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.