Government spending $2.2 million on ad promoting Liberal gun policies

An ad campaign promoting the Liberal government’s firearms record has a taxpayer-funded budget of $2.2 million, True North has learned.

An official with Public Safety Canada, the department responsible for the 30-second “Taking on Gun Violence” commercial, said its purpose was to “raise awareness of the rise of gun violence in Canada, as well as highlight actions being taken to help address the issue.”

The ad has been placed on radio and television stations across the country, as well as digital platforms.

The $2.2 million campaign budget includes only the ad buy and not the cost to produce the spot.

“Gun violence has risen in recent years across Canada,” the commercial’s narrator says. “Shootings have become more common. Many Canadians feel threatened in their own communities. The Government of Canada is taking action to help keep Canadians safe by banning assault-style firearms, strengthening gun control laws, and targeting gang violence and illegal firearms trafficking. By working together, we can reduce gun violence.”

The claim of banning “assault-style firearms” is a reference to the order-in-council signed by the government in May of last year, prohibiting more than 1,500 firearm variants, including AR-15 models. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the affected firearms serve only to “kill the largest amount of people in the shortest amount of time,” though the ban has targeted collectors, sport shooters, and licensed firearm retailers.

Genuine assault rifles – those capable of automatic fire – have been prohibited since 1977. The government advertisement adopts the Liberal messaging used to promote the order-in-council.

The Public Safety Canada spokesperson said the commercial is educational, not partisan.

“The marketing campaign seeks to reach all Canadians on firearms issues, not just firearm owners; address misconceptions; provide easy access to firearm-related information; and strengthen the understanding that we can all be part of the solution,” he said.

The spokesperson added that the commercial will be suspended the day the next election campaign commences, as required by government advertising rules.

It is impossible to separate the political agenda from this form of government advertising, one taxpayer advocate says.

“The government shouldn’t be spending a tonne of our tax dollars in the lead up to an election trying to sell taxpayers on an ineffective and expensive policy,” said Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Franco Terrazzano. “The government has already spent millions of dollars on its buyback scheme without buying a single firearm. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s gun buyback is showing all the signs of a taxpayer boondoggle.” 

In 2015, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals criticized then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s government over ad spending.

Conservatives bar former MP and leadership candidate Pierre Lemieux from running

First published at True North on August 12, 2021.

Former Conservative MP and leadership candidate Pierre Lemieux has been denied permission to run in this year’s election as a Conservative, True North has learned.

Lemieux, a social conservative, was seeking the party’s nomination in the eastern Ontario riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, which he represented for three terms from 2006 to 2015.

He lost to Liberal Francis Drouin in 2015 and failed to retake the seat in 2019, which the party says makes him ineligible to run again.

“In accordance with our nomination rules, an applicant must not have been an unsuccessful candidate in both of the two prior federal general elections,” a Conservative Party of Canada spokesperson said in an email statement to True North.

The rules allow for a candidate to receive a waiver from this rule if authorized by the party’s National Council president and executive director, then approved by the National Candidate Selection Committee (NCSC).

Lemieux requested a waiver when he filed his nomination application in January but was only informed that it was not granted on August 6, according to a source connected with Lemieux’s campaign.

In 2006, Lemieux became the first Conservative to win Glengarry—Prescott—Russell since 1958, by a margin of just 203 votes, which he expanded significantly over the next two elections. He sought the Conservative party’s leadership in 2017, finishing in seventh place out of 14 candidates with 7.67% of the points.

In July, the NCSC disqualified former Conservative MP and leadership candidate Brad Trost, also a prominent social conservative, from seeking the nomination in a Saskatchewan riding, though this decision was overturned on appeal to the National Council. Trost ultimately lost the nomination race.

On Thursday, the Conservative party’s candidate in Yukon Jonas Smith said he had been disqualified over opposition to vaccine passports and mandatory vaccination policies. The Conservatives said Smith was removed over his ”unwillingness to support public health guidelines.”

Trudeau-appointed senator says Canada has “no democratic tradition” of free speech

First published at True North on August 3, 2021.

One of Canada’s newest senators is on record supporting an online hate speech law like the one introduced by the Liberal government earlier this year, saying there is no such thing as unfettered free speech in Canada.

“Canada has no democratic tradition of unbridled free speech,” Senator David Arnot said in 2019. “Freedom of speech in Canada has always been freedom governed by limits recognized in law.”

Arnot’s comments were made before a hearing of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Far from being a neutral legal assessment of free speech rights in Canada, Arnot was actively calling on the government to introduce measures to restrict online speech.

Arnot, then serving as Saskatchewan’s human rights commissioner, said the repeal of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act by the previous Conservative government left Canadians with “little ability to protect themselves against online hate speech and discrimination since then.”

Section 13 allowed the Canadian Human Rights Commission to prosecute people for supposedly hateful comments made online. The section had a near-100% conviction rate before it was repealed under heavy scrutiny for limiting free speech.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals reintroduced section 13 earlier this year in Bill C-36, which prohibits online comments the government deems “likely to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”

In Arnot’s testimony, he called for a revival of section 13, as well as independent prosecution rights for the Canadian Human Rights Commission to pursue cases without complainants.

In his testimony, Arnot said censoring online speech can, somehow, benefit free speech.

“Ironically, hate speech arises in public debates and can be very restrictive and exclusionary,” he said. “Legitimate debate in our democracy that is expressed in a civil manner encourages the exchange of opposing views. Hate speech is antithetical to that objective. It shuts down dialogue by making it difficult or impossible for members of a vulnerable group to respond, thereby stifling discourse. Hate speech that shuts down public debate cannot dodge prohibition on the basis that it promotes debate.”

Arnot did not provide a definition for hate speech or explain how it infringes on other people’s right to speak freely.

“Ideas are not the target; rather the mode of expression of the idea is the target,” he said. “A realistic view of modern society must inform free speech, discourse, and the limits thereon.”

Last week, government officials unveiled their plans to establish a digital safety commission to oversee social media companies and their compliance with the new online hate speech rules. Under the proposed regime, tech companies would have 24 hours to remove content flagged as illegal or face fines in the millions of dollars.

Alberta seeks legalization of pepper spray for self-defence

First published at True North on July 21, 2021.

Citing a rise in hate-motivated crimes and “drug-fuelled attacks,” Alberta’s justice minister is calling on the federal government to allow the use of pepper spray for self-defence.

“I suggest consideration be given to allowing individuals, including vulnerable persons, to carry capsaicin spray, commonly known as ‘pepper spray,’ for self-defence,” Min. Kaycee Madu says in a letter to his federal counterpart David Lametti and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.

“As you are aware, pepper spray is currently a prohibited weapon. It is sadly ironic that a vulnerable person carrying pepper spray for self-defence could quite possibly receive a longer sentence than her attacker.”

Pepper spray causes temporary blindness and pain, which can allow someone under attack time to get away.

Madu points to an “increase of drug-fuelled attacks” in Alberta and across the country, saying Albertans should not be prohibited from accessing a tool of “personal defence when absolutely needed.”

Pepper spray has been designated as a prohibited weapon in Canada since 1995 as a “device designed to be used for the purpose of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person.” Someone convicted of carrying it could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The prohibition exempts sprays designed for repelling animals, but anyone found to be carrying or using these sprays for defence against people can still be charged.

In his letter, Madu says this is unacceptable.

“Our government wholeheartedly supports the notion of permitting Albertans, and indeed, Canadians, to defend themselves in circumstances where they are in serious risk of imminent danger,” he writes. “Vulnerable communities and persons would be well served by your government allowing them to effectively defend themselves, as an additional measure to the community safety measures we are undertaking.”

Former Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Kellie Leitch promised to “clarify” the laws surrounding self-defence in 2016.

“The law should not force women to be victims of violence when non-lethal means exist for them to protect themselves,” Leitch said at the time. 

Etobicoke gym bans vaccinated people

First published at True North on July 21, 2021.

As several businesses set out policies requiring staff and customers to be vaccinated, an Ontario boxing club is going the other way.

Fearless Boxing Club in South Etobicoke is barring the vaccinated from joining.

“For the safety of our members, the Fearless Boxing Club will no longer be accepting those who received the experimental Covid vaccine,” gym co-founder Mohammed Abedeen said in an Instagram story, which he later shared to Facebook.

“Our current members including doctors, nurses, teachers, parents and many youth feel safer waiting until more research is done on the side effects being discovered right now.”

Abdeen added the hashtag #JustSayNo to his post, which asked people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine to “please keep your distance from organic people for at least 28 days.”

There are no risks to associating with people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

In recent weeks, the debate about mandatory vaccines and vaccine passports has ramped up. While many provinces have rejected the idea of mandating vaccines or issuing passports, some Canadian businesses have taken matters into their own hands. 

Discover Fitness in Timmins, in northern Ontario, said last week the gym would only allow vaccinated people to work out there.

A Toronto lawyer set up a website to promote businesses with vaccine requirements for staff or customers, but shut down the project less than a week later due to backlash against the businesses.

London, Ont.-based national chain GoodLife Fitness said it does not intend to discriminate based on vaccination status.

The Fearless Boxing Club opened during Ontario’s lengthy lockdown, which has kept gyms closed for most of the last 16 months, and remained open despite public health restrictions.