top of page

Danforth Families for Safe Communities supports Bill C-21

December14, 2023, Toronto, ON

Today, the Danforth Families for Safe Communities (DFSC) join several other victims’ groups and concerned citizens in thanking the Senate and the Government for passing Bill C-21, so that it can be signed into law.

Bill C-21 is a comprehensive and necessary set of changes, primarily to the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, which will enhance public safety by addressing long overdue updates to firearms policy. It is substantial, meaningful and comprehensive.

Our involvement in gun policy began on July 22, 2018, and since then we have spoken from our experience. That night, it was a handgun – a policeman’s firearm by design- that was legally imported and distributed to a retailer in Saskatchewan, that was subsequently stolen and used to murder a 10-year girl and an 18-year old teenager in Toronto. Thirteen others were injured, many others were injured as they fled, or they were traumatized as the hate-filled individual committed his heinous act.

Speaking on this matter is not as easy as it should be. We quote from Senator Hassan Yussuff who introduced the Bill to the Senate:

“Colleagues, I want to recognize at the start of this debate that the conversation about guns is never an easy one to have. It is usually filled with high emotion and strong opinions, and it can be very divisive and polarizing because it is about life and death, safe communities and people’s rights and privileges.”

After our tragedy, we took some time, as group of affected people, to consider what we could and should do. We joined an ongoing debate about what to do about gun violence. An issue the government recognized and campaigned on, twice. We noted that gun violence was growing at the same time as the growth of private ownership of semi-automatic handguns, and assault-style long guns. Whie smuggled guns are a significant challenge, so too are the guns coming from domestic sources - lost, stolen and intentionally diverted weapons - available for criminal use, as in our case. In our view, for too long, the rights of most citizens to the expectation of safety had fallen out of balance with the industry-fueled interest in supplying ever more dangerous guns to private owners.

Our public remarks and our advocacy have centered around these beliefs about the problem we face that contribution that Bill C21 makes to solving it. Other measures are part of Bill C-21 but these have been the primary areas of focus for DFSC:

Gun violence is a continuing problem in Canada, nationwide, which makes changes to the law and the attention of the government necessary.

Canada has had a worse track record on gun violence than other countries worth comparing ourselves to.

There are different ways that guns are used to commit violent and criminal acts on others. By government statistics, acts reported as being by gangs and organized crime are only half the problem. Intimate partner violence, intimidation, and acts taken by hateful individuals, as was the case for our tragedy, represents the other half of the issue.

On the supply side, we have TWO problems, not one. Guns used in crimes come from smugglers as well as domestic sources. Crime guns are not just about guns “streaming across the border to gangs” as some have said. RCMP and other sources how that thousands of guns are lost and stolen each year from licensed owners in Canada.

The actions of the industry contribute to the problem. This industry’s growth has come from adapting technology intended for military and police use, and either offering it directly to the public (like the M&P 40 handgun used in our case) or countless rifles, like the AR-15 adapted from the M-16. The industry will not champion safety if left unchecked by updates to the law.

National Surveys conducted by reputable marketing research firms, show that the majority of Canadians support banning of assault-style rifles and handguns.

With support of strong and clear regulations, and a restriction on the specifications of handguns to be used for such purposes, a limited exemption for elite sport shooters in the Olympic/Paralympic programs shows compromise if it is not exploited as a loophole that bypasses the handgun freeze. Bill C-21 allows for such an exemption.

Many actions taken in Bill C-21, including bans on assault-style rifles and semi-automatic handguns, were recommended by the Mass Casualty Commission.

The “handgun freeze” allows for transfers to licensed commercial enterprises, perhaps allowing a new ownership and usage model that does not require broad private ownership and the retail distribution that was the point of vulnerability in our case.

Bill C-21 addresses other issues that DFSC and others have raised, including closing loopholes in present laws that allow sales of cartridge magazines to unlicensed consumers, and addressing the sale of gun parts that are used to make “ghost guns”.

We have many to thank for making this change happen: the Minister of Public Safety, and his predecessor, Marco Mendicino and his staff, who lead the authoring of Bill C-21, MPs of the four parties that voted to support this Bill in the House of Commons last May, and the large majority of Senators who supported passing this Bill today. Canadians have repeatedly said that they want these actions taken on gun control and other measures, and the collective government has delivered the necessary changes to the law that most Canadians want.

The recipe to address gun violence prevention is complex. Our experience in participating and then following the Parliamentary Committees, reaffirms that the root causes and remedies for gun violence are varied. So too are the impacts of these measures on different parts of the country. We call on the government, without delay, to consult with affected parties and put in place the necessary regulations that will enforce these new laws.

The ultimate goal that our group and others have stated is to regard and treat gun violence as a public health matter. For that to happen, every level of government needs to be involved. Our position is that Bill C-21 is consistent with that approach, and it will benefit Canadians as it has citizens of other countries that have taken similar measures.


About Danforth Families for Safe Communities

DFSC is a group of survivors, families, friends and community members impacted by the shooting tragedy on Danforth Avenue, Toronto, Canada, on July 22, 2018, where a young girl and a teenager were killed and 13 were shot by a lone gunman. The DFSC have come together in the wake of our tragedy to share our views and experience, in the hope that others will not have to experience anything similar.

bottom of page