OTTAWA — The shooting death of an Edmonton police constable may have federal policy implications, the city’s mayor and the Conservative public safety minister both said Tuesday.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson suggested that the loss of the federal long-gun registry may be a factor in a spate of Alberta police altercations, including a shooting Monday that killed Const. Daniel Woodall and wounded Sgt. Jason Harley.
“I do have a concern with gun violence and I will say that the loss of the gun registry may be related to this,” Iveson said.
“I think every opportunity our police have to have knowledge of where firearms are in this city would be to their advantage, and the chiefs of police have been consistent about that.”
He then quickly backtracked, taking to social media to retract his comments as “premature” and to apologize.
While Iveson’s emotional musing was immediately slammed by federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay as “ill-timed” and “absurd” because the incident remains under investigation, MacKay’s fellow cabinet minister Steven Blaney was making his own politically loaded suggestions about how to avert such tragedies.
Blaney told a Senate committee studying a Conservative gun bill that Woodall was “killed in cold blood by a member of a right-wing extremist group.”
Outside the hearing, the minister then said that the government’s new anti-terrorism legislation — passed in the Senate on Tuesday by a margin of 44-28 — “will reduce the likelihood” of such events.
“Obviously we’ve been faced with terrorist threats lately but the measures we’ve put in place are addressing any forms of violence or activity that are contravening the law,” Blaney said.
“We still have to wait for the (police) inquiry but anyone who’s contravening the law, and the new law that’s being adopted, will face the consequences.”
Const. Woodall, who worked on the hate-crimes unit, was shot dead by a man wielding a large-bore rifle after going to a home to issue an arrest warrant. Police said Tuesday the gunman, the subject of a lengthy hate-crimes investigation, fired as many as 53 bullets.
The shooting comes at a sensitive time for the Harper government, which is currently rushing an overhaul of gun licensing and transportation rules into law before an expected fall election.
The government is currently pushing through Bill C-42, dubbed the Common Sense Firearms Act, which Blaney calls “the first substantive change to the firearms regime since it was brought in 20 years ago.”
The government says it’s working with the firearms community to strike a balance between what Blaney calls “streamlining” firearms paperwork and ensuring public safety.
The bill includes a mix of measures, including relaxing rules on the transportation of guns and simplifying the licensing system by combining two types of firearms licences into one, as well as new mandatory gun training for all licensees and a lifetime prohibition on firearms ownership by those convicted of domestic assaults.
Blaney went to the Senate committee to discuss Bill C-42 and while the senators didn’t mention the Edmonton shooting, Blaney did twice, in response to unrelated questions.
He noted he was in Moncton last week to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting deaths of three RCMP officers.
“You know our government in the last decade has probably been the one who has adopted the most stringent regulation toward possession of illegal firearms and towards crimes committed with firearms — especially those horrible crimes,” Blaney told the committee.
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Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press