Alberta’s Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro says his province will not take part in a federal buyback of weapons.
The Canadian government is preparing to implement a May 2020 ban on more than 1,500 assault-style weapons. According to Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, community public safety partners including local law enforcement and Royal Candian Mounted Police will help facilitate the surrender of and compensation for private citizens’ now outlawed firearms. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has proposed $1,337 for turning in an AR-15 or as much as $6,209 for a forfeited Swiss Arms SG550. The weapons will ultimately be destroyed.
“That somehow, by asking RCMP to ensure that we’re getting these guns off of their streets that cuts against the grain of public safety, it’s the opposite,” Mendocino said told CBC on Oct. 2. “[Shandro] is regrettably engaged in, I think, some political brinkmanship which is counterproductive and reckless.”
“There’s no ambiguity about the relationship that exists between Canada and Alberta as it relates to the role of the RCMP,” he added. “The RCMP is a federal entity and matters relating to the control management and administration of the RCMP are within exclusive federal jurisdiction.”
Shandro said last week that the public safety minister sent him a letter requesting police resources be earmarked for the gun buyback program this fall. The government of Alberta is currently seeking a legal intervention, citing challenges to the program’s constitutionality.
Shandro said Alberta “will not agree to having RCMP officers act as confiscation agents and will protest any such move under the provincial-federal agreement that governs policing.” per Castanet.
He accused the federal government of “fearmongering” and attempting to scare Canadians unfamiliar with guns with the label “assault-style.”
“This is politically motivated confiscation, pure and simple. And so I responded to Minister Mendicino by telling him no,” Shandro said at a press conference on Sept. 26. “Alberta will not assist the federal government in this or any federal effort to strip lawfully obtained personal property from our residents.”
“Despite taking this step, the federal government may still direct the RCMP to serve as confiscation agents,” he added. “To prevent this from happening, Alberta will formally dispute any attempt to do so by invoking Article 23 of [the provincial-federal agreement].”
The justice minister said that “all options are on the table” to prevent the implementation of the federal ban in Alberta.
Alberta’s chief firearms officer Teri Bryant supports Shandro’s statements, noting the federal government’s proposed program affects the fate of “30,000 lawfully acquired firearms” in the province.
“The planned confiscations represent a fatal approach to reducing violence in Canadian society and are unwarranted and unacceptable infringements on the property rights and personal freedoms of Albertans,” said Bryant in a statement.
Shandro’s sentiments are also shared by officials in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Manitoba Minister of Justice and Attorney General Kelvin Goertzen wrote on Sept. 29 that his province’s approach to gun violence focuses “on those who use weapons in crime, not law abiding gun owners.”
“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,” said Goertzen in an excerpt from a letter he wrote to Mendicino and shared on Facebook. “In Manitoba’s view, any buy-back program cannot further erode precious provincial police resources, already suffering from large vacancy rates, from focusing on investigation of violent crime.”
Saskatchewan’s minister of policing and public safety Christine Tell sent a letter to the commanding officer of the RCMP on Sept. 27 voicing her objection and her province’s intention not to comply with the federal gun buyback 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 proposed ‘buy back’ of these firearms,” Tell wrote.
“We don’t see that it’s going to do anything to enhance public safety in the province,” Saskatchewan’s chief firearms officer Robert Freberg told CBC on Sept. 28. “The people that they’re targeting with this buyback or confiscation … aren’t the individuals that are causing the issue.”
He added that gun owners in the state go through proper channels and use their weapons for sport.
“A lot of these individuals use these firearms for hunting purposes, for sporting purposes and through no fault of themselves have not created any type of risk [to] themselves or others, because they are monitored under their licensing by us closely,” he said. “So if they were at risk we would certainly be taking all the firearms, not just the ones that are considered scary.”
In response to Tell’s letter, Medicino’s office released a statement saying that “it is the primary responsibility of any government to keep their citizens safe. This announcement by Saskatchewan is not only reckless, it’s an abdication of that vital responsibility.”