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

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Making the Case for Civil Disobedience in Canada

Firearms owners face a looming crisis in their lives with the January first 2003 deadline to register all their firearms fast approaching. While large numbers of firearms owners have refused to obtain a license, even more are refusing to register their firearms. Yet most firearms groups seem reluctant to issue a clear call for this type of civil disobedience in open defiance of Bill C-68. Many Canadians seem extremely reluctant even to discuss civil disobedience, regarding any violation of law and order as opposed to the Canadian way. Before rejecting civil disobedience as an appropriate response to this unjust law, firearms owners need to take a good, hard look at history.

When Mahatma Gandhi set out on the Salt March to oppose British rule in India he was not regarded by the British as a hero, but rather an outlaw, a criminal. Indeed, Gandhi was incarcerated several times in British prisons for his illegal activities, activities for which all of India, yea, all the free world, praise him now. Many of Gandhi's peaceful followers were killed by the ruling authorities. History crowns Gandhi a national savior for undertaking what were then illegal activities.

When Martin Luther King, Jr, led a boycott of the bus system in Montgomery, Alabama, to oppose unjust segregation laws his followers were arrested and sent to jail for violating the laws of society. Dr King's most famous work on civil disobedience was in fact written while he was in jail.

In England women were imprisoned for seeking the vote. Their activity was regarded by the justice system as opposed to good order, and many suffered terrible abuse in prison for their actions.

In the United States during the late Sixties and early Seventies, many young men were sentenced to serve harsh, lengthy terms in military prisons for their non-violent refusal to engage in what they considered an unjust war.

Perhaps Canada's closest connection to civil disobedience are our Dukhobor settlers who were thrown out of Russia for their steadfast refusal to follow the dictates of the rulers of their society. Before being allowed to leave Russia, many were brutally killed for following the advice of Leo Tolstoy and his idea of peaceful non-compliance.

Canada is now in the cross hairs of history.

Now it is our turn to decide the same basic questions that all the followers of Gandhi, King, and Tolstoy faced. Is what we believe worth defending ? And if what we believe is worth defending, how are we going to defend our belief?

So what do we believe about Bill C-68 and firearms registration?

We know that history teaches that registration of firearms leads to confiscation. We know that Bill C-68 has already led to the confiscation of legally owned handguns in Canada. We know that Bill C-68 violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

What more proof of the violation of our most basic freedoms do we need to see before we decide to take definitive action to oppose an unjust law ?

But what type of action are we willing to take? Will we take up arms to defend our right to self protection?

There is nothing wrong with armed rebellion if the current system is so rotten as to need complete replacement. But Canada's being consistently ranked as one of the top ten countries in the world in which to live makes the need for violence and bloodshed a bit overblown.

If armed rebellion is not warranted, is civil disobedience to be used instead?

Most modern philosophers consider civil disobedience a justified method of persuasion when majority rule ignores the valid concerns of a minority.

Do we have a valid concern? I certainly believe we do.

But we can not know for certain ahead of time that we are right. Individually we can only decide conscientiously and then act. History will decide.

Our job right now is to present our case to the Canadian public by openly saying, This is a bad law; we will not comply. You can not force us into submission.

If our society decides to put every gopher shooting farmer in prison for refusing to register a .22 rifle or to financially ruin every duck hunter for owning an unregistered shotgun, we must be willing to accept that as the consequence of our actions. Our willingness to accept the legal consequences of our illegal action demonstrates our fidelity to our system of government. We are not opposed to our government; we are opposed to one unjust law.

The thought of being imprisoned may seem a bit harsh. But under Bill C-68 are we not losing our freedom slowly every day as another of these oppressive regulations is instituted? I prefer prison to this slow erosion of our rights and freedoms. Now is the time to awaken the rest of Canada to what is happening. If we can not awaken the majority of Canadians to the injustice of this law by our open refusal to comply, we will have lost our freedom. I prefer to take a stand based on the principles as I understand them, rather than submit to legalized abuse.