Yukon hunters want to head to Ottawa to discuss federal gun bill

Trappers, sport shooters, and gun collectors all had an opportunity to speak directly to Mendicino during a roundtable in Whitehorse last week. All said they do not agree with proposed amendments to Bill C-21. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

‘I’m hopeful we’ll get that opportunity,’ says Eric Schroff of the Yukon Fish and Game Association

The Yukon Fish and Game Association (YFGA) is hoping to take its concerns about new federal gun legislation to Ottawa, after an encouraging meeting last week with Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino when he was visiting the territory.

That meeting last week wasn’t the standard boardroom meeting the minister is maybe used to — members of the YFGA board of directors took Mendicino out on the land for a winter bison hunt.

The focus of conversation was the federal gun legislation Bill C-21, and proposed amendments that could see long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, banned in Canada. The YFGA saw an opportunity to show the minister the role firearms play in the lives of many northerners.

“We picked the minister up from his meeting at Kwanlin Dun at nine o’ clock in the morning,” Schroff said. “We were on the snowmachines heading out after 10:30 a.m., as soon as it got light,” said Eric Schroff, the association’s executive director.

‘North is different from urban environments’

Schroff said the group spent a few hours on the land talking about how the North is different from urban environments, and the role of firearms as tools for the effective, ethical harvest of animals for food and sustenance.

He said they also discussed the impact provisions of Bill C-21 would have on hunters, firearms owners, retailers and businesses in the Yukon and how YFGA feels that the approach taken to prohibit large numbers of sporting firearms — as envisioned in the draft bill — will not meaningfully contribute to reducing gun violence.

“I think we were heard,” Schroff said.

“How much influence that information will have on the final decision remains to be seen, but I will say that Minister Mendicino seemed sincere. He was interested. He asked lots of very good questions and he asked clarification questions when he needed to.”

Mendicino later expressed his gratitude for the excursion, at a roundtable discussion in Whitehorse hosted by Yukon MP Brendan Hanley.

“We were able to get out on the land today,” Mendicino said.

“To have a good and sound appreciation of what life is like in the North … is absolutely important and critical when it comes to coming up with good laws and policies so that we can protect our communities, while at the same time fully respecting the traditions of which are part of the Canadian social fabric when it comes to hunting and trapping and gathering and First Nations traditions.”

Possible follow-up in Ottawa

The minister didn’t end up harvesting a bison while in the Yukon, but he did get an earful from Yukoners at that roundtable discussion.

And Schroff said Mendicino supported the idea of continuing his conversation with the YFGA, in Ottawa.

“I posed the question: ‘Minister, we’re thinking of requesting an opportunity to present to the standing committee that’s reviewing Bill C-21. What do you think of that idea?,'” Schroff said to CBC News. “He said, ‘I would support that idea. I think that’s a good thought.'”

Schroff said a letter has been drafted requesting a follow-up meeting in Ottawa. Once it’s finalized, Schroff plans to send it off.

“I’m hopeful we’ll get that opportunity,” Schroff said. “Because I believe we’ve got a compelling story. I believe people will listen to it and we hope they’ll hear it and make some changes.”

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Federal gun bill shows Liberals ‘out of touch’ with Nunavut, says MP, CBC News

Chris MacIntyre, CBC News

Chris MacIntyre is a CBC reporter in Dawson City, Yukon.

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