Canadian sovereignty could “erode” if non-Canadian police officers are allowed to carry guns into Canada without a permit, says Niagara Falls native and Toronto litigation lawyer Alex Colangelo. The federal government is proposing relaxed rules for foreign law enforcement officers who carry weapons into Canada while on duty.
Currently, on entering Canada they have to declare their weapons and, if they don’t possess a Canadian permit, hand them over to customs and retrieve them on their way home. In a reciprocal agreement with the United States, the regulation would exempt officers – including police and air marshals – from a “foreign state” from having to obtain permits for sidearms, according to a posting on the government’s official online publication, the Canada Gazette.
The proposal would make it easier to carry out cross-border enforcement and security programs and investigations, the publication states. The move is designed to accommodate armed air marshals who routinely fly back and forth across the border. But the proposal also states the arrangement would apply to other situations, including cross-border enforcement initiatives between Canada and the United States.
Proponents believe the regulation would mean a safer border, while others suggest it could have wider implications for sovereignty and gun control in Canada. “A border city such as Niagara Falls … would particularly feel the effects of such a monumental change in policy,” said Colangelo. He said an American police officer could enter Niagara Falls and would be free to carry – and presumably discharge – his or her weapon on Canadian soil.
“As a sovereign country, we need to question whether this is a necessary devolution of power. To which country would the officer answer should a situation escalate and casualties occur? Would Canadian authorities have jurisdiction over the officer’s actions?”
Niagara Falls MP Rob Nicholson, the federal justice minister, said the proposal has a 30-day window allowing Canadians to submit their opinions and concerns. The proposal was first published in the June 23 volume of the Canada Gazette. “When those 30 days are up, the government will take a long look at those comments and we will decide to either proceed with the proposal, make specific changes, or not move forward with it at all,” he said.
And tell them NO! We will NOT allow American police to bring their weapons unchecked into Canada!
Because the amendment relates to a regulation and not a bill, it does not require a vote in Parliament for approval. Nicholson said the proposal would have “no impact on the day-to-day operations along the border. This would be a memorandum of understanding between like-minded countries that would allow for law enforcement officials to land in Canada with a firearm without having to worry about applying for import and export permits. There are programs and agreements in place which clearly indicate what the rules of the land are. All this proposal would do is pull away that requirement for permits for certain individuals.”
Colangelo said an issue such as this requires “serious debate, not a quiet posting in the Canada Gazette. Most Canadians probably don’t even know the Canada Gazette exists,” said Colangelo, who considers himself a “political junkie” and someone who follows Canadian politics closely, especially issues that could impact Niagara Falls.
Welland MP John Maloney questions why the federal government brought forward the proposed regulatory change a day after parliament adjourned for its summer recess. “Are they trying to slip this through, hoping nobody will notice?” said Maloney. “I have some questions not only related to sovereignty, but also the the kind of guns and duty weapons that could be brought in. Would they be consistent with the laws of the land, seeing as we have a prohibition on some weapons?”
Fred Milligan, president of the Customs Excise Union local, said he is not too concerned about the proposal, based on what he read. “From a customs point of view, it seems as though nothing is changing, other than some small procedures,” he said. “Like, for example, right now, if (U.S. President George W.) Bush visits Ottawa, the secret service that follow him around will need to call … and go through a lengthy process to get a permit for 40 or 50 guns. It seems like with this proposal, they would get the blanket OK while on duty. That doesn’t, however, mean a cop from Buffalo can visit the casino one night and bring his gun across into Canada. That officer would still have to declare it.”
Niagara Regional Police spokesman Const. Sal Basilone said the service has only had a chance to look at the proposal online and will not comment on the regulation until there is an outcome.
There are numerous programs and situations, domestic and international, where certain Canadian and foreign individuals – already legally authorized to possess firearms and other duty weapons – must travel across Canada’s borders in the course of their duties. Currently, they require permits when entering and leaving Canada. The amendment would exempt a specific class of individuals from requiring these permits in the course of their duties, the Gazette notes.
That could include the Canadian Air Carrier Protective Program, the U.S. Federal Air Marshall Program, prisoner exchange programs and various cross-border enforcement initiatives between Canada and the United States. They would only be exempt while working on duty. Otherwise, they could be prosecuted if they fail to obtain permits.
– Article from the Niagara Falls Review
– Email comments to the article author at [email protected]
– For more information about this plan from the government, visit CanadianGazette.gc.ca
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