We have a duty TO DISOBEY (2003.03.02)
PUBLICATION WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
DATE : SUN MAR.02,2003
PAGE : B4
CLASS : Special Section 6
We have a duty TO DISOBEY
Editorial Staff By Edward Hudson
On New Year's Day, in the face of widespread civil disobedience to the
federal government's dictate that all rifles and shotguns must be registered,
David Austin, chief spokesman for the Canadian Firearms Center, declared
on national television: "In a democracy we do not get to choose which
laws we will obey."
As with all good propaganda pronouncements, Mr Austin's assertion contains
only a very small element of truth. Indeed, we live in a democracy. But
contrary to Mr. Austin's specious declaration, that very fact demands
that we choose which laws we obey.
Only a person living in a totalitarian dictatorship is compelled by fear
to "obey or die" all laws passed by the state. We actively participate
in our governance and in the passage and propagation of our laws. Therefore,
we cannot submissively claim to be "just following orders" as if we had
no other option.
When a law is so odious that it violates basic civil liberties or contravenes
well-established human rights, we have no choice but to disobey it. To
obey such an unjust law would invalidate the very principles upon which
our democratic government is founded.
The Firearms Act is such an unjust law.
Parliament ostensibly passed the Firearms Act of 1995 to improve safety.
Yet the new law added absolutely nothing in the way of improvements to
an already well-established gun-control system.
Since 1977, Canada has limited the sale of firearms to those people who
have been thoroughly screened by the police and receive a Firearm Acquisition
Certificate (FAC). This FAC procedure was supported by both police and
responsible firearms owners, and worked very well. In response to the
shooting tragedy in Montreal, Parliament added safe storage and safe handling
to the the firearms laws in 1991.
Court-issued prohibition orders have always been available for the police
to seize firearms from irresponsible citizens who either misuse them or
are otherwise found to represent a menace to society. Thus, Canadian society
was very 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 mandating
an entirely new system for the registration of all firearms (registration
of handguns having been required since 1934).
These malevolent additions provided NO net benefit to society, yet came
with a terrible price in loss of civil liberty. The Firearms Act is not
merely an exorbitantly expensive, unnecessary, wasteful law. It is a violation
of the sacred trust between the federal government and the people of Canada.
The Firearms Act violates at least seven specific liberties guaranteed
by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, namely the rights to privacy,
mobility, security from unreasonable search and seizure, presumption of
innocence, representation, freedom of association and against self-incrimination,
Dr. Ted Morton, of the University of Calgary department of political science,
echoing many well-respected academics, has concluded that "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."
While civil disobedience to a duly-passed law is an extreme act, it should
not be considered unreasonable under these circumstances. For most North
Americans, Henry David Thoreau's postulate sets the standard: "When a
man's conscience and the laws clash, it is his conscience that he must
If ever a law met Thoreau's benchmark for civil disobedience, the Firearms
Act does. As responsible Canadian citizens we have a duty to disobey the
We will not rest until the law is repealed.
Ed Hudson is a veterinarian and secretary of the Canadian Unregistered
Firearm Owners Association, based in Saskatoon, Sask.