Gun control advocates are sounding out Quebec’s main political parties ahead of the Oct. 3 election to see where they stand on issues such as a handgun ban and a gun buyback program.
“Quebecers are worried,” said Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the 1989 École polytechnique shooting in Montreal.
“Even this week, we were talking about concerns for politicians’ safety on the campaign trail,” she said in a recent interview.
“It demonstrates there’s a fragility in our social climate that we didn’t have even four years ago. Talking about gun control and explaining how it contributes to social peace … I think it should be discussed clearly.”
PolySeSouvient, an advocacy group that includes survivors and families of the 1989 École Polytechnique mass femicide, sent the questionnaire to parties this week. The group, which advocates for stronger gun control, is composed of survivors and the families of survivors of the shootings at Dawson College and the Quebec City mosque.
Provost said the group aims to provide voters with a better idea of where parties stand on gun control.
“The other objective is to show politicians that it is a real issue,” she said. “With the summer we just had, we don’t have to remind them.”
Montreal, in particular, has dealt with a spate of high-profile shootings in recent months, including the daytime killings earlier this month of two men within less than one hour, igniting more debate about gun control just ahead of the election campaign.
The Quebec parties are being asked if they would support using funding from Ottawa, announced during the last federal election campaign, to impose a handgun ban in the province and set up a provincial buyback program.
“That’s what our question is: would you do something if you have money, and the (federal) Liberals promised money a year ago, so maybe we can do something to be a bit more aggressive on the banning of handguns,” Provost said.
It also asks whether provincial parties would support an amendment to Bill C-21 to include a complete ban on assault weapons in Canada. The government banned 1,500 assault-style weapons by decree in May 2020.
“For PolySeSouvient and as a survivor of the Polytechnique femicide, that’s a pretty important question for me, because that was our first and main request from 1990,” Provost said. “We hope the provinces will be on the federal government and push for a mandatory buyback, even if this buyback is very expensive.”
The advocacy group also wants to know what parties would do to beef up the province’s long-gun registry, the only one in the country. It says that as of Oct. 31, 2021, only 1.4 million weapons were registered on the provincial registry, a number that seems low given in 2015, the province had reported there were an estimated 1.7 million long guns in Quebec.
“But we want all the parties to realize that it’s not because (the registry) exists that it is a strong measure,” Provost said. “They have to do things to reinforce that registry and make sure that those who contravene will (face consequences).”
PolySeSouvient has given parties until Sept. 16 to respond and will share its findings afterwards.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press