Firearms that will be turned in as a result of the Liberal government’s gun ban could be sent to Ukraine, a Bloc Quebecois MP is suggesting.
Ukraine has asked NATO nations for small arms among other military equipment as it continues to fight invading Russian forces. Canada has shipped Ukraine some small arms from its military inventory but National Defence officials say they have reached a limit on the number of guns they are willing to provide.
But Bloc Quebecois MP Christine Normandin pointed out during a recent Commons defence committee meeting that there may be a solution to that problem — the federal government could ship to Ukraine the firearms Canadians are required to turn over by October 2023 because of the Liberal’s gun ban.
“May I suggest that you consider repurposing the banned weapons and expediting the program that is now scheduled for fall 2023?” the Bloc MP said to Defence Minister Anita Anand.
Normandin noted that some American gun owners have offered to send guns, including their own AR-15 rifles, to Ukraine.
The AR-15 and its variants were banned in Canada under the government’s firearms legislation. Although details have yet to be released, the Liberals are putting together a buy-back program for such firearms as well as other guns. The ban also includes civilian versions of military-style firearms such as the M14 rifle.
Anand’s office, in a statement to this newspaper, did not dismiss Normandin’s idea but stated Ukraine’s government will decide what it needs from Canada.
“Minister Anand is in frequent contact with Ukraine’s Defence Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, about Ukraine’s most pressing needs, and how Canada can be most helpful,” noted Anand’s spokesperson Daniel Minden. “Canada’s support will continue to be based on those conversations.”
Canadians own more than 60,000 AR-15s. Such guns are civilian versions of the U.S.-made military rifle but are only capable of firing in a semi-automatic mode. Firearms owners have pointed out the ban penalizes law-abiding gun owners who have followed strict rules to purchase and own such items.
It is unclear how useful the Canadian firearms would be as Ukraine’s military is largely wedded to Soviet-era military rifles and ammunition. There have been reports of a shortage of weapons and some Ukrainian support units have also been using a combination of Second World War firearms and hunting rifles.
Some gun stores in the U.S. have collected firearms for Ukraine but it is unclear whether they will be able to get permission to export those to the war-torn country.
The Liberal government announced in May 2020 that it would ban certain firearms, including the AR-15. Gun owners were to be offered the choice of either turning in their firearms for compensation, deactivating them or retaining them but not being allowed to use the guns.
However, the federal government failed over the last two years to bring in a program to collect firearms. On March 16, the Liberals said they would implement a mandatory buyback program for the guns. Specific details have yet to be released.
During the Commons defence committee meeting, NDP MP Lindsay Mathyssen raised concerns that Canadian weapons already sent to Ukraine could fall into Russian hands or be sold on the black market. She noted last year the Taliban seized stockpiles of U.S. weapons after the group overthrew the Afghan government.
Anand said she couldn’t provide details about the weapons sent to Ukraine because of the need for operational security. But she added that Ukraine’s military did sign a declaration that weapons Canada provided wouldn’t be transferred to any other organization.
Canada has sent a number of shipments of lethal equipment, including anti-tank systems, to Ukraine. In February it sent a shipment that included .50-calibre sniper rifles equipped with silencers, 60-millimetre mortars, grenade launchers, pistols, ammunition, thermal-imaging binoculars, cameras, scopes and medical supplies. The equipment was enough to equip a force of between 500 and 600 personnel. The shipment also included C6 and C9 machine guns, which are used by the Canadian Forces.
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