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Premier of the Northwest Territories Caroline Cochrane on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Dec. 9.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Canada’s territorial premiers raised concerns on Friday about last-minute changes to the Liberal government’s proposed gun-control legislation, adding to a growing backlash over the amendments, which would criminalize some firearms commonly used by hunters.

Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane offered a forceful rebuke of the late changes to Bill C-21, emphasizing that many Indigenous people in the territory rely on rifles for hunting to buffer against extremely high costs of food.

When asked by a reporter on Friday if she supports the bill in its latest form, Ms. Cochrane said: “If they didn’t look at the needs for hunters, then I could not support it because then I would be supporting people starving.”

The Premier said the concern she’s heard from Indigenous hunters is: “‘you can’t take away our rifles, because if you take away our rifles, you’ve taken away our livelihood, our food source.’”

Through the recent amendments, the government introduced a permanent definition for all assault-style weapons that would be automatically prohibited, as well as a 307-page list of guns that stipulates which firearms would be banned and where there would be exceptions.

However, some experts have pointed out that the government’s list of prohibited guns includes some that don’t meet the proposed definition of an assault-style weapon. An example would be the Simonov SKS, which is commonly used for hunting.

Liberal MP Paul Chiang introduced the amendments on Nov. 22 after the House of Commons public safety committee had already heard from witnesses on the original bill, which was introduced to enact the government’s handgun restrictions.

Criticism has been mounting in the weeks since – from both Conservative and NDP MPs, and even from within the Liberals’ own party. On Thursday, First Nations chiefs, who’d gathered from across Canada for a meeting in Ottawa, voted unanimously in favour of a resolution opposing the bill.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Thursday that his government will not change the definition of assault-style weapons that it introduced through the late amendments, but is open to changing the list of prohibited weapons that it will legislate.

On Friday, Yukon Premier Sandy Silver expressed support for the territory’s Liberal MP, Brendan Hanley, who told the CBC earlier this week that he would not support the bill as it currently stands.

“I’m happy that Dr. Hanley is taking the stance he is – that’s got to be very difficult for him – but he’s representing the people of Yukon and I stand behind what he’s doing,” Mr. Silver told The Globe and Mail.

“Conversations about how important rifles are to the hunting community in Yukon – that has to be part of the conversation,” Mr. Silver added.

In a statement, Alexander Cohen, director of communications to Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, said: “We’ve been clear that our amendment to Bill C-21 is focused on AR-15s and other assault-style firearms, not those commonly used for hunting.”

Mr. Cohen added that the government will be “fine-tuning” the legislation. (On Thursday, Liberals agreed to extend a committee study of the proposed law, adding on two more meetings to hear from witnesses about the amendments.)

In a statement Friday, Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok said his government has warned the federal government that any firearm regulations must respect the rights of Inuit hunters. Ottawa has not reached out to his government to discuss the recent amendments to Bill C-21, he added.

The Premier also said that while the Government of Nunavut has not reached a position either for or against the amendment, the territory’s Department of Justice has found that the changes will have a greater impact on Nunavut’s hunters.

“This is because rimfire and centrefire semi-automatic rifles are used for harvesting seal and a number of other game. In addition, shotguns with a high capacity are commonly used for hunting ptarmigan and other birds,” Mr. Akeeagok said.

During Question Period on Friday, NDP MP Lori Idlout, who represents Nunavut, said the amendments show how “out of touch” Liberals are with Nunavut’s residents.

“My community is worried and confused,” she said.