On July 13, 2021, Saskatchewan RCMP issued a press release noting that RCMP Sergeant Rene Giroux was charged with one count of unauthorized possession of a restricted firearm.[i]
Sergeant Giroux’s Restricted Possession and Acquisition License (RPAL) expired some time prior to January 28, 2021, when someone, perhaps with a personal axe to grind with Sgt. Giroux, reported this fact to police.
Sgt. Geroux was arrested, charged, and voluntarily surrendered the .22 calibre pistol.
Obviously, neither the Crown Prosecutor nor anyone at his RCMP Detachment believes Sergeant Giroux poses any threat to public safety. If they did, he would be suspended with a condition of release stating he cannot possess firearms.
Notably, Sergeant Giroux is still on active duty. He is not suspended with pay, as is standard practice when an RCMP member faces criminal charges.
In this specific instance, this ‘crime’ is, at best, a paperwork infraction, but it points to two larger issues that must be dealt with:
- How the Canadian Firearms Centre deals with soon-to-expire Possession and Acquisition Licences, and
- The double-standard in how the law is applied to a serving police officer versus how it is applied to an ordinary Canadian citizen in the same situation.
In 2007, John Rew faced the same predicament as RCMP Sergeant Rene Giroux. Mr. Rew’s RPAL had expired and, like Sgt. Giroux, he owned Restricted firearms.
Unlike Sgt. Giroux, John Rew did not receive a polite visit from a member of the local RCMP detachment.
On April 16, 2007, John Rew and his family were rudely awakened by a stun grenade fired through his bedroom window by a member of the three SWAT teams assaulting his home.
SWAT team members then breached his home, tackled John Rew to the ground, handcuffed him and hauled him away to jail.
George Jonas, writing for The National Post, said,[ii]
“The authorities shut down Rew’s oilfield business for the day, turning his 20 employees away at the gate. His sister was not allowed entry to tend to their 80-year-old mother who had been devastated by the events of that morning.
Ironically, the next day, April 17, our government announced an extension of the long gun registry amnesty for another year.”
John Holdstock, former BC Wildlife Federation president and long-time advocate for sensible firearm laws prior to his death in 2011, questioned the need for a SWAT team raid because of an expired firearms license.[iii]
“My understanding is that the gentleman’s license expired some time ago, so he was in breach of the law and subject to having his firearms seized.
But does that rate a 3 AM police raid complete with smoke bombs, firearms drawn and masked ERT members brought all the way from Calgary, Drumheller and Red Deer?”
This is not the treatment given to RCMP Sergeant Rene Giroux – nor should it be.
We’re NOT saying he should be treated this way.
We’re saying nobody should face a 4 a.m. SWAT team raid simply because their firearms licence expired.
It is this double-standard that troubles us because CSSA members and other licensed firearm owners are far more likely – should the powers that be decide a police response is desirable – to receive some version of John Rew’s treatment than the kid-glove approach received by Sgt. Giroux.
Yes, each individual has the responsibility to ensure their firearms licence remains current.
Yes, the six-month grace period that CSSA fought to achieve is still in force after surviving the ludicrous repeals contained in the Liberals’ Bill C-71.
However, all of this heartache could be avoided if the Canadian Firearms Program was more pro-active when an individual’s firearms licence nears month five of the renewal grace period.
The two-step solution is so ridiculously simple we don’t understand why it is not standard practice.
Step 1. Generate a report of all firearms licences expiring in the next 30 days for which there is no renewal in process.
Step 2. Call these individuals on the telephone and remind them their PAL/RPAL is about to expire and request they submit a renewal application online by the end of the week.
For those that bemoan the extra costs associated with the phone call, consider the cost of one tactical unit response by the police, not just in dollars but in public goodwill as well.
Back to Sgt. Giroux. Unless facts are being withheld about Sgt. Giroux that show otherwise, charging this RCMP member with a crime and saddling him with a criminal record serves no public good whatsoever.
It merely wastes more court time and potentially ruins a man’s career for no reason.
It’s time to rethink this.