Federal Court Grants Alberta Intervenor Status in 6 Challenges to Gun Ban
By Marnie Cathcart
January 12, 2023
The Alberta government has received the Federal Court’s approval to intervene in six lawsuits related to federal proposed firearms legislation that would ban more than 1,500 models of firearms.
The province first announced it would seek intervenor status in ongoing legal actions on Sept. 26, 2022, to allow the province to advance both constitutional and non-constitutional legal arguments to protect the interests of Alberta’s estimated 340,000 plus licensed gun owners.
The Federal Court ruled on Jan. 11 that Alberta could intervene on non-constitutional issues, and the federal government did not oppose the application. Provinces have an automatic right to intervene on constitutional matters. It was the non-constitutional legal arguments that needed the approval of the court.
The legal actions, which were all filed separately, will be heard together April 11–20, and Alberta’s deadline to submit legal arguments to the federal court is early February.
Cassandra Parker and K.K.S Tactical Supplies Ltd. v. Canada
Cassandra Parker is a married mother of four from Prince George, B.C., and a licensed firearm owner, hunter, angler, and target shooter who participates in competitive shooting sports competitions. She brought a lawsuit when the federal government banned seven firearms she legally purchased and declared them prohibited. Parker is also co-owner with her husband of a small firearms business, K.K.S. Tactical Supplies Ltd.
Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights et al. v. Canada
This legal action was brought by the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights (CCFR), the country’s largest firearm owners’ advocacy group, representing the organization plus a number of individual applicants including a professional competitive sports shooter; a firearms safety instructor; the owners of an Alberta manufacturer of the SLR-Multi, a semi-automatic rifle used for hunting and sporting; Wolverine, a prominent Manitoba retailer and firearms distributor that employs 20 people in a small rural community and sells firearms for recreational shooting, competitive sports, and big game hunting; and Alberta Tactical Rifle, a Calgary firearms manufacturer.
John Hipwell v. Canada
Hipwell is a licensed firearms owner living in Virden, Manitoba, who owns five shotguns and rifles that he legally owned and acquired prior to May 1, 2020, when the government, by order in council, reclassified his property to be considered prohibited.
Michael Doherty et al. v. Canada
Doherty and a group of nine firearm owners have filed legal action stating that the federal government regulations prohibit firearms they use, affecting their sport shooting, hunting, and family bonding as well as pastimes.
Christine Generoux et al. v. Canada
Christine Generoux is a self-represented firearms owner living in Ottawa who has funded her legal application using GoFundMe. Joined by two others, Generoux works in water conservation and is joined by co-applicant John Perocchio, who collects historical arms and is legally licensed by the RCMP to own a fully automatic machine gun. Under the federal gun law, Perocchio’s semi-automatic firearms are banned.
Jennifer Eichenberg et al. v. Canada (AG)
Applicants include Jennifer Eichenberg, a married mother of three children and a high school teacher who has owned firearms legally for 12 years. She is an avid sports shooter now in the possession of previously legal firearms that have been prohibited by the federal government.
Leonard Walker, an assistant crown attorney with the province when the legal action was filed, has since returned to private practice as a criminal lawyer. He is a professor of criminal law and a range officer, and was president of a shooting sports organization and gun club. Three of his legally purchased guns have been declared prohibited weapons.
David Bot is president of the Burlington Rifle and Revolver Club, which has an indoor shooting range. His legally owned firearms are now prohibited.
Frank Nardi is a competitive sports shooter and owner of the Montreal Shooting Club and the Montreal Firearms Recreational Centre, which sells firearms and related items. Nardi now has $200,000 worth of firearms, $65,000 worth of accessories, and $80,000 worth of specific ammunition that can no longer be legally sold.
Phil O’Dell and his company import, distribute, and repair various firearms, alleging thousands of dollars in personal and business inventory loss as a result of the firearms ban.
On Dec. 15, 2022, Alberta announced it would be making regulatory changes to take jurisdiction for firearm offences away from Ottawa.
Justice Minister Tyler Shandro wrote a letter to federal Justice Minister David Lametti on Dec. 15, advising the province would be exercising its “constitutional jurisdiction [to] protect firearms owners from an increasingly hostile federal government.”
As of Jan. 1, the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service was responsible for handling all charges involving the federal Firearms Act.
According to the Alberta government, there are questions of “significant public interest” regarding the lawful ownership of firearms, how the Criminal Code is interpreted, and the scope of the powers to make regulations being given to the federal government via Orders in Council.
Alberta intends to argue that “federal government’s legislation is an overreach of its jurisdiction and will infringe on the rights of the province’s law-abiding firearms community.”
Chief Firearms Officer Teri Bryant said these legislative changes will result in “responsible firearms owners losing their property without improving public safety.”
Albertans own the second highest number of firearms classified as prohibited or restricted by the federal government, said a province news release on Jan. 12. It is estimated that the federal firearms ban would target approximately 30,000 legally owned guns for confiscation.
Alberta has a thriving industry related to firearms, with 127 approved shooting ranges and more than 680 firearms-related businesses, according to the government. On average, 30,000 Albertans a year complete the mandatory firearms safety training that is required for a new firearms license (PAL). In 2021, 38,000 individuals completed the training, which is “a significant upward trend in legal gun ownership,” according to the province.
Alberta has additionally issued a protocol to the province’s Crown prosecutors for how to determine if charges should be laid to “prevent otherwise law-abiding individuals from facing criminal charges and potential time in jail,” Shandro said.
The protocol states it will not serve the public interest to prosecute a charge of possession of a banned firearm if three factors are met: that the gun was lawfully obtained prior to May 1, 2020; if the firearm was reclassified as prohibited on May 1, 2020; if the accused has not been charged with any other offences related to the possession or use of that firearm.
“Albertans should not automatically be considered criminals because they own a firearm that was legally purchased and possessed,” Shandro said.
In 2020, the federal government issued a ban on more than 1,500 models of previously legally purchased firearms. In October, the government put a freeze on the transfer and importation of handguns, which effectively bans handgun ownership in the country. Then last month, the government tabled sweeping last-minute amendments to Bill C-21, which is currently being debated by a House of Commons Committee.
Meanwhile Granny Annie Pistoff from Cowguts, Alberta impatiently awaits Trudeau’s arrival at her home!*
If passed, the bill will ban most semi-automatic shotguns and rifles—including many hunting shotguns and rifles purchased legally. The proposed amendments would also ban any gun that can hold a detachable magazine.
The bill and sweeping last-minute amendments have sparked an uproar from firearms owners and opposition parties, who say it targets hunters, farmers, ranchers, and sport shooters and involves thousands of popular, common makes and models of rifles and shotguns, most of which are unregistered and were legally purchased.
Shandro said the legislation “will criminalize hundreds of thousands of Canadians overnight—the majority of which reside in Western Canada.”
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