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More than seven months after the original Order In Council bans were handed down, the mix-ups continue. Now, the federal government is telling sustenance hunters and native hunters who use firearms banned by the OIC that they can’t have their firearms repaired at a gunsmith.

On May 1, 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the government would ban a long list of tactical, sporting and hunting firearms. The list included previously-restricted models based on the AR-15 and similar designs. Restricted firearms aren’t legally usable for hunting purposes in Canada. However, it also included non-restricted firearms like the Ruger Mini 14 and Mini 30. These rifles were used by hunters all over Canada, including natives and other sustenance hunters.

With that in mind, the Trudeau government announced there would be an exemption in the OIC ban. Sustenance hunters, whether native or non-native, are allowed to continue using their previously-unrestricted firearms for hunting.

Obviously, this raises all sorts of legal questions including: What if those hunters need their firearms repaired? Since these firearms are now classified as prohibited, can gunsmiths legally work on them?

Members of the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association (CSAAA—Canada’s shooting industry body) wanted to know if they’re allowed to fix those newly-prohibited firearms. The answer? Even though certain hunters can use those firearms, they are unable to have a gunsmith perform repairs.

CSAAA members wanted to know the legal situation, and the organization reached out to the feds for clarification. Here’s what Alison de Groot, managing director of the CSAAA, told us by email:

Below is the response in writing we received from a Senior Official at Public Safety Canada. Due to the ongoing litigation on the OIC, CSAAA must submit our questions in writing and wait for responses in writing. This was one of a number of technical questions we asked as we try to advise our businesses how to operate in compliance with the OIC.

CSAAA asked: Can sustenance hunters/native hunters bring in the reclassified firearms for repair?
Public Safety answered: ‘No. The Amnesty Order protects individuals from criminal liability for possessing the affected items to allow them the opportunity to come into compliance with the law by disposing of them in permitted ways as outlined in the Amnesty. A sole exception was made to allow sustenance hunters, which includes both non-Indigenous sustenance hunters and those exercising a right recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 to use a previously non- restricted firearm.’

Long-term issues

Obviously, this creates a long-term problem. It’s possible many hunters will be stuck, unable to repair and therefore unable to use their lawfully-possessed property. This could be a major problem for low-income individuals who need those very firearms to feed themselves and their families. In other words: Once again, the poorly-thought-out OIC ban ends up creating a mess.

Update (1:30 PM PST, 16 Dec 2021)

Further examination of the government’s response by CSAAA and CSSA around this issue included clarification that all firearms not included on SOR/2020-96 are not subject to protection under the OIC’s Amnesty. In plain English, that means anyone that owns a recently prohibited firearm that was not included on the OIC list released by Prime Minister Trudeau is not covered by the Amnesty. Technically this means anyone that owns a Typhoon F12 or any number of the dozens of other firearms that have since been banned with no explanation could be charged with possession of a prohibited firearm, and leads to even more questions about their potential inclusion in the much-maligned and seemingly stillborn Government buyback program.