OTTAWA — After a recent setback, a pro-gun group is continuing its offensive against the survivor of a mass shooting by asking Ottawa to dismiss her as vice-president of its firearms advisory committee.
The Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights sent a letter last week to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and other elected officials requesting the dismissal of Nathalie Provost, who survived the Ecole Polytechnique shooting in 1989.
Provost, who was shot four times in the massacre, has been involved for eight years with PolySeSouvient, which advocates for stricter gun control laws.
The letter was sent the day after The Canadian Press reported that a federal watchdog had dismissed allegations that Provost's work with PolySeSouvient violated lobbying laws.
In that decision, federal lobbying commissioner Nancy Belanger said Provost did not need to register as a lobbyist because she is not paid by the group.
But the case is not over for the firearms organization, which maintains that Provost, while cleared of being a registered lobbyist, still engaged in "lobbying activities" by suggesting measures to be included in government legislation tabled last March.
Bill C-71 proposes tightening Canada's gun control legislation with stricter rules for background checks, record-keeping and transportation of firearms.
Group accusing her of 'lobbying the government'
In a phone interview, the group's vice-president for public relations once again called for Provost's removal from the committee, arguing Provost's proposals for C-71 violated an agreement she signed when she joined the body.
"While she's on the committee, she's not supposed to be lobbying the government, the definition of which is, 'to influence legislation,'" Tracey Wilson said.
"Not only did she influence it, she almost wrote it."
Wilson paid little heed to the fact that during the years of Stephen Harper's government, pro-gun advocates, including at least one committee member at the time, wrote letters to members of government.
"If they did that previously, that's neither here nor there," she said. "I'm talking about the committee that's existing right now that was appointed by minister Goodale."
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In an interview, Provost categorically denied having violated her mandate, noting that Bill C-71 is made up in large part of promises contained in the Liberals' 2015 electoral platform.
She sees the complaints as an attempt to discredit PolySeSouvient and herself personally.
"Every opportunity those groups have, they attack me on my reputation, on my personal context, the emotion I may have, on the fact that I don't have my (firearms) licence," she said in a phone interview.
"They try to discriminate and to say I cannot be a good spokesperson, an intelligent person talking about guns because I'm biased, I'm emotional, I don't know."
Provost said she has no intention of stepping back from her work on the committee.
When questioned on the subject, Goodale said he continues to have confidence in Provost and described the campaign against her as "unfortunate and inappropriate."
"This committee was put in place largely to bring together a mixture of seasoned and informed people who bring different points of view so the government can benefit from that diversity of voices," he said outside a separate committee meeting.
"And she's a part of it. In a democracy, people are entitled to express their views, as Ms Provost has, and her critics are free to express their views as well, but it would be better not to engage in personal attacks."
Wilson said she also wrote last week to the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner about Goodale, asking for an investigation into what she describes as his "lack of action on insider lobbying."
Her group has also requested that Bill C-71, which they call "Nathalie's law," be suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation — an idea Goodale's office rejects.
"Bill C-71 is a measure that will help to protect Canadian communities in a sensible, targeted and effective way," spokeswoman Hilary Peirce wrote in an email. "We are eager to pursue its examination in Parliament this fall.
"We continue to prioritize public safety while respecting legitimate gun owners."