Amanda Lang: Big and vague election pledges undermine seriousness of real issues
TORONTO -- Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is promising to get Canada's border agency to do more to try and stop illegal guns from crossing into Canada from the United States.
Scheer is in Toronto today, where calls are loudest for governments to do more to combat gun crime.
The country's largest city is often labelled one of the safest big cities in the world, but Statistics Canada data show gun crime increasing in the city since 2015, with particularly big spikes in the last two years.
Scheer said too many Canadians are worried about letting their kids play outside or walk to school for fear of being affected by violence.
"Too many of our neighbours, too many Canadians, are facing more serious challenges than not being able to pay their bills," he said.
Scheer is also critical of the Liberals for promising to allow cities and provinces to ban handguns, saying that won't get at the biggest source of guns used in crimes.
Scheer cites Toronto police chief Mark Saunders in saying that 80 per cent of guns in the hands of gang members are coming into Canada illegally from the United States.
As such, he is promising a Canada Border Services Agency task force to work with colleagues in the United States to disrupt gun smuggling routes. He is also making it an offence to possess a smuggled firearm with a mandatory sentence of at least five years.
Other gun-related measures include requiring the RCMP to ask for and check references when issuing gun licenses, and introducing better ways for police forces to share information to go after illegal guns.
But Scheer said most shootings have street-gang connections.
"It couldn't be more clear: to tackle gun crime you have to tackle gangs," he said.
The Conservative crime platform also includes new mandatory minimum sentences for some gang offences and an automatic parole violation for convicted criminals who return to their gangs after getting out of prison.
Scheer also promised that a Conservative government would also label gangs as criminal entities in the Criminal Code, and change Canada's drug policies to focus more on treating addictions.
He said he will abide by court rulings in favour of supervised injection sites, but said a Conservative government would also listen to communities that do not want such a site in their midst.
"We do not believe it's fair to moms and dads who are worried about their kids walking to school or playing in a playground, that these sites are put in without any type of consultation or without adequate levels of consultation," he said. "That is something we will ensure happens. At the same time, the focus should not be on maintaining addiction."
The Ontario government under Premier Doug Ford cut funding for some supervised injection sites earlier this year, saying community members were upset about them being in their backyard.