Canadian Unlicensed Firearms Owners Association
Association canadienne des propriétaires d’armes sans permis

Armes for Their Defense;
An Inherited, Historical, Canadian Right

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"If the Conservatives ... do not make an election promise to decriminalise licensing infractions, as gun owners it makes little difference who they vote for."


Mark Twain said in his autobiography, "In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing." His comments are ideally suited to Canada's firearms laws and public understanding of them.


In the first two votes on the Liberal's Bill C-68 (the Firearms Act), commonly referred to as the long gun registry Stephen Harper voted in favor of the Bill in the House of Commons before voting against it under pressure in the third vote. Time has not improved his understanding  of, or response to, the issue. At a recent campaign stop in Lancaster Ontario Harper told supporters the Conservatives had, “stopped treating farmers and duck hunters like criminals and got rid of the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry". NDP leader Thom Mulcair appears to be equally in the dark. Two days before on a stop a short distance away in London Ontario Mulcair said “We have no intention of bringing back a gun registry....The failure of the last gun registry, its phenomenal cost of $1 billion, and the fact that is was so inflexible — you know, a grandfather hunting with his grandson, and the slightest glitch in his papers and the only option was a criminal prosecution."


Before C-68 Canadian's that wanted to acquire a firearm needed to contact their local police to obtain a Firearm Acquisition Certificate(FAC) before the purchase. After they purchased the firearm they could discard the FAC with no legal repercussions. With the advent of long gun registry it became a criminal act to possess  a firearm without a license and registration. While the Conservatives repealed the registration requirement thereby removing criminal sanctions for registration they retained that same criminalization for the licensing component. That continued criminalization is supported by all four major national parties. Despite Mulcair's stated distaste for criminal prosecution for paperwork glitch's that same grandfather can still face up to two years in prison for not reporting a change in address and five to ten for not renewing his license on time.


Farmers and duck hunters are still criminals in waiting. They have faired little better in the Supreme Court of Canada.


On 15 June 2000 the Supreme Court of Canada released their judgement on Alberta's reference question as to the provinces constitutional right to the regulation of property- specifically firearms. In a unanimous judgement the federal court held that the pith and substance of the Firearms Act was in relation to "public safety" which was a matter within the criminal law power of the federal government. Understandably gun owners were upset their new-found criminality, delivered by the Firearms Act, had the stamp of approval of the highest court. 


Fast forward to Quebec's motion to prevent the destruction of their portion of the registration records after the passage of the federal Conservatives Bill C-19. On 27 March 2015, the Supreme Court ruled against Quebec, allowing the destruction of the records. The decision was viewed as a huge victory of the Conservatives over Quebec. In reality given the 15 June 2000 decision it was a huge insult that it made it to the Supreme Court and that they did not simply dismiss it when it did rather than providing a judgement.


In the 5-4 Quebec decision the Supreme Court ruled that destroying the data was a lawful exercise of Parliament's legislative power to make criminal law under the Constitution. Given the 15 June 2000 ruling, that should have been a foregone conclusion. In the dissenting opinion all three Quebec judges and one from outside Quebec argued that the provinces had the right to make laws in relation to property (the Alberta argument previously rejected by the same court).


It is clear from these two rulings that firearms are a special class of property subject to political whims even in our highest court.


Of the ruling Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, "We have permitting - in other words, we have registration - of all gun owners in Canada already". That "registration" - criminalized licensing - of gun owners is what the Supreme Court twice ruled allows the Feds to hold sway over gun owners.


If the Conservatives or the other parties do not make an election promise to decriminalise licensing infractions, as gun owners it makes little difference who they vote for. Because of this situation many owners will avoid the polling stations on October 19. The head of the National Firearms Association Sheldon Claire has taken a different approach. Disenchanted like many gun owners with not only the other parties but the Conservatives he is running as an independent in the riding of Cariboo—Prince George in British Columbia.


Al Muir, 

Plymouth, Nova Scotia

Canadian Unlicensed Firearms Owners Association

National Spokesperson