The Canadian government is set to ban the importation of restricted handguns as of August 19.
Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly announced on Friday that the federal government has decided to advance the import ban without parliamentary approval, by making a change policy through regulatory restrictions.
The measure will prevent “virtually all” individuals and businesses from importing handguns into Canada, according to the government.
Joly and Mendicino said Friday that the upcoming regulations will effectively accelerate some aspects of the planned freeze. The move is temporary, however, and is expected to remain in effect only until the previously promised permanent import ban is passed in Ottawa.
“This ban is a stopgap measure while the full handgun freeze moves through the parliamentary process, preventing immediate restocking of shelves,” Joly said.
While details of the upcoming regulatory restrictions have yet to be released, Joly said she would enact her authority as foreign minister, which allows her to deny any applications for export permits or import, citing security concerns.
“Working with Marco, we came up with the idea to create this new licensing requirement system, but until then we will deny any license to any commercial entity or person wishing to bring handguns into Canada,” said Joly said. “So that’s how creatively we’ve worked, and that’s why today we’re talking about an import ban.”
In late May, the Liberals introduced Bill C-21, legislation that, if passed, would further restrict legal access to handguns in Canada. The bill includes a specific section that stops short of a full ban, opting instead for a national “freeze” on the sale, purchase or transfer of handguns in Canada that allows current legal owners to keep theirs.
Bill C-21 also seeks to create systems for reporting people who may pose a risk to themselves or others, and to increase maximum penalties for firearms offenses such as smuggling and firearms trafficking.
The new regulations announced Friday will include “narrow exceptions that mirror those in Bill C-21,” the government said.
Joly said the Liberals decided to do this because when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Bill C-21, there was an “increase” in guns purchased in Canada, and handguns especially.
“We want to prevent that. That’s why we’re announcing this import ban…We know that the vast majority of handguns in the country are imported, because there are no handgun producers in the country,” Joly said.
The Bill is still in the early stages of its passage through Parliament, with MPs due to launch a committee study of the Bill when the fall sitting of the House of Commons begins in late September.
On Friday, Mendicino reiterated his desire to see the legislation passed “as soon as possible”.
“I continue to call on all MPs to read the bill, study it and pass it into law as soon as possible. We have made good progress… Unfortunately, it is the Tories who continue to obstruct the passage of this bill,” said the minister.
The Conservatives have regularly denied allegations of stalling government bills, accusing the minority Liberal government of being incompetent stewards of the legislative agenda.
In a statement reacting to the news, Conservative MP and public safety critic Raquel Dancho accused the government of “attacking business owners and law-abiding citizens”.
“Instead of addressing the real source of gun crime in Canada, the Liberal government is unilaterally banning imports without parliamentary intervention, impacting a multi-billion dollar industry and thousands of retailers and small businesses, with very little notice,” Dancho said. the announcement will do nothing to stop the flow of illegal handguns.”
The Bloc Québécois said Friday it welcomed the decision, but lamented that action was not taken immediately after the announcement of Bill C-21 to stem the flow of handguns into the country.
In a statement, Bloc MP and justice critic Rheal Fortin said more work needs to be done to tackle gun crime, including tackling the number of handguns already in circulation in Canada. through a handgun buy-back program.
The Liberals are implementing a gun buyback program, but it focuses on a list of 1,500 different makes and models of what the government considers “assault” type firearms. “.
According to the government, law enforcement seized more than double the number of firearms at the border in 2021, compared to 2020.
The ministers suggested that once the import restrictions come into effect, the number of handguns in Canada will only decrease, which gun control supporters are celebrating.
“An import ban will not end the purchase of handguns in Canada. However, this is an important and creative step that will undoubtedly slow the expansion of the Canadian handgun market until Bill C-21 is passed, hopefully this fall,” said Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the 1989 École Polytechnique shootings in Montreal, in a statement.
With files from CTV News’ Michael Lee