'Huge win for the gun lobby': Quebec gun-control advocates feel betrayed by new federal bill
MONTREAL -- One of Quebec's most vocal advocates for stricter gun control is calling new legislation announced by the federal government “a huge win for the gun lobby,” saying it's a let-down.
“I think, with this package, in these circumstances, with the Liberal government elected on the promise of totally banning assault weapons, going back on their promise... this is the end of the road,” said Heidi Rathjen.
Rathjen, a survivor of the 1989 mass shooting at Ecole Polytechnique, accused the Trudeau government of tabling a bill with “a lot of window dressing, a lot of penalties, a lot of procedures," but doesn't go far enough.
The package wouldn't have prevented the province's most recent mass shooting, she said. It has "nothing that will... change with respect to the circumstances that led to the mosque shooting,” in Quebec City that left six people dead in 2017.
The new bill contains several measures, including a voluntary buyback program in which owners of 1,500 firearm models that were classified as “prohibited” last May can either sell their guns to the government or must follow strict storage measures.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he believes most gun owners would choose to surrender their firearms since “they can't be shot, they can't be traded, they can't be transported, they can't be sold, they can't be bequeathed.”
But Rathjen said advocates were promised that a buyback program would be mandatory.
“We told Canadians the Liberals had the best gun-control promise because of the specifics, which included buying back all assault weapons,” she said.
“Now, they've gone back on that measure. That means hundreds if not thousands of assault weapons could remain in circulation, fully functional.”
Gun control advocates are “not worried about the legal use of these weapons," she said. "We're worried about the illegal use of these weapons.”
The legislation received a warmer welcome from Montreal city councillor Marvin Rotrand, who said the bill was “progress” but acknowledged it isn't “necessarily going to please either side of the spectrum.”
One measure included in the bill will allow cities to ban handguns by restricting their storage and transportation.
Rotrand noted that could be difficult to enforce, as guns could be transported from a jurisdiction that permits them into one that doesn't.
“I believe a national law would have been preferable,” he said.
The bill comes as Montreal suffers from an uptick in gun violence, including a drive-by shooting last week that left a 15-year-old girl dead. Last week, the city announced a new police squad that would be dedicated to cracking down on gun violence.
A spokesperson for Quebec City said no decision has been made on whether handguns will be banned.
“The City of Quebec will take the time to analyse the legislation announced today by the Prime Minister and will discuss it with the governments of Quebec and Canada before making any comments,” they said in an email.
LISTEN ON CJAD 800 RADIO: Reaction to new gun control legislation from Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and Heidi Rathjen, PolySeSouvient Coordinator and gun control advocate.
- With files from CTV Montreal's Angela Mackenzie