Today is Canada Day. It marks the uniting of the British colonies of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with the Province of Canada (which included both Ontario and Quebec) into the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867 by way of the British North America Act of 1867. It is Canada’s national holiday.
So on this Canadian holiday I thought it appropriate to look again at the seizure of resident’s firearms in the Province of Alberta.
The RCMP announced on Sunday that they would start returning some of the firearms seized from residents of the town of High River.
An RCMP news release says that owners of guns that were seized should call police, and that an officer will call them back to make arrangements to have the weapons picked up.
The Mounties said earlier that they took the guns as officers searched homes in High River’s flood zone to look for flood victims, pets and anything that might pose a threat to returning residents.
Any guns were removed from homes because they were not properly stored, said Staff Sgt. Brian Jones, who added that no charges are planned.
“There is no indication of that at this point in time. That wasn’t the reason. That wasn’t the intention,” Jones said about the gun seizures.
The Prime Minister’s Office has now gotten involved in this affair. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a resident of Alberta. His Canadian Parliament riding of Calgary Southwest adjoins the riding in which High River is located.
The move to take the weapons was condemned by the Prime Minister’s Office, who said the Mounties should focus on more important tasks such as protecting lives and private property.
Harper’s criticism of the RCMP’s move brought criticism itself.
Darryl Davies, a Carleton University criminology professor, considered the condemnation from the Prime Minister’s Office to be highly inappropriate.
“It’s completely and utterly inappropriate for the PMO to issue operational instructions to the RCMP,” Davies said Sunday.
Have we arrived at a point in Canada where the PMO can interfere in criminal investigations as well?”
Davies said he thought it must be embarrassing for the RCMP to be admonished by the PMO in the media, and that it undermines the force’s credibility and impartiality.
Davies, who has long criticized the RCMP himself, is also a strong proponent of gun control. He is on record as favoring the banning of all semi-automatic firearms. Davies also served as the Senior Communications Officer on Firearms, Communications Branch Department of Justice. Thus, I think Davies’ criticism in context is more about his anti-gun beliefs than anything to do with political interference with the RCMP.
Unlike the United States where the Constitution is a single document with a number of amendments, the Canadian Constitution is an amalgamation of Acts of Parliament from both Great Britain and Canada. In 1982, Canada passed the Constitution Act, 1982, which contained the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It can be said that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is their equivalent to our Bill of Rights – with exceptions. While it speaks of things like freedom of association and “the right to life, liberty, and the security of the person”, the one thing it does not guarantee is a right to keep and bear arms. Moreover, property rights are not mentioned. Much of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms concerns itself with language rights, the rights of “aboriginal people”, and the education rights of linguistic minorities.
So while we often think of our neighbors to the North as just like us but more polite, legally they have a much different system in which things like property rights and the right to keep and bear arms are treated much differently. That said, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government probably respect both of rights more so than the current Obama administration.