What Canada’s elections could mean for the gun ban

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Now that the debates have ended, we have come to the final days of the high-speed election campaign launched by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month.

In the official debates, the moderators dominated and, in the opinion of many, the party leaders hardly debated.

[Read: 5 Takeaways From Canada’s Official Election Debates]

Among the issues that were dealt with superficially was gun control, an issue on which the Conservative Party platform has changed course.

Few problems separate urban and rural Canada more than arms. In cities and suburbs, polls have shown for years that there is strong support for even tighter restrictions. Terrible crimes like the shooting and arson in Nova Scotia last year add to this sentiment.

But in many rural areas and indigenous communities, guns are part of everyday life. The sum of the numbers is difficult as the Conservative government, led by Stephen Harper, has removed registration for shotguns and standard rifles. But the Small Arms Survey, a project based in Switzerland, estimates that Canada has 12.7 million legal and illegal weapons in the possession of private owners. There are 2.2 million Canadians who are licensed to buy and possess weapons.

Last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau banned 1,500 models of semi-automatic assault rifles after the rampage in rural Nova Scotia that killed 23 people. Although some semi-automatic designs are still owned, their use is limited.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole began the election campaign by promising to reverse Mr. Trudeau’s ban on assault weapons and other liberal anti-weapons measures. He argued that despite the fact that assault weapons were used in mass shootings in Canada, they punished law-abiding gun owners but did little or nothing to stop gun crime.

Instead of a ban, he suggested tackling smuggling harder, which Mr Trudeau had already pushed, and hiring 200 additional members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to work on gun and gang crimes in Toronto and Vancouver.

While there has been little widespread public support for the relaxation of gun regulations, gun groups and many gun owners are strong and trusted supporters of the Conservatives.

But as criticism of his plan to lift Mr. Trudeau grew, Mr. O’Toole began to change his mind.

First, during an unofficial French debate at TVA, the Quebec-based broadcaster, he said he would “maintain a ban on assault weapons.” Although he did not make it immediately clear, he did not mean Mr Trudeau’s prohibition. Instead, Mr. O’Toole was referring to a ban on weapons such as fully automatic rifles that dates back to the 1970s.

But finally, Mr O’Toole said he would uphold Mr Trudeau’s ban on assault weapons when the Conservatives take power. But that came with an important qualification: Mr. O’Toole also promised that a group that gun manufacturers would belong to would review firearms laws and regulations.

The National Firearms Association, which once hired one of Mr. O’Toole’s top aides as a lobbyist, soon issued a statement saying it was “completely confident that the election of a Conservative government” and the review repealing Mr – Trudeau’s ban on offensive weapons. Mr O’Toole only said that he would not pre-empt the proposed review.

The change of platform the Conservatives have made appears to have worked for their campaign by dampening criticism of Conservative gun policies – guns received only passing attention in the English debate. And when the Angus Reid Institute asked Canadians to list the main topics of the campaign, guns did not meet the minimum reporting threshold.

My colleagues Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang will speak about their new book “An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination” in a virtual event at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto on September 14 at 5 p.m. Eastern. The school has a special offer for Canada Letter readers. If you use code NYTIMESROTMAN21 to register here, you can join the livestream and receive a hardcover copy of the book in the mail for $ 21.99 Canadian, a $ 20 discount.


  • Perhaps the biggest political distraction for many Canadians this week has been the US Open, where 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez from Montreal will face Emma Raducanu, a Toronto-born British player, in the women’s final. David Waldstein writes that Fernandez is the most successful member of a group of Canadians at the Open “where Canadian players win on all courses and beyond”. Fernandez is also one of a group of teenagers who run at the Open. But Matthew Futterman writes that early successes in tennis can quickly “get out of hand”.

  • As Hurricane Larry continues on its path that appears to lead it to Newfoundland, you can follow its progress here.

  • In 2018, a team of paleontologists from the Royal Ontario Museum discovered the preserved shell of a spaceship-shaped creature during a fossil hunt in the Rocky Mountains. Now Titanokorys gainesi has been declared one of the earliest known large predators on earth.

  • Stephen Vizinczey, who started his own publishing house in Toronto to publish his fast-paced and successful novel In Praise of Older Women: The Amorous Recollections of Andras Vajda, has died at the age of 88.

  • Jon Caramanica, a popular music critic for The Times, writes that Drake’s new album “shows the sonic rigor of even the most casual, discarded Drake songs.”

  • Brandon Valdivia, a producer from London, Ontario, better known as Mas Aya, told Isabelia Herrera that in his music he “tries to blend a very spiritual with a political attitude”.


Ian Austen was born in Windsor, Ontario, trained in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has been reporting on Canada for the New York Times for 16 years. Follow him on Twitter @ianrausten.


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