According to this report from the CBC, the first new member and chairman of the Liberal government’s new “more inclusive” Firearms Advisory Committee has been named: John Major. Formerly a Supreme Court justice and perhaps best known for his leadership on the inquiry into the Air India bombing, news of John Major’s selection to the Firearms Advisory Committee comes mere hours before its announcement was scheduled to take place tomorrow morning, when Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale will now formalize Major’s selection and announce the two female vice-chairs promised weeks ago.
With a long and storied career in Canadian law, Major’s general inclination has been to enforce and place limits on police and governmental powers, while giving due respect to calls for additional resources. This may be good news for gun owners fearful of the RCMP overstepping their legal bounds when it comes to interpreting law to regulate things like magazine capacities in new and… novel ways.
However, perhaps the best evidence of former justice John Major’s stance on firearms comes from his experience at the Supreme Court, where he was one of the jurists to preside over the historic R. v. Hasselwander case. In the famous but now aged case the plaintiff had, upon attempting to register a semi-automatic Mini-Uzi, instead had his firearm seized and declared prohibited. Through a myriad of appeals that eventually reached the Supreme Court, then Justice Major made a fantastically well-researched and comprehensive argument that the criminal code’s interpretation of a prohibited firearm as something “capable of fully automatic fire” be restricted to firearms that were, at the time of their discovery, capable of fully automatic fire. This argument, backed by Justice Lamer, unfortunately lost to the alternate opinion of three other justices that felt the term “capable of” did not denote the condition of a firearm upon it’s discover, but instead denoted firearms that could be modified for fully automatic fire. As a result, the case has become the bedrock for the prohibition of numerous other firearms, deemed “easily convertible” to fully automatic fire with no supporting evidence required to back the claim.
We take hope, knowing the esteemed John Major’s mind in such a case as the Hasselwander decision, and look forward to his continued service on the newly formed Firearms Advisory Committee.