Thank you very much, Prime Minister, and good morning everyone. Before I begin my remarks, I’d like to take the opportunity to extend my sincere condolences to the families of those that were lost in the helicopter crash off the coast of Greece on Wednesday. We will always remember their service and their sacrifice.
I’d like to thank you all for joining us here today for what I believe to be a very significant and, yes, solemn occasion. A few weeks ago, in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Canada suffered its worst mass shooting in the country’s history: 22 innocent lives were lost over the course of a weekend rampage across beautiful communities throughout Nova Scotia.
Canadians were shocked and they were heartbroken. And as we learned the identities of the victims of these terrible crimes, we were reminded of the tragic impact that gun violence can have on all of our communities, urban and rural, from cost-to-coast-to-coast. Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbours were taken from us terribly violently and far too soon.
Sadly, gun violence is not a new thing in our society, but it’s made all the more deadly with the proliferation of firearms that are more powerful than ever before. Assault-style firearms, those that were not designed for hunting or sport shooting, have become more and more prevalent in our Canadian retail market. And for as long as these guns have existed, they’ve been capable of inflicting tremendous damage when they fall into the wrong hands.
For example, in 1989, 14 women were murdered at École Polytechnique in a horrific act of deadly misogyny. Seventeen years later, Montreal was shaken yet again with the shooting at Dawson College. In 2014, Moncton was terrorized by a criminal that took the lives of three RCMP officers. And three years ago, in January, in Sainte-Foy, Quebec, a shooter killed six innocent Muslim men while they were at prayer.
Many of us have vivid memories of each of these events. They have become, sadly, a part of our history. These tragic moments when innocent women, worshippers, police officers and Canadians across the country have been killed by evil people wielding powerful guns.
For decades, chiefs of police, advocacy groups, grieving families and everyday Canadians have been calling for a ban on these types of firearms –guns that we designed for soldiers to kill other soldiers, not for recreational purposes. Guns that belong on a battlefield and not on our streets. Guns that were designed to kill people, intended in their purpose to kill people, and have been used in Canada to kill innocent people.
For decades, Canadians have been calling upon successive governments for reform, for stronger gun control. We have listened, and today we are taking action. Today, as the Prime Minister has said, we are announcing an immediate ban on over 1,500 models of assault-style firearms. Effective immediately these newly banned firearms cannot be legally used, sold or imported in our country.
As of today, the market for these assault-style weapons in Canada is closed. Enough is enough.
We are ending the proliferation of these weapons and the militarization of our society. From this moment forward, the number of these guns will only decrease in Canada. We’ve heard many people express concern about the militarization of their police and this is a direct consequence of the militarization of society.
Canadians deserve to live in a place where they can be safe and secure. People from coast-to-coast have been clear: we cannot risk another shooting at a school or place of worship, or another attack on police officers or on women or on innocent Canadians anywhere in this country. Banning assault-style firearms will save Canadian lives.
I’d like to take a moment to speak to law-abiding Canadian gun owners. I know from very many years of experience as a police officer that the overwhelming majority of gun owners in this country are law-abiding. They are responsible. They are conscientious. They acquire their weapons legally. They store them securely and they use them safely. They respect our laws and we respect them.
I want to assure hunters, farmers, and target shooters in this country that nothing that we are doing today or will do in the future is intended to interfere with this lawful, responsible and legal activity. However, we are today ending the availability of weapons that were not designed for hunting or for target shooting. They were, rather, designed for soldiers to kill other soldiers.
And while I appreciate that some may feel that these weapons have some recreational value, the tragic reality is that these weapons were designed to kill people and have been used to kill innocent Canadians. Public safety must always be our first priority. These powerful firearms become deadly weapons when they fall into the wrong hands.
Protecting human lives must come above all else. These guns have no legitimate civilian purpose. They don’t belong in our communities. The banning of these assault weapons is an important step. But let me also acknowledge that we know that there is much more to do.
We will introduce legislation at the first opportunity to fulfil our commitments to Canadians to keep guns out of the hands of criminals by strengthening our storage laws, and by preventing gun trafficking and smuggling. We will bring in greater control of ammunition and magazine capacities.
And perhaps most importantly, we will bring in red-flag laws that allow law enforcement to remove firearms from dangerous situations to make sure that they don’t become deadly. We will empower victims, communities, doctors, and families. We will empower Canadians to render their situation safe.
We will do all of these things and we will keep working hard to make our streets safer for our kids and grandkids.
Over the last four years we have taken real measures to strengthen gun control. We’ve invested over $327 million to fight gun and gang violence. That has meant, for example, more resources for local law enforcement to investigate gang-related activity. It has meant funding for projects focused on things like keeping kids in school, giving support to victims of human trafficking, and preventing gang recruitment.
We brought in Bill C-71 which, among other measures, strengthens background checks to help ensure guns don’t end up in the wrong hands. And last year, in the fall, we campaigned on a promise to do more. Today, we are moving forward on our promise and our plan to deliver safer streets and stronger communities for generations to come.
Canada can know a future with less gun violence and less tragedy. By taking action today, we can give our kids and our grandkids a better chance at a brighter, safer tomorrow. Thank you all very much.