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The Mystery of the changing RCMP website

Bill C-71 was introduced to Parliament on March 20, 2018, sponsored by the Minister of Public Safety (Ralph Goodale).

The Bill includes the following proposed replacement for section 23 of the Firearms Act:

Authorization to transfer non-restricted firearms

23 (1) A person may transfer a non-restricted firearm if, at the time of the transfer,
(a) the transferee holds a licence authorizing the transferee to acquire and possess a non-restricted firearm;
(b) the Registrar has, at the transferor’s request, issued a reference number for the transfer and provided it to the transferor; and
(c) the reference number is still valid.

The current version (to be replaced if Bill C-71 passes) reads:

Authorization to transfer non-restricted firearms
23 A person may transfer a non-restricted firearm if, at the time of the transfer,
(a) the transferee holds a licence authorizing the transferee to acquire and possess that kind of firearm; and
(b) the transferor has no reason to believe that the transferee is not authorized to acquire and possess that kind of firearm.

A debate is currently ongoing as to whether or not after the passage of the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act it was no longer required to check that a person had a PAL when selling them a non-restricted firearm. This post isn’t about that.

It appears that the RCMP were (until recently) under the impression that s. 23(a) of the Firearms Act, as it currently stands, creates a positive requirement that the buyer have a licence and that the seller must also check it. The RCMP website said this until April 5, 2018:
“Transfers of non-restricted firearms can be conducted without contacting the CFP, as registration is no longer required for this class of firearm. The transferor is nevertheless required to verify that the transferee has a valid PAL. The transferor can call the CFP toll-free number (1-800-731-4000) to confirm the validity of the transferee’s licence before making a sale.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20170825061348/http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca:80/cfp-pcaf/fs-fd/sell-vendre-eng.htm

Mr. Trudeau apparently didn’t agree with that, as seen in his Tweet of March 20, 2018 which says, “We’re introducing stronger and more rigorous background checks on gun sales. And if you want to buy a gun, by law you’ll have to show a licence at the point of purchase. Right now that’s not a requirement.”

If the RCMP are the experts on all things related to firearms, including specifically the operation of the Firearms Act, it’s interesting that Mr. Trudeau took a position completely opposite to the position of the RCMP on the point of whether or not it’s a requirement to verify a license at the time of the sale of a firearm. Regardless of whether or not you think that it was necessary to check a PAL during a non-restricted firearm sale after the passage of the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, it is interesting to watch Mr. Trudeau and the RCMP directly contradict each other.
One might fairly wonder: what happens when the experts on all things related to firearms, including specifically the operation of the Firearms Act, contradict Mr. Trudeau?

That’s easy.

On April 5, 2018 the RCMP changed the section quoted above to read this way:

“Transfers of non-restricted firearms can be conducted without contacting the CFP, as registration is no longer required for this class of firearm. The transferor may verify that the transferee has a valid PAL by calling the CFP toll-free number (1-800-731-4000) before making a sale.”

http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/fs-fd/sell-vendre-eng.htm

What has obviously been removed was the sentence, “The transferor is nevertheless required to verify that the transferee has a valid PAL”, which of course contradicted Mr. Trudeau’s express statement otherwise.

Regardless of which position you think is correct, it appears that the RCMP are perfectly willing to change their interpretation of the Firearms Act to suit the government of the day… at least the Liberal government anyway.

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