Canada's NDP


February 14th, 2023

Government Finally Forced to Withdraw C-21 Amendments

Gun violence is a significant concern that needs to be addressed appropriately. We have a duty to ensure that Canadians feel safe in their communities without fear of gun violence. But appropriate gun control also must mean ensuring that people who use guns for legitimate purposes, such as hunters and farmers, aren’t punished for the actions of those who would use them for violent or criminal intent. This is what the Liberal government got so wrong with their last-minute amendments to Bill C-21

Gun crime is fortunately not nearly as prevalent in our nation as it is for our neighbors to the south, with Canada averaging 0.78 per 100,000 population for firearm-related homicides, compared to 6.2 per 100,000 in the U.S. in 2020. However, rates are rising, and it’s important that we get ahead of gun violence before it gets worse. There has been a six percent increase in firearm-related homicides between 2020 and 2021 in Canada. The majority of those firearm-related homicides, 57 percent, were committed with handguns.

We all want to see gun crime reduced in our communities, and the original intent of Bill C-21 was designed for the government to crack down on handguns. While certainly not a perfect bill, it was narrowly focused on handguns, and generally received support from New Democrats, Greens, and Bloc members in the House. However, in late 2022 at the Public Safety Committee, at the eleventh hour, the government introduced massive amendments that would have prohibited a large number of rifles and shotguns that are commonly used for hunting.

The amendments were so significant that parsing them became a problem in itself. It turned what was already a fairly comprehensive 44-page bill into a monstrosity. They added two amendments, one that listed literally thousands of new weapons that would be banned, and a second amendment that would pre-ban potential firearms before coming onto market. Those amendments totaled over 200 pages, over 5 times the size of the original bill. In introducing such sweeping amendments to the bill, the Liberals grossly overplayed their hand without proper consultations with Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders, and also circumvented the process of debate and Committee study.

So much so that the amendments were roundly criticized by sport shooting and hunting organizations, First Nations, and indeed MPs from all other parties, as well as a few Liberal MPs. The NDP actually tried to have the amendments stricken from Bill C-21, citing an abuse of process as the amendments far exceeded the scope of the original bill, and for not allowing MPs in the House of Commons the opportunity to debate the amendments. While the Speaker could not rule on the point of order as the bill was still in Committee, the government seemingly finally saw the writing on the wall and withdrew the amendments late last week. The Justice Minister finally admitted as much, stating “We didn’t quite get it right. It had a little too much reach.” Which, to be clear, was the message he was receiving consistently since the amendments were tabled months ago.

Appropriate gun control is difficult to get right. We need to ensure that those who have been convicted of violent criminal offences can’t easily get their hands on guns. We need to ensure that any flow of illegal weapons from across the border is cut off before they enter the country. But we also cannot impede on those who use long guns for hunting and farming, and can’t hinder the treaty rights of indigenous peoples. The approach the Liberal government took was wrong. Rather than try to halt the amendments, the Conservatives used the opportunity to fundraise off the frustration felt in our Northern and rural communities rather than push to have them stricken from the bill.

The political games that came with those last-minute amendments could have all been avoided. It was an unforced error that caused undue stress to people who were just trying to feed their families and protect their livestock.