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FIREARMS CONTROL - Appeals and judicial review - References

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 @ 6:18 AM  

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Appeal by Methot from a decision of a reference judge that upheld the refusal by a firearms officer to renew his firearms licence. The appellant possessed a firearms licence between 2012 and 2018 without incident. The firearms officer refused to renew the appellant’s licence on the basis it was not desirable in the interest of public safety. Relying on the evidence of Da Silva, a retired 28-year RCMP officer and currently a peace officer with an organized gang unit, the firearms officer found the appellant was a full member of the Hells Angels and was bound by rules that allowed for violence and criminal acts. The reference judge qualified Da Silva to give expert opinion evidence in relation to the Hells Angels. Da Silva opined that the main purpose of the Hells Angels was the facilitation of criminal activity. The reference judge found it was reasonable to find the appellant was a member of the Hells Angels and that as a result, public safety was at risk by the appellant having a firearms licence.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The primary role of the firearms officer was investigative rather than adjudicative. The statutory scheme in the Firearms Act required the reference judge to conduct a hearing closer to a hearing de novo than to an appeal or a review and to weigh all the evidence presented. It required the reference judge to engage in his own fact-finding process and give little deference to the facts relied on by the firearms officer to determine whether the decision was not justified. It was incumbent on the reference judge to consider the weight Da Silva’s evidence was entitled to after a fresh analysis of the relevance and reliability of that evidence. The reference judge’s reliance on the reasonableness standard required the decision to be set aside. The matter was referred to the provincial court for redetermination.

Canada (Attorney General) v. Methot, [2021] B.C.J. No. 108, British Columbia Supreme Court, F.V. Marzari J., January 22, 2021. Digest No. TLD-March152021004