If Trudeau wants to ban guns, he has to face the voters and tell us

I’m not sure what the Liberal-friendly version of the expression “Shots fired” is, but whatever it is, it happened last week in Question Period.

Independent Member of Parliament Tony Clement rose with a pointed question for the government, inspired by information Clement received from a source he couldn’t name.

“I am told on good authority that the prime minister has a secret plan to ban legal firearms,” Clement charged. “Apparently this plan is to be executed by cabinet directive, with no debate in Parliament. The prime minister plans to announce this gun ban at the Women Deliver conference to be held in early June in Vancouver, which New Zealand Prime Minister (Jacinda) Ardern will also attend. Could the prime minister confirm or deny this zero-accountability secret plan?”

The question was so specific that it could easily be answered with a yes or a no. But Bill Blair, the minister supposedly tasked with overhauling Canada’s gun laws and curbing organized crime, gave no such clarity.

“I want to assure the House that the government remains absolutely committed to undertaking all measures that are effective in keeping Canadians safe,” Blair said. “As I believe every member of the House would agree, there is no greater responsibility for any order of government than the safety of its citizens and the protection of its kids, and we are prepared to consider whatever measures would be effective in this regard.”

Nowhere in that mush was a direct answer either way, through Blair’s spokesperson later denied Clement’s assertion in a media statement, saying the government has not yet finalized its course of action on gun reform.

True or not, Clement’s belief is plausible, which is why it spread so rapidly through Canada’s community of gun owners, of which I’m a part.

Even if reforms are not announced on the time and date he thinks, his question reveals a troubling and often overlooked possibility—that any sweeping changes to Canada’s gun laws could happen without a parliamentary debate or vote.

With the Canadian government’s view that gun ownership is a privilege and not a right, it would be easy to restrict gun ownership under the cloak of cabinet directives rather than openly and democratically.

This is Clement’s biggest worry, he told me in an interview.

“Cabinet, by its definition, is a secretive and secret process,” he said. “Passing an order-in-council is not done in front of a committee or in front of parliament. It’s done by cabinet ministers in secret. Then Canadians are presented with fait accompli.”

The millions of lawful Canadian gun owners—from farmers to aboriginals to hunters to sport shooters—deserve a debate.

The only times the Liberals want to have such a discussion is in the wake of tragedy, when the emotional climate makes it politically difficult to defend gun ownership.

Policies like a national handgun ban or mandatory central storage are only on the table because of the Danforth Ave. shooting, despite the killer using an illegally-acquired handgun. (But hey, never let facts get in the way of a good narrative.)

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale even said the Christchurch mosque attacks—in New Zealand—could justify further gun control in Canada, making it entirely plausible Trudeau would announce measures at an event featuring Ardern, the Kiwi prime minister.

With merely five months until the election, and few sitting legislative days, the only way Trudeau could deliver any changes would be through cabinet fiat. Subverting parliament on contentious issues is always egregious, though it’s especially so when a leader will soon have the opportunity to seek a mandate from the voters.

Process aside, further restrictions on gun ownership in Canada will do nothing, given it’s the illegal guns that are being used so routinely in Toronto’s rising gang homicides.

Toronto Mayor John Tory fancies himself a saviour of lives with his gun amnesty program, though New Zealand’s recent dalliances reveal how fruitless these efforts are.

Only 37 of New Zealand’s 1.2 million guns were turned in under the government’s voluntary surrender program. That’s not a typo—37. These things don’t work because the few people who hand their guns over are not the ones whose gun ownership causes any problems.

Defiant as the government’s denial of Clement’s allegation is, the question still stands of why Blair himself, in the moment, didn’t unequivocally shoot down the question.

It’s possible he wasn’t involved enough in the plans to know one way or another, which wouldn’t surprise me. Also possible is that Clement revealed a previous, abandoned version of the plan. This would mean both Clement and the Prime Minister’s Office are telling the truth.

Or Blair was misrepresenting the government’s plans.

Either way, Clement may have applied the necessary heat for the government to walk this back.

This column was originally published at True North.

No guns allowed for Minto tenants

One of Canada’s largest property management companies bars tenants from having guns in their units, even if they’re legally owned.

This was a dealbreaker for an Ottawa gun enthusiast, who withdrew his application for a rental unit from Minto Properties upon seeing the firearms ban listed in the tenancy agreement under a section titled “Firearms and other Weapons.

“For the protection of all Residents, firecrackers, knives designed to be used as weapons, firearms, pellet or paintball guns, lethal weapons, or any objects considered dangerous to the health and/or well-being of fellow Residents are not allowed on our property,” the lease said.

The wording is so broad as to even bar licensed gun owners from keeping legally-owned firearms, stored in accordance with the government’s strict regulations, at home.

“I could not sign that knowing I will not be compliant,” said the prospective tenant, who wished not to be named. “Violation of their agreement can lead to eviction.”

A Minto spokesperson confirmed the policy doesn’t differentiate between legal and unlawful guns.

“With resident safety our top priority, this policy is specific to the presence and storage of weapons or firearms at all Minto Apartments properties,” said George Van Noten, the senior vice president of policy operations for Minto Properties. “In no way does it restrict licensed gun owners from tenancy.”

Though Van Noten says gun owners are allowed to be tenants, their firearms can’t join them.

According to a draft tenancy agreement, violating this or any other clause in the Resident Code of Conduct can result in “possible termination of the tenancy.”

A Minto representative didn’t respond to a query about whether the policy has ever been tested at the Landlord and Tenant Board.

A Toronto-based landlord and tenant lawyer the policy’s legality falls into a “grey area.”

“The Residential Tenancies Act only allows a landlord to terminate the lease if the tenant has substantially interfered with the quiet enjoyment or another lawful right, interest or privilege of the landlord or another tenant,” said Kevin Wiener of Wiener Law.

Even if tenants and landlords agree to certain provisions, they may not be enforceable, Wiener said. Bans on pet ownership are an example of this; even if a tenant has agreed to a a no-pets policy in a lease, a landlord couldn’t evict if a tenant violated the ban.

With regards to firearms, it’s less clear cut.

“The short answer is it may or may not be enforceable,” Wiener said. “(Landlords) could argue that the policy allows them to assure tenants that they are moving into a building with no weapons or other dangerous objects, and that assurance is important to other tenants.”

Though he wasn’t aware of any cases where this has been tested, Wiener said if one went to the Landlord and Tenant Board, the board could order an eviction, order a remedy requiring offsite gun storage, or do nothing at all.

While Minto says its policy is about safety, it’s actually less safe overall. Forcing gun owners who have gone through rigorous screening and testing to keep guns somewhere other than at home reduces the oversight most license-holders impose on their collections.

For non-restricted firearms—including most rifles and shotguns—gun owners can store them virtually anywhere, like at someone else’s house or in the trunk of a car.

Restricted guns, such as handguns, pose specific challenges. Offsite storage can be done for a hefty fee at a gun range or gun store, or at another property. However, the government may need to authorize the storage, and it makes transporting the guns more difficult.

Target shooters require an authorization to transport their gun to the range. Typically, these are issued solely for a direct route from home to the range and back.

While most conscientious gun owners follow storage and transport restrictions to the letter of the law, restrictions like Minto’s could cause people to cut corners.

With the risk of vehicle break-ins, not to mention temperature issues, keeping guns in your trunk is a less viable and less safe method of storage than a locked, in-apartment gun cabinet.

Minto’s policy seems to follow the lead of the federal government by presenting the illusion to safety, regardless of the consequences.