2020 Commissioner of Firearms Report
Table of contents
- Message from the Commissioner of Firearms
- Purpose of the report
- Canadian Firearms Program
- Noteworthy in 2020
- CFP contributions to public safety
- Success stories
- Outreach initiatives
- RCMP Canadian Firearms Program
- Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0R2
- 1-800-731-4000 (toll free)
- 1-613-825-0315 (fax)
- Website: Firearms
- Email: email@example.com
- Media Relations
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2021
This publication may be reproduced for internal use only without permission provided the source is fully acknowledged. However, multiple copy reproductions of this publication in whole or in part for purposes of resale or redistribution require prior written permission from the:
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0R2
- Catalogue No: PS96E-PDF
- ISSN: 1927-6923
Message from the Commissioner of Firearms
The Canadian Firearms Program (CFP), under the purview of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), is responsible for administering the Firearms Act and its associated regulations, maintaining national firearm safety training standards, and assisting law enforcement agencies with an overarching goal of enhancing public safety, in support of the Government of Canada's priorities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected the lives and health of all Canadians. As we continue to deal with the pandemic ushering in restrictions, social distancing measures, and quarantining, the CFP reflected on all the challenges it has faced. The greatest impact for the CFP were the lack of automated end-to-end processes that reduced our capacity and ability to respond efficiently to the needs of our clients. In an effort to adapt to the changing environment, the CFP through the implementation of new procedures and ideas was able to reduce the impact to our service offerings.
The CFP is continuously working on ways to modernize its client service delivery by updating business processes and systems (focusing on digitizing online solutions), with the intent of providing a better user experience for clients and employees, decreasing processing times, and reducing paper, telephone, and fax use.
In May, the Government of Canada announced a firearms prohibition, affecting over 1,500 models, as well as their variants. The CFP played a role in the administration of these changes, including sending out a notification to 2.2 million Canadian firearms owners and providing them with access to a link containing a supplementary list on the Firearms Reference Table (FRT) public-facing website, and isolating those FRT records affected by the May 1, 2020, Order in Council (OIC).
For more information on these major events, and a synopsis of statistical data the CFP has gathered throughout the year to demonstrate the CFP's annual activities and achievements, I encourage you to review the following chronicle.
I am pleased to present the 2020 Commissioner of Firearms Report.
Commissioner Brenda Lucki
Commissioner of Firearms
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Purpose of the report
The 2020 Commissioner of Firearms Report summarizes the operational activities and support provided by the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP) to its more than two million licence holders. As required by the Firearms Act, the report is submitted annually to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness for tabling in Parliament.
Canadian Firearms Program
Mission and values
The CFP's mission is to enhance public safety by reducing the risk of harm resulting from the misuse of firearms. Accordingly, the CFP screens individual licencees to confirm their continuous eligibility to possess firearms, and promotes responsible ownership, storage, and use of firearms. The CFP also provides Canadian and international law enforcement agencies with specialized services vital to the prevention and investigation of firearms-related crime.
In pursuit of its mission, the CFP:
- supports the lawful ownership and use of firearms in Canada by regulating firearms licensing and registration, and provides firearms owners with quality service, fair treatment, and protection of confidential information
- recognizes that the involvement of firearms owners and users, firearms businesses, law enforcement agencies, the provinces, the territories, federal agencies, Indigenous communities, safety instructors, and firearms verifiers is essential for effective program and service delivery
- commits to ongoing improvement and innovation to achieve the highest levels of service and user experience
- engages its clients and stakeholders to review and develop policies, and to communicate critical information on Program requirements and results
- manages its resources efficiently to provide good value for money, and
- provides clear and accurate reporting of Program performance and resource management
The CFP works with various national and international partners, including but not limited to:
Public Safety Canada (PS)
The CFP provides firearms-related policy support and technical information.
Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC)
The CFP provides technical guidance on firearms-related questions
Department of Justice (DOJ)
The Criminal Law Policy Section with the support of the RCMP Legal Services Unit, consults the CFP on legal policy development in firearms-related criminal law, and provides advice to the CFP on the interpretation and implementation of firearms-related statutes, regulations, and operational policy.
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC)
The CFP advises on firearms legislation and related issues that are of particular interest to Indigenous people.
Law Enforcement Units
The CFP collaborates with provincial, territorial, and municipal law enforcement units on investigations leading to prosecution of individuals involved in the smuggling, trafficking, and criminal use of firearms.
The CFP assists in preventing the illegal movement of firearms across borders; maintains strong relationships with law enforcement agencies from the United States and INTERPOL; and exchanges firearms tracing information electronically with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
In 1996, the Canadian Firearms Centre was established under the Department of Justice as a stand-alone agency to oversee the Firearms Act. In 2003, it became an independent agency under the Department of the Solicitor General and a Commissioner of Firearms was appointed. In 2006, responsibility for the administration of the Firearms Act and the operation of the Canada Firearms Centre was transferred to the RCMP. In 2008, the RCMP amalgamated the Canada Firearms Centre and the Firearms Support Services Directorate into one integrated group – the Canadian Firearms Program.
Since 2006, the CFP has supported the lawful ownership and use of firearms in Canada by administering the Firearms Act and its regulations, and assisting law enforcement with firearms-related investigations and expertise. The CFP falls under the authority of the Commissioner of Firearms, who is also the Commissioner of the RCMP.
Administration of the Firearms Act
The CFP administers the Firearms Act and related regulations, including the licensing of individuals and businesses through Chief Firearms Officers (CFOs) for each province and territory, and the registration of restricted and prohibited firearms through the Registrar of Firearms (Registrar).
The CFP's national firearms safety education and awareness programs are key for the safe use of firearms. The CFP also works with partner organizations and provincial/territorial governments to disseminate information to firearm owners and users, and to the general public.
2020: Canadian Firearms Program by the numbers
- New Firearms Reference Table (FRT) Entries: 3,554
- Firearms Licence Holders: 2,206,755
- Countries that use the FRT: 194
- Firearms Traced: 2,143
- Pieces of Incoming Mail: 318,002
- Phone Calls Received: 685,096
- Firearms Registered in Canada: 1,165,114
- Email Inquiries Received: 23,921
- Proportion of Firearms Licence Renewal Applications Submitted Online: 70%
- Firearms Licence Renewal Applications Submitted: 307,114
- Canadian Firearms Registry Online Queries Per Day by Law Enforcement: 18,659
Noteworthy in 2020
Firearms Reference Table for law enforcement
The Firearms Reference Table (FRT) is a comprehensive and user-friendly, single-source of firearms reference that provides domestic and international law enforcement officers with information to assist in the identification and description of firearms. The FRT is not a legal instrument but rather an administrative document created and maintained in real time by the RCMP's firearms experts who have, based on criteria in the definitions found in section 84 of the Criminal Code and the supporting Regulations and amendments, conducted technical assessments of firearms. The aforementioned Code and Regulations are the prevailing legal authority with respect to firearm classification.
The FRT is accessible to law enforcement and is updated in real time as a support service to domestic and international policing, firearms tracing, counter-terrorism initiatives, and firearms verification. Only individuals who are authorized by the RCMP can access the online FRT. Authorized users include members of the policing community, specific public agents, and approved firearm verifiers.
The FRT contains approximately 190,000 individual records and is updated regularly. As a trusted firearms identification tool, the FRT is available to all police and regulatory agencies in Canada, and is relied upon by 194 INTERPOL member countries.
Public version of the Firearms Reference Table
In February, a Portable Document Format (PDF) version of the FRT became available to the public on the CFP website in order to increase the transparency of information about firearms. This tool is updated regularly and provides firearms owners with a means to identify the CFP classification determination on the firearms they possess or are seeking to acquire.
In March, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19, an infectious disease spread by a new type of coronavirus, was a global pandemic. COVID-19 caused significant deaths and hospitalizations across the country. A number of offices and businesses closed, and people were strongly encouraged not to socialize with others outside of their household, to wear masks in public, and to stay socially distanced. In October, Canada started seeing a second wave of infections that peaked in December, with far greater daily case counts of COVID-19 than in March. A number of public health measures were implemented in various regions in an effort to minimize the effects of COVID-19.
The CFP experienced significant impacts to its ongoing operations, specifically in the area of service delivery. Throughout the months of March to December, messaging was continually updated on the CFP's website, as well as through the toll-free information line (1-800-731-4000), to inform clients of which service areas were experiencing delays.
To deliver its key services throughout the pandemic, as well as address workloads that were impacted as the result of COVID-19, the CFP increased capacity of front line employees and in other critical functions by drawing on all available staffing mechanisms, and by adopting solutions that would allow for continued access throughout the pandemic. This included:
- Supplying employees with equipment to work remotely where possible
- Providing collaborative tools to employees, such as MS Teams and Cisco Webex for video calls and conferences
- Training employees on new processes and cross training to allow for temporary movement of staff between various units within the CFP as required to process backlogs
- Hiring students through the Federal Student Work Experience Program, which provided additional capacity and support to the existing workforce, and
- Implementing rotating staff schedules to ensure office coverage as required
As limits were imposed on the number of employees who could be present at the workplace in an effort to reduce and prevent the spread of the infectious disease, a number of employees continued to work remotely. It should be noted, however, that some employees remained onsite to perform duties that could not be completed remotely, such as opening mail.
Service Fees Act
In 2017, the Government of Canada introduced the Service Fees Act to replace the User Fees Act. All government departments and agencies that charge fees for services were impacted by this legislation, therefore affecting the CFP. The Service Fees Act increases transparency, accountability, and predictability regarding service fees. It helps to ensure that fees charged to Canadians by federal departments and agencies remain current and better reflect the costs of delivering related services.
The changes in CFP service fees due to the Service Fees Act took effect on March 31, 2020. The CFP services in the table below were adjusted to reflect inflation. The annual rate of inflation is determined by the All-items Consumer Price Index published by Statistics Canada.
|Service name||Licenced activity |
(per the Firearms Fees Regulations)
|Old fee||New fee |
Effective March 31, 2020
|Firearms Licences for individuals||Fees for licences - individuals upgrading from PAL to RPAL |
[Table 1a note 1Note: fee for upgrades is set by Firearms Fees Regulations as 50% of the higher fee]
|Possession and acquisition licence for non-restricted firearms (PAL)||$60.00||$61.32|
|Possession and acquisition licence for restricted firearms (RPAL)||$80.00||$81.76|
|Possession and acquisition licence for prohibited firearms||$80.00||$81.76|
|Firearms Business Licences||Taking in pawn||$250.00||$255.50|
|Retail sale of firearms: selling 50 or more non-restricted firearms||$250.00||$255.50|
|Supplying to, or possessing firearms (other than prohibited firearms referred to in the Firearms Fees Regulations), prohibited weapons and prohibited devices, including replica firearms, for the purposes of, motion picture, video, television or theatrical productions, or publishing activities, other than activities referred to in item 14 of Schedule 2 of the Firearms Fees Regulations.||$250.00||$255.50|
|Retail sale of firearms: selling fewer than 50 firearms, including at least 1 restricted firearm or prohibited firearm||$325.00||$332.15|
|Retail sale of firearms: selling 50 or more firearms, including at least 1 restricted firearm or prohibited firearm||$450.00||$459.90|
|Wholesale sale and manufacturing||$625.00||$638.75|
|Wholesale sale of firearms||$950.00||$970.90|
|Manufacture, processing or assembly of firearms, other than any activity referred to in item 14 of Schedule 2 of the Firearms Fees Regulations.||$1,075.00||$1,098.65|
|Supplying to, or possessing prohibited firearms other than handguns under paragraph (a) of the definition prohibited firearm in subsection 84(1) of the Criminal Code, for the purposes of, motion picture, video, television or theatrical productions, or publishing activities, other than activities referred to in item 14 of Schedule 2 of the Firearms Fees Regulations.||$1,250.00||$1,277.50|
Table 1a note
Government announces a firearms prohibition
On May 1, 2020, the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and Other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited, Restricted or Non-Restricted [Regulations] of the Criminal Code were amended to prescribe as prohibited over 1,500 models of firearms.
Firearms and devices that were prohibited:
- nine (9) types of firearms, by make and model, and their variants;
- M16, AR-10, AR-15 rifles and M4 carbine
- Ruger Mini-14 rifle
- M14 rifle
- Vz58 rifle
- Robinson Armament XCR rifle
- CZ Scorpion EVO 3 carbine and pistol
- Beretta CX4 Storm carbine
- SIG Sauer SIG MCX and SIG Sauer SIG MPX carbine and pistol
- Swiss Arms Classic Green and Four Seasons series (as specified in former Bill C-71)
- firearms with a bore of 20 mm or greater and those firearms capable of discharging a projectile with a muzzle energy greater than 10,000 Joules, and
- the upper receivers of M16, AR-10, AR-15 and M4 pattern firearms
The amendment was part of the Government of Canada's commitment to help remove firearms that are not safe for civilian use from communities and protect public safety. The CFP supported the Minister, through Public Safety Canada, in the administration of these changes. All 2.2 million firearms licence holders in Canada were sent an information sheet by the CFP to inform them of the prohibition, as well as provide them with information about what they should do with their newly prohibited firearm(s)/device(s).
Businesses that were licensed to possess prohibited firearms were also contacted by the CFP to inform them that they will maintain this privilege, but should familiarize themselves with the list of newly prohibited firearms and devices. Newly prohibited firearms and devices are no longer able to be legally sold to individuals, only be transferred to another business that has the appropriate licence activity (privileges), or returned to the manufacturer. While businesses awaited further details on the buy-back program, they were to make efforts to return their inventory back to the manufacturer(s).
To assist the public, the FRT public version was updated with a link to a supplementary list that isolates the FRT records affected by the May 1, 2020 Order in Council. The CFP worked to ensure that the FRT was updated to reflect all of the classification changes resulting from the Order in Council.
An Amnesty Order, expiring April 30, 2022, was also issued by the Government of Canada. This Order protects owners and businesses from criminal liability for unlawful possession of a newly prohibited firearm or device if those individuals were previously in lawful possession of one or more of the newly prohibited firearms or prohibited devices on the day the amendments to the Regulations came into force. This gives individuals time to come into compliance with the law.
The Amnesty also provides for a temporary exception that allows for the continued use of previously non-restricted firearms by Indigenous persons exercising section 35 Aboriginal or treaty rights to hunt and by those who hunt or trap to sustain themselves or their families until a new firearm can be legally obtained.
The Government also announced that it intends to implement a buy-back program, with details coming at a later date.
Announcement of a firearms prohibition
On May 1, 2020, the Government of Canada reclassified the following firearms and devices as prohibited:
- Nine (9) types of firearms by make and model, and their variants
- Firearms with a bore of 20 mm or greater, and those capable of discharging a projectile with a muzzle energy greater than 10,000 Joules
- Upper receivers of M16, AR-10, AR-15 and M4 pattern firearms.
As the holder of a valid firearms licence, you are being contacted by the Canadian Firearms Program as you may be in possession of one of these firearms.
- What this means for you
- An amnesty has been introduced which protects owners who were in legal possession of one or more of these newly prohibited firearms or devices on the day the amendments to the Classification Regulations came into force, May 1, 2020.
- The Government intends to implement a buy-back program and is looking at a range of options. More information on the buy-back program will be available at a later date.
- What you should know about these firearms/devices
- Owners of newly prohibited firearms are to keep them securely stored in accordance with their previous classification
- They cannot be sold or imported
- They may only be transported under limited circumstances
- They cannot be legally used for hunting unless allowed through the Amnesty Order.Footnote 2
- They cannot be used for sport shooting, either at a range or elsewhere.
- What are your options
- Wait for further instructions to participate in the buy-back program
- Have your firearm deactivated by an approved business
- Legally export your firearm, in which case individuals can engage businesses with the proper firearms privileges
- More information
For a list of newly prohibited firearms and information about the announcement or amnesty, go to the Canadian Firearms Program website.
Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19)
Bill C-20, An Act Respecting Further COVID-19 Measures received Royal Assent on July 27, 2020. The Bill recognized that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians were unable to meet expiry dates set out in federal legislation, and there was a need for flexibility in relation to certain time limits. Part 3 of the Bill enacted the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) which authorized the issuance of targeted Ministerial Orders suspending or extending time limits set out in its schedule, including the Firearms Act. Pursuant to the Order Respecting Periods Established by the Firearms Act (COVID-19), which came into force on September 23, 2020, firearms licence expiry dates were extended until December 31, 2020.
As a result:
- If a firearms licence expired between September 23, 2020 and December 30, 2020, the CFP extended the date of expiry for the firearms licence to December 31, 2020. On January 1, 2021, these clients were then granted the established six-month extension on their licence, as set out in the Firearms Act.Footnote 3
- If a firearms licence was within the six-month extension period and the extension period expired between September 23, 2020 and December 30, 2020, the CFP extended the extension period expiry date to December 31, 2020. No further action was taken on January 1, 2021.Footnote 3
- The CFP extended business licences and carrier licences that expired between September 23 and December 30, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
If a licence renewal application was received between September 23, 2020 and December 31, 2020, it was processed as usual.
As a result of the Order, there were an estimated 100,000 licences with expiry dates extended to December 31, 2020.
CFP contributions to public safety
In Canada, an individual must possess a valid firearms licence to be authorized to acquire, use, or own a firearm, as well as to acquire ammunition. The licence requirement does not apply where an individual is using a firearm under the direct and immediate supervision of a valid firearms licence holder.
Under the existing licensing regime, individuals must apply for a licence to the CFO in their province or territory of residence. All applicants are screened to ensure that there are no reasons why, in the interest of public safety, they should not possess a firearm.
There are two main types of firearms licences available to individuals in Canada:
- The Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL), issued to individuals aged 18 and older
- The Minor's Licence, primarily issued to individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 to use, but not acquire, a firearm
Subsection 5(1) of the Firearms Act provides that a person is not eligible to hold a firearms licence if it is not desirable in the interests of safety of the individual, or any other person. Subsection 5(2) of the Firearms Act sets out criteria that must be considered by CFOs (or a provincial court judge on a reference hearing) in determining eligibility to obtain a licence or in determining a person's continuous eligibility to hold a licence. These criteria include: whether the person has been treated for a mental illness associated with violence, has a history of violent behaviour, or has been convicted or discharged of certain Criminal Code offences.
As of December 31, 2020, there were 2,206,755 licensed individuals across Canada, which includes both PAL holders and individuals who hold a Minor's Licence (Table 1).
|Province or territory||PAL||Minor's licence||Total|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||75,488||469||75,957|
|Prince Edward Island||6,444||20||6,464|
The total number of licensed individuals declined 0.6% in 2020, which is not consistent with the usual trend of a year-over-year increase (Table 2). This decline is likely attributable to impacts stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the availability of firearms safety training course offerings and a reduction in the number of applications received overall. In addition, the Central Processing Site was operating at a reduced capacity, which resulted in delays in the processing of new applications for a firearms licence.
In 2020, the CFP issued 400,921 individual licences, including new licences and renewals for Possession and Acquisition Licences and new Minor's Licences (Table 3). A breakdown of licences issued in 2020 by province and territory is represented in Table 4.
|Licence type||Licence count|
|Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL)||397,838|
|Province or territory||Acquisition Licence||Minor's Licence|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||1,343||11,074||186||0|
|Prince Edward Island||183||925||8||0|
A firearms licence allows an individual to obtain, possess, and use firearms that fall into three different categories of privileges: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. Individuals who want to own non-restricted firearms must complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC). In order to obtain restricted and/or prohibited privileges on a licence, an individual must successfully complete the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC). In 2020, there were 1,506,736 Possession and Acquisition Licences with non-restricted privileges, 646,432 with restricted privileges, and 45,079 with prohibited privileges (Table 5).
|Province or territory||Non-Restricted||Restricted||Prohibited||Unassigned|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||68,190||6,784||513||1|
|Prince Edward Island||4,615||1,654||175||0|
|Note: Possession and Acquisition Licence holders are able to obtain multiple privileges. These numbers represent the maximum privileges a client holds.|
Table 5 note
A business, museum or organization that manufactures, sells, possesses, handles, displays, or stores firearms or ammunition must have a valid firearms business licence. Employees who handle firearms for these businesses must also have valid firearms licences, and be listed as employees on the business licence. All restricted and prohibited firearms in a business inventory must be registered. CFOs perform periodic business inspections to verify safe and lawful business practices and proper firearms storage. The CFP offers businesses the option of performing firearms registrations and transfers through the Business Web Services online portal. As of December 31, 2020, there were 4,154 firearms businesses (not including carriers and museums) in Canada licensed under the Firearms Act. Of these, 1,740 were licensed to sell only ammunition (Table 6).
The number of business licences decreased 6.4% in 2020, due in part to the effects of COVID-19 on small businesses, as well as popularity of online firearm sales. Firearms purchased by clients through the Internet and not in-person at a retail establishment contributes to small businesses eventually disappearing from the market.
|All business licences||4,495||4,478||4,442||4,437||4,154|
|Excluding museums and carriers|
Shooting clubs and ranges
CFOs approve and perform inspections of shooting clubs and ranges within their jurisdictions to ensure safe operation and compliance with the Firearms Act. Standards set out in the Firearms Act and the Shooting Clubs and Shooting Ranges Regulations are intended to ensure the safety of members, visitors and the general public. The CFP develops and implements range safety measures and reviews range safety inspection reports to improve guidelines, procedures and tools used by Firearms Officers for shooting range inspections. It also reviews range applications, conducts quality control checks, provides feedback on inspection reports and requests or conducts follow-up inspections as required. In 2020, there were approximately 1,245 shooting ranges in Canada.
Firearms licence application refusals
Under the Firearms Act, CFOs are authorized to refuse an application for a firearms licence based on their assessment of the applicant's potential risk to public safety.
In 2020, there were 1,112 firearms licence applications refused for various public safety reasons (Tables 7 and 8). An individual may challenge any licence application refusal by applying to a provincial court for a reference hearing, unless the individual has been prohibited from owning firearms through a court-ordered firearms prohibition. As part of the CFP's mandate to promote public safety, firearms licence applicants are screened to assess their eligibility to possess a firearms licence. After a firearms licence is issued, continuous eligibility screening is conducted over the term of the licence. Information of concern that is brought to the attention of a CFO may bring an individual's eligibility to hold a licence into question. That individual might then be subject to review and further investigation (Table 8).
Table 7 note
As part of the CFP's mandate to promote public safety, firearms licence applicants are screened to assess their eligibility to possess a firearms licence. After a firearms licence is issued, continuous eligibility screening is conducted over the term of the licence. Information of concern that is brought to the attention of a CFO may bring an individual's eligibility to hold a licence into question. That individual might then be subject to review and further investigation (Table 5).
|Potential risk to others||397|
|Potential risk to self||234|
|Provided false information||319|
|Unsafe firearm use and storage||29|
Table 8 note
Firearms licence renewals
Under the Firearms Act, firearms licence holders are responsible for renewing their licences prior to expiry. The CFP facilitates this process by sending renewal notices to licencees approximately 90 days prior to the expiry of their current licence. As a condition of their licence, licencees are legally required to advise the CFO of any address changes, which helps to ensure they receive the renewal notice.
A total of 383,367 individual PAL licences expired in 2020 (Chart 1). There were 50,795 expired licences with a restricted or prohibited firearm registered to them at the time of expiration. Of these expired licences, 46,921 licence holders renewed them. However, 3,874 licence holders did not renew them (Chart 2). The CFP works internally and with program partners to follow up on those individuals who do not renew their licences to determine the current status of their firearms.
The CFP provides an option for online licence renewal on their website. While the number of online renewal applications has risen year-over-year, uptake has been slower than expected. The use of online renewal services has increased across every age group; however, individuals over the age of 60 are still much more likely to complete a paper application (41-65%) than those 59 and younger. Additionally, individuals with addresses in rural areas are less likely than those in urban areas to renew online.
In 2017, the Governor in Council brought into force an amendment to the Firearms Act, which provides firearms owners an automatic six-month extension period for a firearms licence that has not been renewed before the expiry date. During the extension period, a firearm owner is not allowed to use their firearms or acquire firearms or ammunition until the licence is renewed. More information on the six-month extension period can be found on the CFP's website.
Chart 1 - Text version
|Year||Renewing licence count|
|Renewed||Did not renew|
Chart 1 note
- Chart 1 note 7
Note: Anomalies in 2020 Renewal statistics are attributed to a backlog in the processing of applications due circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chart 2 - Text version
|Year||Renewing licence count|
|Renewed||Did not renew|
Chart 2 note
- Chart 2 note 8
When a licence has expired, a registration certificate is revoked and a revocation notice is sent to the licence holder. If there is no change in the licence holder's file, a report is sent to the police of jurisdiction for follow-up. Non-renewals could be associated with a licence holder having disposed of his/her firearm(s), moved outside Canada, or passed away.
Continuous eligibility screening of firearms licence holders
At any point during an individual's licence validity period, an event could occur that prompts a review of their eligibility to hold a firearms licence.
If a firearms licence holder is involved in an event which could affect their eligibility (as determined under section 5 of the Firearms Act), it is reported by law enforcement via the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database and sent to the relevant CFO for review. An event can also be reported by individuals using the CFP's 1-800 number. In these cases, a CFO is authorized to investigate the incident to determine whether the licence holder remains eligible to hold a licence. Courts may also order a firearms prohibition under sections 109 or 110 of the Criminal Code that do not require CFO authority/intervention.
Firearms licence revocations
Under the Firearms Act, CFOs are authorized to revoke a firearms licence based on their assessment of the licence holder's risk to public safety. There were 2,888 firearms licences revoked in 2020 (Tables 9 and 10). Similar to licence application refusals, an individual may challenge a licence revocation by applying to a provincial court for a reference hearing, unless the revocation is the result of a court-ordered firearms prohibition. As a result, some of these revocations may have been referred to, or overturned by, the courts since the initial revocation.
Firearms licence application refusals and firearms licence revocations are recorded in the CFP's CFIS national database. Individuals who have an application refused or a licence revoked cannot evade this decision by moving from one municipal or provincial/territorial jurisdiction to another.
Table 9 note
|Potential risk to others||925|
|Potential risk to self||753|
|Provided false information||176|
|Unsafe firearms use and storage||143|
Table 10 note
Firearms prohibition orders for individuals
Under section 89 of the Firearms Act, every court, judge, or justice that makes, varies, or revokes a firearms prohibition order must notify the CFO in their jurisdiction. Firearms licence applicant screening includes checking whether an applicant is subject to a prohibition order. A prohibition order prevents an individual from legally possessing a firearm for a specified period of time and results in the refusal of a firearms licence application or the revocation of a firearms licence. Under section 113 of the Criminal Code, special provisions may be made for an individual against whom a prohibition order is made, to possess a firearm if they are able to establish to the satisfaction of a competent authority that they require a firearm for the purpose of hunting or trapping in order to sustain themselves or their family, or for employment. As of December 31, 2020, there were 480,667 individuals prohibited from possessing firearms (Chart 3).
Chart 3 - Text version
Chart 3 note
- Chart 3 note 11
Note: Data generated from CPIC. Prohibition orders are for a specified period of time and can carry over from year to year. The totals reflect ongoing prohibition orders and not only those that are newly issued.
All firearms fall into one of three classes, as defined in subsection 84(1) of the Criminal Code:
- Non-restricted firearms - typically shotguns and rifles
- Restricted firearms - predominantly handguns, and
- Prohibited firearms - certain handguns and fully automatic or converted automatic firearms
All restricted and prohibited firearms in Canada possessed by individuals or businesses must be registered. However, before a firearm can be registered for the first time, it must be verified. Verification is the process used by an approved verifier to confirm the identification and class of a firearm. The CFP, through the Registrar of Firearms, coordinates the National Verifiers Network. The National Verifiers Network authorizes verifiers and responds to all inquiries about becoming a certified verifier.
Applicants who wish to register a firearm must have a firearms licence allowing them to possess the corresponding class of firearm. In other words, a firearms licence with the appropriate privileges is required to register a restricted or prohibited firearm. When a registered firearm is transferred to a new owner, the Registrar of Firearms will issue a new registration certificate if the new owner is eligible to possess that class of firearm. The registration certificate number links a firearm to its licensed owner in the CFIS database. As with the firearms licensing data, a subset of registration information can then be accessed by law enforcement agencies via CPIC.
As of December 31, 2020, there were 1,165,114 restricted or prohibited firearms registered to individuals or businesses in Canada (Tables 11 and 12). The decline is due to the administrative expiry of approximately 100,000 restricted firearms registration records in May, as a result of the Prohibition Order of May 1, 2020.
Table 11 note
|Province or territory||Restricted||Prohibited||Total|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||8,302||1,467||9,769|
|Prince Edward Island||2,714||744||3,458|
Table 12 note
Firearms registration application refusals and certificate revocations
The Registrar of Firearms has the authority to refuse firearm registration applications and revoke registration certificates based on a failure to meet the eligibility criteria under the Firearms Act. In 2020, there were 16 firearm registration applications refused and 4,630 firearm registration certificates revoked (Table 13).
|Year||Applications refused||Certificates revoked||Total|
Table 13 note
To be licensed to acquire firearms in Canada, individuals must demonstrate awareness of the principles relating to the safe handling and use of firearms, and familiarity with firearms law. To be eligible for a non-restricted firearms licence, an individual must successfully complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) facilitated by the certified provincial instructors throughout Canada. In order to be eligible for a restricted firearms licence, an individual must successfully complete both the CFSC and the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC). The CFSC and the CRFSC are fundamental firearms-education and safety-training components of the CFP. The CFP is responsible for the continued development, implementation, evaluation, and revision of national firearms safety standards, the CFSC, and the CRFSC.
The CFSC was developed in partnership with the provinces and territories, national organizations with an ongoing interest in firearms safety, and many firearms instructors from across Canada. The content of this course is overseen by the CFP and approved by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
National Weapons Enforcement Support Team
The National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST) is a partnership between the RCMP and Canadian municipal and provincial police services in support of law enforcement to counter the illegal movement of firearms into and across Canada. NWEST provides technical expertise in support of police operations including assistance with firearms identification, and the preparation and execution of search warrants and prohibition orders.
Throughout the year, NWEST contributed to many projects and investigations in an effort to remove illegal firearms from Canadian communities. Examples of such work include:
- An investigation that began as a result of a call from a concerned firearms business about an individual who was trying to purchase firearm components when they believed he was prohibited from possessing firearms. NWEST was consulted and confirmed that the individual did have a firearms prohibition order. NWEST provided technical information to support the police of jurisdiction in drafting a search warrant, which was executed on the individual's residence. Firearms, firearms parts, ammunition, magazines, 3D-printed brass knuckles, and computers were seized. NWEST followed up in providing investigative guidance concerning the 3D-printed objects.
- An investigation involving an altercation between two groups of people, which resulted in a suspect firing a bullet into the building in which one of the groups was located. All of the individuals fled the scene before the police of jurisdiction arrived, but the police learned the identity of the male shooter and were able to stop him in his vehicle. A search of the vehicle located 3D-printed magazines, ammunition, other firearms parts, and computers. A second male suspect was arrested outside of his residence and found to be in possession of a 3D-printed Glock lower receiver. NWEST provided assistance by obtaining search warrants, which resulted in the seizure of a 3D printer, illegally-manufactured firearm parts, and ammunition. NWEST members provided expertise identifying the 3D-printed equipment, as well as charge recommendations.
- An investigation of an individual arriving in Canada via watercraft, who was searched by the RCMP after they were alerted by the CBSA, and was discovered to be smuggling nine handguns and various magazines. NWEST provided assistance in determining the classification of the handguns and magazines as prohibited, provided a list of applicable charges, provided direction on how to process the prohibited devices as exhibits, and initiated traces on the firearms.
- An investigation of a cross-border drug smuggling group who were utilizing Canadian helicopters, which saw six search warrants executed, resulting in the seizure of 19 firearms that were smuggled from the United States. NWEST provided assistance by identifying and classifying the firearms and ammunition, initiating trace requests, providing a list of applicable charges, and providing guidance for further search warrants.
- A cocaine smuggling investigation in which two residences and one business were searched, resulting in the seizure of 31 firearms and over 20,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as cash and controlled substances. NWEST provided assistance by identifying and classifying all of the firearms and ammunition, provided expert witness testimony for court purposes, and arranged for serial number restoration on some of the firearms.
Firearms Internet Investigations Support Unit
The Firearms Internet Investigations Support Unit (FIISU) conducts open-source internet investigations in support of CFOs regarding firearms licensing, firearms licence renewals, and the continuous eligibility of individuals to possess a firearms licence. FIISU strictly adheres to acceptable user policies around internet open source investigations, including investigative activities, adherence to mandate and collection and storage of data. FIISU also coordinates and collaborates with law enforcement agencies at the municipal, regional, provincial/territorial, federal, and international levels to assist in the collection of case-specific information pertaining to ongoing law enforcement investigations.
FIISU was an integral player in the effort to prevent school shootings in 2020. FIISU worked with multiple partner agencies to identify individuals who have indicated in some manner, through their social media accounts, that they posed a risk to schools. FIISU provided expert Internet investigative services in the following two investigations, as well as many others:
- In March 2020, FIISU was made aware of a threat toward a school in Ontario from their partner agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the Unites States. FIISU used the information provided by the ATF to locate the threat, which had been made through the social media platform Twitter. Using open-source searching techniques, FIISU determined the Twitter account was fraudulent, and did not constitute a legitimate threat. FIISU's confirmation that the threat was actually a hoax, prevented the need for intervention from front-line police.
- In September 2020, the ATF provided FIISU with information about a threat toward a school in Ontario. FIISU worked with the ATF to locate the threat, which had also been made through the social media platform, Twitter. Once the perpetrator of the threat was identified, FIISU used a combination of database searches as well as open-source queries to locate the person of interest identified as an individual in the Ottawa area. FIISU notified the police of jurisdiction, who provided immediate, urgent intervention, which prevented the individual from harming anyone at the school.
Chief Firearms Officers and the Integrated Firearms Trafficking Team
Pursuant to the Firearms Act and related regulations, CFOs have the authority to: issue or deny firearms licences; grant authorizations to transport and/or carry firearms; aid in the transfer of restricted and prohibited firearms between individuals and/or businesses; inspect and grant approvals to shooting clubs and ranges; and choose instructors for firearms safety courses; as well as other functions.
Due to an investigation resulting from the collaboration of the CFOs in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia/Yukon, and Alberta's Integrated Firearms Trafficking team, an individual was arrested for firearms offences in September 2020.
The investigation began when the CFO of Ontario alerted the CFO of British Columbia/Yukon that a shipment of ammunition had been purchased from a retailer in Ontario, using Possession and Acquisition Licences (PAL) from two clients: one in Alberta and one in Yukon. The CFO of British Columbia/Yukon informed the CFO of Alberta of the suspicious purchase. The actual PAL holders were then contacted and both confirmed they were not involved in the purchase of the ammunition. The ammunition shipment was destined for Alberta, which resulted in Alberta's Integrated Firearms Trafficking team becoming involved in the investigation.
During the course of the investigation it was determined that the suspect had purchased illegal copies of the PALs on the dark web. A search warrant was executed at the home of the suspect, resulting in the seizure of three firearms, various ID cards, credit card information, credit card readers, blank credit cards and ammunition.
The CFP is engaged in providing outreach services to members of the Canadian public, businesses, and other policing agencies, through diverse methods such as working groups, presentations, and training sessions. In 2020, the CFP provided many outreach services, despite the limitations imposed by COVID-19. The following are examples of various outreach activities undertaken by various offices of the CFP.
National Weapons Enforcement Support Team
In an effort to enhance public safety and provide support to businesses, NWEST, in partnership with the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association (CSAAA) and the Vancouver Police Department, is developing a training video for firearms retailers to assist them in identifying and reporting individuals who are exhibiting behaviors indicative of straw purchasing. Straw purchasing is a criminal act in which an individual with a valid firearms licence purchases firearms for someone without a licence, or who is prohibited from owning firearms. This video, unique to the CFP, will be made available to firearms retailers in 2021.
Members of NWEST in Alberta met monthly in 2020 to lead the Integrated Firearms Trafficking Working Group (IFTWG). The IFTWG includes participants from multiple law enforcement agencies who come together to share information with the goal of identifying firearms traffickers, in support of the Government's mandate to combat straw purchasing.
NWEST also assisted the Ontario Police College (OPC) in 2020 with the development of a specialized course titled "Firearm Analyst Course". This course will be delivered in 2021 as part of the OPC accredited training curriculum for employees of law enforcement who require the skills necessary to prove that a firearm meets the definition in section 2 of the Criminal Code.
Chief Firearms Officer of Ontario
The London office of the CFO of Ontario partnered with the Alzheimer's Society of Oxford in 2020 to create an information pamphlet for firearms owners and their family members about dementia. The pamphlet provides information related to dementia, such as: early signs and symptoms, how to start conversations with family members, and how to help the person with dementia make a plan to safely remove or transfer their firearms. The pamphlet also provides options and resources for the Power of Attorney, if the individual with dementia is no longer able to make the decisions on their own. The pamphlet will be distributed in the London/Oxford area in 2021.
Specialized Firearms Support ServicesThe Specialized Firearms Support Services (SFSS) unit is a centre of expertise for the identification and description of firearms in Canada. The unit is regularly called upon to provide technical firearms information and advice to both domestic and international governments and working groups. The unit maintains and updates the FRT, its primary tool to support law enforcement. There were 3,554 new entries added to the FRT in 2020. In March 2020, SFSS delivered FRT and firearms familiarization training to law enforcement officers in Edmonton through the Firearms Examiners (FE) course. The FE course is organized and hosted by various police agencies across the country, and normally held in Ontario. The course provides training on the basic safe handling of firearms, familiarity with various types/actions and the proper procedures/protocols for identifying firearms. Law enforcement participants also learn to apply the Canadian identification standard to derive an accurate identification using the internationally recognized FRT. Typically this training is provided to law enforcement two to four times a year.
Firearms Research and Indigenous Initiatives
The Firearms Research and Indigenous Initiatives (FRII) group manages CFP research initiatives and specializes in firearms control issues among Indigenous people, as well as analyzes firearms data to summarize Canadian firearms patterns and trends. The FRII unit promotes and tailors service delivery arrangements through an outreach initiative that facilitates Indigenous participation in the firearms program. Key instruments of this strategy are the contribution agreements supported by the Aboriginal and/or Other Communities and Organizations (not-for-profit) Funding Program, or AOCO.
These agreements establish a basis for service delivery arrangements that build upon collaborative relationships between Indigenous communities and organizations, the RCMP, and CFOs from across the country. The services include delivery of the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) in community class settings and in educational institutions, assisting safety certified individuals in applying for a firearms licence, supporting local communications networks that help raise public awareness of firearms safety and firearms legislation, and training Indigenous people as firearms safety instructors and examiners who, once designated by a CFO of jurisdiction, are in a strategic position to provide culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate firearms services year-round to their communities.
Over the period 2016 to 2020, the number of contribution agreements approved by the RCMP and implemented by the recipients increased dramatically from 1 to 27, with a corresponding increase from 15 to 97 communities participating in the delivery of safety training and related firearms services.
By 2020, the number of safety courses delivered increased from 20 to 238. Local communications and administration facilitated an increase of 180 to 2,300 students who registered for the safety courses, successfully completed them, and were subsequently safety certified. This means that 2,300 more individuals from Indigenous communities became eligible to apply for a firearms licence. To acknowledge this achievement, over two thousand trigger locks were distributed to these firearms licence applicants and to other community members who own or use firearms, to enhance their safe storage.
Finally, some communities tapped the potential of contribution agreements to become instruments of community development and capacity building. The 34 community members who were trained and certified as firearms safety instructors and examiners were a welcome addition to a community's stock of human resources and expertise dedicated to the promotion and protection of public safety.
The CFP, Canada's centre for firearms expertise, continues to demonstrate its commitment to enhancing firearms safety, combatting firearms-related crime, and promoting the responsible ownership, use, and storage of firearms.
The CFP provides law enforcement agencies and other organizations with the operational and technical support they need to prevent and investigate firearms crime in Canada and internationally. In 2020, the CFP worked to reduce the risk of firearms‐related death and injury by promoting firearms safety training, and by thoroughly and continuously screening firearms licence applicants and holders. The safety of Canadians is the CFP's top priority.
- Footnote 2
Exceptions are included under the Amnesty Order to allow for the continued use of the newly prohibited firearms and/or devices (if previously non- restricted) by individuals who hunt or trap to sustain themselves or their families, and by Indigenous persons exercising Aboriginal or treaty rights to hunt. At the end of the amnesty period, all firearm owners must comply with the new law.
- Footnote 3
The extension to the expiry date of the licence did not occur if the CFP received a licence renewal application which was logged in the Canadian Firearms Information System (CFIS) on or before September 23, 2020.
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