On May 15, 2018, LEAF, together with the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic and the National Association of Women and the Law, sent a letter to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to advocate for greater protections for women’s equality and safety in Bill C-71, the gun control legislation currently under review by this Committee.
In this letter, we urge the Committee to consider the impact that this legislation will have on the lives of women and girls across the country. In determining risk for domestic violence in the home, guns remain the single most determinant factor for lethality. In 2018 alone, over 57 women have been killed in Canada. Statistics Canada reports that, in 2016, firearm-related homicides increased in number and rate in Canada for the third year in a row, with 223 firearm-related homicides taking place in 2016. For these reasons, we ask the Committee to commit to protecting the lives of Canadian women and all others affected by gun violence.
In order to affirm this commitment, our letter asks that the Committee consider certain amendments to Bill C-71, including the creation of a coherent public safety strategy that would address violence against women. We also ask for broader language regarding licensing that would allow a variety of concerns to be considered when determining whether a person is eligible to hold a firearm licence, including any potential threat that the owner would pose to themselves or others. Further, we ask that Bill C-71 restore controls on the sale of rifles, shotguns, and handguns, as well as require owners of multiple firearms to be subjected to higher levels of scrutiny. Finally, we highlight the need for greater investment in youth and primary prevention services, and call for more meaningful engagement with diverse women’s groups on this issue.
While we applaud the government for including stronger provisions on gun control in this Bill, such as those that require the verification of licenses and the extension of the licensing screening period to ten years, we argue that the language and approaches surrounding firearms should be centred on public safety and account for the experiences of women in Canada. Gun control saves lives. We call on Members of Parliament to stand up for public safety and women’s equality rights, including the right to be free from violence.