The Canadian Alliance says there is a “near total boycott” of the new federal gun-license system by Aboriginal people.
But the right-wing party’s numbers are being called into question.
Alliance MP Garry Breitkreuz, an almost fanatical opponent of the new gun law, says only 5 percent of Aboriginal gun owners have a gun license and are compliant with the law.
“That is a horrendous rate of non-compliance. It shows a complete disdain for the gun registry by Aboriginals,” he said in a press release.
Breitkreuz’s number is based on some bizarre calculations, but it looks like he might be partly right – many Crees haven’t gotten licenses.
As evidence for his allegation. Breitkreuz points to the small number of people who have applied for an exemption from the license fee.
Sustenance hunters don’t have to pay the fee when they get the new license, which came into effect Jan. 1.
Only 2,779 sustenance hunters have got the exemption so far.
Meanwhile, Breitkreuz estimated that 51,000 to 72,000 Aboriginal households have at least one gun.
So he figured this means only about 5 percent of Native people are complying with the law.
This argument is flawed for several reasons, points out David Austin, spokesman for the Canadian Firearms Centre.
First, many Aboriginal people are not sustenance hunters, and so they don’t qualify for the exemption in the first place. Second, the exemption is open to both Native and non-Native sustenance hunters.
Another consideration is that many Aboriginal gun owners still have valid Firearms Acquisition Certificates.
Only when your FAC expires do you have to get the new gun permit. That means many people haven’t applied for the exemption because they don’t need to yet.
Austin said the firearms centre doesn’t keep figures on compliance among specific groups, like Native people. He said about 2 million Canadians have registered out of an estimated 2.3 million gun owners – a compliance rate of 87 percent.
But one Cree trapper official said it’s true many Crees haven’t applied for the new gun permit: “There’s a lot. People don’t know how to go about it. They don’t know about the law.
“(Many hunters) are in the bush most of the time. They don’t read the paper. It’s not that they’re against the law. They don’t know about the law,” he said.
Last fall, Crees and other First Nations predicted that many Native gun owners wouldn’t get licenses in time. Some First Nations are completely against the licensing system, and vow to fight it in court.
In January, Mohawk officials said the law would not have any force in their territory.
Austin said his centre was informed that one of the first people–if not the first person–arrested under the new law was a Native man in northern Ontario. He is being accused of having a gun without a permit.
If he is charged with a summary offence, he faces up to six months in jail and up to $2,000 in fines. If charged with an indictable offense, he faces up to five years in jail.