Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed says the government's controversial firearms legislation is not trying to target hunters and farmers — but some guns commonly used by them may still be banned.
Noormohamed, who sits on the parliamentary committee now grappling with the bill, acknowledged that firearms like the SKS rifle — which is on the list of proposed prohibitions — are sometimes used by hunters. But specific variants of the SKS have also been used to commit acts of violence, he added.
"The SKS has been used to kill cops across this country," he said in an interview on CBC Radio's The House airing Saturday. "It is used in some context by hunters, but it's also, unfortunately, in the hands of criminals."
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Asked to explain how the Liberals could claim the bill did not target hunters when it bans firearms like the SKS and some Remington 742 guns, Noormohamed said that "in some cases, unfortunately, both things can be true."
Some Remington models, he said, were designed to use magazines larger than those allowed by the proposed law.
"The overwhelming majority of Canadians have said to us we need to get some of these guns off our streets, and this is where we have to figure out exactly how to thread the needle on this in a meaningful, thoughtful way," he said.
Noormohamed also echoed a willingness expressed by others in the government to adjust a proposed amendment to the bill which triggered an intense outcry.
"If there are guns on this list that shouldn't be there, for all of the reasons that folks have identified that are reasonable, then we need to work on fixing that," he said.
He said the government is looking to "make sure that we allay any concerns that are out there, but more importantly, that we tweak the list, that we ensure this is not done in a way that does not capture commonly used hunting rifles and shotguns."
Conservatives, Indigenous organization among opponents
Bill C-21 was proposed originally as legislation to ban handguns in Canada, but an amendment introduced by the government last month added language that would create an "evergreen definition" of "assault-style" firearms banned by the government.
That definition includes two measures put forward by the government through regulations in 2020: a limit on muzzle energy and bore diameter and a new rule banning semi-automatic rifles or shotguns designed to accept a detachable magazine with a capacity greater than five cartridges.
The government also introduced a list that included thousands of models that were covered by the ban — many of them firearms frequently used for hunting or sport shooting.
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The federal government has faced intense criticism over the new amendment. Conservative critic Raquel Dancho has called the move a historic "attack on the culture of hunting." The Assembly of First Nations passed an emergency resolution at its conference in Ottawa condemning the amendment.
Among those leading the charge against the legislation are gun owners and those involved in the industry, including co-owner of the Calgary Shooting Centre James Bachynsky.
Bachynsky told The House he felt targeted by the Liberals' "consistent attacks" on his "livelihood" through firearms legislation.
"I don't think anyone in the current government really cares and I don't think they plan on doing anything other than offer platitudes," said Bachynsky, who served in the Canadian military for two decades.
He took issue with the criteria the government is putting forward and argued the changes would do little to make Canadians safer.
"They're piggybacking the problem with increased gun crime in big cities in Canada — and there's no there's no denying that it's happening — but they're piggybacking private gun ownership on that problem," he said. "And they're attacking people who have nothing to do with that."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week the government is now re-examining the legislation.
"The definition is something that we are very much committed to, but the actual list that goes with it, that's something that we're consulting on right now," he said.
Noormohamed said that, with few sitting days remaining before the winter break, the committee studying the bill won't wrap up its activities until the new year.
"It is important that we move quickly, but it is important that we do it in a thoughtful way and that we ensure that we don't try to rush," he said.
Liberal MP for Yukon says he would not vote for bill
Critics across the country continued to attack the amendment this week. Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane said Friday she doesn't support the bill as it stands, given the impact it might have on constituents who rely on hunting for food.
"At this point, if they didn't look at the need for hunters, I could not support it, because then I would be supporting people starving," she said.
Liberal MP Brendan Hanley, who represents Yukon, said he won't vote for the bill if concerns about the amendment are not addressed.
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The amendment has been supported by gun control advocates such as Heidi Rathjen, who recently told The House the government should have been more effective at communicating what she said was a worthwhile change.
Debate at the parliamentary committee stalled this week before the Liberals, NDP and Bloc pushed for a motion calling for more witnesses to testify on the amendment.
The Liberals then said the Conservatives were obstructing progress on the issue, prompting Dancho to rise in the House of Commons to accuse the government of lying. That led to her expulsion from the chamber after she refused to apologize.
"This is an attack on the culture of hunting in this country that's centuries old … So for them to get up in the House of Commons to say Conservatives are part of the problem when we're standing up for Canadian hunters — it is a lie," she told reporters in the House foyer shortly after her expulsion.