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e-2656 (Public safety)

Initiated by Kurt Eva from Cambridge, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons

  • Tear gas (CN, CR or CS gas) is a chemical weapon used by police for crowd control;
  • Tear gas was banned in the use of warfare generally by the 1925 Geneva Protocol, and specifically by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention;
  • Tear gas can and has caused death, miscarriage, and significant long term health effects to those exposed to it;
  • Tear gas is an indiscriminate weapon which can affect both targeted individuals and bystanders alike;
  • Tear gas in certain forms can contaminate a surface and continue to be harmful for up to two months;
  • Tear gas has been used numerous times in densely populated major cities in Canada;
  • Tear gas was used in Montreal against protestors on May 31, and only served to increase tensions and provoke violence; and
  • Tear gas used during a global pandemic greatly increases the risk of COVID-19 spread, and is made much more dangerous by those conditions.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to ban the use of tear gas in all its forms in Canada, destroy the stocks of tear gas currently owned by the police and armed forces in Canada, investigate the use of tear gas by the police in Montreal on May 31, and encourage the police to prioritize de-escalation tactics over dispersal and arrest tactics in crowd control actions

Response by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Joël Lightbound, M.P

Only members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who have received specialized training and certification may deploy chemical munitions (i.e., tear gas). General Duty Uniform RCMP members are not trained, certified or permitted to deploy this intervention option, nor do they have access to it. RCMP use of chemical munitions is limited to trained resources within the RCMP Public Order Units and Emergency Response Teams only. Use of chemical munitions is also subject to multiple officer and Critical Incident Commander risk assessments. These risk assessments include such elements as situational factors (e.g., weather), officer perceptions (e.g., perceived threat), subject behaviour (e.g., attempting to cause injury to the public and/or police), and additional tactical considerations (e.g., other options). In the specific case of the deployment of chemical munitions, additional assessments are also undertaken respecting the geography and demographics of the surrounding area (e.g., rural vs. urban, hospitals, schools or other sensitive properties nearby). This option may be used against subjects displaying behaviour that is resistant, assaultive, and/or posing the risk of death or grievous bodily harm. It is common for chemical munitions to be considered in the planning of operations, without them ever being deployed.

The RCMP has not deployed chemical munitions of any type in a public order setting since the Vancouver Riots of 2011. The RCMP prioritizes the use of verbal de-escalation tactics where tactically feasible, including during crowd control activities. The framework encourages officers to prevent and resolve conflict, accommodate and respect differences and interests, and strategize to minimize the need for police intervention. Furthermore, a new Crisis Intervention and De-Escalation Course has been developed and is mandatory for all police officers. The course provides a deeper understanding of conflict and how de-escalation skills are critical to police work with communities. This de-escalation training helps police officers assess risk in crisis situations, and de-escalate these situations more effectively and safely.

The RCMP prioritizes the use of verbal de-escalation tactics where tactically feasible, including during crowd control activities. Finally, the use of chemical munitions on protesters in Montréal on May 31, 2020, involved the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, and is outside of RCMP jurisdiction. The RCMP does not comment on police procedures for other jurisdictions.

Response by the Minister of National Defence

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Anita Vandenbeld

Canada is proud to be a global leader in the reduction and elimination of chemical weapons, and is committed to protecting Canadians and individuals everywhere from these weapons.

National Defence also has a responsibility to ensure that members of the Canadian Armed Forces receive the training and resources they need to accomplish their mission, now and in the future. The use of tear gas is an essential part of the Canadian Armed Forces training, therefore National Defence cannot grant the request of this petition.

The Canadian Armed Forces uses tear gas to teach its members how to properly react to chemical attacks and use protective equipment correctly. Tear gas is used to create realistic training conditions and reassure members that their protective equipment, including masks, will operate effectively against chemical weapons.

In all of its activities, the Canadian Armed Forces takes the security of its members and the public seriously. Training is conducted in a safe and controlled environment, and only personnel who have been fully trained on how to use chemical defence equipment may participate. Stockpiles are stored inside secured and monitored compounds, and are verified quarterly.

Under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Canada has agreed to never use or facilitate the use of chemical weapons as a method of warfare. The Convention, however, allows countries the right to use tear gas for law enforcement, training and defensive research purposes. As such, National Defence’s policy regarding tear gas respects Canada’s commitments and obligations under national and international law.

Every year, the Biological and Chemical Defence Review Committee (BCDRC) visits National Defence sites across Canada as part of its comprehensive verification programme, and provides independent, third party review of the biological and chemical research, development, and training activities undertaken by National Defence. Since its creation in 1971, the Committee has assessed that National Defence activities involving tear gas are always conducted in a professional manner with no threat to public safety or the environment.

National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces will continue to protect Canadians and individuals everywhere from chemical weapons, and will continue to engage the public to increase awareness on the use of tear gas and how it contributes to Canadian Armed Forces readiness.

Open for signature
June 10, 2020, at 9:05 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
September 8, 2020, at 9:05 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Matthew Green (Hamilton Centre)
October 9, 2020 (Petition No. 432-00110)
Government response tabled
November 23, 2020
Photo - Matthew Green
Hamilton Centre
New Democratic Party Caucus