Tougher bail rules, sentences for gun violence in Canada ‘certainly an option’: minister

Click to play video: 'Government committed to tougher gun laws, upholding constitution: Lametti'
Government committed to tougher gun laws, upholding constitution: Lametti
WATCH ABOVE: Government committed to tougher gun laws, upholding constitution, says Lametti – May 29, 2022

Justice Minister David Lametti says imposing tougher bail conditions and longer sentences for gun violence in Canada is “certainly an option” as the government eyes further reform to firearms laws.

At the same time, he suggested helping provinces and territories ban handguns remains a “top” priority.

Lametti spoke with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson after the government gave notice on Friday that it intends to table firearms legislation. It comes in the wake of yet another horrific mass shooting of school children in the United States — in Uvalde, Texas, last week.

That attack came just days after a deadly shooting at a grocery store in a predominantly Black community in Buffalo, N.Y. Police say that attack was racially motivated.

“I grew up near Buffalo and so that was a tragic set of events, and then what we saw in Texas … your heart goes out to the people who are suffering those tragedies. And certainly we’re there in solidarity as the people of Canada,” Lametti said before being asked about a Toronto police request for gun law reform.

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The Toronto Police Association issued a statement on May 2 calling on the Toronto Police Services Board to support their plea for bail reform, including “the creation of a new criminal code offence specifically for breaching a conditional release.”

As it stands now, breaching bail conditions is not a criminal offence, the association said in the letter.

Such changes around bail conditions would “help curb gun and gang violence,” the letter added.

Lametti was asked whether he would consider such changes, as well as tougher sentences for things like gun trafficking.

“I’m certainly open,” he said, noting that the government is still studying how previous 2018 legislation reforming Canadian bail conditions is working itself through the legal system.

When it comes to expanding the maximum sentences for gun violence and gun crimes, Lametti said although the firearms reform legislation C-21 did so for certain offences, “certainly that option is still on the table moving forward.”

He would not say, though, whether any such changes are part of the legislation amending gun laws that could be introduced as soon as Monday. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino is named as the minister who will be tabling that legislation in the notice listed on the order paper.

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According to Mendicino’s mandate letter, issued in December 2021, there are several possibilities.

He has been tasked with implementing a mandatory buyback program for Canadian owners of “banned assault weapons,” which is not a legal definition but a political one frequently used by the Liberals to group weapons that physically resemble military-style automatic weapons.

Automatic weapons are already banned in Canada.

He is also being tasked with mandating that all long-gun magazines be permanently altered “so that they can never hold more than five rounds,” and “banning the sale or transfer of magazines capable of holding more than the legal number of bullets.”

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As well, Mendicino has been asked to work with Lametti to bring in what are known as red flag laws.

These are laws that allow the immediate removal of firearms from individuals deemed to pose a threat to either themselves or others, “particularly to their spouse or partner.”

He is also instructed to increase “maximum penalties for firearms trafficking and smuggling,” and to work with provinces and territories to provide money to “implement a ban on handguns across their jurisdiction.”

Lametti said the letter remains a “very, very serious commitment.”

“Again, I’m not going to pre-empt what Minister Mendicino has and is a matter of cabinet confidence, but I think it’s fair to say that this is on the top of the prime minister’s agenda,” he said. “It’s on the top of Minister Mendicino’s agenda.”

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Ottawa expected to introduce new gun-control laws

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