A comprehensive strategy to address gun violence and strengthen gun laws in Canada: BILL C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms)
Bill C-21: An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms) and regulatory amendments, to advance the national 'freeze' on handguns, are part of a comprehensive strategy to address gun violence and strengthen gun control in Canada.
Learn about proposed amendments relating to:
- National "freeze" on handguns
- New "red and yellow flag" laws and expanded licence revocation
- Combatting firearms smuggling and trafficking
- Prohibiting mid-velocity 'replica' airguns
- Coming into Force chart for Bill C-21
National "freeze" on handguns
A national freeze on the sale, purchase or transfer of handguns by individuals within Canada, and bringing newly-acquired handguns into Canada came into force by regulations on October 21, 2022.
Individuals can continue to possess and use their registered handguns and can sell or transfer their registered handguns to exempted individuals or businesses. Requests submitted by individuals before October 21, 2022 to transfer a handgun within Canada will continue to be processed.
- Authorized businesses with proper storage (i.e., retailers) can continue to import and sell handguns to other businesses (e.g., gunsmiths, museums, valuable goods carriers, retailers, movie and theatrical industry), law enforcement, defence personnel and exempted individuals.
- Anyone who holds an Authorization to Carry handguns; and,
- Individuals who train, compete or coach in a handgun shooting discipline that is on the programme of the International Olympic Committee or the International Paralympic Committee.
The national freeze on handguns came into force, via regulatory amendments to the Firearms Act, upon approval by the Governor General and registration on October 21, 2022. The regulations have been in force since then. Link to the Order in Council: https://orders-in-council.canada.ca/attachment.php?attach=42706&lang=en
The text of the Regulations was published in the Canada Gazette, Part II on November 9, 2022.
"Red flag" law, "yellow flag" law and expanded licence revocation
Protecting the safety and security of victims of intimate partner violence and gender-based violence is of paramount importance. Victims need to feel protected and fully supported when they ask for help.
"Red flag" law
The new "red flag" law would:
- Enable anyone to make an application to a court for an emergency weapons prohibition order (red flag) to immediately remove firearms, for up to 30 days, from:
- an individual who may pose a danger to themselves or others; and
- an individual who may be at risk of providing access to firearms to another person who is already subject to a weapons prohibition order.
- Protect the safety of "red flag" applicants and those known to them, if needed, by giving a judge the option to:
- close a "red flag" hearing's proceedings to the public and media;
- seal the court documents for up to 30 days, or remove any information that could identify the applicant for any period of time that the judge deems necessary, including on a permanent basis.
Individuals who are subject to an emergency weapons prohibition order (red flag) could be required to:
- surrender their firearm(s) to law enforcement; or
- have the firearm(s) removed temporarily on an urgent basis through a seizure order from the court.
These emergency weapons prohibition orders would help to address situations where an individual poses a risk to themselves, their family, or to public safety, including perpetrators of intimate partner and gender-based violence, people at risk of suicide, and radicalized individuals.
Limitation on access orders would address situations where an individual subject to a prohibition order could have access to a third-party's weapon.
New applications for an emergency weapons prohibition order could be made, and the court could set a hearing for a longer-term prohibition order (up to 5 years) if there continues to be reasonable grounds to believe that the individual poses a public safety risk.
A program would be developed to help raise awareness and provide tools to victims and supporting organizations on how to use the "red flag" provisions and protections. It would support vulnerable and marginalized groups including women, Indigenous people and other racialized communities and people with mental health issues, to ensure that the "red flag" law is accessible to all, particularly those who may need it the most.
"Yellow flag" law
Introduce a new "yellow flag" law that would allow:
- a Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) to temporarily suspend an individual's licence for up to 30 days when there is a reason to suspect the person is no longer eligible to hold a firearms licence (e.g., suspected of illegally reselling firearms);
- any member of the public to contact a CFO with information about a licence holder;
- a CFO to use the 30-day suspension to investigate a claim and revoke a licence if there is evidence to support it.
The licence holder would not be able to use, acquire or import new firearms during the temporary 30-day suspension period but would retain possession of their current firearm(s).
If an investigation determines that the individual continues to be eligible to hold a firearms licence, their use and acquisition privileges would be immediately reinstated.
Expanded licence revocation
Following the coming into force of the legislation, the extended licence revocation authority would help protect those in danger from firearms violence and would permit a Chief Firearms Officers (CFO) to revoke a firearms licence:
- in cases of domestic violence and/or criminal harassment (e.g., stalking);
- when a protection order has been issued against a current licence holder;
- when an emergency weapons prohibition order (red flag) is issued by a judge against a current licence holder.
CFOs would not issue a firearms licence to anyone who at the time they apply is, or has previously been, subject to a protection order related to the safety of any person or an emergency weapons prohibition order (red flag).
In the case of licence revocations related to domestic violence and protection orders, limited exceptions would be available for individuals needing a firearm for sustenance hunting and trapping, or employment.
The Government intends to launch a consultation with Canadians on the proposed expanded licence revocation and "yellow flag" suspension regime prior to the coming into force of these proposals.
Who has authority to revoke a firearms licence in Canada?
|Licence revoked by||Instrument||Reason||Appeal||Firearms surrender required?||In force?|
|Chief Firearms Officer||Firearms Act||Protection order (issued by the Court)Footnote *||No||Yes||No|
|Domestic violence/criminal harassment incident||Yes||Yes||No|
|Judge||Court order||Emergency weapons prohibition order (red flag)||No||Yes||No|
|Chief Firearms Officer||Firearms Act||Following investigation under "yellow flag" law||Yes||Yes||No|
|Chief Firearms Officer||Firearms Act||Any reason as outlined under the Firearms Act||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Combat firearms smuggling and trafficking
To combat firearms trafficking and smuggling and increase law enforcement capacity to combat firearms violence, the Government is proposing amendments to:
- increase maximum penalties from 10 to 14 years imprisonment for firearms-related offences, including firearms smuggling and trafficking;
- authorize wiretaps for two firearms offences;
- allow sharing of certain firearms registration data with law enforcement across Canada in cases of suspected straw purchasing;
- make it an offence to alter a cartridge magazine to exceed its lawful capacity and allow for wiretaps for this new offence;
- make it an offence for businesses to promote violence in firearms marketing and sales;
- require a person to present a valid firearms licence to import non-prohibited ammunition for firearms (following consultations);
- improve the ability of the CBSA to manage inadmissibility to Canada when foreign nationals commit regulatory offences upon entry to Canada, including firearm-related offences; and
- transfer policy responsibility for transborder criminality from the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to the Minister of Public Safety.
Prohibit mid-velocity 'replica' airguns
The Government is proposing to prohibit airguns that:
- closely resemble a real firearm (replica); and
- discharge a projectile at a velocity between approximately 366 and 500 feet per second.
These airguns could no longer be imported, exported, transferred or sold. However current owners could continue to possess and use their existing airguns.
Mid-velocity airguns that do not closely resemble a real firearm would be unaffected. The Government intends to work with stakeholders including law enforcement and industry, to ensure the practical implementation of this initiative.
Coming into Force chart for Bill C-21: An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms)
|Provision||Coming into Force|
|Establish "red flag" firearms removal tool, including new anonymity protections||Royal Assent|
|Increase maximum penalties for weapons smuggling/trafficking from 10 to 14 years||Royal Assent|
|Make it an offence to alter a cartridge magazine to exceed legal limits||Royal Assent|
|Add two firearms offences to the list of offences eligible for wiretapping||Royal Assent|
|Prohibit the import/export and transfer of mid-velocity replica airguns to individuals||Royal Assent|
|Authorize security personnel of certain federal entities (e.g. Bank of Canada, Royal Canadian Mint) to use prohibited firearms||Royal Assent|
|Repeal Governor in Council (GiC) ability to downgrade firearms classification (also in Firearms Act)||Royal Assent|
|Provision||Coming into Force|
|Prevent individuals with an existing or prior restraining order from obtaining a licence, and require the revocation of a licence for individuals who are subject to a restraining order||OiC|
|Require the revocation of a licence for individuals who have been involved in an act of domestic violence or stalking||OiC|
|Establish "yellow flag" licence suspension regime||OiC|
|Require firearm surrender pending legal challenge of licence revocation||Royal Assent|
|Disclose firearms licence information to stop trafficking, e.g. straw purchasing||Royal Assent|
|Require a firearms licence to import ammunition||OiC|
|Make it an offence to promote violence against a person in firearms marketing and sales||Royal Assent|
|Automatically expire registration certificates subsequent to a change in a firearm's classification||Royal Assent|
|Repeal Governor in Council (GiC) ability to downgrade firearms classification (also in Criminal Code)||Royal Assent|
|Centralize approval of Authorizations to Carry (ATC) handguns in the Commissioner of Firearms||OiC|
|Prohibit all handgun transfers to individuals||Royal Assent|
|Prohibit the issuance of registration certificates and Authorizations to Transport for handguns from any port of entry (with exceptions)||Royal Assent|
|Exempt individuals with an Authorizations to Carry and elite sports shooters from the handgun transfer/import prohibition||Royal Assent|
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)
|Provision||Coming into Force|
|Strengthen the transborder Criminal Inadmissibility Framework||Royal Assent|
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
|Provision||Coming into Force|
|Grant limited peace officer status to security personnel at Canada's nuclear facilities and provide independent review of their actions||OiC|
Upcoming regulatory amendments for firearms (not part of Bill C-21)
|Provision||Coming into Force|
|Update regulations on cartridge magazines||OiC|
|Update firearms markings regulations||OiC|
|Strengthen secure storage regulations||OiC|
Regulations Amending Certain Regulations Made Under the Firearms Act
Regulations Amending Certain Regulations Made Under the Firearms Act were tabled in the House of Commons and the Senate on May 30, 2022. You can request a copy of the regulations by contacting Information Services at the Library of Parliament.
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