A bill introduced by the Alberta government to protect its lawful firearms owners from the federal government’s gun confiscation program has passed third reading.
In a 28–7 vote on March 22, Bill 8, the Alberta Firearms Act, passed third reading on division, with seven NDP MLAs voting against it.
In a speech prior to the vote, Brad Rutherford, government whip said Bill 8 puts the interest of law-abiding firearms owners first.
“It accomplishes three main goals: one, it supports the firearms community in the face of Ottawa’s attacks on lawful firearm owners; it reduces confusion and increases accountability regarding the Chief Firearms Officer’s role; and three, it creates tools that enable Alberta to protect its jurisdiction over firearms,” he said at the assembly.
The Alberta Firearms Act was introduced by Justice Minister Tyler Shandro on March 7 in response to Ottawa’s plan to confiscate certain types of guns that it regarded as “assault-style” weapons, including AR-15s.
In May 2020, the Liberal government issued a ban on over 1,500 models of previously legal firearms. Last October, it put a freeze on the purchase, sale, transfer, and import of handguns, which effectively bans handgun ownership in the country.
Then in November 2022, the minority government tabled sweeping last-minute amendments to Bill C-21, which was being debated by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security before the session ended for the holidays.
If passed, the federal bill will ban most semi-automatic shotguns and rifles—including many ordinary hunting shotguns and rifles purchased legally. The proposed amendments would also ban any gun that can hold a detachable magazine.
‘Criminalizing Thousands of Canadians’
The federal government had originally planned to start its firearms buyback program on Prince Edward Island, according to a memo issued late last December. However, the pilot project was quickly cancelled, as first reported by Maritimes media group Saltwire Network on Jan. 12 and commented on by Shandro.
“Just two days after [Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s] plans to use PEI as a training ground for their firearms confiscation program were exposed – the federal Liberals have already backed down,” Shandro tweeted on Jan. 12.
“Now its time to push the feds to back down from going after all Canadian firearms owners.”
It was on Dec. 29, 2022, that Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) released the memo proposing to begin in the country’s smallest province the “transition” of how firearms will be confiscated from gun owners.
“Prince Edward Island (PE) will be used as a pilot and will be the first point of collection based on the smaller number of firearms,” said the memo. “As a result, lessons learned, gaps analysis and risk assessment would inform the phase 2 national roll-out.”
The memo said phase 2 is planned for spring 2023 once an information technology case management system is in place.
“It will be implemented in collaboration with other government departments, provincial, municipal and territorial governments and potential Industry partners,” PSPC staff wrote.
At a March 15 media roundtable, Shandro criticized the Liberals’ confiscation program for potentially “criminalizing thousands of Canadians.”
“If they are going to have a confiscation program, we have to ensure the province is involved in licensing and we will be advocating for sensible legislative changes rather than ones, like C21 and order of council, that are targeting law-abiding Canadians and criminalizing thousands of Canadians over night for being in possession of legally acquired property,” he said.
According to Alberta’s government, the province has over 340,000 licensed firearm owners, and over 650 firearms-related businesses.
Shandro said the federal government doesn’t know whom it will use for the confiscation program—municipal employees, RCMP, police forces or a private contractor.
The province, however, is aware that some municipalities want to enter into an agreement with the feds and receive funding to have municipal employees be involved in the program.
“We do not want police resources taken off the streets and being wasted and distracted by being involved with the confiscation program,” said Shandro. “If a municipality is going to have municipal employees involved, they are going to have to work with us.”
The province’s official site said Bill 8, if gained royal assent, will give Alberta “more tools” to protect areas of provincial jurisdiction over firearms, including “limiting municipalities and municipal police services from entering into firearms-related funding agreements with the federal government.”
Rutherford said suggestions that the act is unnecessary or creates a less safe environment for Albertans are “patently false.”
On Oct. 2, 2022, Mendicino accused Shandro of “insinuating that the RCMP will not be enforcing federal law” and that his resistance to the gun confiscation program was “reckless” and amounting to a “political stunt.”
In a March 7 video posted on Twitter, Shandro said the Liberals’ gun confiscation program won’t work.
“None of these federal policies will make our communities safer,” he said. “They are targeting law-abiding, responsible Canadians.
To date, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick have joined forces to oppose using “scarce RCMP and municipal police resources to confiscate more than 100,000 legally acquired firearms from Canadians.”
The Yukon legislature also passed a motion against diverting territorial policing resources to assist in the Liberals’ plan.
Marnie Cathcart and The Canadian Press contributed to this report.