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Canada Health workers march with family members of gun-violence victims as part of Day of Action

Physicians and health workers protest in Toronto, on April, 3, 2019, as part of a National Day of Action to call for stronger gun control laws, including passage of Bill C-71 and a handgun assault weapons ban.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

In his 12 years as a trauma surgeon, Dan Deckelbaum has seen more than his share of traumatic injuries caused by gunshots.

“In the trauma bay, we have first-hand experience with the effects of gun violence,” he said.

Dr. Deckelbaum said he supports stronger gun-control laws – such as a ban on handguns and semi-automatic weapons – because “every injury inflicted by a gun is a preventable injury, and the best prevention is limiting the number of guns.”

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At lunchtime on Wednesday, he joined a few dozen health workers for a short march from Montreal General Hospital and the medical school of McGill University as part of the National Day of Action organized by Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG).

Activities were staged Wednesday in at least 16 cities across Canada, from St. John’s to Vancouver. In addition to protest marches, there were “stop the bleed” workshops on trauma care, discussion forums and letter-writing campaigns.

CDPG is lobbying for passage of Bill C-71, legislation currently before the Senate that would impose stricter rules about transport of guns, and require more detailed background checks and require retailers to keep records of firearm sales, among other things. The physicians also want a ban on handguns and semi-automatic weapons.

Among the crowd of students, medical residents, physicians and nurses in Montreal was David Mulder, a legendary trauma surgeon who is best known as the team doctor of the Montreal Canadiens.

The health-care workers were joined by family members of victims of gun violence. Jean-François Larivée, whose wife Maryse Laganière was one of the 14 women gunned down at Montreal’s École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989, said he has been advocating for better gun control for 30 years to remind Canadians that the effects of gun violence extend well beyond the immediate victims.

“My dreams ended the day my wife was killed,” he said.

Mr. Larivée said that it is incomprehensible to him that the Ruger Mini-14, a gun almost identical to the one used in the Polytechnique massacre, is still available in Canada.

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In Toronto, Claire Smith, whose daughter Samantha Price was injured during a shooting rampage in the city’s Danforth neighbourhood on July 22, 2018, that left two dead and 13 wounded, said she came to lend support to the idea of a handgun ban because the Danforth shooter “had a handgun he had no business having.”

White-coated health workers carried a mock coffin to Toronto City Hall, alongside signs that read “Fewer Guns = Fewer Corpses” and “Your Voice Is Your Ammunition.”

Dr. Deckelbaum said one of the most difficult aspects of health workers dealing with gun violence is “seeing the devastation and anguish in families of victims.”

Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns was formed earlier this year in response to the rising rate of gun violence and injuries. Statistics Canada data show gun violence has increased by 42 per cent since 2013.

The low-key coalition rose to prominence after it was revealed that one of the founders, Najma Ahmed, a trauma surgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, was subjected to a barrage of complaints from gun owners, who tried to have her disciplined by the regulatory body. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario dismissed the complaints.

The Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights said the efforts of physicians are misguided and wrong-headed because most gun violence is perpetrated by gang members and the proposed new restrictions would only punish law-abiding hunters and sports shooters.

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With files from The Canadian Press

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