In the wake of the horrific Nova Scotia shooting rampage that cost 22 people their lives, Canada’s public safety minister has shed some light on Ottawa’s plan to expand who can sound the alarm on someone believed to be at risk or harming themselves or others with firearms.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said that he wanted to make sure the country’s “red flag laws” — legislation allowing health-care providers to breach patient-doctor confidentiality to report a potentially dangerous individual — would include family members, victims and other community members.
Canada already has a hotline for reporting dangerous persons as part of the Canadian Firearms Program, as well as Anastasia’s Law in Quebec which is specific to that province.
Blair listed a few situations of when and where the law — which would exist under The Firearms Act — could potentially be applied.
People showing signs of intimate partner violence, spouting hate speech or advocating for violence online against a religious or ethnic minority or even in a neighbourly dispute that could turn violent, could all be potentially considered as a viable red flag scenario.
“Those are circumstances where it’s a dangerous situation and the presence of a firearm can make it deadly.”
Blair has previously touted red flag laws as part of the Liberals’ gun control strategy, which saw multiple reforms to The Firearms Act over the last year.
His comments come amid an announcement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday to ban the ownership, sale and transport of over 1,500 models of assault-style guns across Canada in the aftermath of the Nova Scotia tragedy, the country’s most deadly mass shooting ever.
The order, which comes into effect immediately, includes a two-year amnesty period for current gun owners as well as an eventual buyback program.
According to Blair, the plan to introduce those red flag laws would come alongside other legislation to further tighten gun control in the spring.
“We’ll bring forward legislation that will give us new tools, new authorities to stop the illegal smuggling of firearms into Canada, the illegal trafficking of firearms through diversion and straw purchase, and the illegal firearms that get into the hands of criminals through theft by implementing new measures, the strong measures to require secure storage of those weapons,” said Blair.
“We’ll also bring in new measures to control ammunition, large-capacity magazines.”
The move to introduce nationwide red flag law has been advocated for, for more than 25 years, according to Dr. Alan Drummond, the co-chair of public affairs at the Canadian Association of Emergency Room Physicians (CAEP).
Drummond, who was “surprised and delighted” by the new measures, said that the announcement was especially significant because of how comprehensive the reforms were.
He said that added action towards the expansion of said laws would go a long way towards addressing suicide in particular — which remains the leading cause of firearm death in Canada as of 2016, according to Statistics Canada.
“Seventy-five per cent of all gun deaths in Canada are caused by suicide. Five hundred Canadians die every year as a result of a firearm suicide, and these are, in my view, somewhat preventable, but they’re never discussed,” Drummond said.
“So when Minister Blair talks about red flag laws, I have some hope that we’ll start to incorporate the discussion on suicide prevention as part of on our ongoing dialogue on gun control.”
During his press conference in Ottawa Friday, Trudeau said that some details concerning a lot of the legislation was “still being ironed out,” but cited numerous mass shootings — including both the École Polytechnique in 1989 and the recent one in N.S. — as their reason for the push in legislation.
“These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time,” said Trudeau.
“We can stick to thoughts and prayers alone, or we can unite as a country and put an end to this.”
— With files from Global News reporter Amanda Connolly