Written by By Megan Hebblethwaite, CNN Montreal, Canada
As the number of Canadians killed by guns escalates, one figure is marking a shift in the country’s gun laws: Mayor Valérie Plante.
Plante, a reform-minded leader of the city of Montreal, received a major pushback when she introduced sweeping reforms at the local level, such as banning large firearms and strengthening age and the number of bullets that can be carried in a magazine.
An estimated one in five municipal councilors is now anti-gun, and the number of anti-gun statements made by mayors in Canada has spiked in the wake of the high-profile shooting in Toronto in October, 2018, when a gunman killed two people at a charity ball and injured 13 others.
Nine months after that shooting, where residents still can’t get unsecured handguns to and from the city of Toronto, Plante still feels strongly that the gun debate needs to play out at the national level.
“We know the discussion here in Quebec has to change. It’s time to have a serious conversation,” Plante said in an interview with CNN Style. “I’m waiting for the government to respond to my calls to address the work of the provincial and federal government on the issue of gun violence. I don’t think more discussion is helpful.”
The rate of gun violence in Canada has climbed over the last decade and Canada’s gun laws are typically subject to less scrutiny than those of other major western countries.
Canadian-born Louis Robitaille was a top aide to Paul Martin, Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s finance minister and the first man to be elected leader of the federal Liberal Party. The Italian-born Robitaille, who arrived in Canada in 1973, had a long record of working with Martin and left the party in 2002 to start his own consulting firm. His new firm, Brander Partners, works with municipalities on their economic development.
Robitaille said that there was a significant spike in the number of gun-related calls to police between 2012 and 2016, largely driven by an increase in “civilian access to firearms.”
As of 2018, guns are considered legal by some organizations in Quebec under a statutory defense system. Some ammunition for private gun owners remains unregulated. A recent study found that local law enforcement had processed 454 criminal cases involving illegal gun possession, citing a lack of data.
“I think we have to change our notion of gun control, and to really think about violence prevention in all its forms, not just the gun,” Robitaille said. “Government has an obligation to work together with civil society to prevent violence.”
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When Plante became mayor of Montreal, the city’s homicide rate nearly doubled from its previous low, though it has since returned to its previous rate.
Under Plante, Montreal has been careful to tout its efforts to fight gang violence. The recent murder rate is down 20% in the last year, despite having witnessed more than 50 homicides in the first five months of 2019.
Plante also introduced a bike share program that now boasts 45,000 members. Plante, who is known for her bright, youthful figure, has a driving passion for health and sustainability. She’s also a big fan of fashion, particularly French designer Saint Laurent.
Since Plante took office in 2014, Montreal has seen “200 more women in elected office than the average of a decade earlier,” she said. “That really sends a message to Canadian women that change is possible.”