Speaking with southern Alberta reporters Friday, Tyler Shandro condemned C-21 as “a gigantic mistake” and “an attack on the way of life for folks … particularly in rural Alberta.”
Strong words aside, the minister struggled to come up with specific countermeasures.
Shandro hinted at using Alberta’s Sovereignty Act (Bill 1) against C-21. Premier Danielle Smith promised her supporters during the United Conservative Party’s leadership race last summer that the act would empower the legislature to ignore federal laws the province deemed harmful to Albertan interests.
“Now that Bill 1 has passed … we’ve asked for folks to take a look and provide us with suggestions,” Shandro said Friday. “Maybe there are opportunities for resolution in the house in 2023.”
But the act can only direct provincial bodies not to enforce targeted federal laws. It cannot compel individual Albertans to do the same.
“I think that’s why we’re also looking at a number of initiatives that don’t involve the Sovereignty Act,” Shandro qualified.
“There are things that we can do now to move quickly, and stuff we can learn from what’s happening in Saskatchewan,” where, Shandro said, the legislature in Regina is working on a constitutional challenge to Ottawa’s proposed gun buyback program.
Alberta is already pursuing six applications for judicial review of the federal cabinet’s decision in May 2020 to ban 1,500 types of guns. Bill C-21 seeks to toughen gun restrictions through a host of amendments to the Firearms Act.
Recent amendments by Paul Chiang, Liberal MP for the Ontario riding of Markham-Unionville, would significantly add to the ban by prohibiting any gun capable of taking a magazine containing more than five rounds. This would effectively ban all magazine-loading rifles, as well as many types of shotguns.
Guns that shoot with a force of more than 10,000 joules or that have a bore of two centimetres or more would also be banned.
Shandro said the Liberals were “playing politics,” misleading Canadians by purporting to show that legally obtained guns were driving violent crime.
“I think we know that, anecdotally, we have a sense or an intuition that that’s not the case,” he said.
A May 2022 report by Statistics Canada shows that gun violence in 2020 accounted for less than three per cent of violent crime nationally.
But the report shows that the per capita rate of gun crime in Alberta’s rural south jumped by 31 per cent between 2019 and 2020. Firearms were present in 264 violent crimes reported to regional police detachments for that year, accounting for roughly 4½ per cent of violent crime, or a rate of 54 incidents per 100,000 people outside metropolitan centres.
For comparison, regional violent crime was overwhelmingly driven by physical force and threats in the same period, with police finding no weapons at all at just over 4,500 incidents. That number accounted for just over 75 per cent of all violent crime reported to regional police.
Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nunavut had the sharpest increases in police-reported gun crime dating back to 2009, the report showed.
Guns were used in 37 per cent of investigated homicides in Canada in 2020, but the report notes that this figure was skewed by the April 2020 gun massacre in Portapique, N.S., that killed 22 people. The shooter’s guns were illegal because he did not have a possession and acquisition licence as per the Firearms Act.
Handguns were the most common weapon used in Canadian gun murders dating back to 2009. Gun crime was more associated with rifles and shotguns in rural parts of the country, according to the report.
There are no available statistics to show the origins of guns used in violent crime.
For more information on gun violence in Canada, consult “Trends in firearm-related violent crime in Canada, 2009 to 2020” on Statistics Canada’s website, www12.statcan.gc.ca.
There were 241,794 guns registered in Alberta as of October, according to Ethan Lecavalier-Kidney, press secretary for Minister Shandro.
Of that number, Lecavalier-Kidney said 237,638 were handguns, 2,918 were rifles, and 1,238 were guns registered as “other.”
Rifles and shotguns are probably vastly underrepresented in that total, because most long guns don’t need to be registered under current legislation.