Peter MacKay was photographed wearing a "No Compromise" T-shirt that symbolizes a gun lobby group's goal to repeal Canada's firearms laws and legalize the possession of all semi-automatic weapons.
The Justice Minister was captured wearing the shirt sold by Canada's National Firearms Association (NFA) at a Conservative fundraising event in Edmonton on Friday.
On Facebook, Clarke wrote that she told MacKay that "gun owners were sick of false promises and things MUST be done for us to show up to the next election and get them back into power. I mentioned repealing c68/c17 and making the AR-15 platform non-restricted. We will see if he was just blowing smoke or not."
The AR-15 is one of the most controversial weapons on Earth and has been at the centre of the gun control debate in the United States. The weapon is essentially the semi-automatic version of the U.S. military's M16. Sandy Hook gunman Adam Lanza used an AR-15-style Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle when he shot and killed 20 children and six adults in December of 2012.
Clarke posted that MacKay did not know what an AR-15 was "but was very kind and may attend an event the NFA is putting on for MPs."
MacKay told HuffPost in an email that Gaucher, who lost half of his left leg in Afghanistan, handed him the shirt and asked if he would pose for the photo.
"Having spent a great deal of time with members of the Canadian Forces, I have never shied away from an opportunity to demonstrate my support for them and their families," MacKay said.
"I have always been clear, I support safe and sensible firearms policies."
Clarke posted on Facebook that she "gave" MacKay the shirt, but it's unclear who actually handed it to him.
Clarke told HuffPost via Twitter that she doesn't recall who actually handed the shirt to MacKay, but that she brought it to the event and Gaucher asked the Minister if he would put it on.
Before attending the event, Clarke posted on Instagram that she intended to get a picture with the Justice Minister "before he realizes why I'm there."
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said the photo "sends the wrong message and shows a glaring lack of judgement."
Karl Bélanger, Mulcair's principal secretary, questioned on Twitter whether MacKay would jump off a bridge if a veteran asked him to.
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus questioned why MacKay won't meet with the families of murdered and missing indigenous women when he is "perfectly happy to promote a political campaign to allow unrestricted access to assault weapons."
Liberal MP and former leader Stéphane Dion called on MacKay to answer whether he endorses the NFA's goal of repealing Canada's firearms laws, such as the requirement to obtain a license. He also said MacKay should "clarify whether he supports other views espoused by the NFA, particularly the mass arming of citizens, the undermining of law enforcement officials, or the public display of images of young children holding and shooting firearms."
Dion seems to be referring to posts made on the NFA's Facebook page, which promote teaching children to use firearms and which question why law enforcement officers have access to weaponry that the public does not.
The NFA landed in hot water earlier this year after posting a press release just one day after the shooting spree in Moncton, arguing that the crimes were evidence that Canada's "excessive" gun laws have failed to prevent violence. The group was criticized for politicizing the shooting but did not apologize.
The group supports the repeal of Bills C-17 and C-68, which were passed in years following the École Polytechnique Massacre. Bill C-17 placed restrictions on possession of many military-style semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines. Bill C-68, otherwise known as the Firearms Act, created a new centralized licensing system and registration system and banned short-barrel and small caliber handguns.
The Conservative government eliminated the Long-Gun Registry created by these pieces of legislation in 2012 and ordered the destruction of its records. Quebec has been granted a temporary injunction to keep its records and the case is headed to the Supreme Court.
The NFA supports a "no compromise" approach to repealing C-17 and C-68 and uses the phrase on clothing and merchandise.
While its members may have been pleased to pose with MacKay, the group has not historically been a fan of his stance on guns and has sometimes criticized the Conservative government. The NFA gives MacKay an "F" grade on its website and has criticized the Minister for comments he has made about the need to restrict semi-automatic and automatic weapons. Earlier this month, the NFA attacked the government for spending related to gun control.
NFA executive vice president Shawn Bevins questioned whether the photo has much significance. He said any attention given to the picture is "stupid" and likened it to an image circulating on the internet of the late NDP Leader Jack Layton holding a "machine gun" on a naval vessel.
The Conservatives seem to have made gun rights a central part of its summer campaigning.
In July, the party announced its intention to introduce new legislation that will extend a grace period to gun owners whose permits expire, merge the firearms possession and acquisition licenses and allow owners in all provinces to transport weapons without permission from provincial officials. The legislation will also make safety courses mandatory for first-time owners and, according to Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, "strengthen firearms prohibitions for those who are convicted of domestic violence offences."
The government also extended the amnesty for owners of a two types of rifles placed on the prohibited list earlier in the year by the RCMP.
In addition, the Conservative Party's Twitter account has retweeted a flurry of photos of MPs posing with weapons over the summer.
A good day today shooting clays at North Peace Rod and Gun Club here w Tim...not a bad shot. pic.twitter.com/4uFMqcnPlb— Bob Zimmer MP (@bobzimmermp) August 15, 2014
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