Ottawa and Saskatchewan still talking about who pays how much for firearms program

·3 min read
Robert Freberg was formally appointed as the provincial chief firearms officer on Monday. (Mah Noor Mubarik/CBC - image credit)
Robert Freberg was formally appointed as the provincial chief firearms officer on Monday. (Mah Noor Mubarik/CBC - image credit)

It's been more than a year since Saskatchewan decided to run its own provincial firearms office, but the costs involved with doing so have yet to be established.

Robert Freberg was appointed as the first provincial chief of firearms Monday. He said that while negotiations are still underway, the federal government is expected to pay for most of the program.

"We expect it to be in line with the other opt-in provinces, where they are being funded for the most part by the federal government," said Freberg at a news conference.

Saskatchewan is the seventh province to choose to have its own provincial chief of firearms officer. The officer is in charge of administering the Firearms Act, which includes jurisdiction over the licensing, carrying, transportation and storage of firearms.

Usually the position is federally appointed and the federal government pays for the officer's salary, along with the cost to run their office. In March last year, Saskatchewan announced that it would have a provincially appointed officer.

While the officer can't change any federal gun laws, they can advocate for the needs of Saskatchewan residents to the federal government.

Saskatchewan was set to pay a portion of the $1.1 million associated with having the program provincially run.

Freberg said the province had a tentative plan, but because of the elections it wasn't able to get signed.

Goals in Freberg's position

Freberg said that in his role he would like to focus on public safety and that he understands people have a real frustration around it. He has met with police chiefs about addressing the illegal use of firearms.

He said that the main type of gun seized in the province is modified handguns, which are manufactured from different bits and pieces and parts.

 Richard Agecoutay/CBC
Richard Agecoutay/CBC

Freberg also said that mental health should be looked into. He said he will listen to the concerns of mental health experts to make sure that firearms aren't left in the hands of people who won't use them responsibly.

Freberg said one of his mentors told him starting the program was like building a new ship to sail into an old sea.

"I want to be the captain of that new ship, and make sure that it sails well," he said.

Bill C-21

The province will continue to enforce the laws set by the federal government.

When it comes to Bill C-21, Freberg said he doesn't necessarily oppose it, but Saskatchewan was not well consulted on it.

Bill C-21 was introduced nine months after the federal government announced a ban on the sale, use and importation of more than 1,500 makes and models of what it refers to as military-grade "assault-style weapons." The bill would also introduce a buy-back program for banned firearms. It did not become law before the federal election.

Freberg said the bill is still pending approval, but with a seat at the table with the federal government the province may be able to discuss some other options.

"Our hope is having a seat of the table with the federal government now, where we can talk about that ahead of time, and maybe put some other recommendations that are more cost effective, maybe more effective in actually reducing crime," he said.

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