Open letter to Erin O’Toole from Conservative partisans of Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns
Mr. Erin O’Toole
Leader, Conservative Party of Canada
Dear Mr. O’Toole,
We are writing to you as traditional supporters of the Conservative Party of Canada. We are also physicians and members of the non-partisan organization Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG). Each of us has experience in treating some aspect of gun injury and have witnessed the toll this takes on victims, their families and communities, and our public health system.
Mr. O’Toole, we are deeply troubled by your policy approach to addressing gun injury and death in Canada and feel compelled to speak out.
The Conservative Party has a long and proud tradition of prioritizing public safety and social responsibility – and this applies to gun control. A past Conservative government acted on common sense gun control measures after the horrific mass shooting at École Polytechnique. In your current platform, there are promising items on which we agree – reducing the smuggling of guns into Canada and the increasing of mental health supports.
Yet, you have allowed the gun lobby to derail your platform on gun violence as well as your political campaign. The fact is no serious plan to prevent gun violence can include a path to making more than 1,500 semi-automatic assault weapons legal again. These are guns that have the capacity to kill and injure many people in mere moments. Canada is not unfamiliar with these scenes. Banning these guns will save lives. Nor should a serious plan include a proposal to weaken background checks on new gun purchasers, as your commitment to repealing Bill C-71 would do. Certainly, no serious plan promises further changes in consultation with gun manufacturers without acknowledging survivors, physicians, and community advocates.
Gun injury and death are an increasing public health issue in Canada. Consider, Canada ranks 5th among 23 peer countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for age-adjusted firearm mortality, and our mortality rate is 3 times that of Australia and The Netherlands and 8 times that of the United Kingdom and Japan. This issue demands comprehensive, evidence-based policy that takes a harm prevention approach to reducing gun injury and death; 17 health care organization, including the Canadian Medical Association, support this approach.
While shootings in cities, often involving gangs, dominate much of the discourse on this subject these incidents are a tragic but very small proportion of the total number of gun fatalities. Suicides make up approximately 75% of gun deaths, the majority of those being men living in rural areas. Guns are also the most common reported means of killing women and girls in Canada. Accidental shootings, sometimes involving children, happen too. And of course, Canada is not immune to mass shooting events. In addition, for every victim of a gun wound who does not survive, three more suffer long-term injury or mental health impacts.
Finally, and in the face of these facts, it is concerning that you and your team continue to align your gun control policy with discredited Canadian gun lobby groups and their disturbing rhetoric and tactics. Our colleagues throughout the medical community were appalled when the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights attempted to smear the reputation of our colleague and CDPG co-founder, Dr. Najma Ahmed in 2019 with a coordinated campaign of ethics complaints directed at her professional college. The College dismissed these complaints as vexatious and an abuse of process. Since then, spokespeople for both CCFR and the National Firearms Association have repeatedly attacked our members. There cannot be a rational and civil discussion on gun control under these circumstances.
Mr. O’Toole, we must do more to protect our families and communities from gun injury and death. A wide body of evidence suggests this can be achieved through restricting access to guns, among other measures such as addressing the social determinants of health. As physicians and citizens, we implore you to act decisively and be guided by the evidence. That begins by rethinking your relationship with the self-interested gun lobby and revisiting your campaign commitments to weaken Canada’s gun laws.
We would be pleased to review the evidence with you or answer any questions you may have. Thank you.
Dr. Karen Bailey – CDPG member, Hamilton, ON
Dr. Alan Drummond – CDPG Executive member, Perth, ON
Dr. David Evans - CDPG member, Vancouver BC
Dr. John Kortbeek – CDPG Executive member, Calgary, AB
Dr. Derryck Smith – CDPG Executive member, Vancouver, BC