June 10, 2015 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Peter MacKay today announced the introduction of legislation to restore mandatory minimum penalties (MMPs), in defined circumstances, for the illegal possession of a loaded prohibited or restricted firearm. The Bill, titled the Penalties for the Criminal Possession of Firearms Act, is the Government’s response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in R. v. Nur. The Bill would make clear that people who possess loaded or easily loaded guns on Canadian streets or around schools are engaging in serious criminal behavior and must face the full force of the law, through clear and defined penalties of imprisonment, while protecting law-abiding gun owners.
The Criminal Code prohibits the criminal possession of loaded or easily loaded prohibited or restricted firearms such as fully automatic firearms, sawed-off rifles and handguns, and the offence is punishable by a maximum period of ten years’ imprisonment. The Penalties for the Criminal Possession of Firearms Act would impose MMPs on people who possess loaded prohibited or restricted firearms for the purpose of committing certain serious offences, or in situations that create a real risk of harm to others. Prohibited and restricted firearms are the weapons of choice for gangs and other types of organized crime. In the hands of these groups, such weapons pose serious risks to the safety of Canadians and to the safety of our communities.
The Penalties for the Criminal Possession of Firearms Act would also clarify who the offence applies to. For example, law-abiding firearms owners who possess prohibited or restricted firearms in accordance with the Firearms Act and store them lawfully would be exempt from the offence.
The proposed legislation builds on measures the Government introduced in October 2014 in the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act (Bill C-42) to strengthen the Criminal Code provisions relating to orders prohibiting the possession of firearms where a person is convicted of an offence involving domestic violence.
The proposed reforms also build on other measures brought forward by the Government to protect public safety and strengthen sentencing of violent offenders. Those measures include changes to the “faint hope” clause that allowed murderers to apply for early parole and Criminal Code amendments to allow judges to impose consecutive periods of parole ineligibility for multiple murders so that each life taken is represented in an offender’s sentence. More recently, the Government introduced legislation that would ensure that Canada’s most heinous criminals will be subject to mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Gang-related homicides are far more likely to involve firearms than non-gang-related homicides. In 2013, 71% of gang-related homicides were committed with a firearm, compared with 15% of non-gang-related homicides. In total, there were 60 gang-related homicides committed with a firearm in 2013, 83% of which were committed with a handgun.1
There were more than a dozen shootings between rival gang members fighting for control of the drug trade in Surrey, British Columbia, from March to May 2015.2
The Government recently provided new funding to hire 100 more RCMP officers to tackle the increasing gang-related violence in Surrey, B.C.
“The safety of our families and our communities remains a top priority for our Government. Gun crimes, particularly gang-related or those committed by repeat offenders, are serious offences with often devastating violent consequences and therefore deserve serious penalties. This Government is standing up for law-abiding citizens who comply with the law while ensuring that those who put the lives of innocent Canadians at risk through obviously blameworthy behaviour face penalties that match the severity of their crime.”
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“Our Government always stands up for the rights of law-abiding firearms owners, hunters, and sports shooters. The hunting and outdoors community in Canada, however, is adamant that the criminal use of firearms must be punished severely. That is why this Government is ensuring that those who use firearms for violent and criminal behaviour are punished, so all Canadians can be safe.”
MP for Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette
“The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, with 100,000 members, supporters and subscribers, and 725 member clubs across Ontario, represents law-abiding firearms owners who use firearms safely and responsibly for hunting or recreational sport shooting. The Federation strongly supports the new measures announced by the Harper government today, which will include serious penalties for the illegal possession and use of firearms to commit crime and threaten the public safety.”
OFAH Manager of Government Affairs and Policy