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Canadian gun-control reforms passed last year may not go into effect until 2022: memo

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Several federal gun-control measures that received royal assent over a year ago, including expanded background checks, might not come into effect before 2022, says an internal government memo.

A briefing note prepared in June for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says a series of steps must be taken before all of the provisions in Bill C-71 are in place.

Some elements of the bill, including those clarifying that firearms seized by police are considered forfeited to the Crown, came into force upon royal assent in June 2019.

Read more: Feds turn to 15 private consulting firms to design, run firearm buyback program

Several other measures, however, require regulatory, administrative and technical changes.

They include expanding background checks to determine eligibility for a firearms licence to the entirety of a person’s life, not just the last five years. It would also broaden grounds to cover an applicant’s history of intimate partner violence and online threats.

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The note, drafted to help Blair answer questions in the House of Commons, says other provisions that have yet to come into force will:

— Require the purchaser of a non-restricted firearm, including many hunting rifles and shotguns, to present a firearms licence, while the seller would have to ensure the licence’s validity;

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— Require vendors to keep records of non-restricted firearm transactions;

— Remove the authority of cabinet to “deem” firearms to fall under a less restrictive class, irrespective of Criminal Code definitions;

— Require a separate Authorization to Transport (ATT) when taking restricted and prohibited firearms to any place except to an approved shooting range.

Prior to these provisions coming into force, the government must secure funding for the RCMP to update its information management and technology systems, as well as test the systems to ensure the transition is “seamless for both individual owners and retailers,” the note says.

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Draft regulations would also have to be finalized, which will involve consultations with affected parties, the note adds.

“The regulations would then need to be tabled in both Houses of Parliament for at least 30 sitting days, before being brought into force through orders-in-council,” it says.

“In parallel, the RCMP would require up to 24 months to implement the new provisions, with ‘deeming’ and ATT provisions to be completed within the first 12 months and the remaining provisions thereafter (licence verification, licence eligibility and vendor record-keeping).”

Implementing the outstanding changes necessary for C-71 remains a priority for the Liberal government, said Mary-Liz Power, a spokeswoman for Blair.

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Work is “underway to develop a funding proposal to support the new provisions,” she said.

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Cpl. Caroline Duval, an RCMP spokeswoman, said while funding had not yet been allocated to the Mounties, the police force’s Canadian Firearms Program has initiated discussions with Public Safety Canada on the implementation plan.

The Liberals see Bill C-71 as the first in a series of measures aimed at ending gun violence.

In May, the government enacted a ban covering some 1,500 models and variants of what it considers assault-style weapons, meaning they can no longer be legally used, sold or imported.

Read more: ‘Enough is enough’: Feds unveil ban on 1,500 ‘assault-style’ firearms

Erin O’Toole, the newly chosen Conservative leader, was among those who denounced the ban at the time.

The Liberals have also promised legislation that would:

— Empower police, doctors, victims of domestic abuse and families to be able to raise a flag on those who pose a risk to themselves or an identifiable group;

— Toughen secure storage laws to help prevent the theft of firearms;

— Open the door to more resources and stronger penalties for police and border services officers to help stop the flow of weapons over borders and target the illegal trafficking of firearms.

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