Nunavut hunters mostly unaffected by gun ban, as leaders criticize timing

Nunavut hunters say the majority of them shouldn’t be affected by the federal government’s recent firearm ban.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an immediate ban on some 1,500 makes and models of military-grade “assault-style” weapons.

Indigenous hunters were granted a two-year amnesty to the ban.

But for the most part, hunters in Nunavut say bolt action rifles are their preferred gun anyway.

“There’s no need to be rapid in a lot of our hunting on a regular basis. Hunters want to be clean on their shots,” said Marty Kuluguktuk, the chair of the hunters and trappers organization in Grise Fiord.

“To my knowledge anyway, [never] have I seen any automatic rifles being utilized for hunting purposes.”

We need to ensure we have key people that are able to be a part of these discussions.– Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, Nunavut MP

There are some hunters whose guns made the ban list. Those now-prohibited firearms will need to either be returned to the manufacturer, or exported as part of a sale before April 2022.

“The one good example is the Ruger Mini-14. That rifle has been around for a long time. It’s … very good for hunting,” said Iqaluit hunter and outfitter Alex Flaherty.

“It’s also a semi-automatic rifle which is good for when caribou are running, so you could take a couple of shots without reloading. So people that own that type of rifle are going to be impacted.”

Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson is criticizing the Liberal government for the timing of the ban. (Dennis Patterson)

The Liberals promised a firearm buyback program in the last election, though no details have been announced yet.

While also acknowledging that the ban would largely not apply to hunters in the North, Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson said there are legal questions of imposing a ban on Nunavut’s Inuit, who have hunting rights under the Nunavut Agreement.

Patterson said those questions are being investigated by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated. The organization did not respond to CBC’s repeated requests for comment. 

In a statement Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami said it was not involved in developing the legislation.

‘Disappointed’ with timing, says senator

Patterson also criticized the Liberal government on the timing of the ban.

“I’m disappointed that this is all happening in the middle of a pandemic,” Patterson said. “I think it’s very unfortunate this was done by regulation at a time when we are all very much distracted.”

Echoing Patterson’s remarks on the timing of the ban, Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq also criticized the lack of consultation with stakeholders.

“We use firearms for hunting, and especially during a pandemic, it’s important that people that are legitimately using these firearms to hunt and provide food for their family … [and] can continue to do that,” she said.

“It’s safe to say that this was going to be a huge topic of discussion and impact people in different ways. And we need to ensure we have key people that are able to be a part of these discussions and I don’t think it’s a good time to be making these decisions that heavily impact people.”



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