”Defending Canada’s Heritage”

United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects


NGO Presentation - July 16, 2001                               Tony Bernardo, Executive Director 

I live in a country of pristine lakes and untamed wilderness.  A land that, more so than most, was founded with a rifle in one hand and a beaver pelt in the other.  Canada is indeed the land of the hunter.  A land that, to use the popular phrase, is truly awash with small arms, most of them unregistered and uncontrolled.

Firearms are an integral part of our Canadian heritage, We are proud of this for it is a heritage of hard work and courage in the face of adversity. 

Canadians citizens own as many as 15 million small arms, one of the highest rates of private firearms ownership in the world.  And this has taught us some interesting lessons.

Do firearms create violence?  No,  If the simple presence of privately owned small arms sparked violence amongst the citizenry, Canada would be bathed in blood.  But it’s not. Canada enjoys one of the lowest murder and violent crime rates in the world. 

Do firearms create international conflict?  Canadians are privileged to share the longest undefended border in the world with our friend and partner, the United States.  Yet, despite the presence of millions of privately owned, unregistered firearms, we coexist in an unparalleled peace.  Indeed, the relationship shared by our two countries is the envy of the world.

Do the presence of so many small arms create poverty?  Once again, no.  The United Nations has consistently rated Canada, along with Norway and the United States, one of the best places in the world to live.  Interestingly, all three countries have very high rates of civilian firearms ownership.  Canada is a modern, prosperous country and small arms have not made it less so.

I am compelled to speak out on behalf of Canada’s First Nations.  Some of our indigenous peoples depend on firearms for their very existence.  Under treaty obligation, the government of Canada still provides surplus military firearms and ammunition to our First Nations peoples living in the harsh environment of Canada’s north.  In the land of the midnight sun, guns mean survival.  How will the “no transfer to non state actor” provisions in the Draft Plan of Action interact with this sacred trust?

Clearly, the mere presence of large numbers of small arms are not the root cause of turmoil and Canada is manifest proof of this.  Canadians have resolved to settle our conflicts with words, not bullets.

Few things are simple.  Other factors, far more than the mere existence of firearms, create the environment of conflict that the United Nations has toiled so long to heal.  We implore you to concentrate your efforts upon fully automatic “Weapons of War” and “Illicit Trade”, not the firearms of our heritage.  Canada’s five million firearms owners wish you well in your struggle to bring peace to this Earth.  



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