‘This type of a ban will affect the hunters’: Yukon leaders say of federal gun bill

Liberal MP for Yukon Brendan Hanley, seen in the House of Commons in December 2021. Hanley says he won’t support the federal government’s gun-control legislation as-is. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

‘These amendments need to be very much clarified,’ says Yukon Liberal MP Brendan Hanley

Yukon Liberal MP Brendan Hanley says proposed gun-control legislation is “upsetting” and he won’t support it as-is, despite assurances from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Bill C-21 isn’t meant to target hunting rifles or shotguns.

The bill, initially aimed at banning handguns as a way to address gun violence in Canada, has drawn widespread criticism after the Liberal government tacked on late amendments that would extend the ban to commonly used long guns.

Hanley said he’s heard from many Yukoners about the bill and its amendments.

“This is really upsetting. Many, many Yukoners … regularly hunt, either as a food source or for the recreational aspects of hunting,” he said.

“I think it shows how important hunting is to the Yukon … these amendments need to be very much clarified. I’m glad that the Prime Minister stated that [Monday]. I think that was welcome.”

Hanley said he feels these amendments being introduced have “fundamentally” changed the bill.

Aside from common hunting rifles and shotguns, the proposed amendments are written in a way that would also prohibit antique arms, cannons owned by historical re-enactors and pricey collector pieces.

‘A lot of surprise’ after amendments added, says association 

On Monday, Trudeau acknowledged concerns over the bill and said the amendments are being reviewed so they don’t target legitimate gun use.

“We’re not going after hunting rifles or shotguns. We’re targeting the most dangerous weapons,” Trudeau said.

Eric Schroff, the executive director of the Yukon Fish and Game Association, is among those who think more clarification is needed on the amendments. He said the change to the bill has already raised concerns for many in the Yukon.

Schroff said there was “a lot of surprise” when the amendments were brought forward.

Eric Schroff is the executive director of the Yukon Fish and Game Association. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

“Where did this come from?” he said. “We’re not aware of a lot of dialogue that’s occurred between the federal government and safety ministers and that sort of thing around this issue.”

He said the list of firearms he’s concerned about that could see heavier legislation associated with them if the bill goes through is “extensive.”

“The big thing for us is the firearms that people use legitimately for hunting purposes and other kind of their sporting events — target shooting, and that sort of thing,” he said.

Schroff said he thinks there was a lack of consultation before the amendments were made, and had there been more conversations about gun use among rural people, it might not have been added to the bill in the way it was.

“It’s easy for someone who’s not a hunter or someone who’s not from small rural parts of Canada like we are to say that this won’t have any effect on people,” he said.

“If they’d been willing to talk to people … they would have heard that this type of a ban will affect the hunters in Canada and rural Canada. And I think there would have been a compelling argument made to consider carefully before moving ahead.”

MP ‘not in a position’ to support bill as is

Hanley said the bill went from freezing handguns, which he said already sparked some concerns and he was looking for some clarifications on, to having a much further reach.

“I’m not happy with this [bill], and I’m not in a position to support this bill at this point with those amendments in play,” he said.

He said he thinks it’s important for “the rural voice” to be heard — and understood — by those who may be coming from a more urban point of view.

Hanley said he agrees with the intent he believes is behind the amendments, in that the aim is to control assault-style weapons that “don’t have a place for everyday hunting.”

“Fair enough. But let’s really have a clear definition ,because we know that there are these grey areas — for instance, semi-automatic rifles that are used legitimately in hunting and right now appear to fit some of those definitions,” he said.

“We need to, I think, take a pause, take some time, really do the consultation that that we need — consultation [with] northerners, Yukoners, Indigenous Yukoners — so that there’s really clarification of the definitions and an understanding and that we don’t encroach on hunting firearms used in the Yukon.”

-With files from Dave White and Meghan Roberts

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Nunavik gun-owners will have support to comply with registration legislation, says provincial rep for Arctic Quebec, Eye on the Arctic

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