OTTAWA — The federal government has announced the first phase of a long-promised firearm buyback program that aims to focus on buying back banned firearms from businesses.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters Wednesday that Ottawa has signed a contract with the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association to work with businesses and firearms stores, calling it a “significant milestone.”
“Assault-style firearms were designed for a battlefield and they have no places in our communities,” said Mendicino, adding the first phase of the buyback is expected to begin later this year.
“They serve no legitimate purpose other than killing the greatest number of people as quickly as possible — that’s why we banned them.”
The federal government’s decision to ban about 1,500 models of firearms came in May 2020, just weeks after the Nova Scotia mass shooting, the deadliest in modern Canadian history.
Bill C-21, introduced by the Liberals as “Canada’s most significant action on gun violence in a generation,” proposes new “red flag” laws to address the role of guns in domestic violence and a national handgun freeze.
It aims to limit gun access for people who pose a danger to themselves or others, and expand rules around Ottawa’s ban on handguns.
While Bill C-21 has not been passed in the House of Commons, a temporary ban on handgun imports was enacted in August 2022, aiming to cap the number of handguns in Canada to reduce firearm-related violence.
It meant permits for import-restricted handguns could no longer be issued.
The federal government in February withdrew a proposed amendment to the legislation that included what critics called a controversial new definition of an assault-style weapon.
The amendment would have defined what type of firearms should be banned in Canada and added dozens of new semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. It caused an outcry among rural Canadians, as advocates argued it criminalized weapons that hunters often use.
Several provinces — including New Brunswick, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan — don’t agree with the buyback program, calling on the federal government to halt its plans of using the RCMP and municipal police to confiscate more than 100,000 weapons.
Christine Tell, public safety minister for Saskatchewan, said in October 2022 that while her province supports initiatives related to illegally-obtained weapons and gang violence, the proposed federal plan isn’t effective.
“We don’t support [initiatives] that impact law-abiding hunters, sport shooters, ranchers, farmers and Indigenous people who use firearms for lawful and good reasons,” said Tell at the time.
Mendicino told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday that the second phase of the buyback program would likely expand it to individual firearms owners across Canada. It is unclear when that will begin.
“We’re dedicated to moving forward with this program as quickly as we can, but we also have to make sure that we get the buyback program right,” he said.