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Freberg tapped as province's first locally-appointed chief firearms officer

Star Phoenix logo Star Phoenix 2020-07-28 Alex MacPherson, Saskatoon StarPhoenix
a man standing in front of a building: SASKATOON,SK--JANUARY 27/2017-0128 news firearms- Robert Freberg, the president of the Saskatoon Wildlife Federation, demonstrates firearms safety while standing for a photograph at the SWF's indoor gun range in Saskatoon, SK on Friday, January 27, 2017. © Liam Richards SASKATOON,SK--JANUARY 27/2017-0128 news firearms- Robert Freberg, the president of the Saskatoon Wildlife Federation, demonstrates firearms safety while standing for a photograph at the SWF's indoor gun range in Saskatoon, SK on Friday, January 27, 2017.
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The Saskatchewan government has named entrepreneur and outdoors enthusiast Robert Freberg as its next chief firearms officer, a post previously filled with federal appointees.

The province’s decision to assert that right — made in response to new gun control measures — is unlikely to affect Ottawa’s gun control agenda, at least not immediately.

“I’m not naive to think that this is going to make any significant changes in the current legislation put forward by the federal government,” Corrections and Policing Minister Christine Tell said.

“(But) we’re counting on him to advocate the effect, the impact, of certain laws and regulations to the federal government so that our voice is continually heard,” Tell added during a conference call on Tuesday.

The appointment is not expected to affect how existing firearms laws and regulations are enforced in the province, since they fall under federal jurisdiction.

The province moved to appoint its own CFO , to provide what Premier Scott Moe called a “sensible” interpretation of firearm laws, this spring in anticipation of Ottawa banning variants of several popular semi-automatic rifles.

While a 2018 University of Saskatchewan poll found 40 per cent of people living in the province favoured stricter gun control , the Saskatchewan Party government has generally opposed new federal measures.

We will take every opportunity that we can to make sure that the status quo does remain, ” Moe said last month.

After Ottawa banned what it called “military-grade assault rifles,” Freberg accused the federal government of “ playing politics ” and capitalizing on the Nova Scotia mass shooting to target law-abiding firearm owners.

“We’ve gone out of our way to make sure that we have licensing, that we have training, that we have safe storage … We’ve complied every single time, and yet here we are under attack again,” he told The StarPhoenix in May.

Speaking to reporters on the same call as Tell, Freberg said he sees his new role — which is expected to start before the end of the year — as more about advocacy than “challenging” planned and existing legislation.

“(It’s) advocating and maybe bringing forth some different solutions, potentially, as some of this legislation is being implemented,” he said, adding that he hopes to represent the views of Saskatchewan gun owners.

At the same time, he wants to improve educational efforts and access to firearms training, as well as “listening to the concerns” of people who favour increased gun control, he said.

“Everyone has a voice in this.”

Firearms became a political flashpoint in Saskatchewan in the summer of 2016, after Gerald Stanley, a white farmer, shot and killed Colten Boushie, a young Indigenous man, on a farm west of Saskatoon.

More recently, the provincial government has taken aim at Ottawa over new gun control measures, including the semi-automatic rifle ban and the federal government allowing municipalities to ban handguns.

This summer, Moe’s government passed legislation preventing municipalities from enacting a handgun ban — even though neither of the province’s two largest cities had indicated any eagerness to do so.

While Freberg has proven to be a fierce advocate for Saskatchewan gun owners’ rights , he has also worked to build bridges between communities amid the debate over gun control.

Most recently, the Saskatoon Wildlife Federation, of which Freberg is a past president and longtime board member, inked a new agreement with the Saskatoon Tribal Council

The deal is expected to give Indigenous youth access to the federation’s programming. Saskatoon Tribal Chief Mark Arcand praised the agreement, saying it will give kids a chance to learn their heritage.

“At the end of the day, it’s pretty awesome to see that we have an organization that wants to reach out and support some of our values as First Nations people,” Arcand said.

“One of the things we realized very early on in the process is that we both have a strong connection to nature, the outdoors, youth and education,” Freberg added.

In addition to dedicating decades to the SWF, Freberg spent 34 years as the chief executive officer of Brigadier Security Systems and Elite Security Systems in Saskatoon.

amacpherson@postmedia.com

twitter.com/macphersona

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