Thank you very much. Good morning.
Hello, Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen of the committee.
The organization “PolySeSouvient” is an informal group of students and graduates of the École Polytechnique, as well as survivors and families of the victims of the 1989 massacre at the Polytechnique. We also work with the families of victims of other gun killings.
I would like to mention the presence of Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the Polytechnique killings, and Serge St-Arneault, the brother of Annie, who was killed there. We are also joined by representatives of student associations, including Wendy Vasquez, President of the Quebec Confederation for Engineering Student Outreach, Jade Karim, Mobilization Coordinator of the Quebec Student Union, Manuel Klaassen, President of the Association des étudiants de Polytechnique, or Polytechnique student association, as well as a number of other students and graduates who are with them.
Our mission is simple: to reduce the number of deaths, injuries, and crimes committed with firearms. Having witnessed the human suffering that a single gun in the wrong hands can cause, we consider it our duty to make our voices heard in the public debate on gun control in order to defend everyone's right to life and safety.
Despite our strong criticism regarding its scope and its strength, we support Bill C-71. The measures contained in the bill will allow Canada to move forward by reversing some of the losses that occurred under the previous government, namely the requirement to verify the validity of a potential buyer's licence, and a reinstatement of sales records at commercial points of sale—in both cases, for non-restricted firearms.
Unfortunately, Bill C-71 is not a bold step. It barely fulfills the Liberal election promises, and it fails to address many flaws in the current law. For example, the Liberals promised to “repeal changes made by Bill C-42 that allow restricted...weapons to be freely transported without a permit”. However, before Bill C-42, authorizations to transport allowed the transportation of restricted weapons for very specific itineraries and even a period of time, for example, between a gun owner's home and the gun club of which he or she was a member. Bill C-71 does not reinstate this previous situation. In fact, the bill still allows the owner of a handgun to transport it between his home and any of the approved shooting clubs or ranges within the province, even if the person is not a member and the gun has no business being there.
The bill also does the minimum in terms of control on sales. If the goal is to support effective police work and deter illegal sales, Bill C-71 should have extended this requirement to private sales, as was recommended by the B.C. Task Force on Illegal Firearms. Since private sales are not included, opportunities for undetected diversions to the illegal market are still possible. For example, it will not be possible to track the future sale of any of the seven or eight million non-restricted firearms that are currently privately owned in Canada. At least in Quebec, more than a third of all transfers of non-restricted weapons in a year are between private individuals—one third.
Finally, the bill in no way addresses the legal availability of assault weapons, despite repeated warnings by the RCMP about their risk to public safety.
The intent of the 1991 and 1995 laws was to prohibit civilian versions of military weapons and large-capacity magazines, but because of the arbitrary nature of some of the criteria in the laws, the failure to update regulations meant to ban variants of prohibited weapons, loopholes, and unforseen market adaptations with respect to large-capacity magazines, it is today legal in Canada to own assault weapons for recreational purposes and to easily equip them with magazines that surpass the legal limit.
We hope that this committee will see fit to strengthen the legislation, and we hope that the Liberal government will also commit to further improvements beyond this bill.
My name is Michel LeRoux and I am Thierry's father, who was killed by a bullet on February 13, 2016, barely six months after joining the ranks of the Lac-Simon police. Thierry was confronted with an intoxicated, armed man who had a history of suicide attempts and whose guns had first been taken away from him, but to whom Thierry himself had returned those guns as ordered by his superior.
How can it be that an individual with that history was able to keep his gun licence, had his guns returned after they had been seized by police and, worse still, was able to obtain more guns, including an assault weapon?
It is unacceptable that such things happen in a country like ours, where owning a gun is not a right but a privilege, and where public safety is supposed to be the first priority. That tragic day changed our lives forever. Suffering, pain and tears are now part of our daily lives. My spouse Christine cannot get over it. My other son, Steffan, lost his brother and best friend. My grandson Charles-Antoine lost his beloved uncle. For all of us, life will never be the same. The people close to our family and I are counting on governments to study the circumstances that led to an avoidable death such as this and to make the necessary changes to prevent this from happening to others. Preventing any further victims is one of the few consolations that help ease the suffering of families such as mine. The people here in the room show that my family and I are not the only ones who have been through this.
Ladies and gentlemen of the committee, in its current form, the bill changes nothing whatsoever in the situation that led to Thierry's death. I understand that the law has to allow a measure of discretion. On the other hand, when the risk factors are so serious and obvious—such as a history of violence combined with suicidal tendencies, as in the case of my son's killer—, those persons should automatically be prohibited from owning a gun. That is already the case in certain states in the U.S.
Thierry's case is not an isolated one. Similar incidents have occurred because the law is too lenient. There are many ways of strengthening it, such as establishing criteria for an automatic ban or a list of criteria that can lead to a ban. As to my son's case, I would like a documented history of violence and suicide to be considered dangerous conduct that leads to automatic seizure of guns. Police officers like Thierry risk their lives every day. Of all the police officers killed in the line of duty, about nine out of ten are killed by a bullet. Like all citizens, they deserve protection against armed violence. I urge you to amend the bill so that my son Thierry did not die in vain.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting us here today. I am the President of the Centre culturel islamique, or Islamic cultural centre, which was founded in 1985. I have been in Canada for 50 years. I grew up in this peaceful, harmonious country, but in recent years, we have seen a change that is very dangerous to society, and I have witnessed it.
I have come here with brothers, one of whom was struck by bullets that went through his abdomen and hit his kidneys, and another one whose knee and toe were shattered by a bullet. Worse still, six people were killed and five injured, and we now have 17 orphans. We have a lot to say.
If there is one thing I want to ask of you today—just one thing—, it is that civilians should be prohibited from owning assault weapons. They are weapons of war intended to kill people and not for training or recreational shooting in the woods. In fact, we should also show our trees more respect and not shoot at them. We let people who are not in their right mind have weapons that are designed to kill, weapons of war, that should only be used by members of the military in accordance with the rules.
If that man had entered a shopping centre, as he had said, and had taken out his gun, there would have been a lot more victims. If his gun had not jammed when he wanted to kill the first two Guineans and he had killed them, he would have killed the 80 people there and would have gone up to the next floor to kill others. Please help us and help society by prohibiting these assault weapons and weapons of war in Canada. It is in the interests of all of society.
Allow me to introduce myself briefly. I am Alexandra Laberge and I am an elementary and high school teacher. I am a volunteer member and activist with the Fédération des femmes du Québec, the Quebec women's federation or FFQ, and co-chair of the working committee on feminism, the body, sexuality, image, gender, and violence.
I would like to use the privilege of officially representing the FFQ here today, and the voices of the women and girls of Quebec—and the voices of the women and girls of Canada as well, I hope—to remind the government that firearms issues are women's issues.
Women's struggle against firearms is historical, global, and legitimate since firearms are primarily owned by men who victimize and make women vulnerable by how they use them. Our struggle dates back long before 2012, when the previous government passed Bill .
In the years since then, we have suffered another affront as a result of Bill , in 2015. Women mobilized and the public statements, briefs and actions, as well as the heartfelt cries of women who have suffered as a result of these bills have finally been heard by a Liberal government that has promised reform to the women of this country. We are confident that this government has heard us since we represent half of Canada's population and are the targets of the bullets fired predominantly by men.
Unfortunately, we do not think Bill will adequately protect Canadian women and girls. In our opinion, the government could do better than this bill to improve the safety of women and girls in Canada. We would like to take this time today to remind you of what these women and girls have concluded and what has been shown by various authorities and women's groups. We would like to give you recommendations that are the result of these women's reflections, which we consider legitimate and feasible, in order to help preserve the safety of women and girls in Canada.
As a volunteer, and at the same time as my work as a teacher, I have studied more than a dozen briefs, reports, and written demands by women, yet I have looked only at what has been produced since 2012, and in French only. Supported by reliable sources and recognized bodies such as Statistics Canada and the RCMP, these women have done an outstanding job in order to be recognized once again in the government's decisions on firearms. I hope that these documents, which have been reported in the media and are readily accessible, have been read and studied, but I have not been able to look at everything that has been done elsewhere in Canada. We could rely on the data from Statistics Canada, which are quite telling, or other government platforms, but women always have to work extra hard to assert their rights and, nowadays, their safety. That is why the Quebec women's federation insists on honouring this work by raising the main points that these women have taken the time to identify and that we officially support.
All the written briefs point out that firearms are a women's issue. Let us not forget that firearms are primarily owned by men and that, although they make up the majority of victims of homicide statistically speaking, women should not suffer as a result of firearms or laws that make it easier for men to harm them.
The Coalition for Gun Control, reports, for instance, that although men are more frequently the victims of homicide, women are about three times more likely to be killed by their spouse.
Let us recall the discussion in 2015 surrounding Bill . More than 30 women's groups in Canada spoke out about the impact of Bill on the safety of women. Eighty-eight per cent of Canadian women were killed by a bullet that was fired by legally owned shotguns or rifles, the same weapons that some people do not consider to be the cause of gun violence.
Guns are fifth among the 18 main causes of death in domestic homicides.
Investigations of family violence, such as in the case of the children of Kasonde and Arlene May and the Vernon massacre, have shown the weaknesses of the old act. Changes to the current act have been recommended. Risk detection needs to be improved for gun licence applicants by using detailed questionnaires and requiring two references from the applicant, along with notification of the spouse. A gun registry should also be created because important information is missing from police databases.
Fifty per cent of domestic homicides end with the killer committing suicide, which shows that the key to protecting women and children is to thoroughly review gun licences and gun licence renewals. Eighty per cent of gun deaths in Canada are suicides which, for the most part, are committed by a rifle or hunting rifle that can be easily obtained.
In rural communities in western Canada, in particular, people are less in favour of gun control and the percentage of people with firearms licences is higher.
Women and children are especially vulnerable when there is a gun in the home. In Ontario, 55% of killers in cases of domestic violence had access to a firearm. The recent Small Arms Survey of 2013 studied the relationship between guns and domestic violence. It states among other things that while men account for the majority of victims and of those committing homicide using guns, the number of women killed, injured, and intimidated by guns in situations of spousal violence is significantly higher. Appendix D of the RCMP report states that some of those deaths could be prevented through stricter laws that prohibit persons found guilty of spousal violence from carrying a gun. Further, the report entitled “Homicide in Canada, 2011” shows that stricter firearms laws have protected women and children.
We agreed to appear today because we think the current government, through its actions and decisions, which support feminist policies, will finally consider the safety of women a top priority. We have chosen to take on this responsibility because what we are proposing will be analyzed by competent people and adopted for the safety of women in Canada.
We have two recommendations, which we are making jointly with “PolySeSouvient”.
The first is to prohibit anyone subject to a protection order from carrying a gun.
The second is to clearly prohibit anyone found guilty of spousal violence, rape or other sex crime from carrying a gun.
These recommendations would not eliminate gun violence against women, but our objective is more realistic. We are calling on the government to impose stricter regulations in order to reduce the number of women killed.
Carrying a gun is not a right; it is a privilege. It is logical and legitimate that people who are found guilty of a crime, especially crimes against women, should lose that privilege.
We want the government to take a clear stance on these two issues and show its support for the safety of women in Canada by adopting these two realistic and necessary recommendations.
In closing, we would like to mention the forgotten women and girls who suffer because of the right to carry a weapon, people who are not mentioned often enough and are never given the opportunity to be heard. According to Statistics Canada, indigenous women and girls have been forgotten for too long and suffer the consequences of guns more than non-indigenous members of both sexes combined.
The report entitled “Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile” shows that older women are also the victims of gun violence and are more likely than older men to be killed by a family member.
Finally, we must not forget transgender women, for whom no statistics are available as of yet.
In conclusion, I will draw a brief parallel with what is happening to women in the United States. Since the start of the year, there have been 22 school killings in the U.S. In Canada, we have also had our share of tragedies at educational institutions in which women were targeted in particular. Teachers, who are still part of a traditionally and primarily female profession, are offering an interesting perspective on women and men beyond the intimate sphere, the family, the public sphere or the workplace. Women are not safe because of the laws that allow people to own guns.
I'd like to begin by thanking all of the witnesses. We heard some very personal stories today, and I thank you for having taken the time to come and tell them. About PolySeSouvient, I was a student at Dawson College in 1989, and I also remember the tragedy at École Polytechnique very well. It is something I will always remember, and that I carry in my heart at all times. I know that you work very hard to keep that memory alive.
Mr. Benabdallah, from the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, I want to thank you, and I want to say Ramadan Mubarak. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to come and meet with us.
You all explained your positions very well, as well as what you would like to see in this bill. Personally, I receive many emails and letters from people who complain and ask questions about certain parts of the bill. Perhaps you can help me. I am going to explain these complaints that I receive, and perhaps you can tell me what you think of them.
One promise I heard a lot about was that the RCMP again be made responsible for the classification of weapons.
I am going to continue in English because it's a little easier for me.
Removing the Governor in Council override of firearms classifications is something that has been raised as a concern. I was wondering what your thoughts are about putting that back in the hands of the RCMP.
We will begin with Ms. Rathjen, from the PolySeSouvient organization.
I thank all of you for being here today. It is already difficult to fight for a cause, and having to relive horrible tragedies like yours requires even more courage. And so I thank you sincerely for being here with us.
Last week, following Minister testimony on this bill, I questioned him about an issue which is important to you today, that is to say the definitions that lead to firearms classification by the RCMP. I think that in the debate surrounding this issue, we have skipped one step. Like you, I am in favour of giving that power back to the RCMP, and of withdrawing the right of veto, to call it that, from the cabinet—simply because such decisions should not be taken by politicians of any party.
That being said, I'd like to hear your opinion on the issue of definitions. I would like to know if generally, you are in favour of revising those definitions. This would help guarantee public safety, which is your goal.
I would also like to know how long it has been since these firearms definitions that are to be included in the law were updated.
In reply to that question, if it were put to the Muslims of the city of Quebec, who recently had to deal with this situation, I would say that the classification is important to technicians in that field. You are asking us about that, and some people might reply in a more detailed manner, but for my part, I would like to ask you another question.
Do the politicians around this table take to heart the governance of the country? Do they care about getting a peaceful country that is recognized as such globally back on its rails? Do they care about protecting people?
If that is the case, what is preventing you from focusing solely on what we are asking for, as people who had to go through these events, and on behalf of all Canadian citizens? We have met with people, and everyone we met was astounded to learn that that individual owned an assault weapon.
Could you, as politicians, act in a concerted manner, unanimously, and set aside your political differences to see to it that these assault weapons are banned? We would at least have gained one thing. The entire Canadian nation would applaud you. Beyond definitions and classifications, we are talking about weapons of war that kill. What other classification could we adopt?
Please, be unanimous, be good. Please take to heart the desire that the country stand tall and not feel obliged to imitate its neighbour, and believe that the country wants to regain a certain pride; when they travel, Canadian citizens want to hear that they belong to the most peaceful country in the world.
Personnaly, I travel to various parts of the world. While I was with the Institut de l'énergie et de l'environnement de la Francophonie, I travelled to all of the francophone countries. When I go back there, what I am going to say to those people? That we are killing people in Canada with assault weapons, war weapons that are readily available on our markets?
Is this not a shameful thing for our Canadian nation?
I think that you, politicians and political officials, are responsible for banishing these weapons, so that we can really say that Canada is standing tall, despite political allegiances with neighbouring countries, or with other countries that have not banished these weapons.
Forgive me for speaking at some length, but beyond these definitions, I wanted to send out this call to all of you who are here today.
I thank you for having given me this opportunity to speak. I am going to keep trying until I succeed, inch Allah, God willing.
Good afternoon Mr. Chair, and members of the committee. Thank you for inviting me to speak today.
My name is Alison Irons. I'm the mother of Lindsay Margaret Wilson who, at the age of 26, was stalked and murdered by shotgun by her ex-boyfriend on April 5, 2013, in Bracebridge, Ontario, two weeks before completing her graduating semester at Nipissing University.
My daughter's killer drove from Kingston earlier that week and followed her car from her tiny campus to discover where she was living. The day of her murder, he drove up again, followed her, and hid behind the house. He took four videos of himself on his phone preparing to kill her, and waited until she emerged from the house. He confronted her in the driveway and shot her while she bargained for her life, with pellets and slugs from one of the two long guns he took with him to ensure that he got the job done. He then took his own life.
She was conscious for a few moments, but in no pain, and told EMS that she knew she was dying. Imagine living with that as a parent. Mortally wounded, she didn't know that her murderer had killed himself beside her. She died about 20 minutes later at the Bracebridge hospital.
According to the pathologist, there was extensive internal injury to my daughter's heart and lungs. Her killer knew what he was doing. I'll tell you, as an ex-RCMP officer myself, that this is a lethal target known as centre body mass. Her right shoulder was fractured, five ribs were shattered to pieces. Her left forearm was completely fractured and left hanging by a thread, with what the pathologist called an avulsion of most of her left forearm, likely a defensive wound.
She had minor gunshot wounds to the back of her head, likely from the first shot spinning her body around, and stippling wounds to the lower part of her beautiful face. I'm grateful to the pathologist's staff for concealing these facial injuries with makeup, so that I could kiss my daughter goodbye for the last time.
I don't apologize for being graphic about my daughter's injuries. This is what guns do in the hands of the wrong people.
My daughter met her killer sometime in 2009 or 2010. He hid his criminal past from her and had plausible explanations for why he, as an adult, was living with his parents and seemed to have no real job prospects or tangible income. He was charming, articulate, clean-cut looking, and a recreational hunter.
There was no violence in their relationship, although he could be controlling and manipulative. She left him for the first time in 2011 when she caught him drug dealing. He successfully lured her back with false promises of change, but a year later she caught him drug dealing again.
In 2012, she was devastated when he contracted meningitis and nearly died. She thought that his illness was her fault for having left him. When he survived, she, as a person trained in disability support and out of her sense of guilt, tried to help his recovery, but by Christmas the same manipulative, controlling behaviours recurred, and she severed all contact. He stalked her and murdered her three months later.
As a career-long investigator, I researched his history. He had concealed from my daughter that in 2000 he was arrested by one police force for drug trafficking. Seven days later, he and another male kidnapped a third male from a residence over what Kingston Police believe to have been a drug deal gone wrong. They bundled the victim into a car, drove him off down a secondary highway, while one of the two beat him up in the car. He escaped by rolling out of the moving car onto the side of the highway, where he was rescued by a passerby, and taken to police. Had he not done so, who knows if the victim would have been murdered.
My daughter's killer and the other kidnapper were charged with approximately five offences including forcible confinement, assault, threatening, and at least a couple of other charges, which Kingston Police told me were related to drugs. Through an apparent plea bargain, he was convicted in 2002 of only forcible confinement and assault, through summary conviction. The previous drug trafficking charge was withdrawn. His only sentence was two years' probation.
Immediately upon completing his probation in 2004, he applied for and was granted a possession and acquisition licence. He privately purchased several guns, one of which was the gun he used later to murder my daughter in 2013. Through my own sources, I learned he had been extensively interviewed about his PAL application under the self-reporting model. This meant that he had been red-flagged in the Canadian firearms information system, what is known as a stage A failure, but this flag was then discretionarily overridden in order to grant him the gun licence.
Before he met my daughter, and again concealed from her, he was warned by a person in authority, apparently due to a domestic violence incident, that if he didn't obtain a pardon for these prior convictions, his PAL would not be renewed. Although this incident is recorded in the Canadian firearms information system, it wasn't coded by police in such a way as to precipitate a firearms hit or trigger a review or revocation of his licensing. Yet this warning suggests to me that his licence should never have been granted in the first place. CFIS also contained a conviction for impaired driving.
As Lindsay's mother I ask you how someone with adult criminal convictions for forcible confinement and assault related to drug trafficking, as well as an impaired driving conviction and a CFIS entry for a domestic violence incident could ever get a gun licence in Canada. How does our gun licensing system fail to properly take into account and weigh the actual context of someone's convictions and other CPIC or CFIS history before granting them a licence? Did he obtain the PAL and the guns for hunting, as he likely purported on his application, or did he obtain them to protect his apparently ongoing drug-dealing career over 13 years?
Our gun licensing system and process, particularly in the area of background checks, definition and validation of references, treatment of criminal offences, and the apparent broad discretion to override stage A failures or red flags, clearly failed my daughter. Please don't tell me that he just fell through the cracks.
Justin Bourque killed three Mounties in New Brunswick using legally acquired guns. Alexandre Bissonnette killed six people at a Quebec City mosque using legally acquired guns. Mayor Tory of Toronto has recently written to the minister for help since, due to tighter border controls limiting the smuggling of illegal guns into Canada, trafficking in legally acquired domestic guns to criminals and gangs is on the rise.
Since we couldn't even protect my daughter, we cannot say that bills such as the former and protect Canadians from terrorist acts, mass shootings, or lone wolf gunmen like the one who killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo on Parliament Hill, if we do not correspondingly review and begin to strengthen our gun legislation, regulations, policies, processes, and systems and close the gaps.
In the case of an applicant with convictions for personal violence, especially when related to other serious crimes such as drug trafficking, background checks must be more comprehensive and must consider the applicant's adult lifetime criminal history and the context of any crimes of personal violence. Definition of appropriate references for PAL applications must be more stringent and should not include immediate family members or those with a criminal record. All references for those with a criminal record for personal violence should be validated as to suitability, CPIC and CFIS checked, and contacted. An appropriate level of skilled resources should be in place to ensure that more comprehensive background and reference checks can be conducted.
Do I have just one minute more?
Good afternoon, members of the committee. I thank you very much for your invitation to come to speak to you about firearms control in the context of suicide prevention.
I am the director of the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide. The AQPS is a community organization that aims to promote and develop suicide prevention on the territory of Quebec. More specifically, we work to raise awareness among the population, and we make representations to elected officials so that measures are put forward and implemented to support suicide prevention. We also want to mobilize citizens and encourage them to take a position and rally in favour of this cause. In addition, we offer various training products developed for citizens, as well as for those who work in suicide prevention, and health professionals.
I will say from the outset that we have on several occasions expressed our position, which is in favour of better gun control. We in fact spoke out against the abolition of the federal long-gun registry in 2011. There are many studies that show that a series of measures to control firearms have a positive effect on reducing the suicide rate. I'll get back to that. In our opinion, Bill represents a step in the right direction, but we think that some of its provisions should be strengthened.
I'll say a few words about the state of suicide in Canada and Quebec. On this day alone, 11 people will commit suicide au Canada. In Quebec, there are 1,100 deaths by suicide annually. Among these, more than 125 are committed with firearms. There are 4,000 suicides in Canada each year and 1,000 of these take place in Quebec; that's a lot. Although there was a significant drop in the number of suicides in Quebec at the beginning of the decade, our society has not made any significant progress on this issue for close to 10 years.
As for those who are vulnerable to suicide, you must know that the suicidal person has not formally decided to commit suicide. Not only is his vision of things clouded by the suffering that he wants to put an end to, but he is ambivalent about his death up to the very last minute. That is why the method chosen by the suicidal person is so important, because the longer he or she delays, the more time there is for him to change his mind and obtain help. For each person who dies by suicide, we estimate that between 25 and 30 people make a suicide attempt that is not completed. If people do not complete the act, it is not because they are unable to commit suicide, but because they change their mind along the way.
Unfortunately, firearms are extremely lethal—their success rate is 96%—and that means that only very rarely does the suicidal person get a second chance. The firearm amplifies the impulsivity of the gesture and gives very little time to the person's friends or family members, to first responders or police officers, to intervene effectively and save the person's life. Statistical analysis and research shows that 80% of deaths by firearm are suicides. The weapons used are mainly non-restricted weapons, rifles or long guns. In 50% of suicides, less than 10 minutes go by between the beginning of the crisis situation and the suicidal act. When a vulnerable individual is in crisis, if he has easy and immediate access to a lethal weapon, the risk of suicide is much higher.
The risk of suicide is five times higher in homes where there are weapons. Hunting rifles are the most common type of firearm that is found in homes, and a large proportion of suicides using firearms are committed with a weapon the person does not own. It is recognized that deaths related to firearms constitute a major public health issue, and statistics show that in countries that have stricter firearms control, the rate of suicide using firearms is lower than the rate in countries that do not have such controls.
However, suicides can be prevented, and in order to reduce their number, it is necessary to implement a series of measures which, when applied simultaneously, create a context that is favourable to the prevention of suicide. According to the World Health Organization, reducing access to the means to commit suicide, such as firearms, is considered one of the most effective ways.
In order to control firearms effectively, those who own firearms must have a permit issued following a safety investigation. That is currently the case in Canada. We must also educate owners with regard to the safe storage of their firearms and the risks related to them. We can also say that that is the case in Canada. However, when we realize that one third of suicides with weapons are not committed by the firearms owner, we see that there are still some important gaps with regard to safe storage. The firearms also have to be registered. Registration is important because it facilitates the work of police officers and responders when they know that a person is in crisis and is thinking of suicide, and they can protect him against himself.
Currently, in Canada, there is no way of knowing how many weapons a distressed person may have in his possession. In order to ensure the safety of the occupants of a home, police officers have to have that information. This allows them to identify the legal owners, facilitates the traceability of weapons, and makes the owners more accountable.
Here is some conclusive data on the effectiveness of firearms registries.
According to the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, between 1998 and 2011, the years when the Canadian long-gun registry was in effect, the number of suicides by firearm in Quebec went from 283 to 131, annually. That is a 53% drop. There was no substitution by other means noted either, since the number of suicides using all other means besides firearms also declined. That is 150 fewer suicides using firearms per year. There was a lot of talk about the cost of the registry, but the cost of suicide is also high for Canadian society. Studies assess the cost of a suicide to be between $600,000 and $1 million for the community.
We believe Bill should be amended in order to tighten eligibility criteria and strengthen background checks of individuals seeking to obtain, renew or maintain permits in their possession; include notification of upcoming purchases in the new monitoring procedures for non-restricted weapons; allow easy and quick access by police officers to data on arms sales without procedural obstacles, such as having to obtain a court order; reintroduce permits for the transport of restricted weapons so that they specify the exact locations where the presence of such weapons is permitted; prohibit assault weapons; revise provisions regarding large-capacity magazines so as to impose a real five- or ten-cartridge limit on non-restricted and restricted firearms; and eliminate loopholes and prohibit firearms that can easily be modified to get around the legal limit. In these ways, we fully support the recommendations of PolySeSouvient.
In conclusion, suicide is a preventable cause of death. It's not a random fact that the number of suicides in Quebec decreased by close to a third between 2000 and 2008. That important decline can be explained by the combined effect of a number of measures, including increased control of access to firearms. The decline in the number of suicides using firearms demonstrates that clearly.
Hundreds of Quebeckers and Canadians who seriously considered suicide are still alive today and happy to be alive, because in a moment of despair, they did not have access to this way of committing an irreparable act.
I need to think about my answer for a moment.
I think part of that argument is that the gun lobby in Canada, as it were—or whatever you would like to call it—is arguing that this is about taking away guns from law-abiding citizens and it's also about bringing back the former long-gun registry. I've not heard anywhere that's in fact the intent.
For example, in my daughter's case, without any tracking of that firearm.... In fact, remember that he took two firearms with him. He lived in a house that he shared with his parents. When he acquired those guns, he and the seller failed to record any transfer in the gun system, which they were supposed to do. That gun, had he not been captured at the time or had he not killed himself, could not have been attributed to anybody in that household. Had he lived, that means it would have been almost impossible to determine who should have been charged as the owner of that firearm.
Again, I had to think through my answer, and it's perhaps not the best I could give. I've always thought that if there were no way of tracking that firearm whatsoever, we couldn't link it in some cases—especially in a larger household or some sort of communal living—to who was responsible, as the owner of that gun.
Having worked in government most of my career, one of the things I do know is that a bill is a bill and what flows from the bill are the regulations, the policies and the processes to implement and support the bill. To me, the bill alone, when it refers, for example, to background checks, is only the first step. There is work to be done on how that bill is then to be implemented.
I do remember many occasions in my government career where the government would pass a bill and, we used to use the line, “chuck it over the fence” for the public servants to then figure out how to implement. I think it's too narrow to say, “Will the bill do this and will the the bill do that?”
However, my personal bias is that for somebody with a criminal record such as my daughter's killer concealed from her, where there was a crime of serious personal violence that got plea-bargained down to a much lesser offence, when combined with something, as you've mentioned, like drug trafficking, first of all, there should be no discretion under the stage A failure for the CFO to override that.
As far as I can tell...and, again, because of privacy law in Ontario and in many other provinces, I wasn't able to obtain the records on what else was done to check his background except to interview him. I wasn't able to find out whether his references were his mother or his best friend who had a history for domestic violence, but I do know from speaking to the police officer who arrested him in that kidnapping that they were never contacted by the CFO and they were shocked that nobody had contacted them to find out the context of those offences. I might add, they were more shocked to find out that he then used that firearm to kill my daughter.