Canada launched a $250 million fund to curb gun violence, earmarking a significant amount to stop gun smuggling at the border, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said on Wednesday.
The fund will be used to help municipalities and indigenous communities prevent gun and gang violence, and in banning more than 1,500 models of assault-style firearms.
Incidents related to gun violence in Canada have jumped 81 per cent since 2009, but the level of gun ownership is low compared to the United States. In Canada, there are 31 firearms per 100 residents, while the US has 89 firearms per 100 residents, according to a Small Arms Survey.
Mendicino said the government will be launching a “mandatory buy-back program” to get newly prohibited guns off the streets as part of Liberal government’s effort to keep communities safe.
He said the government’s action plan to fight crime resulted in a record seizure of trafficked firearms last year.
“Building community resilience through prevention is one of the key pillars of our plan to take action on gun violence…,” Mendicino said.
Gun-related homicides in Canada rose to 277 in 2020 from 223 in 2016, according to official data. In 2020, shootings represented 30 per cent of the 743 homicides in Canada. Still, Canada’s firearm homicide rate was 0.8 per 100,000 people in 2020, and in contrast nearly six in every 100,000 United States residents were killed with a gun in 2020, according to government data.
Canada witnessed its deadliest mass shooting in May 2020, when a gunman armed with weapons that included an assault rifle killed 22 people in Atlantic province of Nova Scotia. Canada banned assault-style weapons in the aftermath of the mass shooting.
Amnesty on 'assault-style' firearms extended
The federal Liberal government is also extending its amnesty on “assault-style” firearms until October 2023.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in May 2020 he was banning more than 1,500 models of firearms, including the AR-15.
He also announced owners of these guns would have a two-year amnesty period to come into compliance with the prohibition.
The Liberal government revealed on Wednesday that the order that was set to expire in April would be extended until October 2023.
It says doing so gives officials more time to implement a mandatory buyback program for the firearms.
A prominent gun-control advocacy group says it hopes this is the “first and last” extension of its kind and wants to see the buyback program, promised by the Liberals during the 2019 federal election, to be introduced as quickly as possible.
“It is important to understand that the May 2020 regulations combined with the mandatory buyback program, while extremely positive, do not represent a complete ban on assault weapons,” reads a statement from PolySeSouvient, which includes former students and graduates of Ecole polytechnique, where a gunman shot and killed 14 women in 1989.
“Further legislation is required to ban models that were not covered by the regulations and to prevent manufacturers from introducing new models into the market.”
— with files from The Canadian Press