TORONTO — A group representing doctors and other health-care workers pushing for stronger gun laws was holding rallies across the country on Wednesday, calling for a national ban on private ownership of handguns and assault rifles.
Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns was holding events in cities that included Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and St. John’s, and also planned discussion forums and information sessions in other communities — all as part of a national day of action.
The group has said it considers gun control a public health issue, and that physicians have a duty to speak out on issues that affect people’s safety.
Dr. Suzanne Beno, a pediatric emergency specialist and co-director of the trauma program at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, said firearms legislation currently before the Senate — Bill C-71 — is a step in the right direction, but more action is needed.
“Bill C-71 is kind of an initial step. It certainly helps around tighter regulations,” Beno said. “But it’s really weapons that don’t really need to be in the hands of civilians that are out there. When you think about public health … one direct way to reduce this burden is simply to reduce the vector, and reduce the number of firearms that are in circulation.”
Shortly after noon in Toronto on Wednesday, a group of protesters gathered outside a downtown church, some of them in white lab coats, others carrying signs that read “Yes to C-71” and “We Can Do Better.”
Beno, who was set to speak at the rally, said she has seen firsthand how gun violence affects children and families, as well as the “ripple effects” it has on wider communities.
“I strongly believe that firearm injuries in Canada are on the rise, particularly in Toronto,” she said. “And I believe that it is a public health issue that we definitely need to tackle a little bit more aggressively.”
The Senate committee on national security and defence was set to hold its final day of testimony Wednesday on Bill C-71. Among other changes, the legislation would eliminate a five-year limit on background checks for people applying for a gun licence.
The bill does not include an outright ban on private ownership.
Adam Burns, The Canadian Press