The federal government “didn’t quite get it right” when it brought forward a controversial amendment to its proposed firearms legislation, Justice Minister David Lametti says.
During a House of Commons public safety committee meeting on Friday, the Liberals brought forward a motion that the beleaguered amendment be “withdrawn.”
All members of the committee agreed, and the change was carried.
“We didn’t quite get it right,” Lametti said, speaking in an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, aired Sunday. “It had a little too much reach.”
The Liberal amendment to Bill C-21, the government’s gun control legislation, was tabled in a committee meeting in November and has faced questions about how far it would have expanded the scope of weapons that are prohibited in Canada.
The move prompted criticism from across the political spectrum, including from members of the NDP who said it would unfairly impact Indigenous hunters and rural Canadians, as well as from numerous hunters.
Montreal Canadiens star Carey Price also weighed in, calling the proposed legislation “unjust.”
“It was never our intention to go after hunting rifles. It was always our intention to go after handguns and assault rifles,” Lametti told Stephenson.
“We heard a number of important voices in the community, particularly PolySeSouvient, who wanted a definition, an evergreen definition, and so we tried it. We didn’t quite get it right.”
PolySeSouvient is a gun-control group whose spokeswoman, Nathalie Provost, was shot four times during the rampage at Montreal’s École Polytechnique in 1989.
On Friday, when the amendment was dropped, Provost said she was “shocked.”
“It is clear that the misinformation propagated by Conservative MPs and the gun lobby has won,” said Provost, calling for the controversial amendment, as well as a second one dropped from the bill in the same motion, to be reintroduced.
Meanwhile, pro-gun groups like the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights took to Twitter to call the decision “a small win” in a “bigger battle” to crush the firearms legislation “entirely.”
Speaking after the amendment was dropped on Friday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre argued the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “desperately wanted to ban hunting rifles.”
“Today’s humiliating climbdown that we have forced Trudeau to make is a temporary pause in his plan to ban hunting rifles,” he said.
Two months ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on his way into a cabinet meeting that he had “no plans” to drop his legislative push to enshrine a legal definition for “assault-style” firearms — a term that isn’t currently defined in Canadian law, despite being regularly used by Liberal politicians.
Automatic assault weapons are already prohibited in Canada.
“The definition is something that we are very much committed to. But the actual list that goes with it, that’s something that we’re consulting on right now,” Trudeau said.
“Because we understand that there are concerns by hunters and farmers that we’re going after their shotguns and rifles. We are not. And that’s what we’re going to make sure with fine-tuning of the legislation.”
That fine-tuning is not an easy process, Lametti admitted.
“In fairness, it’s actually quite a difficult exercise to create an evergreen definition (for assault-style firearms),” he said.
Looking forward, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said on Friday that he plans to hold more discussions and more consultations on the issue with hunters and Indigenous communities.
“There have been legitimate concerns raised about the need for more consultation and debate on this vital part of the bill,” he wrote.
“We hear those concerns loud and clear, regret the confusion that this process has caused and are committed to a thoughtful and respectful conversation that is based on facts, not fear.”
This issue, he wrote, is an “emotional one.”
“Canadians are counting on us to get it right.”