Trudeau not welcome 'by our side' unless gun bill overhauled: Polytechnique families

·3 min read

OTTAWA — Several family members of women killed in the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique massacre say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will no longer be welcome at annual commemorations unless his government strengthens recently tabled gun-control legislation.

In a letter to Trudeau made public Thursday, relatives of victims, survivors of the shooting and witnesses say the "dismal" Bill C-21 will not make society safer.

The bill proposes a buyback of many recently banned firearms the government considers assault-style weapons, but owners would be allowed to keep them under strict conditions, including registration and secure storage of the guns.

The letter to Trudeau says the buyback must be made mandatory to ensure it cannot be easily overturned by the Conservatives, should they form government, given the party's opposition to the firearms ban.

The legislation would also allow municipalities to ban handguns through bylaws restricting their possession, storage and transportation — a move the letter says would create an ineffective patchwork of laws across the country.

"If this bill is not radically changed, if the buyback program is not made mandatory, if a simple decision by a future government can overturn the assault weapons ban, we lose the battle, and we lose faith in you and your government," the letter says.

"If you carry on with this bill, we will never again accept to have you by our side as we mourn the death of our daughters, our sisters, our friends, during annual commemorations."

Suzanne Laplante-Edward, whose daughter Anne-Marie was among the 14 women gunned down at Polytechnique, signed the letter, copied to several federal ministers. In a statement Thursday she accused the prime minister of throwing in the towel and letting the gun lobby win.

"If Trudeau goes ahead with C-21, he will be a traitor to the cause of gun control, a traitor to me and my family, and a traitor to the memory of my daughter and her 13 classmates," she said.

"If that is the case, he had better not show his face and cry his crocodile tears at any future commemoration that me or any relative of Anne-Marie attends."

The Prime Minister's Office said Trudeau would respond to directly to those who sent the letter.

"We share their desire to strengthen gun control in this country and thank them for their work and their commitment," the office said in a statement. "We will continue to listen and work with provinces, municipalities and stakeholders who want to tighten gun control."

Mary-Liz Power, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, noted the banned firearms could not be legally used, transported, sold, transferred or bequeathed by individuals in Canada.

The planned measures in the bill will also give the government "information about where these prohibited weapons are, and who has them," Power said.

The government will ensure the changes "cannot be easily undone" through amendment of the Firearms Act to explicitly include the banned guns, meaning their classification as prohibited firearms cannot be changed by regulation, she added.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2021.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press