Medicine Hat MLA to chair new firearm advisory committee

Earlier this week, the provincial government announced they’d establish the Alberta Firearms Advisory Committee to explore how to better assert areas of provincial jurisdiction over gun control

Earlier this week, the provincial government announced that they were establishing the Alberta Firearms Advisory Committee.

The committee will gather feedback from residents of Alberta and use that to provide recommendations—through a final report to the minister of justice and solicitor general—on how to “better assert areas of provincial jurisdiction” regarding gun ownership.

It appears to be a temporary committee.

The government also said they were creating a Alberta Firearms Examination Unit, which would test seized guns to make sure they meet the Criminal Code definition of a firearm. Outside Calgary and Edmonton, this service is provided by the RCMP national lab, which the government claims takes an average of 8 months to process a testing request from Alberta. The new unit will operate out of the Calgary Police Service testing lab and the Edmonton Police Service lab.

Members of the advisory committee will be:

  • Michaela Glasgo, chair, MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat
  • Todd Loewen, MLA for Central Peace-Notley
  • Shane Getson, MLA for Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland
  • Rick Hanson, former chief, Calgary Police Service
  • Teri Bryant, president of the Military Collectors’ Club of Canada
  • Bob Gruszecki, president, Alberta Hunter Education Instructors’ Association
  • Phil Harnois, gun shop owner (P & D Enterprises) and 25-year Edmonton police veteran
  • Gail Garrett, vice-president, Alberta Federation of Shooting Sports
  • Lynda Kiejko, member of 2016 Canadian Olympic shooting team
  • Andrew Blundell, vice-president, Canadian Historical Arms Society/Genesee Range
  • Linley Coward, co-owner, Bullets and Broadheads Range in Grande Prairie
  • Nicholas Lui, competitive shooter and Canadian Armed Forces veteran

There appears to be no representation from any organizations who oppose gun violence or who advocate for gun control, which makes me wonder if perhaps it should be a gun owner advisory committee, rather than a firearm advisory committee.

Here’s some information regarding political donations for the committee members, not including the MLAs.

Rick Hanson donated $356 to the NDP party for a byelection campaign in 2017, as well as $1,537.50 to the party generally that same year.

Teri Bryant donated $300 to the UCP last year, as well as $200 to the party during the 2019 provincial election and $300 to the Whitney Issik’s UCP election campaign.

Bob Gruszecki donated $1000 to the PC Foothills–Rocky View constituency association in 2008, $805 to the NDP in 2018, and $400 to the NDP in 2019.

Phil Harnois, Gail Garrett, Lynda Kiejko, Andrew Blundell, Linley Coward, and Nicholas Lui had no record of political donations.

In promoting the announcement, Alberta premier Jason Kenney tweeted the following:

I found two phrases curious at the time.

The first was “represent and defend”. That seemed to indicate that the province intended to take the federal government to court over the recently passed gun control legislation.

Sure enough, the next day, he followed up with this tweet, which explicitly confirmed my interpretation:

The provincial government is already part of a court challenge regarding the federal carbon tax. Adding another court challenge against the federal government seems expensive, since it’ll require using tax dollars to pay legal costs. And with a government focused on cutting expenses to balance a budget, it doesn’t make sense to increase expenses on a battle that’ll surely fail.

The second was the two contrasting phrases of “law-abiding firearms owners” and “violent gun criminals”. Who does he envision when he uses these phrases? Are they demographically nebulous, or does he have particular people in mind when he uses them? What about his base?

Do they see law-abiding firearms owners as primarily white? Farmers? Hunters? What about violent gun criminals? Do they picture Indigenous youth? Black youth? Other youth of colour? All members of gangs?

In this CBC article, Ellen Berrey, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Toronto, said the following:

Words get used as code words, as racial dog whistles that signal something to some listeners or maybe trigger stereotypes that they are not consciously aware of but subconsciously are impactful.

By contrasting “law-abiding firearms owners” and “violent gun criminals”, Kenney is creating two groups of people: the ideal and the other. And at a time when racial tensions are extraordinarily high, focusing on more aggressive authoritative actions—such as “ensure quick prosecution”—isn’t going to make ease those tensions any time soon.

And speaking of quick prosecution, I wonder how he plans to accomplish that. Certainly creating two provincial labs won’t be sufficient. All that will do—possibly—is speed up the process to confirm the legitimacy of a firearm. Speeding up prosecution of gun crime in a backlogged, underfunded judicial system will require one of two things: prioritizing gun crime cases, which will cause further delays for other cases, or increasing funding.

Is Jason Kenney prepared to do either of those two things? Or both?

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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