The RCMP resumed issuing firearms licences again in late May, but were tightlipped about details beyond that.
Asked about the exact start date, the size of the backlog, how long it would take to clear the backlog, and what firearms owners should do if their licence expired while waiting, they replied: “The Canadian Firearms Program has recently initiated the production of licence cards, however, clients may still experience delays due to reduced capacity in our processing site as a result of COVID-19. The Canadian Firearms Program is working diligently to address workloads that may have been impacted as the result of COVID-19.”
Pressed further on the topic, it was suggested firearms owners watch for updates online and renew licences online, if possible.
OFAH Fish and Wildlife Manager Matt DeMille had concerns about the implications of the backlog.
“There are new hunters who took their Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, but still can’t get their licences processed. It typically takes three months for new applicants to get their licences processed even without the backlog we are currently experiencing, and we know CFSC courses won’t be happening until after June 30 at the earliest, so there could be a large group of potential new hunters that will miss their first chance to hunt with a firearm this fall,” he said.
“There are many others who are, or will be, waiting for renewals ahead of the fall hunting seasons. Hunters look forward to hunting seasons months in advance, so they start to get a little anxious when they don’t have certainty in whether their licence will be processed in time.”
Call to extend grace period
Conservative Member of Parliament Glen Motz (Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner), Deputy Shadow Minister for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, said processing started the week of May 20. He said the RCMP was, at that time, about 12,000 licences behind. Motz also heard licence production was behind prior to the pandemic shutdown due to a printer failure. He, nor OOD, were able to confirm that, however.
DeMille was also concerned about gun owners whose licence expired because of the stop in production. “While there is an existing six-month grace period upon expiry that allows you to retain your firearms, it doesn’t allow you to use them during that time. The OFAH is calling on the government to temporarily extend the parameters of the existing grace period or provide some other formal exemption that allows for continued use of firearms by owners who had a valid firearms licence at the time when services were interrupted.”