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Minister gets mixed reception with crime reduction consultation

Federal Minister Bill Blair meets with members of the Calgary Police on January 23, 2019 (Bill Blair - Twitter)
Summary

Minister Bill Blair met with 22 stakeholders in the city Wednesday, many of whom consider themselves law-abiding gun own

Blair is examining several issues including a potential handgun and assault weapon ban.

He plans to present his findings to the prime minister and cabinet in the coming weeks.

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – There was a mixed reception for Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair as he met with stakeholders over gun violence on Wednesday.

According to officials, 22 people were invited by Calgary-area Members of Parliament Stephanie Kusie, Bob Benzen and Kent Hehr.

Blair has been tasked by the Prime Minister on how to keep people safe while reducing the issue of gun violence, which could include a ban on handguns and assault weapons.

“The people wanted to remind me, and I already knew it, that they are responsible in their firearm ownership,” said Blair. “There was a number of different issues raised about different potential solutions, people suggested there may be other means and we’re examining all aspects.”

Earlier in the day, the former chief of Toronto Police met with people at local ranges and spoke with those involved with local sport shooting.

He also sought the input of former Calgary Police Chief Rick Hansen and interim Chief Steve Barlow.

“There’s no one simple solution to this but I think it’s incumbent on not just government but all of us to keep people safe,” said Blair.

The Toronto-area Member of Parliament said they’re still talking to people and have done a number of roundtables and an online consultation that saw more than 130,000 people take part.

Blair said it’ll inform the government on what steps they can take in order to keep people safe. He was questioned about why the proceedings were closed-door.

“I’m not conducting town halls perse on this issue, in my experience, in this discussion, because it is a somewhat polarized discussion in our society, it’s a better opportunity to give stakeholders and interested parties an opportunity to present their case, ask their questions, in the type of forum that we organized today.”

“You don’t arrest your way out of these complex problems so you have to look at it more comprehensively.”

Blair said he has no intention of examining such things as weapons farmers use or hunting weapons, this is targeted at street-level guns.

“You know we often talk about gangs but firearms and incidents of firearms in domestic violence cases and violence against women is a very significant issue and I think there are a lot of things that we must do. We may not agree with on every single issue in that room but we all agree on keeping people safe.”

Stakeholders who were invited to the meeting didn’t appear to be too pleased with what they heard from Canada’s top cop.

READ MORE: Calgary MP criticizes closed door meeting on banning guns

Sharon Polsky is the president of the Privacy and Access Council of Canada and the Vice-President of the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association in Alberta. She said the trip was a wonderful move on Blair’s part but she was expecting a town hall format.

“There were several hundred people that were interested in meeting with him. There were some very pointed questions, Minister Blair assured everyone that his primary concern was public safety and when it came to the matter of how will the information gathered by store owners, which will be required under Bill C-71, store owners will have to keep essentially a shopping list in the wrong hands of all the guns and ammunition purchased and the identities and addresses, how it will it be protected when the privacy laws already say that the information is personal and sensitive ought to be protected but it’s not.”

She accused the Canadian government of breaching private information many times and told reporters Blair provided no answer. She has her concerns and plans to relay those to their members.

Teri Jane Bryant came down to the Harry Hays building representing herself but has several ties to local gun groups. She’s the secretary of the Alberta Arms and Cartridge Collectors Association, the vice-chair of the Calgary chapter of the Military Collectors’ Club of Canada and the regional director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association.

“I guess I would echo things I heard other people say, we have to be grateful to the minister for taking time to come here,” she said. “Having one hour for people to speak when the minister takes half of it himself, is not nearly enough time.”

Bryant said many law-abiding gun owners stand to lose thousands of dollars and it could set a dangerous precedent.

She’s invited to come out to their ranges and gun shows and to see the things law-abiding gun owners do on a daily basis.

“The way that we do things now has no logic whatsoever, it’s not related even slightly towards public benefit,” said Bryant. “The main thing is we have to wait and see what the minister is going to come up with in terms of legislation. I’m sure that Minister Blair’s hearing is quite fine, the question is if they take those suggestions to heart.”

Gun owner Rick Ostashower said he was underwhelmed with what he heard in the room.

“Today ran pretty much as I expected it to. I knew that there was going to be a number of people there who share my views and concerns, not everyone did get an opportunity to speak. I think today was mostly a non-event for lack of a better term.”

Ostashower said the minister acknowledged several comments but he’s not expecting the federal government to take a lot of it into consideration.

Calgarian Gordon Sturchi said he learned about the meeting on fairly short notice, a gun owner, he managed to get a seat at the table.

“I’m not sure if what was said today is really going to make a difference but we had to make the best out of the opportunity. I think there is a lot of misinformation from the public, most don’t have any idea about what the current laws around firearms are.”

Sturchi doesn’t believe there can be a proper consultation with the government when most don’t have the facts.

He said gun-owners were very well represented with what was said in that room but he’s not confident that it will make much of a difference in Ottawa.

Blair will make his recommendations to the Prime Minister and cabinet in the coming weeks.

After Calgary, his next stop is Red Deer and then Edmonton.