A House of Commons committee will be asked Monday to censure the National Firearms Association (NFA) over comments the association’s president made in a recent conference call, Global News has learned.
In the meantime, the NFA has been preparing since July to run “custom attack ads” against Liberal members of Parliament it hopes to help defeat in the next general election.
The office of the House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms, which is responsible for the safety and security of all MPs, has also been alerted to the comments made Wednesday by NFA president Sheldon Clare. It is being pressed, sources tell Global News, to consider those comments in the context of several threats made against MPs in the last year, including an attack against the residence of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last July and threats made to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in September.
On Wednesday, during a video podcast hosted and organized by the NFA, Clare referred to a phone call he received from an unnamed person who, he said, “suggested that we needed to revisit our old woodworking and metalworking skills and construct guillotines again. And that would really be the best kind of committee of public safety, to get that re-established. They want to make it about public safety… that’s what this person told me.”
The reference to guillotines, Liberal MP Pam Damoff said in an interview Friday from her Ontario riding of Oakville North — Burlington, is impossible to ignore in the context of riots in January by pro-Trump mobs. Guillotines and scaffolds with a hanging noose were set up outside the U.S. Capitol and in some state capitols.
“I was extremely concerned when I saw it,” Damoff said. “To have people joking like this, especially after what happened in the U.S., it’s frightening.”
“If they think that I have advocated violence in any way, they should have me charged. And I certainly have not ,” Clare said. “I’ve merely related comments from upset people who have a real big problem with tyranny. And I think that the virtue-signaling woke liberal left has a problem with being called out as being tyrants.”
Damoff has been a frequent critic of the NFA and its tactics since she was elected in 2015, partly in response to the fact that the NFA’s executive director Charles Zach has frequently singled out Damoff when he criticizes the Trudeau government’s policies. In January, for example, he distributed a demeaning caricature of Damoff and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland in social media posts on his own account and on accounts operated by the NFA.
Zach participated in Wednesday’s podcast and can be seen chuckling at Clare’s reference to guillotines.
Zach, who is a board member of the Conservative Party of Canada’s riding association for Damoff’s GTA riding, said in a telephone interview Friday that he is unapologetic about using his organization’s resources to try to defeat Liberal MPs, including Damoff.
He described Damoff as “a rabid anti-gun civil disarmamentalist.”
Damoff won a relatively comfortable victory in 2019, beating her Conservative rival by more than 10 percentage points.
Zach, in an e-mail he sent in July soliciting help from paid political consultants, said the NFA was seeking to defeat Liberals with less comfortable winning margins than Damoff had in 2019.
“We are ramping up a campaign to run in the next federal election against Liberal candidates who won by a slim margin in the last election to give the CPC candidates a leg up,” Zach wrote in a July e-mail sent to one or more unknown political consultants. “We want to run custom attacks ads in each of these riders (sic) in pre and post writ period.”
A copy of that e-mail was provided to Global News.
Zach confirmed that campaign and said that ads will be micro-targeted using social media to ridings where Liberals won by a small margin. Zach would not say which specific MPs his organization is mobilizing against, though he said it would be ridings in both English and French Canada.
There are 17 ridings across the country where the Liberal candidate won by three percentage points or less in the 2019 election. Among those outside large urban areas: Larry Bagnell won in Yukon by 0.7 per cent; Lenore Zann won in Cumberland–Colchester (NS) by one per cent; Pat Finnigan won in Miramichi–Grand Lake (NB) by 1.1 per cent and Neil Ellis won Bay of Quinte (ON) by 2.4 per cent. In each of those races, the Conservative finished second.
“We’re locked and loaded,” Zach said, noting that his use of metaphor was intentional. “I’m representing the gun community. That’s the kind of rhetoric that we throw around. And I say that unapologetically and unabashedly.”
The NFA was running ads on Facebook as recently as Feb. 16 but does not have any current ads on that social media network, according to Facebook’s ad inventory disclosures for the NFA.
Third parties are permitted to run political ads without any limits on spending at any time outside of election campaigns. Third parties need not report any spending on advertising that occurs outside a regulated period.
In the weeks just ahead of a fixed election date campaign and during any election campaign, other rules kick in for third parties, sharply restricting their spending and forcing them to register with Elections Canada.
Zach on Friday said the NFA intends to continue advertising during the next election campaign.
The organization believes that only a change to a Conservative government can bring about the legislative changes it is seeking.
“We’re looking for some substantive changes to these ineffective political gun laws that basically do nothing for crimes, but only harass law-abiding Canadian firearms owners like myself,” Zach said. “Our members are mad.”
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