Government Responds to MP Barlow’s Order Questions re: High River Gun Seizure

January 27, 2015

Responses to Order Paper questions submitted by John Barlow, Member of Parliament for Macleod, on November 18, 2014 were tabled in the House of Commons yesterday. Mr. Barlow’s questions specifically requested explanations for the seizure of firearms by the RCMP, and the possible involvement of the Canadian Armed Forces, in and around the Town of High River, Alberta between June 20, 2013 and July 12, 2013.

The questions and answers are as follows:

Question No. 791:

Mr. John Barlow:
With regard to the operations of the RCMP in and around the Town of High River, Alberta, between June 20, 2013, and July 12, 2013 (“the High River operations”): (a) what are the definitions of “illegally stored firearms”, “carelessly stored firearms” and “unsafe storage” as accepted and enforced by the RCMP, (i) are there any circumstances under which these definitions are expanded or altered in such a way that it impacts the extent to which the RCMP can enforce them, (ii) if (i) is answered affirmatively, did any of these circumstances occur in the context of the High River operations, and in what way were these definitions thus altered; (b) what statutes and regulations, as enforced by the RCMP, regulate the storage of legally owned firearms, of all classifications, (i) are there any circumstances under which these statutes and or regulations are expanded or altered in such a way that it impacts the extent to which the RCMP can enforce them, (ii) if (i) is answered affirmatively, did any of these circumstances occur in the context of the High River operations, and in what way were the statutes and regulations in question thus altered; (c) what specific sections of RCMP training, procedural manuals, or other documentation governed the procedures that led to the seizure of legally stored firearms located by RCMP in residences during the High River operations; (d) what prior examples of large scale door-to-door searches by the RCMP that included the seizure of firearms from multiple residences informed the procedure for the seizure of legally stored firearms that occurred in the context of the High River operations; (e) what information was recorded by the RCMP regarding the location in each residence of the firearms that were seized and or secured by the RCMP in the course of the door-to-door searches of residences during the High River operations, (i) where is this information being kept, (ii) who has access to it, (iii) what was the purpose of recording this information; (f) in how many instances were legally stored firearms located in residences by RCMP in the context of the High River operations and not seized or secured by the RCMP; (g) was any information recorded regarding legally stored firearms in residences which were not seized and or secured by the RCMP in the context of the High River operations and, if so, (i) what are the details of the information recorded, (ii) who (including name, rank, and detachment) authorized the recording; (h) under what statutory or procedural authority was the RCMP operating when the firearms which were seized or secured by the RCMP during the course of the door-to-door searches of residences in the context of the High River operations were queried in the Canadian Police Information Centre database; (i) how many times has the Canadian Police Information Centre database been accessed by any members of the RCMP regarding (i) any residents of the Town of High River, Alberta, (ii) any firearms-license holders residing in and around the town of High River, Alberta; (j) what was the purpose of querying, in the Canadian Police Information Centre database, the firearms which had been seized or secured by the RCMP in the context of the High River operations, (i) what are the names, ranks, positions, units and detachments of the officer or officers who authorized this procedure, (ii) what other seized items were queried in the Canadian Police Information Centre database, (iii) if no other seized items were checked against the Canadian Police Information Centre database, why not, (iv) in how many instances did this process result in the identification of stolen weapons, (v) in how many instances did this process result in the identification of persons in possession of firearms that they were prohibited from possessing; (k) was the Canadian Police Information Center database accessed by any member or members of the RCMP regarding any residences which were linked with federal firearms-license holders, in and around the Town of High River, Alberta and, if so, (i) what information was accessed, (ii) why was the information accessed, (iii) on what specific dates was the information accessed, (iv) what are the names, ranks, positions, units and detachments of the RCMP officers or officer who authorized this procedure; and (l) was the restricted-firearms registry accessed at any point between June 20, 2013, and July 12, 2013, by any members of the RCMP regarding any residents of the Town of High River, Alberta, or regarding any restricted or prohibited firearms registered to persons residing in and around the Town of High River, Alberta and, if so, (i) what information from the restricted-firearms registry was sought by the RCMP, (ii) what was the purpose of accessing the restricted firearms registry at this time, (iii) what was the number of restricted or prohibited firearms identified in the restricted-firearms registry as being registered in and around the Town of High River, Alberta, (iv) how many such firearms were eventually seized by the RCMP, (v) what are the names, ranks, positions, units and detachments of the officers or officer who authorized this procedure?

Answer – Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, in response to this question, the RCMP has provided the following assessment. There is an ongoing review of this matter by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

With regard to (a), the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code, and their supporting regulations, are used by the RCMP to determine storage requirements. With regard to (i), no. With regard to (ii), not applicable.

With regard to (b), there are two regulations that apply to the storage of firearms: the Storage, Display and Transportation of Firearms and Other Weapons by Businesses Regulations; and the Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms by Individuals Regulations. With regard to (i), no. With regard to (ii), not applicable.

With regard to (c) to (e) and (h) to (l), there is an ongoing review of this matter by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

With regard to (f) and (g), the RCMP’s data collection system does not capture this information.

Question No. 792:

Mr. John Barlow:
With regard to the operations of the Canadian Armed Forces in and around the Town of High River, Alberta between June 20, 2013, and July 12, 2013: (a) what were the operational directives issued to the Canadian Armed Forces concerning their operations in conjunction with the RCMP, specifically with respect to (i) the door-to-door searches of residences, (ii) door-to-door searches of residences by forced entry, (iii) searches for any firearms in residences, (iv) collection of any firearms found while searching residences, (v) transportation of any firearms found while searching residences, (vi) recording of any information regarding firearms found while searching residences, (vii) recording of any information regarding residences in which firearms were located; (b) what operations were conducted by the Canadian Armed Forces in conjunction with the RCMP specifically with respect to (i) the door-to-door searches of residences, (ii) door-to-door searches of residences by forced entry, (iii) searches for any firearms in residences, (iv) collection of any firearms found while searching residences, (v) transportation of any firearms found while searching residences, (vi) recording of any information regarding firearms found while searching residences, (vii) recording of any information regarding residences in which firearms were located; (c) what requests were issued by the RCMP to the Canadian Armed Forces specifically with respect to (i) the door-to-door searches of residences, (ii) door-to-door searches of residences by forced entry, (iii) searches for any firearms in residences, (iv) collection of any firearms found while searching residences, (v) transportation of any firearms found while searching residences, (vi) recording of any information regarding firearms found while searching residences, (vii) recording of any information regarding residences in which firearms were located; (d) were any requests by the RCMP refused by the Canadian Armed Forces and, if so, (i) what was the content of each request by the RCMP that was refused by the Canadian Armed Forces, (ii) on what date was each request made, (iii) what were the reasons for the refusal of each request; (e) what requests were issued by any government entities, including, but not limited to municipal, provincial and federal governments, to the Canadian Armed Forces specifically with respect to (i) the door-to-door searches of residences, (ii) door-to-door searches of residences by forced entry, (iii) searches for any firearms in residences, (iv) collection of any firearms found while searching residences, (v) transportation of any firearms found while searching residences, (vi) recording of any information regarding firearms found while searching residences, (vii) recording of any information regarding residences in which firearms were located; and (f) was any request by any government entity refused by the Canadian Armed Forces and, if so, (i) what was the content of each request by any government entity that was refused by the Canadian Armed Forces, (ii) on what date was each request made, (iii) what were the reasons for the refusal of each request?

Answer – Hon. Rob Nicholson (Minister of National Defence, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), in June 2013, the Canadian Armed Forces, CAF, provided support to Royal Canadian Mounted Police, RCMP, flood relief operations in High River, Alberta. The support was provided pursuant to subsection 273.6(1), Public Service, of the National Defence Act, following a request for assistance from the Minister of Public Safety, which was itself preceded by a request for assistance from the province of Alberta. The CAF was asked for humanitarian support, including transportation support in the effort to locate trapped or injured persons.

The CAF operation in the area was guided by a tasking order from the Chief of the Defence Staff and an operations order issued by the commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command. Concerning operations in conjunction with the RCMP, the operations order stated that CAF personnel would remain under military command at all times and would not engage in assistance to law enforcement agency operations. CAF support and capabilities were specifically directed to be in response to relief efforts for flooding.

With regard to (b), the basis for CAF involvement in the flood relief operations in Alberta was pursuant to the National Defence Act, subsection 273.6(1), Public Service, and not specifically for law enforcement assistance. Public Safety Canada has the lead responsibility for emergency response and CAF personnel were in continuous liaison with Public Safety Canada, as well as with provincial authorities and our other federal partners as part of relief efforts.

With regard to (c), the Department of National Defence and CAF, DND/CAF, did not find any records of official requests made by the RCMP to the CAF for law enforcement assistance.

With regard to (d), DND/CAF did not find any records of official requests made by the RCMP to the CAF for law enforcement assistance.

With regard to (e), these requests would have been made through the formal request for assistance, RFA, process between the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Public Safety. DND/CAF do not have any records of formal RFAs on assistance with law enforcement activities. On June 21, 2013, the Minister of Public Safety requested the following assistance: evacuation and safeguarding of at-risk persons; safeguarding of critical infrastructure from flooding; resupply of those areas isolated by flooding as requested by civil authorities; provision of engineering, logistic and humanitarian relief support to those communities that must shelter in place; and, assistance in informing the public of the need to avoid entry in to those areas evacuated, damaged or otherwise in need of control and surveillance in order to ensure the safety of emergency personnel and evacuees.

If informal requests for assistance were made to the local commanders, these low-level RFAs would have been handled at site unless there were larger operational concerns.

With regard to (f), as with part (e) these requests would have been made through the formal request for assistance process between the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Public Safety. DND/CAF do not have any records of formal RFAs on assistance with law enforcement activities.

In addition to these answers, Mr. Barlow looks forward to learning more details in the next few weeks with the results from the inquiry done by the Public Complaints Commission.

“The responses to the Order Paper I submitted were tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday and it is important to have more details available regarding the gun seizures in High River,” said Macleod MP John Barlow. “Although these responses shed some light on the events I am eagerly awaiting the report from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, which I hope to see by the end of the week.”