Op-ed by Cathay Wagantall, Member of Parliament for Yorkton-Melville
For months, major announcements concerning the future of Canada and Canadian lives were made on the doorstep of the Prime Minister’s residence, with no opportunity for questions from those elected to challenge the government. While it was necessary to come together and provide immediate aid and support in those initial days and weeks of the pandemic, the overreaching actions of the Liberal government have extended far beyond pandemic parameters.
The intent of recently introduced Bills C-21 (Liberal Firearms Legislation) and C-22 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drug Substances Act) are questionable at best and serve as examples of how this government continues to miss the mark when it comes to Canadian priorities. Yet, as a Member of Parliament elected to represent the people of my riding, my ability to convey the frustrations being felt here are limited to the capabilities of my internet service at that moment – not a good way to operate a country.
Introduced on Feb. 16, Bill C-21 would prohibit the use, sale and importation of more than 1,500 makes and models of legally purchased firearms, based on the Liberals’ order in council issued last May. The Order in Council was made following the tragedy in Nova Scotia in April 2020 which left 22 dead at the hands of a gunman, however some of the guns used in the shooting spree were acquired illegally from the U.S.
The reality is, the vast majority of gun crimes in Canada are committed with illegally obtained firearms, and Bill C-21 does nothing to change that. What the bill will do is take firearms away from law-abiding citizens and add further misery to many rural-based businesses, like outfitters who already face a very bleak future due to ongoing COVID restrictions. I have even received messages from constituents who acknowledge that they will have to give up their airsoft guns; even paintball is at risk.
I’m often asked about what the Conservative Party would do; what solutions do we have? In late January 2021, Bill C-238 was defeated by the Liberal government. This bill, introduced by my Conservative colleague MP Bob Saroya, would have imposed tougher sentences for criminals smuggling or who are found in possession of illegal firearms. The Trudeau Liberals’ decision to vote against this bill shows they are not serious about stopping dangerous criminals from getting their hands on illegal guns.
Just two days after introducing Bill C-21, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-22. Among the proposed changes, Bill C-22 will eliminate a number of mandatory minimum penalties, broaden conditional sentencing, and make changes to how police and prosecutors handle some drug related offences.
Conservatives are concerned about the government’s proposals to broaden conditional sentencing to allow more sentences to be served under house arrest, which could put communities at risk. The elimination of mandatory prison time for violent firearms offences is also concerning and requires a greater degree of scrutiny. It’s very strange for the Liberals to one day bring forward a bill to supposedly protect Canadians from gun violence and then two days later reveal a plan to lift mandatory sentences for those who commit violent offences with firearms.
Unfortunately, this bill also does little to help those struggling with addiction. Instead, it eliminates mandatory prison time for those trafficking and producing harmful drugs. We need to ensure Canada’s drug laws target individuals who prey on Canadians struggling with addictions through trafficking and the sale of drugs.
Every day, I hear from constituents who are gravely concerned for the future of our country. Six months ago, the concern was over the financial burden that federal COVID programs are going to create for generations to come; now, I hear from people fearful that their rights are being stripped away by their own government.
This is a very trying time for all Canadians. The extent the Trudeau Liberals are willing to go to divide Canadians is disappointing and dangerous, and the latest firearms legislation is no exception. Our Conservative team will continue to call for common-sense firearms policies that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, and respect law-abiding firearms owners.