Reducing funding for RCMP on the table for Saskatchewan amid firearm buyback debate
REGINA — Saskatchewan says it would consider reducing its funding for the RCMP if the force was to help the federal government with its proposed firearms buyback program.
Public Safety Minister Christine Tell says all options are on the table, signalling the province will not help Ottawa collect guns it has banned.
“We as a province fund the RCMP to a tune of 70 per cent, so it could even get more interesting,” Tell said Thursday.
The Saskatchewan Party government said it is pushing back to protect law-abiding firearms owners from what it views as federal intrusion on its provincial autonomy.
Under Ottawa’s proposed firearms buyback program, it would be mandatory for people to have their assault-style firearms rendered inoperable or have them discarded. That could also include centrefire semi-automatic rifles or shotguns designed to accept a detachable magazine that can hold more than five cartridges.
In response, Saskatchewan has introduced its own firearms act to forbid municipalities and police services from receiving federal money to help confiscate firearms.
The proposed law says a municipality, police service or board would have to get written approval from the province’s public safety minister before agreeing to support the federal buyback program.
It also states that Saskatchewan’s chief firearms officer would enforce which federal agent can or cannot confiscate firearms in the province.
“These legal firearm owners are not the ones committing the crimes,” Tell said.
The legislation was tabled Thursday, months after Tell wrote a letter to Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, the head of Saskatchewan’s RCMP. It stated that the province would not support the Mounties using provincially funded resources to help confiscate firearms.
Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick have sent similar letters to their RCMP forces. They have joined Saskatchewan in asking Ottawa to not use up “scarce RCMP and municipal resources” for its buyback program.
In October, Blackmore said Mounties are service providers, not decision-makers, and any decisions over the buyback program are between the federal and provincial governments.
“As the service provider, we would be the individuals that get our information from them,” Blackmore told The Canadian Press.
That includes if additional resources would be needed by RCMP once the buyback program rolls out.
“It would depend on the level of expectation, and what that looks like, and what the involvement is if there are additional resources,” Blackmore said.
The specific role of the RCMP and the details surrounding the buyback program have not been determined.
On Friday, the Saskatchewan RCMP said it will continue to prioritize front-line services and the safety of communities is its highest priority.
The Saskatchewan Firearms Act also calls for helping firearm owners get fair market value for guns collected through the buyback program and would require all seized firearms to go through forensic and ballistic testing.
The Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, which advocates for hunters and the protection of the province’s hunting heritage, praised the proposed act, saying it would mitigate the “draconian” federal legislation.
There are approximately 115,000 licensed firearms owners in Saskatchewan, 75,000 of whom may be penalized under the federal government’s policy. That’s about 10 per cent of Saskatchewan’s adult population, the province said.
Saskatchewan’s NDP Opposition has stood united with the government to denounce the program.
“It does not strike the right balance for Saskatchewan,” justice critic Nicole Sarauer said last week in the legislature.
“These amendments are overbroad and capture rifles that have legitimate uses for both hunters and producers in Saskatchewan.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2022.
Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press
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