moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the House on my private members' bill, Bill .
Bill is a clear and straightforward bill that would bring an end to the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry. My bill would bring an end to an era of targeting law-abiding citizens who legally own firearms in Canada, and I believe it would help us to refocus much-needed resources, energy and effort onto tackling crime in Canada.
I know full well that gun-crime prevention is an important issue to all members in this House and to all Canadians. We should never forget the tragedies that have resulted from the commission of gun crimes in Canada, and the pain and the heartache felt by victims of gun crime and their families. Victims are so often forgotten, and none of us in this House would want to do anything that would compromise the safety or the security of Canadians or create even more victims of gun violence.
As a mother and a member of Parliament who represents thousands of families in my riding, I believe that ending gang violence, drug crime and domestic violence in order to see our communities be safer and whole should be a priority. It is something I do not take lightly. That is why if I believed that the long gun registry would help reduce crime or make our streets even a little bit safer, I would be the first one to stand up and support it.
Sadly, the long gun registry is doing nothing to end gun crime. It is doing nothing to protect our communities, and it is doing nothing to help police officers do their job. That is why I cannot support it, and I believe the long gun registry must end. That is why I have introduced Bill .
There are numerous reasons why the long-gun registry needs to end and why members from both sides of this House need to represent their constituents' wishes as well as make use of their own good judgment as members of Parliament to help us end the long gun registry once and for all.
We know that criminals do not register firearms. They do not obey laws. In fact criminals scoff at our laws and at the police officers who enforce them. We know criminals are not registering their firearms before they use them, and to suggest that they do is not only ridiculous but it is reckless and dangerous.
We see proof of this day after day. We see front-line police officers fighting gun crime on the streets, while the criminals they are up against are using handguns, not registered long guns. In some jurisdictions handguns are used in 97% of the crimes, and the majority of those handguns are smuggled across the border into Canada illegally.
In fact 93% of gun crimes in the last eight years have been committed with illegal guns and unregistered guns. That is a staggering statistic and one that flies in the face of any argument supporting the long-gun registry. That is also why so many front-line police officers support ending the long gun registry. They recognize that this registry goes after the wrong group of people.
Police officers would rather see time, money and resources going into apprehending criminals who smuggle handguns and the individuals who use them for committing crimes rather than being spent on registering firearms legally owned and operated by law-abiding citizens.
I want to acknowledge and thank the Saskatoon Police Association and the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers for having the courage and the leadership, for speaking out in support of Bill , and for supporting ending the long-gun registry.
The support of front-line police officers across this country is vital, not only to ending the long-gun registry but also to refocusing our attention on criminals and criminal behaviour. Their support is very important because front-line police officers are not sitting behind a desk trying to score political points or gain favour. They are on the streets dealing with dangerous criminals every hour of every day, and we need to listen to what they are saying about tackling crime in Canada.
When the long gun registry was introduced 14 years ago, Canadians were told the cost would be in the range of $1 million. We now know that the cost has ballooned to almost $2 billion, and we can be certain that costs will continue to grow. As the Auditor General said in 2006, it is impossible to tell where the ceiling of those costs will be because so many of them are hidden.
We can only imagine the ways that $2 billion could have helped to fight crime in Canada and could have helped those who are at risk for getting involved in criminal activity. We can only imagine how many officers could have been trained, equipped and on our streets right now. We can only imagine how many programs could have been developed and how much support could have been provided to both families and kids who are looking to belong and instead find themselves involved in drugs and gangs. We can only imagine how many better uses could have been made of $2 billion, which instead has gone into this useless and dysfunctional registry.
However, there is another cost borne by law-abiding citizens in this country. That cost is not only in dollars and cents but is the high cost borne by farmers, hunters, sport shooters and other firearms owners in being called criminals if they do not comply with this nonsensical regulatory regime. Not only that, but they are treated as suspect, as second-class citizens, their only crime being that they legally own and operate a firearm.
Just last week we heard that the personal and private information of firearms owners across Canada, which came from the registry, was passed on to a polling company without the permission of those individuals and without the authorization of the minister.
This is absolutely wrong and a complete misuse of the national registry information. The release of this private information has undermined and compromised the safety of these law-abiding gun owners, and I believe that it compromises the safety of all Canadians.
Many opponents of the long gun registry have expressed deep concern over the years about information like this getting into the wrong hands and the registry becoming a shopping list for thieves and gangsters instead of a tool to protect Canadians. This recent breach of privacy shows why these fears exist and why they are very real. It is yet another compelling reason to end the long gun registry.
What did Canadians get? What benefit are they receiving from the long gun registry? Nothing, absolutely nothing. We know that Canadians have put their trust in this government in large part because of our commitment to actually get tough on crime and to make our streets and communities safer. We have been doing that, and we continue to do so with legislation that gives police and judges real tools to apprehend criminals and keep them off of our streets.
Tackling the illegal use of firearms is an important mandate of our government's public safety agenda. We recently introduced longer mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes and tough new rules on bail for serious weapon-related crimes. Our government has also put more police on the street to fight crimes.
That is why instead of defending the ineffective long-gun registry, the opposition needs to stop stalling and hindering these important pieces of legislation, which our government has introduced, so that we can pass them and see them become law.
I am proud of what this government is doing, and I know the residents of the riding which I am so honoured to represent, the riding of , support our stand and our action on crime. They want to see us continue as do the vast majority of Canadians. We can no longer settle for the false sense of security that the expensive long-gun registry gives.
As a member of Parliament I will never take lightly our responsibility as the governing body of Canada to approach the problem of gun crime. I believe we need to do so with intelligence, sophistication and the best technology, but we also need to do so with a healthy dose of common sense.
In order to do that, we need to look past that initial assumption that all problems can be solved with more of the same thing: another registry, another bureaucracy and another bundle of red tape, because as we have seen to this point, it is not working.
The Auditor General in her 2002 report condemned the long-gun registry as being inefficient and wasteful and as containing data that is unreliable. The Auditor General also stated that there is no evidence that the registry helps reduce crime.
In 2003 only twice was a registered long gun used in a homicide. From 1997 to 2004 there were nine times in total. In each one of these cases the registry did nothing to stop the crime. Obviously we would like to see that statistic at zero for any homicide, whether the gun used was registered or not.
However, these statistics prove what law enforcement is telling us, what the Auditor General has told us, and what Canadians know to be true. The long gun registry is a waste, it benefits no one, and it needs to end.
My legislation would repeal the requirements for individuals and businesses to register non-restricted long guns. What my bill does not do is change the licence requirements and the process for any individual who wants to own a firearm. Anyone wishing to own a firearm, including long guns, will still be required to complete a full safety course. Individuals will still be required to have a full police background check and any individual with a history of violence, mental illness, domestic violence or any kind of criminal or risky behaviour will be denied a licence and will not be allowed to own a firearm. This is a significant point for Canadians to know. My bill only ends the long gun registry. It will not end the licensing process.
Licensing is very important to Canadians because it provides the necessary steps to ensure that firearms do not get into the hands of the individuals who should never have them and of course, police officers will have immediate access to all of this information so they will be able to tell who has a licence to own a firearm and where they live. Furthermore, a registry will stay in place for prohibited and restricted firearms such as handguns.
I have received thousands of signatures from Canadians across the country. I have received letters, phone calls and emails. I believe many members of Parliament from both sides of the House have also been receiving the same communication proving it is the will of the people to get rid of the long gun registry. It is time that we listened to Canadians.
I want to thank my colleagues from across the floor from and from for all of their support and their courage in regard to Bill . I also want to thank the member for for his assistance and his hard work on this issue in the past.
Many opposition members have stated publicly they could support legislation that is limited to ending the long gun registry. That is exactly what Bill does. It ends the long gun registry, nothing more and nothing less. I challenge each one of these opposition members of Parliament to stand up for what their constituents want and what they believe is in the best interests of Canadians, and support this bill.
I also want to challenge and encourage the leader of the Liberal Party and the leader of the NDP to allow their members to vote freely on the bill. We are all being watched and we will all be judged on how we handle the issue of the long gun registry, an issue that affects Canadians from every region of this country. I am asking for the support of all members of Parliament to pass Bill and to work together to eliminate the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. Let us take this opportunity to refocus on tackling real crime in Canada. We need to do this to improve the lives, the safety and the well-being of Canadians for the benefit of all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, when I speak on this matter, as I have in the past, I have to reflect upon the fact that there is really a false argument being made here.
When I was growing up as a child, I had the opportunity to go with my grandfather to his hunting camp, to drive into northern Ontario and to learn from him how important hunting was to his life and what a passion it was, not just for himself but for his friends. I learned to fire a gun from my grandfather. I learned from him what it meant to be a responsible gun owner and how those who own guns and hunt have such a deep passion for the outdoors.
This is something that was confirmed to me again when I had the opportunity in my riding to go to the 50th anniversary of the Pickering Rod and Gun Club.
However, this argument is not about stopping hunting or me trying to destroy the legacy of my grandfather enjoying the outdoors. It is quite the opposite. If we were interested in stopping such things, we would bring motions into the House to make hunting illegal, but no such thing has been done.
When I wanted to have a dog, I had to register my dog. I registered and I got a dog. Similarly, if people wish to get a gun, they have to register their weapons. They are no more blocked from getting a weapon because of that registration than they are blocked from getting a dog because they need to register their pet. They are no more blocked from driving because of the requirement to register the vehicle than they are from owning a gun because they have to register it.
It is a false argument and it is an argument that is used to drive a wedge and create something that is more of a symbol than a reality to say that there are certain individuals who just do not get gun ownership and who are against people owning guns, and to try to create this as some sort of symbol.
If it were not for the fact that is was such a vital tool for community safety, perhaps that symbol would be enough. I understand the member, in speaking, did not respect the opinion of the Canadian Police Association, but they are elected by police officers. She may not respect the position of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, but I will tell members that from meeting with chiefs of police in every different region of the country, they have told me this is a vital tool for their police forces in conducting their jobs. That is something I take to heart.
When I am told by the RCMP that scrapping the program would save a meagre $3 million, I have to ask the question: why is this being done? I have to also ask, if the Conservatives are so bent upon trying to get rid of the registry, why are they leaving it to a private member's bill to get rid of it? Why is this not a government motion?
I think the real reason is that the Conservatives themselves do not want to see this gun registry scrapped. I think that they want to continue to use it as a symbol and a tool, and use it as something to aggravate and to create political noise, as opposed to actually ever changing anything, because I do not believe that they would stand in opposition to the chiefs of police and the Canadian Police Association who say that they want to have this vital tool continue.
If we doubt its use, if we doubt the efficacy of this program, the best way for me to describe its import, instead of giving my own personal opinion, is to read from a letter from the Canadian Police Association dated April 7, where the association talks about why it needs this tool to keep our community safe. The letter states:
In 2008, police services queried the registry on average over 9,400 times a day; over 3.4 million times a year. This includes over 2 million checks of individuals, 900,000 address checks, and 74,000 checks of serial numbers on firearms.
They then go on to talk about the importance of the program and why registration is such a key component.
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 the information contained in the registry.
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 firearms and shotguns.
7. Registration provides better information to assist in investigation of thefts and other firearms 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.
They go on to talk about the need for the registry as it pertains to long guns. They say:
Fifteen police officers have been murdered with firearms in the performance of their duties in the past decade... Only two of these officers were killed with handguns, the thirteen others were all killed with rifles or shotguns. The ability to identify the ownership and source of these firearms can be of critical importance in investigating and prosecuting suspects in these crimes. Evidence leading to the arrest and conviction of two men for manslaughter for their involvement in the 2005 murder of four RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe Alberta, included a registered unrestricted rifle found at the scene of the crime.
There are a couple of other items that I will quickly point to. Spousal homicides involving firearms occur twice as frequently with long guns compared to handguns. Suicides are five times more likely to be committed with long guns rather than handguns. The majority of guns recovered or seized by police are non-registered long guns. Murders with rifles and shotguns have decreased dramatically since 1991, in part because of stronger controls of firearms.
If my colleagues want to dispute this information and these facts, I suggest they talk to the men and women who keep our communities safe: the police officers who are charged with the responsibility of community safety and the chiefs of police who cite this information. I suggest that they weigh that information against the savings of $3 million.
Certainly I think the tool is worth far more than that savings of $3 million per year. I think it is important to recognize that when we think of crime and how it is committed, crimes involving guns are often not committed by people who have committed crimes previously. They are heat of the moment crimes. They are crimes committed by people we never suspected to be criminals in the first place.
When we ask somebody to register their gun, we do not expect them to be committing a crime, no more than when we ask somebody to register their vehicle do we expect they are going to be in an accident. However, we want to make sure wherever possible that those who own those weapons are responsible and that the police have every tool at their disposal to keep our communities safe.
On that basis this bill is both irresponsible and unnecessary, and my submission to the House is that it needs to be defeated.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to explain why registration for all firearms is a good idea, with good results. Gun control is one of the best ways to prevent murder, the most dangerous crime, and the one that has the greatest impact on the victims and their loved ones.
There is a direct link between easy access to firearms and the murder rate. That is why these measures receive nearly unanimous support from police officers and from the public safety agencies that deal with victims of gun crimes. This is true in Canada, where the Association des directeurs de police du Québec and the Canadian Police Association, an association for police officers, have repeatedly spoken in favour of these measures. The United States does not have gun control. The murder rate there is three times higher than in Canada. If we go to the United States, we are three times more likely to be the victim of murder than we are in Canada, and five times more likely than if we are in Quebec.
Opponents of gun control often say that real criminals will always find ways to get guns. They will find ways to get around these measures, which only end up making things more difficult for honest people. Perhaps. But those real criminals are not the ones primarily responsible for the murder rate. Many people who kill with firearms have no criminal past. Fights, altercations and lovers' quarrels could all end in murder if there were easier access to firearms.
Furthermore, one of the greatest current threats to public safety is street gangs. They do not have the money that serious criminals do. In the United States, they have easy access to firearms, but not in Canada. It is more complicated and expensive because guns must be obtained illegally. It also takes much longer. In addition, it is possible that these young thugs would not qualify for a licence.
The system protects us from many of the impulsive crimes that produce the more extreme statistics in the United States. One of the statistics that shows quite clearly that most homicides are not committed by hardened criminals is the number of women shot to death by their spouses. That rate is five times higher in the United States than in Canada, and the rate of firearm homicides is eight times higher.
It is truly scandalous that the program has cost so much money. Unfortunately, the Auditor General is still unable to tell us why. We are therefore calling for an independent inquiry to find out. We have been calling for an inquiry for a long time now, but neither of the two previous governments followed through. It looks like some people might have something to hide.
Some might consider our position to be paradoxical, but it is not contradictory. We deplore the waste of public funds and the mismanagement, but this program is nevertheless necessary and has a positive effect on public safety. Cancelling the program and therefore failing to make the most of the money that has already been invested would be truly wasteful.
I believe that nearly all Quebeckers agree. We feel like a guy who has just realized that he paid way too much for his nice house, but burning it down would not make things better. We might feel the same way about the construction of a new bridge that caused a huge financial scandal, but demolishing the bridge would not fix anything. We have to use what we have and make sure that the cost of building future bridges is reasonable.
People do not mind licensing their snowmobiles, their ATVs, big and small, their sports cars and their collector's cars. In my case, I got a licence not for my dog, like the previous member, but for my cat. The licence cost $10. I do not feel like a criminal just because I own a cat. People also agree to take an exam to obtain the right to operate snowmobiles, sports cars or collector's cars. Certain risks are also associated with firearms.
In a society that cares about the safety of its citizens, potential monitoring measures are proportional to the danger presented by each of these things.
Here are some examples. Why do police officers want the registry and how can it be useful to them? If my memory is correct—I did not have a chance to check this in advance—I think it is under section 118 of the Criminal Code that individuals can have their firearms taken away in certain circumstances. This provision can help families when they see a family member falling into depression and are afraid he or she might commit suicide. It could also apply in other circumstances, such as in an unhappy marriage, when the woman sees her husband's attitude has changed considerably and she is afraid he might use his firearms. In such circumstances, when crimes like that or suicide attempts are a legitimate fear, individuals can turn to a judge. After hearing the evidence, the judge can order that those registered firearms be taken away.
In such cases, the firearms registry is essential to the work of police officers, so they know what firearms to expect when they have to go get them. I would again remind the House that, contrary to the Conservatives' belief, homicide is not usually committed by people who already have a criminal record. Many crimes, even the most horrific, are often committed by people with no prior criminal record. Quebeckers will clearly recall the most abominable such crime committed this year at least. A doctor, a surgeon in fact, killed his children because he could not accept the fact that his wife had left him. It is usually in times of profound emotional distress that people commit such acts.
There was also the case a little over a year ago of a female police officer who was killed in Laval by someone who had just received permission from a judge to take back his firearms for hunting season. The police officer knew this person very well. He was not a gangster. Like many people who commit crimes sometimes, he was not suffering from mental illness that would excuse his actions and perhaps result in an acquittal. He knew the police officer well and often had her come over to deal with all sorts of little problems. This time when he called her, she did not feel threatened and he shot her through the door and killed her. This is not a crime that was committed by a bunch of gangsters.
The suicide rate is another significant aspect of this issue. With the arrival of the firearms registry there has been a significant drop in the suicide rate in Quebec in the past eight years and we are pleased about that. A number of measures have been taken, such as opening hot lines for people in distress and crisis. Suicide prevention organizations are some of the biggest proponents of the current registry.
We have to set aside the emotional reactions that suggest that our freedom is guaranteed because of the right to bear arms. Indeed, we have the right to drive an automobile. An automobile is more dangerous than a firearm and we register it. We agree to register all sorts of dangerous things. The most dangerous among them are firearms.
Mr. Speaker, in the almost nine years since I have been elected, I do not know how many times I have spoken in the House and a lot more in committee, both in the justice committee and in the public safety and national security committee, on the issue of the gun registry. What has consistently frustrated me from the very beginning is the lack of willingness of those who are opposed to the gun registry to deal with facts rather than emotion, to deal with the gun registry on a factual basis rather than as some kind of iconic devil out there that has been perpetrated by prior Liberal governments against farmers and people who enjoy hunting. I know I will not make a difference today to those people, but I believe it is absolutely paramount that we deal with the facts.
There is absolutely no question that guns continue to be a problem in our society. No member of the House who has spent any amount of time studying the issue will dispute that fact.
Hand guns, Joe, and you know it.
Mr. Joe Comartin: Mr. Speaker, I am now hearing from the member for who has been consistently on the side of refusing to deal with the facts.
Let us just deal with one fact regarding police officers. This comes from a letter from Mr. Momy, who is the current president of the Canadian Police Association. From 1999 to 2008 there were 15 police officers killed in this country. Like the member from the Bloc, I was at the funeral of the woman police officer just outside Montreal, Quebec. We took time off from the election in 2006 to go to that funeral. It was a tragedy for her family. She was an exemplary police officer. She was one of those 15 officers that had been killed over a 10 year period. Only two of those officers were killed with handguns. The other 13 were killed with long guns.
We could say that the firearm registry was in effect during that period of time, and ask why it did not stop those killings. There is a simple answer, and if the member for was willing to deal with the facts she might know this. Throughout most of that period of time, the long gun registry was not being enforced. As a result of that lack of enforcement, we had significantly additional deaths, including among our police forces.
Let me state another example of the effectiveness of the long gun registry. Another tragedy in our country was the death of those four RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe. We know from the same letter and from other sources that the key mechanism used in determining that the two men, who were subsequently convicted of aiding and abetting, had been involved in aiding and abetting the perpetrator of that crime was the long gun registry.
That is absolutely wrong.
Mr. Joe Comartin: Mr. Speaker, I am hearing from the member that that is wrong. I heard from her when she stood up to attack the police chiefs and the leadership of the police associations in this country by calling them people who sit behind their desks and do not know what is going on in the street. Every single one of those men and women who lead the chiefs of police and the professional police associations came off the street. There is not one of them who did not come off the street. They know what they are talking about.
The information I just gave the House on the incident in Mayerthorpe came directly from Mr. Momy. I invite the member for to have a meeting with him. Maybe she would find out that in fact they have surveyed their membership on an ongoing basis. The last time there was a survey was in 2004. That survey was based on if we had the gun registry under financial control, which we were beginning to achieve at that time--I think we had finished it around 2005-06--the police officers across the country by an overwhelming majority said to get the costs under the control and if that was the case, and it is now, then they support the long gun registry.
It is impossible to go through this in any kind of detail, but I want to cover one more point on the cost issue.
I have studied this extensively, as I sat on the public safety committee for a number of years. We know that we brought the cost under control. It is irrefutable, and we heard it from the Auditor General, from the RCMP which is administering the registry now, and from some of the other speakers today, that if we get rid of the long gun registry, the savings would be somewhere between a minimum of $2 million and a maximum of $5 million.
Again, we heard from the member for , who has brought forth this bill, that we should be using all that money, and of course the Conservatives think in terms of the $2 billion, which is a totally fabricated figure, mostly coming from the member for . The savings this year, and for the last three to four years, would be in the range of $2 million to $5 million. I will use the example of a police officer on the street. Somewhere between $150,000 to $200,000 a year has to be spent for the officer's wages, benefits and all the required equipment. It costs between $150,000 to $200,000 a year to equip and staff one police officer in this country. If we do the math fairly quickly using the figure of $200,000, we would get 10 more police officers and if it is the higher figure of $5 million--my math is going to fail me here--it would be 25 police officers.
If we do that we are going to see a proliferation of long guns in the country. After we brought the registry in and we were charging people to register their long guns, the number of weapons in this country dropped dramatically, we think by as much as several million and maybe as high as seven million. Corresponding to that drop we saw a drop in the number of suicides and accidental deaths, and that one was very significant. We saw fewer deaths as a result. We can do all sorts of analyses but there is no other explanation for the drop in the suicide rate and the drop in the accidental deaths as a result of the use of long guns than the fact that there were fewer of them in our country.
There is not a Canadian, and I do not think there is a member on the opposite side, as strong as they are against the long gun registry, who would say that spending between $2 million and $5 million on the long gun registry to save 20 or 30 and maybe as many as 100 lives from suicides and accidental deaths is not worth it. Again, if we get rid of the long gun registry, other than some attempt by the member for in a previous incarnation of this bill, that being Bill , there is nobody who wants to either curtail the use of and certainly not get rid of the registry that registers restricted weapons, mostly handguns. That savings is minimal. We need the long gun registry in order to ensure that we do not have a proliferation of guns back in the hands of people who are careless with them. That is really what the number of suicides and accidental deaths mean to us.
Mr. Speaker, I am really sorry that I ran out of time. I think there is work that can be done on the registry, and in fact on the acquisition certificates, that would make it a better and more effective system. That is what we should be driving at, not getting rid of the long gun registry, because getting the long gun registry out of our system is going to save very little money and we are going to have additional deaths in this country.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise today to support private member's Bill , which is groundbreaking legislation to finally bring a conclusion to the wasteful long gun registry.
At the outset, I want to thank Dennis Young, who is now retired but who worked endless hours, days, weeks and years on this file. He sorted through over 550 access to information requests to expose the firearms registry fiasco. That is a lot of work over the 15 years that we have been battling that absurd legislation.
I also want to thank the member for for her work on this file and assisting by bringing forward this private member's bill. She has done a lot of work. It is a huge learning curve to find out all about this firearms registry file. I also thank my staff, Brant and Sandy and all the others who have worked on this issue.
I am standing today filled with hope because so many Canadians are finally demanding a swift finale to a bureaucratic nightmare that has run more than 500 times over budget without saving a single life. That is the bottom line. There has never been a government program that has so spun out of control as this one and continues to waste taxpayers' dollars.
The gun registry is the epitome of political pretense. It pretends to protect us by reducing crime, but in fact, it does just the opposite. Ten years ago we had a government that introduced specious and hollow legislation designed to dupe the Canadian public into believing they would be safer if gun owners were forced to lay a piece of paper beside their long guns. Laying a piece of paper beside their long guns was portrayed as gun control and that it would save lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was empty paternalism in the raw then and it continues to be so now.
It was a government that tried to tell people, “We know what is best for all of us, and just bow down and do what we tell you. It flies in the face of common sense, but do it anyway”. That is what we heard from that government. Unfortunately, the propaganda blitz took hold and many people believed that the gun registry somehow protected their best interests. They concluded that the gun registry would separate criminals from the guns they used to rob, kill and intimidate.
That government did not stop to think that criminals do not register their guns and even if they did register them, as the head of Hells Angels did, it had absolutely no influence on their evil deeds. That government did not stop to think that Canadian hunters, sport shooters and farmers would suddenly be turned into criminals themselves if they did not register their guns, which flies in the face of many of the arguments that are heard from the NDP, Bloc and Liberals in regard to why people should register their guns.
While the gun registry was supposed to target the criminal use of long guns, it actually targeted responsible gun owners who were doing nothing wrong in the first place. It is truly repugnant that the disingenuous Liberal government of the day tried to dupe Canadians into thinking that the registry would reduce crime. The Liberal government was dishonest, pretending to take care of us when the opposite was true. It was there to try to win votes, and it did not matter if it would save lives or not.
This ploy, this deception continues to this day. The gun registry is still portrayed as gun control, which it is not. Latter day registry proponents continue the subterfuge by pretending that the registry is working. They have to cook statistics to prove their point. We have heard many of them today, statistics quoted endlessly, totally irrelevant to the argument. Sometimes the licensing addresses the issues they were trying to portray the gun registry as addressing.
It is not enough that it has cost Canadians billions of dollars which should have been spent to put more police and technology on our streets for the past decade, but what is particularly galling is the fact that the gun registry is actually placing Canadians in harm's way. It is doing the polar opposite of what it pretends to do.
Recent evidence shows that the list of gun owners, their guns, their addresses and phone numbers were placed into the hands of a major Canadian polling company for what is called a customer satisfaction survey. What a joke. The whereabouts of gun owners and their firearms has been made public, which is surely one of the most serious breaches of national security in the history of Canada.
Can anyone imagine the horror of gun owners who have been identified by the Canada Firearms Centre to EKOS Research Associates? I can assure the CFC that the gun owners being called by EKOS are neither satisfied nor are they customers. Calling gun owners customers in the RCMP files is absurd in the extreme. They risk criminal charges if they are not in that file. Are the criminals in our prisons customers as well? This is a misuse of the term.
Members of Parliament have been receiving emails, letters and faxes from licensed gun owners who want something done immediately about the security leak.
Until recently, most Canadians believed that the gun registry was merely a lame and wasteful appendage of the federal government. Now it has evolved into an agency that has leaked encrypted personal information that should never have seen the light of day. This is a sad day for Canada and it is potentially a dangerous day for every Canadian whose name appears in the gun registry.
It is even possible that a crime has been committed by making public this secret government information. Surely this breach of trust, this breach of security, this breach of common sense will be the final nail in the registry's coffin.
I also want to remind people who have not been following this file closely that this is not the first breach of security. Back in 2004, I exposed one of the most serious risks gun owners face when they register their firearms,. I received this information through Access to Information. I received confirmation from the RCMP that there were hundreds of confirmed breaches. I have the list here and members can go to my website. According to the RCMP's own files, there are hundreds of confirmed breaches. That means that the information on the registry was given to those people not authorized to receive it.
I want to give the House an example of why this is very serious. In Edmonton, right after someone registered his valuable firearms, his home was broken into. The thieves did not take all the valuable things that thieves would normally take. They went through that house until they found the very securely locked up firearms and took them. How did they know where those firearms were?
Those breaches of security are serious because it gives criminals a shopping list. They know where to find the tools of the trade. That is one of the main reasons the registry should not exist. That information is falling into the wrong hands. I could go into this a lot more.
There were many instances where the RCMP actually laid charges because of the breaches of information. There were many cases where we do not know where that information went, which criminal group, organization or person received that information.
This inane registry has been kept alive by former governments to deceive the people of Canada, and Bill is a timely and accurate tool to shut it down.
Many members of the opposition parties still claim to the long disproved notion that Canadian police run thousands of gun registry checks every day. Our party and the firearms experts have explained time and again that every non-gun related check of the Canadian Police Information Centre, CPIC, pings the registry and increases the count clock.
The anti-gun lobby chooses not to hear us even though most would admit nearly all of those so-called registry checks occur when police officers run simple licence plate numbers for minor driving infractions.
It is one thing to support one's personal lead but it is another to intentionally mislead the Canadian public into thinking the gun registry is somehow a valuable tool.
I have many quotations here that I will not be able to read but I would refer members to my website. There are over 30 pages of comments from police officers who say that we should get rid of the gun registry because it is putting their officers in harm's way and that it is hurting them. Police officers in my riding specifically instruct those people under them not to consult the registry.
I wish I had a lot more time to go through this. One can imagine, after 15 years dealing with this file, how much I have accumulated to show this is a complete waste of money. I would like to refer people to my website because it contains a history of what this fiasco has done to our country.
We need to get rid of the registry now. I wish I had more time to explain why.