The House resumed consideration of Bill , as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Bill , which seeks to abolish the firearms registry.
We have heard a host of good reasons as to why the firearms registry should be kept, such as its usefulness to the police forces and the prevention of violent acts. As a hunter, however, it is important that I speak about one particular argument that has not been the subject of much discussion since the start of this debate. I hope that my colleagues from the Conservative Party will listen closely to what I have to say, because I believe that I know what I am talking about, since I am a hunter myself.
I started hunting at three years of age. I did not hunt with a real weapon. My father built me a small wooden shotgun and took me hunting with him. I would sit on the three-wheeler and hunt partridges with him. I have not stopped hunting since. I have five weapons of my own at home: three 22-calibre shotguns, a 303 rifle and a 270 rifle. I hunt moose, bears, partridges and other small animals. So I think I know what I am talking about and that is why I want to discuss the issue.
When hunters ask me why I am in favour of the firearms registry, I talk to them about firearm theft. I explain it in simple terms. Before the firearms registry existed, wrongdoers, who perhaps needed the money, would enter houses and steal firearms. These were regular people, just like all the Canadians we represent. They would place a short advertisement in the newspaper in order to sell the firearm. When there was a potential buyer, the thief would explain that his grandfather had given him the weapon and that he was selling it because he did not really go hunting. He would say that he no longer had the papers because it was a long time ago and he did not know where they were anymore. That would always be a bit of an annoyance, but the seller would seem to be acting in good faith and knew what he was talking about. The buyer would tell himself that this was normal and would go ahead and buy the firearm. Consequently, when a firearm was stolen, there was no way of locating it.
Since the registry was created, when people put an advertisement in the newspaper, for example, to try to sell weapons they have stolen from other people’s homes, it is no longer possible. This is because when a potential buyer goes to see the weapon and expresses an interest in buying it, since it is a good model at a reasonable price, the buyer suggests calling to make the transfer. The person at the other end of the phone line tells him that the weapon was reported stolen, according to the information in the registry. That person then strongly advises the would-be buyer against buying the weapon. Of course, the police are notified and may take action to get the firearm back. If a person has stolen a firearm to use it for hunting, he runs the risk of being in the woods and having a law enforcement officer ask for the registration papers. If the person does not have the papers, the officer will check and see that the weapon was stolen. In either case, there is a chance of locating the weapon, which was not previously the case.
We have to understand that many firearms are part of family tradition. Many people have firearms that belonged to their grandfather and their great-grandfather and have been passed down from generation to generation. If they are stolen from us, even if someone could offer us a similar firearm, it would not be exactly the same. It would not be the one our grandfather went hunting with. There is great family attachment to these firearms.
Some firearms are now practically impossible to recover. Without the firearms registry, if they are stolen, there is virtually no way to recover them. The police have no way of recovering these firearms, unless they have some uniquely special feature. But when we talk about firearms from the 1960s, for example, one 22-calibre weapon with a wooden stock looks just like another 22-calibre weapon with a wooden stock. It is therefore extremely difficult, unless it is marked, to know whether that firearm is in fact the one that was stolen. It is practically impossible. Since we have had the firearms registry, thefts of firearms have declined significantly.
We paid for these data, as did hunters. That is why we want to preserve them. That is why, in Quebec, we think this is logical. The registry provides a degree of security because the police use it, but it also protects us as hunters because it reduces theft. If a theft occurs, and that cannot always be prevented, we have a chance of recovering the stolen firearms.
Another thing I must stress is the value of the firearms. Some of these firearms are worth a lot of money. Because they are used for hunting, a lot of money is invested to make sure they are functional. If the firearms registry is abolished and people start stealing firearms again, the owners might lose the money they have invested in this sport, which is an economic activity in Canada.
I have a firearm, a Ruger SR 10/22. I paid $600 for the firearm alone and nearly $300 for the sight. So I would be extremely unhappy if it were stolen, and even more so if there were no database that would allow it to be recovered. At least, with the firearms registry, a police officer can type in the serial number and the name of the firearm and see the ones that have been stolen. I would have a chance of recovering my firearm, but without the firearms registry, I would have no chance of that. It would be extremely complicated. The person who had stolen it would simply have to say, if asked, that they had lost the registration, that it is in their truck, that they do not know where it is. I think it is important to talk about this aspect because not much has been said about it.
Since I have enough time left, I would like to address another point. As some members know, I am a nurse by training. I have worked in hospitals and I come from a rural area where there are a lot of farmers. We know that farmers have suffered a great deal as a result of climate change, economic crises and the mad cow crisis. All those factors have had a considerable impact on farming. Some of our farms became unstable, economically, and were in distress. The stress level rose significantly among farmers. Most farmers have a firearm at home and use it for activities on the farm. For example, if a cow was attacked by wolves, the farmer could shoot it rather than leave it to suffer. It is reasonable for farmers to all have firearms. That is legitimate when you have a farm, I think.
I believe that the firearms registry can be used to protect people from themselves. When doctors and nurses see that a person is depressed and not doing well, they are able to determine whether the person has firearms at home and, consequently, whether they are a suicide risk. Firearms are not forgiving; it is not possible to save these people’s lives. When they are taken to emergency, it is often too late. Doctors and nurses can use this tool to determine whether a person is in possession of firearms. If the person does have firearms, they can be asked whether they would be prepared to take them to the police station until they feel better and get help getting back on track. Conversely, if the database is not accessible, this kind of prevention—helping someone and preventing something irreparable from happening—is not possible. That is another important point that I wanted to stress.
I want to ask the public to support us when it comes to the registry. I am a hunter and I really believe that the firearms registry can help to prevent the theft of firearms and stop people from burglarizing houses and stealing weapons. Without the registry, this is impossible.
I paid for these data and I would like them to be kept. At the very least, if the federal government does not want to keep them, it should transfer the data to Quebec so that people like me, who paid for the data, are protected. If this kind of thing occurs, there needs to be a chance of finding the weapons. That is what I want to emphasize.
I would ask everyone who does not consider my idea crazy and who thinks that I am perhaps right to write immediately and send a clear message to every Conservative member who is against this idea.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise in support of Bill . The state broadcaster, the CBC, has confirmed that $2 billion in taxpayer money have already been squandered on the long gun registry, with no tangible impact on preventing gun crime. This leads me to ask why some members in this place want to continue this wasteful program when the money could be put to much better use.
Our government is committed to cracking down on crime. We are committed to providing law enforcement officers with the tools they need to do their jobs. On this side of the House, our goal is to put criminals out of business, in stark contrast to those across the way who would rather harass law-abiding hunters, farmers and sports shooters.
When the long gun registry was introduced in 1995, the previous government promised it would cost approximately $2 million to implement over five years. In her 2002 audit, however, the Auditor General of Canada reported the program's costs had skyrocketed to more than $600 million. Moreover, due to a lack of solid financial information, she believed this figure did not fairly represent the true costs of the program. It is small wonder that when I ask people in my riding how they would describe the long gun registry, the response is always the same: an absolute boondoggle.
Apart from the cost to taxpayers and the financial burden on law-abiding citizens, there is also no evidence the long gun registry has stopped a single crime or saved a single life. This is not only my personal belief, but the belief of a vast number of my constituents, as well as law-abiding Canadians. It is also the belief of the Auditor General of Canada, who, in her 2006 audit, stated that the Canada Firearms Centre did not show how it helped minimize risks to public safety.
It is also the belief of veteran police officers such as Gilbert Yard, a retired RCMP superintendent, who has said in the past:
|| I believe that Canadians are much too astute to believe [the long gun registry] is anything other than a waste of time, effort and money. Wasting public funds that could really make a difference in acute justice issues, in my view, borders on criminal activity.
When our Conservative government came to office, we pledged that our approach to crime would generate the kind of practical results demanded by our law enforcement community rather than wasting taxpayer dollars on initiatives such as the long gun registry, which does nothing to reduce gun crimes. We promised to make our streets safer by tackling the deadly combination of drugs, gangs and guns. We promised to increase sentences for violent and repeat offenders, especially those involved in weapons-related crimes. We promised to work with the provinces and territories to fight the root causes of crime through community-based prevention. We made those promises and we have kept them.
Over the last six years, we have passed legislation to tackle violent crime. We introduced mandatory prison sentences for serious gun crimes, as well as reverse bail provisions for serious offences, changes that were long overdue. Our government has also passed legislation that creates a new offence to target drive-by and other intentional shootings that involve the reckless disregard for the life or safety of others. Those convicted of such acts are subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison, with a maximum period of imprisonment of 14 years. If these acts are committed by or for a criminal organization or with a restricted or prohibited firearm such as a handgun or automatic weapon, the minimum sentence has been increased to five years.
More recently, our government introduced comprehensive legislation which would make our communities safer by: extending greater protection to the most vulnerable members of society, as well as victims of terrorism; further enhancing the ability of our justice system to hold criminals accountable for their actions; and helping improve the safety and security of all Canadians.
In particular, the safe streets and communities act would: better protect children and youth from sexual predators; increase penalties for organized drug crime and house arrest for serious crimes; protect the public from violent young offenders; eliminate pardons for serious crimes; enshrine in law a number of additional key factors in deciding whether an offender would be granted a transfer back to Canada; increase offender accountability and support victims of crime; support victims of terrorism; and protect vulnerable foreign nationals against abuse and exploitation.
In addition to taking action on the legislative side, our government has provided more money to the provinces and territories so they can hire additional police officers. The government has also helped the RCMP recruit and train more personnel.
Our government has shown, through these measures, that it is serious about getting tough on gun crime, but we also need to ensure that we have a system of gun control that makes people safer rather than simply making people feel safe. That is why the government is investing $7 million annually to strengthen front-end screening of first-time firearms licence applicants, with a view to keeping firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them.
We have to ensure that our gun control keeps firearms out of the hands of those who threaten our communities, our safety, our lives. Our government is determined to maintain an effective firearms control system, while at the same time combatting the criminal use of firearms and getting tough on crime.
We also believe the radical notion that gun control should target criminals not law-abiding citizens. It should save lives not waste money. That is why our government is moving forward with Bill . This would reduce the burden on farmers and hunters who use rifles and shotguns to protect their livestock or hunt for wild game. Ending the registration of non-restricted guns would also free up money that we could reinvest to combat the criminal use of firearms.
This government is taking a balanced approach to firearms. On the one hand, we are fine-tuning the law so it targets criminals and not law-abiding citizens. On the other hand, we have spearheaded legislation that gives the police and the courts new tools to fight weapons-related crime, especially related to gangs and organized crime.
It is a two-pronged approach rooted in common sense and one that will enable us to make our firearms control program truly effective, enhancing public safety for all Canadians.
I encourage all members to stand in the House and support this important legislation before us today.
Madam Speaker, it is with a great deal of sadness that I rise today to speak to the bill before us. I am opposed to the dismantling of the gun registry. I am disturbed by the actions of the Conservatives who feel they have to ram through, or railroad, a piece of legislation that is ill-thought out. Once again, they have moved time allocation to stop informed debate.
I do not know what they are afraid of. Do they wonder if some of the points made by the opposition could actually persuade some members across the way? Or do they just not want the public to have this fulsome debate?
I heard in the House today that this has been debated for 17 years. If we were to take that attitude toward other legislation that comes before this House, we could say that everything has been discussed in one way or another forever. Therefore, there would be no need for parliamentarians to discuss it. Let us just bring it here, vote on it and get out of here. That is not what parliamentary democracy is about.
I have also heard quite a few things about the cost of the registry. I agree that when the registry was first brought in there were extraordinary, and quite outrageous, expenditures as the system was put in place. However, by 2010, the cost of operating the registry was $4 million a year. Let us not keep quoting the $1 billion spent at the beginning.
The Conservatives are used to making economic arguments. It puzzles me that, although we spent over $1 billion as it was a bit of a mess at the beginning under my friends, the Liberals, the cost is down today. Therefore, I do not understand the minister's position that the gun registry has to be destroyed.
Even if this legislation is adopted and we do not keep a gun registry, surely the data we have collected should be kept. The provinces co-paid for that data to be collected. There is at least one province that wants the data because it may want to have its own registry. What kind of economic sense does it make to destroy data that we already have? Once again, it seems to be something else that is driving my colleagues across the way.
No legislation, even when one considers the penalties, is ever by itself enough to stop all crime. For example, we have all kinds of fines for people who speed, but that does not stop them from speeding. However, we do not say that we do not need to register cars or have drivers' licences any more. We continue to have registration.
It is very sad, but there are people who know better who still drink and drive. That can lead to tragic consequences. At the same time, we do not say that because that happens we are now going to stop selling alcohol or that we are not going to have cars on the road.
This piece of legislation says that we need to make accommodations for the farmers and hunters. I agree. I thought the registration would be onerous so I decided to do a little research. I found that once one is registered, that is it. To transfer the registration into somebody else's name is not a huge deal. It can be done over the phone. Once again, it is not costly at all. Also, it does not cost to register guns.
I sometimes think we live in a country where we have licences and registrations for almost everything. My grandchildren got a little dog, and we had to get a licence. We drive cars and we do all kinds of things that require licences and registrations.
A gun, to me, is far more dangerous than little Sam, who is only about this big. A gun is far more dangerous than many other things that we accept as part of our civil society that require registration.
The NDP, in previous iterations of this bill, had offered to make accommodations for farmers and for hunters. Obviously that is not what our colleagues have in mind. They are willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of addressing the issues around farmers, hunters and law-abiding citizens, they are doing away with it all.
This opens up the possibility to have guns on the streets that may not otherwise be there. For example, semi-automatic weapons, like the Ruger Mini-14 used by Anders Behring Breivik in the recent Norway shooting and by Marc Lépine in the Montreal massacre in 1989, come under the category of unrestricted weapons. Ask the families of the women murdered in that massacre, or the people who lost loved ones in Norway, how much comfort it gives them to know they were unrestricted weapons.
This legislation does not just do away with the gun registering. It does away with the absolute requirement for the seller to demand licensing and to keep a record of the sales. As I said earlier, this is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
I live in an urban riding that has a small part that is rural. In my riding people have mixed opinions on many issues. There have been eight shootings there since Christmas. When it comes to guns of any sort, unrestricted or restricted, long guns or other weapons, as a mother I want them off the streets.
I want to do whatever it takes to keep them off the streets. If they are not on our streets, then there is less likelihood of someone young dying in my community yet again.
I come from a riding where, not unlike many others, the rates of domestic violence are on the increase. There are pressures on families, economic pressures and all kinds of other pressures. This is not an excuse for violence. However, we know that when there are pressures on people, they will take action. Once again, by not keeping a record, we are making it easy for weapons to be on our streets and in our homes. I would urge my colleagues across the way to just stop this insanity today.
Here is a quote from Chief William Blair. He is the Chief of Police in Toronto and past president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. This is what he had to say:
|| The registry gives officers information that keeps them safe. If the registry is taken from us, police officers may guess but they cannot know. It could get them killed.
I know that just having a registry is not going to keep our police officers safe, but it is one of the tools they carry in their backpack that ensures their safety. Surely we do not want to take away one of those tools. For the sake of the young people in my community and for the sake of the safety officers who put their lives at risk for us, please defeat this ill thought out—
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill . This is something that western Canadians, people in Saskatchewan, people in my constituency have been waiting a long time for. There has been a history of opposition by the members opposite to the passage of such a bill.
The member who previously spoke asked why we were pressing so much with the bill when it deals with farmers, duck hunters and those who belong to wildlife clubs and who do not wish to have to register their guns or be criminalized if they do not. My question is: Why has there been such opposition to removing this class of people from the provisions and the requirements to register under the Firearms Act?
Much talk has been heard from people who believe that if the long gun registry were repealed, we would lose control of firearms safety regulations altogether. It has been said that if we get rid of the registry we will be endangering the lives of police and those who are vulnerable to domestic violence. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The registry does not make police entrances to difficult situations any safer or less difficult. The police must always take an abundance of precaution when they go into any situation, and whether a firearm is registered or not is something they will take into account. They will go into a situation using the utmost care.
Our government has always committed itself to keeping our citizens and our communities safe. We have said from day one that the most important responsibility for government is to keep its citizens safe and to do what it can to ensure that is the case. Our commitment has been to work hard to protect Canadians, and this was clear in our first Speech from the Throne, which said:
||—our safe streets and healthy communities are increasingly under threat of gun, gang and drug violence.
|| This Government will tackle crime. It will propose changes to the Criminal Code to provide tougher sentences for violent and repeat offenders, particularly those involved in weapons-related crimes. It will help prevent crime by putting more police on the street and improving the security of our borders.
Those are practical, very basic steps that can ensure the safety of our communities and our streets. If we are going to spend money and get value for that money, we will target the most effective areas to ensure success.
Since our government was first elected we have worked hard to follow through on our pledge to make our streets and communities safer by repairing a system that was completely out of touch with the priorities of Canadians.
Offenders who engaged in serious and repeat victimization of society's most vulnerable were walking away from their convictions with merely a slap on the wrist. Our front-line police officers were not receiving the resources they needed to do their job and support for crime prevention was under-funded. Nonsensical and ineffective policies like the long gun registry were enacted to foster an aura of public safety rather than the taking of real action.
We have taken a firm and reasonable approach to creating safer and stronger communities. Our government is proud of what we have accomplished so far. Our track record is quite impressive when one looks at the series of legislation that has been put before the House, and in fact has passed the House into the other House as well.
We have taken decisive action to crack down on crime, to strengthen the rights of victims and to give police the tools they need to do their job.
We make no apologies for getting tough on serious criminals by ensuring they serve sentences that reflect the severity of their crimes.
We do not apologize for taking a stand against crime and focusing on helping victims of crime. It was surely a time to refocus on victims and some of the things they are interested in, giving them a say, giving them a part in our justice system, to ensure that those who commit the crime receive the appropriate sentence and punishment.
In May, Canadians gave us a strong mandate to move forward with our tough law and order agenda. We are doing what we promised.
In June, we introduced legislation to crack down on human smuggling. In September, we introduced comprehensive legislation to make our streets and communities safer. With this current legislation, we are moving ahead with one of our longstanding electoral commitments, that is, to abolish the long gun registry.
It has been difficult responding to constituents who have been asking since I have been in this House in 2004, through 2006, 2008 and 2011, “When will the ineffective and wasteful long gun registry be eliminated?” They have asked us to do that and we are finally coming to a place where that may happen.
It seems that some members of the opposition think we are too tough on criminals. If that were true, would we be introducing legislation to abolish the long gun registry if it were indeed effective?
Eliminating the long gun registry would not make our streets unsafe because, quite frankly, it never impacted the safety of our streets in one way or another. There is not a shred of evidence that the long gun registry has stopped a single crime or saved a single life.
What we do know, however, is that the rules and regulations currently in place for licensing firearms are effective and reasonable. For this reason, Bill would not change the current licensing regime.
What it would do is to get rid of an unnecessary and heavy-handed system that unfairly paints hunters and farmers as criminals. We should not criminalize the failure to register firearms and criminally sanction those who use their firearm for legitimate purposes. Once passed, the legislation would repeal the requirement for the long gun owners to register their hunting rifles and shotguns.
As I mentioned, firearm owners would still require a valid licence to purchase or possess firearms. They would be required to undergo background checks, pass a firearm safety training course, and comply with firearm safe storage and transportation requirements. Those are the kinds of things the public has an interest in and that we would enforce. Those are the kinds of things that would produce some results.
However, the registration produced no results, cost a lot of money, and took aim at farmers, hunters, and other wildlife-interested persons.
Bill would also require that individuals be in the possession of valid firearms licence when a firearm is purchased.
Finally, the proposed legislation would allow the destruction of all records currently held in the Canadian firearms registry and under the control of the chief firearms officers.
Many have felt that registry should never have been in place. In order to rectify that, the registry needs to be done away with. That would mean that its data must be destroyed. This would ensure that the privacy rights of individuals would not be breached by their information being accessed by another organization or government body.
Let me state with the utmost clarity that our government would not allow for the creation of a long gun registry through the backdoor.
It is common knowledge that we have desired to abolish this wasteful and ineffective measure. It has been part of the policy of the Conservative Party of Canada since its inception in 2003. It was the policy of both legacy parties. It is not news to anyone that the party, and now the government, has proposed that we proceed with the elimination of the registry.
In fact, my colleague, the introduced a bill that came very close to passing in the last Parliament. Yet, thanks to a number of members from the New Democratic Party, the bill did not pass. Fortunately, many of these members I speak of were reminded, on May 2, that they must stand up for their constituents.
As I mentioned, we have taken a number of steps that will be effective. We have taken a number of steps that will achieve results. However, we will do away, once and for all, with the ineffective and wasteful long gun registry. It is a measure that constituents from my riding of have desired for a very long time. It is a measure that is long overdue.
Madam Speaker, it is with the support and respect of the people of my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke that I rise today once again to speak in support of this legislation, which will finally scrap the long gun registry.
I am pleased to confirm to the House that scrapping the Liberal long gun registry is the number one topic of discussion when I am out and about on the various public engagements I am invited to attend.
My constituents followed the progress of this legislation very closely. They are disgusted by the cynical, manipulative ploys of the opposition. My constituents assure me they will never in their lifetime support those parties with their not so hidden agenda to reintroduce the registry.
In my riding, demonstrations against the Liberal long gun registry were not occupied by young people being manipulated by radicals funded by foreign interests. These demonstrations were held by middle-aged firearm owners whose first reflex is to respect the laws of the land, whose parents and their parents before them built this great nation.
The political alienation of rural Canadians by the Liberals was a far greater loss than the $1 billion-plus that have been wasted on an experiment in social engineering. It was an experiment that backfired on the Liberal Party and helped reduce it to the fringe status in Canadian politics it enjoys today. The creation by the Liberals of a new criminal class, rural firearm owners, was the ultimate triumph of the negative political politics, which thoughtful Canadians rejected in the same way they rejected the Liberal long gun registry.
This may be the worst and most enduring product of the gun registry culture war. When it comes to the gun issue, my constituents all know my stand. I am against it and I will never quite fighting until it is gone.
Until now, however, I have only made reference to it as the Liberal long gun registry, which means registering all serial numbers on guns owned by law-abiding citizens, but there was much more.
As we all know, brave Canadians have sacrificed their lives in two world wars and many conflicts, the most recent in Afghanistan, to ensure that we have a free and democratic society, as well as the rule book that lays out how society will be run. The rule book is the Constitution of Canada. However, when Liberal minister, Allan Rock, brought in Bill C-68, the original legislation, using deception and flawed RCMP data, his Liberal Party failed to tell the public that hidden in his so-called “gun bill” were 11 unconstitutional sections that denied the rights and freedoms guaranteed to us by our Constitution.
Some argue that these intentional rights and freedoms violations gave the registry the same legal authority as the War Measures Act. When the War Measures Act is invoked, all civil rights and freedoms are suspended. However, we are not a war here, are we? Is this the culture war the left is always trying to incite?
The reality of this blatant assault on the Canadian Constitution can only be stopped by Bill . Yet the left-wing parties are fighting to keep this kind of legislation on the books, vowing never to rescind it. They have promised to keep fighting every attempt by our government to end it and then to reintroduce it if they ever get the chance.
Nevertheless, our Constitution is the set of rules that our government abides by because they represent the supreme laws of the nation. When we see the left-wing parties demanding that the gun registry stay, remember they are demanding an outright repudiation of the Canadian Constitution as well as a blatantly unconstitutional denial of our civil rights and freedoms. These violations prove that the long gun registry was never about crime reduction. It was about giving the Liberal government the power to seize Canadian property without due process.
The 11 violations constituents cited are as follows.
First, Bill C-68, from which the long gun registry emanated, denies the constitutional right to possess private chattel property by allowing the police to confiscate the private property without the due process of law, or fair, just and timely compensation. That is from CFA subsections 102(1) and 102(4). This section also provides for the future confiscation of any and all personal property, classed as being prohibited upon the death of the owner, without monetary compensation of any kind.
Second, Bill C-68 denies the constitutional right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure, by forcing citizens to allow the police into their homes to search and seize without a warrant, even if no known crime is suspected. They have to allow the search or face arrest, and the legality of search can only be challenged after the fact. That is from CFA sections 102 to 104 and Criminal Code amendment subsections 117.04(1).
Third, Bill C-68 denies the constitutional right against self-incrimination, the right to remain silent, while allowing police to threaten criminal charges, according to CFA sections 103 and 113, if one does not assist the police to search one's home and go through one's belongings, relative to the enforcement of the act, its regulations or part III of the Criminal Code, CFA section 103.
Fourth, Bill C-68 denies the constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by saying the burden of proof is on the individual. That is reverse onus. That is CFA subsection 75(3), Criminal Code amendment subsection 117.11. This section alone destroyed the very foundation upon which our entire legal justice system was predicated.
Fifth, Bill C-68 denies the constitutional right to consult legal counsel before consenting to surprise police inspections or warrantless searches of one's home, CFA sections 103 and 113.
Sixth, Bill C-68 denies one's constitutional right to privacy by authorizing police to conduct warrantless searches of one's home at any time, even if one does not own a firearm. That is from CFA subsection 102(7) and section 104.
Seventh, Bill C-68 denies the constitutional right to freedom of association by allowing the government to prohibit one from owning a firearm if one is an associate of someone who is already prohibited from owning a firearm. That is Criminal Code amendment subsection 117.011(1)(b).
Eighth, Bill C-68 denies the constitutional right to be represented by an MP by allowing the justice minister to make unilateral regulations that modify the Criminal Code as he or she sees fit, using orders-in-council, without ever having to go through the House or Parliament. That is CFA subsections 117(a) to (v) and subsection 119(6), part III of the Criminal Code. That provision makes the justice minister a law onto himself or herself.
Ninth, Bill C-68 denies aboriginals their constitutional right to equal treatment under the law by allowing the government to unilaterally adapt or otherwise change any provision of the act as it applies to native people, according to CFA subsection 177(u). This is all without consulting the House or Parliament. That is from CFA subsection 119(6).
Tenth, Bill C-68 allows the justice minister to create civilian police, as opposed to properly trained officers dedicated to law enforcement. That is from CFA section 101. This provision leaves the door wide open for a future creation of unaccountable government forces and/or paramilitary units.
Eleventh, Bill C-68 allows for both military and foreign enforcement as well, but with no other part of the Canadian Criminal Code enforceable by the military, especially a foreign military. We wondered why that one was added. The truth is this provision was included to legitimize the future presence of foreign troops on our land. Why would Canada ever need foreign troops enforcing Canadian gun laws?
Madam Speaker, we do not understand. It truly is difficult to understand.
We are hearing arguments like the ones just made to us: the hon. member has talked to police officers who do not believe it is used very much. But we have the figures: 92% of police officers use the firearms registry. Those are figures, those are facts. But obviously, we are used to this: reliable, objective data are of less interest to the people on the other side of the House than what they hear in their own immediate circles.
This registry is useful. As I said, 92% of police officers use it. Since it was established, spousal homicides have declined by 50%. We know that women are the ones who are too often the first victims of spousal homicides, and so we can see very clearly why the Fédération des femmes du Québec called for the registry to be preserved. We have talked about suicide recently. We have spoken in the House in support of suicide prevention. Over the last nine years, firearms suicides, which too often affect our young people, have declined by 64%. For that reason alone, the registry is absolutely essential and useful. And in spite of what they say about it, it is not very expensive. It cost a lot at the beginning, but now the costs associated with the registry represent only about 5% of the Canadian firearms program.
We are also presented with another argument: it sometimes presents problems for hunters, aboriginal people and others. The NDP has proposed solutions to that: decriminalize the first offence, make sure that long gun owners do not have to absorb the costs, protect information about owners, and provide legal guarantees to protect the rights of aboriginal people. This is an extremely useful registry that saves lives, and we can mitigate some of the problems. Why not? Is it because, as my hon. colleague said, it threatens our civil rights? Is implementing a firearms registry equivalent to invoking the War Measures Act? If I register my car or my dog, is it because I am subject to war measures? That is truly inflammatory language that is completely unrealistic and makes no sense.
When we are reduced to arguments like that, it means we do not have much left. So it is easier for us to understand why this government refuses to debate, why it has again imposed a closure motion on us, a gag, why it does not want parliamentarians to discuss the issue at any greater length, and why it does not want parliamentarians to be able to address their fellow Canadians to explain the issues to them. This government no longer has any logical, valid argument to support its bill.
It is not only parliamentarians that this government refuses to listen to. It refuses to listen to the provinces that, like Quebec, have fought at every level, calling for the firearms registry to be kept, or at the very least—if the government is silly enough to abolish it—for the data to be kept. Nor does the government listen to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which has called for the same thing. Nor does it listen to numerous experts, including those in the health care field. Nor does it listen to victims' groups, because the majority of victims' groups are completely in favour of the firearms registry and have called for it to be kept.
There is always a double standard. The government meets with a victims group that says more prisons are needed, and so the government decides to go headlong into that, build prisons and invest billions of dollars to put more people in prison, all the while totally disregarding the opinion of experts, once again. And then there are meetings with victims' groups and victims' families who, sometimes through tears, plead to keep the registry. I saw the mother of one of the young women killed at École Polytechnique de Montréal, and she was crying and pleading for the firearms registry to be kept. Then, quite suddenly, the government members block their ears, do not hear anything else and disregard whatever else is being said.
Victims do not count in this government's eyes, unless they are repeating what the government wants to hear. I do not call that listening. This government’s modus operandi is to be completely closed off to the opinion of others. I call that “my way or the highway” I call that contempt for any opinion not shared by the government.
But contempt cannot last forever. People will continue to speak out and voice their opinions. The people will take back the government, which imagines that since 40% of Canadian voters voted for it, it is entitled to do what it wants and can ride roughshod over any and all opinions that it does not share.
As I was saying, there is always a double standard. Let us take another example. The gun registry helps keep our communities safe and, as I said at the beginning, helps save lives. Today, the implied that the use of information obtained by torture would be permitted in order to save lives. That encourages torture. If the government is prepared to consider information obtained by torture in order to save a life, then it is encouraging torture. However, registering a firearm in the gun registry to save lives suddenly is not acceptable.
In August 2010, Jack Layton said:
|| Stopping gun violence has been a priority for rural and urban Canadians. There’s no good reason why we shouldn’t be able to sit down with good will and open minds. There’s no good reason why we shouldn’t be able to build solutions that bring us together. But that sense of shared purpose has been the silent victim of the gun registry debate.
|| Mr. Harper has been no help at all. Instead of driving for solutions, he has used this issue to drive wedges between Canadians.... [The Conservatives] are stoking resentments as a fundraising tool to fill their election war chest.
|| Mr. Harper is pitting Canadian region against Canadian region with his—
Madam Speaker, on behalf of my constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country, it is a pleasure to have this opportunity to show my support for Bill . I have personally waited a number of years for this opportunity to stand in this place and say with confidence that the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry will soon be gone.
Our government has been quite clear since we were first elected that we would take a stand and do what was right. We said that we would do what was right for all law-abiding Canadians. We said that we would abolish a system that criminalizes law-abiding Canadians based solely on where they live and the tools they use to make a living. Canadians have now given us a strong mandate to do that.
The debate is not new. Our government has tried on several occasions to achieve the results that Canadians want, as have several hon. members. At this time I want to recognize the efforts of the hon. members for and who have worked tirelessly for many years to do away with Canada's long gun registry. Today is their day as much as it is a great day for all Canadians, a day to rejoice.
I would ask all hon. members of this House to think back to the news coverage they have seen in the past few days. I would ask them to think more specifically about those news stories that covered gun violence on our streets. In many cases, when we see images of gun crime on television, it usually involves gang members settling scores or fighting for drug turf in large city neighbours. It usually involves brazen acts on street corners or in parks or even in schools.
Last summer in my riding, on a Sunday afternoon, it happened. We had open fire from gang members in the middle of a beautiful August day in a tourist city, a city of just over 100,000 people. People from all around the world had gathered to enjoy a beautiful Sunday afternoon. My daughter happened to be working at the hotel that day and I thank the good Lord every day that she survived. The staff ran into the rooms, called 911 and took frantic customers, patrons from all walks of life, to safety. It was a horrific situation. It is these situations that gun control must target. This must be stopped and our government has certainly taken a number of steps over the last six years to do that.
This government is convinced that asking hunters to fill out forms to register their long guns in a computer database does not prevent these types of crimes from taking place in our communities. Our government is not alone in taking such a stand.
Some hon. members have indicated that police speak with one voice in support of the long gun registry. That, however, is simply not the case. For instance, in April 2006, more than 11 years after the Firearms Act was introduced, the president of the Winnipeg Police Association said, “The Winnipeg Police Association has never supported the long-gun registry”.
More recently, other front-line officers have added their voice to the debate indicating that Canada's long gun registry does nothing to prevent gun crimes or even to protect the safety of police officers.
Abbotsford police chief, Bob Rich, an urbanite with no hunting background, has been quoted in the London Free Press as saying that the long gun registry completely misses the mark and does nothing to address the real gun problems in his community. What he said was that 90% of all recovered guns in Abbotsford were smuggled into Canada from Washington state and that the debate we should be having in this country was about how to address that issue. I think that is of vital importance.
Madam Speaker, yourself coming from British Columbia, you are well aware of the fact that guns and cocaine are going across the border. It is a very serious issue and it is something we need to be focused on, be aware of and working on with other pieces of legislation with the support of all members of this House.
Chief Rich is not alone. When Calgary police chief, Rick Hanson, testified at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness last spring he said that the registry was flawed and that it failed to tackle the real issue of gun violence. He went on to say that the registry:
|| ...falls short of making the type of positive impact this country needs to be safer. No direct links have been made between the existing gun registry and the behaviour of criminals.
I have some more from front-line police officers weighing in on the debate. Retired police officer, Sergeant Michael Mays, who spent 6 of his 33 years on the Toronto Police Force, working the dangerous Jane and Finch area, wrote in a letter to the Toronto Star that he found the long gun registry “ terribly flawed and a waste of time, energy and money”.
Sergeant Mays added that the information in the registry was “outdated, inaccurate and completely unreliable”, and that for any officer ”to make a decision at a call based on registry information would be foolish at best and deadly at worst”, as my hon. colleague recently stated.
The verdict is in. The long gun registry does nothing to prevent gun crimes, protect Canadians or even protect law enforcement officers.
Again, retired police sergeant Michael Mays noted in his letter to the Toronto Star that:
|| A [police] check of the registry is done automatically every time an officer is dispatched to an address, wanted or not. From its inception, I was advised not to depend on it to make decisions.
What we can deduce from all this is that however well-intentioned it may have been, the long gun registry is completely ineffective and does nothing to prevent gun crimes.
Taxpayers were originally told that the registry would cost something in the order of $2 million, since the rest would be made up by fees. All of us know full well that the state broadcaster has stated the cost to be well in excess of $2 billion. Two million, two billion. M and B. That is a big difference.
Today, we know there are over seven million long guns legally registered but there are millions of others not legally registered. Some estimates put that figure at 16 million. Seven million registered and possibly 16 million unregistered. It is a guess at best. There are still a lot of guns that would need to be registered if the long gun registry remained intact.
We could add to that the cost of making the data current and correcting the data, as well as the police hours that would be spent enforcing its compliance. For what? For a tool that never has and never will have any impact in preventing gun crimes? For a tool that police officers do not rely on? For a tool that some police officers actually refer to as dangerous? For a tool that many police officers say has had absolutely no role in helping them to solve crimes? It is just goes on and on. We can and will do better.
As Al Koenig, president of the Calgary Police Association, noted in the Calgary Herald, the vast amount of money spent on the long gun registry could have been much better spent and put to use for the front-line police officers in Canada. He said that the program has had no effect on crime or acted in any way as a deterrent. He said, “despite the money spent, it should be scrapped.
That is what the legislation before us would do.
Our government believes in taking a balanced approach to firearms control, one that targets criminals and eases requirements on law-abiding firearm owners. We must not forget that the true aim of gun control is to prevent gun crime.
The measures we are taking to build a more effective firearms control system aim to achieve two goals. On the one hand, we want to crack down on individuals who would use firearms to harm others and, on the other hand, we want to ensure that individuals who want to obtain firearms for legitimate purposes are not a threat to others and know how to handle firearms.
We respect our law-abiding farmers, recreational hunters and sports shooters.
I met with members of the BC Wildlife Federation, which has about 38,000 individual members and represents over 100 member clubs in British Columbia, including the Oceola Fish and Game Club in my riding of and the Kelowna and District Fish and Game Club. Its president, Rod Wiebe, put out a news release in the fall when we tabled this legislation, in which he stated:
|| The Prime Minister has consistently pledged to rid us of this expensive white elephant, which has cost Canadian taxpayers almost $2 billion dollars; the introduction of the legislation is tangible proof of that commitment. Supporters of the registry have repeatedly stated that it works, but they have consistently failed to provide clear evidence to support that contention.
The bottom line is that Canadians want results, not expensive showpieces. They want action on gun crime, not expensive boondoggles.
Bill is long overdue. I therefore ask all members of this House to work with this government to ensure its speedy passage.
In a little while hon. members will have an opportunity to stand up and do the right thing, to stand up for freedom for recreational hunters, farmers, fishermen, outdoors people, who appreciate the beauty of our country and our freedom, and support Bill