Federal Court strikes down challenge to 2020 ban on 'assault' firearms

The 2020 directive instantly reclassified around 1,500 popular firearms to prohibited status

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A Federal Court judge has dismissed a challenge to a 2020 order-in-council that outlawed over 1,500 firearm models, ending a three-year court battle led by a coalition of plaintiffs, including Canada’s leading firearms advocacy group.

Filed shortly after the government’s May 1, 2020, directive, a group of applicants including the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights (CCFR,) individuals and firearms-related businesses filed an application in Federal Court challenging the order’s constitutionality and arguing the government lacked the regulatory authority to enact it.

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The 2020 directive instantly — without passing legislation in Parliament — reclassified around 1,500 popular firearms to prohibited status, including those described as so-called “military-style” or “assault” firearms.

In a ruling issued Monday, Federal Court Judge Catherine M. Kane said the order-in-council did not exceed the authority of Parliament, nor does it infringe on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights, or portions of the Criminal Code that deal with firearms.

“The Governor in Council did not exceed the statutory grant of authority delegated to it by Parliament pursuant to subsection 117.15(2) of the Criminal Code,” the decision read.

“The Governor in Council formed the opinion that the prescribed firearms are not reasonable for use in hunting and sport, and the opinion and decision to prescribe the firearms as prohibited are reasonable.”

Announcement of the government’s order-in-council came one week after the April 2020 Nova Scotia shootings that claimed 22 lives.

“These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while announcing the ban.

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“There is no use, and no place for such weapons in Canada.”

Amnesty for current owners was extended another two years in 2021, and was due to expire Monday.

Following an injunction filed last month by the CCFR, the government extended that amnesty until Oct. 30 2025 — over five years since the order-in-council went into effect.

A government-enforced firearm confiscation program has been in the works since May 2020, the first phase of which was only announced seven months ago.

Former Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino announced details in April of a program that will force retailers — left with millions of dollars in unsellable stock — to hand over their unsold merchandise to the federal government for cash.

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Public Safety Canada entered into a $700,000 agreement with the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association to help facilitate the expropriation.

While the government has so far remained quiet on how much the gun grab will cost, early estimates by the Parliamentary Budget Officer said compensating owners for their confiscated firearms could cost as much as $756 million.

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Simon Fraser University’s Gary Mauser disputed that number, and last November told the National Post that costs could easily exceed that number by at least a billion dollars — a figure that largely depends on the exact number of legally owned firearms in Canada.

CCFR CEO Rod Giltaca expressed dismay over Monday’s decision.

“We promised we would fight this unjust and irresponsible action by this Liberal-NDP government, and we will continue to do just that until every avenue and opportunity is exhausted,” he said.

“It seems that Justice Kane has concluded, in writing, that the government owes no procedural fairness to Canadians in these types of matters and that all the government need do is scrawl out a preamble in an Order in Council to take whatever they want, whenever they want.”

He added that Monday’s decision should be “concerning to all Canadians.”

A statement from anti-gun group PolySeSouvient urged the Trudeau Liberals to go further in their efforts.

“This ruling should propel the Trudeau government to rapidly implement its repeated campaign commitments to ban all military-style assault weapons not reasonably used for hunting,” the statement read.

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“The authority of the government to limit what type of guns can legally be owned by Canadians is explicit and unequivocal.”

PolySeSouvient has played a somewhat extraordinary role in the government’s gun control measures.

In 2021, the government’s decision to move ahead with a voluntary, rather than mandatory, gun buy-back prompted PolySeSouvient to publicly disinvite Trudeau from future École Polytechnique shooting memorials.

Government policy was soon revised to include compulsory firearms confiscation, and the PM was again front-and-centre at that year’s remembrance ceremonies in Montreal.

Mauser said Monday’s decision seriously undermines hunting, sport shooting and environmental protection in Canada.

“The empirical support for this gun ban is non-existent, as Caillin Langmann (an assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University) and myself have shown in peer reviewed research,” he said.

Mauser agreed with testimony provided last week to the Senate national security committee by Royal Military College Professor Christian Leuprecht, who described the government’s actions as a “cynical ploy” to force firearms as a wedge issue for the next federal election.

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“It is upsetting to see the court agree and support the government’s wedge politics,” Mauser said, adding that Monday’s decision will do little but further inflame political polarization in Canada.

“Ordering the confiscation of $4 billion worth of private property based on nebulous claims of dangerousness not only severely damages citizens who thought they were obeying the law, but sets a dangerous precedent for everyone else.”

• Email: [email protected] | X: @bryanpassifiume

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Originally posted 2023-10-30 19:47:54.