The Conservatives are promising mandatory minimum sentences for certain gun crimes and to list known street gangs in the Criminal Code, similar to the way terror groups are identified, as part of the party’s gun strategy unveiled Friday on the campaign trail.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s policies focus on punishing criminals as opposed to banning weapons — the approach pursued by his main opponents, the Liberals. Scheer called the Liberal plan “lazy and ineffective” because it creates more laws for “law-abiding” gun owners to follow, which he said are ignored by criminals.
“What this plan does is goes after those repeat and dangerous offenders,” Scheer said at Toronto hotel, flanked by plain clothes police officers and people who work with victims of crime. “And its on the advice of various police chiefs from across the county … We are listening to the experts on this issue.”
Conservatives chose Toronto, the city where calls are loudest for governments to do more to combat gun crime, to announce their plans. The country’s largest city is often labelled one of the safest big cities in the world, but Statistics Canada data shows gun crime in Toronto increasing since 2015, with particularly big spikes in the last two years.
Scheer said, if elected, his government would establish five-year minimum sentences for people who are convicted of ordering or participating in violent criminal activity. And he would make the possession of a smuggled firearm a criminal offence with a mandatory sentence of five years in prison.
His government would also extend what’s known as reverse onus bail hearings, where its up to the defendant to show grounds for release instead of up to the prosecutor to show grounds against release, to all gang members. Scheer also wants to “reduce court delays” by listing known gangs in the Criminal Code, the same way the government lists terrorist entities such as Al Qaida and Hamas.