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Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair

Federal ministers promise action on gun violence, systemic racism after meetings

Thursday, December 17, 2020 @ 4:44 PM | By Ian Burns


The federal justice and public safety ministers wrapped up two days of meetings with their provincial and territorial counterparts Dec. 17 with pledges to tackle gun violence and systemic racism in the justice system.

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said the gathering, which followed a one-day meeting with Indigenous groups, was coloured by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and noted the lockdowns have led to an increase in domestic and gun violence across the country. He said the government is planning to build on its gun control legislation from May to bring in new legislation to crack down on smuggling and theft of firearms, including new regulatory frameworks to remove firearms where there are situations of domestic violence, threats of suicide or when a person is advocating violence against women or other vulnerable groups online.

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair

“Far too many people across this country are tragically experiencing the trauma and gun violence and it has to stop,” he said. “The vast majority of Canadians purchase use and store their firearms in a very responsible way and in accordance with the law but the ones that we prohibited [in May] were not designed for legitimate activities such as hunting or sport shooting, but rather designed for use in combat and had no place in civil society.”

And Justice Minister David Lametti said he and his counterparts also discussed the ongoing progress in restoring court operations after legal procedures largely ground to a halt earlier this year, as well as the suspensions in some regions as they grapple with a second wave.

“We are seeing encouraging progress in all jurisdictions as the legal community innovates, overcomes obstacles and looks for the best way to conduct trials,” he said.

The issue of systemic racism in the justice system and its impact on Indigenous and racialized people in Canada was also a significant topic of conversation, said Blair. He said the death of George Floyd brought police use of force to the forefront and has compelled people to take a “deep, serious and sometimes uncomfortable” look at racial issues.

Justice Minister David Lametti

“Police need to be worthy of the trust that Canadians put in them to protect us and that is why we are working with our partners to respond to the very real concerns about systemic racism and discrimination in all aspects of the criminal justice system,” said Blair, former chief of the Toronto Police Service. “We believe that this can be achieved through collective efforts to announce accountability and transparency in policing, advance de-escalation and reduce use of force strengthening the integration of public safety with the integration of health and social services and with other systems of governance, oversight and accountability.”

And the federal government reiterated its commitment to recognize First Nations policing as an essential service, said Blair.

“We are seized with the urgency of ensuring all Indigenous people receive culturally competent, adequate and effective police service which is respectful of their jurisdiction and accountable to the people,” he said.

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