|Firearms rights activist speaks at Coquitlam gun show
By Christopher di Armani
Late last month the Historical Arms Collectors Society of BC held their annual 2-day gun show in Coquitlam. This year's event brought Donna Montague west from her Dryden, Ontario home to speak to BC firearms enthusiasts about the arrest of both herself and her husband Bruce Montague on September 11, 2004.
Donna and Bruce Montague are alleged to own firearms without licenses or registration certificates. Heralded by the Ontario Provincial Police as "dangerous", this quiet unassuming family finds itself at the centre of a constitutional firestorm surrounding the right of Canadians to own firearms.
Donna Montague's ancestry is littered with military men, her family having for five generations sent its young men to fight for Canada. Her great, great, great grandfather, Colonel Adam Konkle was an Empire Loyalist who fought with General Brock in the war of 1812. Colonel Konkle's son, Donna's great, great grandfather, Captain Mathias Konkle fought in the Fenian Raids of Southern Ontario. Donna's grandfather was a Sergeant in World War I, and her father was a Sergeant in World War II.
Standing up for what she believes in is simply a part of her bloodline.
"These people risked their lives, many of our forefathers gave their lives for our rights and freedoms. How can we give them away?" she asks.
"If they're up there looking down, I don't want my great, great grandpa to be ashamed of me".
Husband Bruce is a gunsmith who's clients include law enforcement agencies across North America, and hunters and target shooters from across Canada, including the New Brunswick provincial shooting team. Ironically, he was the gunsmith for the Dryden branch of the Ontario Provincial Police, the same force who arrested him in a highly public manner on September 11, 2004 at the Dryden gun show.
Bruce Montague is one of the activists who burned his firearms licence on Parliament Hill January 1, 2003 in protest of Canada's Firearms Act. Since that time Bruce has been very public in his opposition to the 1995 bill which he says violates the fundamental rights of all Canadians, not just gun owners.
"My opposition to the Firearms Act has very little to do with guns", says Bruce Montague. "It's not about hunting or target shooting, although I do both. It's not about handguns or shotguns, or which is a 'good gun' and which is a 'bad gun'. It isn't even about the billions of dollars wasted on this ill-conceived law. It has to do with one thing and one thing only: Rights. God-given, fundamental human rights. Rights paid for in full with the blood of the fallen men and women to whom we justly pay tribute every November 11th."
Eighteen months after his initial public protest, Bruce Montague found himself hauled out of the Dryden gun show in front of his 12-year-old daughter Katey. The distraught girl found a family friend at the show who called Donna, explained what happened and asked her to come pick up Katey.
Upon Donna's arrival at the gun show, Ontario Provincial Police officers stopped her outside the show and asked her to accompany them to the station after she took care of Katey, which she did. Upon arrival at the Dryden OPP station Donna Montague was also arrested on charges of possession of a firearm without a licence or registration certificate.
Since their arrests both Bruce and Donna Montague have traveled the country telling their story and urging Canadians to help them fight their case. The heart of the case affects every firearm owner in the country, Donna says.
If the Montagues are successful in their Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge to the 1995 bill, the Firearms Act will be essentially struck down, forcing the government "to write a law that actually addresses the criminal use of firearms, instead of harassing farmers, hunters and gun collectors".
While at the Coquitlam gun show, Donna spoke to hundreds of show participants and vendors, explaining to each one how her case affects them all.
One young man came by Donna's booth at the show and said, "I just paid a hundred dollars for this gun, a great deal, and I'm willing to pay another hundred dollars to keep it." He then dropped five twenty dollar bills into the donation jar, smiled, and walked away.
She obviously hit a chord with people as over the two days she was in the lower mainland she raised just over $6,000 for her and Bruce's legal defense fund.
The full story of the arrest, the fund-raising tour and the current state of the Montagues legal battle can be found at http://BruceMontague.ca.
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