Survivors implore Senate to pass gun reform bill despite loud lobby resistance
|CTVnews 03 Dec 2018 at 12:45|
Heidi Rathjen, a survivor of the cole Polytechnique shooting, accompanied by other survivors and family members of victims of gun violence in Ottawa, Monday, Dec. 3, 2018.
Rachel Aiello , Ottawa News Bureau Online Producer
Published Monday, December 3, 2018 12:36PM EST
OTTAWA A group of gun violence survivors and their families are on Parliament Hill imploring the Senate to speed up its study and passage of the government s gun reform bill.
At a press conference in Ottawa on Monday, the group, which includes the families of victims of shootings at the cole Polytechnique, Dawson College, and Quebec City mosque, pushed for amendments to the Liberals legislation, leaning on Senators to make changes that they argue MPs were too swayed by the gun lobby to make.
Some of those at the news conference have come to Ottawa over a few occasions, pushing for tougher gun reform. Back in November 2017, the group was in town to call on Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to table promised gun control legislation.
He did so a few months later, with Bill C-71, which includes measures to broaden background checks for gun owners, toughens rules around the transportation of handguns, and tightens record keeping requirements for the sale of firearms. The legislation also revamps the current way guns are classified in Canada.
The bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate in September, where it has since remained at second reading.
Heidi Rathjen, a survivor of the cole Polytechnique shooting, cited the recent accelerated passage of Bill C-89, the Canada Post back-to-work legislation, saying they know that Parliament can act quickly when there is political will.
Specifically, they d like to see the Senate advance their study, strengthen the bill with amendments, and see it pass as soon as possible.
Senators have debated it nearly a dozen times with no movement towards it being passed onto the committee study stage.
Rathjen called Bill C-71 the "minimum" the government could have done to meet their , saying that MPs have been swayed by pressure from pro-gun advocates in Canada who have taken considerable issue with the legislation.
"We understand the pressure MPs are under when they face organized opposition, threatening to defeat their reelection, however this should not be the case with the Senate. Senators do not need to worry about being reelected, and their main purpose is to provide sober second thought, especially now that the majority of the Senate has been depoliticized," Rathjen said.
One example of the opposition to the legislation was an Alberta teenagers e-petition calling for the bill to be scrapped, saying it "does nothing to tackle firearms violence, but rather adds further red-tape on law abiding firearms owners." The online parliamentary petition
During the first day of debate on the bill, Senate sponsor Sen. Andre Pratte told his colleagues that his office would be organizing briefings on the main components of the bill, as well as on the broader topics of gun violence and gun control.
"All told, Bill C-71 amounts to a reform, which, in my view, is sensible, practical and fair," Pratte said.
"Lives are at stake, so the debate that we will have on this bill is crucial. Since many Canadians believe that the bill is an attack on their rights, it is also a very sensitive discussion. It is essential, notwithstanding the emotions and the politics associated with this issue, that we listen to what all stakeholders have to say about the bill and attempt to alleviate concerns while safeguarding Bill C-71s essential goals."
The Senate debate has included questions over the impacts the bill will have on the lawful gun owning community, and musings about amendments, noting it s a sensitive topic.
"There s no reason why you cant listen to the experts, respect the will of the majority of the country, and maximize public safety, we re counting on you this is your chance to show us what legislators can do when theyre not afraid of a very loud but still very small minority," said Megan Hennigan, a survivor of the Dawson College shooting.