Firearms and bail concerns were on the docket at a roundtable held by Justice Minister Tyler Shandro on Wednesday.
On March 15, Shandro answered questions during a virtual roundtable for rural media to clarify confusion surrounding Bill 8: The Alberta Firearms Act, and to talk about changes the province would like to see regarding federal legislation surrounding bail.
The Alberta Firearms Act was introduced into the Alberta Legislature on March 7 and passed second reading on March 9.
Shandro said the act would clarify the role of the Chief Firearms Officer and remind people that both the province and the federal government play a role in the regulation of firearms.
This legislation comes after a long-standing battle between the province and the federal government over gun legislation including the May 2020 prohibition order on assault-style weapons, and Bill C-21, which was introduced in May 2022 to the Canadian House of Commons and among other things froze the sale, purchase, and transfer of handguns.
In a news conference on March 7, Shandro said the enabling clause in the Alberta legislation has about 60 sub-clauses.
“There's about 60 different enumerated ways they’ll be specifying how the provincial government may be able to develop (regulations),” he said.
Through the act, the province could limit municipalities and municipal police services from entering into firearms agreements with the federal government and it could allow the province to regulate who would be involved in seizures and confiscation of firearms; and could regulate fair compensation for firearm owners who participate in the federal buy-back program provincial documents state.
The federal government closed consultations on a federal buy-back program back in August 2022, but no details on the program have been announced. Amnesty for gun owners who have banned weapons was to end in October of 2023, but Shandro said the federal government has indicated that time will be extended.
The Alberta Fireams Act is needed, said Shandro, to make it clear the province is to be involved in the operation and implementation of the federal firearms legislation.
“We absolutely need to be involved. If the federal government is going to go to municipalities or police services to try and enter into contracts with them…If we're the ones who are operating and implementing the federal firearms act we need to be included in licensing those who are going to be involved in these contracts,” he said.
Shandro said the federal government is “cavalier in their attitude towards firearms regulation,” as plans are changing on a daily basis, and the federal government has not given any indication on how they would implement a confiscation program, whether it would be through Canada Post or the RCMP.
“(The federal government doesn’t) have the wherewithal or the resources to do this,” he said.
“I don't think that their minds are focused on community safety when it comes to increased transportation or storage of firearms in the community. We need to make it clear that we're going to be included in these conversations,” he said.
When it comes to issues the province has with the current bail system, Shandro would like to see Bill C-75 which passed in March 2018 repealed in its entirety.
“Bill C-75 directs the courts to release offenders at the earliest opportunity and with the least onerous conditions…Even violent repeat offenders may not be held because of this federal legislation,” he said in a press statement.
On Jan. 13, premiers across Canada called on the federal government to strengthen the bail system.
Shandro said he initially felt like he was being dismissed by the federal government last October when he first raised concerns about Bill C-75, but then other provinces “jumped on” and the federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti “started to take it seriously.”
In response to a question about bail reform intending to bring the number of vulnerable and indigenous people in remand down, Shandro said they have no evidence that anything has changed since the bill came into effect.
“If that's the purpose, that was the intent, it misses the mark,” he said.
Shandro said police agencies are collecting information on the impacts of C-75 on individuals and how many those accused of a crime and been released into the community are involved in a crime again and the details of the crime.
“I don't know if (those numbers are) public…But we definitely did look at it internally,” he said.
Lametti has committed to making legislative changes, said Shandro.
“I think the provinces are grateful for the change and the willingness for the federal government to listen to us now. But I will be submitting to Minister Lametti further suggestions on how to be amending the bail regime in the Criminal Code,” he said.