weapons offences

Trudeau Calls for More Gun Control in Canada Following Deadly Rampage in Nova Scotia

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In response to the recent tragic shooting incident in Nova Scotia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government will work towards strengthening gun control legislation in Canada as soon as possible.

It is the Prime Minister’s intention to introduce legislation to ban assault-style weapons across Canada when Parliament resumes. 

PM Trudeau stated:

The tragedy in Nova Scotia simply reinforces and underlines how important it is for us to continue to move forward on strengthening gun control. … We were on the verge of introducing new measures to restrict assault type weapons in Canada before Parliament was suspended because of COVID-19.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has also indicated that the federal government is working towards efforts to reinforce gun control, which will include new legislation to strengthen gun storage rules to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of those who could commit crimes, decrease smuggling of firearms across the border and introduce new laws to ensure that individuals that are at a significant risk of harming themselves or others do not have access to firearms.

FIREARMS ACT CHANGES OF 2019 ARE STILL PENDING

Bill C-71, an act to amend legislation in relation to firearms in Canada, was passed into law in May 2019 and provided approximately 30 amendments to the Firearms Act.  This legislation enhances background checks, compels retailers to keep records of firearms sales (dates, references, license numbers, firearm’s make, model, type and serial number) and varies the authorization to transport rules (a licensed gun owner must possess an authorization to transport document if they want to travel with a restricted firearm). 

Bill C-71 also requires that the police examine an applicant’s life history for potential red flags, including criminal charges, violence and spousal abuse.  However, these amendments are still pending. 

A spokesperson for Minster Blair advised that Bill C-71 provisions will come into force “once the necessary administrative changes have been made, funding has been approved and the associated regulations have been tabled in Parliament for review”.  In February 2020, Minister Blair advised that the enactment of C-71 amendments were ongoing and would be addressed in the upcoming budget.  However, the federal budget has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHAT HAPPENED IN NOVA SCOTIA?

On April 18, 2020 at 10:26 p.m., RCMP officers arrived in Portapique, Nova Scotia following 911 calls reporting gunshots.  The officers found a man that had been shot.  He reported that as he drove out of Portapique he was shot by a man driving what looked like a police car towards the beach.

As more officers responded to the scene, they located several deceased individuals lying in the roadway and several structures fully engulfed in flames. 

The suspect at the time, Gabriel Wortman (“Wortman”), a 51-year-old denturist, was identified by several witnesses. 

On Sunday morning, a woman who had previously been in a relationship with Wortman emerged from the woods and explained that she had escaped from Wortman and hid in the woods until it was safe to emerge.  It seems that the deadly events began when Wortman assaulted this woman and she escaped.  She told police that the suspect was in possession of a fully modern and equipped replica RCMP vehicle, was wearing a police uniform and had several firearms, including pistols and long barrel weapons.

Wortman proceeded to go on a 14-hour killing spree, targeting individuals he knew and strangers in a string of small communities in central Nova Scotia.  There were 16 crime scenes along a 40-mile stretch north of the Bay of Fundy.  He set fire to five properties, including his own log cabin in Portapique. 

Wortman was traveling south near Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, when he collided with a police cruiser.  He proceeded to exchange gunfire with Constable Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the RCMP, and killed her.  He then set fire to both Stevenson’s vehicle and his own. 

Wortman then killed another individual and stole her silver Chevrolet Tracker.  When he finally stopped to fill up the car with gas, he was spotted by an officer in an unmarked cruiser.  Wortman was eventually killed following an exchange of gunfire with police at the gas station in Enfield, north of Halifax.

We have come to learn that Wortman had been previously convicted of assault in 2002 and received a conditional discharge.  He was ordered to undergo counselling for anger management and banned from possession of firearms, explosives and any prohibited weapons for nine months.  He was also ordered to pay a fine.

At this time, investigators continue to piece together details of Wortman’s rampage and how he was able to obtain the firearms used during his deadly attack, as well as the decals for his fake police car.  Police believe that one of the weapons can be traced back to Canada, but others may have been obtained in the United States. 

As information becomes available, we will continue to report changes in the law regarding firearms in Canada in this blog.

If you have been charged with a weapons offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Majority of Canadians Support Ban of Handguns

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The latest public opinion poll by the Angus Reid Institute reveals that half of Canadians consider gun violence a serious problem in Canada. 

Toronto Mayor John Tory has campaigned for a handgun ban and the Liberal government is facing pressure from gun control groups to respond to gun violence in Canada following the implementation of a ban on semi-automatic firearms by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after a deadly mosque shooting in Christchurch.

ANGUS REID POLL RESULTS

A recent public opinion study completed by the non-profit Angus Reid Institute surveyed 1,525 respondents across the country and is proportionally representative of Canadians from each region of the country.

The study has found that 61% of the respondents would support an outright ban on civilian possession of handguns.  This number rises to 75% in regards to a ban on assault weapons. 

When it comes to gun violence, rural and urban respondents voiced different concerns.  Respondents in Canadian cities are most worried about gang activity, while rural Canadians are more concerned about accidental shootings or the use of guns for suicide.

According to the survey, 63% of respondents were in favour of the proposal by the federal Liberal government to lengthen background check periods from the current five-year limit to include a prospective gun owner’s entire history.

WHAT DO CANADIANS WANT?

Bill Blair (“Blair”), Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, recently stated that implementing a national handgun ban is a possibility. 

Blair was directed to study and consult on a full ban of handguns and assault weapons.  Beginning in 2018, he travelled the country to hold roundtables and public engagements regarding the issue of reducing violent crime involving firearms. 

Last month, Blair released his report entitled “Reducing Violent Crime:  A Dialogue on Handguns and Assault-Style Firearms”.  The report also included written submissions made by Canadians and responses recorded through an online questionnaire which included 134,917 total responses from Canadians (with no limits placed on how many times an individual could complete a survey).

The key findings of Blair’s inquiry include:

  • Polarized views on a potential ban and limiting access to handguns and assault-style firearms;
  • Many felt strongly that a ban would target law-abiding gun owners, rather than illicit gun owners, and would not greatly impact crime reduction (specifically gang violence);
  • Many supported enhanced enforcement capacity by law enforcement and border services, in addition to harsher punishments for those found trafficking in firearms and gun-related crimes;
  • Emphasis on more support for community-level programs and initiatives to address the socioeconomic conditions that lead to gun violence;
  • Emphasis on the need to improve the collection and sharing of data on gun crime; and
  • The need for a multi-faceted approach to dealing with violent crimes, rather than implementing a ban on guns.

Blair has advised that he has been reviewing the data, the experience in other jurisdictions, Canada’s regulatory environment and how firearms are used in criminal activity in Canada.

Blair stated:

… I believe that there are some things that we can do to create a safe environment, reduce gun violence in our communities and make it far more difficult for people who would commit crimes.

I believe there is an overwhelming consensus in this country that public safety is important, that we deserve to be safe in our communities and in our places of worship, and those weapons which have been used to kill so many people have no place in our society.

GUN BUYBACK PROGRAM UPDATE

We have previously blogged about the Toronto Police Services gun buyback program launched in an effort to reduce unwanted firearms and violence in the GTA.

As a result of this recent program, Toronto Police received more than 2,700 unwanted guns from residents during the gun buyback program that started on April 26, 2019 and ran until May 17, 2019.  These guns were all destroyed.

It has been reported that this was the most successful firearm collection in Toronto.  During the three-week program, police collected over 1,900 long guns and over 800 handguns.  In 2008, a similar program was launched resulting in a total of 2000 guns collected by police.

Chief Mark Saunders stated:

We are pleased with the participation of Torontonians taking steps to safely dispose of unwanted guns in their homes.  These guns can present a potential danger if they fall into the wrong hands.  Removing access to these guns, many of which are not securely stored, contributes to community safety.

We will continue to follow up on any developments regarding the government’s response to gun violence in Canada and will provide updates in this blog.

If you have been charged with a weapons offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced Oshawa criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.