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Notice

Vol. 141, No. 11 — May 30, 2007

Registration
SOR/2007-101 May 10, 2007

CRIMINAL CODE

Order Amending the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006)

P.C. 2007-732 May 10, 2007

Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice, pursuant to subsection 117.14(1) (see footnote a) of the Criminal Code, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006).

ORDER AMENDING THE ORDER DECLARING AN AMNESTY PERIOD (2006)

AMENDMENTS

1. (1) Subparagraphs 2(1)(b)(i) and (ii) of the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006) (see footnote 1) are replaced by the following:

(i) that expired during the period beginning on January 1, 2004 and ending on May 16, 2006, or

(ii) that will have expired during the period beginning on May 17, 2006 and ending on May 16, 2008.

(2) Subsection 2(3) of the Order is replaced by the following:

(3) The amnesty period begins on May 17, 2006 and ends on May 16, 2008.

COMING INTO FORCE

2. This Order comes into force on the day on which it is registered.

REGULATORY IMPACT ANALYSIS STATEMENT

(This statement is not part of the Order.)

Description

The Order Amending the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006) (the Amending Order) extends for one more year the amnesty period created under the original order, the Order Declaring An Amnesty Period (2006) (Amnesty Order 2006). The Amnesty Order 2006 came into force May 17, 2006, and would have ended on May 16, 2007, unless it were extended by the Amending Order. The Amending Order is made pursuant to subsection 117.14(1) of the Criminal Code, just as the original order was. Also like the original order, the Amending Order applies to owners of non-restricted firearms (commonly known as ordinary rifles and shot guns or long guns) who either have a valid licence or previously held a licence that expired on or after January 1, 2004, and who have not obtained registration certificates for these firearms. It will allow these owners to take positive steps, as set out in the Amnesty Order 2006, to come into compliance with the Firearms Act without, while so doing, attracting criminal liability for being in unauthorized possession of the firearms in question.

The purpose of extending the amnesty period for an additional year is to enable the government, through renewed public communications efforts, to clarify the scope of the protection provided by this extended amnesty period, to explain what individuals must do in order to avail themselves of the time-limited protection, and to underline the potential consequences for non-compliant long gun owners, during and after the extended amnesty period, if they do not take the necessary steps to bring themselves into compliance with the law. Questions and comments from stakeholders (owners of non-restricted firearms) since the Amnesty Order 2006 took effect suggest that some members of the public are confused about the protection that this order actually provides. The extension of the amnesty period will provide time to clarify misunderstanding of the Amnesty Order 2006 and to allow some long gun owners to avail themselves of the protection from criminal liability that will only be available for the duration of the extended amnesty period.

Alternatives

The Amnesty Order 2006, declaring an amnesty period under subsection 117.14(1) of the Criminal Code, was the only means for individuals to bring themselves into compliance with the Firearms Act without attracting criminal liability during the amnesty period. The only means to extend the time-limited protection offered by the Amnesty Order 2006 is to extend the time period provided for in that original order.

Taking no action to extend the Amnesty Order 2006 was an alternative. However, the benefits of the order would have expired with the Order.

Benefits and costs

Those individuals who will be protected from criminal liability for unauthorized possession of a non-restricted firearm under the amended Amnesty Order (2006) will only benefit from that protection during the extended amnesty period if they take the necessary steps, outlined in the Order, to renew their licence and/or obtain a registration certificate for their non-restricted firearms or if they exercise other options to become compliant with the Firearms Act that are set out in the Order. Individuals who are not in compliance, and who do nothing during the amnesty period to become compliant, may be subject to Criminal Code illegal possession offences in sections 91 and 92.

A positive contribution to the Canadian firearms licensing system is achieved whenever non-compliant long gun owners renew their licences and thereby support this important aspect of firearms regulation. In addition, by registering their non-restricted firearms, as is currently required by law, or by taking other steps as provided for in the Amnesty Order 2006, these individuals are bringing themselves within the law. Furthermore, by obtaining licences and/or registration certificates, they increase the accuracy, and add to the completeness, of firearms program data in the Canadian Firearms Information System.

The amended Order does not affect the authority of a Chief Firearms Officer to refuse to issue a licence to a person who is considered to not be eligible. Therefore, the public benefits that the licence eligibility requirements have for public safety will continue to be unaffected.

Consultation

Feedback from the public, up until the proposal to extend the amnesty order was pre-published on April 7, 2007, suggested that the application, scope and purpose of the Amnesty Order 2006 had not been well-understood by some stakeholders (potential beneficiaries of the amnesty period) or the public at large.

Correspondence sent to the Minister of Public Safety and calls from the public to the Canada Firearms Centre from the time that the Amnesty Order 2006 took effect until April 7, 2007, suggested that many owners of long guns had been confused about the protection that the Amnesty Order 2006 provided to them. For example, some owners of non-restricted firearms whose licences had expired before January 1, 2004, and who possessed non-restricted firearms for which the registration certificate had been revoked seemed to have failed to understand that they did not fall within the protection of the Amnesty Order 2006 and police could seize the firearms for which the owner did not have a valid licence and registration. They also did not seem to have realized that the only protection that the Amnesty Order provided to them was protection from liability for certain offences under the Criminal Code, and even that protection was only available if they were taking certain steps to bring themselves into compliance with the Firearms Act.

The proposed Order Amending the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006) was pre-published in the Canada Gazette, Part I to invite public commentary for 15 days running from April 7 through 21, 2007.

During this period, 566 comments in total were received via email, fax, phone message, and letter mail. Almost all of the input on the proposed extension of the Amnesty Order 2006 came from individuals rather than organizations; 558 individuals and seven organizations commented on the proposal. In addition, the Attorney General of Ontario sent comments to the Federal Minister of Public Safety. Four hundred and fifty-two respondents supported the proposal, 72 opposed it, and 42 did not take a position on the proposal itself but provided general comments.

The Attorney General of Ontario commented that although the purpose of any amnesty should be to allow gun owners to come into compliance with the licensing and registration requirements of the law, in his view, Bill C-21, including the proposal to repeal the requirement to register non-restricted firearms, was not consistent with that purpose. He indicated that Ontario supports the registration of all firearms. He maintained that loosening registration requirements would be detrimental to police investigations and public safety, in general, and that registration is a means of holding all firearm owners accountable for their firearms, thereby decreasing the potential for firearms to fall into the wrong hands.

With respect to comments from individual Canadians who supported the proposal to extend the amnesty period until May 16, 2008, reasons for supporting the proposal varied widely. Some of these respondents indicated that they thought the proposal is a good compliance incentive, which would bring more firearms into the system while allowing individuals to obtain the necessary documents to become compliant. Others indicated they are personally affected and would use the time provided by the extension of the amnesty period to comply. For example, some individuals had recently been informed that their firearms licences had expired and they indicated they would be taking steps during the extended amnesty to become compliant. Many of the respondents who supported the proposal, however, also said they considered the amnesty as a good first step towards the elimination of the "gun registry". Many individuals in favour of the proposal also noted there is a need, in their opinion, to focus legislative measures to control firearms on criminals rather than otherwise law-abiding Canadians, as well as expressing their concern over the amount of money spent on the Firearms Program. On the other hand, a small number of supporters advocated taking stronger enforcement measures after the amnesty period and suggested criminally charging non-compliant individuals at the end of the amnesty extension.

With respect to comments from organizations, two organizations wrote in support of the proposal. One indicated that the amnesty would allow additional time for compliance until the current law is amended or further Government action is taken. The other supported the extension until the Government can eliminate the registry.

With respect to respondents who did not support the proposed amnesty extension, the overwhelming majority indicated that this proposal merited an open discussion in Parliament and they suggested that the proposed Amending Order was attempting to circumvent the Parliamentary process. The process to amend the Amnesty Order 2006, and thereby extend the amnesty period for one more year, is a regulatory process. It is separate and distinct from the consideration of any legislation in Parliament that proposes to amend Firearms Act requirements or any other firearms related legislation, including Bill C-21. This regulatory process has been used previously on a number of occasions to give effect to and to extend other amnesty periods pursuant to subsection 117.14(1) of the Criminal Code. However, the pre-publication of the proposed Order Amending the Order Declaring an Amnesty Period (2006) in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on April 7, 2007, was the first occasion in the nearly ten years since the Firearms Act came into law where broad public input on a proposed amnesty period has been solicited by way of pre-publication of the proposal.

Respondents who opposed the proposed Amending Order also felt that individuals have had time enough to familiarize themselves with the requirements of the law and expressed views critical of how the Government is handling the Firearms Program. Others, who self-identified as being licensed owners with registered firearms who are currently in compliance with the law, were upset that non-compliant individuals are being given so many additional opportunities when information has been readily available for so long. It is important to underline that the extension of this amnesty period should not be viewed as an opportunity for non-compliant owners of non-restricted firearms to "do nothing" but rather as a time-limited opportunity for them to take the necessary steps to bring themselves into compliance with the law.

Five organizations provided comments opposing the proposed extension of the amnesty period. They made comments in opposition similar to those of individuals – for example, expressing doubt about the objectives of the proposed amnesty and suggesting the pre-publication process was contrary to Parliamentary procedure and undermined the will of Parliament. In addition, they made detailed comments generally in support of current firearms regulation and the Firearms Program.

One wrote to advise the Government that their organization does not support the proposed amnesty extension since they believe the Firearms Registry has been effective in reducing deaths by firearm and gun violence, in particular, such violence against women. Four others, who provided similar comments, noted that the amnesty weakens the quality of data in the firearms information system and therefore puts law enforcement at risk, that the extension of the amnesty is contrary to public inquests (for example six held in Quebec which have maintained the importance of renewable licences and universal firearms registration), and that controls of all types of firearms is essential to reducing domestic violence, suicides, and police murders, especially those committed with non-restricted firearms. One of these organizations was alone in proposing a 60-day amnesty accompanied by an extensive communications program focusing on the benefits of renewing firearms licences and registering rifles and shotguns. While a reduced amnesty period was contemplated, to maximize the potential for the amnesty to achieve its purpose by allowing as many non-compliant firearms owners as possible to take the necessary steps to become compliant, a one-year extension was considered reasonable.

The remaining respondents neither supported nor opposed the proposal and commented only on other issues surrounding the regulation of firearms. For example, they took the opportunity of the pre-publication process to send in comments indicating they generally favoured the Government's commitment to eliminate the registration requirement for non-restricted firearms, pointed out their concerns over the costs associated with the Firearms Program, and expressed a need to focus on criminals who use firearms rather than law-abiding Canadians who have firearms for legitimate activities such as hunting.

Most respondents, whether they supported or opposed the proposed Amending Order, used the pre-publication process to comment on broader issues related to firearms regulation and the Firearms Program. The responses provided here have been limited to addressing comments received in relation to the proposed Amending Order. Public discourse on other related topics will continue through various forums available for these ongoing discussions.

Compliance and enforcement

Under federal legislation currently in force, to be in lawful (authorized) possession of a non-restricted firearm, an individual must hold a licence issued under the Firearms Act as well as a registration certificate for each non-restricted firearm. In June 2006, the Government tabled a legislative proposal in the House of Commons to remove the requirement to register non-restricted firearms (Bill C-21, which received First Reading June 19, 2006). That Bill proposes to amend the Firearms Act to repeal the requirement to obtain a registration certificate for firearms that are non-restricted (i.e., for firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted) as well as the related illegal possession offences in the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code. Bill C-21 remains before the House of Commons, and should it come into force in the future, then there would no longer be a legislative requirement to register non-restricted firearms (commonly known as ordinary rifles and shot guns or long guns). The requirements of the current legislation remain validly enacted. Like the original order, the Amending Order does not have the effect of suspending the requirements in the current legislation, which obliges all non-restricted firearms owners to be licensed and to hold registration certificates for these firearms.

Possession by an individual of any firearm, including a non-restricted firearm, without a licence or without a registration certificate for each firearm is an offence contrary to sections 91 and 92 of the Criminal Code. The Amnesty Order 2006, as extended by the Amending Order, will continue to only protect individuals against criminal liability for unauthorized possession of non-restricted firearms until May 16, 2008. At the same time, however, those owners of non-restricted firearms will be able to take positive steps, as set out in the Amnesty Order 2006, to come into compliance with the Firearms Act and will do so without attracting criminal liability.

Contact

Legal Services
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Canada Firearms Centre
50 O'Connor Street, 10th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1M6
Telephone: 1-800-731-4000
Email: cfc-cafc@cfc-cafc.gc.ca

Footnote a

S.C. 1995, c. 39, s. 139

Footnote 1

SOR/2006-95

 

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