Opponents of gun control bill are denouncing Trudeau and no longer want him at Polytechnique commemorations
MONTREAL -- Survivors, family members of the victims of the 1989 massacre at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, and current students are warning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that they will never again allow him to stand with them at the annual commemorations of the shooting if he allows his government's proposed gun control bill C-21 to pass.
The dozens of signatories, including several family members of the 14 young women murdered on Dec. 6, 1989, write in a letter (posted below) to the prime minister that his dismal bill gives the appearance of fulfilling his election commitments, but does nothing to address them.
They say in the letter, published by Polysesouvient activists, that political verbiage and catchy slogans will fool many Canadians, but not them, the family members and survivors who have been fighting for gun control for over 30 years.
The group said it no longer believes the prime minister when he says he shares the pain and suffering of the victims' loved ones at annual memorials.
"If this were the case," the letter reads, "he would have had the courage to follow through on his convictions and would not have tabled a bill that plays into the hands of the gun lobby."
"Bill C-21 is so weak that we felt it was like a betrayal from the Liberal government," said Polytechnique survivor Nathalie Provost, who was shot during the Polytechnique massacre.
Provost said photo ops will no longer be availalbe for Trudeau, who she said did nothing to prevent future possible tragedies like the ones at Polytechnique, Dawson College or the Quebec City Mosque.
"It could be exactly the same with the same kind of weapon with the same kind of magazine," she said. "So we wanted to say to Justin Trudeau, that he will not be welcome for us anymore at those commemoration days and we won't smile with him. We won't take pictures with him. We won't salute him because he doesn't deserve to be with us on those days."
Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair's office thanked those who sent the letter, and promised to work with them to make communities safer.
"During the last parliament, we passed legislation to enhance background checks and licence verification, and on May 2020, we prohibited those weapons specifically designed for military purposes that have been used too often in tragedies, including the rifles used at École Polytechnique, Dawson College and the Ste. Foy mosque," said spokesperson Ann-Clara Vaillancourt.
She added that the buy-back plan was based on the New Zealand model, and that the enhanced licence and storage requirements will make illegal weapons "legally useless."
"That means they cannot be used, transported, sold or bequeathed," said Vaillancourt.
"These measures will give our government information about where these prohibited weapons are, and who has them; information that will ensure our buy-back program is effective in retrieving these weapons that are too dangerous for our communities."
The letter argues that the bill does not change anything because, despite the risks of legally acquired assault weapons used in past killings, the prime minister has chosen not to remove them from circulation.
The group also criticizes him for doing nothing to stop the sale of modifiable magazines, which can be returned to their full illegal capacity by simply removing a pin.
The signatories also object to a legal debacle that Bill C-21 will create with a patchwork of over 3,000 pieces of legislation in municipalities that have never asked for this power.
In their view, Bill C-21 abandons survivors, families of victims, witnesses of gun violence, and future generations.
They write that if this bill is not radically revised, if the buy-back program is not mandatory, if a simple decision by a future government can overturn the assault weapons ban, the battle will have been lost.
A month ago, in the face of the federal gun control initiative, elected officials in the National Assembly unanimously demanded that Ottawa delegate the power to ban handguns to the Quebec government.
Provost said the group understands the decision to ban assault rifles and order a mandatory buy-back policy would be tough, but that it's necessary.
"We know it needs courage, but I think we deserve it 30 years after the beginning of our fight," she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2021, with reporting from CTV News Montreal.