A Canadian firearms lobby group is using American-style tactics to discredit a Toronto surgeon who is becoming a thorn in the side of gun rights activists, says a survivor of the Parkland shooting in Florida.
Jaclyn Corin, 18, has become a prominent advocate for gun control after experiencing one of the worst mass school shootings in American history, when 17 of her fellow students and staff were gunned down and 17 more injured on Valentine’s Day, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A former student has confessed to the murders.
Corin and other students have channeled their grief, suffering and constant anxiety attacks from that shooting into a push for gun control. Corin is a central figure in the “Never Again” movement and helped organize March for Our Lives, one of the largest youth protests since the Vietnam War. It's a campaign that has prompted fierce opposition from the U.S. National Rifle Association (NRA).
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She told an Ottawa crowd on Friday that the tactics she has observed from the NRA are similar to what is now being deployed by the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights against Dr. Najma Ahmed, a surgeon at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.
The NRA, she said, was “among the most powerful special interest lobby groups in the U.S., with a substantial budget to influence — or bribe — members of Congress on gun policy.”
"It's pretty similar to the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, the CCFR, here (in Canada), which, if you guys didn't know, started a campaign telling members to file complaints against a doctor advocating for stricter gun control — someone that actually sees the results of gunshot wounds, someone that is just trying to save people's lives,” said Corin at the Progress Summit, a public policy gathering organized by the Ottawa-based Broadbent Institute, named after former NDP Leader Ed Broadbent.
In response, the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, declined to say whether it was using NRA tactics. But it denied that it was acting in bad faith, and told National Observer that it believed Corin was using "dismissive and insulting language."
Canadian doctors plan day of action on gun control
Ahmed, the Toronto surgeon, co-founded Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns, a group of largely emergency room physicians. She was on call the night of the Danforth shooting in July 2018, when three people died and 13 others were shot and injured.
She has accused the CCFR of being behind roughly 70 complaints against her that were filed with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. This month, the college, which investigates professional misconduct allegations, dismissed those complaints as “frivolous” and “vexatious.”
Meantime, Ahmed is carrying on.
Her group is spearheading a nationwide Day of Action next Wednesday calling for stricter gun control. The group wants to see the Trudeau government’s Bill C-71 passed.
The bill, which has cleared the House of Commons and is now being considered by a Senate committee, would overhaul the background check system and create new retailer record-keeping rules.
In February, Ahmed testified at the committee looking at C-71, saying the bill was "a small but positive step." She argued that even though Canada's gun fatality rate was five to six times lower than the United States, it was also eight times greater than other peer nations of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Japan and Australia.
"Guns are the vector in this preventable public health crisis. They are the key exposure in this epidemic. Physicians are witnesses to the human toll that guns take on our patients, their families and their communities," she told the committee.
Gun group: shooting survivor's words 'insulting'
The CCFR, however, says Ahmed’s work with the doctors group means she is “moonlighting as a social justice warrior,” and accused her of “verging on narcissism” for “politicizing” the Danforth shooting.
"You would think someone this educated, with a background in the sciences would be more of a critical thinker," the group said about Ahmed on a webpage it has set up about her.
They also say Ahmed's actions detract from “credible work we need to demand on crime, gang violence, mental health and terrorism.” For example, the CCFR believes that the March 26 seizure of 26 firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition is "exactly where the resources being wasted on C-71 should be going."
CCFR CEO and executive director Rod Giltaca told the Senate committee that C-71 was "completely ineffective" as there were "no provisions that address the root causes of violence in our society."
"The idea that Bill C-71 is needed to increase public safety isn’t true. The government has been caught lying and manipulating statistics to support this unnecessary bill," he said.
Asked on Friday by National Observer about Corin’s comment, Giltaca said the school shooting survivor’s words were out of line.
“In place of a civilized debate, the dismissive and insulting language of Ms. Corin and those in the doctor's group is what we've come to expect from them,” said Giltaca.
Giltaca also argued that the College of Physicians and Surgeons’s dismissal of the complaints were not because they were unfounded, but rather “not the forum for this issue.” The college has said it is unusual to receive complaints about advocacy work instead of patient outcomes.
“Whether we believe that complaints to the CPSO was the correct course of action, the doctors have demonstrably spread misinformation and we fear that Canadians believed it without question because they are doctors,” he said. “We believe that lodging complaints with the licensing body was a reasonable course of action.”
This is EXACTLY where the resources being wasted on C-71 should be going. Into programs, and investigations that have real world, tangible results while leaving law abiding Canadians alone.https://t.co/z4SYMgoOpV— CCFR/CCDAF (@CCFR_CCDAF) March 26, 2019
'Anxiety attacks, memorial visits, vacant desks'
This week, the Parkland students were forced once again to confront their grief after the apparent suicides of two students.
"Thousands of people in my community would now have to redefine their new normal,” Corin told the Broadbent crowd Friday. She described never-ending "anxiety attacks, memorial visits, vacant desks.”
In 2017, she said, nearly 40,000 Americans died as a result of guns, or an average of 109 people a day. There were 24 school shootings last year that resulted in gun-related deaths or injuries.
"The worst part is, far too many stories of gun violence go untold or are forgotten back home as American society willingly moves on,” said Corin.
"Young people, specifically those who reside in low socioeconomic areas, grow up with gun violence as their reality. Days without gunshots as their background noise seem unusual.”
Trauma doesn’t disappear.— Jaclyn Corin (@JaclynCorin) March 24, 2019
Perhaps the one thing worse than gun violence, she added, is its normalization in society.
“We are coerced by continual propaganda into believing that this reality cannot be changed, as guns have been completely and totally fused into our culture, largely due to the NRA's influence on American politics."