The federal government says it won’t be making any decisions on a handgun ban at this week’s cabinet retreat in Nanaimo, B.C., despite pressure from Canada’s two largest cities to adopt a tougher stand on firearms.
Montreal unanimously adopted a motion for a nationwide ban on handguns and military-style assault weapons this week and a motion adopted by Toronto city council last month urges Ottawa to ban handguns in the city as well as prohibit assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons.
In an interview Tuesday, Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair ruled out the possibility of a decision in Nanaimo, but said the cabinet will be talking about gun policy during their two days of meetings.
“I think this is a longer-term, more complex discussion,” the former Toronto police chief said.
The Globe and Mail has reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wanted a decision by mid-August on whether to include such a ban as part of a new legislative agenda that could be outlined if government decides to prorogue Parliament and start over with a fall Throne Speech.
But senior federal officials have been playing down the possibility of quick action.
“I don’t have a specific timeline other than to say I understand the urgency of the matter and that the people who are making these representations want to see a serious consideration of this idea in a timely way,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters in Nanaimo on Tuesday.
He said he would not comment on the cabinet’s agenda, but said the government would examine a handgun ban carefully for effectiveness and fairness. “That examination is under way,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Goodale told CBC in Vancouver there are other measures worth considering, including whether health-care professionals should be empowered to report individuals who might be a danger to themselves and others.
The Montreal motion calls on Ottawa to strengthen its gun-control bill, known as C-71, which doesn’t prohibit the private ownership of handguns or assault-style weapons.
Mr. Blair said the federal government “takes very seriously” the concerns that Canada’s two largest cities are raising, but the “complexity” of the issue demands a harder look at C-71, and the government is intent on doing the work on policy options to ensure they are effective.
Mr. Trudeau has said his government is listening attentively to the council motions from Canada’s two largest cities.
In July, the opposition Conservative Party said it would need to see the details of the proposed Liberal ban to effectively assess it.
“The Conservatives support measures that target thugs and criminals, not taking away property from law-abiding sport shooters,” Pierre Paul-Hus, the shadow minister for public safety said in a statement.
“As the Liberals themselves have suggested, a handgun ban would be a complex legal endeavour and even their own MPs have doubts that such a move would work.”