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AFN promises Dene chiefs it will oppose gun legislation

AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald appearing via video link at a December 15, 2022 meeting
AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald appearing via video link at a December 15, 2022 meeting.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald this week told Dene leaders she will urge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to dial back controversial gun legislation.

A Liberal firearms control bill that originally targeted handguns was expanded early in December to propose banning many long guns. Critics say the new list would mean banning some hunting rifles.

This week, federal public safety minister Marco Mendicino acknowledged concerns from hunters, including Indigenous peoples, had been “loud and clear” and “there are definitely a few models that we need to look very carefully at.”

Politicians will resume examining Bill C-21 in the new year. This week, before the House adjourned for the holidays, Opposition MPs proposed hearing from more witnesses in 2023 to better define exactly what the government wants to ban.



In trying to outlaw military-style assault firearms, the bill’s current definition includes centrefire semi-automatic rifles and shotguns capable of accepting magazines that can hold more than five cartridges.

There is debate over which guns, precisely, that definition does or does not include, amid recognition that drawing a clear line between assault weapons and hunting rifles – one that satisfies all parties – is not straightforward.

Speaking by video link at a meeting of Dene leaders in Yellowknife this week, Archibald said: “This kind of legislation has an impact all across Turtle Island. Part of our role is to make sure that the federal government fulfils its fiduciary obligation to stand up against this kind of legislation that impacts our inherent and treaty rights.

“That’s definitely one area where I will be reaching out to the Prime Minister, again, in consultation with the various nations in Alberta, to ensure that I am in step with them, that I’m supporting them properly.”



Archibald said the legislation as proposed “certainly negatively impacts our people.”

A still from a live stream of a Dene Nation meeting in December 2022
A still from a live stream of a Dene Nation meeting in December 2022.

Dene National Chief Gerald Antoine told the meeting – arranged by the Dene Nation – that an AFN resolution called on the federal government to conduct “proper and adequate consultations” with Indigenous peoples and “remove from the list of prohibited weapons the long guns commonly used by our people.”

Charlie Furlong, representing Aklavik, said he felt the AFN resolution did not go far enough.

“We need to clearly stand up right now and say this is our right. You don’t fool around with it,” Furlong told the meeting.

“The next step, if it passes, is: are they going to charge us for hunting? That would be a good constitutional fight in the court.

“And I’ll bet my bottom dollar that the courts would go with us, because it is our treaty rights.”

Michael McLeod, the NWT’s Liberal MP, said this week he supports the federal government taking more time to review exactly what the proposed legislation would ban.

“The bill is not clear. The bill is very difficult to read,” McLeod told CKLB.

“It should be clear. People should have the comfort of knowing, OK, my gun is on the list or it’s not on the list.

“My suggestion to the minister is to take the time to do some more reviews, talk to more people that use guns like hunters, talk to more people that are sport shooters, talk to more people that are in the military and RCMP, and come up with something that’s well rounded, that’s correct.”