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Column: Civil disobedience over unjust gun law no stunt
PUBLICATION: The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)
DATE: 2003.02.06
BYLINE: Edward B. Hudson
SOURCE: Special to The StarPhoenix

Following is the personal viewpoint of the writer, a Saskatoon veterinarian.

On Jan. 14, I led a Freedom and Liberty Demonstration in Civic Square in Saskatoon, where I had peacefully assembled in front of the Cenotaph to explain the reasons for my opposition to the Firearms Act.

I told the news media that as part of the day's action, a friend and I would trade a "receiver," a specific non-dangerous part of a firearm, in front of the Saskatoon City Police headquarters. This activity would be a direct violation of the Firearms Act, which we consider unjust and desire to see repealed.

After my introductory remarks, the first questions I was asked by a reporter was, "Why are you doing this stunt?" I take strong exception to this question. To refer to our peaceful behaviour as a "stunt" trivializes our action and attempts to ridicule our objective.

Oppressed people are severely limited in the means available to overcome an entrenched social evil. Yet, as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. ably have demonstrated, peaceful civil disobedience is the best method of calling public attention to one's plight.

If such action is a "stunt," it is a very well accepted means of achieving one's end. I am openly challenging the Firearms Act as an unjust law and am using civil disobedience to arouse the people of Canada to "awaken from their slumber."

Two obvious questions arise:

Do I have the moral justification to equate my actions with Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi and King?

Do I truly believe that institutionalized, oppressive, unjust laws exist in Canada?

To both questions, I emphatically reply, "Yes" or I would not have been out in minus 25 C weather, performing an action for which I could be imprisoned for up to 10 years.

The Firearms Act is not merely an expensive, unnecessary, wasteful law. It is a violation of a sacred trust between the federal government and the people of Canada.

Ostensibly, Parliament passed the Firearms Act of 1995 to improve public safety. Therefore, the pertinent question becomes, Does the law improve public safety? What is in the act that we did not have in previous firearms laws ?

Since 1977, Canada has had a good system which limited the sale of firearms to only those people who had been thoroughly screened by the police and received a Firearm Acquisition Certificate. This FAC system, which was supported by police and responsible firearms owners, worked well.

In 1991, Parliament added safe storage and handling to the firearms laws.

Court prohibition orders have always been available for the police to seize firearms from irresponsible citizens who either misuse them or are otherwise found by the courts to represent a menace to society. Thus, Canadian society was well protected from irresponsible firearms owners prior to 1995.

Yet the Firearms Act was superimposed on all these laws, specifically adding a licensing requirement for everyone who owned a firearm, and introduced a new system for the registration of all firearms (registration of handguns having been required since 1934). These additions created no net benefit, yet came with a terrible price in cost to civil liberty.

All Canadians need to obtain a copy of the Firearms Act and examine it closely. It violates at least seven specific liberties guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically:

-the right to privacy,

- the right to mobility

- the right to be secure from unreasonable search and seizure,

- the right against self incrimination,

- the right to the presumption of innocence,

- the right to representation, and,

- the right to freedom of association.

Ted Morton of the University of Calgary department of political science says of the Firearms Act, "There is no connection between the objectives of the Firearms Act and the means to implement it ... Fair-minded judges will have no choice but to declare the Firearms Act unconstitutional."

Morton is not a lone voice; many academics have spoken out against the act.

My "crusade" may not have the moral imperative of Gandhi and King in freeing their people from oppression, but I feel committed to prevent Canadians from being led unwittingly into oppression.

If I fail to protect my civil rights, if I fail to protect the rights guaranteed to Canadians in our Constitution, I fail in my duty as a citizen to my country. No one should sing, "O Canada, I stand on guard for thee" who does not oppose unjust laws. That is the duty of all good citizens.

The Firearms Act of 1995 is an unjust law. I will not rest until I see Parliament repeal it.

This is no stunt. I am willing to bear the consequences of my actions. I am prepared to go to prison if necessary to force Canadians to answer this fundamental question: How many honest, responsible firearms owners will the citizens of Canada allow the government to put in prison to enforce an unjust law that does nothing to protect them?