’s response to these changes.
“There have been a couple announcements that we made recently,” said Shandro. “One was related to new legislation that we drafted and tabled which is now moved out of second reading and into committee as a whole. It’s moving very quickly. The new Alberta Firearms Act would address a number of situations for us — clarifying the role of the chief firearms officer, but also making it clear to Canadians and Albertans in particular to remind people that both the province and the federal government plays a role in the regulation of firearms. The province is involved in the operation and implementation of the federal Firearms Act, and making that clear. Our focus over the last 40 years is targeting what can actually reduce gun crimes in our communities, what can actually improve community safety rather than targeting law abiding Canadians and in particular hunters, farmers, and sports shooters.”
Following this Shandro outlined some of the reasons that led to the creation of this new legislation.
“The first was working with the chief firearms officer, and the difficulty that Canadians have for those in the firearms community — where does the buck stop for the regulation of firearms? Some of the difficulties that…her office has when answering questions from the firearms community, I think making it clear that the province is involved in the operation and implementation in aspects of the Canadian firearms program, and federal Firearms Act. That’s a big part of it and then working with her to develop enabling causes that allow future provincial governments to pass regulations to allow her office to work with the firearms community. We are working with manufacturers and retailers who want to keep our communities safe. They want to work with the chief firearms officer, and the provincial government in finding ways to improve community safety.”
Shandro then followed up with an example of how better communication between the chief firearms officer, manufacturers, and the firearms community can help benefit all parties involved.
“When it comes to ‘ghost guns’ right now you can take a handgun that’s restricted, and you can print the majority of the gun,” said Shandro. “You can go to a manufacturer and buy a barrel, and a slider and drill it into what you manufactured. That slider, that barrel doesn’t have a registration number, they are not restricted even though they are a part of a restricted firearm. The firearms community has brought this to our attention, and have been working with the RCMP, and with the chief firearms officer, so that they are aware of concerns. Aware of that suspicious activity of someone buying those types of parts. They want to be able to report that to the police. When it comes to the compensation program, we have concerns if we are going to have increased transportation of firearms, storage of firearms. We got to make sure that the folks involved in this conversation program is doing it safely. We’ve always disagreed with this conversation program. We disagree with that order of counsel in May 2020, and with C-21 [An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms)] confirm the order of counsel. But if they’re going to have a confiscation program we gotta make sure that the provinces evolve the licensing, and we’re going to be advocating for sensible legislative changes rather than C-21 which is targeting law-abiding Canadians.”
After this discussion of firearms Shandro shifted over to briefly talk about bail reforms.
“We’ve also been advocating for over a year for bail reforms,” said Shandro. “That became more of an issue last October when there was a conference of Justice Ministers, and Public Safety Ministers in Dartmouth Nova Scotia. I think the provinces impressed on the federal government that there were legislative changes that need to be made to the Criminal Code to undo some of the consequences of the federal government changing the bail regime in 2019 with their C-75 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts). Then in January every premier of every province and territory signed a joint letter demanding addition of a reverse onus for repeat (offences) and those accused of a very serious crime. We just met in Ottawa with the federal government. That meeting went quite well, not as many changes as I would like to see to the Criminal Code, but we had an invitation from David Lametti who is the Justice Minister (federal) to submit other suggestions. Commitment that the federal government will be going as quickly as possible to amending the Criminal Code to adding revers onus.”