Like the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s 2020 “assault weapon” ban and confiscation program (“buyback”) will mark its fourth anniversary this spring.
His Liberal government has previously shared little information about the anticipated costs, timing and mechanics of how this is expected to be enforced. As recently as last July, a Firearms Buyback Program (FBP) overview page at the Public Safety Canada website indicated that “FBP employs twenty-four employees with an operating budget of approximately $5.4M.” It cites an incorrect amnesty expiry date of October 2023 and even so, describes a strangely compacted timeframe in 2023 for initiation, with the “collection of business stock beginning before the end of the year, and to get started with individual collection in the second half of 2023.” “Key partners” for program implementation include “Provinces, Territories and Municipalities,” with the FBP also working “with international partners, including the New Zealand Police, to inform program design development and apply lessons learned from their buyback experience.”
Several provinces have already ruled out the possibility that any of their resources, personnel or tax dollars could be used in furtherance of the federal ban and to seize lawfully acquired firearms from their citizens (here and here), having communicated an unmistakable, oh-hell-no opposition to the whole program.
The Liberal government has looked into hiring private entities, rather than government officials or law enforcement, to enforce the ban and confiscation “buyback.” In 2022, a “Tender Notice - Letter of Interest (LOI)/Request for Information (RFI)” (no longer available online) sought information from interested entities regarding their abilities to collect, handle, transport and store “newly prohibited firearms.”
That LOI/RFI had a closing date of August 3, 2022, and it’s unclear whether there were any interested takers, qualified or otherwise. However, the implementation of the confiscation program hasn’t progressed in any perceptible way since, with the government (again) being obliged to buy time by extending the amnesty period for affected gun owners by another two years, to October 30, 2025.
Based on a recently-posted “Firearm Buyback Program – Invitation to Qualify” on the Government of Canada website, the Liberal government has once more turned to the private sector to recruit the frontline confiscation-collection agents. The Invitation to Qualify (ITQ) and in particular, an associated 38-page amendment document (listed as Amendment 000 in the Bidding Details page), provide the first detailed view of how the government believes the confiscation program should be implemented.
The ITQ is a very preliminary step, being “neither a call for tender nor a Request for Proposal,” and with the sole objective of identifying and “prequalifying” potential “suppliers.” It represents just “the first phase of a procurement process … for the Firearms Buyback Program on behalf of Public Safety Canada (PS). Suppliers are invited to pre-qualify in accordance with the terms and conditions of this ITQ in order to become ‘Qualified Respondents’ for the later phases of the procurement process.”
The ITQ’s “project overview” begins with the foundational lie behind the entire program – namely, that “[g]un violence crime involving firearms is a growing threat to public safety in our communities. The Government of Canada is taking action to help keep Canadians safe through the Firearms Buyback Program (FBP).” In fact, law abiding gun owners are not responsible for the public safety crisis and the growing wave of crime. As soon as the May 2020 gun ban was announced, over 1,500 makes and models (as well as all current or future “variants”) of guns immediately became “prohibited” weapons, and use of the guns was forbidden.
Amendment 000 outlines the basic requirements, procedures and instructions that the contract(s) will require. The services being sought are summarized as the collection, inspection, verification, validation, storage, transportation, and destruction of prohibited “Assault Style Firearms” (ASF) (and all associated security and record-keeping), separated into two components – a “businesses component” (services related to “collection” from businesses) and an “individuals component,” being a “collection” of guns privately owned by individuals. All prohibited guns and devices are to be destroyed “so that all major and minor components are rendered inoperable, and that no spare part is salvageable, re-useable or re-sellable.”
Page 6 of the document describes the first step of the “individuals component” as having the contractor “[t]ake custody and control of ASFs collected at each designated Police of Jurisdiction (POJ) collection facility, secure storage facility and/or processing center.” The “location of work will cover all Canadian provinces and/or regions and/or municipalities and/or and territories[.] PS [Ministry of Public Safety] envisions a minimum of two locations, one in the east and one in the west with a possibility of other locations for both storage and destruction.” The language used (“collection” and “collected”) would suggest that the contractor – a private entity with no police powers– will be relying on voluntary compliance.
On timing, Amendment 000 is drafted in general terms only. Paragraph 1.4 (pages 9-10) refer to a request for proposals (RFP) for the businesses component and a draft RFP for the individuals component being completed by the end of 2023. An “estimated timeline” for each phase shows that the release of the ITQ was initially scheduled for the fall of 2023 and not the actual December 7 release date, suggesting that the project is already several months behind schedule. Regarding overall timing, the document states that “Canada is currently contemplating a contract period of 2 years, plus two option periods of [one] year each,” which if true, would extend beyond the end date of the latest amnesty period, especially given the one-year options.
The total number of affected firearms has increased significantly. The ITQ indicates that the “estimated volume” of prohibited firearms held by businesses “is within the range of 10,000 to 15,000, and the volume held by Individuals is within the range of 125,000 to 200,000. These estimates could vary as the number of affected non-restricted firearms is unknown.” A Canadian guns rights site, TheGunBlog.ca, points out that the Liberals had previously cited an estimate of 144,000 rifles and shotguns to be destroyed, based on a document prepared for the government official responsible for overseeing the program. That document, posted on the Public Safety Canada webpage and updated as of November 23, reads that the “total number of impacted ASFs is estimated to be approximately 144,000” (emphasis added), but includes a reference to industry estimates being “much higher at 518,000.”
There’s still no information on how compensation for the confiscated and destroyed property will be handled and the ultimate cost of this “buyback.” Amendment 000’s “project overview” mentions that the “buyback program will safely receive ASFs from gun owners while offering fair compensation to businesses and lawful owners impacted by the prohibition,” but the ITQ and related documents do not mention the administration of compensation payments as part of the services that the private sector “supplier” is to provide. Expected program costs or a program budget aren’t listed, either.
In a tacit admission of the utterly toxic nature of its nationwide, pointless seizure and destruction of private property, the government includes the following in Amendment 000: “In order to ensure that this procurement allows Public Safety Canada to achieve its legitimate objectives of protecting national security, public safety, public order and human life, Canada will be applying measures surrounding the protection of the protection of the vendors [sic] identity in order to ensure vendors do not face reprisals or retaliation.” Secrecy is a two-way street, as the document also indicates “[c]onsultants are required to sign non-disclosure agreement(s) before gaining access to the Project information and documents as part of this procurement process.”
The ITQ was published on December 7, 2023, and closes on January 19 (extended from the original closing date of January 5). It’s doubtful that additional information about the scope of the responses, if any, will be made public.