Is Our Parliamentary System Dead? by Shirley Dolan

Shirley Dolan
Shirley Dolan

Aided and abetted by the RCMP, the federal government is continuing to add more guns to the list of firearms that became prohibited by an Order in Council (OIC) on May 1st, 2020. Many gun owners will look at the list of firearms as published in the Canada Gazette and assume that their firearm is NOT prohibited if it is not on the list. The original list contained over 1,500 gun models. But what may not be widely known is that the RCMP is quietly adding to the list of illegal guns.  According to a gun-shop owner in Port Coquitlam, BC, quoted in TriCity News: “A firearm I have stocked this morning could be illegal by this afternoon,” he said. “There’s no way I know what’s legal to sell.”

If gun shop owners are finding it hard to keep up with the growing list of prohibited guns, imagine private, individual hunters and sport shooters, individuals who legally owned a firearm, until May 1st. And they are not being informed that their gun may have just become prohibited; all guns being added to the list are prohibited retroactive to May 1st, 2020. Prohibited guns cannot be transported, sold, or used for hunting or sport shooting (except in specific cases). The retroactive prohibition means exactly what you think it means. As an example, a target shooter could face prison time for taking their gun to the range weeks PRIOR to the RCMP deciding it was prohibited. To make matters worse, the official “list” – the Firearms Reference Table (FRT) database – is effectively withheld from the public (although a stale version is available for download). And contrary to Minister Bill Blair was saying they were not on the list, the list includes many firearms used by hunters and sport shooters, including 12-ga shotguns and bolt-action rifles, with many more likely to be added in the coming weeks. Most historic cannons are now prohibited as well.  “Lawful firearms owners risk arrest” says MP Cheryl Gallant.

In a letter from the RCMP, gun owners are being told only “to stay tuned”, and all the while, the list gets longer. The RCMP’s website does provide a link to the original list of prohibited guns, and gives information on what the prohibition means to gun owners. Also announced is a two-year amnesty period (up to April 30th, 2022) during which you can do nothing with your firearm except store it safely. A buy-back program will apparently be available at a later date (stay tuned) but here’s the kicker. To put a compensation program in place, Parliament must pass a bill giving the government this authorization … and Parliament is not sitting. And is it likely that any compensation package that this government comes up with will be fair? Some gun collectors have a hefty investment in their collection.

The Trudeau government seized the opportunity to issue an Order in Council (OIC) to broadly ban many firearms by general characteristics – abusing a regulatory mechanism intended for specific prohibitions by make and model only. There was no debate in Parliament, no discussion with stakeholders, no sober second thought and Canadians were in Lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Orders in Council are predominantly used by the Prime Minister to make political appointments. There have been other controversial uses of an OIC, including Order-in-Council P.C. 1486, issued by Prime Minister Mackenzie King in 1942 to officially begin Japanese Canadian internment. All Japanese Canadians within 100 miles of the British Columbia coast – designated as a “protected area” – were forced to relocate east to the BC interior and other provinces, sometimes with only 24 hours to do so.

Perhaps less well known is the Order in Council by the Canadian government, in 1914, for the registration and in certain cases for the internment of aliens of “enemy nationality”. Between 1914 and 1920, 8,579 “enemy aliens” were detained in internment camps. Upon each individual’s arrest, whatever valuables they might have had were seized. Some of this confiscated money was stolen.  This OIC primarily targeted Ukrainians.

It may be that Orders in Council should not be used to impose regulations that infringe on citizens’ basic rights. To the Ontario Landowners Association (OLA), the May 1st OIC is a clear violation of property rights. When asked to support the legal challenge that will soon be brought in Federal Court by Arkadi Bouchelev, Barrister and Solicitor, the OLA agreed.

Since the discussions with Mr. Bouchelev, many other court challenges have come to our attention. To be clear, it does not appear if any of the challenges are based on property rights. However, we encourage you to support them. Here is a list of some of those challenges:

  1. Arkadi Bouchelev Application for Judicial Review
  2. Solomon Friedman, a Toronto Lawyer, is requesting a judicial review on behalf of a gun store in BC (filed) The Canadian Taxpayers Association is seeking financial support to apply for intervener status in this challenge
  3. The Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights has filed an application
  4. Read what the Canadian Sports Shooting Association has to say about the OIC
  5. There is also information about other challenges and about the OIC at
  6. Go Fund Me page initiated by John Hipwell to support a Judicial Review of the OIC.

A word of caution: the OLA has been down the litigation road before when we launched a charter challenge against the OSPCA Act in Ontario Superior Court. After five and a half years of legal wrangling, we had our day in court and received a positive decision (OSPCA enforcement powers are unconstitutional) and the court gave the government one year to remedy the situation. Even though the new provincial government was moving in this direction, they still appealed, and we lost at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

It remains to be seen how the various court challenges will play out. Will there be a change of government before any decision is rendered? Will a new government revoke the Order in Council? Will the OIC be replaced by an Act which basically achieves the same thing?

In closing, let me say that I do not own a gun, never have and likely never will but I am appalled at the federal government’s abuse of our Parliamentary system in passing the May 1st OIC. And let me thank those gun owners and advocates with whom I spoke in preparing this article.