Joint letter to the EU Ambassador to Canada on gender-based gun violence
September 7, 2012
His Excellency Bernhard Matthias BRINKMANN
Delegation of the European Union
150 Metcalfe Street
18 & 19th floors
Ottawa, ON K2P 1P1
Dear Ambassador Brinkmann,
The signatories to this letter are deeply concerned about the increased risks of gun violence facing vulnerable Canadian women. Canada’s gun laws have historically been held up as an international model because of their demonstrated effectiveness in reducing gun violence against women and combatting gun crime and the illegal trade in firearms. Recognizing this threat, Canada worked hand-in-hand with EU member states in negotiating the UN Firearms Protocol, the UN Program of Action (POA) and the UN Small Arms and Light Weapons Marking and Tracing Instrument.
Regrettably, the Canadian government has reversed its position, undermining the long standing Canada-EU partnership on illicit firearms and small arms and light weapons trafficking and putting the lives of vulnerable Canadian women and children at further risk. With the passage of Bill C-19, the irresponsible legislation to repeal the long-gun registry, the Canadian government has abolished a core measure necessary to ensure that weapons imported from EU member states will not fall into the hands abusive spouses and other criminals and dangerous individuals
On April 5, 2012 the Canadian government swiftly passed Bill C-19, ending the registration of rifles and shotguns — allowing a licensed individual to buy as many guns as they want, including powerful EU manufactured semiautomatics, without any records and without requiring the seller to verify that the purchaser holds a valid firearms licence. The law further requires that all records on the ownership of 7.1 million rifles and shotguns be destroyed as of October 2012.
Over the past four years, the European Union and its member states have taken several steps to fully implement the provision of the UN Firearms Protocol. The EU has captured the Protocol’s provisions in the amendment of Council Directive 91/477/EEC by Directive 2008/51/EC and the adoption of Regulation (EU) No 258/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council. Canada’s new firearms legislation is in direct contravention of these emerging international norms.
On July 3, 2012 the Canadian government went even further and quietly passed regulations forbidding provinces from requiring gun dealers to maintain records of their sales of rifles and shotguns, undoing a measure in place since 1977. This means it will be next to impossible to identify the sellers of guns used in gender-based violence and other crimes or to hold those who sell weapons to dangerous individuals to account. This means that Canada no longer has effective measures to prevent the diversion of EU manufactured rifles and shotguns firearms to domestic abusers or other criminals.
Women’s safety experts and front-line women's organizations have clearly said that weakening gun control and dismantling the gun registry is discounting the specific safety concerns of women and their disproportionate vulnerability to firearm violence in the context of domestic violence. Legally owned rifles and shotguns are the guns most often found in homes, and so are those used most often to commit violent acts including to threaten and intimidate women and children in family violence.
This weakening of Canada’s regulations is particularly disappointing as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Small Arms have affirmed that countries which fail to implement appropriate firearms laws to protect their citizens may be failing to meet their obligations under international human rights law. Toronto-based Schlifer Clinic that serves abused women is challenging the new Canadian legislation in court based on the violation of the life, liberty and security of women and on the violation of women's equality rights.
The elimination of records of sales makes Canada an outlier, and this just a few months after Prime Minister Harper committed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to “combating proliferation and trafficking of illicit small arms and light weapons,” and to “comply with all obligations arising under international law and urged all countries to become parties to and implement the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the Protocols.”
The guns that are affected by these legislative changes include powerful semi-automatics such as the Ruger Mini-14 used in last year’s massacre in Norway, the CZ858 allegedly used in the election shooting in Montreal earlier this week, and the Austrian-made Steyr-Mannlicher HS50, which can pierce light armor from a distance of up to 1.5 kilometers. These measures will make it easier for individuals who want to stay under the radar — including organized criminal groups and terrorists — to acquire an unlimited number of powerful firearms without any flags being raised or any controls on where these weapons will end up. We believe that this increased risk of diversions violates the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.
Over many years, Canada worked with EU member states to develop international norms for effective firearms control. Canada's gun control laws, based on mandatory screening and licensing for all owners and registration of all firearms, were held up by experts as an example that helped save women's lives. Repeated public inquests into the murders of women and children recommended the licensing of gun owners and registration of guns to prevent gender-related killings or armed sexual violence in the home and disarm men who have a history of domestic violence. Regrettably, the Canadian government has turned its back on its partnership with the EU and on vulnerable women and children across Canada.
Women's safety experts and front line women's organizations were given only limited opportunities to provide input when the Bill was studied, and even then, their recommendations were completely disregarded. The Minister responsible for Status of Women has admitted that no gender based analysis of the Bill had been done. As passed, Canada’s new firearms law undermines the safety and human rights of women and children across Canada.
The stakes could not be higher for Canadian women. With the government listening only to the Canadian gun lobby, who work closely with the U.S.-based National Rifle Association (NRA), when determining firearms policies both domestically and internationally, such as at the recent ATT negotiations, this situation is likely to get worse, not better. In light of global efforts to improve the regulation and tracing of firearms, a strong message from our partners that this is not acceptable is now imperative. The EU and EU member states have a long history of leadership on international firearms-related issues. It would be in keeping with EU leadership to take steps to ensure that the appropriate measures to reduce gender based violence are in place and the human rights of the most vulnerable are protected.
Until the Canadian government can assure our partners that it takes seriously its responsibility to prevent gendered firearm violence, to prevent criminals and terrorists from gaining easy access to firearms, and until they can show it in the enforcement measures they pass, we ask that the EU and its member states suspend all transfers of firearms/small arms and light weapons to Canada. The risk to abused women and children in an effectively unregulated trade of rifles and shotguns are too high. In addition to reminding the Canadian government of their responsibilities, it would also show that the EU takes the issue of gender based violence seriously and is committed to protecting human rights, even among friends.
Signatories listed on attached page.
European Ambassadors and UK High Commissioner
Paulette Senior, CEO
Penny Krowitz, Executive Director
Act To End Violence Against Women
Shabna Ali, Executive Director
BC Society of Transition Houses
Tracy Porteous, Executive Director
Ending Violence Association of BC
Pamela Harrison, Provincial Coordinator
Transition House Association of Nova Scotia
Susan H. Young, Director
Ontario Association of Interval and Transitional Houses (OAITH)
Nicole Pietsch, Coordinator
Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC)
Josée Guindon, Directrice générale
Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes
Manon Monastesse, Directrice provinciale
Fédération de ressources d'hébergement pour femmes violentées et en difficulté du Québec
Angèle Laroche, Présidente
L'R des centres de femmes du Québec
Alexa Conradi, Présidente
Fédération des femmes du Québec
Lyda Fuller, Executive Director
Janet Austin, CEO
YWCA Metro Vancouver
Kristine Cassie, CEO
YWCA Lethbridge and District
Amanda Dale, Executive Director
Barbra Schlifer Clinic
Heather McGregor, CEO
Jim Bonk, CEO
Denise Doyle, CEO
Elisabeth Zimmerman, Executive Director
YWCA Niagara Region
St. Catherines, ON
Lynn Zimmer, Executive Director
YWCA Peterborough Victoria & Haliburton
Marnie Hall Brown and Terri Rodley, Co-chairs M’Nidoo
Minissing Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Manitoulin and the Northshore of Lake Huron, ON
Diane Harris, Executive Director
Ingamo Family Homes Inc.
Stefanie Lomatski, Executive Director
Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women
Barb MacQuarrie, Community Director
Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women & Children
Faculty of Education, Western University
Audrey Macklin, Chair, Advisory Committee
International Human Rights Program
University of Toronto Faculty of Law, ON
Nathalie Villeneuve, Responsable de la gestion
Andrée Larrivée, Animatriceintervenante
La Passerelle, Centre de Femmes de la MRC du Haut-Saint-François
Sylvie Lupien, Directrice
La Méridienne, Maison d’hébergement et de transition pour les femmes victimes de violence conjugale et leurs enfants
Nathalie Babin, Coordonnatrice
Centr'Elles, comité d'action des femmes d'Avignon inc.
Équipe des intervenantes du Centre
Centre des Femmes Italiennes de Montréal