Montreal city council unanimously adopted a motion calling for a nationwide ban on handguns and military-style assault weapons amid a growing debate about gun violence and further restrictions on firearms.
The move, which follows a similar motion by Toronto, unites Canada’s two largest cities in pressuring the federal government on its proposed gun-control legislation, Bill C-71. Montreal’s motion goes further than Toronto’s, which called only for a handgun ban within the city.
Montreal doesn’t have any formal power to enact a ban, but the motion on Monday is timely. It comes the day before the federal cabinet meets in Nanaimo, B.C., where ministers are expected to discuss a handgun ban, something Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shown a willingness to consider.
“It’s time to pressure the federal government on this issue that is crucial to the safety of Montrealers and all Canadians,” said city councillor Alex Norris, who tabled the motion. “We are asking for a ban, pure and simple, on the possession of these sorts of lethal weapons in Canada.”
The federal government tabled gun-control legislation in March of this year aimed at strengthening Canada’s gun-control regime and countering an increase in gun-related offences and homicides.
But the Montreal motion notes the federal legislation doesn’t prohibit the possession of handguns and assault weapons.
It says such weapons were used in numerous shootings that have marked Quebec’s collective memory, including at the Polytechnique in 1989, at Dawson College in Montreal in 2006 that left one victim dead and at a Quebec City mosque in 2017, which left six worshippers dead.
Montreal has witnessed less gun violence than Toronto in recent years, even before the Danforth Avenue shooting last month that claimed the lives of two victims and left 13 people injured and which prompted Toronto’s motion. Montreal had a historically low 24 homicides last year, while Toronto had more than 60, most of them involving guns.
Still, Montreal has been home to some of the worst gun massacres in Canada over the decades, which have been catalysts for creating an entrenched gun-control movement in the city and province.
City councillors unanimously backed the motion under the gaze of families who lost loved ones in mass shootings in Montreal; their presence in the council chambers’ public galleries embodied the human toll of gun violence and its impact on the city’s consciousness.
“You remind us why we are taking this step today,” Mayor Valérie Plante said as she turned to visitors in the gallery, some of whom lost relatives to the 1989 Polytechnique massacre that took the lives of 14 women.
“This motion is important,” Ms. Plante said. “I’m confident that other cities will hear our message and join us in bringing the Canadian government to legislate on the question.”
Mr. Norris said a limited ban such as what Toronto is calling for won’t stop the flow of weapons into cities.
“We need a ban across the country,” Mr. Norris, chair of the city’s public security committee, said in council.
Among those who attended Monday’s vote was Jim Edward, who lost his sister, 21-year-old Anne-Marie, in the Polytechnique shooting. He said he hopes Montreal’s vote, building on Toronto’s, will keep the pressure on Ottawa.
“We want to encourage and continue the momentum across Canada. It is what Montrealers want and this is what Canadians want,” he said. He voiced frustration dealing with Ottawa over the years, noting the Harper government’s weakened gun-control measures. “My sister is my motivation,” Mr. Edward said, “so that we don’t forget her.”
The Montreal motion notes that violent crimes involving firearms rose 33 per cent between 2013 and 2016; six in 10 of firearm-related violent crimes involve handguns, according to Statistics Canada. A Statscan report last year found the number of homicides committed with a firearm rose for the third straight year.