By Erika Mathieu
The Alberta Firearms Act, or Bill 8, passed first reading during the March 7 meeting of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.
On March 1, Joseph Schow, MLA for Cardston-Siksika, announced three bills to be tabled in the spring legislature. Among the bills announced was Bill 8, “the Alberta Firearms Bill”, which would give the Province a framework to regulate issues relating to sale, seizure, and licensing, and pushes back against the federal government’s Bill C-21.
Federal and provincial governments share jurisdiction over the regulation of firearms in Canada, but Bill 8 details the parameters and responsibilities of the province’s Chief Firearms Officer and grants him the authority to enact regulations aimed to counter the authority granted to the federal government and its agents relating to the seizure of restricted firearms and accessories proposed in C-21.
If passed, the Chief Firearms Officer would be granted the flexibility to “administer the Canadian Firearms Program in accordance with the specific needs and circumstances of the Province.” Noted in the Bill’s preamble, the bill acknowledges, “the need for an evidence-based firearms program in Alberta that respects the values of Alberta’s lawful firearms owners.”
As proposed in Bill 8, the Designated Chief Firearms Officer “shall engage in advocacy for and outreach to Alberta’s firearms community”, and would also be granted the authority to establish requirements relating to licence approvals, and authorizations under the Canadian Firearms Act (Canada) that relate to public safety and “any other prescribed matters.”
Section 10 of Bill 8 includes that, “no person shall act as a seizure agent without holding a valid license, and no person shall engage in the business of providing seizure agents without holding a valid license.”
This clause would make the seizure of firearms by a person or corporation, without express designation from the Province’s Chief Firearms Officer, a contravention of Section 10, and make that party liable to a fine, and guilty of an offence. Any corporate officer, agent, or director who is not authorized to seize firearms would be guilty of the offence and liable for penalties, “whether or not the corporation has been prosecuted for or convicted of that offence.”
Regulations outlined in the bill include establishing types of licences, prescribing types (or classes) of firearms, ammunition, accessories and parts and determining who is and is not able to hold a licence,” as Bill 8 could prevent actions being brought before “the Crown, minister, Chief Firearms Officer or any employee,” if that person is acting in accordance with the regulations outlined in the act.
Although Bill 8 defines a valid license as one which is provided to seizure agents to be issued by the Minister, Tyler Shandro told reporters the UCP does not intend to utilize this measure outside of confiscation of criminal firearms use. Shandro said during a media briefing, “we don’t think there should be anyone involved in being engaged as a seizure agent for the (federal) confiscation program.”
The new law could restrict municipal entities, police services or police commissions from participating in the confiscation program by preventing them from receiving federal funding to administer the feds’ confiscation program.
The bill will be considered for second reading during the ongoing legislative session this spring.