Thousands of aboriginals across Canada are refusing to obtain gun licences and register their rifles and shotguns under the federal Firearms Act, according to government documents unearthed by the Canadian Alliance and reported by the National Post.
Justice Department surveys and briefing papers show that most aboriginal gun owners and their leaders oppose participation in federal licensing and registration because they want their own gun regulations and laws as a treaty right.
The documents were obtained by Canadian Alliance MP Garry Breitkreuz under the Access to Information Act. They also show widespread refusal by First Nations communities to take part in a 2002 government effort to help native communities comply with the Firearms Act.
In the Mohawk community of Akwesasne, a survey found only one per cent of gun owners had complied with the Firearms Act by last year.
The study, sponsored by the Akwesasne Justice Department and the Canadian Firearms Centre, found a majority of gun owners in the community support licensing but, like the majority in the wider community, want it done under Mohawk law.
A 2002 sample of gun licence applications from 67 First Nations communities in Ontario, Quebec, the northern territories and the western provinces showed licences were sought by only a fraction of the expected number of gun owners in each community.
Breitkreuz said the studies show non-compliance by aboriginal gun owners and hunters undermines the integrity of the Firearms Act and Criminal Code provisions that cover the firearms registry.
The 2002 sample of compliance concluded that failure to take action or come up with a policy could be damaging to native hunters as well as relations between the aboriginal communities and law enforcement agencies. It said field reports showed aboriginal hunters and gun owners were being increasingly charged for gun possession without licences.
“This not only damages already sensitive police/aboriginal relations in many parts of the country but risks fines [which many aboriginal people are unlikely to have a capacity to pay] and the possibility of incarceration, which can only serve to further increase aboriginal over-representation in the criminal justice system,” the study said.