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37th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights


EVIDENCE

CONTENTS

Thursday, October 23, 2003




¹ 1535
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay (Scarborough East, Lib.))
V         Mr. William Baker (Commissioner of Firearms, Canada Firearms Centre)

¹ 1540
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. William Baker

¹ 1545
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel (Senior Counsel, Head, Legal Services, Canada Firearms Centre)
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot)
V         Mr. William Baker

¹ 1550
V         Mr. Yvan Loubier
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Yvan Loubier
V         Mr. William Baker

¹ 1555
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Inky Mark (Dauphin—Swan River, PC)

º 1600
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. William Baker

º 1605
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.)
V         Mr. William Baker

º 1610
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. William Baker

º 1615
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. John Maloney (Erie—Lincoln, Lib.)
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. John Maloney
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Al Goodall (Registrar of Firearms, Canada Firearms Centre)

º 1620
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Mr. William Baker

º 1625
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Mr. William Baker
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. John Maloney
V         Mr. William Baker
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz

º 1630
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. William Baker
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. John Maloney
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. John Maloney
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. John Maloney

º 1635
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. John Maloney
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. John Maloney
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Al Goodall
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Mr. William Baker

º 1640
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Mr. William Baker
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Christian Jobin (Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Lib.)
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Christian Jobin
V         Mr. William Baker

º 1645
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz

º 1650
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. William Baker
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Paul Harold Macklin (Northumberland, Lib.)
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Al Goodall

º 1655
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Mr. William Baker
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Paul Harold Macklin

» 1700
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel
V         Mr. Paul Harold Macklin
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel
V         Mr. Paul Harold Macklin
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel
V         Mr. Paul Harold Macklin
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel
V         Mr. Paul Harold Macklin
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel
V         Mr. Paul Harold Macklin
V         Mr. William Baker
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz

» 1705
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings

» 1710
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings
V         Mr. William Baker
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel
V         Mr. Inky Mark
V         Mr. William Baker

» 1715
V         Mr. Christian Jobin
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Christian Jobin
V         Mr. William Baker
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz

» 1720
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Ms. Kathleen Roussel
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mrs. Marlene Jennings
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz

» 1725
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. Al Goodall
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         Mr. William Baker
V         Mr. Garry Breitkreuz
V         The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay)










CANADA

Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights


NUMBER 075 
l
2nd SESSION 
l
37th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Thursday, October 23, 2003

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

¹  +(1535)  

[English]

+

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay (Scarborough East, Lib.)): I will bring to order this 75th meeting of the hardest working committee on the Hill, the justice committee. We are meeting this afternoon on the draft firearms regulations.

    From the Canada Firearms Centre, we have William Baker, Al Goodall, and Kathleen Roussel, who is senior counsel and head of legal services.

    I know all of you are familiar with the process here. I am assuming that you have a presentation that you wish to make. I will leave it to you to order your presentation in whatever fashion you see fit, and then after 10 minutes we will go to questions and answers.

    I am assuming, Mr. Baker, that you wish to lead off. Thank you very much and welcome.

+-

    Mr. William Baker (Commissioner of Firearms, Canada Firearms Centre): Thank you, Mr. Chair. It is a pleasure to have an opportunity to be here along with my colleagues to speak to this committee with respect to the proposed changes to the Firearms Act regulations, as tabled by the Solicitor General on June 13, 2003.

    With me today is Al Goodall, the registrar of firearms; and Kathleen Roussel, our senior legal counsel at the Firearms Centre.

    As this committee will know, the current Firearms Act regulations were reviewed in two parts by this committee prior to their coming into force in December 1998. The first section was tabled in November 1996, the second in October 1997.

    These regulations are very important with respect to the administration of the firearms program and the provision of services to our clients across the country. That includes firearms users of all kinds, including hunters, target shooters, and collectors, as well as firearms-related businesses--retailers, wholesalers, and hunting outfitters.

    Turning to the proposals before the committee today, there are 15 proposed regulations, 14 of which represent amendments to existing regulations. They were developed based on discussions and consultations that took place over several years prior to their tabling. These discussions included firearms users, business representatives, and groups with interests in public health and safety. Chief firearms officers were involved, as naturally were other key program partners from within the federal government, including the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the RCMP, and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

    The main purposes of the proposed amendments are to streamline processes and improve administration to support better services to clients and increased efficiency consistent with the gun control action plan announced on February 21, 2003, by the Minister of Justice and the Solicitor General. The proposals are designed to achieve these improvements while maintaining public safety.

    A number of the proposed amendments give effect to the new legislation that was passed in May 2003, Bill C-10A, which is now Chapter 8, Statutes of Canada 2003.

    For example, the regulations put new requirements in place for individuals and businesses that are importing firearms into Canada.

    In many cases, the amendments are technical or corrective in nature. As an example, the reference to certified mail in the current regulations is proposed to be removed because Canada Post no longer offers this service.

    The firearms marking regulations are new. These respond to international commitments entered into by Canada in two contexts: first, as part of the Organization of American States Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials; and second, as part of the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

    As part of the action plan announced in February, the government committed to seek input from parliamentarians, stakeholders, and the public on the delivery of the firearms program. I am pleased to say we are well into the process of consultation to meet that commitment.

    An Internet consultation process targeted at the general public was announced by the Solicitor General in August, and Canadians were invited to provide comments through the CAFC website--that's our website--until September 30. We have received numerous responses, including suggestions regarding the proposed regulations.

    Over the past two months we have also been meeting with groups from across the country that have an interest in the firearms program.

[Translation]

This includes groups and people responsible for security or public health, notably representatives from the fields of law enforcement, suicide prevention, and doctors. We met with representatives from groups of firearm users and firearm owners, hunting associations, wildlife protection associations, and people who practice target shooting. We also met with companies working in fields related to firearms.

    Such companies, notably manufacturers of firearms and manufacturers of armoured cars are meeting today in Toronto. I had the opportunity to meet with this group this morning in Toronto. I am happy to announce that our discussions have been productive. We have received many suggestions regarding the proposed settlement. Generally speaking, the changes outlined in the bill have received considerable support.

[English]

    We have also had valuable feedback on how we are administering the program quite generally. For instance, this included comments on the processes that are in place now and where improvements in services might be achieved, how we might work better with community groups to raise awareness and promote safe firearms use, and how we might communicate the importance of the program to Canadians to help encourage compliance.

    I'm also pleased to say that we've had positive feedback and recognition of improvements in service delivery that we've achieved over the past six months or so. With respect to the proposed regulations, I am confident that after receiving and considering the input from consultations with the public, stakeholders, and Parliament, I will be in a strong position to present recommendations to the Solicitor General for his consideration.

    My colleagues and I would be more than pleased to respond to any questions you may have.

¹  +-(1540)  

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Thank you, Mr. Baker.

    Mr. Breitkreuz, you have seven minutes.

+-

    Mr. William Baker: I strongly suspect we're hearing what you've been hearing. Today in Toronto was our seventh national consultation meeting. I was in Edmonton and Calgary last week. We were in Moncton on Monday and have had a number of sessions in Montreal and Ottawa as well. We are getting a lot of constructive input on the regulations.

    It is safe to say, by and large, the amendments to these regulations are being well received, because compared with the original regulations they provide in many cases some simplification to the rules and reduce some of the compliance costs, to Canadian business in particular.

    But they are raising issues with respect to the regulations: issues in terms of their ability to comply, issues with respect to the cost of compliance—fees, and so on. We will take all of that input, along with whatever we hear from this committee today and input we've received generally from Canadians through the website, and analyze it. That process is starting very quickly, because it is quite a body of regulations. We will analyze them to present recommendations to the minister.

+-

    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Let me clarify this situation. These regulations could be implemented as early as Monday. Are you saying, then, that they will not be implemented, that you will put this all on hold until there has been a thorough examination of all of the issues involved, and that they will not be implemented until all of this is sorted out? Is that what I hear you saying?

+-

    Mr. William Baker: We will examine each recommendation in its own right to determine, first, whether there are changes that make sense in light of the feedback we've received from Canadians, and second, what a reasonable coming-into-force date is for that particular recommendation.

¹  +-(1545)  

+-

    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: How will we know what those changes are? Will you bring them back to Parliament?

+-

    Mr. William Baker: The process would be that recommendations would be presented to the Solicitor General. He would then return to special committee of council for finalization.

+-

    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Would we have an opportunity, as a committee, to examine this?

+-

    Mr. William Baker: It is my understanding, sir, that through this process today is the opportunity to obtain input from the House of Commons. We may be before the Senate committee next week. That is not yet confirmed. Then, of course, whatever the ultimate definition of the regulations is will be printed in the Canada Gazette.

+-

    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: I have some general questions, because our time is limited.

    There is an overall concern about all the fees the Canada Firearms Centre is charging. You must be aware of that. There is $74.3 million in fees that have been collected since the start of the program. If, as you claim, the gun registry is a public safety program and improves public safety for all Canadians, why are the fees being charged at all? They're a very small percentage of the total cost. The minister's own user group told him many times that all the fees do is discourage compliance, and non-compliance is of course a huge problem. They feed the grey and black markets, so why are these fees being charged?

+-

    Mr. William Baker: Those fees are in place now, as you are aware, and through these amendments we are looking to update the fees. In many cases the actual fees that are being proposed come down, because we're spreading them over three years, for instance, for business licences, and in many cases the actual annual fee declines. As you're probably aware, fees have generated some revenue to government—I believe less than 20% historically. The policy of charging fees for services to Canadians is well established. The issue is what the proper share of total program costs is that can be reasonably borne by users.

+-

    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: But you would agree, wouldn't you, that they discourage compliance?

+-

    Mr. William Baker: We've heard from Canadians, through the consultations, that in some instances the fee can be a deterrent to compliance.

+-

    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: The second issue I want to raise in my introductory general questions here is that I've heard that the shooting clubs and shooting ranges regulations weren't very controversial. I want to tell this committee right now that they are extremely controversial. The government really at this point is unable to produce a shred of evidence that shooting clubs and ranges are any danger to the public safety or to members of the clubs or ranges. So why is the government insisting on making regulations when their own statistics show there isn't any problem here?

+-

    Mr. William Baker: With permission, I'd like to ask my colleague Kathleen Roussel to respond to that.

+-

    Ms. Kathleen Roussel (Senior Counsel, Head, Legal Services, Canada Firearms Centre): I' m not sure I can respond to you in this context. You're asking about a regulation that was made and in effect some years back. Certainly the amendments that are before this committee and that were tabled are not controversial, because they're simply definition. There is no substantive amendment, if I can put it that way, to the regulation at this point. As for whether the regulation as it now exists is controversial, I don't know that I can answer.

+-

    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: I'll come back to that.

[Translation]

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Loubier.

+-

    Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot): Just so that we are clear, I would like to remind you that my party supports the Firearms Act. We also support the establishment of a registry, as my colleague from Châteauguay has said on many occasions in the last few months.

    The only thing that bothers the people of my party and myself is that the enormous costs relating to the first months of implementation of this Act still have not been accounted for. Someone has yet tell us whether it is true that the administration costs of this program really are 500 times higher than expected. I would like to ask you a question.

    You mentioned earlier that your were currently on tour. Is it not true that the enormous administration costs for this program, now one billion when they were originally estimated at two million, are damaging the credibility of gun control in Canada? I have been the spokesperson for my party in financial matters for nine years, and I have never come across a similar situation. In the past, meticulous investigations were launched for abuses substantially less severe than those that exist within this program.

+-

    Mr. William Baker: It is obvious that costs are of interest to the public. This issue has come up frequently throughout our public consultative process.

[English]

    We've heard at virtually all sessions we've held with Canadians, be they business or individuals, pro-gun control or not pro-gun control, concern about the costs of the program. As the Solicitor General mentioned to this committee, I believe two weeks ago, in the course of reviewing the supplementary estimates for the Firearms Centre, we are seized with that. We are taking measures to make sure our costs are under control. We will not be seeking additional money for 2003-04 for the program, hopefully putting to an end the historical practice of relying on supplementary estimates. We have a plan in place to bring the costs of this program under control, and we are taking care of that business quite effectively right now.

¹  +-(1550)  

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Yvan Loubier: It’s nice to regret this money pit, but after the regrets there should be a meticulous examination of the reasons which produced such enormous costs. Since we have been aware of this budget spending, of these costs 500 times higher than originally predicted, we ask that an independent public inquiry be made. Has any incumbent other than those that are members of opposition parties asked for an independent public inquiry? It seems to me that that would be a good starting point in rebuilding credibility for the gun control program. I remind you that the majority of the people we represent support gun control. However when we see situations such as this one and yet the program goes on and more effort goes into trying to convince people that we are heading in the right direction, we lose a lot of credibility if we do not address the costs.

    Mr. Baker would you and your colleagues be ready to open your books so that we may examine point by point what may have contributed to such a money pit and identify the people responsible for it? This makes no sense. To go from two million dollars to one billion dollars is an aberration. Would you be open to an independent inquiry?

[English]

+-

    Mr. William Baker: Any decision with respect to an independent investigation would have to be taken by the Solicitor General.

    I should point out that last winter the costs were examined in considerable detail in the course of the review of the public accounts committee, following up the tabling of the Auditor General's report. At that time the Minister of Justice and the Deputy Minister of Justice provided information to the committee to explain why costs had increased so much over the years. It was related to costs associated with constitutional challenges, a large investment that had to be made in communications and outreach to educate Canadians. A number of provinces, as you're aware, opted out of the direct administration of the program, which necessitates federal action and expenditure. They've explained those costs.

    I can tell you with respect to transparency, in the departmental performance reports that will be tabled soon in Parliament, the firearms program will continue to be presented in the context of the justice department performance report, because that's where it was last year. It will provide parliamentarians with considerably more detail on the spending from last year.

    Similarly, beginning next fiscal year, the Firearms Centre is a separate departmental entity, and as a result we will be able to provide direct reporting on the firearms program in and of itself, as a separate entity under a separate vote, and provide both performance and financial results to Parliament. I believe that will go a long way to address any outstanding concerns, maybe, about transparency.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Yvan Loubier: Mr. Baker, you have mentioned the role of provinces. Are you telling us that the provinces are responsible in large part for this money pit; that it is because the Canadian provinces did not want to participate in the control of firearms that administration costs for the program jumped from two million to one billion? Is this what you are telling us? If I understood you correctly, you referred to the provinces being an important factor in incurring these enormous costs. Would you be ready to repeat this before provincial representatives? When the scandal was made public, provincial representative did admit they shared the responsibility, but that their part was minor given that this was a federal program.

[English]

+-

    Mr. William Baker: No, it was just one of many. In particular, it was problematic when a province such as British Columbia was administering it and then decided not to administer. When that happens we have to fill the void, and there is an overlap for a period of time, which is expensive; there are always transitional costs in terms of dealing with staff and what have you. It's just one of many factors.

    I think the biggest one, which I neglected to mention earlier, is of course the costs that have had to be incurred to develop the new computer systems in support of the program. This is a complicated system, when you're dealing with two million Canadians and many millions of firearms of countless types. There are lots of transactions taking place between businesses. That was one of the factors as well.

    The provinces, for the record, have done an excellent job of administering their responsibilities as chief firearms officers under the act.

¹  +-(1555)  

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Mark, you have seven minutes.

+-

    Mr. Inky Mark (Dauphin—Swan River, PC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Let me begin by welcoming our witnesses today.

    Let me also say that as a Canadian I believe in gun control. We've always had gun control in this country. Canadians believe in gun control, and we've had various experiments through the course of history. As you may remember, during the Second World War we had long gun control, and it was chucked out after the war. We've had restricted firearms control since the thirties. In fact, we haven't even really evaluated that program from the thirties. Through theft, we still don't know where most of these guns end up.

    I also should say that I've been shooting all my life as a recreational firearm user, and I can guarantee I'm not a criminal.

    The biggest problem with this whole business of the long gun registry is that it is an intrusion into the lives of people who use firearms because of necessity—people who live on farms and in cottage areas. That's the biggest negative with this whole program.

    It's like a sinking ship. We just keep patching it and trying to keep it afloat, but we know it is going to sink somewhere down the road. After a billion dollars, we're going to keep spending.

    The fact of the matter is that the compliance levels are very low. There are a lot of people out there who are criminals not by intent but by default, whether it be that they lack a firearms licence to register the firearm or a possession statement, one or the other. I get calls all the time. The RCMP are checking cars and pick up people's guns. They take them and refer the case to the provinces. The provinces won't have anything to do with it, so it goes back to the RCMP. People get so frustrated, not because they are criminals; they're just ordinary citizens. They have a firearm and are going out to shoot some gophers.

    One guy said he got a permit to shoot beavers from the rural municipality office. He always did what he had done; he had the gun beside him in the vehicle. I told him he shouldn't be doing that, the gun has to be locked up.

    Canadians don't disagree that firearms should be locked up. They don't disagree, but the problem is the way this whole thing has gone, right from 1993. The Library of Parliament did a study back then and told the government of the day to wait a few years and let Bill C-17 take its course. It had just been passed before the government changed.

    In fact, in my own opinion as a restricted firearm user of almost 40 years, the system today is worse than the system used to be. I'll just give one example, of transportation alone of restricted firearms. Today you just throw a form in the mail and it's gone. In the old days, they had to be mailed by registered mail to the RCMP depot before you received a transfer. A simple thing like that was a lot more secure. Today stuff gets lost in the mail.

    I still question your consultation. It's too easy for government departments to say they consulted. Just ask the aboriginal community about Bill C-7. I used to sit on that committee, and boy, we spent a lot of time talking about consultation. I'd like to see the details of who you consulted and make sure there was a balance on one side and the other. There are always cons and pros—just like the current party merger, Mr. Chairman—to ensure that everyone has a voice.

    Going back to when Bill C-68 first came into being, the minister had a collection of people around him to consult. The minister never listened to their recommendations.

    In terms of clubs and ranges, I used to be the president of a shooting organization, and the ordinary, average citizen is so frustrated with the attempt to enforce regulation. And when people put their backs up, the authorities say, well, it's not really law; it's sort of like recommendations. There are so many inconsistencies out there. Besides, these folks who shoot at ranges are not the crooks; they're the taxpaying people, so that you and I can have a job at this place.

º  +-(1600)  

    The other thing I question is the people who manage this program. A lot of them really don't have the background, and I hate to say that. I've spent a lifetime in firearm use, firearm training, hunter safety—all these things. it's very frustrating. I think that's what most Canadians experience who have anything to do with firearms. I understand that urban perceptions are very different. If I lived in Ottawa for 25 years, I would say the same thing: who needs a gun living in downtown Ottawa, unless I want to practise for the Olympics? I don't know how we're going to get....

    The other big question is really about provincial cooperation. If you can't get provincial cooperation, how are you going to make anything work? It just ain't going to work. That's why I asked you questions at the last meeting. I have constituents who have been so-called “charged” by the province. The province won't carry it out; they throw it over to the federal government. Now I'm told the federal courts won't lay any charges other than safe storage, even though these people don't have a possession certificate, or the gun is not registered.

    So why are we doing all this--for what? Is it to provide the optics to the public that yes, we're doing all this great stuff to make sure people are safe? Well, people are safe. I hate to disappoint them: people are safe. The majority of the people use firearms in a very safe way. The crooks are the ones who are going to get hold of guns.

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Mark, do you want Mr. Baker to respond?

+-

    Mr. Inky Mark: Yes. I'm frustrated too.

+-

    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): You have three seconds.

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    Mr. William Baker: You've raised many things, Mr. Mark, and I'll try to keep my comments very brief.

    With respect to the consultations, believe me, we consulted all interests in this regard. This morning in Toronto, these were firearms businesses. We also had someone out from an outfitters club. In Moncton on Sunday night, I met with a group of ten people who were in shooting clubs and ranges and what have you. I was in Calgary meeting with a group, I visited ranges, we've been to gun shows, and so on. We're hearing from the people who have an interest. These are people we consider to be the clients—gun owners. They're the people we are trying to secure compliance from in order to make this work, and in Parliament's wisdom.

    I think there's evidence that we mean what we say. We have dramatically improved client service in the last number of months. They are our clients, because if we can't get their compliance and get it on a voluntary basis, we're never going to make this work, and we have to treat them with respect and provide them with proper levels of service. Right now the 1-800 number works extremely well. The Internet works well. We're processing licensing and registration applications within the service standards. That's our starting point: a good level of client service.

    The next point is to make sure the information we're collecting through licensing and registration and the services we provide is delivering value to Canadians and achieving the benefits envisioned by Parliament.

    I should also mention the minister's decision this summer to make it known that Canadians who had not yet obtained a licence or registered their firearm could do so at any time without penalty, and I can tell you, since June 30 we've received about 250,000 firearms for registration. We're glad to take them and get them into the system and help people comply with the law, and they feel better for it.

    As for the police and the actions taken by provinces, the provinces are doing their duty; police are exercising their proper discretion when they come across issues. In many cases they simply seize the firearm and ask the person to get the right paperwork; then they can take possession of the firearm. They have the discretion under the law to do a number of things that make sense under the circumstances. I think provincial support and participation is much better than some people would lead you to believe. We work very closely with all the provinces, and I'm confident it's working well.

º  +-(1605)  

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    Mrs. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.): Thank you for the presentation.

    I want to touch on a point Mr. Breitkreuz and Mr. Mark have raised, the process of consultation. Who is being consulted? Over what period of time is this consultation taking place? How many individuals and/or representatives of associations or businesses will have been consulted at the end of the period? How much communication or how much comment or reaction have you received from ordinary Canadians: e-mails, telephone calls, faxes, and letters? If you're not able to tell us that at this time, you can give us just the broad strokes and perhaps at a future date give us a mini-report as to how the consultation went.

    This is very important. Some of my colleagues are putting into doubt the credibility of the process, so I think it is important to get the information out to show who has been consulted, what has been the reaction, and how many ordinary people have actually responded to these proposed amendments. That's one point.

    Second, what efforts have been made to consult the aboriginal communities? Mr. Mark makes a very strong point about how the needs may be different from those of people living in urban areas, for instance. In this public consultation, have you reached out or do you intend outreaching to aboriginals to find out what their views are on the amendments?

    The other point is that you talked about improving client service. Can you give us some actual statistics that say six months ago here's what the delays were, and here is what they are today?

    The last bit is on this issue of long guns. Yes, I'm an urban dweller, but I spent a lot of summers growing up on a farm with my grandmother in rural Manitoba. She used to take us out hunting. It was probably illegal, because it was in the summer, but she took us out hunting. She had long guns, so I understand a little bit about long guns. But I'd like to know whether you have statistics on how many accidents causing injury or death are committed every year through the use of long guns. We get a lot of information about crime that is committed with revolvers and things like that in urban areas, but what's the state of affairs in those areas where you have long guns that are very prevalent?

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    Mr. William Baker: Again, you have raised a number of things.

    Just very quickly on the consultation process, I mentioned that we have had seven consultations, and we have another one with police representatives here in Ottawa. At each of these sessions—and I have attended every one of them with two or three of my colleagues—we've had on average 10 or 12 people attend, which is about the right number for a meaningful session. These are full-day sessions. They are structured in a way such that I take the first half hour to update everyone on developments, we talk about the regulations they wish to talk about, and then we have a general discussion about the program to determine what other input they may have that could inform us in the future as we refine policy and legislation.

    On those numbers, it's not a lot, but the people at the table.... For instance, we had one consultation with all of the wildlife association provincial representatives from across the country. We've had all the national firearms associations in the room, business groups, outfitters' groups, shooting clubs. Their reach is quite extensive. Many of these people brought written submissions to the consultation sessions as well. I am quite confident the process has achieved its objectives.

    In terms of the general public, I'm just going to turn to Kathleen.

º  +-(1610)  

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    Ms. Kathleen Roussel: We've received approximately 300 general comments and about 100 that were focused on the regulations themselves.

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    Mr. William Baker: I think we're achieving what we set out to achieve through the consultation process.

    As to feedback, what we have told people is that naturally there's a course that's followed. There will be analysis, and the public will certainly know what the ultimate shape and date of coming into force for each regulation will be. We've told everyone who's participated in the consultation sessions that we're prepared to meet with them after that, to get back to them about anything they raised that we couldn't accomplish and why. Invariably, that is going to happen, because in some cases we're hearing comments that work at cross purposes on the same regulation. We're trying to find the right balance.

    Also, on some of your questions about the statistics, I don't have the statistics with me. As just one example, we do know that in the case of domestic disputes long guns are a bigger problem than hand guns. As you know, these occur in fits of emotional turmoil and so on. The people aren't necessarily criminals at the time or beforehand, they're just people who temporarily, with drastic consequences, lose their composure, and awful things can happen.

    With long guns in particular, we've had good success. About 6 million of the guns we have registered out of the 6.7 million are long guns. We've had over a million long guns registered since January 1, the original deadline. So we're quite pleased with the level of compliance Canadians are demonstrating.

    On aboriginals, we are in the process of writing to aboriginals. There are special regulations that affect aboriginals that are not part of the amendment package. We have also had meetings with the Assembly of First Nations. We have a number of projects underway with Métis, aboriginal groups, and northern groups to look at how we can make this program work in their setting while respecting their legitimate rights.

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    Mrs. Marlene Jennings: Thank you.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Breitkreuz.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Thank you.

    I want to make a comment before I go on to my questions. You made the observation that there are more long guns used in domestic disputes, but that doesn't in any way help to prove that registration would in any way affect what happens with those long guns in a domestic dispute. We've had hand gun registration since 1934, and they have been tightly controlled through that time. It makes no difference in a domestic dispute. That's been our argument all the time. This isn't gun control, because it doesn't affect what's happening in most domestic disputes.

    I want also to pick up on Mrs. Jennings remarks. You had, before this advisory group, a group known as the user group on firearms to advise the minister. Through access to information, I got a report that was submitted to you by Steve Torino, and virtually none of that report is reflected in these regulations. You're consulting all these people, but it doesn't make any difference. The regulations are not affected in any way by what people are telling you. How do you respond to the fact that the user group on firearms gave you all these good suggestions and none of them are contained here--and these were the experts?

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    Mr. William Baker: I've seen that report, and actually, it wasn't sent to me; it was prior to my arrival. The minister's user group, which was in place for many years, as you know, considered and deliberated on a whole host of issues related to firearms control, only some of which are touched on through these regulations or amendments to these regulations. For instance, comments that the minister's user group has raised with respect to decriminalization or limiting the necessity to register long guns and certain things like that are not within the scope of these amendments. That would require a substantive change to the scheme of the act.

    I should point out that the person who has, I think, always been the chair of the minister's user group, Mr. Steve Torino from Montreal, is a member of our program advisory committee that has replaced the minister's user group, and he has also attended three of our national consultation sessions on this and contributed in that way. So he continues to make an excellent contribution. There are two other members of the former user group who are on the new advisory committee for continuity's sake.

º  +-(1615)  

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: But my point is still valid. Bill C-10A hardly reflects at all any of the recommendations made.

    I want to go to what the Auditor General said, and I'd like to quote from chapter 10.68:

The Department said the excessive regulation had occurred because some of its Program partners believed that the use of firearms is in itself a “questionable activity” that required strong controls, and that there should be a zero-tolerance attitude toward non-compliance with the Firearms Act.

Many of theses regulations seem to be drafted by the very people the Auditor General complained about. Why is that?

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    Mr. William Baker: I'm not sure what source--

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: That's from the Auditor General.

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    Mr. William Baker: I appreciate that, but I'm not sure who would have stated that.

    I can tell you, sir--

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: I can give you that report, by the way.

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    Mr. William Baker: Sure.

    Our philosophy in administering the Firearms Act is what was intended by Parliament. People have legitimate uses for firearms in this country. We have a duty to serve those people, to help them comply with the act. Neither I nor my colleagues nor the Solicitor General have stated anything to suggest that there's any bias towards gun ownership in this country, except where the laws of the land are clear with respect to prohibited hand guns and certain uses of prohibited guns. So I can't speak with authority about the source of that. I can tell you that is certainly not the principle under which we operate today.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: I think you'd have a hard time convincing gun owners of that statement.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Maloney.

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    Mr. John Maloney (Erie—Lincoln, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    You indicated compliance is still a problem. There were penalties and sanctions if you didn't comply by a certain date, and now the minister has said, if you come forward, there will be no sanctions or penalties. As a result of that, you have 250,000 new registrations. I'm sure you have a figure of how many guns are still out there and not registered. That figure probably differs significantly from Mr. Breitkreuz's, which is much higher.

    Have you ever tried to reconcile your figures with Mr. Breitkreuz's? Can you give me a guess, which is probably the best you can do? What is the non-compliance rate? How many guns are out there? And again, how you can you reconcile your position with Mr. Breitkreuz's?

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    Mr. William Baker: The only study the government has quoted in that respect recently is an analysis from a couple of years ago, a survey by an external firm, and the methodology was reviewed by another firm to ensure that it had integrity. That study suggested there were about 7.9 million firearms that Canadians possessed. We have about 6.6 million or 6.7 million in the system. Having said that, I appreciate as well as anybody that there are limitations on any study that tries to determine what is or is not out there, and it gets to the heart of people's behaviour and how they react to questions like that.

    We have not attempted to reconcile the two numbers, which are widely different, and frankly, I don't see the value of spending a dollar trying to determine nationally what the compliance rates are; it probably would be an unproductive use of money. Our approach to achieving compliance would be to target those areas where we know we have higher levels of non-compliance and try to come up with solutions that work. That could be better education, more support, or working with our partner agencies to try to bring people aboard. So I really don't know, and I don't think anybody in the country knows exactly how many guns are out there.

    We are encouraged, nonetheless, by the responsiveness of the public to the registration requirements lately, because the registration system will only achieve its maximum effectiveness with as many guns as possible in the system.

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    Mr. John Maloney: I understand that either inadvertently or deliberately, a lot of the applications had errors, so I assume the computer kicked them out and they had to be processed manually. Do you have a rough idea of how many of these applications were in that situation, and what was your cost in having to process them manually?

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    Mr. William Baker: With your permission, I'd like to ask Al Goodall, who is the registrar and might be able to shed some light on that question.

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    Mr. Al Goodall (Registrar of Firearms, Canada Firearms Centre): Thank you.

    When the program began in 1998, we were running at about a 90% failure rate, where there were exceptions caused by missing information or incorrect information. Fortunately, at that time the inflow of applications was fairly low. We made some substantial modifications to our processing in 2001, which then allowed us to get the necessary information and avoid hold-ups for minor issues. We're running at about 10% for the last two years; 10% of the applications require some sort of follow-up, for various reasons.

º  +-(1620)  

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Mark.

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    Mr. Inky Mark: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I'm going to give you another example of how ridiculous this whole thing is and how it affects another sector in this country, the military. I have a son who is an officer in the army. He's a dentist. A few years ago he took his basic training, where he learned to use weapons. He did his officer hand gun training. When he got back to base, what did he have to do? He had to take this stupid firearm safety course, just like the rest of them on base, because even the military can't opt out of taking this civilian safety course. That is just ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. That is even the way we treat our police officers. They are trained to use their firearms, and yet, once they're off duty, they may have to take the course. I believe they have to take the course, they have to get a transport permit so they can transport the things from their houses to the office. It is just ridiculous.

    I believe we are starting to feel the effects of this whole piece of legislation. Just last week I saw a clip in Manitoba about the lack of hunters going out to hunt for ducks and geese, and ducks and geese were going to become a problem to the environment. In fact, the environmentalists were asking what was wrong with this country that we don't have enough people out there helping to control the great numbers of ducks and geese. We have the same problem with deer hunters. People aren't going. Do you know why? It is because people feel like criminals. Most average gun owners who take their guns out to go hunting, because of the heaviness of the law, just don't feel right. That's what I'm being told.

    There's something wrong when the aboriginal community is objecting to this. The Inuit people up north are contesting it in court, the Métis are contesting it in court. We have the aboriginal community saying, it's your law, stick it. In fact, what does it do for them? If they have special rights, that's great. They do have special rights. How does an aboriginal living on a reserve in northern Manitoba register his gun? Does he have to take a firearms safety training course too? He's been using a firearm since he was a little kid to gather food. It is irrational how this whole thing is playing out.

    That's my point of view.

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    Mr. William Baker: First of all, just to clarify a point in case anyone thinks otherwise, anyone in his or her official duties as a member of the military or police force does not need to comply with requirements of the Firearms Act with respect to licensing or registration. In their personal lives, yes, they fall under the ambit of the Firearms Act. You should--

º  +-(1625)  

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    Mr. Inky Mark: But on the base they actually had to take the course.

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    Mr. William Baker: Actually, that isn't necessarily the case.

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    Mr. Inky Mark: You must have changed the rules, then.

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    Mr. William Baker: No. For some time now you've had the option of taking the test instead of taking the course. It's called challenging the exam, and I believe about one-third of all licence-holders in the country obtain their licences by taking the test without taking the course.

    I should tell you that one thing I've heard in spades across the country is very strong public support from all groups on the safety training, which is a key part of this program.

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    Mr. Inky Mark: No one disagrees with that.

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    Mr. William Baker: I've heard people say, even though they thought they had good knowledge of firearms safety, they found the course useful and continued to learn things. On that point, there is the option not to take the course, but to take the exam instead.

    On the aboriginal issue, I should point out that we recently hired a first nations firearms officer, who is working in the west to assist aboriginal communities to comply. Once again, the litigation with aboriginal communities is well established and the courts will do what they have to do in that regard. Aboriginal groups, and I've met with them, have a strong interest in public safety on reserve and in their communities, and they are interested in finding a way to make this work that satisfies their legitimate interests as well, and we're working with them.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Maloney.

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    Mr. John Maloney: We have the chief of police from Canada's largest city saying the firearms program is not working, and we have some police associations, especially out west, saying the firearms program is not working. On the other hand, the last information I had was that the police were using the system for more than 2,000 hits a week. Again, how do we reconcile those positions with what is in fact happening?

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    Mr. William Baker: I had occasion a few weeks ago to meet with Chief Fantino, and we talked about this very issue. While I can't account for everything he may have said or has written on the subject, the point he made to me was that the investment in firearms control hasn't helped him to fight downtown Toronto crime involving hand guns and gangs. That is not to say it is not accomplishing something, but it's not helping him in that particular context, because naturally, some of those hand guns are not going through the regular system. With respect, on the Firearms Act, I think anybody looking at this with a cool mind would conclude that it will never address that kind of issue, except to give the police a tool to get people who haven't complied with the law, if that's the only thing left in their toolbox to get the bad guys.

    It is intended to generally appeal to the broader community on safe storage and use accountability for firearms and to provide a tool for police to trace firearms. Admittedly, we do not have good statistics, but we do have cases where information in the registry was very helpful to police forces in being able to defuse a difficult situation and remove firearms from the premises, because the registry told them there were firearms that were not visible when they did the initial search. Who knows to what extent that has saved lives or reduced injury? That's the inherent challenge of a preventive program in that regard. It certainly continues to be a challenge, but time will tell. The registration system is just coming into its own. We have to get enough guns in the system and get enough good information--and bear in mind the deadline was effectively this summer--to really be able to demonstrate the value this can provide for Canadians.

    The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police continues to provide support. I make it a matter of course to meet with police chiefs. I met with the chief of police in Calgary last week and the deputy chief in Edmonton, I've met with the chief here in Ottawa and others to discuss the program, to find out how we can make it work, how we can serve them better, and what they can do to make it work, including making sure their officers have proper training in the use of the firearms registration system. They have the technology support. They are communicating to the public when the firearms system is helpful to them. There is a lot of good work to be done. We still have a way to go in being able to demonstrate to Canadians the value of the registration system in particular.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Breitkreuz.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Thank you.

    I wish I could interrupt once in a while to correct the record. For example, we've had safety training for decades, and that's really not a part of this registration system. Bill C-68 wasn't necessary for that, and it has more to do with the licensing than the registration. It is the registration that you will find has spun out of control here. The licensing most people will have no problem with, and the safety training is part of the licensing, not the registration. There is always that confusion.

    I want to touch on a different area. Mr. Lafrenière from the Library of Parliament has put out a very good paper that was distributed by the clerk of the committee to everyone here. In it he has some very good research, but I would like to zero in on the firearms marking regulations. These regulations, Mr. Lafrenière says, are very controversial: “The international agreements are generally not supported by the firearms community and they may also raise concerns regarding the practicality and costs of having firearms marked.”

    I don't know how you would respond to those general concerns that he has raised. I'd like to start quoting from some of the reports you have received and that I have received as well. How would you respond to that?

º  +-(1630)  

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    Mr. William Baker: In our consultations, the marking regulations, which I should point out, unlike the others, are a change, but they're not in force yet, have been controversial. We have received a number of representations, particularly from gun dealers, manufacturers, importers, and so on, with respect to the compliance burden this would impose on them. We duly noted that. There are concerns about the costs of marking the firearm, which would generally involve engraving or stamping, concerns as to what that might do to the integrity of the firearm, its value, its durability, and so on. We're taking that on board as we consider the final wording of those regulations and the timing. Of course, those regulations are there to fulfill Canada's commitments under the two protocols I referred to earlier.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: This is going to increase the cost by probably $100 to $200 per firearm, which is going to drive a lot of it underground into the black market. It's a very prohibitive cost.

    You cannot mark these firearms with a hammer and punch; you're going to have to go to lasers, which is a $100,000 cost in equipment right there, according to Tony Bernardo. I won't have time to read his entire submission, but he says this is going to drive retailers out of business and has done so. There used to be 3,000, but there are now 450, and even they are just hanging on by their nails.

    This is really something that drastically needs to be scrapped. Do you not agree?

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    Mr. William Baker: All I can say at this point is that we're faced with two realities, the protocols the Government of Canada has signed and reaction from some quarters in the industry about the cost and burden of compliance. We are just at the precipice, as we complete this consultative exercise of working through to see what can be accomplished in light of that.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Maloney, please.

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    Mr. John Maloney: Mr. Baker, crime statistics would indicate that use of firearms in crimes is on the decline. Can you, in fact, draw a correlation between that reality and the implementation of the firearms program?

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    Mr. William Baker: I'd be hesitant to try to do a direct attribution because, like any social phenomenon, there are many reasons or a number of criteria driving why guns are improperly used. People have attempted to map the misuse of firearms against different stages in the evolution of firearms control in Canada, and some have concluded that there is certainly evidence to show it is having an effect; but I would be very reluctant to try to extract from that, or to attribute what is directly a result of firearms control versus what might be directly a result of other preventive mechanisms, such as support for women when they're having difficulty at home in their marriage, or whatever.

    So I would leave it at that.

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    Mr. John Maloney: Is it fair to say it has been a factor?

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    Mr. William Baker: I think it's reasonable to assume that it has had some bearing on the safe use of firearms in the country. Certainly, there are people we consulted with who would have a lot more to say in support of that assertion.

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    Mr. John Maloney: One of our own committee members produced three different licences that were issued to him. He responded that the initial licence had been issued with an error, and he asked that it be corrected. After two tries, it is still not corrected, which is a little bit embarrassing for the program.

    I had a situation where a firearms owner produced to me two licences. I asked him how that happened; he had applied for one through e-mail and one through the mail. I said, “There you are, that's why you have two licences.” But why didn't the computer pick that up and prohibit the issuance of the second licence to my constituent? And what are we going to do with my poor colleague across the way who is having these produced for him? It's as if they are multiplying themselves.

º  +-(1635)  

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    Mr. William Baker: Your colleague's issues have been addressed, and Mr. Sorenson took possession of his new, corrected licence last week in Alberta. We made sure of that.

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    Mr. John Maloney: That's reassuring.

    Thank you.

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    Mr. William Baker: All I can say is that, with 6.6 million registrations happening in a short period of time and 2 million licences issued in a relatively short period of time, there is going to be some slippage. Al mentioned a 10% error rate.

    We are trying to tune our systems more finely, and one of the more major undertakings in the Firearms Centre, as you're probably aware, is called ASD. It is a new technology solution that will be much more modern, efficient, effective, and user friendly, and it should be able to deliver the kinds of improvements that are needed in that regard.

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    Mr. John Maloney: Is there a penalty for having more than one licence? Is there an onus on a registrant to surrender one of them if he inadvertently receives two or more licences?

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    Mr. William Baker: I'll ask Al for confirmation of this, but I understand that when we do issue a corrected licence we ask the individual to destroy the previous one.

    Al, could you illuminate that?

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    Mr. Al Goodall: In the case of the two licences, you did mention that one was done by paper and one electronically, so I think that would necessarily be a registration certificate. You cannot apply for a licence electronically, as clarification. We do take steps to clear that up.

    Specifically, as to whether there is a penalty, when we send the certificate to the individual, we ask them, in the event that there are errors or problems with it, to contact us. We wouldn't penalize someone for having that. In fact, there is only one firearm that's registered, although they may have two certificates. In some cases we actually issue a second certificate if there is some correction or additional information to be included, but we track that through numbering right on the certificate, and this is all verifiable by law enforcement, for example, through the CPIC system.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Mark.

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    Mr. Inky Mark: The purpose of this whole thing was to help police officers. You're saying today we will tolerate a 10% error rate in the system. Is that not contradictory? Do we have a 10% error rate within the new CAFC system?

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    Mr. William Baker: The error rate was with respect to the existing system, but that doesn't mean there are 10% that fall outside. Those were 10% that required correction, and they are being corrected.

º  +-(1640)  

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    Mr. Inky Mark: So do you know what the error rate is in the new system versus the old system?

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    Mr. William Baker: The new system is not yet implemented, sir. We cannot implement the new system until we have the regulations finalized.

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    Mr. Inky Mark: I wasn't too thrilled with the old CPIC system either. As a former mayor, I had the chief of police check my registered firearms on CPIC, and I found out that firearms I had owned twenty years before were still in my name. That didn't make me too happy. They use a number system, a probability system of one to nine. If they still don't know where they are and they think they're in my name, I'm not too happy, because I don't have them. When we're dealing with millions of firearms, and certainly long guns, do you think the system can tolerate any kind of error if the intent of the system is to help police officers?

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    Mr. William Baker: The scheme of the registration system is really focused on the individual firearm, so at any point in time where information about that firearm is required and that information is correct and complete for a police or an enforcement agency, mission accomplished. It's able to serve its purpose of assisting with a trace or an investigation or whatever. To the extent that the information is not complete or inaccurate, it may not be helpful. I think the system can tolerate a certain degree of slippage, but it's our objective to try to keep that to an absolute minimum, so that we can derive full value from the registration system.

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    Mr. Inky Mark: But error can also involve intrusion into the privacy of individuals, the innocence of individuals. That's another concern that has never been raised in respect of the reaction of the police to people who, by error, are accused of owning something. Remember, we still need to match registered firearms to registered people, right?

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    Mr. William Baker: Yes.

    I think, in fairness, the police have acted admirably with respect to the provisions of the Firearms Act and the requirements. They use their discretion and their common sense to make sure there isn't an outcome that is not fitting. Generally speaking, if they come across situations like that, they'll just work with the individual to make sure paperwork is corrected or they get their firearm and so on, and in the meantime they may seize the firearms if necessary.

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    Mr. Inky Mark: But how do you deal with the people who haven't re-registered their registered firearms or do not renew their possession certificate? How are you going to rectify it? There is that gap there. That's the reality. There are hundreds of thousands of people in that category. Or is the system going to outright charge them?

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    Mr. William Baker: There are system checks. You can't register a firearm without a licence, to begin with.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Monsieur Jobin.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Christian Jobin (Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I for one, find it normal to register a firearm. In a civilized society all motorized vehicles and trailers are registered. I think it is equally important to also register guns. Unfortunately, according to what I read recently, only 70% of the guns are currently registered. For the system to work well or reach its maximum potential we should be targeting 100%.

    I would like to know what measures are being taken to register 100% of guns in Canada partnering with the police forces or not.

[English]

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    Mr. William Baker: As we move beyond the initial period of loading up the system with the large volumes of registrations, and formerly licences, we're now concentrating more of our effort on what we refer to as a compliance strategy, to look at areas where we're not getting the level of participation and developing solutions. For instance, as part of our consultations, there were discussions and suggestions made of how we might tap into.... This would take the provinces agreeing, but there may well be people out there, and I understand there are, who haven't registered their firearm but nonetheless hunt regularly, and they do get a hunting licence. That's been established for so many years that they don't push back at that. How can we work with provinces that issue hunting licences to use their distribution networks to get out information on registration? I'd like to see a day when you can't get a hunting licence without a firearms licence, but of course, that would take a decision on the part of provinces to do that. I'm confident that we will get to the point where the program is achieving the kind of performance it should achieve and provinces are more inclined to work with us on that front.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Christian Jobin: I would like to know if the provinces fully cooperate with regards to what you just said. During the first phase of the registration of firearms they had not collaborated. Are they now working with you, specifically when they grant hunting licenses? Is the interface with the provinces easy?

[English]

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    Mr. William Baker: We're already working with all provinces. As you know, some provinces have opted into the program and some haven't. We have five opt-in provinces, representing over 75% of the population in Canada. So we work with them and others. When I was in Alberta last week, we had a meeting with the Alberta Hunting Instructor Education Association, which is a charitable organization set-up, and even though Alberta is a jurisdiction that has chosen not to deliver the chief firearms officer responsibilities, this association is working extremely closely with the federally appointed chief firearms officer to look at opportunities. I received wonderful feedback about the support they're getting from our federal chief firearms officer, and I've been hearing that across the country. So there are opportunities there, and we're working with people and will continue to do so.

º  +-(1645)  

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Breitkreuz.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: I have to correct one thing you said, that police will know where the firearms are. There's no requirement anywhere here that these firearms be stored at a certain address, so how can they know where they are? In fact, I would venture to say that if a person has valuables and they're required to register them with you, they would probably not put them where someone who may have access to that information would know where they are. That's a very spurious argument at best, would you not have to agree? Because there's no requirement to store them at a certain place, how can you be assured that they're there?

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    Mr. William Baker: Thank you for making that correction. It is true that there's no requirement that they be necessarily, for instance, in the home; they could be somewhere else. But it is nonetheless a useful tool, and it has assisted police with their investigative activities and in helping defuse difficult situations.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Does a firearm owner have to carry his firearm registration certificate with him while he's hunting?

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    Ms. Kathleen Roussel: There's no positive requirement, either in the act or in the code, to carry the licence or certificate. There is no offence for not producing one of the documents. The only issue is under section 117.03 of the Criminal Code: a peace officer may ask a person to produce their licence or certificate, as the case may be. Where the individual is unable to do so, the police have discretion. It's not automatic that they do this, but they can at that point seize the firearms and hold them for 14 days to allow the person to produce.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Why don't you answer that question when people ask you? I cannot figure that out.

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    Ms. Kathleen Roussel: I answer it all the time, personally.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: But there is nothing in law and nobody knows.

    For another thing, is a photocopy of a registration certificate good enough to produce?

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    Ms. Kathleen Roussel: The code says you must produce the licence or certificate, and a copy would not be a licence or certificate. However, if someone is uncomfortable, for whatever reason, carrying the original, they could carry a photocopy, and I would suspect that in most cases police would be satisfied with that and would not seize, given the obvious proof that they do have the documents.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Can you cut and laminate the registration certificates?

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    Ms. Kathleen Roussel: You wouldn't cut through the actual certificate, but as you know, there are four certificates to a page. You can certainly cut them up to have four little pieces, and there is nothing in law that would prevent you from laminating them.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Okay.

    I want to read you something that I think really relates to our whole discussion here, though not necessarily to one particular regulation. This comes from one of the Liberal senators, Willie Adams, who was citing in the Senate a story from a local newspaper:

...there was an article about the many Americans who travel to Nunavut every year to hunt caribou. Under government policy, local guides are not allowed to carry guns. Honourable senators, two Inuit people, who were guiding a group of American hunters who were caribou hunting on the mainland, were attacked by a polar bear that ripped their tent open and chased them. They did not have a gun to protect themselves. In fact, the bear had gotten into the Americans' tent first but, fortunately, it did not attack them. The bear did, however, go after an Inuk who did not have a gun. The Inuk hunter had left caribou meat outside his tent, but the bear showed no interest in eating it.

The Inuk person was attacked by the polar bear. When he fell, the polar bear climbed on top of him and bit his head. The hunter was trying to protect his neck because he knew the polar bear would go for his neck and kill him. The polar bear broke two ribs of the hunter. They say that, if you are attacked by a polar bear, you must not scream, because the bear will know you are still alive. Knowing that, the hunter stopped screaming, stopped calling for help. The polar bear then bit the Inuk's feet, and dragged him down to the seashore by his toe. The hunter had to have over 300 stitches in his head and back. That is the type of horrific situation that can happen if guides are not allowed to carry guns to protect themselves....

    The regulations you guys are putting in place.... Parliamentarians pass laws that make no sense. I would submit that is what's happening here today, and people just don't realize how serious this is. You're not listening to what we, who are in touch with ordinary people, are saying about these laws. It's going to have the absolute opposite effect the politicians in Ottawa are trying to portray, and I can't understand why we're going ahead with this.

º  +-(1650)  

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Thank you, Mr. Breitkreuz. That may or may not be a question to address to the government.

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    Mr. William Baker: I would just like to make one comment.

    Sir, we are listening. The issue is that in the context of the amendments to the regulations, there are certain things we have an opportunity to address now and there are certain things we don't have an opportunity to address within the construction of the law. But we are listening and taking note of the issues Canadians are raising, so that I can provide the best advice possible to the Solicitor General and the government.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Macklin, please.

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    Mr. Paul Harold Macklin (Northumberland, Lib.): Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you, witnesses.

    Today, I think we are all reflecting on long-term issues and are wondering to some extent...although we're dealing with regulations today. But I'd like to get a few clarifications as to how we are coming along with other outstanding concepts and ideas brought in by user groups.

    In particular, Mr. Baker, since you've taken over, how have you developed your relations with respect to gun dealers, who seem to be part of the key in making the whole system work? In other words, they're like intermediaries, so to speak, between the gun manufacturers and the delivery of the guns to the individual users.

    Have you taken steps to build a better relationship with them? For example, there was a hotline at one point that was somewhat ineffective. I received a number of complaints from gun dealers in my area suggesting there were problems. There were also problems with importing parts with respect to guns; for example, if I remember the term correctly, I think they were referring to the instrument part of the gun, which was being deemed a gun, and so forth—at least for registration purposes. They were getting into all sorts of difficulties and finding themselves with a massive amount of paperwork that, if they are going to pass it on to the ultimate consumer, obviously hurts the industry as a whole.

    So could you bring us up to date as to where we are in that process of generating, hopefully, better relationships with our dealers? Have we worked out some of these issues, and how have we worked these issues out?

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    Mr. William Baker: I'll make a few comments, and perhaps the registrar may have something to add.

    First of all, we do interact with dealers regularly. They have been part of our consultative process. Their issues, for instance, about their ability to make sales in real time so that they don't delay their customers, that they get accurate information and feedback, are critical.

    We have improved the service we provide to dealers. The big issue for them is transfers. That's the technical term for being able to transfer ownership from the dealer to the purchaser through our Miramichi processing centre site. I have been there and have seen how that works.

    We have also now provided dealers with the opportunity to do transactions over the Internet, which is a relatively new service. The take-up is limited at this point in time. Like anything, it will take a while for them to get hold of that, but I understand the quality of service is there.

    When I was in Alberta, I visited a company called the Bud Haynes Auction, which is the largest gun auction house in the country, in Red Deer. I met with Mr. Haynes and his daughter, who runs the business now. They had an auction of 306 or 307 firearms just recently and indicated that for the first time all their firearms were transferred on time, and they were very pleased with the service they got from the centre.

    Sometimes that has to be referred to the provincial chief firearms officer if there is an irregularity. They were pleased with the turnaround time for fixing those problems, so I think we are making some inroads there.

    Dealers are critical players in making the system work well, and they also shape public opinion. Gun owners come in to buy ammunition and to get their guns fixed. They talk. They have a shared interest in guns. We can't do everything there, but certainly to the extent that we can provide them with a good level of service. Hopefully, that will raise their confidence in the program, which might translate into a better degree of public support from the hunting community, and so on.

    Al, do you want to add anything?

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    Mr. Al Goodall: Yes, I would just add a couple of comments.

    In very specific terms, at the central processing site in Miramichi, we do have a dedicated line for businesses only. If they wish to transfer firearms by phone, they can access that.

    Again for businesses, we've had an electronic process in place, if my memory is correct here, since about 1999. It's an electronic firearms transferring and registration tool. That's available to high-volume businesses only, but as Commissioner Baker mentioned, we've just recently introduced an Internet service for businesses, and the business individual transactions there were receiving very favourable comments.

    More recently we introduced a facility that allows business-to-business transfers. Our first kick at that was not particularly successful. That was in July of this year, but in working with the businesses we heard a lot of feedback and input from them, and we've made modifications and relaunched this on October 8. It's very early; however, we appear to be having very good feedback from that.

º  +-(1655)  

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Mark.

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    Mr. Inky Mark: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    I will ask you a real question. Since the coming into force of the long gun registry, or even Bill C-68, going back to that legislation, do you have the data on how much crime has actually taken place through use of registered firearms or how many people have been killed by registered firearms?

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    Mr. William Baker: I certainly don't have that with me, and I don't even believe it exists yet, because of the time lag, recognizing that a good number of firearms have only been registered within the last year or so. The original deadline was last December. We've had 1 million plus since then. So I think the registration scheme is still too immature to generate the kind of results you'd be looking for.

    Usually the statistics I've seen on firearms-related crimes and so on are a couple of years old before they're published. It will take a couple of more years.

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    Mr. Inky Mark: Do you have data on the same topic for, say, the previous ten years in terms of the status of firearms used in the commission of crime? Were they stolen; were they registered; did they belong to the owner? Do you have that kind of data, previous to Bill C-68?

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    Mr. William Baker: I'm not aware. I'll ask my colleagues about that.

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    Mr. Inky Mark: The reason I ask is, again, I'm still asking the question on intent and purpose of this whole exercise. We don't know what the intent and purpose is, and if we can't collect data that prove it one way or another, why are we spending $1 billion?

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    Mr. William Baker: Perhaps I could share with you what the Firearms Act is seeking to accomplish through the registration component, and I would just make a few comments on that.

    Certainly registering the firearm to an owner encourages safe storage and handling by holding firearms owners more accountable. Most firearms owners are extremely accountable for their firearms. They want to protect their families, and so on. But certainly by connecting the firearm to the owner you complete the loop.

    It does help police solve crimes, and we do have incidents of this, by being able to trace the origin of the firearm recovered from a crime scene. We shared a few of those examples with parliamentarians last winter when we put on a couple of demonstrations here on Parliament Hill.

    It can help in the recovery of lost or stolen firearms--not many, but there are thousands of firearms that were lost or stolen that the police have been able to trace and bring to their rightful owner, using the registry system. It's just a small percentage, I might add, of the total number, but again, because the registration system is still in its infancy, it's difficult to judge its effectiveness.

    The information can help police respond to events. The comment was made earlier about police access. Actually, we're looking at about 1,500 police accesses to the system a day, not a week, so it's very healthy in terms of their using that information to help them.

    It can help enforce a court order. If the court decides that someone should be prohibited from owning firearms, registry information can help the police identify which firearms should be removed from the owner. Now, again, there are no guarantees that there might not be other firearms that aren't registered, but it can be a useful tool.

    And finally, we know that 700 affidavits in courts in Canada have used firearms registration information to assist them in their proceedings.

    This is just an indication of what we're hoping to accomplish through the registration program.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Thank you.

    Mr. Macklin.

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    Mr. Paul Harold Macklin: Thank you.

    Again, on other things that have come to my attention....

    I previously referred to “instrument”. I guess I meant “receiver”, as a part of a gun that is actually in theory deemed to be a gun for all intents and purposes.

    As for marking these firearms, I know some people are concerned about the effect on the value of a gun, especially if you're marking it after--in other words, that there are no visible markings on the gun. Is it appropriate and possible under the regulations, as proposed or as enforced, that in fact you can do so in a way that, for example, if I'm marking the barrel of the gun, I could hide it within the actual stock of the gun? I'd have to disassemble to demonstrate the actual number, but in fact it would in a better sense retain the value of the gun because it wouldn't be visible without that amount of disassembly.

»  +-(1700)  

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    Ms. Kathleen Roussel: In the draft regulation, there actually are some exceptions to how a firearm would be marked, or more particularly, where it would be marked.

    In cases where the registrant is a person--a “person” being either a business or an individual--who has to mark a firearm, that person can approach the registrar to get a determination that the firearm is rare or of an extremely high value. In those cases, they would be able to get an exemption from marking on the receiver and could mark in a place that's not visible on the firearm.

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    Mr. Paul Harold Macklin: But it would only apply in those specific instances. Otherwise, it has to be visible. If I just had a gun without a registration that was visible, an old gun that wasn't necessarily of that antiquity, then I would have to do it where it would be visible.

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    Ms. Kathleen Roussel: Presuming the firearm was neither rare nor of an unusually high value, it would have to be visible. That's how it has been drafted.

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    Mr. Paul Harold Macklin: On a different issue, where members of gun clubs are transporting their guns from their homes to a registered gun club, do they still, under the process, have to get a transportation certificate in order to move their gun from their home to that particular gun club, or has that been dealt with in any way that would make it more appropriate for a member to transfer his gun?

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    Ms. Kathleen Roussel: They still would need an authorization to transport, but there are provisions in the Firearms Act to allow the authorization to be issued as a condition of the licence. I can tell you that provision hasn't been used to date, but my understanding is that the new system will accommodate it, so I would suspect that within a year or so we will start seeing authorizations issued as a condition of a licence. It won't be a separate piece of paper.

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    Mr. Paul Harold Macklin: So it would be a one time only application?

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    Ms. Kathleen Roussel: They would apply, presumably, at the same time as they would apply for their licence, and the authorization would be a condition of the licence itself, which is renewable every five years.

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    Mr. Paul Harold Macklin: Would they have to identify the gun club, or would it be just to any registered gun club that they could transport?

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    Ms. Kathleen Roussel: They have to identify where they are going. Some chief firearms officers will give larger parameters, any gun club in your province. It has to be an identifiable location, but because gun clubs are approved, it could be issued as any gun club in a particular geographical area.

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    Mr. Paul Harold Macklin: That's very encouraging. Thank you.

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    Mr. William Baker: May I just add a clarification? Of course, those authorizations to transport are only applicable to restricted firearms such as hand guns and prohibited weapons, not everyday rifles.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Breitkreuz.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: I have to come back on a couple of points you've just made. You said registration will improve accountability. It doesn't improve accountability beyond what licensing does, not in a material way. The second thing is that it will somehow help the police to enforce court orders. There are 131,000 people right now who are prohibited from possessing firearms in Canada, and we don't have the police resources to enforce that. Registration doesn't in any way help the police in that respect. We're spending a billion dollars on this and, in effect, we don't have the police resources to enforce the laws we already have in place. There's nothing to say they'd not have an unregistered firearm anyway.

    I want to come back to what Mr. Macklin was talking about on the export and import regulations. Our researcher from the Library of Parliament, Mr. Lafrenière, has drawn this conclusion: “The new provisions dealing with the importation of firearms parts are sure to be controversial and would involve both the requirement to obtain an authorization and the fees involved.” That's about $20, I believe. “The fee is capped after the first 250 authorizations--5,000 annually”, which is really not much of a help. I come back to the point I made, that this actually has the opposite effect to improving public safety. These regulations, registration and so on in Bill C-68, have driven repair shops out of business. The capacity to keep guns in good repair--and that's a safety measure--has now diminished in Canada, and because of this regulation, you're going to have even more of that problem. It's going to be compounded, because people will think twice about having to send it to the States. We're promoting a lot of business in the States, I realize that, but that safety measure we should be concerned about is now diminished by this.

    I'd like to read a quotation from Mike Grinnell of Mike's Gun Repair in Haliburton:

I do not believe that import permits should be required for parts for non-restricted (or restricted) firearms. This will severely affect all firearm repair businesses and hence income obtained from the repairs to firearms is guaranteed to stop. Firearms which are otherwise repairable will become useless.

--I would submit, more than that, they will become dangerous--

The overall intent of this requirement appears to be that the imposing of permit requirements is just another way the Liberal government is trying to limit private ownership of firearms by Canadians--to satisfy commitments it has made to the UN and NGOs.



This proposed activity will do nothing to affect crime in Canada. Criminals do not register their firearms, nor do they use import permits!

    Enough is enough, he says. How do you respond to somebody like this and what I've just raised?

»  +-(1705)  

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    Mr. William Baker: I've heard those concerns as well, in particular with the fee associated with having parts brought into the country, and situations have been explained to me where the part itself may not be worth more than the fee. Your point is taken. I think we're coming at this from exactly the same direction. We're trying to look at making sure any change contributes to the ultimate objective of achieving the benefits as set out in the act, and if it doesn't, we have to take a hard look at that and see what can be done to address it.

    So that concern has been raised. It is certainly one of the items we'll be examining with respect to review of the regulations.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: I appreciate that. I come back to the point I made right at the beginning. There shouldn't be fees for any of these things. If it's a public safety measure, the cost should be borne by everybody.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Ms. Jennings.

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    Mrs. Marlene Jennings: When Mr. Breitkreuz says there shouldn't be fees for anything, like it or not, there is a policy now, and it may be through regulation here at the federal level, but there is cost recovery, etc. So I think that's a whole other debate that cannot be limited, in my view, just to the firearms regulations.

    I want to come back to a point that doesn't touch directly on firearm regulations, but rather on the entire program. As you are very well aware, there was a great deal of debate and possible, in my view, misinformation regarding a supplementary estimate vote of $10 million. I saw reporting in the paper and comments made by colleagues in the House of Commons, in Hansard, where it appeared to be that it was new money, it was a new appropriation, and those colleagues seemed to be very much up in arms. I'd like to know if there is some way you can clarify exactly what was that $10 million. That's my first question.

»  +-(1710)  

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    Mr. William Baker: I'll try to provide further clarification, building on comments the Solicitor General made during the review by this committee of the supplementary estimates.

    The supplementary estimates accomplish two things for the firearms program. It's the mechanism by which we take the budget out of the justice department and move it into the firearms program, and that's a wash, out of one area and into another. The $10 million was money budgeted last year for the new technology solution, and primarily because of the time it has taken to get Bill C-10A approved and these regulations, this keeps pushing that system implementation into subsequent fiscal years. So we've simply taken the money from last year that was for that purpose and had it carried forward to this year. So it does not represent any new money being invested in the program year over year.

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    Mrs. Marlene Jennings: And as you explained, it's for the implementation of this new system. Because the legislative requirements that would allow you to implement it haven't as yet come into force, you haven't been able to use that money, and you can't use it for anything else.

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    Mr. William Baker: That's right, that would be disrespectful. And also, the way the contract is constructed, payment is on delivery of the system, so even though a considerable investment has been made in developing it, the nature of the contract requires activation before we can make the bulk of our payment.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Mark.

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    Mr. Inky Mark: The word “receipt” triggered a problem that is communicated to me quite often. When an officer stops an individual with a firearm and the officer apprehends or takes the firearm, very seldom is a receipt given. Is it possible to put in regulations that upon the surrender of a firearm, a receipt must be given to the owner of that firearm?

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    Ms. Kathleen Roussel: Without amending the act, there would be no authority to do that. However, when the reporting requirements of the public agents firearms regulations come in, one of the things police are asked when they report firearms, including those they seize from the public, is where the firearms came from: were they surrendered, seized, found, etc.? So although we don't have authority to ask them to give the public a receipt, at least on the back end of the transaction, if I can put it that way, we'll have some idea of where the firearms came from. So if there was ever a question about the firearm, the registrar would be a position to say police force X got it from this person, with the serial number. They could query it that way.

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    Mr. Inky Mark: I think there are two advantages of doing that for both the police and the owner of the firearm, because we don't want to accuse our police of taking in firearms and then they're disappearing. You hear all kinds of things in the public. At the same time, the owner of the firearm should have a receipt for a product that they've just lost, which they may never get back.

    The other point I want to make is this. I think Canadians need to understand that Bill C-17, the pre-runner of Bill C-68, did a lot of good things. In fact, most of the things that we're talking about today probably came about because of Bill C-17, such as safe storage and the screening of applicants before they can purchase firearms. The only sad thing I find is why we had to move on to this next step before even giving Bill C-17 a chance to work its way through the system and to get some data on it so we could at least support and argue for its existence. That, I'm sure, would have been positive.

    My question is, under the current circumstances, would you welcome the Auditor General doing an assessment on the effectiveness of this long gun registry? Somebody has to do something. If the system won't allow a public inquiry to take place, somebody has to evaluate and assess the expenditure of our tax dollars. I believe that's what people want in this country, not because of the gun thing but because of the money thing.

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    Mr. William Baker: I have two remarks. First, it is certainly one of our objectives, as part of our reporting obligations to Parliament, to provide better and more fulsome information not only on what the program is spending but also on what it's delivering to Canadians.

    Secondly, certainly it's at the discretion of the Auditor General to decide when to come in and do what they would call a value-for-money audit on the program. That would be totally at the call of the Auditor General in terms of timing. My sense is that they too would be interested in seeing the system sufficiently mature in order to allow them to conduct their audit in a meaningful way.

»  +-(1715)  

[Translation]

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    Mr. Christian Jobin: I am trying to compare what is happening here in Canada with what is happening in the United States. We are regularly seeing horrible things happen. We see for instance a kid take a parent or a grandparent’s firearm. He kills people in a school or in a shopping mall and then we hear the parent or the grandparent excuse him based on the fact that he was raised around firearms. I think these horrific things are happening nearby, in the United States. In Canada we are implementing a firearms’ registry. I think it will help reduce crimes.

    My question is the converse of the one Mr. Mark asked. He wanted to know how many crimes had been committed with registered firearms. I am thus asking you how the registry will help reduce crimes in Canada. Will it take us in the right direction? I believe so, but I am asking you the question.

[English]

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    Mr. William Baker: I'm not aware of any way that you can actually measure prevented crimes. Almost by definition, the crime didn't occur and therefore it isn't tracked as an event.

    Certainly one of the things we have been discussing with police agencies in the country is how we might get a better handle on how the information--the licensing and the registration, and the public safety education--is helping them to accomplish their job. And we still have a way to go.

    On your specific question on criminality associated with registered guns, again because the registration system is so new, we don't have enough experience with it, nor do the police forces. It will probably be a couple of years before we start to have a good indicator of that direct result.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Christian Jobin: Based upon you personal experience, do you think we are going in the right direction with the registry program?

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    Mr. William Baker: Yes, I think we are. If we do the work properly, if we have reliable information and if the police officers have access to this information, then it will benefit Canada. It will be important to follow this issue unfold and perform a thorough analysis.

[English]

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Breitkreuz.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Mr. Chair, I want to make a comment with regard to the last thing, because it strikes at the very heart of the whole discussion here.

    If you took the money that was spent on this whole thing and instead targeted the root causes of violence in our society, what could be accomplished? That should be it. I know a cost-benefit analysis has been done, and it has been hidden from me and it has probably been hidden from you. That's what the debate boils down to. What are we getting for this money? If we were to really start targeting the root causes of violence, I think it would be amazing what we could do. That's the heart of this whole discussion.

    I want to come now to the regulations amending the gun shows. Again, Mr. Lafrenière from the Library of Parliament makes this statement, which says:

The current gun show regulations are not in force. Even though these amendments would streamline some of the requirements in the original regulations, these regulations are sure to be controversial. Of concern would be the gun shows to which the regulations apply, the requirement to obtain an authorization for every gun show, what constitutes a sale, etc.

    I'd like to read a quotation from Larry Whitmore of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, and I'm just going to ask you to respond to what he has to say. You probably know him. He says, “The new definition of a gun show would affect all shows where firearms are sold, no matter how small the activity is in relation to the entire event.”

    In other words, if one gun is sold at the Toronto Sportsmen's Show, even though there may be only one or two dealers with firearms, then the entire show will come under the gun show regulations. The reason given was that the CFO must be aware of all gun shows. Our response was that the CFO will be already aware that the dealers are at the show as they must apply for a special business licence in order to attend.

    The question was asked, what constitutes a sale? If the dealer displays firearms and takes an order and a deposit, does that constitute a sale under the Firearms Act? They would not answer that question. I hope you can. The gun show licence is only valid for one show.

    It was pointed out to them that a group or individual may host a multitude of shows over the course of the year and an application for each is a waste of money. We suggested that they change the licence to be valid for more than one show, that is, perhaps a year.

    How do you respond to those concerns?

»  +-(1720)  

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    Ms. Kathleen Roussel: I should say I was at the consultation where Mr. Whitmore was, and we had some very good discussions on the gun show regulations. I indicated at that time that, simply from a drafting standpoint, we would have to look at the particular section of the act that deals with applicability. I was asked the question about sales at the time and I didn't answer it. I didn't answer it because there were other discussions going on and it wasn't the most appropriate forum.

    Without giving a dissertation on the law of contract—and I'm going to try very hard not to—certainly the situation you described would, in my view, be a sale in that there is a contract formed. Going by those rules, then certainly the regulations would apply. Having heard numerous comments on regulations, we certainly agree that we have to look at that particular section and we have to have the minister apprised of our discussions. A decision will have to be made on what shows we are trying to regulate and we will have to make sure that this section conforms to the policy and intent.

    So we're looking at it. We left there with a very open mind. I certainly told Mr. Whitmore and his colleagues that I would be happy to report back.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: I hope you do, because I've looked at the regulations that govern a lot of these things and they really are absurd. Anyway, I hope you do have an open mind.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): You're saving us from a dissertation on the long contract.

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    Ms. Kathleen Roussel: I tried to avoid it as best I could.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Those of us who have gone to law school can only exquisitely remember those afternoons of boredom.

    Ms. Jennings.

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    Mrs. Marlene Jennings: I didn't find the courses all that boring, and I didn't find the tax law courses all that boring either. I had my best marks in those classes, even though I never intended to do fiscal law as a practice, or corporate law.

    This was actually a question I had wanted to ask you in my last round. You mentioned earlier, notwithstanding what we're hearing in the newspapers and in the media about the provinces balking at any cooperation with the gun registry program and the firearms program, that in fact there's a great deal of cooperation actually going on. The registrar is actually getting a lot of cooperation. And you said something to the effect that there are five opt-in provinces representing over 70% of the Canadian population. Could you tell us which provinces those are?

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    Mr. William Baker: From east to west, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario are all provinces that continue to deliver directly the chief arms officer function. In the other parts of the country, either they didn't get in initially or they got out later, and we have put in place federal employees to perform that function.

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    Mrs. Marlene Jennings: Thank you.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): Mr. Breitkreuz, for the last questions.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: I have a million questions here.

    Mr. Tomlinson of the National Firearms Association writes:

The proposed Regulation requiring the stamping of “CA” and the year of importation on all firearms is nonsense. Many modern firearms have a plastic “frame or receiver” which cannot be so stamped. Others, such as earlier chrome- and nickel-plated firearms, cannot be stamped without producing a “peel point” which allows the plating to peel off in strips. Others, with ultra-hard surface coating (e.g. nitrided firearms) cannot be stamped because the firearm is harder than the stamp. Others can have their collector value seriously degraded by the stamping of non-original markings. Finally, the stamping of these marks is futile, because anyone wishing to confuse the system can stamp such markings on inappropriate firearms. This proposed Regulation demonstrates ignorance of firearms technology.

    I also became aware of the fact that some of the new regulations require these little stickies to be put in certain places, so people are going to have to move them. If that's in fact true, if they have to be put in a certain place, that just shows the absurdity of this. Also, when people are oiling their guns, those stickies are gone. The people who have designed these regulations are really out of touch.

    I wonder if you can address some of the technological concerns people have.

»  -(1725)  

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    Mr. William Baker: Well, I can say that in the last few weeks, in talking to businesses, I've learned more about firearms stamping and engraving than I ever thought I would have to in my life. It is an issue. They've raised a number of legitimate concerns with respect to the capacity of the firearm to be stamped or engraved.

    We talked earlier about the cost, how it might impact the value and functioning of the firearm. All I can say is that at this point we're taking all of those on board, and as I said earlier, we will be seeing what we can come up with to recommend to the minister, while respecting the fact that Canada is a signatory to the protocols that are driving those regulations.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: I'll conclude with one more thing. I don't know why they took the information on calibre and gauge off the firearm certificates. What was the reason for that?

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    Mr. Al Goodall: As I mentioned earlier, there were some modifications made to assist in the processing of applications in order to streamline the processes and get things done more quickly. We do record this information where it's available, but it does not appear on the certificate.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: But your new regulations--and this shows how absurd are the people who drafted them--say that the firearm is to be identified by referring to its make, class, type, action, calibre, or gauge, and in fact you don't even have a box in there for that last thing. Who draws these things up, and why was this not picked up?

    I don't live and breathe all this stuff, but here you have something that seems absolutely absurd. You're supposed to make all these changes, and in fact they're not even on the registration certificates. Is it not a key component?

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    Mr. William Baker: As I understand it, there's a difference here between information that is collected for purposes of registration and what is actually printed on the registration certificate. But having that in the database can be helpful.

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    Mr. Garry Breitkreuz: Can I just make one comment? This shows how impractical it is. Let's say you're a wildlife officer or a police officer and you stop somebody and look at the gun. The first thing you note on that is the calibre of the gun. You wouldn't know if the registration certificate matches the gun.

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    The Vice-Chair (Mr. John McKay): On behalf of the committee, I'd like to thank all three witnesses for coming this afternoon. I appreciate your doing this. And I'm sure Mr. Breitkreuz may want to carry on this conversation with you off the record.

    Thank you.

    The meeting is adjourned.