OTTAWA — Canadians have wildly diverging views on banning handguns and assault-style firearms, says a newly released summary of federal consultations.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair to study the possibility of such a ban shortly after a shooting spree in Toronto last July.
The federal report released Thursday says opinions expressed during in-person discussions and through written submissions both opposed and supported outlawing handguns and assault-style firearms. In contrast, most people who responded to a questionnaire were against a ban.
Many participants felt strongly that a ban would target law-abiding owners, rather than illicit firearms, and would not reduce gang violence, the report says. As a result, many called for beefing up police and border services, as well as tougher penalties for firearms-trafficking and gun-related crime.
“A wide range of approaches and ideas were discussed, which suggests that a multifaceted approach is needed to address this issue rather than implementing a ban in isolation,” the report says.
There was consensus on the need to address the underlying social conditions that can lead to gun violence, such as poverty, lack of education and employment opportunities, poor mental-health supports and social isolation, the report adds.
Participants also supported better collection and sharing of data on gun crime, especially on sources of illicit firearms and the types of offences being committed.
In addition, many people active in the firearms community said they wanted to work with the federal government to come up with solutions.
New Zealand recently banned military-style semi-automatic weapons after 50 Muslims were brutally gunned down in Christchurch.
Blair said Thursday there are “opportunities to take measures that will make Canada safer,” though he declined to provide details or speculate on timing.
Blair said he has been looking at the data, the experience in other jurisdictions, Canada’s regulatory environment and how firearms get into the wrong hands. “And as a result of that work, I believe that there are some things that we can do to create a safe environment, reduce gun violence in our communities and make it far more difficult for people who would commit crimes.”
Participants at a series of eight in-person roundtables in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Moncton, N.B., last October “were divided in their views on a ban,” the summary says.
There was also a range of opinion among 36 written submissions. Opposition to a ban came from shooting clubs, retailers, academics, wildlife associations, a territorial government, an association representing rural municipalities and a group of LGBTQ firearms owners.
“You are reacting to a crime wave, no question, but not a firearms problem,” said one submission.
Support for a ban came from some health associations, victims’ organizations, women-focused groups, a provincial ministry and an organization that deals with municipal affairs.
“As these firearms have no legitimate use in hunting, current owners may only legally use them for target shooting or collecting,” said one such submission. “This is not a compelling enough reason to justify the risk they pose to public safety.”
However, about four in every five of the almost 135,000 responses to an online questionnaire objected to doing more to limit access to handguns or assault-style weapons.
A federal bill introduced in March last year, and currently before the Senate, has proposed expanding the scope of background checks on those who want to acquire guns, strengthening record-keeping requirements for sales and requiring purchasers to present valid firearms licences.
But the government has long been eyeing additional measures.
The government thinking evolved further after a July 2018 shooting in Toronto that killed two people, injured 13, led to the gunman’s death and left a neighbourhood deeply shaken.
Two days later, Toronto city council passed a motion calling on the federal government to outlaw the sale of handguns in the city.
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Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press
Canada-China relations hit ‘rock bottom’ and at ‘freezing point’: Chinese envoy
OTTAWA — China’s ambassador to Canada says the bilateral relationship is now at “rock bottom” compared to any time since diplomatic ties were first established decades ago.
In prepared text for a speech Thursday, Lu Shaye said he’s saddened Canada-China relations are at what he called a “freezing point.”
Lu’s remarks come at a time of heightened tensions following the December arrest of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an extradition request by the United States.
The Huawei executive’s arrest has enraged China, which has since detained two Canadians on allegations of endangering Chinese national security, sentenced two Canadians to death for drug-related convictions and blocked key agricultural shipments.
Lu did not mention Meng’s arrest — but he said the China-Canada relationship is now facing serious difficulties.
He said China has long valued its relationship with Canada, particularly since it was one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic ties with the Asian country.
“For clear reasons, the current China-Canada relations are facing serious difficulties and are situated at the rock bottom since the two countries have established diplomatic relations,” said a copy of Lu’s speech, which was posted on the Chinese Embassy’s website.
“It saddens us that the current China-Canada relations are ‘at a freezing point’ and face huge difficulties. The knots shall be untied by those who got them tied.”
He continued by urging Canada to view China’s development in a “fair and objective” manner and to respect its concerns. Lu also warned Canada to “stop the moves that undermine the interests of China.”
In recent months, Beijing’s envoy has used strong words when talking about the relationship. In January, he told Canadian journalists that Meng’s arrest was the “backstabbing” of a friend and said it was evidence of white supremacism.
Lu also warned of repercussions if the federal government bars Huawei from selling equipment to build a Canadian 5G wireless network.
He made the remarks in Toronto at an event hosted by the Globe and Mail. The document said former prime minister Jean Chretien was in attendance as was Darryl White, chief executive of BMO.
The Canadian Press
Keep guard up against hurricanes in 2019, as risk remains potent: forecaster
HALIFAX — It has been years since a major tropical storm wreaked havoc in Canada, but the Canadian Hurricane Centre is warning against complacency.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its hurricane outlook Thursday, predicting nine to 15 named storms this season, with four to eight becoming hurricanes and two to four being major hurricanes.
Bob Robichaud of the Canadian centre noted that’s similar to last year’s hurricane season, when only two storms hit Canada, including post-tropical storm Chris, which made landfall in Newfoundland in July 2018.
However, Robichaud warns that some Atlantic Canadians may be forgetting storms like post-tropical storm Arthur, which snapped trees and caused massive power outages in 2014, and hurricane Juan’s widespread wrath in 2003.
And he reminded journalists attending a briefing in Halifax about hurricane Michael, which flattened parts of the Florida panhandle last October.
The Halifax-based centre has created a fresh smart phone app, and recommends people begin tracking storms as soon as they start and then monitor for shifts in direction and intensity.
“What we advocate is for people to really stay in tune with weather information because the forecast can change as the storms are approaching,” Robichaud said.
Robichaud says studies show that complacency levels rise about seven years after a storm like hurricane Juan, and that as a result people do less to prepare.
“People tend not to take any preparedness action if they haven’t had any kind of hurricane in recent years,” said Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist.
“For us it’s been five years since any major impactful storm … so it’s even more important to take the necessary precautions to get ready.”
The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo has published a simple guide for Canadians on basic measures to take to prepare in particular for flood risk from extreme weather.
The centre has repeatedly pointed out that without basic measures, basement flooding can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage during hurricanes.
Its publications include a Home Flood Protection Program that begin with such simple steps as testing sump pumps, cleaning out eaves troughs and maintaining backwater valves.
More advanced measures include removing obstructions from basement drains and creating grading to move water away from homes.
The hurricane season runs from June 1 to early November.
Robichaud said hurricanes tend to “feed on” warmer waters, and as result the centre is closely monitoring those trends.
The meteorologist said as summer progresses it’s projected the water will warm in the eastern Atlantic and become warmer than average.
In addition, Robichaud said the Atlantic Ocean continues to be in an overall period of high hurricane activity that hasn’t yet come to the end of a cycle.
— Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
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