Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Conservative MP David Yurdiga, all kitted out for the bright lights of Ottawa (Photo: Facebook).

It is an actual fact that Alberta MP David Yurdiga launched a petition yesterday calling on the House of Commons to stop using the term “assault rifle” to describe assault rifles.

Mr. Yurdiga is a member of the Conservative Party of Canada, naturally.

United Conservative Party Calgary-North MLA Muhammad Yaseen (Photo: Cochrane Now).

He was elected to the House of Commons in 2014 and has been rarely heard from since, so it’s a relief to know he’s OK and hasn’t gone missing in the fleshpots of the National Capital Region.

The former Reeve of Athabasca County hails from the southern part of the vast region that used to be known in respectable Alberta circles as the Athabasca Tarsands.

That was before Conservative cancel culture, which is to say the original cancel culture, decided we needed to call those vast deposits of tarry sand “oilsands” instead, it being thought oil sounded more respectable than tar. In the era of renewable energy, that ain’t necessarily so, but as they say in Ottawa, je digresse.

The Hon. Member for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake argues in his petition that “the term ‘assault rifle’ was created by anti-gun groups to scare people and demonize firearm owners.”

Now as it happens, this is not even remotely true. 

The term assault rifle was almost certainly created by the German Army, circa 1944. It is often attributed to Adolf Hitler himself, making this one of the few occasions one can mention the late German dictator in connection with Canadian politics with an absolutely clear conscience! 

Not being English speakers like most of us around here in Wild Rose Country, the Germans called the weapon a Sturmgewehr, presumably because that means “assault rifle” in German. 

St. Mary’s University history professor Blake Brown (Photo: Twitter).

Whoever was responsible for bringing the term over to the English language – suitably translated, of course – firearms manufacturers in the United States had no problem adopting it and making it popular. 

“The term was first adopted by the manufacturers, wholesalers, importers and dealers in the American firearms industry to stimulate sales of certain firearms that did not have an appearance that was familiar to many firearm owners,” wrote Phillip Peterson, the author of Gun Digest Buyer’s Guide to Assault Weapons in 2008.

“The manufacturers and gun writers of the day needed a catchy name to identify this new type of gun,” the Indiana firearms dealer explained.

It was gun dealers too who appear to have brought the term to Canada. Leastways, as St. Mary’s University history professor Blake Brown pointed out in the Globe and Mail last year, advertisements for “assault rifles” showed up in exotic places like Calgary, Edmonton and Regina in 1976, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986 and 1990. 

“However,” Dr. Brown noted, “in the 1990s the firearms community suddenly developed an allergy to calling any civilian firearm an assault rifle.” In Canada, the proximate cause of this desire to stop calling assault rifles assault rifles was the massacre of 14 young women engineering students at the École Polytechnique in in Montreal in 1989 by a man using an assault rifle. 

Mr. Ed, the famous talking horse (Photo: Found on

The reasons for their desire to drop a term previously popular in their circles are painfully obvious. It is flatly untrue to say, as Mr. Yurdiga’s petition does, that it was the work of “anti-gun groups” seeking to frighten Canadians with “scary looking features such as pistol grips or collapsible stocks that can be added to any firearm.” 

Nor is it true, as Mr. Yurdiga claims, that banning assault rifles “does not address the root cause of gun crime, gang violence and gun smuggling.” However, that at least is a point the efficacy of which can be argued about, unlike the origin of the term “assault rifle,” which is settled by history. 

Mr. Yurdiga or an aide could have discovered all this with a few minutes using Google or another online search engine. Or, had he wanted to take a deeper dive into the topic, he could have made use of the excellent research facilities and 300 staff of the Library of Parliament, which was established in 1876 to “provide customized research and analysis” to Members of Parliament and their aides.

It is discouraging that after almost seven years in Ottawa Mr. Yurdiga was apparently unaware of this institution. 

If he wishes to pursue this cause and be taken seriously, Mr. Yurdiga at least needs to suggest a replacement term for assault rifles that makes them sound more respectable. I guarantee you, though, that for reasons both tragic and obvious what happened to tar and is happening to oil would happen to whatever he came up with too. 

As Mr. Yurdiga’s efforts on Parliament Hill illustrate, though, it can never be said Alberta Conservative politicians aren’t keeping their eyes on the ball despite the distractions of a global pandemic and global climate change.

If one northern MP isn’t enough to persuade you of this, consider United Conservative Party Calgary-North MLA Muhammad Yaseen, whose Private Member’s Bill would make rodeo the official sport of Alberta.

Rodeo, Mr. Yaseen told Cochrane Now, is “a culture that is so collaborative, so cooperative, so caring, so compassionate” that he will not rest until it becomes Alberta’s official sport. 

Some exceptions may apply. If you were a talking chuckwagon horse, for example, you might dispute the compassion of rodeo. You might also have mixed feelings about COVID-19, since one impact of the pandemic was to shut down the Calgary Stampede last summer, resulting in a rare year in which no horses were put down because of chuckwagon race crashes. 

You can mock Alberta Conservative politicians, but it is nearly impossible to parody them. Fortunately, they do that themselves without prompting. Sometimes twice in one week. 

Join the Conversation


  1. Unfortunately for Mr. Yurdiga, I suppose “gun that you can easily kill a lot of people with” does not roll off the tongue so easily as assault rifle in English. German can have many long complex words, but sometimes they can also get to right to the point. I suppose this is one of those occasions. So, I suspect assault rifle is here to stay as a term. At least Oil Sands is as concise in English as Tar Sands.

    One does have to wonder both about Mr. Yurdiga’s research skills, as well as his choice of issues at this time. Perhaps as a Conservative backbencher from Alberta he has too much time on his hands. I suppose it could be argued this is not entirely his fault, as one could also blame the party leadership for not finding something more useful for Mr. Yurdiga to do.

    On that note, perhaps there is a town or city to rename in his riding. Exactly what is Wood Buffalo anyways?

  2. nutbars abound!
    I wonder if there are caves in the Ottawa area. Seems as if this local embarrassment is living in one while serving the nation and his national troglodyte party.

    Also, for clarity, it is neither tar nor oil, but bitumen. If we, as a species and a first-world society, are to survive through to the latter decades of the 21rst Century, we, business leaders in general and Albertans in particular, will have to find a methodology of using these vast carbon stores to develop materials, pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs and forget about fossil fuels for transportation.
    Mais, je digresse aussi.

    1. They thin the bitumen with some condensate and give it the classy sounding name “Western Canadian Select”.

      1. Yes they do but Keith, that is all about transportation fuels. Let it be said here, definitively, Alberta has no future in the transportation fuels industry. Period! End of that story!

        We have a vast pool of hydrocarbons, one of the largest on Earth. There is a great opportunity here, just not in cheap, low-end fuels. Our hydrocarbons are an appropropriate feedstock for high-end products requiring greater manufacturing and more chemistry, like materials, pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs.
        Of course, that means a different kind of workforce and management than that which currently exists. But it’s doable, it’s needed and it’s profitable. Only question is whether Albertans are smart enough to turn around and begin to look forward.

  3. “a culture that is so collaborative, so cooperative, so caring, so compassionate” that he will not rest until it becomes Alberta’s official sport.
    As the pictured Mr. Ed or any quadruped visiting the Calgary Stampede can attest, the sight of a young steer being dragged across the turf with a rope around its neck to the delight of calf roping fans could hardly be called collaborative, cooperative, caring or compassionate.

  4. “a culture that is so collaborative, so cooperative, so caring, so compassionate”
    The 4 Cs that come to mind when you think of meat-packing plants. Sorry, I mean rodeo.

    As everybody knows — leastaways in Alberta’s Compassion Corridor embracing Sundre, Cochrane, High River, and Claresholm — rodeo animals are treated like family.
    My dad used to chase us down the street, throw his lasso, give our necks a stiff snap, pick us up, slam us to the ground, knock the breath out of us, and tie our feet together.
    My dad was a real sport.
    When I was small, my mum let me ride her piggyback around the garden.
    Sadly, she stepped in a gopher hole and twisted her ankle.
    So my dad stepped up and shot her on the spot — to spare her any pain.
    Now there’s compassion for you.
    My dad was real sorry to lose his wife.
    Come to think of it, he went through quite a few wives that way.
    Them were the days.

    1. Many thanks to the blogger for putting my comment first. Your description is an impossible act to follow.

  5. You can’t be any dumber than a reformer. The are certainly nothing like the true conservatives we proudly supported under Lougheed and Getty. There is nothing conservative or democratic about them.

    Sadly with all the vaccines now being provided Kenney has run out of things to bash Trudeau with, so this mp does it, what a hero. I can just imagine the rest of Canada laughing about how stupid Albertans are, can’t you? My B.C. Relatives certainly think we are.

  6. Well said Mr. C, and very amusing. If I were you I would be checking my underwear for novichock every morning!

  7. Tom In Ontario.

    Point well made. I wonder if television coverage will continue showing cut and censored calf roping, or if the proposed legislation will ensure that the full neck stretch is available for viewing.

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