The federal government plans to fast-track a ban on the import of handguns into the country without the approval of Parliament using a regulatory measure that comes into effect in two weeks, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino announced Friday.
The change will last until a permanent freeze is passed in Parliament and comes into force.
The government tabled gun control legislation in May that includes a national freeze on the importation, purchase, sale and transfer of handguns in Canada.
That law did not pass before Parliament took its summer break, and is set to be debated again when MPs return to Ottawa in the fall.
In the meantime, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said she has the authority to ban any import or export permit in Canada.
"Working with Marco, we came up with this idea of creating this new system of requiring permits," Joly said. "But meanwhile, we will deny any permits."
The temporary ban will prevent businesses from importing handguns into Canada, with a few exceptions that mirror those in the legislation tabled in May.
"Given that nearly all our handguns are imported, this means that we're bringing our national handgun freeze even sooner," Mendicino said. "From that moment forward, the number of handguns in Canada will only go down.”
Government trade data shows Canada imported $26.4 million worth of pistols and revolvers between January and June — a 52 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.
PolySeSouvient, a group that represents survivors and families of victims of gun violence, applauded the government's approach to freezing imports in a statement released Friday.
"This is a significant and creative measure that will unquestionably slow the expansion of the Canadian handgun market until Bill C-21 is adopted, hopefully this fall," said Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the École Polytechnique shooting in Montreal in 1989.
Mendicino and Joly announced the change outside of a Catholic elementary school in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, as children kicked soccer balls around in the field behind them.