With the recent spike in gun violence in Montreal and the federal election just around the corner, many are wondering how the different parties plan to tackle the issue of gun control.
In 2021, shootings with possible ties to criminal gangs have become an all too frequent occurrence in the city. With the election looming on Monday, survivors of the city’s worst episodes of gun violence have made their opinion clear.
“The Liberal Party is the only party that can strengthen our gun laws,” Polytechnique mass shooting survivor Heidi Rathjen said at a press conference on Sep 9.
Her endorsement was echoed by Dawson College shooting survivors who have long fought for stricter gun control in Canada.
“These guns have no place in our communities and no place anywhere in Canada,” Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said of assault rifles at a campaign stop on Sep 5.
The Liberals banned 1,500 models of assault rifles after the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia. Their gun control platform includes implementing a mandatory program to buy those guns back from owners, giving $1 billion to provinces and territories to help them ban handguns, preventing those with a history of spousal abuse from getting a gun license and increasing resources at the border to prevent smuggling.
“What we put in the platform, I think, is the strongest measures of any federal party on gun control,” Outremont Liberal candidate Rachel Bendayan said in an interview with Global News.
The NDP told Global News about how it had supported the Liberal gun control agenda in the most recent mandate but explained it will go further by addressing the underlying causes of gun violence.
“The root causes of violence come from the community itself, poverty, racial discrimination, huge gaps in education and mental health care services, lack of adequate, affordable housing,” said NDP Outremont candidate Eve Peclet.
The Bloc Quebecois did not respond to an interview request from Global News, but party leader Yves-François Blanchet has touted the need for strong gun control policies to quell the recent violence in Montreal.
Polytechnique and Dawson survivors have praised the Bloc for their strong gun control policies. The party agrees with buying back assault rifles, wants to see harsher penalties for illegal gun possession, but promises to respect people who use firearms responsibly for sport.
To those against harsher gun control laws in Canada, the choice is also clear.
“As a voter, I would vote Conservative, because they have a chance of winning and at least I’m confident that I’ll be treated fairly,” said Rod Giltaca, CEO of the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights.
In addition to his position at the pro-gun lobby group, Giltaca is a sport shooter and instructor with the RCMP.
He says stricter controls just penalize responsible gun users.
“It’s very, very rare in the first place that any licensed individual is involved in any criminal activity whatsoever,” he said in an interview, saying that the vast majority of gang crime is done with illegally obtained guns.
The Conservatives recently said they would maintain the Liberal assault weapon ban, a reversal of their previous policy.
The Tories have also promised to re-evaluate which guns are considered assault weapons.
“There is no reason to start an entire simplification process unless you want to legalize any of those guns on that list,” Bendayan, of the Liberals, said.
The Conservatives did not respond to an interview request for this story.
Advocates on all sides hope voters carry their message to the polls on Monday.