Reference Re Firearms Act (Can.), 2000 SCC 31

JudgeMcLachlin, C.J.C., L'Heureux-Dubé, Gonthier, Iacobucci, Major, Bastarache, Binnie, Arbour and LeBel, JJ.
CourtSupreme Court of Canada
Case DateJune 15, 2000
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations2000 SCC 31;(2000), 254 N.R. 201 (SCC);[2000] SCJ No 31 (QL);JE 2000-1234;46 WCB (2d) 450;185 DLR (4th) 577;254 NR 201;AZ-50076877;[2000] 10 WWR 1;261 AR 201;34 CR (5th) 1;82 Alta LR (3d) 1;[2000] 1 SCR 783;97 ACWS (3d) 64;144 CCC (3d) 385

Ref. Re Firearms Act (2000), 254 N.R. 201 (SCC)

MLB Headnote and full text

[French language version follows English language version]

[La version française vient à la suite de la version anglaise]

....................

Temp. Cite: [2000] N.R. TBEd. JN.001

In The Matter Of Section 27(1) of the Judicature Act, R.S.A. 1980, Chapter J-1;

And In The Matter Of a Reference by the Lieutenant Governor in Council to the Court of Appeal of Alberta for hearing and consideration of the questions set out in Order in Council 461/96 respecting the Firearms Act, S.C. 1995, Chapter 39;

The Attorney General For Alberta (appellant) v. The Attorney General of Canada (respondent) and the Attorney General for Ontario, the Attorney General of Nova Scotia, the Attorney General for New Brunswick, the Attorney General of Manitoba, the Attorney General for Saskatchewan, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Minister of Justice for the Government of the Yukon Territory, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the Coalition of Responsible Firearm Owners and Sportsmen (CORFOS), the Law-Abiding Unregistered Firearms Association (LUFA), the Shooting Federation of Canada, the Association pour la santé publique du Quebec inc., The Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, CAVEAT, the Foundation des Victimes du 6 décembre contre la violence, the Canadian Association for Adolescent Health, the Canadian Pediatric Society, the Coalition for Gun Control, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Corporation of the City of Toronto, the City of Montreal and the City of Winnipeg (interveners)

(26933; 2000 SCC 31)

Indexed As: Reference Re Firearms Act (Can.)

Supreme Court of Canada

McLachlin, C.J.C., L'Heureux-Dubé, Gonthier, Iacobucci, Major, Bastarache, Binnie, Arbour and LeBel, JJ.

June 15, 2000.

Summary:

The federal government introduced the Firearms Act. The Act, inter alia, required that a licence be secured to acquire or pos­sess firearms and that each firearm be regis­tered. Alberta initiated a reference challeng­ing the licensing and registration provisions of the Act and related enforcement pro­visions of the Criminal Code as they related to ordinary firearms. Alberta alleged that the licensing provisions and the registration provisions infringed on the provincial power over property and civil rights (Constitution Act, 1867, s. 92(13)) and were ultra vires Parliament.

The Alberta Court of Appeal, Conrad and Irving, JJ.A., dissenting, in a decision re­ported 219 A.R. 201; 179 W.A.C. 201, held that the Act was a valid exercise of Parlia­ment's criminal law power under s. 91(27) of the Constitution Act, 1867. Alberta appealed the decision. Several parties inter­vened.

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal. The Act was within Parliament's jurisdiction over criminal law.

Constitutional Law - Topic 1761

Extent of powers conferred - Necessarily incidental doctrine - General - The Fed­eral Government introduced the Firearms Act, which, inter alia, required holders of fire­arms to obtain licences and register their firearms - Alberta et al. challenged the licensing and registration provisions of the Act, claiming that the Act inappropri­ately trenched on provincial powers - In support of its submission, Alberta cited a text that recommended applying consider­ations of rationality and proportionality from Charter s. 1 cases to questions of legislative com­petence - The Supreme Court of Canada stated that it was "far from clear to us that it would be helpful to apply the technique of weighing benefits and detriments used in s. 1 jurisprudence to the quite different exercise of defining the scope of the powers set out in ss. 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867." - See paragraph 48.

Constitutional Law - Topic 6441

Federal jurisdiction (s. 91) - Criminal law -General - Criminal law defined - The Supreme Court of Canada stated that the criminal law was not confined to prohibit­ing immoral acts - The court stated that "Parliament can use the criminal law to prohibit activities which have little re­lation to public morality" - See paragraph 55.

Constitutional Law - Topic 6450

Federal jurisdiction (s. 91) - Criminal law -Elements of a criminal law statute - Gen­eral - The Supreme Court of Canada stated that "[a]s a general rule, legislation may be classified as criminal law if it possesses three prerequisites: a valid crim­inal law purpose backed by a prohibition and a penalty" - See paragraph 27.

Constitutional Law - Topic 6501

Federal jurisdiction (s. 91) - Criminal law -Firearms - Canada introduced the Fire­arms Act, which, inter alia, required holders of firearms to obtain licences and register their firearms - Alberta et al. chal­lenged the licensing and registration pro­visions of the Act as they related to ordi­nary fire­arms, claiming that they infringed on the provincial power over property and civil rights (Constitution Act, 1867, s. 92(13)) - The Supreme Court of Canada held that the pith and substance of the Act was directed at enhancing public safety by controlling access to firearms through prohibitions and penalties - Therefore, it fell under the federal criminal law power (Constitution Act, 1867, s. 91(27)) - The Act was not regulatory legislation - Both the licensing and the registration provisions were tightly linked to Parliament's goal of promoting safety by reducing the misuse of firearms and were integral and necessary for the operation of the scheme - The Act did not take the federal government so far into provincial territory that the balance of federalism was threatened or the jurisdic­tional powers of the provinces were unduly impaired.

Cases Noticed:

RJR-MacDonald Inc. et Imperial Tobacco Ltd. v. Canada (Procureur général), [1995] 3 S.C.R. 199; 187 N.R. 1; 127 D.L.R.(4th) 1, refd to. [para. 12].

R. v. Hydro-Quebec, [1997] 3 S.C.R. 213; 217 N.R. 241, refd to. [para. 12].

Global Securities Corp. v. British Columbia Securities Commission et al., [2000] 1 S.C.R. 494; 252 N.R. 290, refd to. [para. 15].

Whitbread v. Walley, [1990] 3 S.C.R. 1273; 120 N.R. 109; 77 D.L.R.(4th) 25, refd to. [para. 15].

R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd., [1985] 1 S.C.R. 295; 58 N.R. 81; 60 A.R. 161; [1985] 3 W.W.R. 481; 18 C.C.C.(3d) 385; 18 D.L.R.(4th) 321; 37 Alta. L.R.(2d) 97; 85 C.L.L.C. 14,203; 13 C.R.R. 64, refd to. [para. 15].

R. v. Morgentaler, [1993] 3 S.C.R. 463; 157 N.R. 97; 125 N.S.R.(2d) 81; 349 A.P.R. 81, refd to. [para. 15].

Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Bankrupt), Re, [1998] 1 S.C.R. 27; 221 N.R. 241; 106 O.A.C. 1, refd to. [para. 17].

Doré v. Verdun (Ville), [1997] 2 S.C.R. 862; 215 N.R. 81 (S.C.C.), refd to. [para. 17].

Anti Inflation Act, Re, [1976] 2 S.C.R. 373; 9 N.R. 541, refd to. [para. 18].

Alberta (Attorney General) v. Canada (Attorney General), [1939] A.C. 117 (P.C.), refd to. [para. 18].

Texada Mines Ltd. v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1960] S.C.R. 713, refd to. [para. 18].

R. v. Schwartz, [1988] 2 S.C.R. 443; 88 N.R. 90; 56 Man.R.(2d) 92; 45 C.C.C.(3d) 97; [1989] 1 W.W.R. 289, refd to. [para. 22].

R. v. McGuigan, [1982] 1 S.C.R. 284; 40 N.R. 499, refd to. [para. 22].

Canada (Attorney General) v. Pattison (1981), 30 A.R. 83 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 22].

Martinoff v. Dawson (1990), 57 C.C.C.(3d) 482 (B.C.C.A.), refd to. [para. 23].

R. v. Northcott, [1980] 5 W.W.R. 38 (B.C. Prov. Ct.), refd to. [para. 23].

McNeil v. Nova Scotia Board of Censors, [1978] 2 S.C.R. 662; 19 N.R. 570; 25 N.S.R.(2d) 128; 36 A.P.R. 128, refd to. [para. 25].

City National Leasing v. General Motors of Canada Ltd., [1989] 1 S.C.R. 641; 93 N.R. 326; 32 O.A.C. 332, refd to. [para. 26].

Reference Re Validity of Section 5(a) of the Dairy Industry Act, [1949] S.C.R. 1, refd to. [para. 27].

Standard Sausage Co. v. Lee, [1933] 4 D.L.R. 501 (B.C.C.A.), refd to. [para. 29].

R. v. Cosman's Furniture (1972) Ltd. (1976), 73 D.L.R.(3d) 312 (Man. C.A.), refd to. [para. 29].

Scowby et al. v. Glendinning et al., [1986] 2 S.C.R. 226; 70 N.R. 241; 51 Sask.R. 208; 32 D.L.R.(4th) 161, refd to. [para. 32].

R. v. Westendorp, [1983] 1 S.C.R. 43; 46 N.R. 30; 41 A.R. 306, refd to. [para. 32].

R. v. Zelensky, [1978] 2 S.C.R. 940; 21 N.R. 372, refd to. [para. 32].

R. v. Felawka, [1993] 4 S.C.R. 199; 159 N.R. 50; 33 B.C.A.C. 241; 54 W.A.C. 241; 85 C.C.C.(3d) 248, refd to. [para. 33].

R. v. Wetmore, Kripps Pharmacy Ltd. and Kripps and Attorneys General of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta, [1983] 2 S.C.R. 284; 49 N.R. 286, refd to. [para. 33].

R. v. Boggs, [1981] 1 S.C.R. 49; 34 N.R. 520, refd to. [para. 38].

Reference Re Sections 193 and 195.1(1)(c) of the Criminal Code, [1990] 1 S.C.R. 1123; 109 N.R. 81; 68 Man.R.(2d) 1; 56 C.C.C.(3d) 65; 77 C.R.(3d) 1; [1990] 4 W.W.R. 481, refd to. [para. 39].

R. v. Furtney et al., [1991] 3 S.C.R. 89; 129 N.R. 241; 51 O.A.C. 299, refd to. [para. 39].

R. v. Morgentaler, [1976] 1 S.C.R. 616; 4 N.R. 277; 20 C.C.C.(2d) 449, refd to. [para. 39].

Lord's Day Alliance of Canada v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1959] S.C.R. 497, refd to. [para. 39].

Canadian Indemnity Co. et al. v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1977] 2 S.C.R. 504; 11 N.R. 466, refd to. [para. 42].

Reference Re Validity of Section 92(4) of the Vehicle Act, 1957 (Sask.), [1958] S.C.R. 608, refd to. [para. 42].

Provincial Secretary of Prince Edward Island v. Egan, [1941] S.C.R. 396, refd to. [para. 42].

Reference Re Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217; 228 N.R. 203; 161 D.L.R.(4th) 385 (S.C.C.), refd to. [para. 48].

Consortium Developments (Clearwater) Ltd. v. Sarnia (City) et al., [1998] 3 S.C.R. 3; 230 N.R. 343; 114 O.A.C. 92, refd to. [para. 49].

Mitchell and Milton Management Ltd. v. Peguis Indian Band et al., [1990] 2 S.C.R. 85; 110 N.R. 241; 67 Man.R.(2d) 81; [1990] C.N.L.R. 46, refd to. [para. 49].

British Columbia (Attorney General) v. Canada (Attorney General), [1937] A.C. 368 (P.C.), refd to. [para. 50].

R. v. Chiasson (1982), 39 N.B.R.(2d) 631; 103 A.P.R. 631; 66 C.C.C.(2d) 195 (C.A.), affd. [1984] 1 S.C.R. 266; 56 N.R. 213; 77 N.B.R.(2d) 179; 195 A.P.R. 179, refd to. [para. 51].

Proprietary Articles Trade Association v. Canada (Attorney General), [1931] A.C. 310 (P.C.), refd to. [para. 55].

Statutes Noticed:

Firearms Act, S.C. 1995, c. 39, sect. 5, sect. 6, sect. 7, sect. 8, sect. 9, sect. 10, sect. 13, sect. 14, sect. 15, sect. 16, sect. 54, sect. 55, sect. 56, sect. 58, sect. 60, sect. 61, sect. 64, sect. 66, sect. 67, sect. 68, sect. 69, sect. 70, sect. 71, sect. 82, sect. 83, sect. 84, sect. 85, sect. 86, sect. 87, sect. 88, sect. 89, sect. 90, sect. 91, sect. 92, sect. 93, sect. 94, sect. 112, sect. 115 [Appendix B].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Beatty, David M., Constitutional Law in Theory and Practice (1995), generally [para. 48].

Beatty, David M., Gun Control and Ju­dicial Anarchy (1999), 10 Constitutional Forum 45, generally [para. 27].

Canada, Department of Justice, The Gov­ernment's Action Plan on Firearms Con­trol (1994), generally [para. 21].

Canada, Department of Justice, The Impact of the Availability of Firearms on Vio­lent Crime, Suicide, and Accidental Death: A Review of the Literature with Special Reference to the Canadian Situ­ation, Working Paper (1994), generally [para. 21].

Canada, Hansard, House of Commons Debates, vol. 133, No. 154, 1st Sess., 35th Parliament (1995), pp. 9706, 9707 [para. 20].

Canada, Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Pro­ceedings of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Issue No. 61 (1995), generally [para. 27].

Davies, Elaine, The 1995 Firearms Act: Canada's Public Relations Response to the Myth of Violence (2000), Appeal 44, generally [para. 32].

Friedland, Martin L., A Century of Crimi­nal Justice (1984), pp. 125 ff. [para. 32].

Gibson, Dale, The Firearms Reference in the Alberta Court of Appeal (1999), 37 Alta. L. Rev. 1071, generally [para. 27].

Hansard - see Canada, Hansard, House of Commons Debates.

Hogg, Peter W., Constitutional Law of Canada (Looseleaf Ed.), pp. 15-14, 15-15, 15-16 [para. 18]; 18-25, 18-26 [para. 36].

Hutchinson, Allan C., and Schneiderman, David, Smoking Guns: The Federal Government Confronts the Tobacco and Gun Lobbies (1995), 7 Constitutional Forum 16, generally [para. 29].

Lederman, William R., Continuing Ca­nadian Constitutional Dilemmas (1981), pp. 239, 240 [para. 18].

MacLellan, Russell, Canada's Firearms Proposals (1995), 37 Can. J. Crim. 163, generally [para. 20].

Counsel:

Roderick A. McLennan, Q.C., Thomas W.R. Ross and Neal A. McLennan, for the appellant;

Graham R. Garton, Q.C., and Sheilah Martin, Q.C., for the respondent;

Robert E. Charney and Edward J. Maksimowski, for the intervener, the Attorney General for Ontario;

Louise Walsh Poirier and Reinhold Endres, Q.C., for the intervener, the Attorney General of Nova Scotia;

Gabriel Bourgeois, for the intervener, the Attorney General for New Brunswick;

Kenneth J. Tyler, for the intervener, the Attorney General of Manitoba;

Graeme G. Mitchell, Q.C., and Thomson Irvine, for the intervener, the Attorney General for Saskatchewan;

Scott Duke, for the intervener, the Gov­ern­ment of the Northwest Territories;

William Craik and Lee Kirkpatrick, for the intervener, the Minister of Justice for the Government of the Yukon Territory;

Delia Opekokew, Darren W. Winegarden, Albert C. Peeling and John D. Parsons, for the intervener, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations;

Dallas K. Miller, Q.C., for the intervener, the Coalition of Responsible Firearm Owners and Sportsmen (CORFOS);

David R. Holman, for the intervener, the Law-Abiding Unregistered Firearms Association (LUFA);

Brian A. Crane, Q.C., and Paul Shaw, for the intervener, the Shooting Federation of Canada;

Paul Larochelle, Q.C., and Michèle Thivierge, for the intervener, the As­sociation pour la santé publique du Qué­bec inc.;

Alexander D. Pringle, Q.C., and June Ross, for the intervener, the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters;

Peter A. Downard, Paul F. Monahan and Rochelle S. Fox, for the interveners, CAVEAT, the Foundation des victimes du 6 décembre contre la violence, the Canadian Association for Adolescent Health and the Canadian Pediatric Society;

Clayton C. Ruby and Jill Copeland, for the interveners, the Coalition for Gun Con­trol, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Corporation of the City of Toronto, the City of Montreal and the City of Winnipeg.

Solicitors of Record:

McLennan Ross, Edmonton, Alberta, for the appellant;

Deputy Attorney General of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, for the respondent;

Ministry of the Attorney General, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervener, the Attorney General for Ontario;

Department of Justice, Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the intervener, the Attorney General of Nova Scotia;

Office of the Attorney General, Fredericton, New Brunswick, for the intervener, the Attorney General for New Brunswick;

Ladner Downs, Vancouver, British Columbia, for the intervener, the At­torney General of Manitoba;

Deputy Attorney General, Regina, Saskatchewan, for the intervener, the Attorney General for Saskatchewan;

Department of Justice, Yellowknife, North­west Territories, for the intervener, the Government of the Northwest Terri­tories;

Department of Justice, Whitehorse, Yukon, for the intervener, the Minister of Justice for the Government of the Yukon Terri­tory;

Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, for the intervener, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations;

Dallas K. Miller Law Office, Medicine Hat, Alberta, for the intervener, the Coalition of Responsible Firearm Owners and Sportsmen;

Neufeld Law Office, Red Deer, Alberta, for the intervener, the Law-Abiding Unregistered Firearms Association;

Shaw McLennan & Ironside, Collingwood, Ontario, for the intervener, the Shooting Federation of Canada;

Brochet Dussault Larochelle, Sainte-Foy, Quebec, for the intervener, the As­sociation pour la santé publique du Qué­bec inc.;

Pringle & Associates, Edmonton, Alberta, for the intervener, the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters;

Fasken Campbell Godfrey, Toronto, Ontario, for the interveners CAVEAT, the Fondation des victimes du 6 dé­cembre contre la violence, the Canadian Association for adolescent Health and the Canadian Pediatric Society;

Ruby and Edwardh, Toronto, Ontario, for the interveners, the Coalition for Gun Control, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Corporation of the City of Toronto, the City of Montreal and City of Winnipeg.

This appeal was heard on February 21 and 22, 2000, before McLachlin, C.J.C., L'Heureux-Dubé, Gonthier, Iacobucci, Major, Bastarache, Binnie, Arbour and LeBel, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada.

The judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada was delivered by the court in both official languages on June 15, 2000:

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