by Cindy Lightheart, NFA Counsellor
If the water becomes muddier and muddier over a long period of time, do the fish
who live in the water recognize that the water has changed? Or do they think
that the water has always been the way it is now?
There are things people do that are legally right but are actually wrong. There
are things that people do that are legally wrong but actually right. The
behaviour of a person in a situation depends partly on characteristics of the
situation--but much more on characteristics of the person than people typically
The legendary Robin of Locksley--better known as Robin Hood--is a good example.
Robin was a nobleman who chose to become an outlaw when Prince John tried to
take power while his brother, King Richard the Lion-hearted, was away on the
Crusades. Robin Hood vowed that this usurpation would not happen, and created a
resistance movement. Recruiting good men, he began to rob from the rich to give
to the poor. Why? In Robin's view, the poor were being bullied by the rich, the
allies of the Sheriff of Nottingham, who supported Prince John. Robin's
resistance movement kept one pathway open for King Richard to return to his throne.
When a new law comes into force, it tells us what is legally wrong--what you
cannot do any longer because it has become a criminal offence. Sometimes
Parliament gets it wrong and creates a crime that should not be a crime. Many of
us from all walks of life do not believe that Parliament is always right. People
who demanded and fought for the rights and freedoms we enjoy today, wresting
them from tyrants like Prince John, made us the free and democratic society that
we are today. It was the opponents of Prince John who gave us the Magna Carta,
the basis of all the British common law rights and the foundation of democracy.
When a new law takes one of our freedoms away, is that right or wrong? The basic
principles that we live by make us a free and democratic society. Weaken them,
destroy them, and we cease to be such a society. We lose the freedoms and rights
our ancestors fought to gain and pass on to their children. We betray our ancestors.
It is very disturbing when our government does not take into consideration the
fact that many good people will be caught and damaged by a new and abusive law.
It is even worse when our government does not consider that the accused is not
the only one affected. Whole families can be affected, damaged, and even
destroyed by it. The effects of a bad law echo down through the generations.
When the C-68 gun control system became part of our law in 1998, it gave
enormous power to the police and the firearms control bureaucracy. Much of the
current difficulty lies in the fact that bureaucrats assume that everyone else
thinks the same way that they do and wants the same things they do. Is it
possible that they are mistaken?
When something new becomes law, it can be very difficult to test the new law's
validity and correctness. Striking down a bad law is always difficult and
usually very expensive. In the case of a firearms law the only simple way that
such a law can be tested is to arrange to be charged with the new criminal
offence, and then prove that the law violates Canada's Constitution. For those
of you who do not understand he Constitution, it is the overriding law that
Parliament must obey--and the only law that Parliament cannot change.
Many of us remember the Meech Lake agreement and the Charlottetown Accord,
attempts made by Canadian politicians to change our Constitution. Parliament
could not make the changes, so Meech Lake was supposed to go to a vote of the
people--a referendum. It never happened, and Meech died. The Charlottetown
Accord did go to a vote of the people, and we rejected it. We did that because
it was not something that protected our rights and freedoms--it was something
that gave more power to politicians and bureaucrats.
When Parliament enacts a law in violation of the Constitution, that law is null
and void because Parliament had no right to enact it. However, it is necessary
to take that defective law through the courts to prove that this is the case--or
it stays in force. We have many laws that will stay in place and continue to be
enforced--until someone fights them.
If there are no individuals and no organizations willing to take time, spend
money, and, yes, take risks--then Parliament's mistakes stay in place--each
reducing our freedom by one more notch. If our society consists entirely of
individuals who think and behave like sheep in a field, the end result is a
steady stream of abusive laws coming into force and the eventual loss of all of
the freedoms and rights we hold dear--one by one. It is rather like being
nibbled to death by ducks. Every community has sheep and sheepdogs, people who
will never fight for their rights and people who will fight for their own rights
and the for rights of others. Our society needs sheepdogs to protect the many
sheep among us, sheepdogs always ready to fight for the rights of the sheep!
Almost all criminal law simply forbids any deliberate or negligent threats to,
injuries to, damage to, or destruction of one of the absolute rights identified
by Sir William Blackstone in the 1700s. Sir William summarized this, saying,
"These may be reduced to three principal or primary articles: the right of
personal security, the right of personal liberty, and the right of private
property. There is no other known method of compulsion, or of abridging man's
natural free will, but by the infringement or diminution of one or other of
these important rights. The preservation of these, inviolate, may justly be said
to include the preservation of our civil immunities in their largest and most
Sir William was right. Try to think of any way that someone can force you to do
anything or force you to stop doing something you love to do--without
threatening, damaging, or destroying at least one of your three primary rights.
They are the solid foundation of all of your rights and freedoms. They are
important--so why weren't we taught that in school?
In the 53 firearms law charges against the Bruce Montague family, no one's
personal security, liberty, or property was threatened, injured, damaged, or
destroyed by any of the Montagues. In my view, that means that they may have
offended against a regulatory law--but what they did should not be considered to
be a criminal offence. Their personal liberty was attacked: they were
temporarily imprisoned. Their personal property was taken--and has not been
returned. Their personal security was damaged. But what did they do that was
equally wrong? So far, I have seen nothing that would legitimize what happened
We do not have a good definition of the meaning of the word "crime" in Canada
today, and that disturbs me. We had, before the Charter, a definition of crime
that said a crime was anything that Parliament put into the Criminal Code and
ordered a penalty for. That was an open invitation for Parliament to abuse
Canadians by creating new crimes that weakened or destroyed traditional rights
and freedoms. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms--weak as it
is--changed that. Many laws have been struck down for violating the Charter,
which is a vital part of our Constitution.
Let us just pause for a moment to look at something I found very interesting--it
may be the key to the Montague case!
The C-68 firearms control system defines possession of a firearm as a crime
(Criminal Code sections 91 and 92). Parliament defined it and ordered a penalty
of up to five years in prison for committing it if you do not know you are
committing it, and up to ten years if you do know that you are committing it. CC
s. 91 and 92 then go on to say that the government has created and is willing to
sell you a licence to commit that crime.
James Bond, the fictional Agent 007 of the British Secret Service, hero of many
books and movies, is very well known. Mr. Bond has a licence to kill. Calvin
Martin, Q.C., raised the issue of the 007 type license to the judge and Crown
prosecutors the last time this case was in court. He said to the judge, "Do we
really want to import the concept of a licence to commit a serious crime into
Canada law?" His question disturbed me. Is that federal licence to possess a
firearm the thin edge of a very large wedge? Does our government intend to
create and cause to be issued licences to commit other crimes? Licences that
will be available only to those selected by the government as people likely to
support the party in power? Or--whisper it softly--has it already done so, and
kept that information confidential? We do not know. It is not possible to be
certain. And that scares the Hell out of me. After all, how many people in Mr.
Bond's fictional Britain know he has a licence to kill?
I have been talking with Dave Tomlinson about this area of law for months. We
have been unable to find any authorization in the Canadian constitution that
would allow Parliament to create and cause to be issued a license to commit any
criminal offence. On the other hand, we have not been able to find anything that
clearly prohibits Parliament from doing this, other than Section 1 of our rather
weak Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Can we trust Parliament always to be right when it makes choices? If we think
Parliament has made a mistake, what should we do about it? What can we do about
it? Should we just ask Parliament to think again? Well, when was the last time
you heard Parliament admit a mistake, repeal a bad law, and replace it with
something better? When was the last time you saw any politician--let alone an
assembly of politicians elected to form a government--admit to making a serious
How long do we wait for a more sensible, practical, and fair law about firearms?
Is it possible to get better law without shutting down the present law?
If we let Parliament reduce our rights and freedoms without doing anything about
it, where does that process end?
There is not a lot we can say yet about the Montague case yet (there's a partial
publication ban), but this case is centred on a family--a good family that set
out to challenge a bad law. The NFA believes that the legislation that created
the offences in this case violates the principles of a free and democratic
society. The NFA believes that the current firearms control laws damage the
firearms community, and are a serious threat to the future of Canada.
There are people who think about the basic principles that we live by. People
from all walks of life have taken a look at the Montague family situation and do
not think that they should be subjected to criminal charges. In the view of the
Montague family, the water they swam in became gradually muddier and muddier as
firearms control laws became more and more restrictive. Those laws became more
and more abusive of our basic right to protect human life from criminal
violence, more and more offensive to those of us who wish to live in a free and
By taking their stand, the Montagues put themselves at risk. The NFA is working
to prove them innocent of criminal activity. If we win, we believe that the
muddied waters of Canada will become clearer.
It is time cut the heart out of our abusive firearms control laws--an action
that can force Parliament to replace the current billion-dollar boondoggle with
something that makes sense. If you can afford to, send a financial donation to
support this family in the courts. Please make your cheque payable to "BMSC-68
Fund" and mail your letter to Roger Nordlund (Trustee), Site 211, Box 7, RR #2,
DRYDEN ON, P8N 2Y5. For more details on this case, including some Charter
arguments that I personally think call for striking down the abusive C-68 laws,
please visit http://www.BruceMontague.ca
My grandfather told me that it is easier to make a buck than to make a
difference. I joined the NFA because it is an outfit that wants to make a
difference. I want to make a difference. Care to join me?
DISCLAIMER: BruceMontague.ca is maintained by friends and
supporters of Bruce Montague.
It is NOT an official mouth-piece for Bruce
Montague's legal defense.