Alberta tries to exclude federal from charges related to possession of firearms

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Alberta is trying to exclude the feds from possession of firearms charges

Alberta Justice Minister and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro says he wants to protect law-abiding citizens who get guns legally.

Alberta Justice Minister and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro is ordering Crown prosecutors to decide on their own which charges should be laid under the federal Firearms Act as of January 1. In particular, he asks them not to lay charges against a person who has no criminal history and who already possessed one of the weapons that became illegal on May 1, 2020.

Tyler Shandro has released a new protocol providing guidance to prosecutors across the province on how to assess the public interest when determining whether or not charges should proceed.

According to the protocol, it is not in the public interest to lay charges against a person who lawfully obtained a firearm or prohibited device before May 1, 2020 and when the person did not against other offenses related to the possession or use of this firearm.

On May 1, 2020, the federal government passed an Executive Order , which came into force the same day, banning more than 1,500 types of firearms.

Alberta Chief Firearms Officer Teri Bryant says it's important to introduce this protocol now since the amnesty related to the executive order ends in October 2023.

After the amnesty expires, honest law-abiding citizens could face [legal] consequences and I believe this situation should be avoided, she told a conference release on Thursday.

Albertans shouldn't automatically be considered criminals for owning a gun that was legally purchased and possessed, Tyler Shandro says in a statement.

Tyler Shandro indicated his intention in a letter to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, David Lametti.

According to the Alberta government, “the federal government is currently managing the cases related to this law [on firearms],” but the province already has the authority to deal with criminal charges under the Canadian Constitution.

Professor Benoît Pelletier, of the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa, recognizes the province's authority in matters of justice.

He recalls that under the Constitution, the criminal law is to be established by the Government of Canada…but [that] the provinces have jurisdiction over the administration of justice. Provincial Crown prosecutors initiate criminal proceedings and lay charges, he explains.

He also claims that there are precedents for this. For example, British Columbia announced in May that beginning next year, a person in possession of small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use will not be arrested or charged.

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  • Handgun decisions are under federal jurisdiction, said Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti during a press scrum on Thursday.

    We expect the police to enforce the law and the provinces that are responsible for the administration of justice to do their part, but we have to follow the Constitution. It's the foundation of our country.

    Provincial prosecutors are already responsible for prosecuting Criminal Code firearms offenses across Canada, so we we're not sure [of what Tyler Shandro means], the minister added during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

    More needs to be known about how [Alberta] plans to handle the case, but we are reviewing it and hoping to get more information.

    There however, expects authorities to continue to enforce the Criminal Code.

    The federal government recently implemented an immediate ban on the sale of handguns in last October, without waiting for the passage of Bill C-21 on gun control, introduced last spring.

    The bill is still being reviewed by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

    An amendment to Bill C-21 introduced in November was strongly criticized. The amendment aims to better define the assault weapons banned in the country and would restrict the possession of semi-automatic firearm models that have a detachable magazine that can hold more than five rounds.

    According to opponents of the bill, many rifles used by hunters have these characteristics.

    According to political science professor Frédéric Boily, of the University of Alberta's Saint-Jean Campus, this announcement from the province is not surprising. He notably recalls the measures against the federal law of firearms put in place by the province in September, as well as the desire of the province to have its own gun control, which foreshadowed this kind of decision.

    It's part of a kind of game […] to oppose the measures that the federal government wants to put in place for stricter gun control.

    He adds that gun owners on the Prairies have always been very critical of the federal government's approach, so this is an issue for Conservatives who pays off politically, he underlines.

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