Indigenous leaders stress need for consultation on federal firearms legislation

OTTAWA — A House of Commons committee studying Liberal efforts to outlaw assault-style firearms is hearing criticism, as well as some measured support, from Indigenous leaders.

Chief Jessica Lazare of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake tells MPs on the committee the realities of Indigenous people who take their firearms on trips to hunt for food are being overlooked due to lack of consultation.

Gwich'in Tribal Council Grand Chief Ken Kyikavichik says he does not question the intent of the federal measures, but also notes there is a clear requirement for engagement and consultation with Indigenous Peoples and, more broadly, Canadians at large.

The Liberals banned some 1,500 firearm models and variants, including the AR-15, through an order-in-council in May 2020, saying they have no place in sport shooting or hunting.

The government moved last November to build on the ban by enshrining an evergreen definition of assault-style firearms in gun-control legislation that also contains measures concerning handguns, licence revocations and smuggling operations.

The Liberals withdrew the amendments last month following weeks of criticism from Conservative MPs and some gun advocates who said they would prohibit many commonly used hunting rifles and shotguns.

Lazare says there was no recognition of the way existing prohibitions and licensing already limit the rights of her people, and no attempt made to help them determine which specifications or models need to be protected.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2023.

The Canadian Press