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How are the federal parties tackling public safety and gun violence?

Last Updated Oct 7, 2019 at 5:03 pm EDT

Federal party leaders Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May and Andrew Scheer. THE CANADIAN PRESS

Toronto has seen 342 shootings involving 505 victims this year according to Toronto police data and the numbers continue to rise almost daily.

With 2018 being one of the most violent years in Toronto’s history and 2019 almost on par, public safety and specifically gun violence, is top-of-mind for voters heading to the polls this month.

The Liberals, Green Party and NDP have all included topics such as gun control, prison reform and support for victims of violence in their party platforms. The Conservatives are yet to release their public safety plans, but have previously proposed measures in the last Parliament session along with responding to the Liberals’ plan and addressing the issue in news conferences. This article will be updated to include new information as it is released.

Below is a list of party promises made in relation to public safety and gun violence.

Liberal Party

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced last month that a re-elected a Liberal government will “move forward with the strongest gun control measures in years in this country.”

“Here’s the hard truth: people are dying. Families are grieving. Communities are suffering. So we’re going to do more, and we’re going to do better. Thoughts and prayers are just not going to cut it,” he said.

He outlined the following steps towards stricter gun control in the party platform:

  • Ban military-style assault weapons like the AR-15.
  • Start a gun buyback program for legally purchased assault rifles.
  • Give municipalities the authority to restrict or ban handguns in their communities.
  • Commit $250 million over five years directly to cities to help develop “on the ground” solutions to gang violence.
  • Will not bring back the long gun registry.
  • Require people importing ammunition to show a valid firearms license.
  • Strengthen safe-storage laws to prevent thefts.
  • Work with the RCMP to create a purchase-flagging system when someone buys guns in bulk and to detect straw-man purchases.
  • Limit advertising and marketing of guns to limit the glorification of violence.
  • Strengthen gun-smuggling penalties.
  • Address intimate-partner and gender-based violence by suspending licenses of people suspected of being dangerous to prevent them from possessing or buying guns.

Trudeau also put forth some steps to support victims of violence and the wrongfully convicted:

  • Appoint more judges and make sexual assault law training mandatory.
  • Give cash to provinces to hire 425 more prosecutors and 225 new judges.
  • Provide free legal aid to survivors of sexual assault.
  • Establish an independent Criminal Case Review Commission to help those who are wrongfully convicted to have their cases reviewed.

 

NDP

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh focused his public safety policies on keeping vulnerable young people away from gangs and preventing guns from getting into their hands.

Speaking in Vancouver last month, Singh said no government has given enough attention to youth anti-gun programs.

“It’s just not been done. We know it’s needed, we know people are desperate for investment, but no one has done it,” he said. “These youth organizations have come to me and have said we’ve got programs, we’ve got mentorship programs, everything in place, but we don’t have the core funding, and we need more help.”

To that end, Singh proposed the following steps to tackle gun violence:

  • Create a $100 million fund dedicated to keeping kids out of gangs through youth programs.
  • Support innovative models of community policing.
  • Ensure funding for anti-gang and anti-extremism youth projects.
  • Immediately ban carding by federal law enforcement including the RCMP and work with municipalities to end the practice.
  • Initiate a review of how carding info has been shared across jurisdictions

In addition to policies targeting youth Singh also outlined broader safety policies:

  • Ensure major cities have dedicated hate crime units.
  • Convene a national working group on countering online hate.
  • “Work to keep” illegal handguns and assault weapons off the streets.
  • Tackle gun smuggling and organized crime.
  • Increase restorative justice programs including victim support services in and out of court.

 

Green Party

The Green Party has released its entire platform and focused their public safety initiatives on prison reform and rehabilitation with the following proposals:

  • Eliminate mandatory minimum sentences.
  • End solitary confinement.
  • Re-invest in rehabilitation of prisoners for successful re-entry into society.
  • Reform the record suspensions process, especially for those convicted of minor cannabis possession.
  • Reform Canada’s courts to make them more accessible to Canadians.
  • Re-focus CBSA resources on weapons smuggling instead of residency issues.
  • Launch an anonymous national gun buyback program for handguns and assault weapons.

 

Conservative Party

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has said that a Conservative government will target illegal firearms and how they get into the hands of criminals.

 

Citing Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, Scheer said 80 per cent of guns in the hands of gang members are coming into Canada illegally from the United States.

As such, Scheer is proposing the following measures to counter the influx of guns into Canada:

  • Create a Canada Border Services Agency task force to work with colleagues in the United States to disrupt gun smuggling routes.
  • Make it an offence to possess a smuggled firearm with a mandatory sentence of at least five years.

Other gun-related measures include requiring the RCMP to ask for and check references when issuing gun licenses, and introducing better ways for police forces to share information to go after illegal guns.

Scheer also said most shootings have street-gang connections and put forth stricter penalties for gang activity:

  • End bail for repeat gang offenders.
  • Label gangs as criminal entities in the Criminal Code, to simplify criminal prosecutions.
  • Revoke parole for offenders who maintain ties to gangs.
  • Create new offenses with mandatory minimum sentences specifically for committing and ordering violent gang crimes.