Unfortunately, Canada is also not immune to gun-related violence and tragedy.
On December 6, 1989 Marc Lépine shot 28 people at the École Polytechnique in Montreal before committing suicide. In the end 14 young female engineering students were killed with a legally acquired Ruger Mini-14 rifle and hunting knife. In the wake of this massacre, students and advocates came together to form Canadians for Gun Control, a precursor to the eventual Coalition for Gun Control which formed in 1991.
In 1990 Conservative Justice Minister Kim Campbell (who would eventually become Canada’s first female Prime Minister after Brian Mulroney stepped aside) introduced a bill that would have banned military weapons and improved the FAC screening process. However, the bill never made it past second reading and died when parliament was prorogued that year. Despite this setback, a revised version of the bill, Bill C-17 was unveiled by Kim Campbell in 1991 and began undergoing the process of committee hearings shortly after. By 1993, C-17 had passed the Senate and was proclaimed law.
Some of the changes to the screening process included: imposing a mandatory 28-day waiting period for an FAC; expanding the application form to provide more background information and a mandatory requirement for safety training. In order to demonstrate knowledge of the safe handling of firearms, applicants had to pass the test for a provincial firearms safety course or a firearms officer had to certify that the applicant was competent in handling firearms safely.
After the 1993 federal election, the new Liberal Government under Jean Chretien indicated its intention to proceed with further controls, including some form of licensing and registration system that would apply to all firearms and their owners. This was made even more urgent after a professor kills four colleagues Concordia University in Montreal.
In 1995, Bill C-68 (also known as the Firearms Act) introduced new, stricter, gun control legislation. This provided harsher penalties for crimes involving firearm use, licences to possess and acquire firearms, and registration of all firearms, including shotguns and rifles. The FAC system was thus replaced with Possession Only Licences (POLs) and Possession and Acquisition Licences (PALs). In 1996 the Canadian Firearms Centre (CFC) began its operations to develop the regulations, systems and infrastructure needed to implement the Firearms Act.
Given that the Criminal Code of Canada was amended in 1995 to include the Firearms Act, the government of Alberta challenged the law by arguing that it was in relation to personal property and thus was a matter in the jurisdiction of the province. The federal government, however, argued that the law was in the realm of criminal law, which is under federal jurisdiction. In 2000, the constitutional validity of the Firearms Act was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in a unanimous decision.
As of January 1, 2003, individuals need a valid licence and registration certificate for all firearms in their possession, including non-restricted rifles and shotguns. Firearms businesses also require a valid business licence and registration certificate for all firearms in their inventory.
In 2006, after years of accusations of mismanagement and waste, responsibility for the administration of the Firearms Act and the operation of the Canada Firearms Centre was transferred from the Ministry of Public Safety to the RCMP. The Commissioner of the RCMP assumed the role of the Commissioner of Firearms. Two years later, the RCMP amalgamated their firearms-related sections, the Canada Firearms Centre and the Firearms Support Services Directorate, into one integrated group, the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP).
The Firearms Act continues to be the most significant and influential legislative act in shaping Canada’s gun laws and future changes. Subsequent ammendments and bills have been aimed at modifying the Firearms Act, including Bill C-391 which is currently up for vote in the House of Commons on September 22, 2010.
But hopefully this serves to shed light on the political context and historical background that underlies today’s current debate on gun control. The front line of this debate is now focused squarely on the requirement to register long-guns and rifles, something that the current Conservative government is trying to repeal.
For more information, please visit: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/pol-leg/hist/con-eng.htm
Posted By Oscar Alvarado
Posted Jul 26th, 2010