Mr. Speaker, I want to first just repeat the quote that I gave yesterday, from our former leader, the late Jack Layton, on this very issue given in August 2010 because it is an important context in which we make our position clear on the long gun registry and on this bill now before the House.
Stopping gun violence has been a priority for rural and urban Canadians. There’s no good reason why we shouldn’t be able to sit down with good will and open minds. There’s no good reason why we shouldn’t be able to build solutions that bring us together. But that sense of shared purpose has been the silent victim of the gun registry debate.
[The Prime Minister] has been no help at all. Instead of driving for solutions, he has used this issue to drive wedges between Canadians...[The Conservatives] are stoking resentments as a fundraising tool to fill their election war chest. [The Prime Minister] is pitting Canadian region against Canadian region with his “all or nothing show-down”.
This is un-Canadian. This kind of divisiveness, pitting one group against another is the poisonous politics of the United States. Not the nation-building politics of Canada.
That is an important starting point for our position because the long gun registry has invoked debate in this country. However, contrary to what was recently said this morning by the , who said that there was no valid public safety reason for the gun registry or for the information contained therein, there are contrary positions stated by those who are entrusted with law enforcement in this country.
For example, Chief William Blair, chief of police in Toronto and president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said:
The registry gives officers information that keeps them safe. If the registry is taken from us, police officers may guess, but they cannot know. It could get them killed.
Chief Daniel Parkinson, president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, said:
Scrapping the federal Firearms Registry will put our officers at risk and undermine our ability to prevent and solve crimes.
On behalf of victims, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Sue O'Sullivan, said:
Though there are varying points of view, the majority of victims’ groups we have spoken with continue to support keeping the long gun registry
So what is the solution? We have proposed to make substantial amendments to make the long gun registry more in keeping with the concerns of rural Canadians, in particular, and also aboriginal Canadians. We want to see these legitimate concerns addressed while ensuring that police have the tools that they need to keep our streets safe.
We have been trying to find a way to address the problems with this registry but also further strengthen gun control laws. We want to continue to bring Canadians together and to find solutions, but we are dealing with the wedge politics of the Conservative government here in this House.
The Conservatives have added a new challenge. The challenge before us here is to repair the damage done by this divisiveness and to bring people together. However, we also have a concern as to the new element being added in this legislation, which has been in neither the legislation that private members opposite have brought forward here, nor in a Senate bill last year. That is the element of the reckless and irresponsible destruction of records that are valuable for public safety in this country.
Section 29 of this act would provide for the destruction of records, what we have referred to as a billion dollar bonfire. A considerable amount of public money has been allocated and used in building this information and database.
The RCMP was the holder of the existing underlying database, meaning description of the firearms, the serial numbers and the owners' names and addresses for currently registered, non-restricted firearms. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police wrote to the asking that it be transferred from the firearms registry to the Canadian National Firearms Tracing Centre, still within the RCMP IT infrastructure, and be available to Canadian police as a searchable resource through the CPIC and NPS network.
They regard this as an extremely important piece of information that would support their efforts to fight crime and to trace firearms. They also say that one of the things that has been omitted from this legislation is a requirement for businesses to keep records of the sales of firearms.
We see, when we watch police shows from the United States, how police trace that information by going to the business owners who sell guns to try to find guns that have been involved in crimes. We need that information to be available as well.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has proposed that businesses keep a record of sales of non-restricted firearms from the importer right to the first retail sale, and that it be reinstituted. It was there before the firearms registry went in, and the government is not only recklessly getting rid of the information it has but is also not making it a requirement to keep track of guns in the future.
Another thing that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police also points out is that this base of records is extremely valuable to Canada to allow it to live up to the obligations it has taken on in international agreements and arrangements to facilitate crime gun tracing, particularly with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The association also wants to ensure that the firearms import and export regulations also be brought in line to ensure that these records are available in the tracing centre.
This is being ignored by the government. It is taking a slash and burn approach. It is slashing the protections that are there and is making no effort to improve the system that has caused some concern and irritation to rural and aboriginal Canadians, but it maintains the licensing system, because I think even this government recognizes that gun control is an important public good and that Canadians want to maintain it.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the New Democrats want to ensure as well that we have a strong connection between the transfers of firearms to ensure that when firearms are transferred from one person to another, they are certain to be given to someone who is a valid licence holder.
We put forth a number of recommendations in the past, and we will be putting them forth in the form of amendments to the bill. We put forth suggestions to address problems with the registry while maintaining its value as a public safety tool.
We want to ensure that there is a legal guarantee for aboriginal treaty rights so that aboriginals are not treated contrary to their aboriginal rights. We want to prevent the release of identifying information about gun owners, except to protect public safety or by court order or by law, and we have had instances.
The Conservatives complain about the privacy issue, but they were the ones who released the data in 2009 for public opinion surveys, contrary to the notions of privacy that most Canadians have. We would want to make that illegal.
A continuing irritation of people is the criminalizing of the behaviour of law-abiding Canadians. We would propose not to make the failure to register for a first-time registration an offence, so that people who register their guns do not have to worry that by registering a gun, they will expose themselves to a criminal charge because they have not registered in the past. We would decriminalize the first-time registration of long guns, making this a one-time exemption so that guns could be registered and we would have a proper registry.
These are some of the things that have been serious concerns of Canadians over the last 10 or 15 years in dealing with gun registration.
The cost was also a factor, and the government has made regulatory changes to make registration free. We would want to ensure that it is in legislation so that no cabinet could change it without bringing it to the House. We would enshrine it in legislation so that gun owners would never be charged for registration of their guns.
I mentioned the issue of protection of privacy. We would also deal with the question of inherited guns. That issue has been raised on a number of occasions. People inherit guns through the death of a gun owner; family members inherit guns either by a will or through the administration of the estate. Sometimes it takes a long time to go through that process, so we would have a grace period for inherited long guns.
We also have concerns about making sure that only long guns that are used for hunting or sport would be classified as non-restricted. There are certain kinds of guns that manage to get through the system because of a loophole in how the new guns are now classified, so changes have to be made to protect Canadians.
The Ruger Mini-14, which was used at the Polytechnique in Montreal, was allowed to be classified as non-restricted. We want to make sure that the onus is put on gun manufacturers or importers to prove that the new guns are only for the purposes of hunting or sport shooting if they want them to be classified as non-restricted.
There are also loopholes with respect to business importation. We have the Canada Border Services Agency not sharing detailed information about guns imported under business licences with the registry, with the effect that guns end up on the black market.
Let me talk about the reckless and irresponsible decision by the government to destroy the information about guns. That information has been collected lawfully by the government, police forces and firearms registries across this country, and we are told by the chiefs of police that it would be valuable. We are told by the Province of Quebec that it wants this information to be used for public safety purposes in Quebec. It has said loud and clear that it has concerns about what the government is doing. This information has been collected with a great deal of taxpayers' money, and it is information that it wants to ensure is available for public safety purposes.
This is extremely valuable, useful information. On the other side some will argue that it is not complete. No, it is not complete. It is not complete because there has been a whole series of amnesties while the government did nothing to solve any of the problems that existed or to deal with the concerns people had. Instead the government used it as a political football, a political fundraising activity.
We want to see public safety protected. We want to see that the gun registry is improved. We want to see solutions that work for Canadians and we are opposed to this legislation. We want to ensure that any problems are fixed. We want to ensure that the information and the underlying data behind the registry are protected. We want to see amendments made to this legislation to try to bring Canadians together, instead of providing opposition, providing division, providing more concern by Canadians about their safety from guns.
We are at the point where we have the lowest rate of homicide in the country in 45 years.
I want to make an amendment before I finish. I move, seconded by the member for Gatineau:
That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, because it:
a) destroys existing data that is of public safety value for provinces that wish to establish their own system of long-gun registration, which may lead to significant and entirely unnecessary expenditure of public funds;
b) fails to respond to the specific request from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police for use of existing data in the interest of public safety; and
c) fails to strike a balance between the legitimate concerns of rural and Aboriginal Canadians and the need for police to have appropriate tools to enhance public safety.
Madam Speaker, as the member for Mount Royal, I am pleased to take part today in the debate on Bill , the government's bill to abolish the long gun registry. Like many Quebeckers, Montreal residents have indicated their support for the registry and their opposition to its abolition at meetings and political forums.
The government's justification for abolishing the long gun registry is not unlike its support of Bill . It has a mandate to enact this legislation. The disposition speaks for itself and all contrary evidence is therefore but an inconvenient truth to be ignored. Yet, ironically enough, the government's legislation to abolish the long gun registry betrays the very principles invoked by the government in support of Bill , the omnibus crime bill.
Indeed, the two bills provide an interesting study and contrast that illustrate the incoherence and inconsistency in the government's approach to crime and justice, save for one common feature, the ignoring, marginalizing and mischaracterizing of the evidence.
Accordingly whereas the organizing motif of Bill is the protection of public safety, which we all support in the House regardless of party, the legislation to abolish the long gun registry would endanger that very purpose of public safety.
Whereas Bill purports to speak in the name of the victims, this legislation ignores the very voices of the victims themselves who oppose the legislation.
Whereas Bill purports to rely on the support of police associations, which the yesterday in the House invoked in support of the safe streets and communities act, this legislation is opposed by those very same police organizations.
Whereas Bill was intended to combat violent crime, this bill ignores the evidence that the long gun registry protects precisely against such violent crime. In particular, it protects against domestic violence, community violence, workplace violence and violence against women.
Whereas 272 members of the House, including many government members, recently rose in support of a motion to adopt a national suicide prevention strategy, this legislation ignores yet again the evidence respecting gun-related suicide.
Whereas Bill would offload costs of the safe streets legislation on the provinces that must enforce it, this legislation seeks to eliminate all the data, to erase all the evidence that would enable the provinces, such as my province of Quebec, to initiate its own registry, an enormous waste of public investment by a government that professes concern about the registry's waste.
Whereas Bill purported to consult and consider the concerns of the provincial and territorial attorneys general prior to its introduction, when one reads the letter from Quebec justice minister Jean-Marc Fournier to the current , it is clear that Quebec's views were not incorporated.
This legislation has been tabled without appropriate consultation with provincial and territorial attorneys general. So much for the open, vaunted, covenantal federalism which the government has professed.
I organized my remarks seriatim around each of these points and principles, the whole anchored in and inspired by the very facts that run counter to the government's proposed legislation.
First, in a manner protecting public safety, despite the government's claim that the long gun registry is a waste and does nothing, as it has been quoted as saying, it is checked by police officers across Canada an average of some 16,000 times a day. Therefore, the question is whether these police officers, the very people the government asks us to heed, are simply wasting their time when they tell us that it is a valuable asset again and again.
The fact remains that having such a database has been a valuable asset, to quote police again, for protecting and promoting public safety. Indeed, in Canada deaths by gunshot are at their lowest level in over 40 years. There were 400 fewer Canadians who died of gunshots in 2007 compared to 1995, the year the Firearms Act was introduced, and estimates directly credit the registry with a reduction of 50 homicides and 250 suicides annually.
Since the first introduction of stricter gun laws in 1991, there has been a 65% reduction in homicides by long guns, as Statistics Canada data shows. Most important, behind every statistic is a human life saved. How can the government look at this evidence and still maintain that abolishing the registry is beneficial to public safety?
Second, in the matter of protecting victims, we need only listen to Sue O'Sullivan, the federal ombudswoman for victims of crime, who said on the occasion of the introduction of this legislation:
Our position on this matter is clear—Canada must do all it can to prevent further tragedies from happening, including using the tools we have to help keep communities safe, like the long-gun registry.
She added that “the majority of victims' groups we have spoken with continue to support keeping long-gun registry.”
In my own province of Quebec, a similar indictment of this legislation has come from family and friends of the victims of the École Polytechnique massacre, as well as from the Dawson College student association, both of whom I have met.
It is clear that victims groups are against this legislation, particularly in my province of Quebec. If we scrap the long gun registry what lessons, if any, can the government expect to have learned from the Polytechnique massacre, the Dawson College killing, and other similar tragic events.
Indeed, one of the most compelling statements in regard to victims and reflecting the voices of victims and the lessons learned comes from Janet Hazelton, the president of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, who said:
Nurses and doctors, particularly those who work in emergency rooms, witness first-hand the horrific injuries and tragic deaths that result from firearms. We meet the victims who fall prey to long-guns and attempt to save them. For those whom we are unable to save in spite of our utmost efforts, we meet their families whose lives are shattered by long-guns. We also treat patients on a regular basis who are suicidal or victims of domestic abuse. A rifle or a shotgun in their homes increases their chances of being victimized. We often work with the police, who accompany these patients to hospital, as they can access the registry to determine if a gun is registered to the home, allowing us to devise a safety plan for our patients. The RCMP has stated that dismantling the registry will save less than $4 million a year, a trivial figure when compared to the costs of gun injury and death.
What does the government say in response to Ms. Hazelton, or is her voice and that of the victims for whom she speaks, to be ignored or mocked yet again as an inconvenient truth?
Third, in the matter of support from police, for the year period ending September 30, 2011, the registry had been accessed more than six million times. Again, this speaks for itself. If it were useless and wasteful, as the government contends it to be, and all these wrongful things that the government purports the registry to be, then why would our first responders rely on it day in and day out? Why would they continue to characterize it as a valuable asset? Simply put, as the police associations themselves have affirmed, the registry is an essential tool for taking preventive action; for enforcing prohibition orders; for assisting police investigations, as when the police recover a gun from a crime they can trace it to the rightful owner; for allowing police to differentiate between legal and illegal firearms; and for allowing police to trace firearms easily.
As Windsor Police Services chief, Gary Smith, put it:
...but it can save lives. Often we would search a registry before we dispatched an officer on a call and if you tell them there’s a firearm registered, they’re a little cautious, depending on the type of call. My detectives would use it quite often, anytime they applied for a search warrant or an arrest warrant.
As for the specific issue of the destruction of data, Denis Côté, president of the Fédération des policiers municipaux du Québec, said, “I am shocked that they are destroying the data.”
Fourth, there is the matter of protection against violent crime, in particular, domestic violence and violence against women.
For example, the RCMP estimated in 2002 that 71% of spousal homicides committed in the preceding 10 years involved long guns.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2009 there was a 74% reduction for spousal homicides involving firearms, from nearly three homicides per million spouses in 1980 to less than one homicide per million spouses in 2009.
Indeed, Pamela Harrison of the Canadian Association of Women's Shelters says:
The rate of spousal homicide by gun has gone down 69 per cent and we attribute most of that to the impact of the gun registry. Without question we need it in Canada.
Accordingly, while women are a small percentage of gun owners, they account for a high percentage of victims of gun crime. The long gun registry is the only way to know how many of such weapons need to be removed from a dangerous spouse.
Since 1995, the rate of women murdered with firearms by the intimate partner has decreased, as I noted, by 69%.
In addition, Paulette Senior, chief executive officer of the YWCA, added that “the threat of a rifle is often a significant reason that women don’t risk leaving to seek help.” The government has to do something about this.
Simply put, the number of homicides involving long guns since the introduction of the Firearms Act in 1995 has decreased by 41%, a figure that can be traced in part to the long gun registry.
Fifth, I will turn my attention to suicide.
Recently, the government stood with opposition parties to denounce the incidents of suicide in this country and vowed to take action. This statement of solidarity and support from the government is directly at odds with the bill.
Since the Firearms Act was introduced in 1995, firearm related suicides are down 23% as of 2009, and we know that firearms are a weapon of choice for those attempting suicide. Indeed, the number of firearm related suicides in 2004 stood at 475, which is 5.4 times the number of suicides with handguns. Again, if the government were serious in its commitment on suicide and the importance of having a national suicide prevention strategy, which I think it is, then it would not scrap the long gun registry.
Sixth, with regards to destroying records, this is particularly troubling for me as a Quebecker.
It should be noted that the National Assembly is debating the creation of a registry for Quebec as we speak.
The government's move to destroy records prejudices the work of the provinces that realize the registry is a valuable tool that saves lives. Indeed, that is at the core of what we are talking about, a valuable tool to protect public safety and human security.
In summary, what we have here, regrettably, is yet another Conservative policy that is ideologically inspired with a wilful and reckless disregard for the evidence. All the facts, the quotes and the statistics that are provided appear almost as a kind of inconvenient truth for the government, but they remain a compelling truth nonetheless.
As I said before in this House, whenever the government talks about having a mandate for the safe streets and communities act and a mandate for the abolition of the gun registry, the point is that it needs to be reaffirmed that all governments and all parties have a mandate for safe streets and safe communities. However, the question is on the merits of the means chosen, whether it be with respect to Bill or to the abolition of the gun registry.
The abolition of the gun registry, with respect, is without merit and an affront to the very victims whose voices the abolition of this gun registry purports to represent. These voices, however, are speaking for the retention of that gun registry to support the purpose of public safety, to give expression to their concerns and to save lives.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of Bill the ending the long gun registry bill.
I would like to take a moment to thank those who helped make this legislation a reality: the right hon. , for his leadership on this issue; the hon. member for , Canada's outstanding public safety minister; the member for , for recognizing my many years of work on this important file and especially for allowing me the honour of taking her speaking spot in this debate; and indeed all of my caucus colleagues who have supported me over the many years that this issue has been before us.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank my wonderful wife, Lydia, who has been by my side every step of the way for the last 18 years as we have dealt with this issue. She has made the most sacrifice. I thank my staff, past and present, in Ottawa and in , who have worked tirelessly on this file for the last decade and a half. I thank the many organizations and stakeholders who have provided valuable insight and support.
Finally, I thank the thousands of farmers, hunters and sport shooters for their patience and support over the years. Throughout the years they have packed meeting after meeting from coast to coast to coast to ensure their concerns about Bill C-68 have been heard loud and clear.
As my hon. colleagues may be aware, this is an issue that has been of deep interest to me for quite some time. In fact, I would like to tell a story about how this first came to my attention.
In January 1994, before the Liberals had even put the long gun registry in place, I was invited to a meeting by a number of concerned gun owners in my constituency. I remember how cold it was. It was -39° outside in the town of Preeceville, Saskatchewan. I got out of my car, walked through the parking lot and into a hall packed with people. I could not believe how full the hall was. I remember so clearly being overwhelmed by just how many concerned citizens had taken the time to come out on this issue. Obviously I felt it was something they thought was very important to them. It was not really something I had thought too much about before that time.
I was asked by the folks in the room what I thought about the long gun registry that the Liberals were proposing. I had not thought much about it and I said something like, who would not be in favour of gun control, because that was what it had been portrayed as. Right then and there they put a challenge to me. They challenged me to look below the surface at what the proposed long gun registry would do and what it would not do. They challenged me to look at what the purpose actually was and who it would actually help. In short, they challenged me to look at the facts.
I made the commitment that I would look into this issue and I did. I ended up doing a complete 180 on this issue. I had to completely reverse my position once it became incredibly clear to me that it was going to be a totally ineffective long gun registry. It took a bit of time to uncover the facts, but as I looked at it with my helpful staff, I realized this was not going to accomplish what it was purported to do.
Since that time I have worked for years to see the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry scrapped once and for all. It has taken a long, long time. I have talked to thousands of people and have attended meetings on this issue from Vancouver Island to St. John's, Newfoundland. I have lost track of how many meetings I have attended.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many concerned citizens, police officers, hunters, farmers and sport shooters who have told me their stories over the past years. They have shared their experiences. They have been honest and forthright with their opinions on the long gun registry.
It has been a long haul, but in the end, through working for positive change, we have been able to make a difference. This bill, Bill , is proof of that.
I am also very proud to be part of a government which, after working so long to deliver on its promise, is making good on its commitment to end the long gun registry. Despite opposition stalling, blocking and obstruction, we held steadfast in our determination to end what has grown into a $2 billion boondoggle.
There are millions of law-abiding gun owners in Canada. These include the good, honest and hard-working men and women from my constituency of , and across the province of Saskatchewan, and from regions all across the country. These are law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters who feel it is fundamentally unfair they are being persecuted for their way of life. More than that, they feel as though they have been criminalized. They feel criminalized because they own a firearm. They feel criminalized because they may not have done all the paperwork. They feel criminalized because they think that even if they have done everything according to the law, they might have done something wrong.
I hear from farmers in my constituency, farmers who work hard every day and have long guns on their property. They use them in the course of their day. It is a tool. I am talking about doing such things as shooting gophers or other rodents and coyotes that may be going after their livestock. These long guns are tools that farmers use to protect themselves and their business. It is not right that they feel they are doing something wrong just because they have a firearm on their property.
I also hear from young people who are interested in getting into sport shooting, which is part of Canada's rich outdoor heritage and one of our traditional activities. We have enjoyed it for more than a century. These young people feel discouraged from getting involved, again because of the stigma associated with the long gun registry. Healthy outdoor living is nothing to be ashamed of. We should be encouraging young people in these respects. These young people are missing out on participating in healthy outdoor activities because they are not sure what they need to do or how they need to do it. That is a real shame.
Of course, I have heard from many aboriginal Canadians. Hunting is a fundamental part of their way of life. They also feel they are being deeply stigmatized by the long gun registry. This is a way of life. That is no more deserving of stigma than any other honest way of life across this country.
For too long, law-abiding Canadians who own firearms have been made to feel like second-class citizens due to this long gun registry. They have been made to feel that they should be held apart, considered to feel like second-class citizens due to this long gun registry. They have been made to feel that they should be held apart, considered more dangerous and made to endure burdensome regulations. They have not committed any crime. They have not acted in any way unlawfully. Yet they are viewed with suspicion and made to register their long guns as though they had.
Time and again, we see how this long gun registry needlessly and unfairly targets law-abiding Canadians. It does this while doing nothing to reduce crime or strengthen our efforts to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
I could quote statistics to support every single thing I am saying.
I will digress for a moment and give a short example. Ninety per cent of the handguns in Toronto that are confiscated by the police are unregistered, and we have had a handgun registry since 1934. That gives an example of how the registry does not affect the criminal. It does not do anything to reduce crime or strengthen our efforts to keep guns out of the hands of the drug dealers, the criminals, the gangs. Our government has been saying this for years. That is why we have been working to scrap it for years. I stand here today to talk about this important issue. I am hopeful that we will soon see the failed long gun registry scrapped once and for all.
I have heard just about every argument for and against the registry that one can think of. I mentioned that earlier today. However, I have no doubt that there will be some interesting debate in the House with our colleagues across the floor. I am sure they will continue to bring forward points to try to demonstrate that it is a useful tool. When the previous speaker did that I pointed to a couple of examples of how what he had cited is not really true.
The facts speak for themselves. The long gun registry does not put meaningful consequences in place for gun crimes. It does not address gun-related or gang-related crimes in Canada. That has nothing to do with law-abiding gun owners who register their firearms. The registry does not prevent crimes from happening. The opposition places the gun registry and crime prevention side by side as though there were some connection between them. The registry does not prevent crime from happening. I could not be more blunt. The creation of a list of law-abiding long gun owners does not prevent a criminal from picking up a firearm or any weapon and using it to harm an innocent person.
Over the past number of years I have spoken with many front-line police officers, the men and women who put their lives on the line for the safety and security of Canadians every day. Time and again they have said that the registry information is not accurate. Police officers know that it is not accurate. They know that when they walk through the door of a house they always assume there is a firearm located there. They do not trust the information in the long gun registry and certainly would not bet their lives on it. A tool that does not do its job is a tool not worth having and should be destroyed. That is what we are doing. These are good reasons to scrap it.
As an aside, the Auditor General stated in a report several years ago that 90% of the registration certificates contained inaccurate information. A staff sergeant in my riding tells his officers when they come on staff not to consult the registry before responding to a domestic dispute as it may put their lives at risk.
To add to all of this is the registry's sheer size and the waste of resources associated with it. When the Auditor General released her report several years ago and that was exposed, in the entire country there was only one editorial writer who still supported the registry, and even that person had reservations with respect to it. At that time, a survey was taken and 72% of people wanted to get rid of the registry. When the Liberals introduced it they told us it would cost $2 million. Later on it was upward of $2 billion.
There is no evidence that the long gun registry prevents crime, protects Canadians from crime or that it protects the well-being of front-line officers. What other government program has gone 1,000 times overbudget? That is unbelievable. It is bad policy. That is why I have fought long and hard over the past decade and more to see it scrapped.
I ask the opposition members what if that money had been better used to address the root causes of crime in this country? Surely, they would not have been opposed to that.
I will now speak to what Bill means as well as to what it does not mean.
First and foremost, Bill the ending the long gun registry bill, removes the requirement for Canadians to register their unrestricted firearms, such as rifles and shotguns. In short, that means that law-abiding hunters and farmers would no longer be compelled to register their long guns and no longer be made to feel like criminals in the process.
Second, Bill would ensure that the records that have been gathered through the long gun registry over the past years would be destroyed. This is a particularly important point. Not only are the details of millions of law-abiding gun owners in this country which are contained within the records inaccurate, they are also a means by which a different government, whether provincial or federal, could attempt to reinstate the long gun registry a few years down the road. The commitment of this government is firm. We would not allow that to happen. That is why we are committed to destroying those records. They would not be shared, nor sealed and kept. They would be destroyed.
As well, Bill will maintain current regulations for restricted and prohibited firearms. Those firearms will continue to be registered as they have in the past and licensing requirements will remain in place. However, long guns will no longer be required to be registered.
I will touch on another point as well. I spoke earlier about how for many of my constituents owning a firearm is a way of life. I recognize that is not common in many parts of Canada. For people living in large urban centres, the meaning surrounding firearms can be altered. It has become less about a lifestyle and more about what we see in the media.
In many of our urban centres there is a lot of talk about gun crime in the media. That can make some people nervous. I cannot emphasize enough that the Conservative Party believes in keeping Canadians safe. We are delivering measures to ensure families feel safe in their homes and communities. We are delivering better tools for our law enforcement officers and holding criminals accountable for their crimes.
Year after year, that is the promise we as a government have made to the law-abiding Canadian families we stand for in all areas of the country, both rural and urban. That is why we are in support of gun control measures that work, and why we are against measures that do not work, such as the failed long gun registry.
I will mention some of the actions we have taken over the past five years to keep Canadians safer and hold criminals more accountable for their crimes.
Our previous comprehensive legislation, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, has serious penalties for gun offences. Those measures include: longer mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes; tougher new rules for bail for serious weapons offences; mandatory minimum sentences for drive-by shootings; tougher laws to combat organized crime; and, mandatory minimum sentences for using firearms in the commission of an offence. These laws target real criminals.
I have said it before and I will say it again that criminals are not in the habit of obeying the law and they certainly are not in the habit of registering their firearms. They are the sort of individuals who use illegal weapons that have either been stolen or smuggled in from the United States or elsewhere. They have absolutely no respect for the law or the well-being of their fellow citizens.
It is those inidividuals who bring the good names of law-abiding gun owners into disrepute. They are the people who do harm to our homes and communities. They are the people this government is targeting with its tough on crime measures. They are the people against whom we are taking action in an effort to stop them by using tougher laws, by providing better resources for police officers, and by holding them accountable for their actions.
That is how the government believes it should tackle criminals. It is the right way, the effective way and the sensible way. That is why we are in favour of scrapping the failed long gun registry. I hope all hon. members will support us in getting rid of it once and for all.
I challenge members to do the same as I have done, scratch below the surface and look at the facts. If they do I believe they will come to the same conclusion that I did, that the registry is not a cost-effective way of controlling crime or making our lives safer.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this extremely important debate. For us in particular—not just for us, but for many of my colleagues from Quebec—this is a rather sensitive issue. Why? Because a big part of this debate centres on events that occurred in Quebec.
Everyone remembers this, or perhaps not. Sometimes I say that we must never forget the past, so that we do not repeat it. As you know—we commemorate this event every year—on December 6, 1989, a young man named Marc Lépine entered the École Polytechnique and, for personal and anti-feminist reasons, decided to shoot a group of women. Fourteen women died: 13 students and one secretary.
This is the first opportunity I have had to talk about this and I want to take advantage of the time I have to say that, indeed, we all have our own experiences, but sometimes we have to remember that the firearms registry was created because of the events at the École Polytechnique in Montreal.
I would like to read out the names of these women, because we do not talk about them enough and we must not forget them: Geneviève Bergeron, Nathalie Croteau, Anne-Marie Edward, Maryse Laganière, Anne-Marie Lemay, Michèle Richard, Annie Turcotte, Hélène Colgan, Barbara Daigneault, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Leclair, Sonia Pelletier, Annie St-Arneault, and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz. They lost their lives that day. It is important to remember that.
I understand what the hon. member who spoke before me is saying. He is speaking in this House on behalf of a group of individuals who are targeted by the bill in question and by the firearms registry as a whole. However, there are also people who are targeted by the implementation of this registry. We all agree that the registry was not set up very well and that it cost a fortune. Nevertheless, despite what I hear about Bill every time I am at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I realize that when it comes to the victims, no price is too high. Sometimes in life things are expensive and we deal with it, but that is not how we should look at things.
On this side of the House, we are trying to piece together all these versions and views. What I find unfortunate in the debate on the gun registry—as with many debates here in this House—is that the government is trying to polarize the debate. It claims that its position, the position of the hunters, is the right one and that others are completely wrong. Some people claim that the victims' position is in the right and that the hunters are completely wrong. But sometimes, reality and truth are found in the middle, somewhere in between, and on this side of the House, that is what we have tried to bring to the debate and will continue to do. Yes, I can understand the frustration of the hunters or of some aboriginal peoples who feel that this registry forces them to do things, but we must look at what the original objective was.
I will admit that there are some good arguments on the other side of the House. Sometimes there may have been some information that was taken wrong. Perhaps the registry is not completely wonderful. That is partly their fault as well, because in light of the amnesties granted, the registry has stalled a bit in recent years. It is perhaps not as up to date as I would like it to be, but the information in it is very important.
We know that, for very ideological reasons, the Conservatives have turned the firearms registry into a big issue, an issue of money or all kinds of things. Once again, the victims have been forgotten in all the noise. The government has forgotten that while it is talking to us and we are discussing this, we receive emails and messages from all sides. I am sure that all members in the House receive them, including the Conservatives. They will probably rise at some point and say they do not get them, but maybe that is because they do not look at them.
I receive messages from hunters, victims' parents and victims advocacy groups. They are asking that we not eliminate the registry. For a number of people, it has become symbolic. Some might say it is an expensive symbol, but we are being told by groups like police associations that, on the contrary, this registry is being used. Whether the hon. member who spoke before me likes it or not, and even if the Conservatives say it is not true, I tend to believe our police officers. If our police chiefs are saying they use the registry, I do not see why we would suddenly say they are lying. I do not think that is the case.
I was looking at the background of this registry and I discovered something odd. It has been used quite a bit to divide the two sides of the House, with one side being right and the other side being completely wrong. It is a major source of political division in Canada. Some have tried to pit rural Canada against urban Canada. At first I was interested in this issue as a person who spends a lot of time with groups that protect women who are victims of violence. These groups have taught me a lot about the firearms registry. Perhaps they saw this registry as symbolic, but they also saw it as a possible solution to many domestic tragedies. At the very least, it provides a sense of security because of the additional tools it provides to our police forces to help women in specific circumstances.
In trying to do my job properly, without being too entrenched in my own view, I have learned, since the registry was created, to listen to others' views, including that of the hon. member who just spoke. It is true that there has been endless talk over the years and that the same ideas keep resurfacing. But I am not convinced that the members on the other side of the House have listened closely to the arguments coming from this side or from victims' and police groups. And that upsets me.
Now that it is in a majority situation, the government is saying that it can abolish this registry. But before, the government knew that this move was not possible and did not represent the views of the majority. I have no choice but to point out, once again, that this government only represents 39% of the population. This is an important statistic. Approximately 60% of Canadians decided that they did not share the Conservative vision.
I find it unfortunate that the Conservatives are trying to say that people voted for them and that since they are the majority, they are authorized to destroy the registry. This time, they have decided not just to cancel the registry, but also to destroy it. That is a major problem. The government does not seem to be aware of it this morning, but I get the feeling that the next few hours will be difficult for it. I can feel a storm brewing. I do not want to be alarmist, but since seeing the reactions—and particularly that of the Government of Quebec, the province where I was elected to represent the people of Gatineau—I have various concerns because I get the impression that a major problem is arising. Why? Because the federal government wants to destroy everything. It wants to do more than just block access to the information; it wants to destroy it. It will be shredded or thrown away—like pressing “Delete” on the computer—to ensure that the data will no longer be available anywhere.
The was extremely clear and unequivocal: that is exactly what the government plans to do. It wants to make sure no one ever has access to that information. Yet the Conservatives have been reminding us since the registry was created that gathering that information was very costly for Canadians.
Everyone here in the House can agree on that. Everyone knows that creating the registry was very costly. The Conservatives keep reminding us that it cost $2 billion, but they forget to mention that most of that was spent at the beginning, when it was first created. When the registry was working well and running smoothly, it was costing between $2 million and $4 million, depending who one asks. Even taking the higher amount, $4 million, no one would say that that is a waste of money, except our Conservative friends across the floor. Furthermore, our police forces and victims associations are telling us that the registry is useful. I will never convince the members opposite, because they begin with the premise that police chiefs are lying when they say they use the registry, that victims associations do not know what they are talking about, because the registry does not prevent any crimes. The problem is that we may never know if the registry did in fact prevent crime. We could go round in circles on this for quite some time.
When a crime is committed with a registered firearm, the Conservatives immediately say to us that the fact that the firearm was registered did not prevent the crime. It may not have prevented one crime, but perhaps other crimes were prevented at some point. A police officer told me that he felt safe when he knew beforehand that there were two rifles in a home. When the guy comes out and throws a rifle on the ground, the police officer knows that there is another one in the house. The registry helps police officers to be better prepared. Police officers truly believe that the registry protects their lives, whereas the member who spoke before me firmly believes the opposite.
Finding ways to reconcile all these positions is possible and we can do it. If we used our talents and our energy, not as my colleague who spoke before me did in an attempt to destroy the registry, but rather to find solutions that reconcile everyone's positions, we would all benefit from this experience. But that is not happening. On the contrary, the Conservatives like to divide and conquer. They will tell hunters that the Conservatives are their saviours; that hunters are no longer criminals.
I direct my remarks to all hunters watching us. I have never believed that a hunter is a criminal. I do not think that anyone in this House has ever believed that a hunter, an aboriginal person or anyone who has inherited a rifle is a criminal. If mistakes in the legislation have given this impression, it is up to us, the legislators, to correct them.
As the hon. member for said earlier, we fill out forms and provide information on our cars and boats. This comment may seem simplistic, but it is true. We must eliminate the irritants. This has always been the position of the NDP, both the people who want to keep the registry and its opponents. I want to emphasize that I believe in this registry and that, if there are irritants, then we must work to eliminate them.
The destruction of data presents extremely serious legal problems. The hon. members may find me tiresome but my time at law school has proven useful. I am thinking, for example, about access to information. There are things that are unclear in the current legislation. The Government of Quebec has already announced its stand on the matter and other provinces may do the same. I do not want to focus exclusively on Quebec, but it is my province. It is the province that immediately stood up to protect its people and said that it was prepared to continue the registry. This information belongs to the people of Quebec. The registry contains information that is relevant to them. The federal government does not have the right to destroy data that belongs to all Canadians and that cost a lot of money.
I have said this outside the House and I am not afraid to repeat it in the House. I am not afraid to say things outside the House. I find the Conservatives' position to be extremely mean-spirited. It seems there must be a way to find time.
The Conservatives will succeed in abolishing the registry since they have a majority, but if the provinces and territories want to continue to use it, I think that our Conservative colleagues could consider that and allow these governments and territories to offer the service to law enforcement agencies and organizations in their jurisdiction who need it and believe that they need it.
There is no problem with removing the irritants and I do not think that the province of Quebec will want to get into long debates about hunters or aboriginal nations. But there is a way to keep this data without simply destroying it, throwing it in the trash or taking a match to it.
I think that this is a good time to think about it. This would be the time to have a mature discussion about the gun registry. We must stop focusing solely on the absolutes on each side. Maybe we should think about the victims of the events that led to the creation of the gun registry.
It is not a matter of casting judgment on hunters, aboriginals or people who inherit rifles and other guns, but as legislators, this is our way of respecting people who are going through very difficult situations, like the events at Dawson College. People will tell me once again that the guns involved in this tragedy were not registered, but that does not matter when we know that one of the victims of the Dawson tragedy is still walking around with a bullet in his head. This victim told us, as legislators, that the gun registry is important. If we listen to these victims when studying Bill , maybe it would also be a good idea to listen to them when studying Bill .
We must stop focusing solely on our ideological speeches and on absolutes and try listening to what the others are saying. Women's groups feel safer with a gun registry. It does not solve the problem. I will not claim here in this House that it is a solution to domestic violence or violence against women, but it is a symbol of safety.
Once again, if we eliminate the irritants that are causing the Conservative government to be so insistent on destroying the long gun registry, I do not see why we cannot reach a consensus.
In conclusion, at times, we remember people and we express our respect for them. I am thinking of our leader, Jack Layton, who passed away this summer. In a moment, I will tell the hon. members what he was always telling us about this issue. I know that I will likely have to answer a question from the other side of the House about whether the official opposition intends to force a vote. The hon. members will see that the NDP's position is extremely logical and consistent with what they have heard in the this chamber.
The NDP's position is unanimous: we believe that there are ways of reconciling all the positions in a respectful manner in order to take into account the rights of victims and the rights of those who seriously object to the registry because of certain irritants.
I would like to end by quoting my leader, because I think it is important to remember him. He said:
Stopping gun violence has been a priority [for me and] for rural and urban Canadians.
There’s no good reason why we shouldn’t be able to sit down with good will and open minds. There’s no good reason why we shouldn’t be able to build solutions that bring us together. But that sense of shared purpose has been the silent victim of the gun registry debate.
[The Prime Minister] has been no help at all. Instead of driving for solutions, he has used this issue to drive wedges between Canadians.... [The Conservatives are] stoking resentments as a fundraising tool to fill their election war chest.
[The Prime Minister] is pitting Canadian region against Canadian region with his “all or nothing show-down”. This is un-Canadian.
This kind of politics, which seeks to divide and pit people against one another, resembles the poisonous political games in the United Sates. This is not part of our country's political tradition, and I think that all Canadians demonstrated this when Jack Layton died. This is not the kind of political game we want to play.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today and speak in support of Bill .
On Tuesday, the hon. tabled in the House this very important legislation that would end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all. This was, and will be, an important moment for so many Canadians across the country who have been waiting so very long to see this happen.
It is also an important moment for every government member who has fought so hard against opposition blocking, obstruction, games, false accusations, and so many other sad attempts to stop ending the long gun registry. I am so proud of our government members, my fellow members of caucus in the Conservative Party, who have stood up long and hard against some of these terrible tactics in their commitment to their constituents to end the long gun registry.
I am especially thankful to our police caucus. We are very proud to have at least seven, I think now 11, members of the police force, either active or former police officers, as part of our caucus. They have also stood with us, shoulder to shoulder, in ending the long gun registry.
Today, I stand here proudly, a Conservative member of Parliament, representing the riding of , together with my fellow colleagues to see this bill passed and to see the long gun registry finally ended.
With this new legislation before the House we will all have the chance to do the right thing and vote against the long gun registry. In the past, we have seen members on the opposite side who have made very strong commitments to their constituents, publicly, in some of their ten percenters, some of the mailings they have sent out and in newspaper articles. There are members across the way who have made firm commitments to their constituents to vote against the long gun registry, and I trust that when this bill comes forward for a vote that they will honour those commitments to their constituents, do the right thing, and vote to scrap the long gun registry.
Like my colleague, the hon. member for , I do have a deep and very strong interest in this issue. I want to say why this is an important issue to me.
I am not a gun owner, I am not a hunter, and I have only shot a gun a few times. However, I grew up in a rural community in Manitoba where guns were used by the people that I lived with. I live in a very strong Mennonite area and there are a lot of farmers and people who grow crops and have livestock. I know it might be difficult for people who live in large cities to relate to, I can understand that, but I want to describe where I live. In my neck of the woods, if I walk onto a farmyard and see a farmer carrying a shotgun or rifle, I would have no fear of that individual at all because he may be trying to shoot a rodent or a skunk. He may need it because there are coyotes attacking his livestock. He needs it as a tool. Just like many of us in this room use our BlackBerrys every single day as a tool, there are farmers who use it as a tool to do their work.
I grew up in an area like this. I grew up where individuals went hunting. They used guns for sport shooting. A lot of my brothers and my cousins loved to go shooting. It was a great activity for them to do with other family members.
When I decided to run for office and I had the honour of becoming the member of Parliament for , ending the long gun registry was one of the top issues that my constituents brought forward to me. They saw the incredible waste of money, almost $2 billion, that was spent on the registry and they knew that they were being blamed, as rural Canadians, for the horrific crimes and the horrific tragedies that were happening in big cities. It was wrong then when it was introduced, and it is wrong today.
I am very proud to stand up for gun owners in Canada. I am proud to stand up for sport shooters and hunters, and I am proud to stand up for taxpayers today to speak against the long gun registry and in support of .
Throughout the debate on ending the long gun registry there have been so many myths that have been perpetuated. I am going to take a few moments to go through some of the key ones and try to bring some clarity on these issues.
First, there is the myth, and it has been talked about a bit today, that police officers use the registry and the numbers have gone from 8,000 times a day all the way to, I am hearing now, 16,000 times a day. The myth is that they are using it in their tactical decisions, when they go on calls, and to actually look at how to approach a home or a situation.
Sometimes the facts do not always tell the truth of a situation. The fact might be that the long gun registry in the Canadian firearms database is touched or is hit 8,000 to 10,000 or 11,000 times a day. However, the truth is officers are not purposefully going in and checking the information, as the hon. member, who is a former RCMP officer, already mentioned.
Even if a police officer pulls over a vehicle and punches in a vehicle licence plate, an automatic hit is generated on the firearms database, and many times it is generated and specific queries are looking at the name and the address of the person being searched. A specific serial number or certificate number is not being looked at, which is what is associated with the long gun registry.
To sum this up, police officers are not specifically going in. The reason they are telling us that they are not doing it on their own, and that it is only happening automatically, is they cannot count on the information contained in the databases. The long gun registry is inaccurate in that there are thousands of wrong addresses, thousands of wrong names associated with the wrong serial number of a firearm. The majority of the time, police officers find that whatever the registry says is not actually true if they go to confirm it.
These are well-trained professionals. They are not going in specifically to look at the registry. It is automatically making a hit on the registry and counting in this so-called 11,000 to 15,000 hits a day.
I want to quickly read a letter that was just passed to me. The just received this email yesterday from a front line officer. His name is Gary. The riding is , so it is in Alberta. I will not give any further specific information.
I am a serving Policeman and have been for over 23 years. I am a front line cop whose career has been dedicated to hunting and capturing society's worst. For the past 12 years, I have worked exclusively on a big city (SWAT) Team and have arrested countless rapists, armed robbers, armed drug dealers, violent gang members, and murderers, including one who was on the FBI's 10 most wanted list.
I know very little about running a Police department, writing traffic tickets, lifting fingerprints, or investigating shop-lifters...I do know about hunting armed violent desperate men--and I do it very well.
The long gun registry does ZERO to help me do my job. 99% of frontline cops that I know feel the same way.
I have received hundreds of emails from front line police officers. I have not received one email from one police officer who said he or she wants us to keep the long gun registry. I would challenge any opposition member to show me an email from a front line officer who is on the streets arresting drug dealers, arresting violent criminals. The reason is that it does not help them. They do not use it.
Now, they have told us what they do want us to do to help them do their job. We are working very hard with our Tackling Violent Crimes Act that we passed, and other measures, and so, I do want to talk about that.
I also want to talk about another myth, and again it was discussed a bit today; that is, that the long gun registry protects women and specifically protects women against domestic violence.
I come from a family of six girls. I have daughters. I have nieces. I come from a family of a lot of very strong women, my mom being one of the strongest women that I know. I can tell members with all sincerity that if I ever thought that I was ending a process or ending a registry that would help women, I would not do this. There is no way that I could do this. There is no way I could go to sleep at night if I thought that I was taking away something that would actually protect women. That is because I have looked at the evidence as to what the registry does and what the registry does not do.
The long gun registry is not gun control. The long gun registry does nothing to stop people from getting guns who should not have guns; for example, men who are going to harm their spouse or harm their family. The registry does not stop them from getting a gun.
Let me explain what would stop them. The licensing process, of which we are strong believers. Gun owners are strong believers in the licensing process. That is where individuals will go through a background police check. They will have to take a safety course. Many times, their spouse is actually spoken to and asked, “How do you feel about your spouse getting a firearm? Are you concerned?”
I fully support that process. If we can flag it, and there are times we cannot, but if we can stop it, that is where we can stop individuals from getting guns who should not have guns. However, once they have a licence to own a firearm, actually counting their long guns, it might make those of us around here feel better. Maybe we think we are doing something but we are not doing anything by counting their guns.
There are we things we can do, like licensing. There is also a lot of things we can do regarding prevention, working with families that are going through crisis and ensuring there are women's shelters, which we have done so much work on, but counting long guns of licensed gun owners does not stop them from using them.
I would urge the opposition members, if they are not aware of all of the issues surrounding the registry, to become educated, because when they understand what the registry does and does not do, they will see that even if costs, whether it is $4 million or $100 million, it is a waste of money and a waste of resources that could be used elsewhere to help stop domestic violence and violence of all kinds.
I do want to mention very briefly that there are things that we are doing to fight violent crime in Canada. We have introduced a number of pieces of legislation. Any individual who commits a crime with a gun should receive a mandatory minimum sentence, which is exactly what we put in our tackling violent crimes legislation. Some would say that it should even be longer. Our legislation has mandatory minimum sentences of four years. If it is a gang-related gun activity, it will be five years.
I hear from some people who say that maybe we should have even longer sentences than that, but the bottom line is that, in Canada, if people commit a crime with a gun, they need to be in jail and there needs to be a minimum time that they are in jail. I am very proud that we have done that.
We have also introduced our safe streets and communities act, which is another good piece of legislation that would help us in tackling drug crime. The majority of the time, drugs, gangs and guns are completely inter-related and, sadly, when we are seeing crime in our city streets, so many times those three factors are part of it.
We have also brought in tougher bail provisions for those who use weapons in the commission of a crime. We have delivered mandatory minimum sentences for drive-by shootings and we are helping to stop crime before it happens. This includes investing in the youth gang prevention fund. Our government is very proud of that.
We have also delivered on our promise to provide more police officers across the country. Police officers come up in discussion so often and I am very happy that we have a very strong, open dialogue with the Canadian Association of Police. We talk to police chiefs across the country all the time. We meet with front-line officers who tell us that if we put someone in jail, we need to ensure they stay in jail. One of the most frustrating things for police officers is to arrest a drug dealer or arrest someone who has committed a crime with a gun and then they get out of jail before they do their time. I am very proud that we are doing that.
Ending the long gun registry is part of keeping the focus on making our streets safer, not on policies and laws that do not actually prevent crime. That is really the point we have been trying to make all of these years.
Another very interesting statistic on licensed gun owners in Canada, according to a Simon Fraser report by Professor Gary Mauser, is that if people have a licence to own a firearm in Canada, they are 50% less likely to ever commit a crime with a firearm.
It would be interesting to go around the chamber and each of us give thought to that. If there are licensed gun owners in the chamber today, they are 50% less likely to ever commit a crime with a firearm because they are law-abiding citizens. The reason the long gun registry has been so flawed is that it does so much to focus on them and to penalize them for being gun owners.
I now want to talk about the third myth that has been talked about a lot, even today it was talked about, and that is the ongoing cost to keep the long gun registry.
I think we all agree that it costs almost $2 billion to register just over seven million long guns. Right now, there are just over seven million long guns in the database, and that costs about $2 billion. We can all try to guess why. Only the Liberals would be able to tell us what was really going on during that time. We do not know. That was also during the time of some other scandals, and we are certainly concerned about where the $2 billion went.
There are at least 16 million long guns in Canada, which means that not even half of all the long guns are registered. Can members imagine the cost to register the other seven million to eight million long guns that are in the country, as well as trying to get this inaccurate information up to date? I cannot imagine, if we did not end the registry, the cost of trying to make it up to date, current and a database that could be counted on. I fear to think of what it might cost.
The Liberals said that it would cost $2 million and it cost $2 billion. Now they are throwing other figures around. We have heard $4 million. I really cannot count on any kind of Liberal or NDP figures.
As we look at the actual cost today, for example, if we look at the government estimates, it is costing about $22 million right now just for the federal government portion of the prohibited, restricted and non-prohibited, non-restricted firearms registry. That would be long guns, handguns and short guns. We know that the majority of those are the seven million long guns. We know that it is costing approximately $22 million right now.
When the Auditor General testified a few years ago, she talked a lot about hidden costs. Her estimation was probably around $70 million. From the work that we have done with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and in talking to other groups that are called upon to actually enforce the long gun registry, the municipal and provincial police who are not receiving any direct funding from any government but who must use their funding for their policing, the hidden costs that are being passed down to different agencies is huge. I would say that there is evidence that to maintain the long gun registry just as it is would probably be over $100 million a year. Then we would also have to talk about re-setting it up.
The bottom line is the cost. Some people say that it is $4 million and some say it is $100 million. I guess we could discuss it forever. We continue to stand with law-abiding citizens in saying that is money that could be spent elsewhere. I think all of us would have great examples of where it could be spent, on deterring crime, on prevention or on treatment. There are many great ways we could spend that money, other than on the long gun registry.
I am extremely pleased that the government bill includes the provision to destroy all of the records. That would have been the intent of the bill that I introduced but it was not laid out specifically. I am pleased that we were able to see it included in the bill that the government introduced.
The fact is that law-abiding gun owners should not have any of their information gathered and kept by any level of government once the long gun registry has ended. I am very pleased that we can look them in the eye and commit to them that their information will never be passed to any other level of government, any other party that would like to try to use it to create a registry, nor will not be passed to any polling group. That information will be destroyed and it will never return under our watch.
I am grateful for the men and women across this country who have stood with us, supported us, sent us emails of support and said that they will stand with us, as they have. Some of them helped us get more Conservatives elected to help get the majority in this House. I thank the men and women of Canada, hunters, farmers, sport shooters and their families who have stood with us. I am very proud that we are delivering on our commitment. We will end the long gun registry.
I call on all opposition members to look at the facts, do not look at this with emotion or political skew, and support this legislation to end the long gun registry.
Mr. Speaker, I have been involved with this file since I became the justice critic for my party in 2003, a little over eight and a half years ago. It is the one file that I can point to where there is very much misinformation, and I have to say that almost all of it is coming from the Conservative side of this chamber.
Any number of other countries have taken the same route that we have. Over a period of time, we have moved from total non-regulation of firearms to significant incursions into the right to own a firearm and how a firearm could be used. It has been a progression.
Today, if the bill becomes law, we wil be going through a regressive stage. It would be a regressive stage for this country and a regressive stage in the international arena.
I will start my comments today by describing how irresponsible this move by the government is on the international stage.
We have signed an international treaty through the United Nations that requires us, starting in 2012, to report annually all of the small firearms in the country. If the bill becomes law, we would have absolutely no way to meet that requirement. We have also signed an agreement with the Organization of American States that binds us, again, to issue a report each year on the number of small arms in the country. In both cases, this is an attempt by the international community, and I think a reasoned and progressive attempt, to bring the trade in small arms weaponry under control.
We see what happens when it gets out of control. We do not have to go off the continent; we simply have to look at the massacres occurring in Mexico at the current time. Weaponry is being smuggled in from the United States and, in one case, transferred by a government agency.
We are seeing regular massacres, but these weapons could be controlled. The United States has come online with the agreement and signed it, and so has Mexico. We are going to see some reasonable attempt to control the use of small arms on this continent because of these treaties.
However, we would not be part of that if the bill becomes law. Again, it is grossly irresponsible. I have yet to hear anything from the government as to how it is going to deal with this problem. The government not only would not keep the records, but it would totally destroy the records. There is absolutely no way we would be able to meet the international requirements that I assume we signed in good faith.
I will go on to what the member for terms the “myths” that have grown up around the gun registry.
It is false to attribute the figure of $2 billion entirely to the registration of long guns in this country. That is grossly overinflated. In 2006-07 the Auditor General had a figure of $900 million to develop not only the long gun registry but the registry of handguns and prohibited weapons and the licensing of individuals for the right to own a gun. It was a package. At that time the cost was around $900 million.
By 2010, that figure was moving toward about $1.2 billion.
The $2 billion figure actually comes from one of the proponents of this legislation from the Conservative side. He has, in effect, made up numbers, making some gross assumptions on police expenses for using the system. It is a fallacious type of analysis in terms of any meaningful economic analysis of the use of the system. That is where the figure comes from, and again, it is grossly fallacious in terms of what it has actually cost.
The said we cannot believe any figures, but I am prepared to believe the $4 million figure on what it is costing now on an annual basis. That figure came initially out of a report from the Auditor General. It was confirmed repeatedly in annual reports from the RCMP.
The parliamentary secretary sat in the same hearings I did over the last 18 months. She heard the RCMP officials give that figure on a repeated basis. She never was able to challenge them with regard to that $4 million figure, nor has anyone else. Officials know how the system works. They know how much it is costing, which is $4 million annually for the registration of long guns in this country. That is the current figure. That is all we are going to save if we get rid of the long gun registry, $4 million. The $4 million figure is from the RCMP, and it is valid. No one could challenge the RCMP on it at committee.
One of the costs the Conservatives never talk about is how much it is going to cost to destroy the records.
I spent a fair amount of time working with the people who work in the registry. They described to me what they are going to have to do. One of the costs in that $1.2 billion figure over the years occurred when we merged the two systems. We used to have one system of registration of handguns and prohibited weapons and another separate system for the long gun registry. We eventually merged them around 2005. As we were doing that, we created a single system. That is where some of the problems were: when we did that, we identified a number of dates of registration and other information, such as addresses, that were not correct. That situation has been progressively corrected over the last five years.
We merged those two. To now take them apart is going to require an estimated two to five persons per year for a two-year period, and it will cost millions of dollars, because we cannot just destroy the whole system, because doing so would destroy the registration of handguns and prohibited weapons. It would have to be done on an individual registration basis, and it is going to take that long and cost that much.