Announcing new firearms measures and updating Canadians on the COVID-19 situation
Good morning, everyone.
I am happy to be joined virtually by Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, Ministers Blair and Lametti, and MP Lightbound to talk about our new firearms legislation.
But first, I’d like to start with a brief update on COVID-19 and vaccines.
This week, we’re on schedule to receive our single largest Pfizer vaccine shipment to date.
And next week, we’re expecting an even larger shipment from Pfizer again.
Yesterday, I spoke with Noubar Afeyan, Chairman of Moderna.
He confirmed that, as promised, we are on track to receive 2 million doses of the Moderna vaccine before the end of March.
Months ago, we promised a total of 6 million vaccines by the end of Q1, that is the end of March.
That’s exactly what we’re going to deliver.
Following that, the ramp-up phase in April will feature many more millions of doses.
We’ll all be better off as we see doses coming into Canada, getting into people’s arms, helping our parents and grandparents, and getting our essential workers vaccinated as we move into the spring.
We’re going to get there, and we’re very much on track to ensure that everyone who wants a vaccine will get vaccinated by the end of September.
As expected, a total of 6 million vaccines will arrive by the end of March.
Millions more will arrive in April for the ramp-up phase.
As I’ve been saying for months, everyone who wants a vaccine will get vaccinated by the end of September.
This morning, I spoke to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, who repeated once again that the transparency mechanism put in place by the European Union will not affect vaccine deliveries to Canada.
Recently, some places across the country ‒ like here in Ottawa ‒ have started to ease public health restrictions.
It’s encouraging, for sure.
But it doesn’t mean that our fight against this virus is over.
On the contrary, we still have to be careful.
We can’t be letting our guards down.
This weekend, you probably heard that new variants of COVID-19 have now been found in all 10 provinces.
Many provinces are also reporting evidence of community transmission of these strains.
We’re following the situation closely.
Nobody wants a third wave, especially not with these new variants that are far more contagious.
For my part, I’m going to continue working from home as much as possible, even though when I can I’ll come into the office. Getting that balance right is something we’re all going to need to look to.
We see various provinces opening up their restrictions and that’s a good thing, but at the same time, we need to be making smart choices about how we keep our contacts down, how we prevent COVID-19 from spreading to our loved ones – to our community – by being careful.
We need to limit our movement as much as possible.
We need to avoid gatherings.
We need to keep wearing our masks.
We need to download the COVID Alert app, which will help you, particularly if we’re all going out just a little bit more. Having that app that will alert you to exposures around you will help.
And even if someone you love has been vaccinated, we need to be careful. We can still transmit, particularly given these new variants, if we’re not careful. That’s why we have to remain vigilant even as it’s welcome news that things seem to be loosening just a little bit.
Today, I also want to talk about the measures we’re taking to protect Canadians from devastating effects of gun violence.
In some cities, firearm-related crimes are on the rise.
And it’s unacceptable.
No one should live in fear of being a victim of a mass shooter or a stray bullet.
As a parent, I know very well that our greatest fear is receiving a tragic call informing us that something terrible has happened.
In a country like Canada, no one should ever be “in the wrong place, at the wrong time.”
Not at the park, not at the mosque, not at school – nowhere.
Last year, to help fight gun violence, we kept our promise and banned over 1,500 models of assault-style weapons.
These weapons are designed specifically to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and they have no place in our society.
We also promised to introduce legislation in keeping with the rest of our commitments on this issue, and that’s exactly what we’re doing today.
In 2019, firearms were used in 40% of all homicides in Canada.
When it comes to keeping Canadians safe from gun violence, we need more than thoughts and prayers.
We need concrete action.
In 2019, we passed legislation to keep firearms out of the wrong hands, including by expanding background checks.
Last year, we banned over 1,500 models of military-style assault weapons.
And today, we’re announcing new legislation for stronger measures than ever before to combat gun violence in Canada.
Banning 1,500 models of assault-style weapons last year was a critical step.
But we also need to continue to fight the illegal gun market.
That’s why we will increase criminal penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking, and enhance the capacity of police and border officials to keep illegal firearms out of the country.
At the same time, we will also create new offences for altering the cartridge magazine of a firearm and introduce tighter restrictions on importing ammunition.
Canadians called for these bold steps.
We heard you.
And we are taking action.
To make sure that these assault-style weapons are safely removed from our communities, we’ve studied a range of options.
We looked at what our allies are doing ‒ including New Zealand.
We saw what works, and what doesn’t all while taking into account the realities here at home.
From this, we’ve charted a plan of action.
We will move forward with a buy-back program in the coming months and complete the prohibition to ensure these weapons cannot be legally used, transferred, transported, bequeathed, or sold.
Getting these weapons off our streets and out of the hands of criminals means less violence.
And that means safer cities and communities.
Every measure we’re presenting today in Bill C-21 is important, and they all work together as part of a larger strategy.
Because you can’t fight gun violence, or any violence, on just one front.
And you can’t fight it without addressing its root causes.
There are still too many victims of domestic and gender-based violence in our country.
Eight out of ten victims of domestic violence are women.
Having a firearm at home can put lives in danger.
That’s why we are introducing legislation that will enable concerned friends and family to apply to the courts for the immediate removal of firearms in the possession of violent and at‑risk individuals and suspend their licence.
These measures will also help prevent suicides.
We have to think about our young people and the reasons why someone might be on the wrong track.
As we announced in the Fall Economic Statement, we will invest $250 million over five years to support programs for young people through municipalities and Indigenous communities.
Among other things, these programs will help fight the influence and power of criminal gangs in our communities.
As part of today’s new legislation, we will also support municipalities to ban handguns through bylaws restricting their possession, storage, and transportation.
We’re backing up the cities with serious federal and criminal penalties to enforce these bylaws, including jail time for people who violate these municipal rules.
Again, these are the strongest measures to fight gun violence our country has ever seen.
Minister Blair has worked tirelessly for years on this issue, not only in government, but as police chief of our biggest city.
This new legislation will make a real difference when it comes to keeping Canadians safe.
We all know we’ll be hearing from the well-funded gun lobby.
And we all know there will be plenty of politics.
But let’s not forget what this is about: saving lives.
We’re not targeting law-abiding citizens who own guns to go hunting or for sport shooting.
The measures we’re proposing are concrete and practical.
And they have one goal, and one goal only: protecting you, your family, and your community.
Because the victims are real.
The pain of their families is real.
I stood alongside mourning families at vigils in Sainte-Foy and on the Danforth.
I spoke with Constable Heidi Stevenson’s family and the other families after the shooting in Portapique.
I remember where I was when I was 17 and heard the news of a massacre at l’École Polytechnique.
I’ve sat down with first responders, doctors, and nurses who see every day the cost of gun violence.
In Canada, whether it’s at the park, at the mosque, at school, at a sports parade, in a small town, in a big city, or in your own home ‒ no one should ever have to be afraid.
No more tragedies.
No more “wrong place, wrong time”.
The right place to act is here, and the right time is now.