Letter to Cheryl Gallant, MP – April 18, 2013

Dear Cheryl Gallant, MP                                                                                              

Subject: Concerns with M-439

Canada’s National Firearms Association believes that although this motion originates from good intentions, there are a number of aspects which give us cause for concern. In that regard I have also attached the comments from Ottawa lawyer and firearms law expert Mr. Solomon Friedman. Mr. Friedman is an NFA member who has proven to be very helpful with legal issues and he has expressly given me permission to include his comments with this message.

An assumption underlying motion M-439 is that the problems with the Firearms Act and its resulting regulations are mainly process driven. That assumption would naturally lead to the idea that incrementally changing processes would somehow fix that problem. However, while there are process problems with the Firearms Act and its implementation, the real problems are more fundamental. In that regard, changing process will not correct fundamentally flawed legislation such as the Firearms Act that was inherited from previous governments. Process changes do not fix the underlying problems with the Act.

In addition, the NFA has significant privacy concerns with private contractors holding personal information about firearms owners and their property. Such an office is unlikely to provide added efficiency without significant additional cost – and charging a fee for a license which is itself a defence to a criminal charge is extremely problematic.

Motion M-439 proposes privatization of the “Canadian Firearms Registration System,” which according to the Firearms Act means the registrar and the records that will be collected and reported to the Commissioner of Firearms. The “Canadian Firearms Registration System” is described in Firearms Act sections 82 to 94. Sections 82 to 94 only have to do with the duties and responsibilities of the Registrar for Firearms and the data collection and reporting requirements of the Chief Firearms Officers. These sections have nothing to do with the appointment or powers of the CFOs. For example, section 58(1) gives the CFO his discretionary powers.

Motion M-439 proposes to amend section 95 to rescind the funding agreements with the provinces that opted-in to the administration of the Firearms Act. It is not clear that this would be a cost saving measure as even if the motion actually intended to privatize the CFOs, the money will still be spent on private companies and contracts. The Commissioner of Firearms is still the Commissioner of the RCMP and the RCMP will still run the program (i.e. reclassifications). The points raised in the public speaking points don’t seem to be related to the effect of the motion.

There also needs to be a significant consideration of Sections 91 and 92 of the BNA (Constitution) Act since administration and enforcement of the Criminal Code is a provincial responsibility under the Division of Powers. This proposal would not streamline the processes, and privatization could merely make a flawed program even more expensive. The CFOs are federally-mandated provincial creatures, and the Constitution sets out the powers and responsibilities of the provinces. This means that the provinces have an ability to opt in or out of administering the program.

Problems with harsh interpretations and enforcement of the Firearms Act and its regulations are in every province, and this motion has the potential to create more problems. The legislation that comprises the Firearms Act is both complex and highly integrated. There needs to be real reform, by considering a repeal of the Act, rather than well-intentioned minor changes that may have unintended consequences.

As we have previously pointed out Sections 91 and 92 of the Criminal Code, which make the simple possession of a firearm a crime, would remain and these sections are the origin of many of our grievances. As long as the Firearms Act is Criminal Law, enforcement of it remains a provincial responsibility and this motion distracts from the real changes that need to be made.

Canada’s National Firearms Association and Mr. Friedman would be pleased to provide you with professional assistance in developing better legislation. If you have any questions, please contact me on my cell phone at 250-981-1841, or by e-mail to Sheldon@nfa.ca


Yours truly,

Sheldon Clare
President
Canada’s National Firearms Association

cc. Mr. Bob Zimmer, MP
Mr. Rob Anders, MP
Mr. Garry Breitkreuz, MP
Mr. Larry Miller, MP
Mr. Jay Aspin
Mr. Lavar Payne
Dr. Kellie Leitch
NFA Office per Ginger Fournier
Mr. Solomon Friedman, LL.B.

Enclosure: Comments of Mr. Solomon Friedman, LLB


From: Solomon Friedman <solomon@edelsonlaw.ca>
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2013 19:26:58 +0000
To: sheldon_clare@shaw.ca<sheldon_clare@shaw.ca>
Subject: My comments on M-439

Please find below my brief comments on the proposed Motion (M-439) by MP Cheryl Gallant:

I have read and reviewed the text of the motion. It is clear that the Member who has tabled this Motion seeks to ease the burdens currently placed on law-abiding hunters, target shooters and sportsmen. That is a praiseworthy goal. In my respectful opinion, however, this Motion will not accomplish that goal. It will, I believe, create more problems than it solves.

It is abundantly clear that gun owners are presently suffering from the broad discretion currently granted to provincial Chief Firearms Officers by the Firearms Act, and the offences provisions set out in the Criminal Code.

For example, CFOs exercise their discretion to limit the rights and privileges of gun owners in the following ways:

a. Setting inconsistent and unnecessary regulatory hurdles for the creation and maintenance of shooting ranges
b. Imposing unnecessary restrictions for the granting of Authorizations to Transport Firearms, including expiration periods and limits on the locations for transportation
c. Requiring firearms businesses to comply with redundant and useless record-keeping requirements
d. Inspecting the personal dwelling homes of law-abiding firearms owners, including gun collectors

However, none of these concerns would be addressed by the proposed “privatization” of the CFO.

Even more troubling, however, is the grave privacy concerns that accompany the storage of sensitive personal information – including name, address, date of birth – of all gun owners and the exact nature and location of their restricted and prohibited firearms. Gun owners are reluctant to trust government with this information, and rightfully so, given the well-documented breaches and misuse of such government/police databases such as CPIC (“Canadian Police Information Centre”), FIP (“Firearms Interest Police”), CFR (“Canada Firearms Registry”). These concerns are magnified exponentially with respect to a “lowest price” tender offered to private companies.

It is my respectful view, the core problem with the treatment of gun owners in Canada can only be finally addressed by repealing and reforming the Firearms Act and consequently, repealing the portions of the Criminal Code that “criminalize” the innocent possession of firearms. Gun owners should not be subject to the full weight of the criminal law for issues of regulatory compliance.

Barring such broad reform, these issues could also be addressed by way of legislation or regulation that expressly limits the scope of the CFO’s discretion in the aforementioned areas.

I therefore believe that this Motion, while grounded in the best of intentions, is ill-advised in its execution.

I would further add, that in my experience, “feel-good” or “symbolic” legislation is misguided at best, and at worse, harmful to the rights and liberties that all Canadians enjoy. In fact, the very core of the Firearms Act, as gun owners have learned since 1996, is a symbolic exercise which has burdened millions with unnecessary restrictions and potential criminal liability, while never addressing the core causes of firearms-related crime.

A Member who supports the rights of gun owners should not take a page from the playbook of those who have consistently sought to limit those same rights and freedoms.

As I told Parliamentarians in my testimony before House and Senate Committees, when it comes to firearms legislation, Canadians deserve better than a public policy pacifier.

Should you require any further information, or would like my assistance in drafting proposals for comprehensive reform of the CFO provisions or the Firearms Act more generally, please do not hesitate to contact me at your convenience.

Solomon Friedman, LL.B.
Edelson Clifford D’Angelo LLP

Solomon C. Friedman