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Two more provinces join in opposition to gun buyback program that ‘unnecessarily targets lawful gun owners’ – Toronto Sun

Ministers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba agree with Alberta’s Tyler Shandro, who earlier this week called the program wasteful

Publishing date:

Sep 30, 2022  •  4 hours ago  •  4 minute read  •  7 Comments

Colt C8 rifles at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police at the Palais de Congres in Montreal, in this August 25, 2008 file photo.
Colt C8 rifles at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police at the Palais de Congres in Montreal, in this August 25, 2008 file photo. Photo by Phil Carpenter/THE GAZETTE/

OTTAWA — Two more provinces are telling Ottawa they don’t want provincial police resources to be used for a proposed gun buyback program set to collect “assault style” firearms this fall.

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Saskatchewan and Manitoba have followed Alberta’s lead and informed the federal government they won’t use local resources to enforce a federal initiative they don’t support.

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Christine Tell, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety, wrote a letter to the highest-ranking RCMP officer in the province telling them not to use provincial resources for the program.

“The Government of Saskatchewan does not support and will not authorize the use of provincially funded resources for any process that is connected to the federal government’s proposed ‘buyback’ of these firearms,” she said in the letter.

She said the government has heard often from the RCMP that they don’t have enough resources.

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“It would seem to be counter intuitive to take our front-line resources from our provincial policing service to carry out a federally mandated administrative program.”

Manitoba’s attorney general Kelvin Goertzen posted on Facebook that he had also written to federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino to oppose the program.

“We feel many aspects of the federal approach to gun crimes unnecessarily target lawful gun owners while having little impact on criminals, who are unlikely to follow gun regulations in any event,” he said. “In Manitoba’s view, any buyback program cannot further erode precious provincial police resources, already suffering from large vacancy rates, from focusing on investigation of violent crime.”

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Alberta was the first to oppose the federal buyback program earlier this week, with the province’s justice minister calling the program wasteful and unnecessary.

“It’s important to remember that Alberta taxpayers pay over $750 million per year for the RCMP and we will not tolerate taking officers off the streets in order to confiscate the property of law-abiding firearms owners,” said Tyler Shandro.

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The Trudeau Liberals banned approximately 1,500 weapons they described as “assault style,” using a cabinet order in 2020. The list of weapons to be banned include weapons used in some of the country’s deadliest shootings, such as the École Polytechnique massacre and the Nova Scotia mass shooting. Owners will be given between roughly $1,200 and $6,200 for their weapons depending on the make and model.

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The Liberals have since followed up with more gun legislation including a proposed “handgun freeze” that would prevent future handgun sales.

Mendicino said earlier this week that Shandro’s statements were regrettable, and called them an “abdication of responsibility.”

He said the weapons in question need to come off the street.

“As we look to get these assault style rifles, which again have carried out extensive, massive casualties in our country, it is imperative that we work together collaboratively.”

He said Shandro’s stance was disappointing.

“To simply say that you’re not going to cooperate, you’re going to resist does not allow us to move forward to accomplish the objective of this program,” said Mendicino.

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Mendicino also pointed out courts have consistently ruled that firearms regulation is in the hands of the federal government.

Jason Watson, a spokesperson for B.C’s public safety minister said they’re willing to work with the federal government.

“The government supports any measures that are proven to enhance public safety and we will continue to consult with our federal counterparts,” he said in an email.

But Watson said the program is not a top priority for the B.C. government.

“Ending illegal firearm violence related to organized crime remains our priority. It is a shared responsibility with the federal government and requires a multi-pronged approach and long-term strategies.”

While the RCMP is a federal police force it provides contract policing to eight provinces and three territories with only Quebec and Ontario having their own provincial forces.

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In general, larger cities have their own police forces, but smaller communities in those eight provinces rely on the RCMP for policing, with the federal government covering 30 per cent of the costs and provinces covering the rest.

Wally Opal, a former attorney general of British Columbia who has studied policing extensively, said the political dispute puts the RCMP in the middle. He said policing should ideally be focused on local priorities as determined by people in the communities police serve, which is challenging under the RCMP’s current model.

“That type of policing cannot be achieved if you’re going to have a form of contract policing, wherein the governance or the policing is centralized and controlled from Ottawa.”

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He said he understands provinces want police to focus on local priorities, as they determine them, but politicians shouldn’t be deciding what laws are enforced.

“I am sympathetic to the provinces, but the normal, general proposition is that the political people ought not to tell police forces what laws to enforce and what not to enforce.”

Mounties were unionized in 2019 and signed their first agreement with the government last year. The National Police federation who represent them declined any comment on the growing dispute with provinces.

Twitter: RyanTumilty

Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com