On Friday morning, Liberal leadership candidate and MP for Papineau Justin Trudeau toured the Dart Helicopter Services plant in in Hawkesbury, Ont. After the tour, he spoke to about 100 employees and supporters in the company’s cafeteria. During the question-and-answer session, one worker — who would not say how he voted or planned to vote — asked him where he stood on the long-gun registry. Here’s what my tape recorder was able to pick up in his response to that query:
I grew up with long guns. Rifles and shot guns. Yes, the RCMP guarding me had handguns … [laughter]
But I was raised with an appreciation and an understanding of how important in rural areas and right across the country gun ownership is as a part of the culture. I do not feel that there is any huge contradiction between keeping our cities safe from gun violence and gangs and allowing this important facet of Canadian identity which is having a gun. One of the last times I was up in the high Arctic before I got into politics, I was taking a school group on a hike across parts of, actually, Greenland. And when I was doing that, it was one of the only times I ever taught with loaded thirty-ought-six slung over my shoulder. You don’t usually think of teaching with a heavy-duty rifle … but when you’re in polar bear country, you have to be aware of that.
The fact that we have a government, or successive governments, that have managed to polarize the conversations around gun ownership to create games in electoral races when you don’t have to have a …
There is no concept, no idea, that gun ownership is ever going to be under attack for law-abiding hunters and farmers across this country. But we need to keep our cities safe and I don’t see that that’s an unsolvable solution but I do see that the long-gun registry, as it was, was a failure and I am not going to rescuscitate that. But we will continue to look at ways of keeping our cities safe and making sure that we do address the concerns around domestic violence right across the country in rural as well as urban areas in which, unfortunately, guns do play a role. But there are better ways of keeping us safe than that registry …
Later that day, in a scrum in Alfred, Ont., reporters asked him again about his gun registry comment from earlier in the day. Here’s what he said:
“It ended up being a failure. It ended up dividing Canadians more than it actually protected Canadians so I’m very serious at looking at other ways and hearing from Canadians about other ways to protect people from gun violence. Whether it be in cities or whether it be in domestic situations in more rural areas where long guns are still unfortunately are too-utilized in situations of domestic violence. So, we have to look for it. We have to be smart. We have to make sure we are not dividing Canadians once again for electoral gain the way Mr. Harper is so successful at playing up differences between urban and rural folks. We have to work on bringing people together and keeping them safe and that’s something to which I am committed.”
You can listen yourself to that list bit, recorded in Alfred, Ont.: