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40th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 042

CONTENTS

Tuesday, April 21, 2009





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 144 
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NUMBER 042 
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2nd SESSION 
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40th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1000)  

[English]

Government Response to Petitions

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.

Criminal Code

Hon. Jay Hill (for the Minister of Justice)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime).

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Committees of the House

Justice and Human Rights 

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
    In accordance with the order of reference of Thursday, March 26, your committee has considered Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and protection of justice system participants), and agreed on Monday, April 20, to report it without amendment.

Criminal Code

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House today to present a private member's bill, seconded by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.
    The bill would make it an offence for a person to be in possession of another person's identification without a lawful excuse. Identity theft has become one of the fastest growing crimes in Canada. Hundreds of Canadians are the victims of identity theft each month, with losses that go into the millions of dollars. Identity thieves steal key pieces of personal information, often without the victim's knowledge, and use it to impersonate the individual and commit crimes. Identity thieves manipulate information and invade personal and financial lives, leaving victims feeling very vulnerable, often devastating their lives.
    It is imperative that Canada's laws reflect the changing face of criminal activity. I believe the bill is a step forward to address identity theft. I ask the support of the House for this private member's bill.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1005)  

Pest Control Products Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Timmins—James Bay for seconding the bill.
    The bill would place a moratorium on the non-essential cosmetic use of pesticides in homes, gardens and in recreational places such as parks and golf courses. The moratorium would be in effect until such time as the chemical companies could prove beyond doubt that the product was safe. The object is to reverse the burden of proof and to put the onus on the chemical companies to prove their products are safe, instead of having Health Canada and the people of Canada trying to prove that their product is harmful. The moratorium would stay in effect until such time as they could make such proof known to a parliamentary committee and lift their product from the ban.
    It is a nationwide ban on the non-essential cosmetic use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions

Sri Lanka  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today from Sri Lankan Tamil seniors of Etobicoke who call upon Parliament to urge the United Nations Security Council to send a special envoy to Sri Lanka to find a way to end the killing of innocent Tamil civilians; to rush humanitarian aid to displaced people in the war zone; to persuade the two warring factions, the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, to stop the war immediately and to bring them to the negotiating table to formulate a lasting peace solution under the guidance of the United Nations.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table several petitions in regard to the library book rate. I am tabling documents that were originally under Bill C-458 and are now under a new title. Basically, it is An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials), protecting and supporting the library book rate and extending it to include audio-visual materials.

Asbestos  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present. The first one calls upon the House of Commons to recognize that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known and yet Canada remains one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world. In fact, the petitioners points out that Canada spends millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry and even blocking international efforts to curb its use.
    Therefore, these petitioners call upon Parliament to ban asbestos in all of its forms and institute a just transition program for the workers who may be affected by such a ban, to end all government subsidies of asbestos both in Canada and abroad and to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos such as the Rotterdam Convention.

Income Tax  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition calls upon the House of Commons to recognize that when Canadian taxpayers file their own tax return they must purchase a computer program at their own cost from a third party to netfile their tax return. These signatories object to this and argue that no third party should be allowed to profit from the collection of taxes.
    Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to enact legislation to disallow third parties from profiting in the collection of taxes and give free access to the Canada Revenue Agency's electronic income tax filing program to all Canadian taxpayers so they do not need to pay a third party to access electronic filing of their tax returns.

  (1010)  

Nuclear Weapons Treaty  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to table a petition urging a NATO nuclear policy review. As everyone knows, Canada has signed and ratified the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, or NPT, in which there is a commitment that each of the parties to the treaty will work for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
    These signators call upon the Government of Canada to publicly press for an urgent review of NATO's nuclear weapons policies to ensure that all nuclear states fulfill their international obligations under the NPT, to negotiate and conclude an agreement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, and to eliminate reliance on nuclear weapons from NATO's strategic concept.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to stand and present a petition signed by hundreds of residents from the great gold mining town of Matachewan, Ontario, who are trying to draw the attention of the House of Commons to their growing frustration about dealing with Canada Post.
    In January 2009, the decision was made to change the postal service without due notice or consultation. Even though public notices were subsequently posted, they contained inaccurate or misleading information. Even after they tried to meet with the Canada Post regional representatives and given assurances that they would have their postal service maintained, they still are being left out in the cold.
    They are asking the Government of Canada to hold Canada Post to account to ensure that communities like Matachewan, Kenabeek, South Porcupine and other regions that are dependent upon postal service and are not getting proper answers from Canada Post will be heard.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[Translation]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Gun Control  

    That, in the opinion of the House, the government should not extend the amnesty on gun control requirements set to expire on May 16, 2009, and should maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety.
    He said: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like everyone listening to understand why we are presenting this motion. It is precisely because the government has three times extended the amnesty which allows people not to register long guns, while according to the law all firearms had to be registered.
    No doubt the reaction from the other side of the floor will be that this was set out in the law under the Liberals. That is true, but at that time there was a good reason for amending the act in that way. So many people were registering their firearms at the last minute that the computer system was incapable of handling them all, and this would have meant that the people would have ended up registering too late. A decision was therefore made on the possibility of an amnesty to allow people who registered after the deadlines not to be guilty of any offence. That was the purpose of the amnesty.
    When the Conservatives came to power, however, they systematically extended this amnesty when it no longer had any reason to exist. The amnesty serves just one purpose, therefore: to allow people unwilling to register their long guns to remain legal. So there is a negative outcome: the registry itself becomes less and less reliable, because there are more and more unregistered guns. By so doing, the Conservatives are hoping that the police forces,—a large majority of whom are the first to support the registry—will finally conclude that this registry is not reliable, and that will become grounds for abolishing it.
    Why do we want to register guns? Because there is a direct relationship between gun control and homicide rates. There is, for example, a huge difference between the homicide rates in the United States and in Canada; the U.S. rate is three times the Canadian.
    Incidentally, the U.S. homicide rate is by far the highest of nearly all western countries. No doubt it is higher in some other countries, but it is top ranking among the countries most like ourselves.
    Why? Ask any intelligent American why there are so many homicides in that country, and he will tell you that the main reason is that it is so much easier to obtain firearms there. In Canada, we have had gun control for a long time, well before the registry was created. That makes us a different kind of society.
    In my opinion, anyone who has travelled to the United States will have noticed that the gun culture there is not at all like the gun culture in Canada. I believe that most Canadians consider guns to be dangerous objects that should only be in the hands of responsible owners. That is the basic goal of the gun registry. And I think that most of the Conservative members support that. Guns should only be in the hands of responsible owners.
    Obviously, gun control will not prevent all crimes committed with firearms. Such measures might not even have prevented certain tragic events that have hit our society hard, such as massacres. The important thing is for us to realize that there is a relationship among gun culture, lack of gun control and the homicide rate, and that is why the registry is a good thing.
    The same could be said about drug laws. Drug laws do not prevent addicts from acquiring drugs illegally.

  (1015)  

    Does anyone think that we should therefore get rid of laws that prohibit the use of drugs? We do not want Canada to become like the United States when it comes to the prevalence of guns. We often hear people say that this will not prevent thieves from getting guns, but I want to point out that they are not the ones doing most of the killing anyway. People kill for all kinds of reasons: hatred, anger, vengeance. In one case, a lawyer killed his associate to collect the life insurance policy. People kill because they have a vested interest. In the United States, people in the middle of a fight can go out, get themselves guns, and come back to the scene of the fight. In Canada, people cannot do that. That is one thing that makes our two countries different. Guns are instruments of death. They are dangerous. The state should take charge, just as it takes charge when it comes to other dangerous objects, such as cars.
     Guns are also the quickest and easiest way to kill, the one that requires the least effort. With the flick of a finger, someone’s life can be endangered or he can be killed. There is no greater way to intimidate than to threaten with a gun. All firearms are inherently dangerous, therefore, and should all be subject to controls.
     Our resolution deals with the consequences of the amnesty because the less guns are registered, the more uncontrolled guns there will be and the less reliable the registry will become. It is also necessary to have a firearms registry in order for certain provisions of the act to be fully enforced—an act that was passed by the House and is still supported by many of the members here. For example, a street gang member who manages to acquire a firearms licence could be prevented from buying several guns to distribute or sell to fellow gang members who could not obtain a licence.
     There are also some particular uses. For example, if there is an outstanding court order forbidding someone to own a gun, the authorities can check whether he has any and how many they should go and collect from him to ensure that the order is enforced. Some provisions of the act enable the police to take action, usually in marital situations that have turned ugly, for example when a woman fears for her safety because her husband’s attitude has changed completely over time and she is afraid he will turn his guns on her some day. That has already happened in Montreal. The Fraternité des policiers et des policières de Montréal told us about a case where the woman knew her husband had guns. She was afraid he would use them against her in one of his numerous rages, but she did not know how many he had. The police looked at the registry. Frankly, he had an entire arsenal. I have forgotten exactly how many, but it was more than 50 guns and ammunition of all kinds. Once they had obtained a court order, the police knew what to go and get. They could leave the woman’s house knowing all the guns had been removed.
     Other provisions of the act are very effective at preventing suicide attempts. Seventy-five percent of the gun deaths in Canada are suicides. If a family sees a family member being overcome by depression and is afraid that he will use his hunting gun or another firearm but does not know what to do, the family can seek a court order.

  (1020)  

    The court order is issued and, again, the registry allows us to ensure that any firearms are indeed taken away from that person. That is why suicide prevention organizations are the strongest supporters of this legislation and of the fact that it covers all types of firearms. It is also important for planning police operations. That does not mean that police operations will never again end tragically, as it happens each year unfortunately, but it will allow the police to take precautions. All police forces want their officers to know how many firearms there are in a home when they respond to a call.
    It must also be understood that the registry drew a lot of criticism. It was said to be a waste of money. I admit that establishing the gun registry was very costly. I will even admit that it was a fiscal scandal. But it is there and it is used every day. It would truly be a waste not to use it fully.
    Would anyone think of destroying a bridge that cost 10 times the initial estimate, even if a scandal were involved, to build another one at a lower cost? Of course not. Now that we have it, let us use it.
    What is the current cost of gun registration?
    The RCMP tells us that it spent $9.1 million last year to register all firearms. It estimates that two thirds of that amount was for the registration of hunting rifles. So this means that it is now costing us $6 million to benefit fully from the law that was passed by this Parliament. No one can call that a waste. I do not want to go overboard here, but how much is a human life worth? I think that $6 million in the federal budget is a not very much when considering the objectives it allows us to achieve.
    Since 2004, it no longer costs anything for people who must register their guns, and those who did pay have been reimbursed. Where is the disadvantage? It is very easy to register one's gun. First of all, it is very easy to register it at the gun dealer at the time of purchase or at any gun dealer when a gun is purchased from a private individual. One can go to the police station or do it over the Internet. It can even be done by telephone at the time of purchase. Of course, when someone has a gun registered in their name, it is very important to transfer the registration if someone else buys the gun. This also requires a certain amount of attention. An individual will not sell their gun to just anyone, knowing that it will not be registered, in case it is misused later on. The same is true with a car. We register our vehicles and we do not entrust them to just anyone.
    Obtaining a firearm licence is more complicated. That said, obtaining a licence is not the subject of this debate, but even the Conservatives are in favour of maintaining that policy. Once again, registration is necessary to ensure that guns do not fall into the wrong hands.
    Now, I know we are up against some tough opposition on the ground. The National Rifle Association is one of the most powerful, well organized lobbies in the world. I know that, especially during campaigns, members are often bombarded with objections to the gun registry and much of what is said about it is simply not true.

  (1025)  

    I know that these lobbies are experts at making an impression on elected representatives, having delegations go to them and say that they voted for them in the past but will withdraw their support.
    This may not be a good reason, but we too believe in polls. Even at the time of the scandal over the cost of the gun registry in 2006, a survey by a major firm—Ipsos Reid, if I am not mistaken—showed that, in Alberta, the province most hostile to gun registration, 51% of Albertans supported some form of registration for gun owners. Gun owners was the expression used in the survey. In Quebec, 76% were in favour. Understandably, a member of Parliament cannot poll his or her 85,000 constituents—that is the average number—and organizations sometimes come to us trying to scare us into voting differently on an issue.
    To conclude, we all agree on maintaining this cultural difference between the United States and Canada with respect to weapons and gun control. As requested by many Americans anytime violent incidents happen, gun control legislation will have to be passed, which will apply to all firearms, even though we know that a majority of people will use them wisely and prudently. That is our goal: to have registration for all firearms the same way that there is registration for all cars.
    The amnesty presented is a breach of this law, which has had such good results and is the envy of other countries. The registry must continue to be reliable for the purposes of preparing police operations and applying all court orders pertaining to firearms. I spoke about how the registry could be used to prevent domestic violence before it results in death. It can also be an effective tool for suicide prevention. The registry should continue to cover all firearms in order to make it more difficult for petty thugs to obtain guns from third parties.
    We must also realize that the reason given the first time for such an amnesty no longer exists. Currently, there is no backlog in the computer registration of firearms and we do not believe that there would be one if the amnesty were not renewed. This reason, if given, borders on hypocrisy.
    I can understand that MPs wish to be re-elected. There is something noble about that, because it means they wish to express the will of their constituents. However, we should not be the victims of lobbies. For my part, even if 75% of my constituents were against the gun registry, I would continue to support it. My professional experience with crime—as a young crown attorney, criminal lawyer, minister of public safety and minister of justice—has shown me that comprehensive gun control is one crime prevention measure that works.

  (1030)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague across the floor as he delivered his speech. A number of issues came up and I would like to ask him how he verified the information he provided to the House.
    One item in particular caught my attention. He talked about his experience, but I have a little practical experience in this field also. He indicated that 75% of suicides are caused by firearms. I would really question where that statistic came from. In addition, I would question his reasoning behind the idea that registering firearms would mean that the firearms would not be used to commit suicide. I think he has made a connection in some way and I do not believe there is anything to support it other than an opinion.
    I wonder if he would explain to the House where the figure of 75% came from and how registering a firearm would prevent a suicide.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, first, what I said is that 75% of firearms deaths in Canada were suicides. That is the information I was given, and I can mail it to you. The research service provided it to me. I did not know this myself. I believe that information is also published by the Coalition for Gun Control.
     Now I would like the other thing I said, which I repeat clearly, to be plainly understood. The law provides that you may apply to a court when a family member or someone you know is depressed and you are afraid that the person will use a firearm to commit suicide. The law provides that a court order may then be made to require that the person turn over their firearms. However, we cannot be certain that the person has turned over all their firearms, unless they are actually registered. I imagine that all honest people will have registered them.
     However, if the person has not registered any firearms, and you know they still have a firearm in their home, it will be even more distressing if the person commits suicide.

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from the Bloc Québécois on this excellent motion. The question I am going to ask is very important to me.

[English]

    A Conservative member has presented in the House of Commons a private member's bill on which I would like to get the member's comments because I have a great deal of concern about it. It is private member's Bill C-301.
    I would like to get his comment on that and also the bill that has been presented in the Senate because the bill that was presented here in the House not only deals with long guns but it also deals with prohibited and restricted weapons. In fact, it would allow things that have been illegal for many years, including allowing machine guns to be driven through communities on the way to firing ranges.
    I would be interested in his comments on that bill, which is before the House, and how that impacts this motion, and second, the actions of the Conservatives to bring a motion before the Senate instead of the House with respect to the registry. They seem to be going all over the place on this issue. I would be interested in the member's comments on those two particular items.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I think we can see what the Conservatives are up to, and I do not want to be overly cynical, but it is clear that the Conservatives want to do away with registration of long guns.
     The first private member’s bill would, indeed, make it easier to transport weapons that are considered dangerous. However, he has indicated that he would like to remove that from his bill. We shall see whether he does so.
     I think that in my speech I explained all the reasons why the law as we passed it here, regardless of what it costs, is a good law, and I believe I said that all firearms can be dangerous. Certainly it does depend on whose hands the firearms fall into. In my opinion, we all share the objective of ensuring that these weapons are always in responsible hands only. However, having them registered them strengthens enforcement of the law, particularly because we cannot say that the law will not apply to responsible people without determining that they are responsible.
     We must have a law that provides what it does at present: first we have to get a possession and acquisition licence, and then we are assessed, and then go ahead. We shall see what the result will be when this bill goes before the Senate. I do not know whether this is some sort of tactic. I think the senators, who do not have to get re-elected and who are not subject to pressure from the firearms lobbies, will have a wiser and fairer perspective on this issue.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's dissertation with interest. I guess I am surprised that it is coming forward today at a time of economic crisis.
     It seems to me that part of the problem with gun policy in this country is continually looking to the United States. Well, the United States is not a reasonable marker for us to look at. We have to look at our own regions.
     There are certain instances in our rural regions where people felt very alienated by the way guns were being spoken about. He talked about firearms being instruments of death. Of course, they are. He also called them the greatest instruments of intimidation. Well, in rural areas, people do use them.
    What we see is the politicization of the gun registry, like the absurd Bill C-301, under the guise of killing the registry. When I talk with my gun owners back home and read the provisions of Bill C-301 that would allow for the transportation of prohibited weapons and machine guns, that is certainly not what rural people are looking at.
    I would ask my colleague in the Bloc, why is there this continual refusal to recognize the legitimate issues that people in rural Canada have about the gun registry? Why is there this continual demonization of rural people who use guns, as though they are some kind of threat that has to be contained? It seems to me that until we breach that divide between rural and urban Canada, his motion and the Conservative backbench motion are playing mischief with a very serious issue.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, certainly I have not demonized rural people, nor do I intend to.
    Rural people realize that this is the preferred approach in the cities. The law cannot be applied in the cities and not applied in the country. I am well aware that most hunters use their gun responsibly, but we must not let thugs use holes in the law or in its application to get guns more easily.
    For heaven's sake, what are we asking people to do? They register their farm tractors, they register their 4x4s when they go hunting. They register their snowmobiles in winter. It costs nothing to register a gun. It is easy to do and costs nothing. Are 4x4s or snowmobiles the most dangerous instruments rural people use? It is not demonizing rural people to ask them to register their guns.
    Are we demonizing them because we ask them to register their snowmobiles? Come on. They register them willingly. Registering a gun costs nothing and takes almost no effort. They need to help us protect people's safety.

  (1040)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want the hon. member to know, and maybe it was a mistake in the translation, that we do not register our tractors out in Saskatchewan, and perhaps in the rest of the country.
     I also want to make a point about his insinuation that high gun ownership rates automatically lead to high crime. The province which has the lowest crime rate in Canada is Newfoundland. The province which has the highest gun ownership rate in Canada is Newfoundland. I was wondering if the hon. member would comment and explain why Newfoundland, with the highest gun ownership rate in the country, has the lowest murder rate, the lowest violent crime rate, and the lowest crime rate period?

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin has time for a brief reply.
    Mr. Speaker, gun ownership is not necessarily the only factor that affects the homicide rate. I recognize that the homicide rate may be lower in rural regions than in the cities, and that is why it is lower in Newfoundland or in certain communities. But the rate is different is major urban centres. People call for gun control in the United States every time there is a violent incident involving a gun.
    The figures are so important. People will say—and the National Rifle Association does as well—that the homicide rate is low in certain states and very high in others. Because the average homicide rate in the United States is so high compared to ours, there are states where it is much higher than in Canada as a whole. In addition, when you register something, you take better care of it than if you had not registered it, even though you would have taken care of it anyway.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.
    I am very grateful for the opportunity to address the motion before us today which raises some very important issues related to gun control and effective gun crime prevention in Canada. Some hon. members will know that I served as a police officer for 30 years before entering politics, so today's motion is of particular interest to me as I know it is to all hard-working and law-abiding Canadians.
    There is not one person in the House who does not want to make sure that guns do not fall into the wrong hands, the hands of criminals, the hands of criminal gangs, the hands of organized crime, and the hands of the mentally unstable. All of us on both sides of the House want to make sure that our streets are safe and that we continue to build safer communities for everyone. That is what our Conservative government has committed to since we were first elected in 2006. That is what we are doing and that is what we are going to continue to do through concrete and tangible measures designed to crack down on crime, and gun crime in particular, over the coming months.
    That said, I would like to take the opportunity to commend the hon. member for his interest in crime prevention. Unfortunately, today's motion would accomplish neither. The hon. member has attempted to combine two very distinct concepts, that being the continuation of the one-year amnesty and the continuation of the ill-conceived and ineffectual long gun registry. These two concepts are unique to one another and not intertwined as the opposition would like us to believe.
    The hon. member may not realize it, but if his two-headed motion were to pass into law, it would in fact only serve to weaken gun control in Canada by eliminating measures that the government has introduced specifically to increase the number of people who are in compliance with the law and therefore subject to the current automatic oversight provisions that exist. The motion, if passed, would also mean that we would continue to waste increasingly scarce resources on the long gun registry, something that has been proven to be a failure.
    Our government's goal is to prudently address issues of crime and criminality and to use our financial resources in a responsible and effective manner. I am reminded of the words of the hon. member for Kings—Hants when he stated, “We should be getting rid of the long-gun registry. A billion dollars would have been better spent on health care or education or, for instance, in the strengthening of the RCMP, which has been underfunded for several years”. We would agree with that. That clarity comes from hindsight that makes these words more true today than when they were first stated more than five years ago.
    Over the last three years the Government of Canada has passed considerable legislation to tackle violent crime. We introduced mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes as well as reverse onus bail provisions for serious offences and these changes were long overdue.
    I cannot escape the fact that despite having been in government for more than 13 years, the Liberal Party did little more than criminalize the actions of thousands of law-abiding hunters, sport shooters and farmers while doing nothing to deal with real criminals and real crime.
    Our Conservative government has provided more money to the provinces and territories so they could hire additional police officers. The government has also committed to helping the RCMP recruit and train more personnel to which in excess of 1,500 new RCMP officers are now in a position to take up their duties all across Canada.
    These two initiatives, which I know from firsthand experience, will by themselves do more to help prevent and tackle serious gun crimes in Canada, more than the long gun registry ever has or ever will. As well, the government has taken action to help young people make smart choices and avoid becoming involved in gang activities through programs funded through the National Crime Prevention Centre.
    Most recently, the government introduced legislation that among other things will create a new broad-based offence to target drive-by and other intentional shootings that involve the reckless disregard for the life or safety of others. Anyone convicted of such acts would be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison with a maximum period of imprisonment of 14 years. If these acts are committed by, or for a criminal organization, or with a restricted or prohibited firearm such as a handgun or automatic weapon, the minimum sentence would increase to five years.

  (1045)  

    This government has also introduced legislation to crack down on organized crime and drugs by imposing mandatory jail time for people involved in serious drug crimes. The new legislation proposes an escalating scheme of mandatory prison sentences, where there is an aggravating or safety factor, to reflect the increasing level of threats these crimes pose to our society.
    Through these measures the government has shown that it is serious about getting tough on crime, especially on gun crime.
    We also need to ensure that we have a system of gun control that is both effective and efficient. That is why the government has also invested $7 million annually to strengthen the front-end screening of first-time firearms licence applicants with a view to keeping firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them. This critical first step is essential with respect to any legislation looking to address the problems associated with gun crime and irresponsible gun ownership.
    We have to ensure that our gun laws keep firearms out of the hands of those who threaten our communities, our safety and our lives. That is also why the government has undertaken a number of initiatives over the last three years to enhance compliance and public safety while easing administrative burdens for lawful and responsible firearms owners.
    We have taken steps to help nearly 11,000 gun owners with expired possession-only licences come back into compliance with the current federal firearms legislation. We have made it easier for law-abiding Canadians to comply with the current firearms legislation. We have put in place an amnesty so that those people who are taking advantage of such measures to comply with the law are not criminalized in the process.
    The reason we are doing all this is quite simple. It is to protect Canadians, making sure that as many gun owners as possible are properly and lawfully licensed and therefore subject to continuous eligibility screening. It is this critically important element of the amnesty that will come to an end without the extension. Without the amnesty, it means that overall compliance will dramatically drop and many fewer gun owners will be properly licensed.
    The Government of Canada is determined to maintain an effective firearms control system while at the same time combatting the criminal use of firearms and getting tough with crime. We are also committed to investing in crime prevention measures that work and to doing away with the wasteful and ineffective ones that do not, such as today's long gun registry which penalizes law-abiding Canadians on the basis of where they live or how they earn a living.
    Hon. members will know that the government has recently introduced legislation in the other place to retain licensing requirements for all gun owners while doing away with the need for honest and law-abiding citizens to undergo the burden of registering their non-restricted rifles or shotguns, a burden which has proven to have had no impact on reducing gun crimes or serious criminality within Canada.
    Our government's approach to gun control is both balanced and prudent. What is proposed are changes that do away with the need to register legally acquired and legally used rifles and shotguns. The record shows that a great many of these firearms are owned by the honest and hard-working Canadians living in rural or remote areas. These people have never been in trouble with the law and are fundamentally different from the gangs and organized crime that have infested a number of our municipalities. The scarce government resources should be directed toward initiatives which actually make our streets safer. That is what Canadians want. They want policies that make sense. They want crime prevention initiatives that target criminals rather than farmers and duck hunters. They want effective gun control measures that improve public safety rather than unnecessarily criminalizing law-abiding citizens.
    I therefore cannot support the motion put forward by the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, a motion which is both ill-conceived and contrary to the best interests of Canadians.

  (1050)  

    Mr. Speaker, it was quite interesting to listen to the member opposite speak about how there are lawful owners. I would like his reaction to a letter that the Canadian Police Association sent, in which its president stated, “It would be irresponsible to suspend or abandon any element of this program now that it is starting to deliver the intended results. Bill S-5”--that is the government bill introduced in the Senate--“and Bill C-301”--that is the private member's bill from the member opposite--“will compromise public safety”.
    The president also went on to state in his letter that while critics of the registry have characterized it as penalizing law-abiding long gun owners, primarily hunters and rural residents, he noted that of the 15 police officers fatally shot in Canada during the last decade, 13 were killed with rifles or shotguns. He also pointed out that long guns are used two times more frequently than handguns in spousal homicides and five times more in suicides. He stated that in 2005 it was a registered long gun that allowed the RCMP to actually find out who had murdered other RCMP officers.
    I would like the member's comments.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address the issue brought forward by the hon. member. Certainly the opinion in the letter from that particular individual and organization is not necessarily shared by the whole organization. I am aware of that. I am in contact with a number of police officers partly because of my history and partly because of where I am today.
    I would say to the member that she only has to look at the one issue she brought up in suggesting that the tragic deaths of the four officers in Mayerthorpe by the hand of a criminal with a rifle proves the need for the long gun registry. In fact, the registry's monumental failure to prevent the tragic deaths of these police officers underscores registering firearms of law-abiding people. The criminal who committed these crimes was in illegal possession of a firearm despite the presence of the registry. The events prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the ineffective uselessness of the long gun registry in protecting our society.
    That is what we have been saying. Registering the long guns is not the answer to protecting society. Having owners of firearms registered and following up the rules with respect to the owners themselves is far more important than a registry of each individual long gun.

  (1055)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the previous speaker and myself have an excellent working relationship at committee. In light of his past experience, I would like him to tell this House how come the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Professional Police Association are among the numerous organizations which support a complete gun registry. As I recall, every police association in all the provinces but one, namely Saskatchewan, also supports this registry.
    Next, the hon. member could perhaps explain how maintaining the amnesty will result in more people registering their firearms, as he suggested, if I understood him correctly. Personally, I think that, if the amnesty is maintained, many of those who refuse to register their firearms will continue refusing to do so. They will not do it and they will only do it once the amnesty period, for which there is no good reason now, especially after more than four years, has been eliminated.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is fairly obvious that not everyone has registered his or her firearms. That is one of the problems and the fallacy of this whole thing.
    I appreciate the member's comments with respect to some of my former colleagues and the organizations they represent, but those organizations do not represent every officer and every chief across the country. They represent a body, which is fair and fine and I have no problem with that.
    I would say to my friend opposite that we do get along very well. He said it would be foolish to dismantle the system already set up. However, the gun registry is by no means complete. Only seven million of sixteen and a half million guns that are in Canada, according to government import and export records, are registered. The system has not worked.
    All we are doing is putting people at risk of being criminals because they own firearms. They have been law-abiding citizens. They have had their firearms for 40 years. It is time that we looked at this in the sense that we need to be careful about who has the firearms, not the firearms they necessarily have.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to debate this motion today. I want to thank my hon. friend, the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, for bringing forward the motion.
    I would respectfully argue that the motion brought forward for debate today is actually the reverse of what it should read. The current motion brought forward by the member states that we should eliminate the amnesty period and maintain the long gun registry. I would respectfully argue it should be reversed. We should maintain the amnesty and eliminate the long gun registry.
    My hon. colleague from Oxford went over a number of points on the intent of the amnesty. Not to reiterate everything my hon. colleague said just a few moments previously, I will make a couple of quick points.
    The purpose of the amnesty is quite clear. It is to try and get those firearm owners currently in non-compliance with the law back into compliance. In other words, all we are trying to do by having an amnesty for a year is to indicate to those firearm owners who are currently in non-compliance, those who have not licensed their firearms, that they would not be prosecuted if they renewed their licence. We are trying to encourage more people to become compliant with the law. That is the purpose of the amnesty.
    The larger question, I would argue, is the long gun registry itself and why it is totally ineffective, and even more so, the abhorrent costs upon the taxpayers of this country.
    I would also point out, just for the sake of putting things into context and perspective, that back in 1995 when Bill C-68, the original gun registry bill, was first introduced, members of the Bloc Québécois debated that very bill in this place. I would point out for the record that 18 members of the Bloc Québécois voted against Bill C-68. They knew even then that the registry would be ineffective because we have always had a licensing system in this country.
    Hon. Marlene Jennings: They have evolved in their thinking.
    Mr. Tom Lukiwski: Mr. Speaker, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine is always interrupting. She cannot make an effective point in debate so she has to heckle from her seat, but that is fine. We will let her do that.
    Let me point out though that the reasons Bill C-68 was ineffective are still valid today. The gun registry does nothing to reduce the threat to public safety. It does nothing to reduce crime. It does nothing to reduce violent gun incidents.
    Time after time we have spoken in the House of the fact that criminals who commit the most egregious crimes against Canadians are using illegal guns, guns that perhaps were smuggled in from a different country. Criminals do not register their handguns. They do not register their long guns. Therefore, the long gun registry is only putting a burden on those honest citizens, the farmers, target shooters and hunters. They are not criminals but they are required under this abhorrent law to register their firearms when in fact they have no intention of ever breaking any law or using those long guns in an illegal fashion.
    I come from a province in which our police association is dead set against the registry and for good reason. The police association recognizes the fact that the majority of legitimate law-abiding gun owners in our province use their long guns not as a weapon but as a tool. Farmers in my province, and I would suggest farmers across Canada, have long guns as part of their tool kit, literally. It is the same thing as the farm machinery they use to cultivate their land. A long gun in the hands of a law-abiding farmer is a legitimate tool. It is not used for any other reason. Yet they are the very people in this country who are being burdened by this cumbersome and expensive long gun registry. I said expensive, and darn right it is expensive.

  (1100)  

     Back in 1995 when the then Liberal government introduced Bill C-68, it stated that the registry would cost $2.2 million to be fully implemented and operational. We know how much of a fallacy that is. To date, according to the Auditor General of Canada, in figures that I would suggest are three years old, it has cost the Canadian taxpayer well over $1 billion in direct costs for the registry itself. That is not counting indirect costs; in other words, the costs of other departments that have to comply with the registry. It does not talk about compliance costs for the actual gun owners themselves.
    Not only is the cost abhorrent, but the Firearms Centre itself, according to the Auditor General's report of 2006, stated that it could not provide one shred of evidence that the registry had anything to do with reducing the threat to public safety or reducing deaths or crimes. This is the Firearms Centre that was established to actually administer the registry. It could not produce one shred of evidence, according to the Auditor General, that it has been effective.
    We have a situation in which Canadian taxpayers are footing the bill to the tune of well over $1 billion during the 15 years that the registry has been in effect. It is not proven to reduce the threat to public safety, to reduce crime or to reduce violent incidents, so I would argue, what good is it doing?
    There is a big difference, I would argue, between licensing provisions and the registry. We have always had licensing provisions for long guns, always. It used to be called the FAC, the firearms acquisition certificate. Provinces used to administer this individually. I believe in Saskatchewan, to obtain an FAC back in the days when it was still called an FAC, one would apply through the Department of Environment. Speaking with many legitimate long gun owners in my province, it was entirely effective. A person could not purchase a long gun at any point in time in our history without getting an appropriate licence, in some cases called the FAC or a certificate. It was the same thing. Those are interchangeable terms.
    We are not suggesting that be changed whatsoever. We continue to say that all long guns should be licensed, and licences are part of the culture of gun owners. They accept that. They approve that. They agree with that, but it is the registry that offends legitimate long gun owners because it is not required. It is useless. It is a bureaucratic exercise in waste.
    I would also point out, as everyone in the House knows, that handguns and restricted weapons such as automatic weapons have always needed to be registered. That will not change by our call for the elimination of the long gun registry. We are not trying to eliminate the registry provisions for handguns. We admit and we agree that handguns and restricted weapons such as automatic weapons should be registered. That should be maintained.
    In fact, handguns have been registered in this country since 1933. We are only talking about long guns, because the registry, at such a cost to the Canadian taxpayer, which has been proven to be totally ineffective, is not required. It is absolutely useless. We could be using that money, well over $1 billion over the course of the last 15 years, for more effective crime prevention policies, or one could even argue, if we did not want to put it into crime prevention measures, we could put it into another government initiative, such as health care.
    It is quite clear to me and quite clear to hundreds of thousands of rural residents across this great country that the long gun registry should never have been introduced. The legislation should never have been passed in the first place, and now is the time to get rid of it.
    I would also argue that if all opposition parties were allowed to vote freely, if their members were allowed to vote freely on a bill brought forward to eliminate the long gun registry, the elimination of that registry would occur in a heartbeat.
    Thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Speaker. I look forward to comments and questions from my colleagues.

  (1105)  

    Before we begin questions and comments, I want to ask members to try to keep their questions to about a minute. There seems to be a lot of interest in this subject today.
    The hon. member for Abbotsford for questions and comments.
    Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for his prescient remarks and for his support for dealing with guns in a responsible manner.
    One thing that has confused me is that over the years the opposition has supported this ineffective, expensive gun registry, yet it has also opposed our efforts as a government to implement mandatory minimum sentences for gun-toting, violent criminals in our society. I would invite my colleague to remark on whether he sees that as being inconsistent and whether he is as puzzled as I am with this inconsistent approach to trying to address violent, gun-related crime in our communities across Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I agree. I am totally confused, because it is a complete contradiction.
    On one hand, opposition members want to point to the gun registry as being something they support because it prevents crime in this country, when in fact all empirical evidence suggests just the opposite. Yet when this government brings forward legislation that is tough on crime, such as mandatory minimum sentences or the end of conditional arrests, what do we get from the opposition? We get complete opposition. They will try at every opportunity to either defeat our legislative initiatives completely or in fact sometimes will vote in favour of it at second reading and then gut it once it gets to committee.
    Canadians know this contradiction in terms. They understand that fundamentally. That is why Canadians from coast to coast to coast recognize and appreciate the fact that there is only one party in this country that is truly tough on crime and criminals, and that is the Conservative Party of Canada.

  (1110)  

    Mr. Speaker, we all agree that we want to protect society. The hon. member discussed at length the cost of the program. Policing is an important part of protecting society. I believe $400 million was allotted over five years to hire 2,500 police officers. The Canadian Police Association said it needed $1.2 billion for five years. How does the member respond to comments that the amount was insufficient and unsustainable and no controls were put in place to assure accountability?
    One police officer explained to me that he feels that he is in a foxhole waiting for recruits, only they are not coming.
    Mr. Speaker, we have made a commitment to increase the number of police officers on our streets. We stand by that.
    I would point out to my hon. colleague that she is supporting my argument. If we had not spent over $1 billion on a useless gun registry, we would have had additional funds to hire more police officers. That is our point. We could be using that money, that total waste of Canadians' taxpayer dollars, more effectively. We could be hiring more police officers. That is the first case. Second, if in fact members decided that $1 billion might be used more effectively in terms of health care, we could do that.
    The point is that $1 billion is a lot of money to waste on a useless gun registry when we could be putting that money to far more legitimate and useful purposes. I thank the member opposite for supporting my argument.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like the previous speaker to explain how he could begin his remarks by saying that amnesty is necessary to convince more people to comply with the law, then go on to say that the law they would be complying with is no good and should be eliminated.
    Does he know what percentage of the budgets he referred to was allocated to the establishment of the long gun registry? Does he not realize that all the other measures, including approving possession licences, account for the largest part of the cost?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will give the member points on this one. The amnesty quite frankly might not be required if the long gun registry were eliminated.
    However, what we are saying is that compliance with the law means that people have to license their weapons. Many firearms owners have not renewed their licences, and we are saying the amnesty would allow them to re-license their weapons without fear of prosecution. We are merely trying to encourage all law-abiding firearm owners who have let their licences expire to renew them. We encourage them to do so without fear of prosecution for allowing their licences to lapse.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I am rising in this House, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, to support the motion tabled today by the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. That member has a long and distinguished career in the area of public safety. He is one of those people here who really knows what must be done to improve public safety and, for example, to fight organized crime, as he did for so many years during his tenure at the Quebec National Assembly. Today, I salute him and I am telling him that the Liberal caucus will support his motion.
    I also want to stress the important work done by many Canadians on the very complex issue of gun control. For example, Suzanne Laplante-Edwards, who is the mother of one of the victims of the tragedy at the École Polytechnique, has done a lot to promote gun control. She is in Ottawa today to remind parliamentarians of the importance of supporting measures that will help control guns and increase public safety, and also to remind us of past tragedies that show the importance of continuing to fight to improve all these measures, which are so critical to ensure public safety. Gun control and the gun registry are undoubtedly two initiatives that help us achieve these goals.

  (1115)  

[English]

    I want to be very clear. Liberals will be supporting this motion tabled by our colleague for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. We believe gun control and the firearms registry are essential elements in the effort to improve public safety across Canada. However, Liberals also recognize that there are persons across the country and in rural communities such as the ones I represent who legitimately use firearms, non-prohibited weapons, for sporting purposes, hunting and target practice.
    We recognize and respect that some Canadians have a legitimate need for firearms, but they must also recognize that the legitimate need to protect public safety and to follow the advice of Canada's front-line police officers and police chiefs across the country requires that all firearms need to be part of an effective firearms registry that serves as an essential element of the police officers' work to protect public safety.
    In a question a few moments ago, I think my colleague for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine reminded the House of a very important document that was sent to our leader by the Canadian Police Association, a group that represents 57,000 front-line police officers. The elected president of this association wrote to the leader of the Liberal Party on April 7 and asked the Liberal Party to continue to support the firearms registry. He asked members of our party and members of Parliament in other parties to oppose Bill S-5, currently sitting in the Senate, and to oppose Bill C-301, a very irresponsible private member's bill that sits on the order paper of the House.
    I want to quote from the letter from the Canadian Police Association, where the elected president said:
    It would be irresponsible to suspend or abandon any element of [Canada's firearms program]
    In 2008, police services used the firearms registry, on average, 9,400 times a day. They consulted the firearms registry over 3.4 million times last year alone. In that year, 2008, they conducted an inquiry of the firearms registry on over 2 million individuals and did over 900,000 address checks at the firearms registry.
    Another organization that in our view is eminently qualified, more so than government members of Parliament, to speak on the issue of public safety is the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. In a letter sent to our leader on March 9, they also said they were asking members of Parliament to oppose Bill C-301 and to maintain the registration of all firearms.

[Translation]

    That is precisely the thrust of the motion tabled today in this House. It is important to maintain the integrity of the gun registry and to end the amnesty which, in our opinion, has watered down the integrity of the registry, something which certainly does not help public safety.
    The government across the way claims to be interested in public safety. Mr. Speaker, I am sure that you have often seen cabinet ministers and government members wanting to be photographed with police officers. These people make announcement on various bills, or on amendments to the Criminal Code. We often see police officers standing behind the minister announcing such changes to the Criminal Code.
    It is obvious that Conservative members view the support of police officers as something symbolic, but also very important for their so-called improvements to the Criminal Code. However, when these same officers, through the duly elected officials representing their associations, ask them to put a stop to a policy which, in their opinion, is irresponsible and goes against the goal shared—I hope—by all members in this House, namely to improve public safety, government members do not agree with the people with whom they had their picture taken just weeks earlier.
     There is no doubt, in our view, that extending the amnesty poses a threat to public safety. That is why we will oppose the idea of extending or renewing the amnesty.

  (1120)  

[English]

    If we think about the whole idea of an amnesty with respect to a Criminal Code provision, it is a rather bizarre way to make criminal law in the country. For a government to simply decide that it will suspend the application of a particular section of the Criminal Code or another criminal law is, to me, not a very courageous or legitimate way to make public law in Canada.
    If the government had the courage to table a bill in this House that would do what so many government members in their speeches or in their questions and comments claim they want it to do, it knows very well that the bill would be defeated. What does the government do? It signs an order in council or a minister simply directs crown prosecutors that, for this or that reason, for a period of time they should not enforce the criminal legislation.
    That is as irresponsible as deciding that the sections of the Criminal Code, for example, that apply to impaired driving would be suspended for two weeks around Christmas. It is the same sort of notion that the government can tell prosecutors or justice officials that we are going to provide an amnesty.
    Earlier we heard members claiming that this was only so that firearms owners would come forward and voluntarily choose to register their firearms. If that were the original intention of the one year amnesty when it was announced almost three years ago, why was there a need to continually renew it? The reason the amnesty was renewed is because the Prime Minister has made it very clear that he does not support effective gun control in Canada and he wants to find a way to do what he cannot do legislatively in this House, which is to weaken the firearms registry that is so important for public safety.
    The government's true agenda with respect to gun control and public safety is found in two measures. It is found in private member's Bill C-301. The government likes to say that it is a private member's bill but it is the first time I have seen the Prime Minister address a large gathering of persons in front of the media and urge members of Parliament to support a private member's bill, as the Prime Minister did in support of Bill C-301.
     However, when the Prime Minister's office realized that it was an irresponsible and appalling piece of legislation, which, for example, as my colleagues have identified, would allow people to transport automatic weapons such as machine guns through neighbourhoods on their way to a target range, it then said that the government would not support the bill on the same day the Prime Minister publicly called upon members of Parliament to vote for it. However, as a way to sort of recoup the embarrassment, the government then presented in the other place Bill S-5.
    It is pretty transparent why the government did that. It is because it does not have the courage to move legislation in this House of Commons that would weaken public safety and compromise the safety of police officers and Canadians by weakening gun control measures across the country.

  (1125)  

[Translation]

     The government likes to use this issue to try to drive a wedge between rural and urban Canada and has done so on many occasions.
     I have been fortunate enough to be elected four times in a rural riding in New Brunswick. The largest town in my riding is probably Sackville, which has about 5,000 people. The rest of my riding consists of small towns or unincorporated areas that do not have a municipal government.
     So I have been elected four times in a rural riding and I have visited hunting and fishing clubs there. Where I live, in the Grande-Digue area of New Brunswick, the local hunting and fishing club organizes a community lunch once a month on Sunday morning. I have gone to it many times.
     It is not true that our position in favour of registering all firearms means we are against the legitimate use of hunting rifles in parts of the country where hunting is a common sport.
     The Prime Minister tries to use this issue to divide people. I can assure the House that the Liberal Party fully respects the legitimate use of firearms, whether for sport or by people who simply collect guns. We also value the lives of the people who are responsible for ensuring the safety of Canadians all across the country, including in rural areas, and who want us to keep the firearms registry.
     The idea that rural areas are safe from threats to public safety and tragedies involving guns is also not realistic. Just a few months ago in the town in Shediac, where I have my riding office, someone died as a result of a crime. Three people entered a house and killed a young man with a hunting rifle. Criminal charges were laid a few weeks ago and the case is now before the New Brunswick courts.
     Public safety definitely matters to people in the town of Shediac, New Brunswick, on the banks of the Northumberland Strait, just as it interests people in such big Canadian cities as Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg or Montreal. We are all affected by measures to improve public safety, but it is in the interests of us all to preserve a balance between the legitimate use of firearms and the need to have a full and complete registry that is used more than 9,400 times a day by Canadian police officers who need to consult the registry for their own protection and to conduct criminal investigations.

[English]

    The Liberals are interested and will always be interested in ways to improve the registration process for firearms. We acknowledge that over a number of years there have been some improvements but there can continue to be ways to make registration easier and simpler for those who legitimately have firearms that are not prohibited weapons for legitimate purposes.
    To have an interest in seeing how we can improve the firearms registry for those who apply to have firearms registered is as legitimate as the desire to want to preserve the integrity of the firearms registry and not allow an amnesty, which is an irresponsible back door measure to do what the government does not have the courage to do legislatively, which is weaken the firearms registry across the country.
    We spend a lot of time in the House talking about public safety and about ways improve criminal legislation. We have seen a number of examples where Liberals have worked with other parties in the House and the government to make amendments to the Criminal Code that will improve public safety.
    Yesterday, the House passed Bill C-25 at second reading and it will now go before the justice committee. That was important because it would reduce the two for one remand credit which will improve public confidence in the justice system. We also supported Bills C-14 and C-15. Yesterday evening, I, along with my colleague who chairs the justice committee and committee members, passed Bill C-14 without amendment and it will be referred back to the House. That bill attacks some of the difficult problems of organized crime. It would the police increased ability to lay criminal charges to deal with some of the tragedies in some of the difficult situations that we have seen in places like Vancouver.
    On this side of the House, the Liberals are very interested in working in ways that are responsible, balanced and recognize the importance of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms but we also recognize that the Criminal Code needs to be modernized and strengthened and to give police officers and prosecutors the tools they need to preserve and improve public safety.
    One of those tools is a national system of gun control. Canadians across the country support the idea that there should be effective gun control measures in the country. Much to the chagrin of Conservative members, that includes, in the opinion of police officers and police chiefs, the registration of all firearms in Canada as an essential tool in the pursuit of improved public safety.

  (1130)  

[Translation]

     Our hon. colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin was right to introduce this motion and we intend to support it.

[English]

    We will be supporting this motion when it comes before the House for a vote because we will not play the games that the Conservative Party wants to play in pretending that this is a great divide between rural and urban Canada.
    I stand before the House, as a member elected in a rural riding, as living proof that the people in my riding support effective gun control measures and understand that when the police officers across the country say to us that this is one of many tools they need to improve public safety, we should be careful before acting in an irresponsible way that would diminish and reduce something that I think we all share as a desire to have safer communities, safer homes and safer streets all across the country.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member who just spoke for his flattering remarks towards me. It is more a case of my experience than of my personal values. Perhaps, my experience is also part of my personality.
     This morning we heard the Conservatives say that the purpose of the amnesty is to allow those who have not yet registered their weapons to do so. At the same time, we also heard some very strong criticism of the firearms registry and they do give us the impression that they want to abolish it. How do you think someone who has not registered a firearm will react? Will that person want to register a firearm as a result of this amnesty? Indeed, if he or she wants to register a firearm, could they not do it before May 16? Or on the other hand, will he or she rather have a tendency to believe that they do not need to register it until the Conservatives succeed in their ultimate goal? The answer to that question is too easy and I know it, of course.
     For that reason, I will ask a shorter question. There are two ways of fighting against crimes committed with a firearm: by control or by dissuasion. It is true that the Conservatives emphasize dissuasion. Control is prevention. How does the member believe that we should seek a balance between control and dissuasion?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin has, in fact, asked two good questions. As he clearly said in his last question, if we are seeking measures that will improve public security, there must be a balance. Dissuasion through the Criminal Code and legislative measures in terms of criminal law are very important. Whether it is the setting of minimum sentences, dealing with particular offences, changing the Criminal Code or giving prosecutors other tools for dealing with certain difficult situations, such as in Vancouver, or against organized crime in some regions, as in Montreal, for example, a few years ago. However, we also need the element of control and prevention
     The Conservatives do not believe in prevention. They have money for that purpose that they are not spending. For all practical purposes, they want to abolish the firearms registry, which is an important measure of control in the fight against criminal activity. My colleague has also described very well the contradiction between the idea of an amnesty to encourage people to register weapons and a promise, at the same time, to abolish the firearms registry. It makes no sense. The other place is looking at Bill S-5 which shows that flagrant contradiction and I thank my colleague for pointing that out.

  (1135)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague for his eloquent speech. I was very interested in what he had to say, particularly on an issue that concerns all of us as legislators, those who are responsible and charged with making responsible laws and good governance for our country.
     I was very much intrigued in what he had to say in terms of our role in making public law and the responsible nature in which the government is supposed to uphold the law. It basically is telling Canadians that it is okay to ignore the law. It is trying to find a partisan wedge issue between urban and rural communities, but the divide does not really exist.
     As my colleague mentioned, he is from a rural riding and I am from an urban riding, yet there is no divide. We understand the importance of legitimate gun owners, but at the same time the registry, which is used 9,000 times a day by police officials, is very much essential. It is irresponsible for the government to suspend the law and tell officials of the justice system to ignore it or put it aside. This is not the way we do things in our country.
    Could my hon. colleague comment further on—
    The hon. member for Beauséjour.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Davenport went right to the heart of the issue. The idea that one could have an amnesty from a provision of criminal legislation in Canada makes no sense at all. It is a very cynical kind of political way to do what cannot be done legislatively, doing it indirectly and in a rather unprecedented way.
    The only example I can think of is a practice at the Canada Revenue Agency. If people voluntarily disclose income that may not have reported on previous tax returns, they may not face a criminal prosecution for tax evasion. The tax will have to be paid and there will probably be interest and penalties applied, but there will be no prosecution for tax evasion if people voluntarily come forward and say that they forgot to disclose income received when they filed their income tax return three years ago and that they would like to report it on their income tax return for the current year.
    Criminal law with respect to something as important as gun control and public safety is hardly like a tax measure, which encourages people to come forward and report income which may not have been reported.
    A better example is the idea that we would suspend Criminal Code provisions on impaired driving at Christmastime, because sometimes it is hard to get a cab and people go to different functions. It makes no sense at all.
    The motion before us asks the government to correct what is a really cynical measure, allegedly designed, as my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin said, to encourage people to voluntarily come forward and register their guns. However, at the same time the government is telling them not to panic, that it really wants to abolish the firearms registry, once and for all. It makes no sense at all.
    Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed hearing my colleague's remarks. I also enjoy his participation on our justice committee. I sense there is perhaps a better working relationship on the committee this time around, and I appreciate that.
    I want to take issue with one of his comments. He said that our Conservative government did not care for prevention when it came to crime and to the issues of drug dealing and drug use in Canada. In fact, in 2007 our government introduced a $10 million fund to specifically address the issue of prevention and to provide the kind of education to those youth who perhaps could find themselves getting into a life of crime. We also provided an additional $32 million for drug treatment in Canada.
    I challenge the member to perhaps correct his statement and acknowledge that our Conservative government took steps that the previous government never did.

  (1140)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Abbotsford is correct about the justice committee. We saw that last evening, and we have seen it in a number of previous meetings.
     I think all members from all parties in the House are making an effort to work together to improve criminal legislation, to study issues like organized crime, which represents a challenge in so many communities across the country, small rural communities in northern New Brunswick, for example, and large urban centres like Vancouver and Montreal. He is right about that.
    He identified the national drug program that was announced some years ago, and I remember that announcement. I remember thinking it was a good step and a modest step in the right direction.
    The focus of the government is not in helping people with addictions. It is not in seeing harm reduction as an important element of public safety. The government is always threatening to shut down Insite in Vancouver, an important public health experiment asked for by responsible public health authorities and other elected officials in that community.
    The government cut literacy programs, which was appalling. One thing that helps people earn a productive living, participate in their workforce and improve their quality of life is the ability to read and to write, basic literacy skills. In various regions of the country there are some alarming statistics, yet the government turned around and cut literacy programs and youth at risk programs.
    The government can choose narrow windows where it did something positive, but at the end of the day it has really damaged crime prevention in the country. We think that is regrettable.
    Mr. Speaker, I was having a discussion with my colleague from Timmins—James Bay about the factual reality that we were still having a debate on the gun registry so many years after it was introduced into law.
    I was telling him that for a while I had been studying the experience that Australia went through. It is similar in terms of its initiation into attempts at gun control, gun registration and regulation. Our attempt in Canada was prompted, to a significant degree, by the massacre at Polytechnique in Montreal. Australia's attempt was prompted by an incident on the island of Tasmania, where some 45 people were killed in one incident of mass murder. These incidents prompted governments to react.
    The debate has ceased in Australia. Its gun regulation is stronger and more extensive than it is in Canada. However, we continue to have the debate and it is in part because of really gross incompetence on the part of the Liberal government of the day in the deployment of the gun registry, the long gun registry in particular, and its inability to bring provincial governments onside.
    I do not know if this is accurate, but I am told that the decision made by the Liberal government of the day was to do this and that it did not need the provinces onside. There was an arrogance, as described to me, but I am not sure how real that was.
    In Australia all six of the state governments were onside. Australia has a federated system like ours. It has legislation at the state level and at the federal level. As I said earlier, it has a much more stringent regulation of guns than in Canada.
    While reading this material, one of the points I came across was the fact that for 10 years after the regulations and laws went into place, Australia did not have one incident of multiple murders. It was a whole 10 years before Australia had any reoccurrence and those incidents were minor by comparison to some of the experiences it had before the regulations and laws went into effect.
    In terms of my analysis, this has become as much an emotional issue as a factual issue. It is unfortunate that we are at that stage, but I understand it in quite some depth.
    I have rural areas in my riding. A number of my constituents are hunters and they have strong feelings against the registry. When I discuss it with them, the cost always comes up, the incompetence on the part of the Liberal administration of the day in allowing the cost to escalate to such a degree.
    The Auditor General has said that the costs are under control. The RCMP has taken over and it has it under control. She says that it is an effective mechanism.
    The anger on the waste that has gone on still overwhelms those factual arguments. I do not think those people hear me and unfortunately that is probably true of a number of members of the Conservative Party. They are overwhelmed by that history and cannot see their way through it.
    Another very small group of people oppose the gun registry to a significant degree on principle and on their philosophy of life. These people are opposed to any control at all, whether it is handguns, or long guns, or rapid fire weapons or assault weapons. They do not want government involved in their use of weapons at all. Fortunately these people make up a fairly small percentage of our population, probably no more than 5%.

  (1145)  

    Then there is the third group. They have issues in the way the registry functions. I am thinking in particular of people from the rural areas and the northern part of the country. Our first nations are probably the best example. People in the third group feel that the system could perhaps be modified for those regions. I have some significant sympathy in that regard. I think that if in fact we are going to have any reform in the legislation, the Firearms Act, that is the area that we should be looking at.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Outremont. I will only use half the slotted time.
    Australia, a country that is similar to us, had the same experience. It is very true in Canada that the registry has been effective. It has reduced significantly, by as much as two-thirds, the domestic murders committed with long guns. Those are incontrovertible facts. The suicide rate with the use of long guns has reduced itself dramatically since the registry was in place.
    The fact that I find perhaps as telling as those two is that the number of accidental deaths with the use of guns has dropped dramatically. That result has occurred because of the number of guns that have been taken out of circulation.
    There was a survey done of gun owners around 2001-02. One of the questions asked of people was when they last used their guns. Over 50% of them said they had never used their long guns.
    When the registry came into effect, people had to pay to register their long guns and a good number of them said it was no longer necessary, they were not going to use them any more, they were not going to put any money out, and turned their guns in. A huge number of weapons were turned in that were not stored properly and were not being taken care of properly from a safety standpoint.
    When people had to meet the requirements under the act, they simply got rid of their guns because they were not using them. They were not real hunters and were not using them for recreational purposes. The effect of that has been to dramatically reduce accidental deaths, such as kids getting a hold of guns because their parents or custodians had not properly stored them.
    It has had that impact in those three areas. Domestic murders are down dramatically, suicides with long guns are down dramatically, and accidental deaths are down dramatically.
    The other point I want to make when I am assessing my position on gun control and the gun registry is to say there are arguments on both sides of this and they are valid. I do not want to take that away from the people who are opposed to the gun registry. Ultimately, as members of Parliament, we have to assess both sides and so we look to other sources, experts and knowledgeable people, to give us some direction. On this issue, I have looked to our police forces. They are the front line.
    As everyone has heard today from other members, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is adamant that we need the kind of system we have in place now, that it is effective and usable, and police forces use it. We have heard in the last few days very strong language of a similar nature coming from the Canadian Police Association. We hear from the Conservatives in particular that it is leadership. It is not.
    This morning I met with members of the CPA on the Hill regarding their lobby and efforts. These are people from Windsor. They are very clear that the rank and file and regular police officers are saying they need it, they use the system, they need it for their own personal protection, and for the protection of society. As a test, they are the people we should be listening to.

  (1150)  

    Mr. Speaker, we have spoken on several occasions already this morning on not only the effects of the registry, or the non-effects of the registry, but also on the fact that we believe there needs to be stronger measures taken to combat crime in Canada.
    I would ask the member, knowing that he is a long time member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, about an amendment that was brought forward in the justice committee. Yesterday, at the justice committee, the Bloc moved an amendment to take out the mandatory minimum penalties for drive-by shootings and other reckless shootings in Bill C-14, which the committee is examining. The NDP supported the Bloc amendment. Obviously, it goes without saying that had this amendment passed, it would have seriously weakened the intent of the bill, but with the support of the Liberals, that amendment was not approved.
    I would like to ask my hon. colleague from the NDP, why did the NDP decide to support a Bloc amendment that would take out the mandatory minimum penalties for drive-by shootings?
    Mr. Speaker, I have a long history in the House since I have been our justice critic on speaking to the need to clean up our Criminal Code.
    We have huge conflicts within the code and we have huge redundancies within the code. This was one of the examples of it. If a person is convicted under that section, which is the point that was made by the Bloc in presenting the amendment, if a person is in fact convicted of a drive-by shooting, the mandatory minimum is already in the code. It would add absolutely nothing. It does not weaken the section. It does not alter it in any way at all in terms of its impact.
    We supported the mandatory minimums in the use of guns, we as a party, in the last Parliament. We did that because we know they are a scourge in society. We supported it, but I am not prepared, and I say that as an individual member of Parliament but also on behalf of my party, to simply keep clogging up the Criminal Code with those kinds of redundant, useless provisions. We have to at some point say, “Stop doing it”.

  (1155)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. As he well knows, I represent a rural region, where people have had a lot of concerns about the gun registry and the way that gun registry was implemented. We also see how the Conservatives send mailings into our ridings, saying they will take on the gun registry and try to inflame people.
    However, when we look at Bill C-301, residents in my riding are certainly horrified to see a bill that would allow machine guns to be transported, making it easier for prohibited arms to be carried around, and allowing individuals with the illegal possession of prohibitive handguns to keep them, which is under clause 8. This bill is a Trojan Horse allowing people in urban areas to drive around with Berettas in their SUVs.
    I want to ask my colleague why he thinks the Conservatives would float a bill that is so reckless it would allow gangbangers in Vancouver to have a field day and use that while trying to create a greater urban-rural divide and play upon the resentment that exists in rural Canada toward the gun registry?
    Mr. Speaker, the member has hit the point in part, in terms of his question giving some of the answer on that divide that unfortunately all too often we see from not only the Conservative Party but the right-wing ideologists who model themselves after the Republicans in the United States, knowing that if they divide society and get people lined up on their side, it helps their political aspirations and their ideology. That is part of it.
    In addition to that, and I do not want to sound like I am paranoid, there is also a clear expression here. In my speech I talked about the 5% who just philosophically are opposed to any government involvement in gun registration or gun control. They are absolutely opposed to it. There is no need for it and they will not tolerate that. That 5% drove a number of those sections and drove the member from Saskatchewan, who authored that bill, to begin to initiate the total destruction of the gun registry, not just the long gun registry but handguns, restricted weapons, assault weapons, all of those, that on the surface we all say none of us want. However, there is that small percentage, and I think that is what was driving him when he drafted the bill, who would like to get rid of the registry completely, not just the long gun registry.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, there are these issues in our society that can be used to widen the divisions that already exist. The firearms registry debate is one of those issues. My colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh has just given us a list, with the evidence, of the kinds of deaths that have declined as a result of the existence of a firearms registry, including registration of hunting weapons, rifles and so on.
     He said that the number of murders in Canada is falling, and that is tangible. The number of murders with that kind of firearm is falling dramatically. The number of accidents, because the weapons were very often improperly stored, where young people found themselves with a gun in their hands, has also dropped dramatically. As well, the number of suicides with that kind of firearm has also radically declined.
     When we see that an instrument of public policy can produce results like that, can reduce the number of murders, the number of suicides and the number of accidental deaths, it is entirely reasonable to expect to see complete unanimity in this House. And yet we see from the tone and content of the question the Conservative member just put to my colleague that once again, the Conservatives are pulling out all the stops to create a problem where there is none and to advance their extreme right-wing ideology.
     What the question referred to was a sham, a pointless, redundant amendment proposed by the Conservatives, because there are already provisions in the Criminal Code that deal with this firearms issue. They want to be able to go back to their Reform Party base and say that they are proposing amendments and want to have longer minimum sentences for gangs with firearms, and the separatists and socialists are standing in their way.
     That is completely false, however. The Criminal Code already addresses this. The minimum sentences are in the Code now. This was a purely partisan manoeuvre by them in the parliamentary committee this week. But that did not prevent them from rising and making their stand here in the House. They convince themselves they are here to protect, when abolishing the firearms registry will make it easier to get guns.
    That does not mean that there are no irritants in the system and we certainly have no intention of denying the administrative boondoggle caused by the incompetent Liberals who put the registry in place. The Liberals show their incompetence every time they introduce a program. They signed the Kyoto protocol, but instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6%, they increased them by 30%. For them, it is always a matter of perception. Eddie Goldenberg, Jean Chrétien's former chief of staff, once said that the Liberals had signed the Kyoto protocol “to galvanize public opinion“. So it was just a public relations stunt. In this case, they brought in legislation to create a gun registry. The cost exceeded $1 billion. Let us think about that. Years later, it is still not quite done, it is very expensive and it is badly administered.
    In Quebec, when the parental insurance program was brought in, it took no more than six weeks for the first cheques to be issued. That is good public administration, but people have a tendency to confuse bad public administration by the Liberals with the critical need to maintain the gun registry. True, there was incompetence in the way it was set up, but now that the registry is there, the argument is turning against the Conservatives. They are shooting themselves in the foot. They say that because of that incompetence, the registry has to be abolished. No, it cost too much money. Maybe the Liberals were incompetent in putting it in place, but it is there now. The last thing we want to do is to add insult to injury. Not only does the registry save lives, as was just shown, but it exists, it is there and it cost a lot of money. That is one more argument for maintaining the registry, for the sake of the taxpayers who paid for it.
    There are people like Louis-Gilles Francoeur from Le Devoir, an avid hunter, who explains certain situations that may arise under the current legislation. For example, someone may drop a hunting rifle and damage it. That person may then have to borrow a rifle from a fellow hunter.

  (1200)  

    It could be a criminal offence if the papers were not handed on at the same time. This is the kind of thing which can be corrected. It is called an irritant. Removing it would never take away the obligation for one person or the other to register the firearms. There are fees. Are they too high? Perhaps. The question needs to be examined. Is there a way to make registering firearms easier and more accessible? We should make sure that there are more places where registration can take place or help can be obtained. All those irritants can be corrected. There is no need to abolish the firearms registry.
    Some people in rural Canada are convinced that they are bearing the brunt of the problems in urban areas. However, the numbers given by my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh tend to show that this not only a matter of crime in urban areas. Even in rural areas, access to firearms is too easy, and accidents, suicides and murders can occur.
    I will never insist enough on the advice of the police chiefs of Canada, who are dedicated to public safety. They are supposedly the typical supporters for Conservatives, who boast about being the great defenders of law and order. It they believe that police forces must be listened to, can they for once walk the talk and listen to the police chiefs? I have a son who is now a father and who has been a police officer for 10 years. He is a sergeant in the Laurentian region. When he approaches a house to which he has been called for a case of domestic violence, I like to think that he knows if there are firearms on the other side of the door. I attended the funeral of Laval constable Valérie Gignac. I was there. She was shot at close range, through a door and through her bullet-proof vest. That is the reality of police officers in Canada.
    In the name of law and order, instead of satisfying their desire to pander to their Reform base, will the Conservatives listen to Canada's police officers, who are unanimous in asking them to maintain the gun registry? It is a question of public safety, which is supposed to be the Conservatives' be all and end all, so they should listen for once. But no. This is exactly the same situation as last year. They introduced a private member's bill to impose a double sentence if a pregnant woman is the victim of crime. It was clear; I was sitting next to them and Conservative back-benchers openly said that their ploy was meant to re-open the debate on abortion legislation in Canada. It was patently obvious. It is always the same. Under the guise of doing something else, they try to introduce the policies and social objectives that stem directly from the Reform wing of what was once the Progressive Conservative Party. The word “progressive” was removed, and rightly so.
    Eliminating the gun registry would be a clear step backwards for our society. We are up against one of the most powerful lobbies there is. The gun lobby is a well-oiled machine with solid financial backing. It has been operating across the United States for years, and it is now well established in Canada. Furthermore, it has its henchmen, the Conservatives, to do its dirty work here.
    Persuaded by the wisdom of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which supports maintaining the gun registry, the NDP members will rise in this House to say no to the Conservatives as they try to eliminate this tool to protect the public, and we will say yes to any amendment that could make this registry more accessible, simpler, more flexible and less expensive for our citizens, while guaranteeing the protection of Canadians.

  (1205)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, perhaps my colleague from Outremont could pursue a bit more the attention we should be paying to the positions taken by the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
    In that regard, I want to read from a letter that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police sent to our leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth. The last paragraph of the letter concludes with this sentence:
    All guns are potentially dangerous, all gun owners need to be licensed, all guns need to be registered and gun owners need to be accountable for their firearms.
    The Canadian Police Association, in a letter to the leader of the official opposition, which has been made public, said:
    We...consider the licensing of firearms owners and the registration of firearms to be a valuable public safety tool for front-line police officers.
    That quote is from the letter from the association's president, Charles Momy. He referred to the most recent and horrific incident in Canada at Mayerthorpe, Alberta. It is little known but the two additional men who had been caught and now have been convicted of manslaughter were traced from a gun that was found at the scene which belonged to one of them. The gun registry mechanism was used to determine that.
    I would ask my colleague from Outremont to comment more extensively on the attention we should be paying to the role the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have played.

  (1210)  

    Madam Speaker, with regard to the chiefs, they are looking at it from the overall perspective of public security and public safety. They find that the gun registry is just that: a tool for public security. Viewed through the lens of public security, much of the work that we do here always has the same purpose, whether it is for food inspection or making sure that we have a registry in place to reduce the potential risks from firearms.
    With regard to the front-line officers, that is an important point. I mentioned in French that unfortunately in the space of just over a year, I attended two funerals in Laval, which used to be my riding provincially in Quebec. One funeral was for a young female police officer in Laval, Valérie Gignac, who was shot through the door with a hunting rifle and the bullet went right through her bulletproof vest. That is the type of firearm that has to be controlled. I know that case very well, unfortunately.
    If anybody thinks about it for just one second, if a police officer is approaching a home where there has been a signalling of a domestic dispute, that police officer is not going to be more or less careful depending on the existence of registered arms. They are always going to be careful, but it gives them just that little advantage, just that little extra prudence, knowing that there is a gun registered in that home. Perhaps they will wait that extra minute for somebody else to show up, to have a slightly different approach.
    These are the apostles of law and order on the Conservative side. They preach about it all day long. It is interesting that the Canadian Chiefs of Police, with one voice, the representatives of Canadian police officers, with one voice, today in Quebec the representatives of all police unions, with one voice are calling upon this Parliament to maintain the gun registry in the interest of law and order and the protection of the public.
    It is very interesting to see who is offside with the application of the principle of law and order. It is the Conservatives because they are dogmatic, they are ideologues and they are playing this whole thing to their Reform base. Shame on them.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Outremont on his excellent speech, but most of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who has been involved in this public safety policy for several years.
    This public safety policy reminds us that registering guns is of vital importance because it enables police officers to make well-informed decisions when responding to situations in which such knowledge can make all the difference. I will talk more about that later.
    As I listened to the members, I remembered that some of our fellow citizens sometimes say that all politicians are the same. Sometimes I hear that when I am meeting with my fellow citizens. Some people say that all of the political parties are the same too. People listening to today's debate—we will be debating this issue from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.—will become aware of a few things.
    I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup. We will speak for 10 minutes each.
    Today, those of our fellow citizens who think that all political parties are the same will see that there is indeed a difference. Some parties believe that it is neither a constitutional right nor a privilege to have a firearm. It is a responsibility that must be controlled. Of course, many people can own firearms and be completely responsible and diligent about it. However, that does not make it a right; it is a privilege.
    For public safety reasons, we have asked our fellow citizens to register their firearms and to hold a possession licence. I just want to point out that, as my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin said, there is no fee associated with registering. The fee is charged for the firearm possession licence, not for registration itself.
    I would like to give only one statistic. For the fourth consecutive year, we are asking for a firearms registry including restricted firearms, but also, ideally, unrestricted hunting rifles. That is not insignificant. Since 2006 it has not been possible to prosecute hunters who own unrestricted firearms and who, for one reason or another, did not register them. They have been repeatedly granted amnesty. The Bloc Québécois is calling today for an end to the renewal of the amnesty for unrestricted hunting rifles.
    Let us now take a closer look at the situation. I was a member of this House when the debate started with Mrs. McLellan, who was then replaced by Mr. Allan Rock. There were extremely passionate statements from both sides. At the time, my colleague Mr. Michel Bellehumeur was the spokesperson on this issue for the Bloc Québécois. My party had in mind the need for public safety.
    What kind of judgment should we now make about the existence of this registry and the obligation to let the mandated authority know about the presence of firearms in a given place?
    Since the registry was first created, some 20,000 licences have been cancelled, always for the sake of public safety. The individuals who lost their licence were believed for good reasons to be people who might misuse firearms.

  (1215)  

    I am not talking about revoking 1, 2 or 3 firearm licences but, rather, 20,000.
    I also have a brother who is a police officer. He is my oldest brother and he was the biggest one when we were growing up. I came in second, and I hope no one doubts what I am saying. As we know, it is now harder to enrol in the police techniques program—and I hope I am not disappointing the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin when I say that—than to be admitted to the faculty of law. Fewer candidates are accepted in the police techniques program than in the law schools of major Canadian universities. Being a police officer is an extremely important responsibility. It requires judgment, intellectual dexterity, and the ability to think quickly. Being a police officer is not merely a matter of physical strength. Police officers are very important front line workers in our communities.
    My brother is a police officer and I would not want to know that he has to intervene urgently in a serious domestic dispute. I think it is useful, necessary and critical to know whether there are guns in a house where an officer is sent. I was told about a case that I would like to share with parliamentarians in this House.
    In the winter of 2003, officers from the Montreal police department had to intervene in a case of domestic violence. Quebec has a zero tolerance policy regarding violence, but we are even more vigilant in the case of domestic violence, because there is a very real risk of the situation deteriorating. The spouse who called the police department was afraid because her husband, who had been hospitalized, was now coming home. He was in possession of a real arsenal that included 26 handguns, 16 hunting weapons and 45,000 rounds of ammunition. Surely, it was important for the officers who went to that house to have this information. In this specific case, action was immediately taken to seize those guns. If the search had proven unsuccessful, the officers could have done some research. Thanks to the gun registry, they knew that this individual was in possession of the arsenal that I just described.
    These are reasons that lead us to be very supportive of this initiative, as we have been since the very beginning of this debate, when Bill C-68 was introduced by the previous government. As parliamentarians, we do not have the right to question the existence of such a tool, or to remain passive when the government is contemplating to extend year after year the amnesty on hunting weapons, as if these firearms did not have a harmful potential, as if they could not kill someone, be used to commit a homicide, be discharged accidentally, or be used by someone who is suicidal. These are exceptional situations, but they do exist and they are very real.
    I will conclude by saying that the issue of costs is not a good argument. Of course, the Bloc was here when these costs were estimated at $1 billion, and then at $2 billion. But the Auditor General confirmed to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security that these costs are now under control, and she provided guarantees to parliamentarians. That is the kind of guarantee that we must have, and we have it.
    I am concluding by congratulating my party for using its allotted day to put this issue before the House. I hope that all parliamentarians will support this motion from the Bloc Québécois.

  (1220)  

    

[English]

    Madam Speaker, what I have heard here is an example of an extremely flawed logic. It is the logic that got us into the mess of the gun registry in the first place.
    The hon. member seems to believe that we should be targeting, with a giant bureaucracy costing over $1 billion, law-abiding citizens, citizens like the people who live in my riding of Fundy Royal, many of whom have never had a speeding ticket in their life. He wants to have a law that brings them into violation of the Criminal Code.
    Yesterday we had an opportunity in the justice committee to target the real perpetrators of crime, target gang violence. Our government bill, which targets gang violence, was before the committee. It specifically targets the offence, which we all agree is a terrible offence, of drive-by shootings. Our bill has a mandatory minimum four year penalty for someone who commits a drive-by shooting but the hon. member introduced a motion that eliminated that mandatory minimum.
    On one hand, we have someone saying that we should target the grandma and grandpa in my riding who happen to have a rifle or a shotgun, the people who have never been in violation of the law in their life, with a giant bureaucracy and bring the full weight of the federal government down on those people but do not target someone who has perpetrated the crime of a drive-by shooting. I do not understand the logic.
    Could the member reconcile those differences?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary should be ashamed of his narrow-mindedness and demagoguery. How can he rise in this House and reduce this debate to mere bureaucratic considerations?
    First, the member made a connection that is totally unfair. As a political party, we have always been opposed to mandatory minimum sentences being included in government legislation because they simply do not work. That is the first thing. Second, the gun registry and the amnesty in question for long guns, without restrictions, have nothing to do with bureaucratic realities. It takes someone who is pretty narrow-minded, who lacks human sensitivity and who personifies the most appalling conservative tradition to reduce this debate to mere bureaucratic considerations when the real issue that needs to be debated here is public safety.

  (1225)  

    Madam Speaker, a few weeks ago I went to see the movie Polytechnique, which will be shown here tonight and which is a painful re-enactment of the Montreal massacre that devastated the victims' families.
    After that tragedy, in early 1994—I arrived in 1993—the legislators in this House began to look for solutions to these problems and to try to put in place as comprehensive a system as possible to keep unwanted guns out of circulation.
    In rural areas such as mine, which are not exempt from the possibility of violence, especially spontaneous violence—domestic or family violence, for example—there has been a very significant reduction in the number of deaths caused by guns after the registry was established and the system implemented.
    Today, the Bloc Québécois has a consensus to inform the government through the motion moved that states:
    That, in the opinion of the House, the government should not extend the amnesty on gun control requirements set to expire on May 16, 2009, and should maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety.
    To ensure the effectiveness of registration, we must maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety. I believe it is important to be able to continue doing so.
    This morning we heard from representatives of police associations, among others, who showed us how useful this tool is for police. It allows them to intervene in a much more sensible and logical way, and to have as much information as possible about the state of the people they will encounter and the potential presence of guns in a given situation. I believe we absolutely must be able to continue gong in this direction.
    In the second part of my speech, I will attempt to debunk some of myths that exist around this. First there is the supposedly high cost of the gun registry. In her first report on this, the Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, indicated that costs of the gun control program have been under control since 2002. So that problem no longer exists. The annual costs of the gun control program has markedly decreased, from $200 million in 2001 to $73 million. What is more, while the program costs $73.7 million a year, the annual cost of registration is $14.6 million, or $10 million less than the upper limit of $25 million set in 2005-06. So that deflates the first argument: gun control is not all that costly, given the results it allows us to achieve.
    Then there is the second myth: abolishing the registry would enable the government to save millions of dollars, which could be invested in more effective crime prevention programs. This is not so. According to the plan announced by the Conservatives, amendments to the registry to exclude long guns should allow the government to save a little over $10 million annually, because the registry would continue to operate for handguns and prohibited weapons. That is not enough money to fund better initiatives to reduce crime. In the end, the effect would be a negative one.
    It is not true that abolishing the registry would allow the government to save millions which could be invested in more effective programs. The registry's very existence is an effective prevention program in itself.
    According to the third myth, the Auditor General has supposedly indicated that the gun registry is useless. The Auditor General said nothing of the sort. She did identify certain flaws in the quality of the data contained in the gun registry. She did raise those points but she could not have made it any clearer as far as the registry's effectiveness is concerned: “We did not examine the effectiveness of the Canadian Firearms Program or its social implications.” The claim that the Auditor General indicated that the registry is useless is absolutely false.
    It is important to dispel these myths because we are dealing with an issue about which the public hears all kinds of information, even things that have nothing to do with the reality. The motion brought forward by the Bloc today gives us an opportunity to dispel these myths.
    Here is the fourth myth: there is an increase in violent crime, which shows that the registry simply does not work and that more effective measures need to be put in place. That is totally false. Even though the media coverage of violent crime may lead us to believe that the number of such crimes increases every year, the reality is totally different.

  (1230)  

    We see a disproportionate number of reports on violent crime in relation to what is really happening. In the 1990s, there was a steady decrease in crime in Quebec as well as in Canada. Statistics Canada even confirmed recently that, for 2006, the overall crime rate in the country was at its lowest level in more than 25 years. And that is not all. Quebec had its lowest homicide rate since 1962. Another myth dispelled.
    The fifth myth is that gun registration is a long, costly and complicated process. That is not the case.
    I am having a problem with my voice and I will have to end my remarks before my time is up. However, it has been shown that the situation has improved thanks to the gun registry.
    Madam Speaker, I was not here when the member from New Brunswick and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice asked the member for Hochelaga about expenditures and the fact that it is so costly. I would like to know if the member has heard about the Prime Minister coming to New Brunswick before the last election, to the riding where the registry is administered, and stating, with the local Conservative candidate, that nothing would change for the employees if firearms were no longer required to be registered. I would like to know if the member knew about it and if he had comments to make.
    Madam Speaker, about the costs, we are being told to the contrary that the registry works well and that 7.1 million firearms are now registered, of which 90% are hunting rifles. On average the registry was consulted 6,700 times a day in 2006, and since December 1, 1998, a total of 1,125,372 firearms have been exported, destroyed, neutralized or withdrawn from the Canadian information system, therefore reducing the risk of a firearm being used.
    It has been shown that, as far as costs are concerned, the system is now under control and that, indeed, to maintain the present moratorium introduced by the Conservative government would not save a significant amount of money, but would make the registry much less effective. The motion from the Bloc needs to be passed by the House, so we can move forward. The government must finally understand how important it is to make the firearms registry fully operational again.
    Madam Speaker, I am rising to debate the motion tabled by the hon. member for the riding of Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.
     I am fully aware that the issue of gun control, like all crime-related issues, is of great importance to this hon. member and all the hon. members of the House.
     The government has established a balanced approach to gun control in Canada, an approach that does not try to criminalize legitimate owners of firearms or to impose an additional burden on them.
     Canadians and Quebeckers have, to a large extent, put their trust in this government because it has undertaken to stand up to criminals to ensure the integrity of and respect for victims’ rights. Our balanced approach is part of a comprehensive plan which also aims to make our streets and our communities safer.
     The government has made major investments in crime prevention in the last three years and has provided law enforcement services with new and improved tools. The government is taking action against gangs and those who commit drug-related crimes. We are transforming the way that the justice system deals with criminals, while seeing to it that their victims receive all due respect.
     Tackling the illegal use of firearms is one of the pillars of the government’s public safety agenda. We have introduced longer mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes, and we have put tough new rules in place for the release on bail of persons charged with a serious weapons-related offence.
     We are also strengthening the police presence in communities to fight armed crime with the aim of increasing the safety of Quebeckers and Canadians and their families. As a woman and a mother, I support my government’s approach, particularly so that victims can finally hope to see the light of day and feel safe in our country.
     We have invested $7 million annually in tightening up the front-end screening of first-time firearm licence applicants, in order to keep firearms away from untrustworthy individuals. Just recently, we tabled a bill which, among other things, creates a new criminal offence for drive-by and other intentional shootings that involve reckless disregard of the life or safety of others.
     In addition to taking these long-overdue actions, the government has proposed fundamental changes to gun registration laws. As members know, it is our intention to take an approach that aims for effectiveness without imposing an additional burden on farmers, duck hunters and other law-abiding Canadians, coupled with specific measures to prevent gun crime.
     For example, we are going to fund initiatives designed to strengthen front-line policing, border security and the fight against organized crime. We feel that the gun control laws have to target the criminals, not the thousands of honest Canadians and Quebeckers who use rifles or shotguns to protect themselves, hunt, and otherwise earn a living.
     Our goal is to prevent criminals from getting their hands on guns, not to create bureaucratic nightmares and needless costs for legitimate owners of non-restricted firearms.
     With this objective, the government has introduced a number of measures to make it easier for gun owners to comply with the existing legislative requirements, since firearms owners whose weapons are registered are subject to continuous eligibility screening.
    The motion currently before the House, which was put forward by the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, seeks to eliminate one of these measures.

  (1235)  

    In 2006, the then minister of public safety announced a one-year amnesty period to shield from prosecution those owners of non-restricted firearms whose license had expired, provided that they take the necessary steps to meet compliance requirements again within that period. This amnesty period, which the member seeks to eliminate, has since been extended, and the government recently announced plans to extend it further, up to May 2010.
    I should point out that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable.
    This amnesty is one of several measures taken by this government to enhance compliance with the law. In 2006, the former public safety minister also announced that license renewal fees would be waived. In other words, individuals would not have to pay a fee to renew or upgrade existing licenses or to replace expired licenses. Those individuals who had already paid such fee were reimbursed. It is important to note that new license applicants are still required to pay a license fee. Like the amnesty, the fee waivers was extended for one year.
    In May of last year, the government introduced yet another measure to support compliance through a regulatory amendment that enables individuals with expired possession-only licences to apply for a new license without taking the Canadian firearm safety course. Most of the affected individuals are over 50 years of age, and they often reside in rural or remote areas where access to training is limited.
    Collectively, these three measures form a comprehensive regulatory package intended to increase compliance levels, and they appear to be working. In just three years, from 2006 to 2008, the rate of renewal of possession-only licences increased by 15%. The initiative introduced last year to make it easier to renew these licences led approximately 11,000 holders of expired possession-only licences to comply once again with the Firearms Act.
    As I mentioned earlier, the government plans to extend these measures for another year, until May 2010, to give more people the opportunity to comply with the gun control measures in the act. That is the government's goal, and the members opposite should want the same thing. This extension will also allow the government to develop and introduce long-term measures to help increase public safety and reduce the administrative burden on gun owners.
    As I noted at the outset, the government has taken a balanced approach to gun control. We are absolutely committed to protecting the safety and security of Quebeckers and Canadians while ensuring that law-abiding citizens are not subjected to unnecessary registration procedures for legally acquired, non-restricted firearms.
    Unfortunately, the motion before us is not prudent. The measures proposed by the hon. member would unnecessarily criminalize thousands of farmers, hunters and rural residents who are responsible gun owners. We would do better to work to protect victims of crime in this great country of ours.

  (1240)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I represent a very large region where many people have guns because they live in rural regions. I would say that the people in my riding are very responsible gun owners. They have had a lot of resentment about how the registry was implemented, and a lot of that resentment has been well founded.
    However, I am concerned and responsible gun owners in my riding would also be concerned about the Conservatives' moves in claiming that they are going to deal with the gun registry through Bill C-301. It is being touted as a way of killing the gun registry, but when we look at the clauses in it, subclause 9(2) would make it easy to transport machine guns and assault weapons; subclause 9(1) would weaken transportation rules for restricted firearms; and clause 8 would allow individuals in illegal possession of prohibited handguns to keep them.
    It seems to me that instead of presenting rural Canadians with a plan to deal with their resentments over the gun registry, the Conservative government is actually presenting a plan that would allow urban gangbangers to carry Berettas on the streets of Vancouver.
    I would like to ask the member, if the Conservatives are very serious about the gun registry and addressing rural concerns, why does Bill C-301, which is their government bill, bring forward these kinds of provisions that allow machine guns, prohibited weapons and handguns to be carried, under the guise of claiming that they are going to help rural Canadians?

  (1245)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, we must make it perfectly clear that it is not all firearms that are concerned, but only long guns used for hunting. We on this side feel that gun control legislation needs to target criminals, not the thousands of honest Canadians who use rifles and shotguns to protect their property. Our purpose is to stop criminals and to protect victims, whom the NDP too often forgets about.
    Madam Speaker, I thank our colleague for taking part in this debate but would ask her respectfully whether she will agree with me that, even if we are part of a pluralist society where everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, it is still the case that the gun registry is a measure that is extremely popular in Quebec. Our fellow citizens expect us to defend the integrity of this program. By allowing an amnesty for the fourth year in a row for long guns, she is suggesting that such weapons cannot be used in unfortunate incidents, and in cases of suicide and homicide. I do not think that logic will stand up to scrutiny.
    Can she tell us, as a proud Quebecker and a person who subscribes to Quebec values—I have no doubt about her convictions—whether she will be supporting the Bloc Québécois motion, which would strengthen our friendship?
    Madam Speaker, I find this gentleman really very charming.
    I will agree with him on several points. The gun and handgun registry remains in place. The demagoguery must stop and we must put in context what is true and what is not. The members across the way are trying to convince people that we want to do away with the registry completely. That is false. The gun and handgun registry is here to stay, and that is what we are saying on this side of the floor. As a woman, and a mother, I support my government's approach, because I feel it is time today to speak of the victims, which my colleagues over there never do. They are the ones we are thinking of, along with the many men and women in Quebec and in Canada who have long guns and use them within the laws of Canada. This is why the red tape needs to be reduced. We have to be guided by our hearts, our gut feelings, as well as our heads.
    Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to also have the opportunity to take part in this debate on the motion moved by my colleague, the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.
    Quebeckers, like all Canadians, remember the tragedy that took place at the École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989. We were all deeply affected by that incident, which, to this day, serves to remind us of the need to establish effective gun control measures and to understand the importance of fighting crime. Tragic incidents that have occurred in other places also remind many of us that much more needs to be done to fight crime and to ensure that guns do not find their way into the hands of people who pose a threat to the safety of our families, our streets or our communities.
    The government has already done a great deal in this regard and we intend to do a lot more. I hope the motion moved here today is a sign that the members across the floor understand how important it is to implement effective measures for preventing crime and to cooperate with the government to get tough on crime, especially gun crime.
    I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin for moving his motion, which, despite its good intentions, has some major flaws.
    In fact, this motion seems to suggest to the government that it should abandon all the measures brought forward over the past three years to ensure that gun owners comply with current gun legislation—measures that enhance public safety and prevent gun crime, while ensuring that more gun owners are subject to continuous eligibility screening.
    By abandoning these measures, more Canadians would be at risk of being the victims of gun crime and this would weaken, rather than strengthen, gun control in general.
     We know now that many owners of non-restricted firearms, such as shotguns and hunting rifles—long guns—do not renew their licences when they expire, in large measure because of the cumbersome process established by the previous government, which turned out to be an administrative failure.
     We also know that most of the people concerned are more than 50 years old and live in rural or remote areas, where access to training is more limited. Finally, we know from experience that only a small number of these people will comply with the firearms registration program, unless a special effort is made to facilitate registration.
     That is why our government introduced a series of administrative measures in May 2006. We simplified the firearms licence renewal process by providing a temporary dispensation for two years and by looking into the renewal fees, and by reducing the fees that Canadians have to pay. As part of that initiative, people who had already paid the higher fee received a refund.
     The government also declared an on criminal charges against owners of non-restricted firearms who take the necessary steps to comply with licensing requirements.
     In 2008, we extended the amnesty period for another year, while undertaking measures intended to encourage a larger number of firearms owners to renew their licences and to register under the Canadian Firearms Program by allowing holders of possession-only licences to submit a new application. In that way, we eliminated the tedious requirement for experienced owners to take the Canadian firearm safety course to obtain a possession and acquisition licence.
     What results did these measures produce? This targeted initiative led to an increase in compliance in some cases, even in the preliminary stage. For example, the renewal rate for possession-only licences increased from 50% to 65%.
     Nearly 11,000 holders of expired possession-only licences are now in compliance with the federal legislative measures on firearms. There are more registrations under the Canadian Firearms Program. A greater number of owners of non-restricted firearms are in the process of renewing their licences, which involves ongoing verification of their eligibility.

  (1250)  

    The point of the review is to ensure that all known high-risk behaviour is automatically brought to the attention of chief firearms officers and law enforcement officers. More Canadians are being protected from potential gun crimes. That is what we were hoping to achieve with our initiatives and our commitment to implementing gun control measures. In light of these positive results, in March of this year, our government announced that it planned to extend these measures for an extra year until May 2010.
    Our government is determined to ensure that our country has an effective gun control system. That is why we have taken the necessary measures to bring more gun owners into compliance with existing laws.
    We are investing $7 million per year to ensure more thorough screening of people requesting an initial firearms permit and to keep firearms out of the hands of untrustworthy individuals. We have to make sure that firearms control measures keep guns out of the hands of those who threaten our communities, our safety and our lives.
    Firearms control measures must enhance public safety and community safety by preventing dangerous individuals from obtaining firearms and by imposing serious consequences if they use them to commit crimes. That is what Quebeckers and Canadians want.
    The government is committed to maintaining an effective gun control system while tackling the use of firearms for criminal purposes by getting tough on criminals. As such, I cannot support my colleague's motion because it would weaken gun control and expose us all to greater risk.

  (1255)  

    Madam Speaker, I am trying to remain calm and impassive, but I hope you understand how disappointed I am.
    First, I thought the minister was a dove in cabinet and espoused the values we are conveying today.
    It seems to me that his speech is somewhat contradictory. I am not questioning the genuineness of his convictions, but I want to ask him how he can stand up in this House and say that the government wants to maintain an efficient system and work on the integrity of that system when, for the fourth year in a row, a whole slew of people will not have to comply with the renewal process and meet their obligations under the system.
    Is there not something contradictory in his speech? Can he explain what is so administratively cumbersome about what owners of non-restricted guns and hunting rifles are being asked to do?
    Madam Speaker, I had no doubt that my colleague would remain calm. That is one of his best qualities, and it allows us to engage in worthwhile debates.
    First, we have to address the whole problem. My colleague, like his party, tends to compartmentalize the debate and look at the gun registry in isolation.
    The gun registry is an administrative disaster. In the past, the registry was a combination of overregulation and a waste of public money. It is inefficient, and we can still see that today. We need to go on from there and take action against crime.
    We all have the same goal, which is to reduce crime and make Quebeckers and Canadians safer. Yes, unacceptable crimes are committed with guns, but we have to send a message, we have to impose tougher and longer sentences.
    As well, as I said in my speech, control is needed when a person initially applies for a possession-only licence. We need to carry on along those lines. If the registry is too cumbersome, people do not comply with the law and do not renew their licences, and that is when we lose control. That is the problem.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, there is no question that a majority of folks in Kenora support the dismantling of the gun registry but that is not what today's debate is about. Clearly, there is a debate about dismantling the gun registry, and I expect that will come, but the singular issue today is extending the amnesty.
    I would pose this question to my hon. colleague. Is it not true that in a province as great as Quebec, just like northern Ontario and many parts of the Arctic, there are particularly onerous aspects of this that must be worked out and that amnesty is one of the most effective ways of dealing with that until there is more certainty around the long gun registry?

[Translation]

    Mrs. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
    I come from a rural area too. This weekend I attended the convention of the Quebec federation of anglers and hunters, which has 125,000 members. These people are law-abiding citizens. They believe in the conservation of nature and they use proper methods while living out their passion. Many farmers attended the convention as well.
    Indeed, a cumbersome registration procedure and an ineffective registry tend to make people not want to register or to obey this law. This has a cascading effect and now, no licences are being renewed. These people are happy because someone heard their call. The aim of the registry is not to punish honest hunters and farmers. The government must always keep in mind the fight against crime. We must protect our fellow citizens. The first nations are in the same situation. I mention the hunters and anglers, because I just saw them just this past week-end. Their federation has 125,000 members in Quebec. But the concern is the same for the first nations.

  (1300)  

    Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion moved by the Bloc Québécois. I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Gatineau.
    The motion reads as follows:
    That, in the opinion of the House, the government should not extend the amnesty on gun control requirements set to expire on May 16, 2009, and should maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety.
    I will use my personal experience to explain my arguments with regard to this motion. I own long guns, am a hunter and now a guide because politics prevents me from practising the sport of hunting as I would like.
    My friends know my position on the registry very well. When we go on a hunting or other trip, the vehicle is registered and so is the boat, quite often. We have hunting licences that we pay for before we leave. We have to report the game taken but we do not have to register the guns used to hunt. I have a great deal of difficulty with that.
    By declaring this amnesty, the government is keeping the registry in limbo. That is the Conservatives' goal. They have always been against the gun registry and this is their way of ensuring that the system does not work. Much has been said in this House about duck hunters, among others. We should put the duck hunter myth to rest. You hunt ducks with a 12 gauge shotgun. That type of gun can be sawed off and used in armed robberies. We have to stop with the duck hunter myth. I want hunters to be seen as honest people. My friends and I are honest hunters. We use our guns to go hunting. These guns can be used for purposes other than the ones for which they are purchased and used.
    I said I would refer to my personal experience. A few years ago, as legal counsel, I had to advise a couple that was separating. The husband owned guns. One of the wife's recommendations was that, given the couple's situation, the husband should get rid of his guns.
    I met with the husband and assessed his condition. In my opinion, he was in no condition to have weapons in his possession. He agreed, but at the time of handing in his weapons to the Sûreté du Québec or court designated custodians, there were weapons missing. Good thing that the registry was there. The wife knew little about what weapons he might have owned. These are not easy situations, and people who are afraid of weapons do not go around their homes making a list of all their contents. If only for that reason, there has to be a way for those who enjoy hunting to feel comfortable. I speak with hunters and women, who are increasingly taking up hunting. People have to act responsibly. One responsible thing to do for those who practice that sport is to register all their weapons so that, should anything happen to the family or should their health deteriorate, they do not become a menace to those around them. That is reality, and that is acting responsibly.
    I have a big problem with the Conservative line because, often, what the Conservatives talk about is the need to protect our property. I especially have a problem with it when defending our property requires us to arm ourselves. This means that, if the purpose for the long guns we buy is to defend our property, then they ought to be registered. In my notarial practice, I saw my share of disputes between neighbours, and I could not say that all neighbours deserve to own weapons with which to defend their property. We can see people making a big fuss over nothing and witness situations which are an absolute shame. Some neighbours feud over really trivial stuff.

  (1305)  

     I hope it is not Conservative ideology to say that when you keep weapons, they need not be registered because people have the right to protect their property. Not everyone protects their property the same way, and I find this worrying. What the Bloc Québécois is calling for is simple. Putting an end to the amnesty means telling all hunters that they will have to register their weapons.
     Of all the friends I know and all the persons I have met as a regional member of Parliament, and although I have been lobbied by hunters’ groups, I have never had a hunter come up to me who had not registered his guns. But they were quite aware that a large percentage of their colleagues in western Canada, among others, had not registered their guns. It is not by chance that they have not registered their guns: it is because the Conservatives decided not to support this registry from the outset and are encouraging their fellow citizens not to register their weapons.
     I have a problem with my Quebec colleagues when they support this philosophy, and I challenge them to talk to some hunters and ask they whether or not they have registered their firearms. They will find that in Quebec, 99% of citizens abide by the rules, have registered their guns, and have the necessary licences.
     They have no difficulty, they have had no difficulty, apart maybe from a little at the beginning. In fact what they found most irritating was the fee to be paid, but that has been abolished, which is good. Those who wish to register their weapons may do so for free. Once again, it is our duty as responsible citizens to register our weapons if we want to practice a sport like hunting and keep those around us safe. If one day a problem should arise in our personal life such that people might have doubts about our capacity to use firearms, those people would be able to file the necessary complaints. In the case of a separation, weapons are often placed in the custody of a third party who keeps them until an authorization is obtained, and that is how it should be.
     I have explained this situation to the citizens and hunters who have had the opportunity to talk to me. In Quebec, given that hunters’ firearms are already registered, the registry does not pose a problem. In fact it is working well.
     Naturally, if you tell these people that the registry is going to be abolished, everyone will be in agreement. In my opinion, it is no fun to fill out a form, but once a hunter understands that a vehicle or a motor launch has to be registered when it is being used, everything is fine. The same applies for a hunting licence: it is necessary, so you have to register. You also have to report game taken. It is not clear to me why people do not understand the necessity of registering weapons.
     That is why I am very comfortable about voting for the Bloc Québécois motion. I am happy to vote in this House against any law that would set aside the firearms registry, imperfect as it was when it was created. It is true that there was waste by the Liberals at that time, but that is the Liberals’ problem. There were repeated computer contracts, etc. They paid the price in Quebec and they will continue to pay it.
     However, since the system was introduced, and because the representatives of law and order tell us they need this system, in my experience and from what I have seen, this register has not caused me any problems. Personally, I registered my weapons and I obtained the necessary permits, and I have no problem with it. Even though not all my friends necessarily like having their name registered, now that it has been done, they are reasonably accepting of the system. They understand very clearly that to be responsible we must register our weapons, just as we register a vehicle or boat or report game taken, and just as we need to obtain a hunting permit.
     This system is well accepted. However, as long as the government decides that it is not interested in the system and lets it be known that there will be changes for long arms, it will not work. It is certain that there will always be people—especially in the west—who, from the beginning, have not registered their weapons, and who continue to oppose having this register in place. Often, as several Conservative colleagues have told us in this House, they will tell us it is to protect their property. Right away, I have a problem with the protection of property because not everybody protects their property in the same way.
    So I hope that our colleagues will understand, especially those from Quebec. As far as those from the west are concerned, I understand that they do not understand. Nevertheless, our colleagues from Quebec should be able to follow our lead on this matter and to recognize the fairness and justice of what we are proposing.

  (1310)  

    Madam Speaker, through you, I would like to ask a question of my colleague, who spoke very eloquently. He just said something that opened the door to this question that I have for him. He said that car registration, or any other motor vehicle, is a provincial jurisdiction, that boat registration is a provincial jurisdiction, that dog registration is a provincial jurisdiction. Firearms registration is also a provincial jurisdiction. Civil law is the responsibility of the provinces.
    Could the member answer me without letting his emotions get in the way? I understand the motion put forward by the Bloc, but would he be willing to let it go because, since civil law is a provincial jurisdiction under the Constitution, should it not be tabled in the Quebec National Assembly instead, which could maintain a registry without any involvement on our part?
    Madam Speaker, I will start with a correction for my colleague: ships are under federal jurisdiction. That is the reality.
    It is nonetheless true that even the Government of Quebec has asked the federal government to transfer to Quebec all of its powers for administration of the gun registry. Consequently, if my colleague really wants to come across as a good Quebecker, let him propose to his party that they say yes to what Quebec has been asking for since the very start: the transfer of all powers and charges relating to the registry, as well as all information contained in the registry to the Government of Quebec, to administer itself. Once again, we in Quebec are responsible.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, could the member respond and perhaps give some explanation as to why the Conservatives are attacking something that police officers use over 9,000 times a day, that the Canadian Police Association has said is an essential tool for it in both protecting its officers and reducing crime? Why would the Conservatives be against something that the chiefs of police have said, time and time again, is so essential to the job they do?
    Since the registry was introduced, gun violence has been reduced across every category. Could the member perhaps give his impressions as to why we see legislation such as private member's Bill C-301, which would undo so much of the good work the House has done in this area?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, there is a conservative ideology behind their position, probably something to do with defending property. There is a reason why several Conservative members have referred to defending property. We see that in the U.S. as well, where everyone has the right to bear arms to defend himself. This has been debated on numerous occasions.
    That is not the situation in Quebec. Care must be taken; there are laws to be respected. If you were to tell me that, starting today, everyone owning property in Quebec can have a firearm to defend himself, that would be risky for all the landowners in Quebec, given all the little spats between neighbours that we see. That is a reality.
    Somewhere, there is a conservative ideology about protecting one's property showing through, one which gives people the right to have guns without any obligation to register them, to protect their property. Our freedom ends where the next person's starts. That is what the Conservatives should understand.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I was home this week. We have 800 people in Abitibi who are worried about their pensions. We have had 1,000 layoffs in Sudbury. Smooth Rock Falls and Kapuskasing are down as are our mills all across the north. We are debating something that he says everybody in Quebec supports, and he is blaming western Canada.
    Why do we have an opposition day motion on something like this, something which is creating political mischief? People back home want to know where we stand on fighting for pensions and EI and ensuring we can get through this economic crisis.

  (1315)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, it is because safety is very important. If our NDP colleague is telling me that if everyone has guns, that will solve the unemployment problem, I think that it would worsen public safety instead.
    Madam Speaker, I am sure that you yourself are quite sure that I am going to speak in support of my party’s proposal.
     I believe we should not extend the amnesty on gun control requirements set to expire on May 16, 2009, and that we should maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety—I repeat: in its entirety.
     The Bloc Québécois is the federal party that best represents the interests of Quebeckers and that calls for the consensus in Quebec to be respected. As a result, the Bloc Québécois is firmly committed to improving firearms control and maintaining the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety, as I said.
     For the umpteenth time, the Conservative government is attacking the firearms registry; it wants to exempt unrestricted firearms—rifles and hunting weapons. This stubborn persistence, which can only be described as ideological, is hard to justify when we see how the gun registry has led to a drop in tragic events involving firearms. But the Conservatives do not care about that.
     We already knew that when it comes to justice and public safety, the Conservatives care only about their partisan interests. Was it not the Minister of Justice who said, on July 17, 2008, “We do not govern by statistics. We are governing by what we promised Canadians in the last election and what Canadians told us”?
     The bills that are currently before Parliament regarding the registry quite simply provide the evidence that the Conservatives are wilfully blinding themselves to reality. It is not the Bloc Québécois members who see the benefits, it is police services in Quebec and Canada, which say that the registry is a useful and effective tool; it is public health agencies, which report the situation on the ground and observe the significant declines in homicides, suicides and accidents involving firearms; and it is the statistics—and this is very important—that show that firearms control reduces the number of crimes, including the most violent crime, murder.
     This is obvious when we compare Quebec’s track record to the United States. The rate is five times lower in Quebec than in our neighbour to the south.
     When it comes to justice and public safety, the Bloc Québécois firmly believes that the most effective approach is still and will always be prevention. This means that we have to tackle the root causes of crime and the conditions that lead to tragedies in the home. We have to tackle the causes of youth crime and violence, rather than waiting for things to get broken and then trying to fix them, that is the wisest and most importantly the most profitable approach, in both social and economic terms.
     This can be clearer, and I will spell it out. First, we have to tackle poverty, inequality and exclusion, all of which provide fertile ground for frustration and its manifestations: violence and crime.
     And in addition, we have to limit access to the firearms that make it easier to commit serious crimes. The evidence is in on this point: gun control is one of the most effective ways of preventing crime, particularly the greatest danger of all, homicide.

  (1320)  

     There is a direct connection between the homicide rate and how easy it is to acquire guns. They go hand in hand. Now that the cost of setting up the firearms registry has been covered and the actual registration only costs about $15 million a year, it would be a huge mistake to deprive ourselves of a tool that has proven its worth.
     Most importantly, it is wrong to assume that removing non-restricted firearms from the registry would result in fantastic savings. That is totally false. Somehow the Conservatives need to understand that the cost of registering hunting guns is only a small fraction of the total cost of the registry.
     The Bloc Québécois was in favour of removing certain obstacles that might annoy hunters and target shooters, including making registration free. That was done back in 2004. Considering the advantages of a gun registry, its low annual cost and the lack of any serious disadvantages to people who meet their obligations, the Bloc Québécois is convinced that the registry should be maintained and gun control should be improved. I want to point out as well that the Quebec National Assembly has twice expressed its unanimous support for keeping the gun registry.
     The Government of Quebec has also indicated its intent to assume more responsibilities in the area of gun control. On May 17, 2007, the Quebec public safety minister sent his federal counterpart a letter asking him to amend the Firearms Act to give Quebec and the provinces that so desire more regulatory authority over firearms. The Government of Quebec asked specifically for the power to tighten the rules governing the control and storage of restricted firearms. On the same occasion, Quebec repeated its support for keeping the firearms registry in its entirety. The Quebec government reiterated this stand during the last election campaign when the Premier wrote to his federal counterpart asking him to continue registering all firearms.
     This is the text of the document included in the Premier’s letter to the Prime Minister of Canada.
    To prevent events such as those at the École Polytechnique and Concordia from happening again, the Government of Quebec has taken steps to protect the people of Quebec.
    Recently, the Government of Quebec passed the Anastasia Act. This act is designed to protect the people of Quebec by tightening gun control, regulating gun ownership in certain places and creating a system to control the practice of target shooting with restricted or prohibited firearms.
    The Government of Quebec would have liked to do more to protect the public, but as you know, criminal law comes under federal jurisdiction. After consulting with the province's police forces, the Government of Quebec asked that the gun registry be maintained.
    The Government of Quebec is calling on the federal government to make a commitment to maintain the gun registry.
    The Government of Quebec is also calling on the federal government to make a commitment to strengthen gun control by tightening the rules for transporting and storing firearms.
    In conclusion, the Premier of Quebec said:
    If you [at the federal level] do not want to proceed in this way, we [in Quebec] ask for a delegation of powers so that we can achieve the objective stated above.
    We must act accordingly. We must maintain the registry of all guns.

  (1325)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I am a little confused. The hon. member spent the first part of his speech talking about priorities like health, which are important to him and perhaps his constituents. Then he said that we were currently spending only $15 million on the registry. Maybe $15 million is not a lot of money to other people, but it happens to be a lot of money to me.
    Is the hon. member not willing to concede that it would be better to not spend that money, actually put it into the programs he is talking about and start respecting people in our rural and remote communities, of which Quebec makes a large part?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, a life is priceless. We are now talking about saving lives. How can that be done? Is there a way to prevent murders and homicides completely? If there were a simple and concise formula, all human beings on earth would use it. Right now, there are firearms in our society and the vast majority of murders are committed with firearms.
    Health workers tell us that there are fewer people arriving in hospitals injured by firearms since the introduction of the gun registry. It is the health sector that inspired my very simple proposal to maintain the registry because it saves lives.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the member opposite was referencing costs. The RCMP has stated that ending the registry would save about $3 million a year. That is about the same amount of money that is spent by members of Parliament when they send ten percenters into other people's ridings.
    If we want to talk about saving $3 million, does the member think we should be cutting something that police use over 9,000 times a day and something they say is an essential tool? Or does the member think we should end the practice of partisan attack ads that are paid for by taxpayers in the form of ten percenters that are used so heavily by the Conservative Party?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Ajax—Pickering.
    Basically, it is not a question of money or investments, but a question of life and death.
    The gun registry is a proven system. Various police forces use it more than 9,000 times every day to prevent more murders and to find out what firearms there are in the houses where they are about to intervene in order to prepare themselves accordingly. That is where the system shines. It is not a question of costs. We cannot put a price on a human life. That cannot be measured in millions or in billions of dollars. Every life is worth saving and the gun registry with its proven track record is a solution. That is at the heart of our debate.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, in listening to the member and his Bloc colleague before him, I was amazed at their willingness to attack law-abiding farmers and duck hunters. They talk about sustaining a completely ineffective, horrifically expensive gun registry, but at the same time, yesterday at justice committee, the Bloc members actually moved to remove mandatory minimum penalties for those who are committing drive-by shootings in our communities.
    How can they justify that?

  (1330)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, members opposite like mixing everything up to keep their demagogy at a constant shameful level.
    The gun registry is already in place and its operating costs are now known. The system works well and thanks to it, police forces know if there is a firearm in a house when they have to intervene. It reinforces prevention and that is the important thing.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this issue. It is one that has created a lot of debate in the House over many years. I will start by explaining how my opinions have been shaped on the issue of guns overall.
    My grandfather was a hunter. He had a hunting camp. I had the opportunity to go there and fire a gun with him. I have come to learn a lot about gun ownership, hunting and how important that was to his life. I also learned a lot about how important it is to be a responsible gun owner and how seriously he took that commitment and how important it was to him that the guns were stored safely. Like most gun owners, when he was alive, he was incredibly responsible and was very careful with the weapons that he had. I got to see that side of it. I appreciated how much that meant to him and how much that experience was valued by him.
    The other experience that formulated my opinion on this was my time on the Durham Regional Police Services Board. I had the opportunity of working with front-line police officers to see how the registry really worked, how it is put into motion and how it is actually used when we strip away all the rhetoric and the arguments and we talk about what is the real purpose of it.
    One of the most defining moments for me when I was on the police services board was when I talked to an officer about going into a domestic violence situation. The police were able to use the registry to confirm that a weapon was present. He explained how it changed his approach in that situation. He explained that most violence, particularly domestic violence, is not planned a long time in advance, but is in fact violence that occurs spontaneously in the heat of the moment. When there is a weapon in the house and there is someone who has never committed a crime before, there is an incredible additional danger both to the police officer and to the person who is the subject of domestic violence.
    We do not know who is going to get into this situation and who is not. It is much like when we ask people to register a car. We are not saying that everyone is going to get into a car accident, but we are saying that cars can pose a serious threat to society and other people's lives and it is important to register them and to make sure that those who drive them have the needed skills.
    It is the same thing with weapons. Most people who own guns are not going to get involved in crime. Most are going to be responsible. However, we do not know in advance who is going to commit a crime and who is not. It is extremely important that the people who have those weapons be properly trained, that we know where those weapons are and when there is a situation such as domestic abuse that we know whether or not a weapon is present.
    When I hear from those officers about how important that tool is, I have to say that it resonates with me. As a legislator I listen to police officers on the front line. It is not just that police officer who shared that experience with me or my time on the police services board. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has been extremely strong in saying the registry is an essential tool to protect police officers and also to protect the public. If that were not enough, the Canadian Police Association expressed the same opinion in a letter. The Canadian Police Association has made it very clear that it is an essential tool for its members. This is something they use more than 9,400 times a day. This is a tool which in the last year was used almost 3.5 million times. The police officers do not use this tool for something to do or because they are bored. They use it because it is an essential tool in crime fighting and in keeping the public safe.
    To me, the debate should end there. If police officers are speaking with that degree of unanimity, and that many are saying it is an essential tool and they are using it with that kind of frequency, one would think that should probably end the debate, but unfortunately it has not. In fact, it has mischaracterized this debate as somehow being against hunters or against people who have weapons.
    I have never heard anyone make the argument that licensing cars and asking people to get driver training is going against drivers, that we have something against drivers in this country. It is a ridiculous and preposterous argument. If we were against hunting, we would make it illegal, but of course it is not. If we were against long guns, we would make them illegal, but of course we have not. It is a false argument. It is designed to create a wedge and to play games. We should be clear on that. That is what this has really been used for, to create false arguments, false divisions, to create wedges that should not be there, to create clouds around what should be clear arguments.

  (1335)  

    In that regard, I am going to read some statistics with respect to long guns. There is a lot of talk about excluding the long guns, but let me read some statistics.
    Spousal homicides involving firearms occur twice as frequently with long guns than with handguns. Suicides are five times more likely to be committed with long guns than with handguns. The majority of guns recovered or seized by police are non-restricted long guns. Murders with rifles and shotguns have decreased dramatically since 1991, in no small part because of stronger controls on firearms. In fact, the number of murders in 1991 by long guns was 107, and the number for 2007 is down to 32.
    People who do not believe the police and want to ignore them, the mass majority, are left with those statistics. In fact, in talking about police safety, police officers report that in the last decade, of the 15 officers who were killed, only 2 were killed by handguns. The remaining 13 police officers were killed with rifles or shotguns.
    To say that long guns are not part of the equation of public safety is a false argument. The statistics bear it out and the police repeat it. Yet what we see is a continued misrepresentation of the facts and people trying to pretend that the registry has no function.
    If all of that were not enough, let me read directly from a letter dated April 7 from the Canadian Police Association. In this letter the association clearly articulates the reasons that the registry is so important. These are the words from front-line police officers:
    Registration is an Important Component of the Canadian Firearms Program.
    Licensing firearms owners and registering firearms are important in reducing misuse and illegal trade in firearms, for a number of reasons:
    1. Rigorously screening and licensing firearms owners reduces the risk for those who pose a threat to themselves or others. Already there is evidence that the system has been effective in preventing people who should not have guns from getting access.
    2. Licensing of firearm owners also discourages casual gun ownership. Owning a firearm is a big responsibility and licensing is a reasonable requirement. While not penalizing responsible firearm owners, licensing and registration encourage people to get rid of unwanted, unused and unnecessary firearms.
    3. Registration increases accountability of firearms owners by linking the firearm to the owner. This encourages owners to abide by safe storage laws, and compels owners to report firearm thefts where storage may have been a contributing factor. Safe storage of firearms:
--Reduces firearms on the black market from break-ins;
--Reduces unauthorized use of firearms;
--Reduces heat of moment use of firearms; and,
--Reduces accidents, particularly involving children.
    4. Registration provides valuable ownership information to law enforcement in the enforcement of firearm prohibition orders and in support of police investigations. Already we have seen a number of concrete examples of police investigations which have been aided by access to information contained in the registry.
     In fact, one of the prime examples that I would point to was a situation involving the shooting of four officers in Mayerthorpe, Alberta in 2005. In that instance the evidence that led to the arrest and conviction of two men was directly related to the registry. The registry helped convict those two individuals. The letter further states:
    5. While police will never rely entirely on information contained in the registry, it is helpful to know if guns are likely to be present when approaching a volatile situation, for example, in responding to a domestic violence call. The officer, in assessing threat and risk can weigh this information.
    6. Registration facilitates proof of possession of stolen and smuggled firearms and aid in prosecutions. Previously it was very difficult to prove possession of illegal rifles and shotguns.
    7. Registration provides better information to assess an investigation of thefts and other firearm occurrences.
    8. Recovered firearms can be tracked to the registered owner using firearms registration information.
    9. Registration is critical to enforcing licensing. Without registration, there is nothing to prevent a licensed gun owner from selling or giving an unregistered weapon to an unlicensed individual.
    10. Illegal guns start off as legal guns. Registration helps to prevent the transition from legal to illegal ownership, and helps to identify where the transition to illegal ownership occurs.

  (1340)  

    We should look at the overwhelming body of evidence showing how important this tool is for police. As I said, these are not my words or something that I concocted. This comes directly from the Canadian Police Association telling us why it needs the registry to continue.
    With all the evidence I have just presented, it seems that this would be a moot matter, that we would not need a motion from the Bloc to try to protect the registry or deal with the issue of amnesty. I think most reasonable people looking at that overwhelming body of evidence would realize that any wedge or distinction was really just manufactured. In fact, that is the case.
    The Conservatives, instead of abiding by this overwhelming information and working with law enforcement officials and legitimate gun owners to ensure the program works as effectively as possible, are trying to get rid of it. In fact, a private member's bill, Bill C-301, not only deals with long guns, which I have been talking about for a few moments, but would actually gut the registry for prohibited and restricted weapons. It would cut the registry on things like handguns. In fact, the individual who presented this bill to the House of Commons was first going to be a speaker at an event celebrating the death of the registry where the door prize was a Beretta. This was not just any Beretta. It was a Beretta that was advertised for its stealth.
    Why would a marksman who wants to shoot at the range need a Beretta that is advertised for its stealth? The insensitivity is monumental. Where was this event? It was in Mississauga, in the GTA, in our neck of the woods where we have seen an incredible amount of gun violence. One can imagine the reaction.
    If all of that gutting and undoing of all the good work I just talked about was not enough, this bill would go even further. This bill would make it legal to transport a fully automatic machine gun. If people have an Uzi, this bill would allow them to drive it through the streets on the way to the range. An Uzi, an fully automatic machine gun is what we are talking about and that is what the Conservatives are introducing.
    That did not go over so well In the Senate. As everyone can imagine, a lot of people were upset about this so the Conservatives tried it again and introduced a bill in the Senate to try to gut the registry another way.
    I will refer again to the Canadian Police Association's specific comments about the impact of Bill S-5, which, conveniently, was introduced in the Senate where it stands almost no chance of being passed. It makes one wonder whether the Conservatives really are just playing games or what their motives are. However, the following are the words of the Police Association:
    Bill S-5 Will Make it More Difficult for Police to Investigate Gun Crimes and Compromise Public and Police Officer Safety.
    Bill S-5 will:
    Repeal the requirement to register non-restricted firearms...and the offences and penalties for failure to register non-restricted firearms. In recent years the current government has allowed those who have disobeyed the law to avoid compliance and prosecution by creating successive amnesty periods. We fail to understand why the government would relax controls to favour those who deliberately choose to avoid accountability for their firearms.
    The second major point it makes is:
    Eliminate the requirement for persons wishing to transfer non-restricted firearms to notify the registrar, and introduce a new requirement that the individual seek authorization from the Chief Firearms Officer.... This will devolve the responsibility from the provincial CFO's, who will be required to verify the recipient is licensed to possess the firearm and verify that the firearm is non-restricted. ... --this verification [will be] for each and every transfer. It will be impossible to determine, however, whether or not such requirements are complied with, as records linking firearms to owners will no longer be retained.
    The comments go on to explain in many other terms why Bill S-5 is so destructive.
    Why exactly are the Conservatives seeking to gut and destroy something that is so evidently needed for public safety and is such an important tool for police?

  (1345)  

    The reality is that there is a divide between the Conservative rhetoric on crime and the Conservative reality on crime. While the Conservatives talk about being tough on crime, what they are really talking about is creating wedges, about being dishonest on crime, about trying to frame issues in a way that is all about politics and not about making our streets safer. This is a perfect case in point.
    I will give the House another case, the crime prevention budget. The crime prevention budget for last year was $43 billion and, of that, only $13 billion were spent. They talk about being tough on crime and yet the Conservatives underspent that budget by half. In fact, when this party left office, that budget was well over the amount that it is right now and was fully deployed and fully spent.
    The Conservatives talk about ending the two-for-one remand credit, which we support, but they are not doing anything with respect to addiction in correctional facilities which creates a deadly cycle of people coming back in and out of the system. They are not doing anything about mental health issues. About 60% of those who are incarcerated are facing addiction issues and yet we just keep throwing them back in jail and they come out and reoffend and we throw them back in jail. Nothing is being done.
    The Conservatives can talk about being tough on crime. We are not afraid of being tough on crime, but they need to be even tougher on the causes of crime. They need to be tough at ensuring there are not victims in the first place, and that is the abysmal failure of the government and where its rhetoric does not match up to the reality.
    We need to ensure that we ask gun owners to be responsible. No one likes to have to register their car, register their pet or file taxes but if the government says that we do not need to do that because it is not important, then people, naturally, get conflicted and get angry. What we should do is go to the good men and women who own firearms and present them with all the facts that I gave today. We need to collectively say as a body that this is something we need for public safety, that we need to work with people to ensure our communities and streets are safer, that we need to prevent things like domestic abuse, that we need when responding to a suicide call and that this is information that is vital. If we present it in that way, we will be doing the right thing and we will be responsible.
    Instead, the choice to this point is to use this issue as a wedge, as a divide, to create false divisions and separate rural and urban Canada. The issues that face public safety, whether it is in a small town in Alberta or in my hometown of Ajax or in Pickering, are the same. It is time we were honest and responsible and it is time we cut through the nonsense rhetoric used on this issue.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:
    That, at the conclusion of today's debate on the opposition motion in the name of the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Wednesday, April 22, 2009, at 3:00 p.m.; and that the deferred recorded divisions on the second reading stage of Bill C-268 in the name of the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, Bill C-300 in the name of the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, and Bill C-291 in the name of the member for Jeanne-Le Ber, currently scheduled before the time provided for private members business on Wednesday, April 22, instead occur immediately following the vote on the Bloc Quebecois opposition motion on the same day.

  (1350)  

[English]

    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Acting Speaker (Ms. Denise Savoie): The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

    Madam Speaker, we just listened to a very disingenuous and misleading speech by the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering. He talked about when his party left office.
    When his party left office, the Canadian Police Association came to the Hill with a long list of legislative changes that they wanted to see made in the name of public safety. Guess what? Members of the Canadian Police Association are on the Hill this week and that list of legislative changes they wanted to see made are not on their wish list any more because we have actually done something about them.
    I want to talk about the misleading and disingenuous comments of the hon. member. The motion today is about Bill C-68--
    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to refer to the Standing Orders which, as you know, does not permit a member to impugn motive or to speak disrespectfully of another member. In this regard, the member has a point and he has the right to say it. We have a presumption of honesty, not being disingenuous in their speaking.
    I would say that the member should be very careful and maybe even withdraw the word “disingenuous”.
    I would ask the member to correct his phrase.
    Madam Speaker, with respect, I would ask you to check, because the word “disingenuous” is acceptable. The word “dishonest” is not acceptable. The word “misleading” is acceptable. The words “deliberately misleading” are not acceptable. I said “disingenuous” and “misleading”. I would ask, Madam Speaker, that you reconsider that and check the Standing Orders.
    The hon. member for Edmonton Centre is technically correct but I would ask that we show respect to each other in the House. Please continue your question, remembering the respect that is owed to other members.
    Madam Speaker, I accept that and I will be respectful. I would ask the hon. member to be respectful about what the debate is all about.
    The debate is about a motion that talks about the long gun registry, not some fanciful thing that the hon. member believes the government is trying to promote in the House. When we talk about impugning motives, he is suggesting that the government is trying to take actions that are not government policy. I would simply ask the member to stick to what we are debating today and not introduce things that are simply not true.
    Madam Speaker, this issue is important. I just spent a great deal of time going through exactly why the registry is such an important tool for our police officers, why we heard nearly unanimously from chiefs of police and why we heard from the Canadian Police Association about why they need this and about how it is used over 9,400 times a day. I talked about how essential this is as a tool and I went through it in great detail.
    Respectfully, every time the Conservative Party tries to gut it, whether or not it is in Bill C-301, Bill S-5 or in some speech where the Conservatives try to create division and use this as a political wedge, I am respectfully asking that we work with police on this issue, and turn to responsible gun owners, just as we do to responsible car owners and responsible pet owners, and explain why licensing is important. We need to work with them to ensure we have safer streets and safer communities.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Ajax—Pickering for his brilliant speech in favour of the motion. Not only was he as eloquent as he always is, but he was also particularly well prepared. I found his arguments very appropriate.
    I would like to ask him to comment on the position of the Conservatives that is slowly coming to light. Several of them began by telling us that an amnesty was necessary to allow those who have not yet obeyed the law time to do so. Maybe we should ask if they will need four, five or ten more years.
    Then, they talk about the weaknesses and the uselessness of the system. We must also point out that the Conservatives have been saying for four years that gun owners do not have to register their guns yet.
    Do you really believe that if they oppose the motion, it is because they want more people to abide by the law? If you do not believe it, what do you think of people who are trying to convince us we should believe it?

  (1355)  

    I am sure the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin was addressing the Chair, but I will ask the member for Ajax—Pickering to answer the question.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I think the motion that the hon. member has brought forward addresses this issue. I think it is so important because the reality is that amnesty sends the message that it is okay to not follow the law, that this is not an important law, that we can skirt this one, that we can ignore it. If anything, it makes the job for police even tougher. This is what we hear back from police officers, that the amnesty allows these individuals to think this is not an important law.
    Imagine if we said to people with respect to registering their cars that we were going to give them amnesty, that they did not really have to register their car, that it really was not that important. It sends the wrong message.
    The message we should be sending is that this is an essential tool, that it is a tool that police are using, and using to great effect, to make our streets safer. We should be working with legitimate gun owners to explain the importance of the program, why registration is a good idea. What we should not be doing is playing politics and trying to divide them against each other to play partisan political games, because all that does is make the registry less effective. It weakens public safety and it confuses individuals as to the importance of why they should register. That confusion and that fog is deliberate. It is done for political reasons. It is most certainly not done to increase public safety.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, as you know, my riding is home to a lot of farmers and hunters. The gun registry is certainly a controversial issue in my area.
    When the registry was put in place, had it been clear and simple, everyone would have been happy and we would not be facing the dilemma we are today. It must be said that the Prime Minister was the only Reform member to vote in favour of gun registration when the Liberals first introduced their bill.
    My colleague mentioned a few bills.

[English]

    The hon. member talked about Bill S-5. What is really interesting about the bill is that it is virtually the same as Bill C-21, introduced by the Conservatives in 2006, and Bill C-24, introduced in 2007, and the Conservatives never allowed either bill to come to a vote.
    The other point I want to make is that introducing the bill through the Senate is very unusual and that the Conservatives again seem to be playing partisan games with divisive issues. Senators are already signalling that they will amend the bill, so we really do not know what it is going to look like.
    So my question for the member is, what are his concerns with regard to Bill C-301 because he also mentioned that bill?
    I will ask the hon. member to try to remember that question until after question period.
    We will now go to statements by members.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Disappearance of Child

    Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to draw the attention of members to the disappearance of eight-year-old Victoria “Tori” Stafford, who was last seen on April 8 in Woodstock, Ontario. I would like to extend my deepest sympathy and concern to the family and friends of Tori as they go through this most difficult of times.
    I would also like to thank the police, the fire departments and all agencies involved in the continuing search to locate young Tori, and I would like to especially thank the community for their true concern and the support they have shown.
    To see a picture of Tori, please visit Crime Stoppers' website, or to provide any information about Tori, immediately contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
    Let us bring Tori home.

  (1400)  

[Translation]

Martin Brodeur

    Mr. Speaker, on March 18, 2009, the New Jersey Devils defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3 to 2.
    This was the 552nd regular season win in the NHL career of Devils' goalie Martin Brodeur and made him the all-time record holder for wins in goal.
    His talent, tenacity and will to win have helped him to three Stanley Cups victories as well as an Olympic gold medal. His passion for hockey, our national sport, puts him in a class of his own.
    Martin Brodeur is a local boy, born and bred, and the pride of Saint-Léonard.
    As the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, I extend my congratulations to Martin Brodeur and wish him more NHL records in goal, as well as another gold for Canada at Vancouver 2010.

Volunteer Week 2009

    Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of National Volunteer Week, April 19 through 25, I would like to draw attention to the exceptional contributions of the women and men volunteers who are committed to helping their communities. They embody the “passion for action ” the Fédération des centres d'action bénévole du Québec has chosen for its slogan.
    There are many different ways of getting involved, of course. Some act locally, addressing such issues as poverty, health, rural development and the promotion of human rights. Others choose to address international issues. It is also reassuring to know that we can count on thousands of committed volunteers during our election campaigns.
    I would like to pay tribute to these thousands of devoted volunteers who not only play an essential role in preserving our democracy, but also focus their efforts on improving the lot of their neighbours in these difficult times.

[English]

Volunteering

    Mr. Speaker, every day in my riding, hundreds of men, women and young people volunteer, bettering the lives of others and the communities in which they live.
    This being National Volunteer Week, I salute them: farmers doing business plans for an abattoir; 450 people signing up for the Scotties national curling championship; Rotary Club and Sault College volunteers baking cookies for Easter Seals; neighbours building school playgrounds; hospice, soup kitchen, minor sports, and church volunteers; and the list goes on and on.
    Volunteer Canada notes that volunteering is crucial in a time of economic crisis. I wonder how many realize that our federal elections bring together the largest experience of volunteering in the country. I salute those volunteers from all parties that nurture our democracy.
    Volunteers help build our social fabric. They create a vital sense of belonging to a society where neighbours care about each other and work for the common good.
    I thank our volunteers. Let us invest in the voluntary sector.

Battle of Vimy Ridge

    Mr. Speaker, 92 years ago, on Easter Monday of 1917, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps captured Vimy Ridge and earned Canada a place on the international stage.
    The Canadian commanders devised an innovative battle plan to take back the ridge, a plan executed to near perfection by the Canadian troops.
    Tragically, the glory Canada won on that day came with a heavy price. By the fourth day of battle, our Canadians controlled the entire ridge, but 3,600 Canadians gave their lives in this triumph.
    One of Canada's most impressive tributes now stands on the battlefield of Vimy Ridge. The majestic Canadian National Vimy Memorial stands as a reminder of that heroic battle and as a tribute to the brave men and women who served their country during the first world war.
    They defended with honour the values upon which our country was founded: freedom, democracy and the rule of law. These are the same values that Canada's military men and women are currently defending around the world.
    Ninety-two years later, after that fateful Easter Monday, we pay tribute to our proud history and we honour those who continue to serve today.

  (1405)  

Healthy Schools Day in Canada

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the work of Canadians for a Safe Learning Environment, or CASLE, formed in 1994 by parents in Halifax West and neighbouring ridings. This group has worked to improve the condition of school buildings and the products and practices used in our schools.
    This year, CASLE declared April 27 Healthy Schools Day in Canada. Every year, Healthy Schools Day in Canada allows students, teachers, organizations, school boards and others to focus on making our schools healthy places to work and learn. I ask the House to join me in recognizing the tremendous job that CASLE has done and in promoting Healthy Schools Day.

Volunteer Firefighter

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to honour one of my constituents, Mr. Walter Tomaszewski, a volunteer firefighter with the Fort Saskatchewan Fire Department for the last 62 years. Mr. Tomaszewski started in April 1947.
    Walter was a soldier from 1942 to 1945, fighting for Canada and the Allies in World War II. While stationed overseas, Walter met Alice, his future wife of 62 years. Walter and Alice have raised seven children, all in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.
    After the war, he attended Alberta College, where he became a bookkeeper.
    Walter no longer responds to emergency calls, but he does attend every Tuesday evening practice and is the department's historian.
    I want to take this moment to recognize Mr. Tomaszewski's contribution to the community of Fort Saskatchewan and to his country. It is people like Walter who make me proud to be a Canadian.

[Translation]

Gun Registry

    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois would like to use our opposition day as an opportunity to reiterate the importance of maintaining the gun registry.
    Numerous stakeholders in Quebec civil society also support it, including the president of the Montreal police brotherhood, Yves Francoeur, and several public health directors, including that of the Quebec nation's capital, Dr. François Desbiens.
    In an open letter to all MPs, Dr. Desbiens said that the bills introduced by the Conservatives in the House of Commons and the Senate concerning the gun registry were meant to eliminate measures that are known to be effective in saving lives. He referred specifically to a recent study that found that the legislation enacted to create this registry has considerably reduced the number of homicides and suicides committed using firearms.
    We therefore hope that all members, especially the Conservatives, will hear this appeal in favour of maintaining the gun registry. To further increase awareness, I would like to invite all members to a screening of the film Polytechnique at 7 p.m. today in room 200, West Block. Everyone is welcome.

[English]

Seal Hunt

    Mr. Speaker, this morning, Liberal Party caucus members held a press conference at which they depicted propaganda images of Canada's seal hunt in an attempt to attack and vilify those Canadians who are so dependent on the hunt for their livelihood.
    It is shameful that the Liberal Party continues to allow these types of attacks on our seal hunt, at a time when seal hunters depend on this hunt now more than ever.
    Liberals cannot get away with saying one thing in Toronto and another thing in Newfoundland and Labrador. They cannot rant and rave and pretend to defend the hunt in Atlantic Canada, yet sit silent while other members of their caucus attack the hunt in Ottawa.
    This Conservative government is working to defend the seal hunt, and it is shameful that the Liberal Party is working against it.

Holocaust Memorial Day

    Mr. Speaker, today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, a sombre day when we reflect on one of the most tragic periods of human history.
    Yet, just yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used the Durban Review Conference to incite hatred and genocide and undermine the cause of human rights. The Iranian president's complicity in crimes against humanity reminds us of our profound obligation to speak out against hatred and his call for the end of Israel.
    We must join together, today and every day, to remember the millions who lost their lives as innocent victims of hate at the hands of the most despicable regime the world has ever seen.
    Let us challenge inhumanity and confront injustice when it tries to rear its head. Let us say with conviction, “Never again; never again!”

Holocaust Memorial Day

    Mr. Speaker, today is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. Across this country, Canadians will remember, reflect, and most importantly, ensure that we never forget one of the greatest tragedies in human history.
    The extermination of millions of Jewish people during World War II was a crime against all humankind. It is a priority of our government to ensure that the Holocaust is properly taught and commemorated both in Canada and around the world. We have committed to host the next meeting of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, in 2010.
    In partnership with the French and American governments, we will co-host with B'nai Brith a conference entitled, “The St. Louis Era: Looking Back, Moving Forward”.
    Also this summer, Canada will take the next step toward becoming a full member in the Holocaust task force.
    Canada was the first country in the world to withdraw from the anti-Semitic Durban Review Conference.
    To acknowledge the singular horror of the Holocaust is to acknowledge that there are lines we may never cross and that human rights are either universal or non-existent.

  (1410)  

Peace

    Mr. Speaker, how does a society develop a culture of peace? The Canadian Department of Peace Initiative focused on that question last weekend in Hamilton, Ontario.
    Peace activists from across Canada showed our support for a major realignment of federal and provincial government priorities away from militarism and violence, and toward peace.
    The Department of Peace Initiative proposes the establishment of a federal department of peace to place the promotion of peace at the heart of the operation of our government by redirecting the machinery of government toward the promotion of peaceful conflict resolution, non-violent intervention and mediation.
    As well, establishing a Canadian civilian peace service to professionalize peace work by Canadians would significantly improve Canada's role in charting a course to peace at home and around the world.
    New opportunities exist to recommit to peace given the coming end to Canada's participation in the war in Afghanistan and new interest in nuclear disarmament. A broadly mandated department of peace would entrench Canadians' hopes for a peaceful world in the work of our federal government.

[Translation]

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, having read all about the respectable ancestors of the hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Canadians have the right to know what the member's hidden agenda is. One thing is clear. On April 14, 2009, the Liberal leader said, “We will have to raise taxes”. Here is a new chapter that could be called, “How to tax Canadians more with the Liberal Party of Canada”. This raises a number of important questions. When will they raise taxes? How much will they raise them? Which taxes will be raised, and above all, who will foot the bill? Of course, taxpayers will.
    That is the full truth about the secret agenda of the Liberals, who have nothing better to offer Canadians in the midst of this economic downturn than higher taxes. Fortunately, the best economic team has been working hard on this for several months. In Canada's economic action plan, our Conservative government wrote on one page in bold letters, “Tax less, not more”.

Holocaust Memorial Day

    Mr. Speaker, today is Holocaust Memorial Day, when we remember the World War II tragedy that resulted in the unjustifiable and arbitrary death of more than six million Jews.
    More than 60 years later, it is important that we retain the lessons of these tragic events. We must remember the courage of the survivors and also the fight against racism. But most importantly we must ensure that such a systematic and organized massacre never happens again.
    Therefore, on this day we should focus on current challenges faced by a number of peoples. Our responsibility remains to provide support to those who defend the right of nations to exist. In this context, we must hope for the recognition of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples and the creation of two separate countries.

[English]

Holocaust Memorial Day

    Mr. Speaker, I too rise today to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust.
    Sixty-four years ago Nazi extermination camps were liberated, but for more than six million Jews and millions of others it was too late.
    As we mark Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, we must remind ourselves why we say “Never Again”.
    We say it to remember the countless victims who were brutalized and murdered simply because of who they were. We say it to remind ourselves that those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.
    Now more than ever it is important to reflect and to act.
    We must act today when human rights are mocked at the Durban Review Conference and Israel is unjustly singled out yet again. We must act when the Iranian president speaks of Zionist conspiracies and tries to rewrite history to make the Holocaust a myth. We must act as anti-Semitism flares up in Canada and incitement to murder Jews persists around the world.
    We must remember, be vigilant, and outspoken in defence of everyone's right to life, free of persecution.

  (1415)  

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, this Conservative government has brought in an economic action plan that will further reduce the tax burden on individuals, families and businesses. This $20 billion of additional tax cuts will leave more money in the hands of Canadians.
    However, the Liberal Party has its own plan for dealing with the economic situation. As revealed just last week, the Liberal leader said, and I quote, “We will have to raise taxes”.
    The Liberal plan is to raise taxes on Canadian families. Everybody with any basic knowledge of economics knows that raising taxes, while trying to grow the economy, is the absolute worst thing to do. Canadians should be aware of the dangers of the Liberal plan.
    Will the Liberals come clean and tell Canadians what taxes they will hike? Will they tell us how much they will raise taxes? Will they explain which Canadians will be forced to pay?

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Science and Technology

    Mr. Speaker, the Bank of Canada now says that the recession will be deeper than the government anticipated. That makes it all the more important to create the jobs of tomorrow today, yet the government has done nothing but cut. It cut $148 million from our three research councils. It cut Genome Canada from the budget altogether. It cut research funding each year since it took office in real terms.
    How can we expect to get recovery from a government that has so little confidence in Canada's scientific community?
    Mr. Speaker, actually, nothing could be further from the truth. This government, in budget 2009, increased funding for science and technology by $5.1 billion. That is more money for our researchers, more money for our research institutions, and more money for the granting councils because we believe in science and we believe in innovation.
    Speaking of raising, though, it is the hon. member as leader of the Liberal Party who wants to raise taxes. He said last week, April 14, “We will have to raise taxes”. Canadians want to know, which taxes? How much will they go up? Who will pay? Those are the questions Canadians want to know about.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not take lectures in fiscal responsibility from a government that led us to the edge of deficit before the recession began.
    Let me try again on science. The U.S. is investing six times more per capita in science than we are. What are we doing? Genome Canada is cancelling major stem cell research. We are losing top talent to other countries. That is the legacy of the Conservative budget cuts.
    Why has the government lost faith in Canadian science?
    Mr. Speaker, under this government Genome Canada had a multi-year commitment of hundreds of millions of dollars. That is our commitment to Genome Canada and we are following through on that commitment.
    The hon. member said and I want to be clear about this, “We will have to raise taxes”. Not we do not want to raise taxes, or this may be a possibility but I do not want to do it. He said we have to raise taxes. That is what he told the people of Canada.
    That is the Liberal instinct. Whenever there is a challenging time, whenever we are facing challenging times, the Liberals' instinct is to raise taxes. The people of Canada do not want that instinct in government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is a desperate tactic by a government that led Canada to the brink of deficit before the recession. This government has cut funding for scientific research every year, in real terms, since it was elected. It has cut $148 million from the three research councils.
    Why is this government starving our scientists? Why has it not given them the support they need?
    Mr. Speaker, that is not true. In our 2009 budget, we increased funding for research across Canada by $5.1 billion. But when the Leader of the Opposition went to Ontario, he said, “We will have to raise taxes.”
    Canadians are not wondering which budget they support. They want to know which taxes will go up, by how much and who will pay. That is the question—

  (1420)  

    The member for Westmount—Ville-Marie.

[English]

Aerospace Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives made a clear promise during the last election to provide $200 million in new funding for the strategic aerospace and defence initiative. This is a program to develop new technologies for the jobs of tomorrow. We are still waiting.
     At a time when thousands are being laid off at Pratt & Whitney, Bombardier and Bell Helicopter, what is the minister waiting for to get this money out the door, so that we can begin to create not only the jobs of tomorrow but keep the jobs of today?
    Actually, Mr. Speaker, I happened to be in Montreal a few weeks ago with CAE that is investing, along with the Canadian government, $714 million in new research and development. It is going to be the world leader as it is now.
    That is as a result of our programs, the programs that he cites. We are proud of those programs and we will continue to support those programs.
    Mr. Speaker, I guess a promise does not mean anything.

[Translation]

    Are the Conservatives aware that time is short and we must act quickly?
    We have an aerospace industry and a shipbuilding industry that are patiently waiting for billions of dollars in federal government contracts. The industrial and regional spinoffs will create the jobs of tomorrow.
    Governing is more than just making announcements, it is following through on those announcements.
    What is this government waiting for to award these contracts it took so much pleasure in announcing?
    Mr. Speaker, there is the new money, of course, but there is also the money included in the 2009, 2008 and 2007 budgets, which will add to our investment in the sectors the hon. member mentioned.
    The good news is that this will create many jobs in our country, such as at Bombardier and CAE.
    That is another achievement by our government.

Forestry Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the union at AbitibiBowater, the Quebec Forest Industry Council and the Forest Products Association of Canada were all unimpressed by the establishment of a working committee on the forestry crisis.
    If the government really wants to help the forestry industry, it should provide loan guarantees immediately. In fact, its own lawyers are arguing before the London court that such guarantees are legal.
    Therefore, if its lawyers are defending loan guarantees, what is the government waiting for to put words into action and to provide such guarantees to the forestry industry, whose survival is at stake?
    Mr. Speaker, we have been defending the forestry industry since we took office. The previous government had let a gap between 2002 and 2006, and it was difficult to sell our products. We will continue to work for that industry. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of accompanying the Minister of Natural Resources when she announced the establishment of a Canada-Quebec committee that will work to promote the recovery of the forestry industry and to implement concrete measures. Since the committee has until May 15 to present the measures that will be selected, we are going to wait until then.
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Revenue recognized that, at first glance, loan guarantees respect the softwood lumber deal. However, so far, the Conservatives' attitude has been the same as that of the Liberals at the time: they are caving in to the American threat.
    Yet, it is very simple: the industry needs cashflow and loan guarantees exist for that reason. What is the government waiting for? After all, such guarantees are legal, as its own lawyers are saying.
    Mr. Speaker, in 2008, Export Development Canada helped 534 forestry companies, or 90% of businesses in Canada's forestry sector. Several billions of dollars were provided to support the forestry industry, and we will continue to help that sector.
    The issues that were set as priorities to the Canada-Quebec committee include, among others, access to capital, support to workers and communities, and the development of new products and markets. Quite frankly, the problem that the forestry industry is experiencing is, unfortunately, a market problem, because 50% of Quebec's lumber is exported, and 96% of those exports are going to the United States.

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, on the softwood lumber issue, the United States has—from day one—systematically challenged every government support measure, in order to undermine businesses in Quebec and Canada. Government inaction, whether under the Conservatives or the Liberals, has assured the U.S. industry that, even if it were to lose at arbitration, irreversible damages would be caused to the industry in Quebec and Canada.
    How can the Prime Minister, who pleaded in favour of loan guarantees during the 2006 election campaign, now be complicit to this U.S. strategy by refusing to grant loan guarantees to the forestry industry, which is going through an unprecedented crisis?
    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague was very clear. The government continues to support forestry companies. Let us think about it for a moment. Export Development Canada earmarked more than $14 billion for next year. To me and other taxpayers, that is a lot of money. Unfortunately, the Bloc does not think it is very much.
    Mr. Speaker, to explain his government's refusal to grant loan guarantees to the forestry industry, the Minister of National Revenue contends that the industry asked him to stay put so as not to jeopardize the softwood lumber agreement signed with the United States. However, Quebec, the labour movement, the Quebec Forest Industry Council, as well as the Forest Products Association of Canada are calling for immediate action.
    Will the government stop hiding behind double talk and help the forestry industry by granting loan guarantees, among other things, as it did for the auto industry?
    Mr. Speaker, last year, Export Development Canada provided support to more than 500 companies. As a matter of fact, I think that 534 forestry companies received support. That is significant support. EDC is continuing to look for ways to provide support to the forestry industry. These are tough times, but EDC is there. The Bloc Québécois does not recognize that support.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, over a third of a million people have been laid off since the elections. That is, on average, about 100 people per hour. These people need help, not just numbers that reveal this government's poor economic performance. The House passed an NDP motion to change the employment insurance system so that families can get the help they need.
    When will the government take action and fix the employment insurance system to help all of these people?
    Mr. Speaker, we have made it clear that we want to help people who have been unlucky and lost their jobs. That is why, in our economic action plan, we extended employment insurance benefits by five weeks. That is why we enhanced opportunities for training so that people can get the skills they need for the jobs of the future. They voted against all of these initiatives.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, today the Bank of Canada downgraded its projections. It now believes the Canadian economy will shrink twice as much as it earlier projected, and it has abandoned its optimistic forecast for the Canadian economy. It used to suggest there would be a rebound next year. That now will not happen.
    Faced with this mounting evidence, is the government still going to cling to its old approach of just crossing its fingers and leaving the middle class to struggle for itself, or is it actually going to take some action, finally understanding that Canada is going to need a second stimulus package?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, I do not know why the hon. member would ask for a second stimulus package when he voted against the first one.
    Mr. Speaker, the answer is simple. The first package, according to the Bank of Canada, is not going to get the job done. The Bank of Canada knows it. The economists know it. The middle class knows it.
    Under the government, 100 Canadians have been thrown out of work every hour, on average, since it was elected. Over 800,000 of those Canadians need help from EI, but cannot get it because of the rules that the Liberals put in place and that the Conservative government has kept in place.
    When will the government change the EI system and get some help to the people who need it?
    Mr. Speaker, we have expanded the EI system that we inherited so people can get an extra five weeks of regular benefits. We have dramatically expanded work-sharing so up to 52 weeks of support is available now. Right now that is conserving 75,000 jobs in the country that otherwise would be gone.
    We are taking those actions. We also investing $60 million and hundreds of additional personnel and systems to ensure that the benefits people need get delivered to them in a timely manner.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, on Friday the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food issued a report into his mishandling of the listeriosis crisis. The report claims that on July 18, 2008, the National Microbiology Laboratory informed Ontario's minister of health that it discovered matching genetic fingerprints in two separate human cases of listeria. However, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer has stated that the information was received on July 30, not July 18 as the minister contends.
    That is 12 days difference and 21 lives lost. Who is telling the truth?
    Mr. Speaker, all of these questions were answered in the subcommittee last night. We heard from both Mr. McCain of Maple Leaf Foods and from the CFIA itself. My colleague was at that meeting. I would recommend that he review the transcripts.
    Regarding food safety and this government, our Conservative government has implemented the toughest food safety rules Canadians have ever seen.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, that is not true. The minister did not answer the question. He tabled a report on Friday stating that his agency informed the Government of Ontario on July 18, 2008. Ontario's Chief Medical Officer also submitted a report on Friday, in which he said that it was on July 30.
    Was it July 18 or July 30? Who is telling the truth—the minister or Ontario's Chief Medical Officer?
    When will this government admit that it is incompetent?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, once again, I would invite my colleague to review the transcripts from the subcommittee meeting yesterday. All of this was discussed. There was an extended meeting, and she has full access to the transcripts.
    As I said, other matters were discussed yesterday. In fact, in terms of us getting tough with food safety, we are reinstating mandatory environmental testing for listeria. This is something that the Liberals eliminated in 2005. We are also demanding mandatory reporting on any positive results for listeria and we are increasing CFIA testing.

Sri Lanka

    Mr. Speaker, at least 100,000 displaced Tamil civilians are trapped in the path of the Sri Lankan army and could not be in more desperate need of food, clean water, shelter and security. Safe zones are not safe from dehydration, malnutrition, snake bites, shelling or today's aerial bombardment of the latest makeshift hospital.
    When will CIDA finally respond to the scale of this human tragedy and deliver aid where it is most urgently needed?

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, as the member is aware, Canada has responded and we are monitoring the situation very carefully.
    Also, I want to point out to all Canadians that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has been very active on this file. He has asked for the continuation of a safe period for humanitarian workers to have access. He asked for a ceasefire so we can remove the wounded. He has also asked for consideration of the impact that this conflict has had on civilians in Sri Lanka.
    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Tamil community in my riding, I have approached health professionals and school boards and I have repeatedly talked to the International Red Cross that cannot get aid in there. I comfort children who find it difficult to study, hold grown men in my arms while they sob and pray with senior women.
    Now I implore the government. What tangible action will it take to relieve the humanitarian disaster in Sri Lanka?
    Mr. Speaker, as has been pointed out, it is very difficult for these humanitarian organizations to get into the conflict zone. That is why we are asking for a humanitarian corridor. We are asking for a ceasefire. We are supporting the Red Cross and the UNHCR to provide assistance to those civilians to whom we can get access.
    We are monitoring this situation. We are concerned about the impact on the civilians and we will respond appropriately when we can do it effectively.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, the committee examining the forestry crisis intends to study the situation of workers. Yet, we are familiar with this situation. More than 300 communities in Canada and 122 communities in Quebec have been affected. These communities are often single-industry towns and find themselves with workers who are unemployed and therefore without an income.
    Does the government realize that the employment insurance waiting period must be eliminated in order to allow the unemployed to have immediate access to some income?
    Mr. Speaker, we are taking care of the workers of Quebec and Canada, especially in the forestry, manufacturing and agriculture sectors. That is why yesterday we established a committee to focus on the situation of workers in the forestry sector. We will examine all aspects of these situations.
    Mr. Speaker, since April 2005, 21,000 workers have lost their jobs in the Quebec forestry sector. Of these, hundreds of older workers cannot be retrained and the minister refuses to acknowledge this. How can you retrain someone living in a single-industry community? The minister should understand this.
    Will the government finally acknowledge that it must quickly put in place a real program to support older workers?
    Mr. Speaker, we already have a program for older workers. It is a pilot project that we expanded. That is why we also have funds for communities. We have also increased funding for training these people so they can prepare, together with the communities, for the jobs of the future in these communities.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Environment maintains that he has an action plan and that most companies currently using dirty technology will have to adapt to his action plan. What the minister is really proposing is to help the oil and gas companies at the expense of the environment and Quebec. That is the reality. Abandoning 1990 means refusing to recognize past efforts and working against sustainable development.
    If the minister wishes to maintain credibility when he talks about fighting greenhouse gas emissions, what is he waiting for to use 1990 as the reference year, establish absolute targets and promote a carbon exchange?

  (1440)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member's question is a very important one. The question is really this. Why is he not supporting one of the toughest targets in Canadian history, and definitely one of the toughest in the world?
    Canada's targets will reduce greenhouse gas emissions an absolute 20% by 2020. It is huge.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary is spreading falsehoods here this House. These are the lowest targets we have ever seen. That is the reality.
    The modelling group in the United States has pointed out that for Canada to do its fair share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions it must reduce its greenhouse gases by 25% compared to 1990 levels, by 2020. Without absolute targets, that goal is unachievable.
    What is the Minister of the Environment waiting for to abandon intensity targets and immediately adopt absolute targets?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member may not be aware, but Canada and the U.S. have a clean energy dialogue. The Prime Minister has met with President Obama. The Minister of the Environment has been meeting with his colleagues in the U.S.
    It is a move forward to expand clean energy, research and development, technology, like carbon capture and storage, to build a more efficient electricity grid, harmonizing our fuel efficiency and on and on. We are getting it done.

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, this month's unemployment numbers showed 61,000 more full-time jobs were lost in March, another 61,000 families who do not know where their next paycheque will come from, another 61,000 families who have been let down by the government. That is 380,000 full-time jobs since last October.
    However, thousands who will apply for EI will not qualify, even though they have paid into it for years. Despite a universal call for action, the government has refused to adjust the rules to make assistance available to more Canadians.
    Why has the government refused to help Canadians who have suffered at the hands of its mean and incompetent management of this economy?
    Mr. Speaker, in fact, the system that we have for employment insurance actually adjusts automatically to help those very individuals. It adjusts automatically every month in 58 regions across the country, based on the local conditions there. I can tell members that 32 out of the 58 regions have been adjusted recently so more people get easier access to more weeks of benefits.
    That was the system the Liberals designed. We have added five additional weeks of regular benefits to that so Canadians can get the employment insurance benefits they need, and 82% of those who pay into the system are receiving those benefits.
    Mr. Speaker, what the minister is saying is, “Just wait, things are going to get worse”. This is from a minister who says she does not want to make EI too lucrative, at an average of $335 a week for the 43% of people who qualify.
    The government is totally out of touch with Canadians who are hurting right now. Will the minister now acknowledge that she was dead wrong on EI and extend EI to those who have paid into it for years, who need it now and cannot get it from the government?
    Mr. Speaker, over 80% of people who pay into the system are getting the benefits for which they paid. It is true that not everyone is eligible. Unfortunately, that is the way the system is and everyone has agreed that this is not the time to overhaul it. This is the time to do as best as we can to get the benefits out there quickly and to provide training to people so they will have jobs in the future.
    I would like to quote a Liberal member, who said:
    This is the time to help by giving Canadians experience and training. Providing income support in the short term and training for when the economy picks up.
    Who said that? It was the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

[Translation]

Firearms Registry

    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, through their elected president, have indicated that the registration of all firearms is essential to guarantee public safety. But this government, which claims to be interested in public safety, is ignoring this formal request.
     Why is there this flagrant contradiction in the actions of the Conservative government?

  (1445)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our commitment is quite clear. We intend to eliminate the long gun registry. We do not believe it provides any particular benefits in terms of law enforcement.
    In fact, we have chosen to approach these matters differently, with mandatory prison sentences for crimes committed with guns, provide more resources to our police and more police officers on the street, with over 1,500 new RCMP officers so far.
    That is our approach to making our communities safer.
    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Police Association have both called on Parliament to maintain the national firearms registry for all firearms in Canada. It is consulted by those same police officers 9,000 times a day. The government likes to take photos with police officers, but the government does not want to listen to their thoughtful advice.
    Why the hypocrisy? Why the change of plans?
    Mr. Speaker, our police officers are among the bravest people in our country. They undertake their work every day in various situations that are very dangerous. The one thing they will not do is assume that what is on the gun registry tells them who is a criminal. Why? Because the people carrying the guns, the criminals on our streets, have not signed up with the gun registry.
    Those are illegal handguns. That is why we have made it a mandatory prison sentence when a person is convicted of carrying an illegal handgun. That is our approach to getting tough on crime: focusing on the criminals.

Justice

    Mr. Speaker, the best way to fight gangs and organized crime is to disrupt criminal enterprise. Today our Conservative government introduced new legislation to combat auto theft. Gangs thrive on the profits gained from these illegal activities. Cars are stolen and their parts resold to unsuspecting customers. This new legislation will seriously impact the ability of gangs to profit from these illegal activities.
    Could the minister tell us how this legislation will help the Canada Border Services Agency reduce the harm inflicted by gangs and other criminal organizations?
    Mr. Speaker, first, I thank the member for her hard work on this issue. This new law will prohibit the importing and exporting of property obtained by crime, thereby giving our border security officers the tools they need to seize stolen property. This is in complete contrast to the actions of the members of the NDP and the Bloc who yesterday attempted to gut our bill on organized crime by weakening the penalties for gangsters.
    Soft on crime does not work. This is why I always say that when it comes to standing up for victims and law-abiding Canadians, the only people who can be counted on are in the Conservative Party and in this Conservative government.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, a United Nations study has ranked how G8 countries are progressing in cutting greenhouse gases. Germany cut its emissions by 18% and Britain by 15%. Where is Canada? Dead last. In fact, Canada's greenhouse gases are up 34% over 1990 levels.
    Does the government not recognize that its measures are failing? When will the government make Canada a leader not a laggard by bringing in hard limits on greenhouse gases based on absolute scientific benchmarks?
    Mr. Speaker, the fact is that for long, long years we had a Liberal government that did absolutely nothing on the environment. Now we have a Liberal leader who wants to impose a job killing carbon tax on Canadians.
    Our policy on the environment is tough, it is real and it strikes the right balance between creating jobs and protecting the environment. That is what Canadians want. They want strong leadership on the environment and that is what they get right now.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, indeed, Jean Chrétien’s former chief of staff, Eddie Goldenberg, has told us that when the Liberals signed the Kyoto protocol, it was for public relations reasons. This is why, for the 13 years they were in power, the Liberals presided over the biggest increase in greenhouse gases in the world.
     Instead of acting to protect future generations, the Conservatives are doing worse, and Canada has once again been shamed on the world stage.
     The Kyoto protocol is part of Canadian law. What are they waiting for before they act?

  (1450)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with shock to that question. The NDP members voted against $1 billion for green infrastructure. They voted against $300 million for the eco-energy retrofits. They voted against $1 billion for carbon capture and storage. What is happening over there? Do they not believe in climate change?

[Translation]

Goods and Services Tax

    Mr. Speaker, Quebec and Ottawa are in a dispute over the harmonization of the GST and the Minister of Finance has made his conditions for compensating Quebec known. He position is that Quebec should stop collecting the GST and QST, and that these taxes be collected by the federal government in future.
     Can the Minister of Finance tell us whether this condition is non-negotiable for compensating Quebec? Is he telling Quebeckers that it is this or nothing?

[English]

     No, Mr. Speaker. I have had an exchange of correspondence with the current minister of finance in Quebec who has just taken the office from the former minister of finance. We are certainly open to discussions about harmonization. The reason we are is that it will create jobs, investment and economic growth in our country, including Quebec.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my question now is for the Quebec lieutenant who has quietly given up defending the interests of Quebec, and is accepting his government’s use of the fiscal weapon to deprive Quebec of $2.6 billion and trying once again to strip Quebec of its prerogatives.
     Will the minister stand up and denounce this absurd situation whereby Quebec's income taxes are used to pay the compensation that the federal government is granting to others?

[English]

    The plain fact, Mr. Speaker, is the Government of Quebec is collecting the GST for the Government of Canada and is being paid $130 million a year to do that job.
    This is about economic growth in Canada. That is why New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and now the province of Ontario have all negotiated with the federal government and arrived at a harmonized tax system.
    This is in the best interest of people who work in Quebec. That is why I look forward to continuing discussions with the Government of Quebec.

[Translation]

Forestry Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural Resources has not had the time to meet with the largest forestry workers union. While thousands of them are losing their jobs, she has hung out a “Do Not Disturb” sign on her door.
    The only thing she has to offer is diversions to try to gain some time while continuing to do nothing. People are losing their jobs, the industry is in crisis, regions are at risk of disappearing. Will the Conservatives wake up before all the jobs, and the industry, disappear?
    How many more jobs have to be lost before something is done to help the workers and the industry?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I find it quite ironic that we have had these unprecedented public consultations across the country. We have listened to what the forestry industry wants. We have delivered. We have listened to what the communities are asking for. We have delivered.
    Most important, perhaps when the Liberal leader meets with the people he says he is meeting with, maybe they should ask him what he plans on doing in raising taxes, which will really hurt the forestry industry and the communities.
    Mr. Speaker, thousands of forestry workers in B.C. have lost their jobs, while this minister is delivering a lot of words. The industry has been ignored by the Conservatives. Worse, they killed the 2005 Liberal plan to allocate $1.5 billion to this vital industry. This included over $300 million for innovation that would have helped to sustain forestry jobs.
    The Conservatives are failing to support laid off workers and hard hit forestry communities. Why is the government helping some sectors but completely abandoning forestry?
    Mr. Speaker, that is simply not the case. In fact, I can quote Mr. Rick Jeffery, president and CEO of the Coast Forest Products Association, when he talks about the programs that this Conservative government has brought in to help the forestry industry. He said:
—the Canada wood export program, the wood-first policy, the value-to-wood program, and the forest innovation programs that were in the last budget. Those are all great programs. They help drive innovation; they help keep markets open; they help us produce new products and develop new markets; and they also allow us to promote our products in those markets.

  (1455)  

Financial Institutions

    Mr. Speaker, while the Bank of Canada's lending rate has hit an all time low, credit card interest rates have hit an all time high. Retailers and small businesses are being hit with higher credit card fees, eliminating what little margins are made in this economic recession.
    Meanwhile, with Visa and MasterCard planning to move into the debit market, fees will skyrocket even higher and more costs will be passed on to consumers.
    The government cannot continue to allow Canadians to be gouged with fees. Why is the government sitting by and letting consumers get fleeced?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, the hon. member from the New Democratic Party is advocating for something that the party voted against. We put in the budget this year and in the bill a provision to give the Minister of Finance and the government the regulatory power with respect to credit cards. We are working on that.
    An hon. member: You've done nothing.
    Hon. Jim Flaherty: I hear the member say that we have done nothing. We have actually done quite bit. If he stays tuned, he will see that.
    Mr. Speaker, we need more than an information plan. We need an action plan.
    This situation is getting worse every day. A poll today revealed that one in five Canadians received new premium cards without asking for them. What is worse, those who received these high interest cards were the poor, elderly and least educated.
    We cannot count on Visa or MasterCard to be concerned about the most vulnerable when it comes to taking on debt. We need legislation to protect consumers like Obama's credit card accountability act.
    Will the government finally take action and stand up for consumers?
    Mr. Speaker, the government has been taking action. We took action in the budget. It is now the law. We can go ahead and bring in regulatory measures, which we fully intend to do and which we have been working on and creating.
    More than that, we are funding financial literacy in our country. Yesterday I spoke at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago on that subject. This is an important educational opportunity for Canadians in which our government is investing millions, not only with respect to consumer protection but also with respect to ensuring that Canadians have the knowledge they need to properly inform themselves when they look at financial and credit products.

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, in January 2008, the Minister of Immigration announced that Canada would be the first country in the world to withdraw from the Durban review process. Since then, much of the world has followed Canada's lead, including Italy, Australia, New Zealand, the Obama administration in the United States and Israel.
    Yesterday's hate-filled speech by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the conference would seem to vindicate the Conservative position on Durban. Will the Minister of Immigration describe the government's policy on the Durban process?
    Mr. Speaker, Canada was the first country in the world to withdraw from the Durban process. We did so last January because of our concerns that it would be a repeat of the fiasco of Durban I.
     Yesterday's speech by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his odious remarks vindicate our decision, which has been followed by a number of other countries. He made those remarks on the eve of Holocaust commemoration day. Bizarrely, a UN spokesman actually said that at least he did not deliver all of his lines about Holocaust denial.
    Canada was right to lead the world in removing itself from this incredibly inappropriate process that is promoting and not combating racism. We are leading the world and not following.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, the United Nations reports today that Canada now ranks first among the G8 for increasing greenhouse gas emissions. In Germany, emissions are down 18% and in the United Kingdom they are down 15%.
    There is no surprise here. We have had three ministers with three evaporating plans in three years. No regulations have come into force and no emissions have been reduced. Canada is outpaced sixfold by the U.S. in green investments and innovation that will drive the economy of the 21st century.
    Why do the Conservatives refuse to make the investments necessary to put Canada on a competitive track when it comes to creating the green jobs of the future?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, that was from a member who just voted for the tiddlywink bill.
    This government is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 and, by 2020, to have 90% of electricity produced by clean sources. A carbon tax that his leader is proposing will not achieve that.

[Translation]

Sri Lanka

    Mr. Speaker, between 70,000 and 10,000 Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka are crowded into a 15 km square area initially designed as a no-fire zone for the protection of civilians. The Red Cross has expressed extreme concern for the civilians caught in this zone.
    Does Canada intend to add its voice to the others who are calling for both parties to ensure the protection of civilians and to immediately reach a lasting ceasefire?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. colleague for his question.
    This is in fact what we have been doing for some time now. I have been in touch with the Secretary General of the United Nations. I have also spoken to a number of ministers of foreign affairs who have been directly involved in this matter. What we absolutely want is a humanitarian ceasefire in order to allow the civilians to escape the combat zone.
    We are, however, well aware that this is not a real solution. There needs to be a dialogue, a negotiated solution. This armed conflict needs to come to an end.

[English]

Points of Order

Statements by Members  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I wish to apologize for any impression I may have given yesterday during statements that I was being disrespectful toward those who have suffered as a result of the tragedy that took place in Italy earlier this month. It was never my intention to show any disrespect.
    As you know, Mr. Speaker, I immediately rose in the House of Commons following question period to clarify my comments but, unfortunately, as you later confirmed, you did not see me.
    My personal and deepest sympathies go out to those in my community and others across Canada who have been touched by this tragedy. I would respectfully ask that this incident not be exploited further as it would only serve to prolong the pain of those who have lost loved ones.

Presence in Gallery

    I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. John Hogg, President of the Senate of Australia.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Points of Order

Emergency Debate  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to request that the House hold an emergency debate in view of what is happening in Sri Lanka. We are getting reports that atrocities toward the Tamil population by both sides are rampant. The Tamil population was asked to go to safety zones where they only ended up being bombarded and killed. This is nothing less than the first genocide of the 21st century.
    The front page of this morning's National Post shows a long line of thousands of innocent civilians trekking to safety, walking knee deep in water. This only reminds me of the first genocide of the 20th century when Armenians and Greeks had to flee the Ottoman Empire. There is a picture on page 537 of the National Geographic magazine of December 1925 that depicts that trek. The conditions are the same. The pictures are just a century apart. The world stood silent then and close to two million people were killed. We are standing silent today and innocent people are being killed.
    The Sri Lanka government and the LTTE must realize that innocent people cannot be used as pawns.
    In the spirit of the R2P, responsibility to protect, the government must act immediately and ask the United Nations to appoint a special envoy and take measures to provide safety for those people.
    Order, please. I think the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt is going a little beyond his point of order. His point of order was to request an emergency debate.
    Is there unanimous consent of the House to have an emergency debate on this matter?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: There is no consent so I believe that disposes of the matter for now. The member knows he can make a request pursuant to the Standing Orders for an emergency debate. If and when that happens, we will deal with it here.

  (1505)  

Oral Questions  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture seriously misinformed the House during question period by alleging that the question raised today was handled yesterday in committee. That is not the case. The question was not asked or answered because it is information that became available overnight.
    I know the parliamentary secretary to be an honourable gentleman and, therefore, would expect that maybe he will stand and inform the House in a proper fashion in response to that question. It was not dealt with at committee last night. It is new information.
    While I am sure the hon. member for Malpeque feels that he may not have received the information he asked for or received it in a different form, the fact is that sometimes there are disputes about facts that occur in the House but they are not points of order and I do not believe he has raised a point of order. Those deal with procedural matters. The Speaker has no idea of what the facts are in any case and, if I do, I am not to let on.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply ]

[Translation]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Gun Control  

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to focus on today's motion, dealing with gun control. The government wants to extend the amnesty on the requirement to register firearms. Since 2006, when it was first elected, this government has tried every trick in the book to water down the requirement to register all firearms in circulation, including rifles and long guns.
    This is indeed what the government has in mind and wants to do. It is going through the back door, whether it is with a private member's bill, or with Conservative senators who also present bills in the Senate to change the cost of registering firearms.
    I am going to split my time with the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who will also address this issue.
    As we know, the debate on gun registration has been going on since 1995. We were in the House when that debate began, following the tragedy at the École Polytechnique.
    This evening, a film on this tragic event will be shown. It will stir emotions, and it may lead a number of colleagues here to change their views on this important issue. The Conservatives are saying that this is a campaign promise. Some of them made that promise to their fellow citizens.
    I want to remind them that public studies or inquiries conducted in Quebec show that three quarters of the population is very satisfied with the gun registration policy. There may have been some irritants related to the process, which was a long and costly one. But now that this gun registry is in place and is controlled in Quebec, the public is aware of its impact and of the objectives that we want to achieve. The fewer guns there are circulating freely, the more control and registration activities there are, the better we will be able to determine whether firearms are present when, for example, police officers arrive at the scene of a crime, or of an attempted crime. When an individual is holding hostage members of his family, or people close to him, the police is able to determine whether that individual is armed.
     The arguments of the Conservatives are very dubious and open to criticism and debate. I need only recall certain arguments emphasized this morning by some Conservative members from the Quebec City region. The member for Beauport—Limoilou, for example, said that we need to have confidence in people—as though we did not have confidence in them—that these are responsible people who own hunting rifles and other long guns, and that these are certainly not the people who should be targeted. It is not a matter of targeting these people; it is rather a case of being proactive and of establishing certain conditions that can save lives.
     Suicides and crimes are committed with rifles. Far too many people can be victims of crimes carried out with these weapons. I knew someone who, a few years ago—even before registration of firearms was considered, before there was a safety code to put them in a safe place, back when they circulated freely—who used his rifle one day, while he was depressed and on medication.

  (1510)  

     One fine morning, unbeknownst to his children, he left the house with his rifle under his raincoat. He took his own life with a hunting rifle. I ask myself today; if, for example, that weapon had been stored under certain conditions, would he, perhaps, have had time to reflect on his actions? I know that it was quite a tragedy for the family that experienced that suicide.
     Today, it seems to me that the debate is over. We thought it was finished; but, no, each year the Conservative party comes back with proposals that seek to reduce the scope of firearms registry and this law. We must question the real motives of the government. Why does it want to proceed by sheltering a certain part of the population that owns weapons, rifles or hunting rifles from the law? They tell us that they do not want to upset them and irritate them further and that we should have confidence in them. I find it hard to accept this kind of bizarre argument. We certainly register automobiles and the boats on our lakes. You need a permit for a boat these days. Why is this a requirement?
     Moreover, we know that those who own rifles and hunting weapons do not have to pay for the licence to use their weapons. Registration is free of charge for those people. What, then, are the irritants?
     I remember another issue about which the same conclusion could be drawn. When we wanted to institute DNA testing, people in some caucuses did not want to see hair or saliva samples taken because they felt it was a personal invasion. At the same time, though, the objective was good. When someone is accused of murder, DNA testing might be the only way to find the real perpetrator. After several discussions within our own caucus, and other caucuses too maybe, we managed to reach a consensus and agreed to support the bill on DNA testing. I remember well because I wanted this bill to pass at a time when I was the Bloc critic on the status of women.
     We might have expected, therefore, that all the members would refuse to extend this gun registry amnesty until 2010. We were asked to extend it in 2006. Then it was 2007 and then 2008 for the amnesty granted to hunters and people who have hunting guns or rifles. Now they want to extend it again until 2010. This means that some people do not have to comply with the law and others can be excluded from it.
     We have a lot of support as well from the public, such as police associations and public health directors, including Mr.  François Desbiens, public health director at the Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de la Capitale-Nationale. He says that the statistics are telling. A lot fewer people are using guns now to commit suicide or murder.
     We also want all the members of the House today to think hard and come to see the film about the tragedy that happened at the École Polytechnique. An association was just created on gun control. We hope this might change the minds of some members of the House and that could make the difference when it comes to getting around this law and going back on our intent to pursue this objective.

  (1515)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague across the floor and she mentioned a number of people who support the registry.
    I have a quote that I will read and wonder if she would like to comment on it. This was stated by a senior police officer in the province of Ontario. The quote is as follows:
--a law registering firearms has neither deterred these crimes nor helped us solve any of them. None of the guns we know to have been used were registered...the money could be more effectively used for security against terrorism as well as a host of other public safety initiatives.
    That was a quote from former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino dated January 2003. He is currently the Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. I would suggest that he is a fairly well-known and respected senior police officer in this country. I wonder if she would have any response to the comments made by Mr. Fantino.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. That opinion is one among many others. For example, the Association des policières et policiers provinciaux du Québec and other police associations, who can speak for a number of people, tell us that there have, nonetheless, been some telling improvements.
    I know that firearms control is not the only way to reduce the number of incidents or criminal acts committed with guns. I think that we must implement other prevention initiatives as well. We must go to the source of the problem and fight poverty, for example.
    Today, many people lose their jobs and some are depressed because they do not know how they can get through the present recession.
    Moreover, there are some desperate people out there. We must help community groups put resources at the disposal of people who commit serious crimes or attempt suicide. We must also offer support to certain individuals in our society.
    However, we will never be able to prevent some deviant elements of our society from committing violent crimes.
    In addition, the bill and the gun registry have larger objectives than those the member alluded to. Saying that we must invest the money elsewhere is one of the myths. I do believe that we must invest money elsewhere, but not the money used for gun control. I think that that would be a bad solution and a bad direction.

  (1520)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, contrary to the comment offered to the House by the parliamentary secretary, it is interesting that a more current remark by a senior police officer, in fact the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, says that gun control saves lives. He was quoting from a report prepared for the police, which actually revealed that a substantial number of firearms recovered in crimes were once legal.
    He calls for retaining the registry, including long guns, and says that, yes, rifles and shotguns are used less frequently in crimes today than 15 years ago. Why? It is because of the measures that were in place that paid off and the rate of firearm murders, particularly of women, has reduced because of that.
    I am wondering if the member could remark on the support of the gun registry by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question.
    I was just saying a moment ago that various associations are satisfied, such as the police association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. The great majority are satisfied. Apparently, three quarters of the population of Quebec are also satisfied with the registration of firearms. They know that there have been some irritants at the start and that implementing the firearms registry was very costly. But, now that it exists, it is inexpensive, and not using it would save only pennies, but that is what the Conservative member who asked me the question earlier wants to do. Saving pennies would not be sufficient to solve the whole problem.
    I think it is one of the tools we want to provide for our citizens. Having some control over the circulation of firearms allows police officers to be better equipped when they arrive at a crime scene or when someone is held hostage and they know that the perpetrator owns a firearm. But it must not be assumed that, because no firearm was registered, the individual does not possess any.
    There are also solutions which the government could use against firearms smuggling, since nearly 50% of firearms found on a crime scene are handguns. There could be other solutions, but the government has not yet adopted them.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Québec for sharing her time with me.
     As my colleague so aptly pointed out a little earlier, we willingly accept the registration of our cars, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles for safety reasons. Why should it be different for firearms? The gun control bill was passed in 1995. The Bloc Québécois, having demanded it, therefore voted in favour of it.
     To justify their opposition to the firearms registry, the Conservatives prefer to hide behind the crimes that are committed with illegal weapons. The Conservative government maintains that the real criminals will always manage to procure firearms. That may be so, but do we have to make the task easier for them? Abolishing the registry may aggravate the contraband weapons problem, since there will be no more control or monitoring of firearms.
     For the third time, nay for the fourth time if we count Bill C-301, the government is attacking the firearms registry. This ideological stubbornness is difficult to follow, since we know that the firearms registry has made it possible to reduce the number of gun-related tragedies.
     Since they were elected in 2006, the Conservatives have been constant in their efforts to damage this registry. In June 2006, they set the tone for this issue by tabling the bill for the outright abolition of the registry. Unable to convince the opposition, they took roundabout action by declaring an amnesty. That amnesty had been allowed by the Liberals, but the Conservatives extended it until May 2008, then May 2009. They are attempting to extend it once again for another year.
     Furthermore, the firearms marking regulations dating from November 2004, which initially were supposed to come into force in April 2006, were pushed back a first time by the Liberals and a second time by the Conservatives, less than a month before they come into force in December 2009. The amnesty announced in May 2006 had a term of one year. However it was renewed twice, and now the Conservatives are trying to extend it another year. This is unacceptable to the Bloc Québécois. We demand that this program be in place by May 16.
     There is a direct connection between the ease with which one can procure a weapon and the homicide rate. Quebec has seen a drop in the homicide rate since 1995, the year the registry began.
     The hon. members from the Bloc Québécois are not alone in finding benefits in this registry. The police forces of Quebec and Canada indicate that they consider it a very effective tool. The public health agencies, reporting the situation on the ground, say that the registry is an effective means of achieving a lower homicide and suicide rate. Lastly, that is what the statistics say as well. The number of violent crimes has fallen since the firearms registry came into effect.
     This request has also been made by the government of Quebec, which repeated it during its last election campaign, when the Quebec premier wrote to his federal counterpart to ask that the firearms registry be maintained. What is more, the elected officials of Quebec have on two occasions voted unanimously in the National Assembly in favour of maintaining this registry.
    This evening, to raise awareness among our fellow members of Parliament, the Bloc Québécois will be screening Polytechnique, which relates the events of the 1989 massacre at the École Polytechnique de Montréal.
    To prevent events like the ones that took place at the École Polytechnique de Montréal and Concordia University from happening again, the Government of Quebec is trying to protect the people of Quebec. Recently, it adopted the Anastasia Act, which tightens gun control by regulating firearms possession in some locations and creating a regulatory system for target practice in Quebec.

  (1525)  

    The Government of Quebec talked about its intent to assume greater responsibility for gun control. We know that criminal law falls under federal jurisdiction. If the Conservatives recognize the Quebec nation, they must recognize our right to have different needs. If they do not want to maintain the gun registry, they should transfer the responsibility to Quebec, and Quebec will look after it.
    The best way to pass laws that reflect Quebec's needs is, without doubt, Quebec sovereignty. A sovereign Quebec would have dealt with the gun issue a long time ago.
    Until then, the Bloc Québécois is the party that will stand up for the interests of Quebeckers and for motions passed unanimously in the National Assembly, including the one on firearms. The Bloc Québécois firmly believes that taking preventive action and tackling factors that lead to crime are sure ways to prevent human and family tragedies.
     I said earlier that we set a record when it comes to the decline in crime and homicide rates in Quebec. We can see that creating the registry has had beneficial effects, unlike what is going on in our neighbour to the south. Ten years ago, they too had a terrible tragedy, the Columbine massacre. They did nothing to tighten access to firearms. The only thing they did to prevent crimes like that was to adopt more enforcement-oriented measures, like what the Conservative government is preparing to put forward. We have seen, however, that there were no significant results from those kinds of measures.
     Although media coverage of violent crimes may suggest that they have been on the rise over the years, that does not reflect reality. Since the mid-1990s, crime has been falling in Quebec and Canada. Statistics Canada confirms that the overall crime rate has recently fallen in this country. It was the lowest in 25 years, and in Quebec it was the lowest homicide rate since 1962. That is not an insignificant fact.
     We also know that violent crime declined by 22% in Quebec between 1991 and 2004. By way of comparison, the homicide rate in Canada for 2003 was three times lower than in the United States. That is very significant. Instead of modelling our policy on the Americans’, what we have to do is continue to work on prevention, and before long it will be the Americans modelling their policy on ours.
     The Conservatives’ obsession with talking about nothing but smuggled guns must not be allowed to conceal the fact that the firearms most commonly used in spousal homicides are legally acquired shotguns and rifles. The statistics show that 85% of homicides are committed with rifles. We know that a large proportion of homicide victims in the case of spousal violence are women. That is not an insignificant fact.
     We also know that it is not enough just to register a firearm. In 2003, Montreal police responded to a spousal violence situation. The wife was afraid because her husband, who had been hospitalized, was now coming home, and when the police checked the firearms registry they found that the man owned a real arsenal: 26 handguns, 16 hunting weapons and 45,000 rounds of ammunition. The registry made it possible for the police to prepare themselves before responding.
     I will conclude by saying that we register our vehicles and we register our ATVs. Is it not reasonable for us to also register our firearms?

  (1530)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member's comments are meant in the best practice of this House to add to the debate and to try to find a solution to a very difficult problem in this country.
     Probably the greatest myth ever perpetuated in this country in the 20th century and certainly carried over into the 21st century is that of the long gun registry somehow changing safety and making people, especially women, more safe in this country. I would argue that during the 1990s and much of the early part of the 2000s, quite frankly, as a society we turned our back on problems regarding the safety of women. The previous government especially tried to make it all about a gun registry. The gun registry never enforced one peace bond. As a matter of fact, it took resources and dollars away from enforcing peace bonds in this country. The gun registry never made one woman any safer.
    Registering gun owners makes a lot of sense. A licence and passing a psychological test make sense.
    The member when talking about firearms has the right idea, but she is on the wrong road.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is talking about saving money when I am talking about protecting lives. The firearms registry lets us protect lives. I referred to a case in point. When a police officer went to an individual’s home, he was in a position to know that the individual owned an arsenal of more than forty firearms, and this meant that he was able to deal with the situation.
     Right now, the last six murders of police officers were committed with hunting weapons. I am talking about saving lives. And the firearms registry is essential for precisely this reason: to protect people’s lives.

  (1535)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member will have heard already in the debate that the police consult the registry over 9,000 times a day and that the annual cost is about $3 million. This is not in dispute.
    However, the police association takes exception to a simple sloganeering of getting tough on crime and focusing on criminals, because we have to prevent crime, not deal with it after the fact. For me, the most important issue is that there is an improper balance between crime prevention and dealing with a problem after we have it.
    The police association is calling for increased border security to deal with the illegal importation of guns. It wants to properly monitor retailers and wholesalers to deal with the issue where guns and ammunition are sold. It wants additional front-line police officers.
    I wonder if the member would agree that the government seems to have more of a political focus on the need to somehow disband a gun registry, which our police authorities say helps them to keep the public safe. The government, for political reasons, rather than focusing on a balance between prevention and--

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, in fact, when it comes to prevention, Quebec is one of the leaders. What Canada should be doing is modelling its policy on Quebec’s. We know that Quebec has the lowest crime rate. Quebec has long understood that prevention is the best way of tackling crime. I am a criminologist by training myself, and so I know how important prevention and dealing with problems at their source are.
     In my opinion, the gun registry is the best tool the police can have to work with, because in addition to protecting the public, it protects the police from some of the attacks they might be facing.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Yorkton—Melville.
    I stand today to address the House on the motion brought forward by the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. I am aware that gun crime prevention is an issue of great importance to the hon. member, as it is to all of us in this House. We should never forget that so many tragedies have been a result of gun crimes. We also should never take for granted or take lightly our responsibility to approach this problem with vigour, sophistication and intelligence.
    In order to do that, we need to look beyond the tempting initial assumption that all problems can be solved with more of the same: another registry, another bureaucracy, another bundle of red tape. It does not work.
     I cannot agree with this motion or support this motion, nor would my constituents. We need laws that attack the problem, not law-abiding citizens. The government has set out a balanced approach to preventing violent crime in Canada and that approach does not include criminalizing or otherwise burdening legitimate gun owners.
    Canadians put their trust in this government in large part because of our commitment to get tough on crime and to make our streets and communities safer. The choice now is clear. We can have more concrete action against crime or we can settle for what the hon. member from the opposition wants, which is a false sense of safety that comes from an expensive long gun registry.
    Our way is better. We have made significant investments in crime prevention over the past three years and we have put more tools and better tools into the hands of law enforcement officials. We are cracking down on gang and drug crimes and we are changing the way criminals are dealt with in our judicial system.
    Tackling the illegal use of firearms is a pillar of our government's public safety agenda. We have introduced longer mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes and tough new rules on bail for serious weapon related crimes. Our government has put more police on the streets to fight gun crime, among other priorities.
    We are also investing $7 million annually to strengthen front-end screening of first-time firearm licence applicants with a view to keeping firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them. We recently introduced legislation that would create a new criminal offence to target drive-by and other intentional shootings that involve reckless disregard for the life or safety of others.
    In addition to taking these long overdue actions, our government has proposed fundamental changes to gun registration laws in Canada. As hon. members know, it is our intention to eliminate the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry that places an undue burden on farmers and on duck, deer, moose and other legitimate hunters. The long gun registry puts law-abiding Canadians at risk while doing nothing to prevent gun crimes.
    These honest Canadians were not part of and never will be part of the violent crime problem in Canada. Our intention is to shift resources from this program to the front lines of policing, border security and the fight against organized crime.
    Eliminating the long gun registry is not about less gun crime prevention but about better, more effective gun crime prevention. We believe that firearm legislation should target criminals, not the millions of law-abiding Canadians who use rifles and shotguns to protect their farm livestock, hunt wild game or otherwise earn a living. These citizens should not be presumed irresponsible or dangerous simply because one article of their property happens to be a long gun.
    Most gun crimes are not committed with long guns. Criminals do not and never will register their guns. We do a disservice to Canadians to operate on the assumption that these criminals will ever register their guns. Canadians deserve better than that.
    Canadians deserve real action. We need mandatory minimum sentences for those who commit violent crimes and we need more police spending more time enforcing the law instead of pushing the paper of previous governments.
    Our government has also introduced a number of measures to make it easier for gun owners to comply with the existing legislative requirements, as firearms owners who comply with the firearm program are subject to continuous eligibility screening.
    With the motion currently before the House, the hon. member is attempting to eliminate one of these measures, the firearm amnesty. In 2006, the former minister of public safety announced that licence renewal fees would be waived. In other words, individuals would not need to pay a fee or renew or upgrade existing licences to replace expired licences.

  (1540)  

    Those individuals who had already paid to renew their firearms licence were reimbursed. New licence applicants are still required to pay a licence fee. The objective was to ensure that we had a system that encouraged people to self-identify to ensure the list of licensed, law-abiding firearm owners more truly reflected their numbers in our population. Without this enhanced compliance, the licensing system is meaningless.
    In May of last year, the government introduced yet another measure to support compliance through a regulatory amendment that enables individuals with expired possession-only licences to apply for a new licence without taking the Canadian firearm safety course. Most of the affected individuals are over 50 years of age and they often reside in rural or remote areas where access to training is limited. Collectively, these three measures comprise a comprehensive regulatory package intended to increase compliance levels, and they appear to be working. In just three years, from 2006-08, the rate of renewal of possession-only licences increased by 15%.
    As I noted at the outset, the government has taken a balanced approach to gun crime prevention. We are absolutely committed to protecting the safety and security of Canadians while ensuring that honest, law-abiding citizens are not subjected to unnecessary registration procedures for legally acquired, non-restricted firearms.
     Unfortunately, this motion is neither balanced nor prudent. The measures proposed by the hon. member would unnecessarily criminalize thousands of farmers, hunters, rural residents and other law-abiding citizens who are responsible gun owners. It would continue to drain resources that could be better spent on tackling the real problem: gun crime. This motion is not in the best interest of Canadians. It does not deserve the support of the House.

  (1545)  

    Mr. Speaker, while I appreciate the member's comments, there is a number of areas with which I have grave concerns. The first is the distinction that this would somehow criminalize individuals. When we ask everyone to licence their car or their pet, we do not say that we are making criminals of them because we are asking them to do that.
    She asserted that somehow long guns were not part of the problem. Maybe she can reflect on some of these statistics and tell me how she came to that conclusion.
    Of the 15 police officers who were killed in the last decade, 13 of them were killed with long guns, not with handguns. Only two were killed by handguns. With respect to spousal homicides involving firearms, they are more than twice as likely to occur with a long gun than with a handgun. When I was on the Durham Region Police Services Board, it was made very clear to me that these were not individuals who had committed previous crimes. This is one of the things I am not sure the members appreciate. These are passion crimes. These are individuals who have these guns in their homes. The police who must respond to domestic violence cases need to know that those weapons are there.
    Why would we remove something that is used over 9,000 times a day, that the police and chiefs of police say that we need and something that is a vital tool in stopping this type of thing?
    Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the registry, as it exists, does criminalize legitimate gun owners who do not register their weapons. It is a farce. We have a licensing process and we need to continue with that.
    The fact is that criminals are not registering their guns. We have criminals who are killing and hurting people. These are people who are not registering their guns. Why does he want to penalize law-abiding citizens? It is not working. It has not worked in the past and it never will work. He needs to support ending the long gun registry.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I much appreciate the way the member tackled the problem from the start. I understand that we are pursuing similar objectives, and I even think she used almost the same terms I did in my speech. We all agree that firearms are dangerous and must be left only in the hands of responsible people.
    Those responsible people, who need an acquisition licence to buy a firearm, must know that they cannot give it to another person, since the firearm is registered in their name. If it were ever used by another person to commit a crime, the police would trace it back to the owner.
    There is another aspect, and I have a hard time understanding it. I would like my colleague to explain. I do not understand why she talks about the registration of a firearm being a burden. My goodness, many different things must be registered. In my municipality, I had to register my cat. People will have a hard time convincing me that my cat is more dangerous than a rifle. I do not feel like a criminal simply because I have to register something. If I buy a dangerous object that can kill, I am being asked to be very careful with it and to register it in my name.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I agree. We have the same goals in mind and that is to reduce crime, to make our streets safer and to ensure that men, women and children are protected.
     A lot of the issues the hon. member raised are issues relating to licensing, which is something we do support. The problem is when we have law-abiding citizens who are made to look and feel like criminals because they have a gun. Maybe they are gun collectors. Registering one cat may not be an onerous issue for my hon. colleague but if we have gun collectors who are law-abiding citizens and they are considered criminals if they do not register all the long guns they are collecting, it is not working. It is wrong and the gun registry did not work. That is the basis.

  (1550)  

    So get tough on those criminals because they did not register.
    Exactly, get tough on criminals. Support it.
    I appreciate the enthusiasm that members bring to this debate but I would ask all members to show each other the respect they deserve.
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate. I have no doubt, as was just mentioned, that the members of the Bloc care deeply about the safety of Canadians and for that reason I assume that the motion before us was tabled with the best of intentions. It suggests that by doing away with the firearms amnesty and by maintaining the registration of all types of firearms, Canadians would be safer.
    I do not believe this is the case. Before I address this question in detail, let me put this into some context. As an aside, I have heard many arguments today that really are not valid at all. Some of the statistics I have heard quoted are totally twisted and are very misleading. I wish I had time to address them all. Unfortunately, at this point I do not, but maybe during questions and comments I will try to deal with some of those.
    I want to deal first of all with the larger context here. When the gun registry was first introduced in 1995, the previous government promised it would cost approximately $2 million to taxpayers to implement over five years. In her 2002 audit, however, the Auditor General of Canada reported that the program's costs had skyrocketed to more than $600 million and moreover, due to a lack of solid financial information, that is, the government was hiding costs, she believed this figure did not fairly represent the true costs of the program.
    Then, in a follow-up audit in 2006, the Auditor General reported the cost of the new information system for the registry had nearly tripled from the initial estimate. What is more, the cost of the entire firearms program had mushroomed to nearly $1 billion. Reflect on that: $2 million, $1 billion. That is 500 times over budget. I do not think there has been a government program in history that has gone 500 times over budget. It is unbelievable. I have talked to previous Liberal cabinet ministers and MPs who are upset with what happened and if they had known, would not have originally supported this. Yet, we are here today trying to defend something that is indefensible.
    Small wonder that many Canadians are calling the gun registry a boondoggle, a terrible waste of government resources. But apart from the cost to taxpayers and the financial burden on law-abiding citizens, there is also no evidence that the gun registry has kept Canadians safe. I have heard the arguments that it is no different than registering a cat. We do not spend $300 registering a cat and many times more than that and neither is it a criminal offence if we do not register that cat.
    This is not only my personal belief. This is not only the belief of a vast number of my constituents in Yorkton—Melville, it is also the belief of the Auditor General of Canada who in her 2006 audit stated that, “The Centre does not show how these activities help minimize risks to public safety with evidence-based outcomes such as reduced deaths, injuries, and threats from firearms”.
    This is a statement by probably the most credible person in Canada. She has studied this issue in more depth than anyone sitting here, probably anyone else in Canada. She has access to all the information behind the scenes. We had better listen to what she has to say. She tells us the gun registry shows no benefit to Canadians. Let this Parliament wake up to somebody that we can trust when they are speaking.
    It is also the belief of veteran police officers such as Julian Fantino, Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, who has said in the past, “The firearms registry is long on philosophy and short on practical results considering the money could be more effectively used for security against terrorism as well as a host of other public safety initiatives”. He has summed up the essence of what we should be talking about. Is it cost effective? He, of course, clearly indicates it is not.

  (1555)  

    When this government came to office, we pledged that our approach to crime would generate the kind of practical results demanded by our law enforcement community rather than wasting taxpayer dollars on initiatives such as the long gun registry which does nothing to reduce gun crime.
    This morning I chaired the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. The committee is doing a review of the national sex offender registry. I find that study very interesting and I wish all Canadians could have been in on what we were hearing this morning. Officials before the committee told us that the RCMP spends less than a million dollars per year running its sex offender registry.
    Why have we spent $2 billion and counting tracking law-abiding citizens? Why do we not focus our sights on the criminal element and start focusing on their crimes? That should be what we are interested in: child molesters, drug dealers, organized crime.
    We as Conservatives promised to make our streets safer by tackling the deadly combination of youth, gangs and guns. We proposed tougher sentences for violent and repeat offenders, especially those involved in weapons related crime. We promised to work with the provinces and territories to fight the root causes of crime through community-based prevention.
    We made these promises and we kept them. Over the last three years the Government of Canada has passed legislation to tackle violent crime. We introduced mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes, as well as reverse onus bail provisions for serious offences, a lot of changes that have been long overdue.
    I am citing these things for those watching to show that we have balance in our approach to fighting crime. We have provided more money to the provinces and territories so that they can hire additional police officers. The government has also committed to helping the RCMP recruit and train more personnel.
    More recently, the government introduced legislation that among other things will create a new broad-based offence to target drive-by and other intentional shootings that involve the reckless disregard for the life or safety of others. Those convicted of such acts would be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison with a maximum period of imprisonment of fourteen years.
    That is what we should be doing. We should be going after the criminals, not hoops, hurdles and all kinds of paperwork for law-abiding citizens because laying a piece of paper beside that gun does not affect one whit what happens with that firearm.
    If these acts are committed by or for a criminal organization or with a restricted or prohibited firearm such as a handgun or automatic weapon, the minimum sentence would increase to five years. That makes sense. Punish the criminal.
    The government has shown that through these measures it is serious about getting tough on gun crime. We also need to ensure that we have a system of gun control that is effective and efficient.
    I support a licensing system. Keeping firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them makes sense. The gun registry does not do that. The bottom line is it does not do that.
    We need to be combatting the criminal use of firearms and getting tough with crime. We also believe that gun control should target criminals, not law-abiding citizens. I have said that many times. It should save lives, not waste money. It should be cost effective. It should promote safety on our streets, not frustrate duck hunters and farmers. That is why the extension of the current compliance measures beyond May 16 of this year is so important.
    I urge all hon. members to vote against the current motion which seeks to refuse the extension of the amnesty after May 16.
    I have 33 pages of quotations from police officers on my website. I would like to refer people to them. I will give a quick one here. It states:
    Your statement that it is used 5,000 times a day by police is misleading. A check of the registry is done automatically every time an officer is dispatched to an address, wanted or not. From its inception, I was advised not to depend on it to make decisions. It is outdated, inaccurate and completely unreliable. To make a decision at a call based on registry information would be foolish at best and deadly at worst.
    There are thousands of police officers across this country who will tell members exactly the same thing. I ask members to consult them. They do not find this registry helpful at all.

  (1600)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the previous speaker said that some people have inflated the numbers. I believe he is one of them. I do not know where he found that registering a long gun costs $300. Right now, there is no fee to register a long gun. Registering my cat cost me $10. But whatever the cost, in civilized societies, dangerous objects are registered. Cars are a good example of that.
    Then the member said that the registry cost went from $2 million to $1 billion. The numbers are huge, I agree, but the cost of the registry did not go from $2 million to $1 billion. It was supposed to cost $83 million and produce $81 million in revenues. There is the $2 million. The cost of the registry has not been multiplied by 500.
    We already have a registration system. Is the member opposed to the fact that police can know whether or not there are registered guns in a house where they are called because of domestic violence?
    To operate, the system has to be computerized, which means centralized. It is the computerization that was expensive. But I agree that it could have been done at a much lower cost.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I wish I had 10 minutes just to answer that one question.
    The hon. member should do the math. There are seven million guns in the gun registry. There are probably around 20 million guns in this country, so we have about one-third registered for $2 billion. If he takes the seven and divide it into 2,000, he will find out how much per gun it has cost. He should do the math.
    In regard to police officers consulting the registry before they go to a home, I have a police officer in my home province who instructs his police officers not to consult the registry. He says he has to re-program every cadet that he trains when it comes to CFR checks and reliability in regard to a police officer. In fact, it does not change their procedures at all. It would be insane for a police officer to rely on the information in the registry before he went to a home to, let us say investigate a domestic dispute. For example, criminals do not register their firearms and even if they did, the police officer does not know if there is one there so it does not change his procedure in any way.
    This police officer goes on to say that the gun registry places the lives of police officers at risk. Hon. members should note that statement. The gun registry offers a false sense of security.
    Mr. Speaker, the member is promoting changes to the law which, according to the police association, would relax controls on handguns and semi-automatic weapons, allowing licensed firearm owners to obtain as many handguns and restricted weapons as they want without an approval process. It also removes the requirement to have authorizations to transport restricted weapons and handguns. This would increase the transportation of semi-automatic rifles and handguns, and therefore increase the risk of loss and theft of vehicles as well as increase the access to firearms in less secure environments, thereby reducing public and police officer safety.
    If the member wants to get tough on crime, why is he proposing changes to the law that will in fact increase crime?
    Mr. Speaker, that is another debate for another day. I would gladly answer those because every one of those accusations is false, sir. Everyone of them is false. Those are the talking points of the Coalition for Gun Control. Its information is totally inaccurate. We will have that debate another day.
    Mr. Speaker, there was a lot of sound and fury in the member's speech. I note that the government has made it voluntary to register long-guns because of the amnesty which will extend beyond May 16, 2009. If the government believes so strongly that the long-gun registry should be removed, then why does it not bring in its own government bill to eliminate the gun registry?

  (1605)  

    Mr. Speaker, the government has introduced a bill in the Senate.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi.
    The Conservative government is determined to weaken the gun control legislation. After declaring an amnesty for owners of unregistered long guns three years ago and twice renewing it, the government is planning to change the gun registry with Bill C-301, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (registration of firearms), sponsored by the member for Yorkton—Melville, and Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act, which was introduced in the Senate.
    The Conservative government, which is trying to please its militant base, wants to remove non-restricted firearms, meaning rifles and shotguns, from the current gun registry. In fact, the Conservative government wants to do away with the requirement to possess and present a registration certificate for a non-restricted firearm.
    The Bloc Québécois has made a firm commitment to improve gun control and maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety. Gun control is one of the most effective ways to prevent crime. That is why the Bloc Québécois is debating the following motion today:
    That, in the opinion of the House, the government should not extend the amnesty on gun control requirements set to expire on May 16, 2009, and should maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety.
    Even though the rate of homicides committed with rifles and shotguns continues to decline, the fact remains that of the 188 firearms that were used to commit a homicide in 2007, 32 were rifles or shotguns, which is still far too many.
    Hunting is a popular sport in my riding. I myself have taken a firearm safety course. I know that some hunters probably do not appreciate having to register their guns. But registering a gun takes only a few minutes and does not cost the hunter a cent. It is a simple procedure that can help save lives.
    The Bloc Québécois is in Ottawa to defend the interests of Quebeckers. Public safety is not negotiable. Even if Canadian gun control legislation is for the most part under federal jurisdiction, the Government of Quebec has come up with a few tools to improve public safety. It has passed the Anastasia Act designed to protect the people of Quebec by tightening gun control, regulating gun ownership in certain places and creating a system to control the practice of target shooting with prohibited or restricted firearms.
    If the Conservative government wants to deregulate gun control, let it transfer those powers to Quebec so that it can administer the firearm registry itself. Quebec MNA's all agree on the necessity of gun control legislation. On March 31, the National Assembly voted unanimously in favour of this motion by the member for Mercier:
    THAT the National Assembly of Québec demand the maintaining of the firearms registry, including hunting weapons, and denounce Private Bill C-301 introduced by the Federal Member for Yorkton-Melville... which dilutes the application and scope thereof.
    There is no lack of support in Quebec for the gun registry. Police forces report that it is an appropriate and effective tool. Front-line organizations involved in violence and suicide prevention as well as public health agencies report marked decreases in homicides, suicides and accidents involving firearms. They are all opposed to Bill C-301 and call for the registry to be kept as it is.
    The Barreau du Québec has expressed the opinion that “the Firearms Act should be kept as it is at present, and that abolition of the gun registry constitutes a threat to public safety.”
    Yves Francoeur, president of the Montreal Police Brotherhood, maintains that the gun registry must not be weakened in any way. Even with its limitations, the registry is still a useful tool for Canadian police forces, and it is consulted by them an average of 6,000 times a day.

  (1610)  

     According to him, since the registry was created in 1998, about 20,000 licences have been revoked or denied, and this has undoubtedly averted a number of tragedies, particularly in spousal violence situations. To all appearances, a large proportion of the Quebec public believes that we need to maintain the gun registry as it is, and end the amnesty granted by the Conservative Party in May 2006.
     In particular, we must not lose sight of a sad but true problem in society: suicide. Every year, there are people who use guns to end their lives, and often the weapon used is a hunting rifle. According to Statistics Canada, out of all suicides committed between 1979 and the end of the 1980s, about a third were suicide by firearm. Starting in the 1990s, the proportion began to fall. In 2002, about one out of six suicides was committed with a firearm. The decline in firearms suicides has contributed to the drop in the overall suicide rate. Avoiding easy access to firearms is the best way to prevent suicide. Most suicides would undoubtedly not have happened if the firearms and ammunition had been stored securely.
     Firearms control is also a women’s issue. Women account for a small percentage of the two million gun owners in Canada. On the other hand, they account for a large proportion of victims of firearms violence. Over the last decade, the rate of spousal homicides committed with a firearm has fallen by nearly 50%. Is that not excellent evidence that the firearms registry is effective?
     In spite of that fact, there is still far too much violence committed against women and children. It is up to the government to invest in preventing spousal homicide. The firearms registry contains tools for that job. The Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale, the Fédération des femmes du Québec and the National Council of Women of Canada, which are all women’s rights advocacy organizations, strongly support the firearms registry.
     Some women’s organizations are critical of extending the 10-year licence validity period for all firearms owners, which would reduce the number of opportunities to review the information on the licence and ensure that it is up to date.
     When it comes to justice and public safety, the Bloc Québécois firmly believes that the most effective approach is still and will always be prevention. This means that we have to tackle the root causes of crime and the conditions that lead to tragedies in the home. We have to tackle the causes that lead to crime: frustration, violence and despair. We have to find tools to combat poverty and inequality in our society.
     The Bloc Québécois in fact believes that the federal government must do more to control firearms, including stricter enforcement of its regulations on the storage, display, transportation and handling of firearms by individuals, which provide that firearms must be stored securely so they do not fall into the hands of criminals.
     For all of the reasons I gave in my speech, I call on all my colleagues to vote against Bill C-301, and in particular I call on Liberal Party members, the ones who initiated the firearms registry, and on Liberal senators, to vote against Bill S-5.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague across the way for her interest in this. I would also like to recognize the work and understanding of the members for Portage—Lisgar and Yorkton—Melville on this very subject.
    I recently read an article in The Globe and Mail about the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police ethics adviser, who resigned. Apparently he was upset about them accepting large sums of money from certain lobby groups. He felt that there was a definite conflict of interest in the positions they have on certain issues and for those who fund their organizations.
    The Globe and Mail article of April 8 went on to say that one of their donors was Bell Mobility-CGI-Group Techna, with a donation of $115,000, which went toward the purchase of 1,000 tickets, at $215 each, to a Céline Dion concert. I would like the member to comment on that.
    Since they also supply some of the stuff for the gun registry, I wonder if the member thinks this is a conflict of interest. I would like to hear her comments on it.

  (1615)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for referring to the article he has quoted in this House. I find it difficult to answer as I have not seen the article but I would nevertheless like to stick to the crux of the matter at hand and that is keeping the gun registry.
    If my colleague listened carefully to my speech, he will have understood that I am in favour of keeping the gun registry in order to combat violence and eliminate domestic tragedies of which, unfortunately, many victims are women.
    I imagine that there will always be corruption in this world. It is an element of human nature. I do not believe that there is any law that could eliminate this corruption. However, we must determine what this registry, in its current form, has produced in recent years, namely, a decrease in homicides, the suicide rate and family violence.
    We note that support for the registry has come from associations, women's groups in Quebec, police officers. A unanimous motion by the National Assembly of Quebec even states the need and the—
    The member for Ajax—Pickering has the floor for questions and comments.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to return to the matter at hand with a question about the safety of the police. We often talk about this issue in the context of how much the police support this as a tool because it increases public safety. It helps us deal with issues like violence against women, and it makes sure the police know the situation they are going into. We well know that most crimes are not premeditated. Most crimes are not committed by individuals who have previously committed a crime.
    I would like the member to comment specifically about how this protects police officers. We know that, for example, 13 of the 15 police officers killed in the line of duty over the last decade were killed by long guns. We also know that, in Mayerthorpe, it was a registered long gun that was used to convict some of the individuals who were involved in that. In fact, it was a registered weapon that led to a conviction—

[Translation]

    The member for Laurentides—Labelle has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to provide my colleague with an example of what the gun registry can do for police officers.
    In the winter of 2003, police officers with the Montreal police force intervened in a case of domestic violence. The wife was afraid that her husband would return after a short hospital stay. When they checked the registry, the police discovered that the man had a veritable arsenal: 26 handguns, 16 long guns and 45,000 bullets.
    The guns were immediately seized and had the search not been successful, the police could have pressured the man to locate the guns. Without the registry, it would have been impossible to know that the man had an arsenal of weapons.
    It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Labrador, Aboriginal Affairs; the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, Culture; the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, Domtar plant in Lebel-sur-Quévillon.

  (1620)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address the motion presented by the Bloc Québécois today, asking the government to maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety. It is truly a motion that reflects the wish of a majority of Quebeckers.
    I want to begin by referring to a specific case. This example will be compelling enough to make those who are opposed to gun registration think twice about this issue. It will also show, to some extent, my support for this idea. A few years ago, in the Sainte-Thérèse area, the police was called because someone had barricaded himself in a house. Unlike in the example given earlier, that person was not a criminal. He had no criminal record. Therefore, the police had no reason to suspect that this individual could be dangerous. What did the female officer do? She had no warning, because the gun was not registered. She went to the door. The man was standing on the other side of that door with a hunting rifle. He fired a shot and the police officer died on the spot.
    One may argue that this is just an exception. It is indeed, but it is one too many. If that gun had been registered, and if the police had known about it, the officers would have been aware of the danger. So, this case alone shows the need for the gun registry. Losing one officer may not seem like much in relation to the whole population, but it is one too many.
    Of course, some chiefs of police, in Ontario or elsewhere, are saying that the registration process is not working. There are also Conservative supporters among the police. There are Conservative supporters in all areas. But we are talking about police associations, about the majority of officers who are saying that this registry is absolutely necessary. Just think that, on average, they consult it 6,067 times a day. They do not consult it just for fun, or to kill time: they do it to get information. Therefore, it must be relevant, otherwise they would not bother.
    Earlier, it was mentioned that registering a gun was a difficult process. We do not understand. My colleague rightly pointed out that we register automobiles, among other things, but I would go even further. As members know, we must register a deer after killing it. Indeed, a hunter must register a deer after he has killed it. He must travel some distance, and he must pay a fee. By contrast, registering a firearm is currently free, and hopefully it will remain so. Mr. Speaker, if you go fishing, you have to register the fish that you catch. Is that too much work? Yet, everyone does it. To claim that it is too much work to register a firearm is nothing more than an ideological view. If one kills a wolf, even by accident, by hitting it while driving—it happened to me—one has to register it. Therefore, what is the big deal with registering a gun?
    Is it too complicated? What about visas and residence permits to travel abroad? People have to spend days to get them. They have to go to one place to get a signature, to another to get a photo, and so on. Yet, they do it. Why would it not be the same with firearms? Why is it so complicated?
     Finally, the Conservatives have never said what they really think down deep. They have certain prejudices because some of their voters still think they live in the wild west. They do not want to say they have guns at home. The member said we are criminalizing people who do not register their guns. We also criminalize people who do not register their cars. We criminalize anyone who does not register. Once people register their guns, they are in full compliance with the law.

  (1625)  

     The cost argument is the most beautiful of all because it comes back so often. This cost so and so many million dollars. However, the fact it was very expensive does not mean we should destroy it now. We should not get rid of it because the Liberals were incredibly irresponsible about the cost. It has been paid for, it is not a debt.
     If we built a bridge and it cost 3 times or even 500 times as much as it was supposed to, would we destroy the bridge because it cost too much? Let us be sensible. We would just say it was badly handled, but that is all water under the bridge now. We would not say we should destroy the bridge and go back to rowing across the river because that does not cost anything. This is what someone just said: we should do what we used to do because it did not cost anything.
     The entire federal firearms control program costs $73.7 million a year, and of this, the gun registry costs only $14.6 million. How much is that per Canadian if registration remains free, as is currently the case? Not even 50¢ a year. And they say it is too expensive? It is nothing. They do not know how to count. There is a problem here somewhere.
     I want to look now at the myths surrounding the gun registry. Some people have a talent for mixing everything up. They have a talent for mixing the gun registry up with the licence to make it seem that the registry is hyper expensive and useless. Nothing could be further from the truth because the registry and the licence are two different things. Getting a licence is much more complicated. The registry costs very little and does not take long. It is hardly necessary to eliminate it. We get back to the fact, as was mentioned earlier, that family tragedies always happen as a result of the presence of hunting guns and rifles in houses.
    Some will say that it is because there are very few handguns, and indeed, very few handguns in houses. When I was younger and had young children, it suddenly occurred to me that I had inherited a rifle from my father and there it was, in plain sight. At that time, there was no gun registry or anything of the sort. I thought having a rifle in plain view in one's house set a bad example, even though it was a beautiful hunting rifle from 1898. I gave it to a friend and never saw that rifle again. I thought that merely having an uncontrolled weapon in the house set a very bad example. Now, certainly, putting weapons away in a cupboard, sealing or locking it, and so forth, that is definitely complicated. Registering the weapon is not the complicated part.
    We are in favour of the registry and maintaining it in full. With this motion, we are supporting the notion that all Quebeckers want it. With its legislation known as Anastasia's law, the Quebec National Assembly is also calling on the federal government to maintain it. Police forces and the general public want the same. It would be hard to eliminate something that has cost a fortune simply because there are a few people in another region who say that it serves no purpose. I will come back to this point. It is precisely because it has cost so much that we should consider it important to keep. We have it and people want it.

  (1630)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there is one thing members on this side of the House find very frustrating. We are making an attempt to protect Canadians from criminals. We have put forward legislation and different amendments, but it seems that no matter what we try to do, opposition members try to block it. All of a sudden, now we find there is a great passion for gun registration. It is frustrating.
    This morning I met with Manitoba police officers who work in Winnipeg. They are on the front lines. They deal with criminals every day in downtown Winnipeg. They do not support the gun registry. They say it is a false sense of security. There are a number of police officers who do not support it. If we want to get tough on criminals and end crime, which is what we want to do, then let us look at a solution that works.
    I want to ask the hon. member about that.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we consider prevention to be more important than punishing criminals. Before they become criminals, they have to be stopped and encouraged to do something else. We have to see the success that can be achieved. On the other side, they think it is just a matter of punishing criminals who are at that stage. If we engage in prevention so that they do not reach that stage, we will not need to put them in prison because they will not be criminals.
     There was talk earlier about the cost of registering firearms. I might also ask them how much the sweep of the Hells Angels cost. It cost $1 million. And how much will the trials cost? Between $6 million and $15 million. So, do not tell me that they reject the registration of firearms in order to save money.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to come back to the issue of cost. It is being used as a smokescreen. We know the RCMP has said that it costs around $3 million a year to maintain the registry. We know when the Prime Minister was in New Brunswick he said not to worry, that no one was going to lose his or her job. Clearly, the government is not reducing any of the employment that is there.
    Perhaps we could help the Conservatives find $3 million, if they are so concerned about the $3 million. Perhaps the regional minister for Quebec could travel a little less, or perhaps the Conservatives could stop the contracts, which broke the rules, to hire speech writers for the finance minister.
    I am wondering if the member has any ideas, since the Conservatives are concerned about the cost of $3 million. Instead of cutting a program that police say is essential, perhaps we could help them find some waste that they could reallocate to cover that cost.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is an excellent question. It is true that money could be saved and certain things could be changed in the present federal administration. We could also save money if our buildings were more efficient. The building next door still has only single-glazed windows. It costs nearly an extra million dollars per year for heating. Over three years, firearms registration could be paid for.
    Mr. Speaker, there have been amnesties for four years. The people who do not want to register their firearms are not registering them. If those people are not registering their guns, does that make the registry more or less reliable? Should we be surprised that it is not working at full capacity if it is less reliable?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.
     I was referring earlier to non-registered weapons. Certainly this makes the system far less effective. Some chiefs of police may say that it is not effective because we don’t have a count of everybody’s weapons. We wonder why some people are not interested in registering their guns. The people in my riding and the people I know are not reluctant to register their guns: they have nothing to hide. They do it easily. Why, in other places, is there this mindset of not wanting to register firearms? I have trouble understanding that, apart from the fact they are being encouraged by some parliamentarians.

  (1635)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, there have been discussions between the parties and I believe you will find consent for the following travel motion: That in relation to its study on the federal contribution to reducing poverty in Canada, six members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities be authorized to travel to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Moncton, New Brunswick, and Montreal, Quebec, from May 10 to 14, 2009, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee; that in relation to its study on the federal contribution to reducing poverty in Canada, six members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities be authorized to travel to Calgary, Alberta, to attend the Canadian Social Forum Conference from May 20 to 22, 2009, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee; and that in relation to its study on the federal contribution to reducing poverty in Canada, six members of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities be authorized to travel to Toronto, Ontario, from June 1 to 2, 2009, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.
    Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House to move these motions?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    An hon. member: No.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): Resuming debate, the hon. member for London--Fanshawe.
    Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time this afternoon with the member for Vancouver Kingsway.
    I am glad to participate in this Bloc opposition day. I thank my colleagues from Quebec for this motion and this opportunity. It is certainly an important debate for Canadians, one that needs to hear the voices on all sides of the issue. The women of Canada are listening very carefully today. Women and their children are too often among those who suffer from gun violence.
    I believe it is essential in any discussion to look at the facts. In this case the facts show that, in regard to the firearms program, the system is working. Claims that the system is without value are simply untrue. The police have said time and time again that the new law and the system provide valuable tools for keeping Canada safe. It is interesting that we hear that mantra over and over again from the government benches about wanting to keep Canadians safe. Here is an opportunity.
    In spite of the virulent opposition, over 90% of gun owners have been licensed and 90% of guns have been registered. As of 2008, the system is being used by the police 8,600 times every day and police report many cases where the registry has been used to prevent tragedies or solve crimes. Most gun owners, as I indicated, are indeed licensed and most guns registered.
    As of April 2008, 1,871,595 valid firearms licences have been issued, representing 90% of those gun owners. The licensing procedure ensures all firearm users are qualified to possess or acquire a firearm. Gun registration is an important part of making gun owners accountable, helping prevent diversion to the illegal market and assisting police in their investigations.
    Some 22,140 firearm licences were refused or revoked by chief firearms officers for public safety reasons between December 1, 1998 and April 2008, 7,490 of those applications were refused and 14,650 firearm licences revoked. The reasons include a number of things such as a history of violence, mental illness, the applicant is a potential risk to himself, herself, or others, unsafe firearm use and storage, drug offences and providing false information. We will never know how many tragedies have been averted, but in those many refusals of a licence we can be assured that there will not be the regret that comes when too late we realize that failing to act, failing to intervene when an individual should never possess a firearm has caused the loss of a precious life or many precious lives.
    All illegal guns, interestingly enough, begin as legal guns. Opponents of gun control keep saying “punish the criminals, leave the law-abiding gun owners alone”. These law-abiding owners are among the 90% who are licensed. That raises the question, where do the criminals get their guns? Although half of the handguns recovered in crime are smuggled in from the United States, the other half originate from Canadian gun owners.
    The 2005 shooting on Yonge Street of Jane Creba involved a gun club member with a legally registered handgun. We have seen a number of high profile shootings, including that Toronto 2005 Boxing Day shooting, where the guns have been stolen from law-abiding gun owners.
     Handguns are not the only threat. Half the police officers killed in recent years have been killed with rifles and shotguns, not handguns.
    Another key part of the current gun registry and gun control law is the requirement for the safe storage of guns. The shooter at Dawson College was a legal gun owner and a member of a gun club. Legally owned guns are too often improperly stored and stolen or sold illegally. As I indicated, the gun recovered in the 2005 Boxing Day shooting, which killed 15 year-old Jane Creba, was a stolen gun.
    According to the police, about half the guns used in crime in Toronto are guns that at one time were legally owned in Canada, many of them stolen in break-ins.

  (1640)  

    Between June 20 and August 3, 2005, burglars made off with 84 firearms from Toronto area homes. More than half, including 43 pistols stolen from Cobourg, were handguns. One of these was used in a murder in Toronto in 2006.
    In addition, smuggled guns originating from the United States are typically acquired through theft, straw purchases or gun shows. These guns account for as many as 50% of the handguns recovered in crime in Canada.
    The gun used to kill Dianna Sandeman in 2006, as she and her boyfriend were leaving an Etobicoke sports bar, was traced to Gainsville, Georgia. The gun used to kill a Windsor police officer in May 2006 was smuggled in from the United States.
    Some claim that more guns will make us safer. In fact, where there are more guns, there are more deaths. The terrible irony is that both in Canada and internationally, where there are more guns, there tends to be more opposition to gun control. However, where there are more guns, there are also higher rates of gun death and injury.
    Among industrialized countries, where there are higher rates of gun ownership, there are also higher rates of gun deaths. When there are guns in the home, they are more likely to be used in suicides, domestic homicides and accidentally. It is pretty easy in a fit of rage to grab a gun if it is handy and if it is loaded.
    In spite of the attention focused on urban crime, there are higher rates of gun death and injury in rural areas. For example, Northeastern Ontario has a gun death rate which is twice the provincial average, driven largely by higher than average suicide rates and also domestic violence with firearms or accidents.
    Provinces with high rates of gun ownership, such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, tend to have a higher than average rate of gun death and injury.
    In spite of the surge of gang related handgun violence in Toronto, Ontario has one of the lowest rates of gun death and injury in the country.
    There has been a lot of misinformation about the firearms program fuelled by its opponents. Close to $1 billion was spent over a 10 year period and most of that money was spent on screening and licensing gun owners, not on registering firearms.
    Currently, the cost of the system is apparently about $80 million a year. Ending the gun registry means that all of this money has been spent in vain and all those who have died at the hands of those using guns have died in vain. This would be a mistake.
    I would like to conclude with a letter sent to the Prime Minister on March 12, signed by 21 concerned groups representing millions of Canadians. They respectfully ask the government to refuse to dismantle gun control. They go on to say “Our laws have made Canada safer”.
    In 1991 more than 1,400 Canadians were killed with guns. Now it is fewer than 800. The 2007 rate of murders with rifles and shotguns has dropped by more than 78% since 1991. The murders of women by those using guns have plummeted from 85 in 1991 to 32 in 2004. Suicide rates, particularly among youth, have also declined.
    The numbers are not good enough yet, but if we keep the registry, we could make it even better.
    Policing, public health and victims' organizations across Canada, including those from Polytechnique and Dawson College, support sensible gun control.
    On behalf of millions of women in Canada, the letter concludes:
    Let us be clear: the stakes could not be higher for Canadian women. Ending violence against women requires more than talk. It requires action. We urge you to lead your party to reduce violence and suicide in our families and our communities [by supporting gun control].
    The women of this nation are watching intently today. They are listening and hoping that the House will say that their families and their futures are safe, that they need not fear the guns in our communities because they will be controlled and they will be licensed.

  (1645)