The swift action by the New Zealand government following the massacre in Christchurch highlights the appalling lack of political courage exhibited so far by the Liberal government in response to the 2017 tragedy at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, which was committed with the same type of legally available assault weapons and military accessories as those used to kill 50 innocent New Zealanders, and injure more.
Barely a week after the Christchurch tragedy, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an imminent ban on "all military-style semi-automatic weapons," "all assault rifles," "all high-capacity magazines" and "all parts with the ability to convert any firearm into a military-style semi-automatic weapon." She also issued an order reclassifying semi-automatic weapons to immediately prevent their sale to most licence holders.
In committing to ban the type of weapons that facilitate such extreme violence, Ardern has responded with leadership and courage to the atrocities visited upon New Zealand's Muslim community, and is prioritizing the interests of the public at large.
The Liberal government is still dithering on what to do about these weapons.
Yet here in Canada, 29 years after École Polytechnique, 12 years after Dawson College, four years after the murder of three Moncton RCMP officers and two years after our own massacre at a Quebec City mosque — all of which were committed with legal handguns or assault rifles — the Liberal government is still dithering on what to do about these weapons.
This, despite having run and won a majority government, in part, on a pledge to "take action to get handguns and assault weapons off our streets."
What is the Trudeau government waiting for? Are six dead, 19 injured and many more traumatized — in less than two minutes with a legally acquired weapon — not enough reason to act? How many more summits, consultations and internal debates does this government need in order to take action regarding weapons of war available to ordinary Canadians?
The government is also well aware of the growing phenomenon of militia-type organizations in Canada that use legal assault-type weapons to carry out military exercises in order to prepare for some delusional "war" against their perceived enemies. This should be a national emergency. Yet all Canadians have gotten so far are delays, excuses and diversions.
It took Australia two weeks (20 years ago) and New Zealand less than one week to do the right thing. Yet the Trudeau government seems paralyzed with fear before the gun lobby, clearly dreading the possibility of losing votes from a minority of gun owners while ignoring the vast majority of Canadians who support a ban on assault weapons.
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Indeed, all this government has managed to do since the Quebec mosque tragedy that happened under its watch is to offer timid legislative measures (Bill C-71 now before the Senate) while avoiding to even take a legislative stand on the legal availability of military-style weapons, not to mention the loopholes that make it easy for killers to use high-capacity magazines.
Prime Minster Justin Trudeau should respect our common values of peace and good government, and follow the example of New Zealand's leader by swiftly announcing a ban on handguns, assault weapons and magazines that exceed five bullets.
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