⚖️ Shots fired

To: Hearsay Readers

TODAY’S DOCKET

  • Assault rifles are still no bueno

  • Alberta warms up its sovereignty legislation

  • Farm laws under attack

  • Insurrection and the US presidential ballot

JUDICIAL REVIEW

Federal Court upholds ban on assault-style weapons

Firearms and bullets on chest, including assault rifle

Bad news for anyone hoping to hunt with an AR-15 this season — the Federal Court upheld the federal regulations that prohibit assault rifles. The groups challenging the regulations went down swinging, advancing a barrage of arguments the Court called “detailed and extensive”. But — over the course of 695 paragraphs — all of those arguments were rejected.

What happened? In 2020 the federal government prohibited around 1,500 firearm models and their variants. The government announced the decision shortly after a mass murderer killed 22 people in Nova Scotia.

The Criminal Code says the Governor in Council can decide just about anything is a prohibited weapon. But there is a limit. If the Governor in Council’s “opinion” is that a weapon can reasonably be used for hunting or sport, then it can’t be prohibited.

The groups challenging the regulations said the Governor in Council never even formed an opinion about hunting or sport. The decision was made based on public safety and ignored the constraint in the Criminal Code.

The groups also argued that — even if the Governor in Council did form the required opinion — the opinion was unreasonable. Sure, assault rifles may not be necessary for hunting, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t reasonable for hunting.

Decision: The Court dismissed the challenge. The Governor in Council formed the required opinion, because the Order in Council enacting the regulations says so. The Order in Council opens with “the Governor in Council is not of the opinion [that any of the prohibited weapons are reasonable for hunting or sport]”. There’s no need to look any further.

How does that opinion stack up? Well, the Criminal Code basically tells the Governor in Council: “you do you”. The Governor in Council doesn’t need to get the decision right, they just need to form an opinion. That means the decision is pretty well insulated:

The issue of the reasonableness of certain firearms for hunting and sport can be looked at from different perspectives, but it is the perspective and opinion of the Governor in Council that counts.

The Governor in Council’s perspective was that dangerous and excessive weapons — those commonly used in mass shootings — are not reasonable for hunting. And the Court said that’s a reasonable opinion to hold.

Extra ammo: The applicants also argued the regulations violate several sections of the Charter and the Bill of Rights. Most of the arguments weren’t great, but one with some teeth was that the prohibition on “variants” of specific weapon types is too vague. The Court said the wording provides enough information for people to understand what is banned — so it’s not a problem.

Decision report card:

◻️◻️🙂◻️◻️ Factual interest

◻️◻️🙂◻️◻️ Legal interest

◻️◻️◻️◻️🎯 Shooting down arguments

HEARSAY ROUNDUP

Canadiana

📣 Premier Danielle Smith threatened to invoke the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act in her throne speech yesterday. The Act lets Alberta MLAs declare that federal initiatives are unconstitutional and take action in response. Smith said the province will use the Act if the federal government moves forward with regulations for emission caps or a net-zero electricity grid.

🔸 The Ontario Superior Court of Justice approved a $13-million class-action settlement related to sexual abuse committed by Ralph Rowe. Rowe is a former Anglican priest and scoutmaster who worked in remote First Nations in Ontario and Manitoba in the 1970s and ‘80s. The settlement provides up to $350,000 for each class member Rowe sexually assaulted.

🐄 Animal Justice is challenging Ontario’s Security from Trespass And Animal Safety Act. The Act prohibits conduct that animal rights’ advocates use to expose the treatment of animals on farms and in food processing facilities. The Act and its regulations say you can’t sneak onto farms using false credentials, interact with or release farm animals, or block vehicles carrying farm animals. The court action argues those prohibitions violate Charter protections for free expression and assembly.

Beyond the border

🇺🇸 Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics is arguing Donald Trump shouldn’t be allowed on the 2024 US election ballot. The group says Trump is barred by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which says no person can hold office if they’ve “engaged in insurrection or rebellion”. The Colorado-based court hearing started yesterday. The issue is expected to eventually reach the US Supreme Court.

🦾 President Joe Biden signed an executive order dealing with the regulation of artificial intelligence. Highlights of the extensive order include protections for consumer privacy and requirements for certain technology companies to disclose safety testing data.