With the ‘most guns and most knowledge,’ NWT MP tackles Bill C-21
The NWT’s Liberal MP says he is applying his own gun knowledge in a bid to scale back the federal government’s proposed ban on some long guns.
Ontario MP Paul Chiang introduced amendments to a federal firearms bill earlier this month that added various rifles to a list of weapons to be banned.
The amendments are aimed at keeping the population safe from mass shootings and gun violence, Ottawa has said, but Indigenous leaders say the proposals infringe on hunting rights.
NWT MP Michael McLeod said he has broadly supported efforts to toughen gun laws since being elected in 2015 and likes some provisions of the proposed legislation, Bill C-21.
For example, he approves of proposed “red and yellow flags” that would allow court-ordered prohibitions and handgun freezes, give attention to illegal smuggling and trafficking, and introduce stiffer maximum penalties for gun crimes.
However, McLeod said, the bill’s definition of “military-style assault weapons” must be clearer – and there needs to be more understanding of why some guns that are not semi-automatics appear on the banned list.
Aspects of the bill “are a bit blurry for me and a little bit concerning,” he said. “I don’t know what is being suggested when it comes to changing the definition of assault weapons.”
McLeod said he had told public safety minister Marco Mendicino the bill will not have his support until he is “completely convinced” northern hunters, sport shooters and trappers will be unaffected.
“I have also indicated that I’m not satisfied that his people have done a good-enough job to consult,” the MP said.
‘We are trying to scrub the list’
McLeod admitted he has a personal interest in the issue. He is a longtime collector of firearms and considers himself well-versed in the need for specifics when placing prohibitions on guns.
“There are already some guns that are not semi-automatics on the list, and we need to know why,” he said. “Most of them are because they exceed the 10,000 joule [projectile limit] but we are trying to scrub the list, to make sure nothing gets on that list that people are using for hunting in the North.”
Because of his experience and perspective, there can be “heated” debate within his own party, McLeod said.
“A lot of times when we have discussions within caucus, I’m the one with the most guns and probably the one with the most knowledge about guns,” he said.
“We have a large part of the MPs in caucus that … see guns from a city, urban standpoint and look at it through that lens. But there are lots from the rural or remote and northern parts of the country that look at guns and view it in a different light.
“We don’t see it as a weapon, but we see it as a tool.”
Nunavut’s New Democratic MP, Lori Idlout, said she understands the intention behind the amendments to Bill C-21 when it comes to urban centres.
“People want to know that they are safe from gun violence. There is no reason for anyone to have a military-style gun in Montreal, downtown Toronto or any other urban centre,” Idlout said.
“Large communities of Inuit have moved to these urban centres and they, too, want to know they are safe. There’s no good reason to have military-style assault weapons in communities, near schools and playgrounds. We need legislation that ensures the safety of all children.”
What concerns Idlout is how the amendments might restrict the lifestyle and work of Nunavummiut, especially in secluded areas where predators are a threat.
“The Liberals introduced a last-minute amendment to their firearms bill without New Democrats’ knowledge. Many Indigenous people, Nunavummiut, hunters and farmers have raised concerns regarding the potential impact of these changes. I am taking these concerns very seriously,” Idlout said.
“Rifles are not just for hunting. They ensure our safety from predatory animals, such as polar bears.
“There is still time to make this right and we will keep working to make sure any amendments to the bill will not ban guns primarily used for hunting and for the safety of northerners.”