Don’t think Canada is immune from deadly school shootings

With yet another deadly shooting at a U.S. school Friday, the question has to be asked: Could Canada experience the same sort of deadly violence in our schools?


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Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

With yet another deadly shooting at a U.S. school Friday, the question has to be asked: Could Canada experience the same sort of deadly violence in our schools?

The truth is many such events have already happened in Canada. This country is not immune from deadly violence in our schools.

CBC News ran a story just a little over three years ago with a list of all the deadly shootings in Canada’s schools.

The story was written just after four people were killed and seven others injured Jan. 22, 2016 in a shooting spree in La Loche, Sask. Two boys, said to be the suspect’s cousins, were killed at their home, and two teachers were killed at the Dene Building of the La Loche Community School.

But it wasn’t an isolated incident. Many other school shootings have taken place in Canadian schools. The CBC story outlined a history of shootings in Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg and elsewhere.

Just this past March, the headline in the HuffPost said it all: “School Shootings In Canada Show It’s Not Just A U.S. ProblemWhile much rarer, they’ve still happened north of the border.”

The story then listed the events starting with the last one – the one in La Loche.

So what do we do to prevent this trend? What would work?

Well, one of the first answers to that question always involves stricter gun control laws.

Canada’s Liberal government just unveiled its gun control legislation last March with tougher rules for gun stores, individual gun sellers, and license holders.

“A skittish federal Liberal government has unveiled a series of tougher gun control measures to fulfill election promises to crack down on gun violence while insisting it isn’t bringing back the politically explosive long-gun registry,” wrote Tondra MacCharles of The Toronto Star March 20. “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, now leading the governing party that once brought in the bloated, now-defunct federal firearms registry, stressed three times the bill doesn’t reinstate the long gun registry, but simply brings in “common sense gun laws that do a better job of background checks to keep people safe.”

The Coalition of Gun Con welcomed the measures, saying the package puts Canada back on par with the U.S. which it said has had tighter record-keeping laws on gun sales than Canada since the Conservative government of Stephen Harper killed the long gun registry.

The coalition — which includes survivors of the 1989 Polytechnique massacre, the YWCA, the National Association for Women and the Law and the Victim Justice Network — hailed the bill’s restoration of a requirement for gun store owners to keep “ledgers” documenting sales, records that may be accessed by police with a judicial warrant. It also welcomed requirements on individual gun sellers to verify licence-holders. But coalition co-founder Wendy Cukier said gaps remain, particularly when it comes to the wide discretion authorities have to assess a gun licence applicant’s mental health and history of violence and still issue a licence despite red flags.

Bill C71, tabled by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, would require deeper lifetime background checks (beyond the five-year checks currently required) of would-be gun owners but doesn’t set out new bars to gun ownership; gives the RCMP final say (not cabinet) on firearms classifications; restores old rules requiring commercial gun vendors to track sales; creates a new legal obligation on all individual sellers of guns to verify with the Canadian Firearms Program that a would-be buyer holds a valid licence; and would put tougher restrictions on how restricted firearms may be transported. It also re-classifies two groups of firearms — the Swiss Arms rifle and Czech-made CZ858 rifle — as prohibited, reversing a Harper government decision to downgrade them as restricted weapons. Current owners of those guns would be “grandfathered” — meaning they have three years to acquire the necessary licence to possess the weapons, but would not be permitted to use them on shooting ranges.

National Firearms Association President Sheldon Clare warned the latter move creates a public safety risk, as owners of the soon-to-be prohibited firearms will “seek value for them on the black market. This stuff is just going to go underground.”

And there’s the problem. While gun control advocates push for tougher restrictions and more regulations, too much regulation can push gun sales underground. And that isn’t good for either side of this argument.

Clare and his members have been speaking out against Bill C-71 for months now. At Canada’s largest gun show in Calgary this past March, almost everyone there was united against the proposed bill.

“We definitely have too much gun control,” said Clare. “A licence does not prevent a person from making a subsequent bad choice.”

Clare said the bill will stifle sales at gun shows significantly by requiring vendors to confirm gun licences are valid before every transfer of ownership.

However earlier in March, Goodale said private individual sellers will not be required to keep such records.

“It’s not an onerous burden and it’s one the vast majority of retailers already do because it’s good business,” Goodale told reporters at the time.

Well, you can bet with the latest shooting in the U.S., Goodale and his federal government associates will be under increased pressure to get a new gun control law passed soon.

Whether that’s Bill C-71, an amended version of the same bill or something else entirely, it’s clear a bill has to be passed soon to assure Canadians the government has the gun violence problem under control, especially in our schools.


7 Comments

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  1. Remind me again how one more law will stop a school shooting when all the other laws were already broken! That’s right! It won’t. School issues are the common thread here. C-71 might make you feel good until you realize it is only a piece of paper that will not stop criminal intent. In fact, it is not aimed at criminals at all! It is aimed at the most vetted, law abiding citizens in Canada. Time to start learning about the problem and stop listening to politicians who continuously lie, only to support their agenda!

  2. If we are worried let’s go after the more likely threat – school kids bring vans to school, you know. And hockey sticks. We all now blunt instruments are more deadly in Canada than guns in the hands of kids and legal owners.

  3. If we are worried let’s actually make a difference. Kids bring vans to school you know. And hockey sticks. We all know blunt instruments kill more people in Canada than guns in the hands of kids and legal owners do.
    What a dumb article.

  4. C 71 will do nothing for safety or security. It’s a bunch of B.S. to pander to people who can’t accept the fact that the world is a dangerous place. Evil people do evil things no matter what you do. They want Government to make them safe. Roo bad government cannot . C 71 won’t and C 75 will make it worse. The real problem started over 40 years ago and go after law abiding gun owners fixes nothing.

  5. More anti gun garbage. Check the facts gun control does nothing to prevent this type of crime, laws are always broken by people with criminal intent more laws restricting people who are not about to break the law accomplishes what? Nothing, other than to make it look like you are tackling the problem.

Jeff Wilkinson

Jeff Wilkinson is a retired writer, who worked 35 years in print and broadcast journalism before retiring. He also served in the press operations crews at the 2015 Pan Am Games and the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto.