Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and committee members. My name is Julie Saretsky, and I am the current president of the Alberta Mounted Shooters Association.
I'm here to speak to you about amending Bill C-21 to include the sport of mounted shooting under the elite sports shooter classification or to receive an approved status, similar to the film and television industry, that would allow us to continue to grow and develop our athletes. The recent implementation of the rule that prohibits the sale, transfer or purchase of restricted handguns in Canada has a detrimental effect on the continuation and growth of our sport.
For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, mounted shooting combines target shooting and horsemanship. A team, consisting of a horse and rider, navigates a course of targets against the timer clock. The rider carries two 45-calibre single-action revolvers loaded with black powder blanks that have a maximum distance of 20 feet or six metres. Please note there are no projectiles or bullets, thereby making it a spectator-friendly sport. Our horses are highly trained athletes, and our riders exhibit exceptional riding and gun-handling skills.
Mounted shooting is a family-oriented, multi-generational sport consisting of athletes ranging in age from seven to 77. Many families travel and compete together throughout the year. One example of the family cohesiveness this sport provides is the Litvak family from Stettler, Alberta. The grandparents, Don and Cathy, compete along with their kids and grandchildren on a regular basis.
Children under 18 years of age are called “wranglers” and ride the same pattern as the grown-ups, but mimic the engagement of the targets as if they were shooting real blanks. To help children learn safe gun-handling and sharpshooting skills, along with respect for a firearm, our wranglers ground-shoot, from a stationary position, 10 targets under the direct supervision of a range master and another qualified adult.
Mounted shooting is an important sport that helps youth develop shooting skill sets and proficiencies that help them transition to Olympic and Paralympic shooting events, such as biathlon or target shooting. Additionally, the horsemanship skills gained by participating in mounted shooting help riders go on to participate in Olympic and Paralympic disciplines, such as reining, dressage, vaulting and jumping.
In the demographics of mounted shooters across the world, we'll find mounted shooters in Europe, South America, North America, Australia and New Zealand. In Canada, mounted shooters come from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
The sport of mounted shooting is dominated by women, who make up 65% of active competitors. Additionally, 60% of all competitors, male and female, are 50-plus years of age. In terms of occupations, mounted shooters consist of doctors, RCMP officers, veterinarians, college professors, ranchers, farmers, Canadian Armed Forces personnel, business owners, nurses, corporate executives, city police officers, government employees, mothers, fathers and students, to name a few.
Mounted shooters tend to live in suburban and rural communities. Many mounted shooting events take place in more rural areas. These events are important and contribute to the local economies where these competitions are located. A few examples of competition locations in rural areas are Creston, B.C.; Stavely, Alberta; Carrot River, Saskatchewan; Miami, Manitoba; Blue Mountains, Ontario; and Little Bras d'Or, Nova Scotia.
On the other side of the fence, we compete in, or are invited to demonstrate, mounted shooting at events such as the Calgary Stampede; the Ponoka Stampede; the Agribition in Regina, Saskatchewan; and the Selkirk rodeo.
We help local youth groups raise money for their activities by offering them a paid role in running part of our shooting competitions.
Canada is well represented on the world stage. Since Canadians started competing in mounted shooting in 2004, we have produced many world champions and reserve world champions. Each year, an average of 15 to 20 Canadian competitors attend the world championships.
We are a very safety-conscious group. Before we can become mounted shooters, we must complete training, testing and background checks to obtain our restricted gun licences. At our competitions, safety meetings are conducted at the start of each competition day, and a range master is in the arena at all times to ensure that safe riding and shooting are exercised.
We are a passionate group of competitors who value our community, and we refer to our community as our shooting family.