[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Thursday, April 27, 1995
The Chair: I'd like to call the meeting to order. We are continuing with our consideration of Bill C-68, An Act respecting firearms and other weapons.
This afternoon we are pleased to have with us the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association, represented by Jon Kirton, the vice-president, and Lieutenant-Colonel (Ret'd) T. J. Kaulbach, the executive director.
Gentlemen, we have a copy of your brief, which was sent to us, and members have been able to review it. We would like you to limit your opening remarks to about 15 minutes. If you can read the brief in that time, that's fine. If you don't feel you can do that, you can highlight the main points and we'll print the brief.
Mr. Jon Kirton (Vice-President, Dominion of Canada Rifle Association): There will be time to read it.
The Chair: I think so. It doesn't look that long. If you would give us your opening remarks, then we'll have the usual rounds of questioning.
Mr. Kirton: Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, we represent the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association, which was founded in 1868 and incorporated by an act of Parliament, 63-64 Victoria, chapter 99, assented to on July 7, 1890, to promote and encourage the training of marksmanship throughout Canada. The passage of this act was prompted by the imminent departure of the British garrisons, which had all left by 1871, and by the then recent experience of the Fenian raids, which had occurred in 1866, against Canadian territory.
This association, which is primarily a civilian organization, although many of our members are serving members of the Canadian forces and retired service personnel, has undertaken this mandate for the last 127 years with dedication and an outstanding safety record.
To this day, this association, in conjunction with its affiliated provincial and territorial rifle associations, provides assistance to the Department of National Defence by organizing and running, in conjunction with the Canadian forces, small arms competition, CFSAC, the national service arms competition, NSAC, and service rifle matches organized by the provincial rifle associations across the country. We are also responsible for organizing and assisting the various Canadian teams, both civilian and military, that go every year to Bisley in the United Kingdom.
In addition, one of our major activities is organizing and running a cadet winter postal program across the country, culminating in cadet provincial championships in each province and an annual national cadet championship in Ottawa.
Several of our members were largely responsible for the organization of the Commonwealth Games shooting competitions in Victoria, British Columbia, last year, an event that resulted in Canada winning 22 shooting medals, more than Canada won in all sports combined. Shooting sports won 22 out of a total of 43 won.
All of these activities will be severely restricted and curtailed by the new bill.
We have an enormous concern that the government's real intent with Bill C-68 and the proposed national owner and firearms registration system is to so discourage the use of firearms in this country that they will rapidly disappear, in the mistaken belief that this will reduce the criminal use of firearms.
Please give careful consideration to the fact that the world is a dangerous place and that in Canada we enjoy an enormous land mass filled with water, resources, and food production capabilities that are the envy of the rest of the world. While we have probably the lowest population density of any nation, to protect this nation we have armed forces whose total numbers, according to a recent press report, are fewer than that of the New York City police department.
Should the day ever come again when civilians are needed to help defend this country, Canada may learn to bitterly regret Bill C-68, if it becomes law, for the effect it will have had on legitimate firearms' use and ownership.
This association has provided extensive assistance in marksmanship training to the Canadian forces in two world wars and in several lesser ones. It takes years to learn to shoot well. Recruits do not become skilled marksmen simply by putting on a uniform. Canadian troops have often survived and made major contributions in wartime because they grew up with a heritage of marksmanship training encouraged by groups such as ours and could outshoot their enemies.
Marksmanship is as important today, especially in the peacekeeping role, as it ever was. There is an old saying: to be assured of peace, prepare for war.
I can remember a time in 1940, not so very long ago, when the British government, faced with the prospect of a Nazi invasion, advertised widely across North America pleading for U.S. and Canadian gun owners to send their firearms to Britain to replace the pitchforks and staves, which were the only weapons that many of the troops and Home Guard members possessed. Pray to God that such a situation never occurs in Canada, particularly if the government forces adoption of Bill C-68.
Perhaps you will say to us that we exaggerate the situation and that Bill C-68 will not take firearms away from Canadian citizens. I ask the members of this committee: how many of you have actually examined the current firearms acquisition certificate application? I have one here. It's quite a document, all 10 foolscap pages of it, to fill out, just for an application. This is bureaucracy gone mad, and Bill C-68 only makes matters worse.
The government is attempting to appease a small segment of the public at the expense of all legitimate, law-abiding firearms owners. We have no objection to any action against criminals or the criminal misuse of firearms, but no criminal is ever going to be restricted by most of this bill.
Having said all of the foregoing, there are two areas that are of extreme concern to this association since they have already had very fundamental effects on our operations.
The first and major problem is the outright prohibition of the AR-15 rifle and its variants. This rifle is the commercial semi-automatic equivalent of the Canadian forces C-7 selective semi/full automatic rifle and is accepted in service rifle matches across Canada to permit civilians to engage in service rifle matches and to compete against the C-7 rifle. Marksmanship in the Canadian forces is stimulated by this civilian competition. This rifle was unrestricted originally, until the former bill, C-17, introduced under the former Conservative government, when it became restricted and has now been classified by regulation as prohibited, which legally prevents our members from using it.
We ask that the Colt AR-15 rifle and its variants be given some form of exemption from prohibition for DCRA members so that it can continue to be used in legitimate competitive training and matches at all levels.
Our second concern is with regard to the minimum age of ownership, which was changed by the former bill from 16 to 18 years of age. The only exemption from this requirement at the moment is for individuals under the age of 18 who require a firearm to hunt or trap in order to sustain themselves or their families.
We would like to see an exemption made for members of the cadet corps. This would permit especially those cadets who have shown great promise at the summer cadet camps and who may have been selected for the Canadian Bisley team for the following summer to continue their practice during the fall and spring, which is essential for their success in international competitions. Currently, because of the age law, this is impossible. I should point out that at the age of 18 cadets leave the cadet program. It is the 16- and 17-year-olds who most need this exemption.
We ask the committee to pay heed to our brief, to review Bill C-68 carefully and to eliminate from it the parts that may do Canada more harm than good. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Kirton.
We will proceed in the usual way with three opening rounds of ten minutes each, one for each party. Then we'll have five-minute rounds between members of the opposition parties and the government.
Mr. Crête you have ten minutes.
Mr. Crête (Kamouraska - Rivière-du-Loup): Thank you. I would like first of all to thank the witness for bringing us a different point of view on Bill C-68. Their comments reflect the concerns of people which I would call honest and regular firearm users.
In your first paragraph you say tne new bill will seriously limit and reduce competition activities. Could you explain that more thoroughly? I would like you to give us a more precise picture of that situation. Maybe you could specify which types of amendments to the bill would be appropriate according to you. I know, for example, that some questions on barrels could be relevant in this case.
Mr. Kirton: Please excuse me for answering in English.
The main thing is that by the requirements of the FAC now and the proposed amendments to it, it becomes extremely difficult.
I'm not at all sure that people realize - whether they be a target shooter or a hunter - the process that has to be gone through, currently, for a person to obtain a firearm, even a simple firearm for hunting. You have this immense FAC form to fill out. The restrictions that are now being placed make this even worse; it completely discourages the use of firearms, even for legitimate purposes.
Mr. Crête: We are not all experts in this area. Could you please explain the exact process? You are now talking about the 10 page document. For the benefit of the Committee members and all those people who might be interested, please tell us what has to be done to obtain a firearm. How long does it take? What are the different steps of the process?
Mr. Kirton: Under the current situation you make application to the provincial police, in those provinces that have provincial police, or to the RCMP in the provinces that use the RCMP. You then have a questionnaire to fill out that is a very large document. After you have made the application you have to have two endorsers who are prepared to sign that they feel you are a fit person to have a firearm. You then have to take a firearm safety test. It varies in different provinces because the law is regulated by the provinces, but basically you have to have had a test, which is normally two days, to demonstrate that you have knowledge of the firearm. You then have to wait while a CPIC check is carried out by the police, which can be about 30 days. You then have to pay the sum of $50 to qualify for an acquisition certificate.
This is making the requirement so difficult that many people can't be bothered. If they want it badly enough they can do it, but it is already a major task for anybody who is seeking a firearm. This can be a .22 rifle or any type of firearm.
Mr. Crête: You also mentioned the exemption requested for the Canadian Cadet Corps. There are some Cadet Corps in my riding and I think they learn discipline while experiencing very special and interesting situations. According to you the bill should be amended to allow for the Cadet Corps' specific requirements. Is this how you imagine things should be done?
Mr. Kirton: Yes, precisely. We have a situation where the cadets from across Canada go to individual cadet camps across the country. The most promising cadets from those groups are brought to Ottawa for a cadet camp during the summer. From among the competitors at that camp, which of course runs until the school year starts, are the people who are picked to be members of the following year's cadet Bisley team. They then return to school in the fall. Under the current circumstances they are not old enough to obtain an FAC and obtain or use or even borrow a target rifle so that they can practice in the rest of the year until the winter comes, and so that they can practice in the summer before the cadet camp comes. Those people, even though they may be on Canada's international team, are completely prohibited from any form of practice over that six-month period. It means that our teams are not competitive with the overseas teams.
Mr. Crête: In your conclusion, you say: ``We ask the Committee to pay heed to our brief, to review Bill C-68 carefully and to eliminate from it the parts that may do Canada more harm than good.''
I might have not read or heard correctly, but I don't know if you were considering registration as an initiative more beneficial than harmful for Canada. If registration is acceptable to you, do you think that the registration fees are unacceptable? The first part concerns the registration itself.
Mr. Kirton: We are very strongly of the opinion that the registration of legitimate firearms and firearms owners is not going to produce a benefit in relationship to the very substantial costs that are projected for it. We think this is going to be a monumental task that perhaps is still unrealized. There are so many complexities in serial number recording, for example, or constant movements of people around the country. Even with modern computers I don't believe the $85 million estimated cost at the moment, and I believe for this very substantial cost that the benefits are going to be very small indeed. We believe that money could be much better spent in other ways.
Mr. Crête: In your opinion, what would be the cost for Canada? You say that the minister probably underestimated the cost by a wide margin. Do you have more realistic figures?
Mr. Kirton: I'm afraid I cannot possibly answer that question. I don't know.
Mr. Crête: They ask for that regarding all cadets.
Mr. Kirton: I don't believe so.
Mr. Crête: Thank you.
The Chair: To avoid getting into a long discussion on this, Mr. Kirton, are you aware of subclause 8.(3) of the bill, which says:
The Chair: That covers your -
Mr. Kirton: Yes, I believe it may.
The Chair: No, it is for each cadet.
Mr. Crête: Each cadet should ask for the firearm...
The Chair: Yes.
Mr. Ramsay (Crowfoot): Thank you for your presentation. It seems that you haven't gone through the bill too thoroughly then.
Mr. Kirton: I tried to, but it looks like that's one we missed.
Mr. Ramsay: At what age can you presently obtain an FAC?
Mr. Kirton: At the age of 18.
Mr. Ramsay: How do those who are training and involved in the biathlon competition obtain their firearms if they cannot obtain them until they're 18?
Mr. Kirton: About the only way, and I was not aware of this so I have to reassess that particular part -
Mr. Ramsay: I mean under the present legislation.
Mr. Kirton: Under the present legislation to obtain an FAC, except under certain circumstances, the age is 18.
Mr. Ramsay: Three students from Camrose won gold, silver and bronze medals in the Canada Winter Games in northern Alberta. I wondered about the consequences of the FAC requirement under Bill C-17. If they cannot obtain an FAC to acquire a firearm for training, what would that do to that sport?
Mr. Kirton: I have to explain one thing perhaps. I put this in the brief based on cadets who had been at the cadet camp and had been selected to teams. They had been told that they could not get FACs so that they could practise.
I must admit that there was a section I appear to have overlooked, but it has been as a result of cadets making this comment to me that I put it in my brief.
Mr. Ramsay: Do you know anything about the integrity of the registration systems of firearms?
Mr. Kirton: The current registration for restricted weapons?
Mr. Ramsay: Yes.
Mr. Kirton: Yes, I know a certain amount about it.
Mr. Ramsay: How do you maintain the integrity of a firearms registration system?
Mr. Kirton: You maintain it because you depend on the registrant to inform the police of any change that occurs.
Mr. Ramsay: If you register a firearm, how do you make sure that the system can properly and accurately identify the weapon?
Mr. Kirton: That's a very good question. There are a lot of weapons with a lot of different types of serial numbers, inconsistent marking locations, inconsistent serial numbering systems. I think you enter into a nightmare. Under the current handgun regulations - and I have some familiarity with this - I know the last time I moved and had to apply for transportation to move a restricted weapon from one residence to another, I had to send the application to the Sûreté in Quebec, and because it was a change of address they in turn informed the RCMP. They then sent me a new restricted weapon registration certificate, and I had to send it back to the RCMP twice to get the information corrected. That's on a restricted weapon. I've forgotten the figure, but I believe there are 2 million or 3 million restricted weapons. You are talking now about registering 6.5 million to 7 million rifles.
Mr. Ramsay: Did the RCMP send your certificate back to you for correction, or did you have to send it back to them?
Mr. Kirton: I had to send it back to them because the information that had been given to them twice before had been incorrect each time.
Mr. Ramsay: Could you be specific as to the incorrect information?
Mr. Kirton: It was some time ago, but the first time that I got the new form the serial number was wrong and the second time the address had become wrong.
Mr. Ramsay: Okay. I want to just direct your attention to the cost factor. Under clause 5 of this bill the chief firearms officer - apparently there's going to be a chief firearms officer in each province -
Mr. Kirton: There is already.
Mr. Ramsay: Yes, and this will continue. Just to licence an individual who owns a firearm or wishes to own a firearm, there has to be an extensive criminal record background check and an examination of the applicant's medical record to determine if they suffer from any mental illness, whether in a hospital or mental institute or psychiatric clinic or otherwise.
Mr. Kirton: This is all in here?
Mr. Ramsay: They also have to check into the neighbourhood history of behaviour of the individual to determine if there is any violence, threatened or attempted, on the part of the person against any person. So it's very similar, if not more extensive, than the FAC.
The information I received from the Metro Toronto Police Services Board indicates that their estimation of the cost to process an FAC for 1994 was $185.14. That was last year. If there are 3 million - and that's the low figure that the government uses in estimating the number of long-gun owners in Canada - that amounts to $555 million before a single firearm is registered. If we go to the higher figure, which others use, which is 6 million, then it's $1,110,000,000 before we've registered any firearms; it's simply to licence the firearm owner. The contention that arises around the figure of $85 million is understandable when you look at some of the cost factors.
Do either of you gentlemen have any knowledge of the cost factor to process an FAC in your area?
Mr. Kirton: No, I can't answer that question specifically. But I would make one comment on what you just said. The proposal is to register the firearms. It is also to register all the owners. You are not just tracking the firearms; you're also tracking the owners on a separate system, which is part of this proposal.
Mr. Ramsay: Yes, each owner must first be licensed before they can register their firearms.
Mr. Kirton: Yes, that's right.
Mr. Ramsay: I'm talking just about the process that must ensue in order to issue a licence. That is a criminal background check. There are a number of sections of the Criminal Code that must be checked to see if the person has committed an offence or has been convicted of an offence in that area, including the Food and Drugs Act and the Narcotic Control Act. Of course, there is the mental health check and the neighbourhood check. That all has to occur before an individual can receive a registration card for a single firearm or more.
The Chair: One last question, Mr. Ramsay.
Mr. Ramsay: If I'm that close to the time, then I'll pass and come back to it later.
The Chair: Before I go to Mr. Gallaway, I would like to remind the commitee that following the hearing of these witnesses, we will deal with two steering committee reports that deal in turn with the approval of witnesses appearing before the committee in the weeks to come. I would ask those of you who are on the committee to stay here so that we can approve or disapprove of the steering committee reports.
Mr. Gallaway, for 10 minutes.
Mr. Gallaway (Sarnia - Lambton): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Kirton, you have written in your brief that you would like to see an exemption made for the members of the Canadian cadet corps.
I would like to draw your attention to section 117 of the bill. In paragraph 117.07(2)(d) a reference is made to exempting a member of a cadet organization under the control and supervision of Canadian forces. You're calling for an exemption in your brief. I would like to ask you what that section in fact gives one.
Mr. Kirton: Very often a cadet is suddenly on a DND range under DND supervision, but in the program between September and May of the following year, there are many ranges where such a cadet can practice his shooting that may not necessarily be under the supervision of any DND officer. That's the whole point.
Mr. Gallaway: For example, in my riding there's a regiment and they have a cadet corps. They have shooting practice weekly and they fall within that provision.
Mr. Kirton: Not really. You have to bear in mind that these cadets are going to be shooting a 7.62 target rifle. This is the standard rifle that Canadians compete with at Bisley. Most regiments do not have the facilities to do that. Most regimental shooting currently is limited to 600 metres, whereas the Bisley shooting is long-range shooting and it is normally done at 100-yard distances out to 1,000 yards. So very few regiments, in fact very few DND ranges, can provide this facility, and they are normally handled under individual provincial rifle associations, which have access to such ranges.
Mr. Gallaway: In any event, if a cadet showed great promise, and these ranges exist, one would assume that their superiors would take them to these ranges for shooting. Is that correct?
Mr. Kirton: I am afraid it doesn't work that way.
Mr. Gallaway: How does it work? You tell me.
Mr. Kirton: It's basically up to the individual cadet to find an association, such as one of the provincial rifle associations, to aid, abet and guide him.
Mr. Gallaway: You're asking for an exemption for members of the Canadian cadet corps. Which cadet corps are you talking about?
Mr. Kirton: It could be from any cadet corps across the country, wherever these individuals have the opportunity.
Mr. Gallaway: That exemption is given in the act.
Mr. Kirton: I haven't had a chance to see it.
Mr. Gallaway: It is given in the act that a member of a cadet organization under the control and supervision of the Canadian forces is exempt. Would you not agree that that is an expansion of what exists today, that it's an improvement over what exists today?
Mr. Kirton: It's ``under the supervision of the Canadian forces'' that we have a problem with.
Mr. Gallaway: Does your organization want to have exclusive jurisdiction for the control?
Mr. Kirton: It might have.
Mr. Gallaway: Does it want it?
Mr. Kirton: We would like to be able to help the cadets, definitely. We go to a lot of trouble to try to help them.
Mr. Gallaway: Do you not think in terms of the Government of Canada that it's best that the employees of the Government of Canada have the care and control of these cadets?
Mr. Kirton: In general principle, I would say yes. It's in particular cases where that becomes a problem.
Mr. Gallaway: But you are talking about the exception, not the rule, I assume.
Mr. Kirton: It's possible.
Mr. Gallaway: It's possible? It's probable? Which is it?
Mr. Kirton: I have spoken to a lot of cadets who would like to be practising but cannot find anybody in the Canadian forces to help them. My statement was based on these comments that have been made to me a great many times.
Mr. Gallaway: So it's anecdotal then. It's what's been said to you.
Mr. Kirton: Yes.
Mr. Gallaway: Can you tell me how many cadets are actually doing this kind of shooting under the care and control of the Canadian forces?
Mr. Kirton: In any given year across the country?
Lieutenant Colonel T. J. Kaulbach (Ret'd) (Executive Director, Dominion of Canada Rifle Association): The total strength of the cadet organization in Canada is about 60,000. The DCRA works with them through the provincial organizations throughout the year.
In the full-bore program, which we're talking about here, last year I think we had 274 new shooters come on who would be capable of going to Bisley, that sort of thing. So I would expect there is something in the order of 2,000 cadets in the cadet system who require the assistance of the various members of the provincial rifle associations to help them in the coaching.
Cadet corps are spread all over where military assistance is not available.
Mr. Gallaway: But if there is a cadet corps, by definition there is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces present.
Mr. Kirton: Not necessarily.
Mr. Gallaway: To have a cadet corps you must....
Mr. Kirton: That is quite true, but the cadet program may be quite narrow in its application and will not cater to these cadets who have these very specialized practice requirements.
Mr. Gallaway: In your submission to us you talk about the day coming when civilians are again needed to help defend this country.
There is data - American data, granted, because unfortunately the Americans have been involved in the most recent wars, post-World War II. From various studies - Vietnam in particular - the conclusion reached was that of all soldiers carrying a weapon, a gun, only one in seven ever fired it.
If I take that as a statistical fact, how can you talk about civilians being needed to protect this country? Would you not agree that the face of war is changing, that the face of warfare is changing?
Mr. Kirton: I certainly could agree to that. But I have it on the authority of senior army personnel that they consider marksmanship still essential.
You are talking about an entirely different situation, particularly in the peacekeeping world, where the sort of firing that you're talking about, multiple use of automatic weapons, is not the sort of shooting that is used in peacekeeping. The capability of use of single shots, for example, is considered of prime importance in the Canadian forces.
Mr. Gallaway: But is it of prime importance in warfare?
LCol Kaulbach: Absolutely.
Mr. Gallaway: I have one other point. You're talking about the government's real intent with Bill C-68. What is it you're saying here? What do you think the intent is?
Mr. Kirton: We believe the intent of the bill is to completely and rapidly as possible eliminate nearly all the firearms.
Mr. Gallaway: Are you talking about long-arms or pistols?
Mr. Kirton: All firearms.
Mr. Gallaway: Are you aware that the hunting industry in this country generates $6 billion a year?
Mr. Kirton: Well aware.
Mr. Gallaway: Do you really believe the government would move to abolish an industry with a cash flow of $6 billion? Do you really believe that?
Mr. Kirton: Every indication points to it, from our point of view, yes.
Mr. Gallaway: From your point of view.
Mr. Kirton: It is being made so difficult for the sort of people who will say, I'd like to buy a rifle and I'd like to go hunting. They then say, well, it's so much trouble we're just not going to bother. It's got to that stage.
Mr. Gallaway: Who are the sort of people you are referring to?
Mr. Kirton: The sort of people who might go hunting and might contribute to all this money that you're looking for in licence fees and outfitters' fees and all those sorts of things.
Mr. Gallaway: Do you regard this bill as a criminal bill, then? Do you regard it as a bill whose sole objective is to curtail criminal activity?
Mr. Kirton: Obviously. We have identified in there that we except the parts that control the criminal use of firearms. We have no argument with that at all. What we're concerned about is the way the past bill came and these additions to it are just going to eliminate, effectively, the legitimate use of firearms.
Mr. Gallaway: What happens when a spouse uses a legally acquired gun in a home against another member of the family? Is that person a legitimate gun owner or is that person a criminal?
Mr. Kirton: That person becomes a criminal.
Mr. Gallaway: Could you agree with me that this is not necessarily a bill directed toward criminals, but it also has other components to it?
Mr. Kirton: Yes. My point, and the point that was made just now, is the application for the firearms acquisition certificate, for which presumably the ownership registration and the firearm registration forms will be very similar, already covers psychiatric information, attestation from people who have known you for a certain number of years, and a CPIC check. There's already a great deal in the existing FAC which attempts to address those sorts of problems.
Mr. Gallaway: Would you also not agree that people who commit offences with firearms do not all have psychiatric problems?
Mr. Kirton: I'm not sure I have the expertise to answer that question.
Mr. Gallaway: Okay, that's fair.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Deshaies (Abitibi): It has often been said that the bill was discriminatory towards people who would want to hunt and not only for those who would want to practice shooting. What type of measures should the government take to prevent the criminal use of firearms? What type of measure would you like to see rather than this bill?
Mr. Kirton: That's the problem. While this bill increases penalties and does a lot of things in that direction, a lot of it is addressed at the legitimate owner. It's a mix-up between criminal convictions and punishments. But in the process, the criminal isn't going to register his gun. He usually has smuggled in a gun, maybe across the U.S. border, and he has no intention of following any of the bill. But in order to try and catch him, you're restricting a great many legitimate shooters, who have valid reasons for using firearms.
Mr. Deshaies: Therefore, we need a solution and the firearms issue is important. Firearms cannot be considered like mere toys. I think that you are serious users. In a society where some users of semi-automatic firearms can create problems, as happened at the University of Montreal, where somebody killed people, it is necessary to find a bill or a direction which, with time, will bring better solutions. Have you ever thought about specific measures to improve or modify this bill, or to better apply Bill C-17, which is already in force?
Mr. Kirton: Even Bill C-17 didn't restrict the firearm used at the University of Montreal. At the time of that incident, the person had obtained the weapon he used...it was unrestricted, and there were none of the requirements currently in the application for the FAC.
If you had some person who had that person's problem, maybe you are going to be able to stop them, but I suspect you may not be able to. In the process, you will have done a great deal of damage to a sport that is of great interest to a great many Canadians.
Mr. Deshaies: If Bill C-68 is not a good bill, do you think that we need any legislation to regulate the use of firearms?
Mr. Kirton: Yes, absolutely.
We have no objection to a large part of this bill. Our comment is only about some parts of it.
Mr. Deshaies: If part of it is relatively useful, such as the part on registration of firearms, some are opposed to it because they say it will be very expensive. Some are against almost all the points, points that can sometime be considered beneficial. The registration might be beneficial, but it is expensive.
Where should the bill stop, where should it start? It becomes very difficult to assess, even more so when it is agreed that a bill is necessary. If your group and others don't have any specific ideas or measures to propose, how could the law-makers write a bill different from Bill C-68?
Mr. Kirton: Bill C-17 is still not in full operation across the whole country. Some parts of Bill C-17, which was introduced by the Conservative government about two years ago, are still not law. No attempt has been made to study the results of Bill C-17. Surely there should have been some effort made to study the statistics since the introduction of Bill C-17 to determine if a new bill was even necessary. There hasn't been time to develop statistics to produce any results. This is one of the reasons we feel this bill is being rushed. It is a way of appeasing people. No proper study has had time to take place.
The Chair: Mr. Bodnar, please.
Mr. Bodnar (Saskatoon - Dundurn): Mr. Kirton, the present law, in subsection 110(7), indicates that a person between the ages of 12 and 18 can't get a firearms acquisition certificate. However, they can be issued by the firearms officer a permit to possess a firearm for the purpose of target practice, game hunting or instruction in the use of firearms, in accordance with conditions for supervision attached to the permit signed by the parent. That's the existing law right now.
Mr. Kirton: I understand that. I would say two things. We did identify that a moment ago, that that was in the bill. However -
Mr. Bodnar: No, this is the law as it is now, not Bill C-68.
Mr. Kirton: - I would say that provincial firearm officers very often interpret the bill in their own ways. We have many instances of this.
Mr. Bodnar: The law does not vary from province to province.
Mr. Kirton: The law may not but the interpretation certainly does.
Mr. Bodnar: Your problem, then, is with the provincial firearms officer appointed by each individual province, not with the legislation?
Mr. Kirton: Right.
Mr. Bodnar: And the proposed section 117.07 will now allow a young person in that same age bracket to possess a prohibited weapon or a restricted weapon.
Mr. Kirton: I haven't had a chance to look that up. I'd like to study that.
Mr. Bodnar: All right. Let me just tell you that it does refer to a restricted weapon. Therefore, about the concerns you have with the Canadian forces C-7 semi-automatic, there won't be any problem with it any more under the new provisions. But if we withdrew C-68, you do have a problem, and they cannot use that under the existing law.
Mr. Kirton: I have to say that the AR-15 is covered under the regulations. It is not covered under the bill. I realize that.
Mr. Bodnar: We are not looking at a restriction here. By passing this law we're in fact expanding the matter for young people between 12 and 18. Perhaps you would have to check this out.
Mr. Kirton: I would have to check it out. Can you tell me the page number?
Mr. Bodnar: In the new legislation?
Mr. Kirton: Yes, in the bill.
Mr. Bodnar: It's page 92, proposed section 117.07. It goes on to page 93, where it refers to the item. It's a long proposed section. I won't let you read it now because I only have five minutes.
Mr. Kirton: Yes, of course.
Mr. Bodnar: The FAC, which you have concerns with, is already the law.
Mr. Kirton: Yes, absolutely.
Mr. Bodnar: Bill C-68 isn't going to change that.
Mr. Kirton: No, that's quite true.
Mr. Bodnar: In telling us now that C-68 is going to make it more difficult just isn't right.
Mr. Kirton: We are demonstrating some of the problems that have been created for us in C-17 and that affect our operations.
Mr. Bodnar: That affect your operations.
Mr. Kirton: That's right.
Mr. Bodnar: Okay.
You're saying that no criminal is going to be restricted by the use of this bill. One of the biggest problems we have in this country is suicide. How do you prevent suicides with the use of firearms? Can you tell me? Can you give this committee a suggestion on how we can legislate to prevent suicides that happen with the use of firearms?
Mr. Kirton: No, I don't believe I can.
Mr. Bodnar: You would agree we're making a good effort here by registration and proper storage and making sure people don't have immediate access to a gun when they are depressed so they commit suicide. Would you agree we're making a good effort in that direction?
Mr. Kirton: As far as safe storage, yes.
Mr. Bodnar: All right. People become a little more, shall we say, committed to the cause of safe storage if they have to register a gun. Right?
Mr. Kirton: I don't know that is true, and I think it's very hard to assess that, frankly.
Mr. Bodnar: Sir, I have an article written in my province of Saskatchewan by a person by the name of Doug Cuthand, an aboriginal person, who suggests that the safety of people should be the first priority in any legislation being considered. Bill C-68 is what he's referring to.
He refers to firearms as being the second leading cause of accidental death in the aboriginal community and the leading cause of suicide. He goes on to say that ``we'' need to support gun control legislation because the aboriginal community want to help their people and need our help to help them stop suicides and accidental deaths on reservations.
Mr. Kirton: I suspect aboriginals have a lot of other problems besides this one.
Mr. Bodnar: But this is one of them.
The Chair: This is your last question, Mr. Bodnar.
Mr. Bodnar: Well, I'll ask one question, then. You will agree, then, would you not, that if we take this step with registration, we are in fact helping the aboriginal community combat this problem, among other problems, of accidental and suicidal deaths they are having a problem with now?
Mr. Kirton: I don't know if that's the case or not. I don't believe you have proven it.
The Chair: There's a division of view here. Mr. Hill.
Mr. Hill (Prince George - Peace River): Thank you, gentlemen, for your presentation today on behalf of the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association.
I'd like to address my remarks to the issue of prohibited firearms and the so-called grandfather class and how the newly prohibited firearms - in your brief this was of concern to you, specifically the AR-15 - once this bill is passed into law, will only be allowed to be traded within members of the same class. Knowing your members and knowing that they already own a prohibited firearm, I would ask you how you feel about that. Do you think your members would be interested in purchasing another firearm? They already have a prohibited firearm. How would they feel about purchasing another one? Would there be a need?
Mr. Kirton: We understand that under the grandfathering clause somebody who owns one of these firearms is allowed to keep it. However, in order to use it on a range, you have to have a transportation permit. Our recent experience is that provincial firearms offices have been refusing to give transportation permits.
In fact, in the case of the Colt AR-15, which is used on DND ranges in the CFSAC program up to 600 yards, currently la Sûreté in Quebec, under the instructions of the provincial firearms officer, will not provide transportation permits for those weapons even though they're legitimately owned. In fact it has introduced a requirement where no 5.56 rifle may be fired on any range longer than 50 metres, which is completely useless. We are in a situation where even people who are allowed to keep them have no possible way of using them.
Mr. Hill: I think you're partially missing my point, although you bring up some valid issues. What I'm trying to get at is the confiscation of the value of the property. I have pointed out to the minister on a number of occasions, both inside and outside the House, that this bill in reality confiscates the value of these firearms, which are private property legally acquired by Canadian citizens. That's what I was trying to get at. How do you see that? Obviously, the market value, in my estimation, is going to drop for these firearms when you're restricting the people who can purchase them.
Mr. Kirton: It's a very long-time principle in Canadian law that if something is made prohibited and is seized from a citizen, that citizen has the right to compensation and the right to compensation should be decided by an independent tribunal. However, I haven't seen any mention of that being done.
Even under the grandfathering and with the kind of restrictions on the use of these things, it means that the market for them has been effectively destroyed. They can't use them and they can't move them, so they might just as well not have them, in which case they would be better compensated for them.
Mr. Hill: That was the point I was driving at. I was just wondering if you were in agreement on that.
If you follow that through to its ultimate conclusion, somewhere down the road through attrition, as these people in the grandfathered prohibited class pass away, under this bill a half a million firearms, handguns specifically, plus certain long rifles and semi-automatic firearms, will become prohibited. Ultimately one person would own all of those.
Mr. Kirton: Presumably.
Mr. Hill: Okay. I just wanted to see if there was agreement.
One issue you didn't mention is how many members you have in your association.
Mr. Kirton: In the DCRA we have about 5,000.
Mr. Hill: Have you done any polling or received any correspondence from your members on how they feel about the inspection provisions of Bill C-68; in other words, the fact that once this is passed, police will be allowed without warrant to enter any building other than a dwelling house if there are suspected unregistered firearms?
Mr. Kirton: I admit that we have not had any discussion on that, but I suspect that every one of them would be against it.
Mr. Hill: You represent 5,000 firearm owners. I would find it interesting to know whether they have expressed any concern about the provision. I know many have expressed a concern to me about it.
Even with the dwelling house, as you may be aware, under this bill, with the consent of the owner the police can enter if they suspect there is an unregistered firearm, or even documentation pertaining to an unregistered firearm. They can enter with consent. Of course I and others have raised the issue of the case where there's just a teenager at home. How would you feel about that?
The Chair: You're well over your time, but you can put your final question.
Mr. Hill: I was just getting to that, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
You represent young cadets, and I was just referring to the fact that there may be instances where if they were at home, they might be intimidated by police and allow them to come into the home and inspect it without a search warrant. Is that of concern to you?
Mr. Kirton: Yes, I think it very definitely would be.
The Chair: Mr. Wappel, five minutes.
Mr. Wappel (Scarborough West): Gentlemen, as I read your brief, which is mercifully short - thank you - three points are made. One is the hidden agenda point. The second deals with the semi-automatic and full automatic for competition, and the third is the usage for young people. Am I correct that those are the three points you wanted to bring to us?
Mr. Kirton: Basically.
Mr. Wappel: I simply cannot accept the hidden agenda point of view. I believe you've heard that the bill and even its predecessor may already deal with the young person's issue that you brought up, and you'll check into that.
Mr. Kirton: I will.
Mr. Wappel: I'd like to understand the problem with the AR-15 in competition. Am I correct in assuming your concern is because this rifle is a semi-automatic and therefore it will be banned or prohibited or whatever the word may be? Is this the idea?
Mr. Kirton: It is specifically on the list of firearms that have become prohibited firearms by Order in Council.
Mr. Wappel: Okay. Now, we know the minister has said if there are competitions, let's hear about them, maybe we can come to some accommodation. Could you please tell the committee about the competitions that currently exist in Canada that use this rifle, the Colt AR-15, and its variants? How many people partake in them? How long have they been going on? Are they involved in working up toward Olympic sports? Can you tell the committee anything about these competitions with this specific type of rifle and its variants?
LCol Kaulbach: For the last, I suppose, 50 years or so the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association and its provincial rifle associations have been conducting competitions in connection with the regular force and the militia right across the country. At one point the members of the DCRA had the FNC-l and competed side by side with the militia and the regular force.
When the regular force went to what is now called the C-7, the civilian equivalent to that, the AR-15, was the one our people bought, because we run competitions for the military and on behalf of the military in every province in this country. When the Canadian forces national championships take place here at Connaught in July, there are many visiting teams from Great Britain and so on that come to shoot with our regular force and the militia, and our civilian members compete alongside those military teams.
Mr. Wappel: How many Candians are we talking about?
LCol Kaulbach: Canadians across the country, about 5,000.
Mr. Wappel: These are the civilians.
LCol Kaulbach: These are civilians, but these are in each of the provinces.
Here at Connaught we normally get about 200 civilians who compete side by side during the Canadian forces small arms competition.
Mr. Wappel: So the military would use the C-7, which is the military rifle and the civilian people, numbering some 5,000, would use the equivalent of this, which is the AR-15 and its variants.
LCol Kaulbach: Yes.
Mr. Wappel: These competitions have been going on for how long?
LCol Kaulbach: Ever since the formation of the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association.
Mr. Wappel: Way back in 1868.
LCol Kaulback: We didn't have automatic weapons at that time.
Mr. Wappel: No, I can appreciate that. These competitions continue and they are international competitions.
LCol Kaulbach: That's right.
Mr. Wappel: So one would presume what you're looking for at a minimum, the bottom line, would be some exemption to permit their use in competition?
LCol Kaulbach: Exactly.
Mr. Wappel: All right. Thank you.
Ms Meredith (Surrey - White Rock - South Langley): Earlier in your comments you mentioned that you favoured the criminal aspect of this bill. Are you aware that there's no separate charge for the theft of a firearm? In most of what I will refer to, simply because it is not one of the ten most serious convictions...but those which are not considered the ten most serious are either a criminal conviction or a summary conviction, and for the ten most serious criminal activities it is a minimum of four years, not an additional four years, but a total minimum of four years for manslaughter with a firearm or robbery with a firearm.
Do you feel that is adequate as far as a deterrent to criminals using firearms?
Mr. Kirton: We didn't offer any opinion on the criminal aspects because that's not the side we were addressing. In fact, we said we agree with punishments or restrictions on criminals. In our brief we're addressing the use of firearms by legitimate owners.
I know there has been a lot of discussion, for example, about someone who doesn't register a firearm and whether or not that should produce a criminal conviction or some sort of suspended sentence. I believe it has been said that some consideration is being given to removing a first offence for not registering a firearm to avoid a criminal conviction.
But we haven't addressed parts of the bill that discuss the conviction of criminals for offences committed.
Ms Meredith: My question was, do you feel what I've just portrayed, or what is in the bill, is an adequate penalty for the criminal use of a firearm?
Mr. Kirton: I can think of many instances I personally have heard of where people have been convicted of criminal offences with firearms and where I considered the punishment ludicrous; ludicrously light.
Ms Meredith: Would you consider a minimum of four years as light punishment for somebody who chooses to rob a bank - and remember robbery is part of the charge - with a firearm?
Mr. Kirton: Probably, but I am not a criminologist and I can't really tell you.
Ms Meredith: I will leave the remaining time to Mr. Ramsay.
Mr. Ramsay: I believe you were discussing with Mr. Bodnar the question of suicide. There are four areas in which people experience gunshot wounds. They are suicides, accidental shootings, domestic incidents, and of course the criminal use of firearms. This morning we heard from three groups of people concerned about health and safety in the area of suicide and domestic incidents.
The problem I hear raised many times from across the country is that if the registration of rifles and shotguns does not induce more people to provide safe storage, then what have we to look forward to if the suicide rate and domestic incidents do not go down as a result of safe storage? They are not getting at the cause of the problem.
This bill does not address the cause of suicide and it does not address the cause of domestic disputes. They're saying the registration of firearms will be a further inducement to keep your firearm locked up. But if it doesn't do that.... We already have that requirement under Bill C-17. What I'm being asked across the country is what will the government do next when it sees that this is not working and it hasn't reduced statistics in those areas? Is it not reasonable to assume additional classifications of firearms will simply be prohibited? What are your feelings, if any, on that?
Mr. Kirton: That's what we're concerned with also, because that's the way it looks to us. It becomes so difficult to own any type of firearm, and that is why we said in our brief that we anticipate that effectively the government is trying to eliminate all firearms. I think Bill C-17, with the addition of Bill C-68, will definitely have that effect.
Mr. Ramsay: But even if there is no overt expression to do that is it not reasonable to assume that the next logical step, if these provisions do not reduce the statistics in those areas, is simply to say we have not gone far enough and we must prohibit more firearms?
Mr. Kirton: I'm afraid so.
Mr. Hill: My honourable colleague Mr. Bodnar referred to proposed section 117.07, under which people are exempted from certain offences. Upon reflection, I was hoping to clarify that a bit. It details public officers and how they're exempted from a variety of offences. Then under proposed subsection 117.07(2) it gives the definition of public officers. I refer you to proposed paragraph (d), which says:
Mr. Kirton: I don't believe it does. After talking to a great number of cadets, they tell me they have not been able to practise, and that they wish they could have that opportunity.
Mr. Hill: I wanted to try to clear that up because I was afraid Mr. Bodnar might have left the impression that proposed section does address all your concerns and I don't feel that it does.
The Chair: The clause that I referred to will give them a minor's authorization from 12 to 18, but not for restricted weapons. For restricted weapons they must be under military supervision. If they were away from the military they could use non-restricted rifles for competition but not restricted ones.
Mr. Hill: I wanted to clear that up, Mr. Chairman, because I felt Mr. Bodnar did leave the impression with our guests, and with the members, that it corrects all of the concerns. In closing I would point out, Mr. Chairman, that in British Columbia, with some of the base closures, such as CFB Chilliwack, there's going to be a restricted number of opportunities for these young cadets to participate in competitions under the supervision of the armed forces.
The Chair: With restricted weapons. Mr. Gallaway had pursued that. He had an exchange and that I think was brought out.
Mr. Kirton: The weapons that we're talking about the cadets using are not restricted weapons.
The Chair: They are not restricted?
Mr. Kirton: No.
The Chair: Well, if that's the case, then there's not a problem. Anyway, you should examine these provisions of the law.
Mr. Kirton: Yes, I will.
The Chair: We want to thank you most sincerely for your testimony this afternoon. It's been very helpful.
Mr. Wappel: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order, if our witnesses find that their concerns have been dealt with by the sections that they're going to examine, would they be so kind as to advise the committee of that, or to the contrary? If their concerns have not been satisfied perhaps they could advise the committee why not, after they've had an opportunity to review the thing.
The Chair: Mr. Wappel means by a simple telephone call or a letter to the clerk or me.
Mr. Kirton: I see.
The Chair: It wouldn't be necessary to come back to the committee.
Mr. Kirton: After the bill goes for third reading?
The Chair: No, after today.
Mr. Wappel: You're going to go home and start looking at this stuff. Take a look at it and then let the committee know whether or not the sections that we've quoted to you satisfy your concerns with respect to the young people.
Mr. Kirton: Yes, fine.
The Chair: The bill won't go back to the House until the beginning of June. So you have a month or so to look at that.
We'll excuse the witnesses now. We have two reports to deal with, the 11th report and the 12th report. The 11th report includes in it a list of witnesses that we had already approved, you'll see that about the middle of the first page. It says, in brackets, that this list includes the first list already approved. It also includes people we approved to appear at our April 6 meeting of the steering committee. Then you have the 12th report, which deals with an additional group of witnesses that we approved earlier today.
What I want to point out - and the 12th report doesn't mention it - is that in order to hear these witnesses we agreed that we would sit on most Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. That's the only way we could do it. We will be sitting Mondays in the morning, afternoon and evening; Tuesday, morning, afternoon and evening; Wednesday, afternoon and evening; Thursday, morning and afternoon, but not evening. We won't sit on Fridays, except one Friday, which is May 12. The whole day has been set aside to hear from senior officials from various departments, RCMP, Justice and so on, to examine technical aspects of the bill.
The 11th report was agreed to by the entire steering committee. The 12th report was not a unanimous report but was passed by a majority in the steering committee. I leave it open for discussion, or would somebody want to move the acceptance of these reports?
Mr. MacLellan (Cape Breton - The Sydneys): I'd like to make an amendment to the 12th report. There's a name not there.
The Chair: Yes, we had agreed to the British North America Living History Association, under museums.
Mr. Crête: I would like to ask a technical question about report number 11. In group 16, ``Tourism and Outfitters'', we were supposed to hear the Association des pourvoyeurs du Québec. This Association is part of a wider coalition represented by the Fédération de la faune du Québec. The Association des pourvoyeurs du Québec would agree to be replaced by the Fédération de la faune du Québec.
The Chair: The Fédération de la faune was invited with another group. There is a coalition. As you have pointed out, the Outfitters and the Federation are invited.
Look at section 12, ``Hunters conservation''. There is a national coalition of wildlife federations, and the Quebec group is included with that group on that particular morning.
Mr. Crête: It will all be groups representing...
Mr. Bodnar: So moved.
The Chair: What, the 11th and the 12th report?
Mr. Bodnar: Yes.
The Chair: It's been moved by Mr. Bodnar and seconded by Ms Phinney. Is there any discussion with respect to these reports?
Mr. Wappel: Mr. Chairman, the only question I would have is in connection with the Friday, May 12, meeting with departmental officials. My only concern is that after meeting with the departmental officials we'll still have an intensive week of witnesses who may bring other matters to our attention. Therefore I was wondering if it would not be more prudent to meet with senior departmental officials at the end of all of the testimony.
The Chair: We will still have the minister and his senior officials before we lead off clause by clause. This was more particular, and it was suggested by Mr. Ramsay but agreed to by all of us, to have a lot of technical experts, such as forensic experts and the RCMP, for questions.
We couldn't have it the following Friday because that's the Friday preceding the long weekend.
Mr. Wappel: No, I realize that.
The Chair: We will have the minister and senior officials back on the Monday after the break, and again, as many as we might think we need. We will have them at the end.
Mr. Wappel: These are the forensic experts Mr. Ramsay mentioned he'd been speaking to.
The Chair: Yes, and more.
Mr. Wappel: Okay, that's fine.
Ms Meredith: Can I just clarify this? There's no definition clause in this bill. They've left out of part III what I think are some very serious components, and I want to have the drafters of the bill before us so we can find out where they're coming from, why they've put things in, and why they've left other things out.
The Chair: A wide, wide range of experts.
Mr. Wappel: My only question was why we would still -
The Chair: In addition to clarifying, we've also agreed to invite separately, as you'll see in the 12th report under ``other groups'', two forensic experts, one from the RCMP and Mr. Finn Nielsen, who, by the way, is from the Ontario Centre of Forensic Sciences.
Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Chairman, I was just talking to my colleagues from the Bloc, and there is a large forensic laboratory in Montreal, one of the, I think, three non-RCMP forensic laboratories in the country. It might be beneficial for us to hear from that region of the country as well, particularly from someone who appears in court on a regular basis and knows the technical problems that arise as a result of the firearms legislation that presently exists.
Ms Meredith: Add him to there?
Mr. Ramsay: Yes. Of course, I want the committee to know that I asked for more forensic scientists from the various regions so that the committee would understand the problems they face in each region of the country, but -
The Chair: Could we deal with the Quebec one first?
Mr. Ramsay: Yes.
The Chair: I presume that if we invite Mr. Finn Nielsen from Ontario, we could invite a Quebec one to attend the same session. Is there agreement to that?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: This is a laboratory in Montreal? Okay.
You have here two forensic experts, including one from the RCMP. It's one thing to meet a representative from a Montreal laboratory and the RCMP, but if it's an independent expert or someone with the CUM or the Sûreté du Québec, we can invite him.
I'm asked to advise you as well that we were already in touch with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and its members will be here next Monday morning. They were added to this list. They are under ``other groups'' in the 12th report. We were able to get in touch with them, and they're able to appear on Monday at 10 a.m.
Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Chairman, perhaps we could put to the committee my concern about the lack of acceptance for the specific individual witnesses who may be able to provide academic and technical knowledge in a number of areas, including criminology. Professor Mauser has -
The Chair: That's quite in order, but the way we will do this is we have a report before us. If anybody wishes to add or strike out names, a motion would be made to do that. Then we would discuss the motion, to keep it in order. If you wish to add names, you would make a motion.
Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Chairman, I would move that we add names, particularly individuals representing the academic areas of our country, and that we not only accept names that have been presented as requesting attendance before the committee but that the members have an opportunity to seek out witnesses who have a proficiency in a particular field of concern to the bill.
The Chair: I'll consider that as a motion made. However, it would be helpful to the committee if you could write it out by the time we vote on it. It's a bit loose there now, I don't mind saying.
Mr. Ramsay: I will write it out.
The Chair: We can start the discussion. Is there any discussion on this proposal?Mr. MacLellan.
Mr. MacLellan: Mr. Chair, we have a lot of witnesses here. I think there's a very good cross-section. We have the constitutional areas covered from the point of view of the bar societies and various other groups. I don't see the need for other witnesses, particularly ones who haven't applied to the committee, when we've had hundreds of applications and we're not going to be able to hear a great many of them. We could get into a contest of putting on academics who favour certain things, and before you know it, we've considerably increased the list and to no advantage. I think we have a good list and good representation.
You've said yourself that we're going to have to sit three nights in the next three weeks -
The Chair: Three nights each week.
Mr. MacLellan: Yes. If I thought it would be helpful, I'd suggest we find the time. I just don't think it's going to be helpful.
Mr. Crête: We do not repeat the Bill C-17 again. If there is a mistake in this bill, we will have to start all over again in two, three or four years. I would rather do it right this time.
There is a point that I cannot find on the list. It's the financial side of the system. This has been asked from the minister, it has been asked from the witnesses today and it will be asked again from other groups when they come. Nobody seems to answer.
In the past, bills have been passed without information on their financial implication, and we all know what resulted. It would be important to add to the list the names of experts on that topic, so we can know the real cost of the system.
The Chair: Therefore, you suggest another group of people?
Mr. Crête: I would support this position so that we could hear several additional witnesses. Each of the parties could add up to a given number of people.
What I'm particularly interested in is the cost and the establishment of a system that will be operational.
The Chair: You are within your right to suggest that, but I must mention to you thatMrs. Venne, a member of your party, was here this morning and she has approved the eleventh report.
Mr. Crête: Yes, but I'm the one who is here now.
Mr. Lee (Scarborough - Rouge River): In replying in part to the comments of my colleagues so far, we have five or six pages of witnesses, and I can't believe that in all of those we would leave any aspect of this legislation uncovered. In fact, we have difficulty listing all the categories of witnesses, let alone the witnesses. At this point I think we have a full house on all of the issues.
However, if within another week or so it becomes apparent that we are short of input on some element of the bill, where any of us on either side can articulate the case I'm sure members would want to consider the possibility of bringing somebody in on that.
Regarding the proposal to simply open the door to another half dozen, dozen, or two dozen on a general aspect, I can't support that at this time.
The Chair: I want to make it clear that we haven't made a decision that will close things off. As Mr. Lee says, if somebody was brought to our attention who was necessary, we could consider having them on a morning, afternoon, or night, whenever, to complete our information with regard to the bill. Nothing is ever absolute.
Mr. Wappel: Mr. Chairman, I have two points, the first addressed to the mover. I would be interested in knowing specific names of people and the purpose for which they were going to be called, precisely what evidence it was that would enlighten the committee on the bill. In that regard, Mr. Chairman, I can't for the life of me figure out what relevant testimony the Canadian Labour Congress could give us. We're not interested in the anecdotal opinions, it would seem to me.
The Chair: As I mentioned, this is the fourth gun control bill I've been on, and each time the Canadian Labour Congress has appeared. They've appeared through their social and economic affairs committee, which takes positions on crime matters repeatedly. It's through that committee -
Mr. Wappel: Did they ask to appear, sir?
The Chair: Yes, they did.
Mr. Wappel: Were the Catholic bishops asked to appear?
The Chair: No, I don't think so.
Mr. Wappel: Because they took a position on this bill too.
The Chair: Well, they didn't ask. By the way, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture were late requesters.
Mr. Wappel: My point is, with respect to the motion, that the motion is not specific enough for my liking. I'd like to know specifically who my friend over there is wanting to have come and what they would anticipate would be given. Then I could at least look and see if that could be covered off with other witnesses. If not, I might be prepared to consider to support it, but not at this time.
Mr. Gallaway: I assume that the steering committee has attempted to find an equitable balance in terms of positions of witnesses. At the same time, I appreciate what Mr. Wappel has said aboutMr. Ramsay's motion, because I think, quite frankly, in other places it would be declared void for uncertainty. It is very difficult to understand what he's saying. If he were to bring the motion at another time, with more specific wording, then we could reconsider it.
Mr. Crête: Here is my reaction to Mr. Lee's remarks. He said that there are many experts on the subject. I had asked a question.
Do you find anybody on that list who could tell us something clever about the financial costs of the system? So far, nobody has tabled an expert study that we could consider as representing the consensus on the financial aspect, regardless of the political opinions.
The Chair: We had a lengthy discussion on that subject this morning at the steering committee. Questions have already been asked to the minister and his officials and we heard testimonies on that subject.
Here is the problem. In a computer system, you always have different models. The cost varies accordingly. It is as if the government was willing to buy a Chevrolet or a Cadillac. What are the capabilities of each system? That is the problem. It is true that there can be different testimonies regarding costs, but it all depends on the system.
We agreed, this morning, that we should ask those questions to our technical experts on May 12. We will therefore have an opportunity to ask more questions. The governments of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and other provinces have already raised those questions. Other witnesses said that we should hear an expert to see which computer system is the best. It is a difficult situation.
Mr. Crête: We don't necessarily need an expert on computers. The question has to do with how many firearms will have to be registered in Canada. How many exactly?
The Chair: This comes from the Minister.
Mr. Crête: I don't doubt the integrity of the Minister but right now, those concerned cannot pretend that there is a consensus on this.
The Chair: To answer your question, we discussed the possibility of hearing witnesses but the Committee came to the conclusion that it would not be practical and we decided to continue our hearings. Later, if that's possible, we could go back to the Steering Committee.
Mr. Ramsay: Mr. Wappel has asked a very fair and appropriate question, I think. We have to have testimony to give us some idea of the economic ramifications of the bill, whether it has to do with the cost of the program itself. That would be part of it. But also, the indications I'm getting from across the border are that there are these groups that are recommending to their people not to come hunting or fishing in Canada if that's going to have any impact on them - and I don't know whether it will or not. Surely we should have some idea of the economic impact that this bill will create.
I think we should be seeking that kind of information. There are other areas. I understand we may have some people speaking directly to the constitutional area, to the area of the civil liberties that might be encroached on by this bill. I would like to hear from criminologists to determine what they think this bill will do in the area of crime, and the rate of crime.
We should not close the door. If we're satisfied as we go along that witnesses that are presently on the list cover these areas, then that's fine. But I don't think we should be closing the door to individual witnesses who have academic expertise in their particular field.
I remind the committee that we were prepared to go to the Committee of the Whole on the justice minister's bill to deal with the extreme drunkenness defence. Yet the minister wanted witnesses called. His explanation was sound and reasonable. It made sense to me to hear witnesses in those particular areas. Why? To strengthen the basis on which the bill has been created. If we can leave the door open for witnesses who we feel might provide evidence and testimony that we might need to round this thing out, I feel the committee should leave that open.
The Chair: By the way, just for clarification, Jack and members of the committee, we have on the list two groups of criminologists, the Canadian Criminal Justice Association and the National Crime Prevention Council. We're inviting both the Canadian Bar Association and the Barreau du Québec. We're going to specifically ask that they bring people from their civil liberties section as well as their criminal law section to discuss aspects of the bill. We expect that they will also discuss the constitutional aspects.
I think we have covered just about everything, except the point, which is difficult to pin down, of whom we would invite, about witnesses who would be independent to discuss the costs of the system. For the moment we've not invited anybody on that. For most of these other areas, if you look closely, we have people included in these different areas. By the way, for provincial governments, we have Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, New Brunswick and the Yukon, and we've had the Northwest Territories already.
I have a more specific motion from Mr. Ramsay now, in writing. It is moved by Jack Ramsay that this committee accept individual witnesses with academic qualifications in specific areas relating to Bill C-68.
Ms Phinney (Hamilton Mountain): I'm just wondering if Mr. Ramsay would agree to not put that exact motion. I understand that we have left the first motion open. If he had a specific person, whether for the financial part of it or something, maybe in a week's time or two weeks we could come back to it with two specific people we feel need to come in here, and we could add them to the list. Rather than leave a wide open statement, we should be able to put in more witnesses.
But if you find somebody who could come in, or if Mr. Crête finds somebody that could come in, maybe we could add those two. As long as the original motion...is it left open?
The Chair: Today all we're doing is approving the 11th and 12th reports, which say that we've approved of certain witnesses. There's nothing in those reports that say that there shall never be any more.
Ms Phinney: Is there anything stopping anybody at any time saying we'd like a meeting tomorrow at the end of our meeting to add somebody.
The Chair: No.
Ms Phinney: Then could we leave it like that?
Mr. Ramsay: In that case, Mr. Chairman, I'll withdraw my motion if we still have the opportunity down the line to bring names before the committee as witnesses.
The Chair: I think you should keep in mind what Mr. Wappel and some others have said. It would be better if you came with specific names and on what they were going to testify - and that's directed to anybody. I would also say let's not leave it too late, because the potential slots are filling up. We'll have to come in at midnight - there'll be no time left in the days, nights, or whatever - or we'll have to stay on the weekend.
But the committee is open. I mean it's always open to any member to suggest an individual or group to appear, but I would suggest it's better to be specific.
Mr. MacLellan: If we have other witnesses, Mr. Chairman, it really opens up a lot because there are going to be witnesses and counter-witnesses. We don't have anybody from outside the country, do we? Mr. Mauser is an American. He teaches at Simon Fraser, but he's an American. What I object to, Jack - and I'll be quite frank on Mauser - is he wrote a paper on the ownership of the firearms in British Columbia, on whether it is for self-defence or sportsmanship. At the bottom of the page it says this research project was supported in part by grant G1A88-10 from the National Rifle Association.
I don't mind people hearing both sides and hearing witnesses, but I have trouble with that. I just do. Somebody besides Mauser, maybe. But I just don't think this guy is in the interests of what we're trying to achieve.
The Chair: But he hasn't proposed specifically -
Mr. MacLellan: I just wanted to say that in fairness to Jack, because I don't want Jack to go to a lot of trouble and think this fellow would be somebody that...just this one, because of that connotation. That's a concern I had.
Mr. Ramsay: I'm not promoting any individual. The fact is that Mauser has made an application to the committee to appear, and the committee has to make a decision whether they want to hear him or not.
But what does bother me very much is the fact that I visited four forensic laboratories and got an entirely different story on the registration system from what we heard here from the deputy commissioner of the RCMP. Then this morning at the steering committee hearing I understand that the RCMP has told us no, we cannot have any forensic scientists from that grass-roots level, scientists who appear in court every day.
Now, what we've done to -
Mr. MacLellan: That's not my understanding.
The Chair: We accepted your suggestion. We're going to go back to -
Mr. MacLellan: If we can, we'll get them.
Mr. Ramsay: I thank the chairman and the steering committee for agreeing to ask for one forensic scientist who appears in court on a routine basis. But the fact of the matter -
The Chair: We're getting two. One from the RCMP and one from the -
An hon. member: No, three.
The Chair: We've agreed to a third one, from Quebec.
Mr. Ramsay: But we're just getting the one from the RCMP. What concerns me greatly is that the RCMP has indicated to this committee that it will not send a witness under these conditions.Mr. Bartlett has indicated that to the steering committee this morning. I have some concerns about that.
Mr. MacLellan: Have they really said that, or do we think they're going to say that?
The Chair: Mr. Bartlett reported to the committee that at our request they had sent Mr. Murray, who was a forensic expert. Jack points out that Mr. Murray, while he may have been an expert, hasn't been in court for a year or so, or two years. On those grounds Jack convinced us that we should try to get somebody who is going to court regularly on forensic firearms questions.
We agreed with him, and we would go back to the RCMP and say Mr. Murray might have been a good witness, but we want somebody whose duties include going to court. We cannot dictate to the RCMP which person it will send us. As long as the RCMP send somebody who is qualified and who does what Mr. Ramsay suggests.
In addition, the other man from Ontario, according to the note Mr. Ramsay gave us, has gone to court between 800 and 1,000 times on these kinds of cases, so he would be quite an expert witness. I'm sure if we go to the Sureté du Québec or the Communauté urbaine de Montréal we're going to get somebody who can do equally good work.
So we'll get two and possible three people. I don't know. I wasn't involved in the conversation with the RCMP -
Ms Meredith: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman. I understand the committee can request an individual from the RCMP, and the RCMP will send that individual here at the request of the committee. If we have a specific -
The Chair: I'm not sure about that.
Ms Meredith: Are you telling me the RCMP can refuse the direction or the request of the committee?
The Chair: I'm not saying that -
Ms Meredith: I have been advised that this committee can request an individual from the RCMP and it is more or less obligated to have that person appear before the committee at the request of the committee.
The Chair: I'll have to look into that. As a former Solicitor General responsible for the RCMP for four years, I won't disagree with you, but I'm not ready to agree with you totally.
Ms Meredith: Can we request an individual and see if we run into a -
The Chair: If you want to recommend that, then I would want to table the motion and find out. I don't know what sort of agendas.... You're a political party and you have a certain position on this bill. Those of us who have been here have seen in the past where people who have different positions on bills try to make sure they get before the committee the witnesses that are going to support their personal points of view, and it's not necessarily an objective one. If you want to make a motion to that effect, I'll entertain it, and we'll deal with it.
Mr. Wappel: Mr. Chairman, on that very point, presumably we could say the very same thing about the RCMP, that has come to this committee and told us it is in favour of the bill. Therefore we could assume that anybody it chooses to send would parrot what it had already said.
Some hon. members: Exactly.
The Chair: That's the same with any government.
Mr. Wappel: Of course. Your comments are accurate, but they apply to all witnesses and they apply to all parties.
The Chair: That's right.
Mr. Wappel: I would recommend that we table the motion to one week today. Let's hear some specific names with some specific details of what they might say, give the chairman some time to -
The Chair: Mr. Ramsay, are you going to withdraw this?
Mr. Ramsay: I've already left or tabled with the steering committee a list of forensic scientists from every region of this country. The purpose is they attend court -
The Chair: There was nobody from Quebec on the list, but that's all right.
Mr. Ramsay: Yes, except for Quebec.
Mr. Wappel: You're also talking about academics.
Mr. Ramsay: Yes, but this is specifically about the expert witnesses, the scientists. We would have evidence submitted from scientists who attend each week or month on a routine basis.
Mr. Wappel: I understand.
Mr. Ramsay: I made the mistake of visiting four of those laboratories, and I know what they have told me about the registration system. If we are going to introduce a registration system, we want one that is credible and reliable. What we heard from the RCMP witnesses in many areas conflicts with what I heard from these witnesses.
I support what you said. Let's not have someone assigning a forensic scientist who is going to come in and tell us the same story they did. I would like to hear from people who told me a different story. That's why I submitted the names of various qualified senior individuals with experience in the court on an ongoing basis.
It's before the steering committee. What we were told during the steering committee was that we couldn't ask for specific witnesses. That is the issue that Val Meredith has brought up. Does this committee have the power to ask for specific witnesses from the RCMP?
The Chair: We'll check that out.
Mr. Ramsay: That will be satisfactory with me.
The Chair: We've now confused the forensic witnesses with the professors. Your motion, Jack, had to do with individual witnesses with academic qualifications. Are you going to leave this on the table?
Mr. Ramsay: I've withdrawn that.
The Chair: I want to make clear that you've withdrawn that, but you may come back to us with specific names of academics.
Mr. Ramsay: Yes, as soon as possible.
The Chair: I will look into the possibility of whether we can call a specific member of the RCMP to appear before us and I'll report to you, if possible, on Monday.
Mr. Ramsay: Very good.
The Chair: Mr. Gagnon.
Mr. Gagnon (Bonaventure - Îles-de-la-Madeleine): Instead of entertaining witnesses, can we entertain or study mémoires presented or submitted to the committee?
The Chair: That's agreed. Anybody can submit a brief, a mémoire. We have somebody to analyse and categorize these mémoires. Before we sit down and do the clause-by-clause, we'll have the results of these briefs.
Mr. Gagnon: Maybe Mr. Ramsay could pass that to his people who are working with him.
The Chair: I've suggested that. Either Professor Mauser or anybody else can submit a brief, which will be considered by the committee; but they may not appear. They will be listed in our report and the brief studied and whatever recommendations they make you'll have before you before you do the clause-by-clause.
Are you ready for the question? All those in favour of the motion, which is to approve the 11th and 12th reports of the steering committee?
Motion agreed to
The Chair: We have a meeting Monday morning with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, which will no doubt deal with the question of farmers and their guns and that sort of thing.