MPs on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and Security voted Monday to condemn comments made last week by the president of the National Firearms Association, a rare rebuke by a parliamentary committee endorsed by all parties save the Conservatives, whose members on the committee abstained.
The vote was sparked by Liberal MP Pam Damoff, who asked her committee colleagues to condemn comments made Wednesday by NFA president Sheldon Clare during a public videoconference the NFA hosted after the Trudeau government tabled new firearms legislation on Tuesday.
During that videoconference, Clare referred to a phone call he received from an unnamed person who, he said, “suggested that we needed to revisit our old woodworking and metalworking skills and construct guillotines again. And that would really be the best kind of committee of public safety, to get that re-established. They want to make it about public safety. The sound of this person’s voice is not one that is joking. He was not joking. … that’s what this person told me.”
The transcript of those comments were part of the motion put before MPs on the public safety committee.
“This kind of language is dangerous. Sharing these comments on their platform … can lead to violence,” Damoff told the committee.
“As we saw in the United States, the storming of the U.S. Capitol by an armed mob was spurred on by similar language. These calls for violence against those who want a safer community are not tolerable, and it is incumbent on all of us to condemn them.”
Neither Clare nor anyone else from the NFA was invited to explain or account for those comments during the committee’s meeting.
In a telephone interview Friday, Clare rejected the idea that his comments were advocating violence. “I’ve merely related comments from upset people who have a real big problem with tyranny. And I think that the virtue-signalling woke liberal left has a problem with being called out as being tyrants.”
Clare’s comments to Global News were read into the record by Damoff in support of her motion.
Damoff and the other four voting Liberal MPs on the committee were joined by the sole Bloc Quebecois MP and NDP MP on the committee to vote in favour. All four Conservative MPs — including three from Alberta — voted to abstain.
Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs, the committee’s vice-chair, had argued to defer the vote, saying that because the matter involved the safety and security of MPs, the committee ought to have discussed the matter behind closed doors. But a motion to do just that — defer the vote — failed.
The executive director of the National Firearms Association, Charles Zach, is also a member of the board of directors of the Conservative riding association for Damoff’s Ontario riding of Oakville North–Burlington.
On Friday, Zach said the NFA would be running “custom attack ads” against Liberal MPs who beat Conservatives in 2019 by narrow margins of victory.