OTTAWA — A Liberal minister's office is denying an Independent MP's claim that Justin Trudeau has a "secret plan to ban legal firearms" to be revealed at a major women's conference next month.
Tony Clement raised the issue in question period Thursday. Border Security Minister Bill Blair, who was tapped last summer to examine the possibility of a full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada after a deadly shooting in Toronto, did not dismiss the question out of hand.
Clement told the House of Commons he had been told "on good authority" that a ban of some kind will come by cabinet directive, rather than legislation to be debated in the final weeks of Parliament. He did not specify which types of firearms he believes could be affected.
Watch: Tony Clement asks about 'secret plan to ban legal firearms'
"The prime minister plans to announce this gun ban at the Women Deliver conference held in early June in Vancouver, where New Zealand prime minister (Jacinda) Ardern will also attend," he said. "Can the prime minister confirm or deny this zero accountability secret plan?"
Blair responded on behalf of Trudeau, who was not in the House. He said the government is committed to "taking all the measures that are effective in keeping Canadians safe," something he called the greatest responsibility of any level of government.
"And we are prepared to consider whatever measures would be effective in doing so," said the former Toronto police chief.
Blair's office told HuffPost Canada that the minister has been consulting with Canadians and experts on possible changes to the government's firearms legislation.
"Contrary to Mr. Clement's question, no decision has been taken nor has he been privy to any discussions," said spokeswoman Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux in an email.
New Zealand introduced a ban on all military-style semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines six days after a gunman fatally shot 51 people at two Christchurch mosques in March.
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Ardern earned international praise for her leadership in the wake of the tragedy. The legislation earned nearly unanimous support, which gave it momentum to move through Parliament and become law less than a month after the shooting.
New Zealand's government also introduced a buyback program to encourage people to turn in their now-illegal weapons.
The Trudeau government introduced legislation last year to expand background checks for those applying for firearms licences. Bill C-71 is currently at third reading in the Senate.
Authorities currently conduct background checks by looking at a five-year window. But if the Liberals' gun bill is passed, that threshold would be increased to the entire life history of applicants.
Conservatives have accused the government of unfairly targeting legal gun owners, specifically hunters and sports shooters, with the legislation. This argument is a "gross exaggeration," according to Sen. André Pratte.
The Independent senator told his colleagues Wednesday that the new measures would require some gun owners to make an extra phone call or visit to a government website.
I'm not going to be giving up my source as you can well imagine but I can assure you it is not the gun lobby.Independent MP Tony Clement
Some victims' advocate groups have also criticized the Liberals' gun bill for being weak and ill-equipped to deal with guns that are already in homes.
Clement was coy in a brief interview with HuffPost, but said he was first informed about the matter on Wednesday.
"I'm not going to be giving up my source as you can well imagine but I can assure you it is not the gun lobby," he said. "It's a source that is well-informed but that's all I can say."
Clement said the potential changes were described to him as "sweeping."
"My understanding is that the plan — again, this hasn't happened yet so plans can always change — but the plan was to have the prime minister announce his sweeping gun ban with prime minister Ardern by his side."
Asked about Blair's response during question period, Clement said it was "definitely a non-denial."
Canada has three classes of firearms: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited. Non-restricted firearms include ordinary, long-gun hunting rifles or shotguns.
A licence, only obtained after safety training and background checks, is needed to own a gun in this country.
Most handguns in Canada are classified as restricted, as are semi-automatic guns with a barrel shorter than 470 millimetres. Restricted firearms must be registered and verified by RCMP-approved experts. Full automatic firearms are prohibited in the Criminal Code.
With a file from The Canadian Press
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to specify that semi-automatic firearms with a barrel shorter than 470 millimetres are classified as restricted.