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Rising gun violence should be key election issue: Polytechnique massacre survivor

Last Updated Sep 12, 2021 at 6:18 pm EDT

MONTREAL (CityNews) ─ Nearly 32 years after the massacre at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, one survivor is urging voters to make gun violence a key issue in this election.

Nathalie Provost, who was shot four times during the 1989 assault at Polytechnique where a gunman killed 14 women, says guns have no place in Canada.

“It’s important to me that the Canada we are building right now is a Canada where my grandchildren will not be frightened,” said Provost, a spokeswoman for prominent gun-control group PolySeSouvient.

“In our ordinary lives, we don’t think we have to defend the right to be safe, to feel safe, and so that’s why there’s not a lot of involvement in gun control. Because for us it’s so obvious, we have to feel safe in our streets.”


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Gun violence has been on the rise in parts of Canada.

The rate of violent gun offences increased for a fifth straight year in 2019, according to a 2020 Statistics Canada report.

In Toronto, the number of people killed or injured by guns has increased significantly since 2015, when the Liberals came to power.

In Montreal, more than 200 firearm-related incidents were reported from January to the end of July. Since the start of the year, Montreal police have seized nearly 500 illegal firearms.

Recently, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and the mayors of four other Quebec cities called on federal party leaders to ban handguns and assault weapons Canada-wide.

Plante, Regis Labeaume (Quebec City) Marc Demers (Laval), Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin (Gatineau) and Sylvie Parent (Longueuil) say the current laws are not enough and that federal leaders haven’t made their stances clear.

The mayors say municipalities simply can’t do it alone.

PolySeSouvient, which includes current students and other graduates of Polytechnique, also wants a Canada-wide handgun ban.

The group is calling on voters to make their decision known at the ballot box.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has been criticized over his apparent flip-flop on a platform promise to repeal an “assault-style” firearms ban introduced last year and subject it to a review if he forms government after the Sept. 20 election. O’Toole has also been accused of being friendly with the gun lobby.

“A conservative vote is a vote against gun control,” said Provost. “It’s a vote for the privilege of the gun lobby and I cannot believe what Mr. O’Toole said when he reversed his position regarding the ban, the 2020 ban, because he didn’t reverse his position regarding reclassification.”

The Liberals have promised to tighten measures imposed last year even further by limiting the number of rounds high-capacity gun magazines can hold and providing $1 billion for provinces wishing to ban handguns.

Bill C-71 also promises stricter rules for background checks, record-keeping, and transportation of firearms. If passed, it would introduce a voluntary buyback program for blacklisted firearms.

READ: ‘Kids have them’: How guns end up on Toronto’s streets

But PolySeSouvient isn’t happy with the Liberals either.

The group says it would leave too many banned weapons in private hands, threatening public safety and making it easier for subsequent governments to reverse the ban.

“It was a very strong move to ban assault weapons in 2020, but it’s not finished ‘til it’s not removed from the streets, from the hands of Canadians,” said Provost. “We understand that it was bought by honest citizens who own the license to buy those weapons, but there’s no use for it in Canada.

“It was very, very important for us that Mr. Trudeau understand how important right now he has to make strong decisions regarding gun control. If we’re not doing it right now, I think and I believe we will lose the capacity to regulate them.”

With files from The Canadian Press.