We have two motions on the issue of extremist travellers. I believe this is simply a stunt by the opposition and I'll say why that's the case.
The women and men of our security agencies take all potential threats very seriously and they have full tool kits at their disposal. Some of these measures include surveillance, the no-fly list, revocation of passports, and most importantly the laying of criminal charges where sufficient evidence exists. These women and men are doing their work despite cuts of over $1 billion sustained under the Harper government. They actively pursue investigations and lay charges again where evidence exists.
Since we took office, there were two returnees who have been charged with leaving Canada to participate in terrorist activity. None were charged under the previous government, so I think it's a bit rich for the opposition to even bring these two motions.
There are two components to making sure that we keep the terrorist threat at bay and this government is deeply committed to both of those avenues. The first one is to support community-based prevention and disengagement programs. The second, and often most important one, is the security and law enforcement agencies' tool kits, which they're using, as I mentioned, actively. That includes surveillance and criminal charges.
For these reasons, I'd like to vote against both of those motions.
Thank you to the committee for inviting us to contribute to the discussion around Bill .
As the committee is aware, we represent the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights. What is significant about that is that the CCFR is primarily a public relations organization. We represent thousands of highly compliant, continuously vetted individual Canadians who are frustrated with being continually punished for no valid reason.
We are being punished by pointless and ineffective regulations, nonsensical and arbitrary requirements, and vilification by the government and media without end.
Consider this: what force would drive your neighbours, your friends, the mechanic who works on your car, an MP, to support, fund, and maybe even volunteer in an organization like ours? The answer to that is the government irresponsibly using its power to implement irrational and political solutions to very complex societal problems and alleged solutions like Bill .
The bill itself we consider to be a disaster. It breaks the Liberal's promise of no new long-gun registry. In response they intend to build an entirely new long-gun registry, up to but excluding the serial number and the description of the firearm that's being transferred. The last time they went down this road it cost the taxpayer over $2 billion. Here we go again.
The private transfer of a firearm post Bill would consist of a process that records everything about the transfer, including a mandatory approval by the firearms program to transfer that firearm, and the issuance of a reference number. The reference number is essentially a database record number. Although it would be missing from this registry, two additional fields are in the registry, the serial number and the description of the firearm, as I mentioned. I would be completely confident that a few extra fields would be built in for future expansion should the political climate become more permissive later.
Regardless, it's a registry and it has everything to do with firearms.
I'll mention one more thing on this topic. This entire structure and the obligations that it foists upon million of gun owners who haven't done anything wrong to deserve this extra regulation has been billed simply as verifying a licence before a transfer. It certainly sounds reasonable and inexpensive but it's neither. It is grossly misleading; that statement in particular.
Another bizarre measure in Bill is the revocation of the long-term authorization to transport, the ATT, needed for a licensed gun owner to take their handgun to a gunsmith to have it serviced, for example. It's not that this activity is no longer acceptable, it absolutely is, but under this bill, the owner would need a short-term ATT, which requires a request to the Firearms Centre, processing, a bureaucratic approval, and mailing a piece of paper, which is physically carried by the owner to the gunsmith. This needs to be done every time.
Now remember, this is a licensed gun owner, whom the government has vetted and checks for criminal activity every day. This is a gun owner about whom the government says, that's okay, they can possess unlimited handguns and unlimited ammunition. They can drive to and from the range and wherever else is approved. But unless they had this special permission slip they can't go to the gunsmith because I guess the implication is they'll probably engage in some kind of gang activity or sell their firearm to a criminal.
I wonder what gang member or domestic abuser calls the Firearms Centre for an ATT before transporting their firearm to a crime scene. I'm sure we don't have any numbers on that.
This measure is ridiculously wasteful and is completely ineffective in changing the behaviour of criminals. I was under the impression that this bill was to reduce the criminal use of firearms.
One of the worst provisions in this bill is giving unalterable authority to the RCMP to classify firearms. As it is now, the RCMP is doing this work. If a mistake or an abuse of that authority is committed then elected representatives can overrule them and correct the situation. The difference post Bill is that should this situation occur no procedural recourse can be taken, none at all.
The minister has rejected this uncomplicated and completely valid criticism by claiming that definitions are defined in legislation, and that the RCMP are merely following instructions. The reality is very different. It's putting the RCMP in a situation where they can determine what possessions are illegal or legal. That same group will enforce their decisions. That in itself is antithetical to how our entire system works and for good reason.
The existing criteria is so horribly written that almost anything could be classified prohibited. We have seen that several times already.
Without very careful consideration of all aspects of this part of the bill, this could be a real problem for everyone.
I'd like to turn the rest of our time over to Ms. Wilson.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and committee members. My name is Tracey Wilson and I am an avid hunter, sport shooter, mother, and grandmother.
I've been monitoring the committee hearings for Bill so far, and there seems to be a significant emphasis on domestic violence and the safety of women. Something I've heard repeatedly or in different variations are statements like “based on my research” or “in my experience”, and then a percentage figure, like 26% or 32% or 66%, is thrown out.
The CCFR is a group that uses fact in its arguments. That's one of the reasons we enjoy so much support. We don't exaggerate data or fill the room with people holding signs to fool or guilt people into agreeing with our opinions. We don't think that is a responsible way to contribute to policy development.
The first thing I want to establish is that gun owners are, overwhelmingly, great people. We are highly vetted. We are monitored daily for criminal behaviour. We are also people who want Canadians to be safe, and we want women to be safe. This idea that if we don't agree with someone's bad policy suggestions somehow we don't want women to be safe needs to stop. It's divisive and it leads to bad policies.
The CCFR uses the Canadian government's own numbers to support virtually all of its positions. To cut straight to it, StatsCan reports consistently that less than 1% of all police-reported incidents of domestic violence have a firearm present. As I've said before on this topic, the StatsCan definition of firearm present could be a firearm in a safe or in another room or simply at the address of the incident. So what is the real number? How many licensed gun owners are threatening their partners with guns? Is it one-tenth of one-tenth of one per cent? Ninety-nine point nine nine per cent of gun owners are not involved in this type of behaviour, and our position is that they need not to be punished for the acts of a handful of people who are already breaking the existing law. No group of Canadians other than the millions of gun owners in this country is forced to wear the collective guilt for crimes committed by the very few.
Right now, if a woman feels threatened, she can call in a safety concern to the Canadian firearms program. There's a 1-800 number for that, and action is taken. Call your local RCMP detachment and tell them that your partner is threatening you with a firearm and see what kind of follow-up happens.
By the way, if the existing system is not working, then the answer isn't to create more regulations to not be implemented. If you truly want to make women safer, have resources to support women who are in abusive relationships. It's as simple as that. That is where resources need to be allocated. Bill doesn't make women safer, and if the government had a bill that did, we would be happy to support it.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, for inviting us to appear before you today.
My name is Steve Torino. I'm president of Canadian Shooting Sports Association. From 1996 to 2006 I chaired the national advisory committee on firearms to the ministers of justice for the Liberal government. From 2006 to 2014 I chaired the committee for the Conservative government.
I'd like to start with some comments, please.
On the subject of lifetime background checks, as far as our members are concerned, it seems unnecessary and counterproductive to mandate verifications going back to an applicant's distant past, covering past job changes, relationship changes, long-past health issues, even school issues, etc., to determine an applicant's fitness to possess a licence. In 2016 there were over 406,000 licences issued, new and renewal, and 771 were refused, representing 0.018%. Most of these were court-ordered. A grand total of 36 were due to domestic violence. It seems clear that the five-year investigation framework in the current law is producing the desired results of screening out who should not have a licence. We believe that an investigation based on lifetime events will not produce additional tangible benefits. Licence revocations appear to follow the same trend.
Our concerns with the section dealing with lifetime background checks involve the criteria for the information being checked and the training of those who will check it. Are we being screened for any violence issues only? Do we have to divulge any time in our lives when we lost a job? The current questions ask for this for only the last five years. Does the information being collected actually matter, and when can we expect to see changes? What's the training for those people who will evaluate the information? Who actually evaluates the information? What training do they have to make judgment calls regarding an individual's suitability to own firearms? There's the lack of an appeal process. There's no answer to that, at this point. The additional time and costs associated with such investigations will be prohibitive. Such resources, in our opinion, would be much better utilized in other more needy areas, such as the pursuit of those criminals discussed in the 's recent guns and gangs symposium.
On the subject of licence verification, the Bill requirement, minus the requirement for a reference number, is merely codifying existing practice. Firearms owners have been verifying licences before doing a transfer, without question. We have never heard of a case where that has not happened. However, the reference number requirement can and will pose some significant issues for compliance. Gun shows, estate sales where the executor does not possess a firearms licence, private sales in remote areas and at odd times without access to 24-7 services, and verification for any loaned firearm at any time come to mind. When current verification methods, diligently adhered to, have had positive results, the necessity of this new requirement seems another restriction on lawful firearms owners. This will have no effect on the criminal possession and illicit movement of firearms.
The licence verification process is basically a registry—not of guns, but of the activity of firearms owners. The proof of this is the multiple verifications done at the same time if more than one firearm is being transferred. If the purpose of this is to check and verify the firearms licence, why do both the seller and buyer have to enter their licences?
With regard to business records, as far as we're concerned, the requirement for detailed recording of all firearms transactions appears to be a return to the registry that was cancelled in 2012. When this is combined with the information required for a licence verification for individuals, it is remarkably close to the cancelled long-gun registry. That is something this government has steadfastly claimed will not happen, yet it appears to be returning to that.
On the subject of new classification categories, all existing classifications have a reason for being. For example, subsection 12(3) is the category for converted fully automatic firearms. This is similar to all existing categories, from subsections 12(2) to (7).
What makes proposed subsections 12(11) and (14) so unique is that both categories prohibit currently legal firearms for no reason. Has the application of Canadian law gotten to this level that property can be confiscated without even the courtesy of a valid reason? Confiscation, in our opinion, is really what this is. At the time a person dies, if there's no one left to acquire this firearm, the government has to pick it up. There is no real means to give any compensation to the estate, to the widow, or whoever it happens to be.
I'll turn over the rest of this presentation to my colleague, Mr. Bernardo.
I'm Tony Bernardo. I'm the executive director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association. I'm a member of the Canadian firearms advisory committee, from Anne McLellan to Steven Blaney continuously and a member of Anne McLellan's firearms experts technical committee.
I'd like to speak about the removal of the Governor in Council ability to declare a firearm to be non-restricted. The removal of the RCMP mistake eraser, the section of the Firearms Act that currently allows the minister to override a bad classification decision, implies that the RCMP has never made a mistake. It also implies the Government of Canada has never made a mistake. Our community wishes this were indeed true, but the RCMP has a long history of making mistakes regarding classifications.
One of the firearms currently being prohibited in Bill is the subject of a long history of mistakes made by the experts in firearms classifications. The CZ 858 rifle was initially brought into Canada in 2004. The RCMP experts gave it a classification of non-restricted. In 2014, after almost 10,000 rifles had been sold as non-restricted firearms, the RCMP changed their mind. They reclassified all the rifles sold between 2007 and 2014 as prohibited 12-3 converted fully automatic rifles, despite the rifles being absolutely mechanically identical to the 2004 to 2007 examples.
After the public safety minister of the previous administration corrected this regrettable action by the RCMP using the mistake eraser, Bill seeks to eliminate that they did not relent to the will of their political masters, but incorrectly interpreted an import identical to the models reclassified as non-restricted to be a new model because it had an image of a Greek warrior engraved on the receiver cover, a non-restricted part, similar to putting a racing stripe on a car. Mechanically, they were identical.
Not once, not twice, but three times the RCMP classified the same gun three different ways. When you thought it couldn't get worse, we now have the same firearm being classified as 12-11. According to the news release by Public Safety Canada, the new legislation proposes to “Ensure the impartial, professional, accurate and consistent classification of firearms as either 'non-restricted' 'restricted' or 'prohibited' - by restoring a system in which Parliament defines the classes but entrusts experts in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to classify firearms, without political influence”.
The RCMP experts said they were 12-3 prohibited, but now they aren't. Now they're 12-11. Since the guns didn't change, we have to wonder what the new classification is about. The answer to this is self-evident. To retain the firearms as 12-3 would mean they would have to be confiscated immediately, and it's politically unpopular to confiscate lawfully owned property. To confiscate lawfully owned property would require compensation be paid to the tune of $14.6 million. To grandfather existing owners into 12-3 would then mean that the new additions would be able to buy other 12-3s, and that wasn't popular either.
If the firearms were grandfathered in 12-3, existing owners would not be permitted to shoot them. That would also be politically unpopular, so the question is answered. Every single one of these points is based upon its politics. The CZ 858 is no longer a 12-3 like the RCMP experts claimed, nor the non-restricted firearm that the RCMP experts claimed before, but it's now a 12-11, as proclaimed by the current government. Since the guns didn't change, and the RCMP didn't change, it seems obvious the changes to 12-11 are solely politically based, the very issue Public Safety Canada claims Bill is intended to prevent.
If these firearms are as dangerous as is claimed, how come people have been allowed to keep them for decades? There are somewhere around 10,000 firearms. If they're that dangerous, why are the owners being allowed to grandfather them?
To close on this subject, why was the ability to restrict or prohibit firearms not removed? The minister could wield the power, but only in one direction, only to make it more restrictive, not to make it less so.
“Government should base their policies on facts, not make up facts based on policy. Without evidence, government makes arbitrary decisions that have the potential to negatively affect the daily lives of Canadians.” That's a quote from the Liberal Party policy document used in the last election.
There is no proof that anything is wrong with authorizations to transport. There have been no incidents. Why are we now seeing these particular authorizations to transport hatcheted like they are?
Why can't people take the firearm to a gun store to sell it? They can bring one home from the gun store, so it's not the distance that's the problem. They can go from Cornwall to Kenora with 24 hours of non-stop driving, shoot in a match for a week, and then drive back. That's legal, but they can't take it across the road to the gunsmith.
In closing, I'd like to invite all of you to the parliamentary day at the range on June 5. It is a non-partisan event. There are no politics. There are no cameras. There's just a whole lot of information, and you get to try these firearms that you are currently prohibiting and compare them to other ones that are out there. We'd love to have you come. We have lots of one-on-one coaches. It's a very safe event. This is our seventh year, and it's open to all parties.
Thank you for being here.
I want to pick up on a question that my colleague, Mr. Picard, asked about carry and conceal. This question is for you, Mr. Giltaca. I noted on your website, you talk about gun possession as a right. I wanted to just look at that for a moment. You talk about the merits of carry and conceal—actually before I go on, I take it that because gun ownership is a right, it therefore justifies carry and conceal. On your website, it's mentioned that one of the benefits of carry and conceal is the defence of property. To me, that says that's a public safety concern, and from that I take it that you think carry and conceal is a way to increase public safety.
You are nodding, so I take that to be yes.
In light of what's been taking place in the U.S. in recent months...and years in fact, Canadians are very concerned about school shootings. This is top of mind for many parents in our country. I wonder if you would favour teachers being armed in a classroom, as a way of ensuring school safety.
Thanks very much. My name's Wendy Cukier and I'm the President of the Coalition for Gun Control. I appreciate your giving me the time to appear before you today.
I have provided a brief in both French and English. Rather than walking through the entire document, I'd just like to highlight a few key points.
The first point that is important to emphasize is that the Coalition for Gun Control was founded in 1991 and is focused on reducing gun death, injury, and crime. I say that because, as many of you know, when we look at the misuse of firearms it extends far beyond gangs and guns. Certainly, gang-related violence is a problem in big cities, but as you will have heard from many groups focused on domestic violence, the role of firearms in domestic violence is a huge issue for women's shelters across the country.
You've heard from the Canadian Paediatric Society that the misuse of guns has a particular toll, not just in terms of death but also injury. From groups like the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, and others, you've heard that the number one cause of firearms death in this country is actually suicide. From our perspective, strong and effective gun control regulation is a critical part of a crime prevention strategy, but it's also a critical part of a suicide prevention strategy, and of any strategy that is attempting to address issues around violence against women, or indeed radicalization and political violence. How we define the issue is important.
Many Canadians take pride in the fact that the rates of gun injury, death, and crime in Canada are much lower than in the United States. It was ironic that we saw Canadians across the country join in solidarity with the March for Our Lives in the U.S. to ban the AR-15 there, yet we've just heard that in Canada it's sold as a restricted firearm. Many Canadians don't know a lot about how our gun laws actually compare to those in the United States. They certainly don't know that currently most U.S. states have better controls over the sales and traceability of rifles, shotguns, and unrestricted weapons than we now do in Canada. Most Canadians, when asked, support stronger gun laws. We've provided a recent poll in the brief, but the polls are consistent.
What's also interesting is that this is without question a gendered issue. While polls will show that the majority of gun owners may oppose certain kinds of firearms regulation, the majority of people living with gun owners support them. In those very rural communities where people are very concerned about the opinions of gun owners, it's important to underscore the fact that there are many people living with gun owners who actually support stronger gun laws. The gender splits on this issue are quite clear.
The other thing that is important to emphasize is that in much of the discussion around firearms control, it has been presented as an urban issue, with the elites imposing their will on law-abiding gun owners in rural areas. However, if you actually look at the data, the rates of gun death and injury in rural communities in the west are much higher than in the cities. Rates of women and their children being threatened with guns in domestic violence are higher in rural areas. Rates of suicide, particularly among youth, are higher in rural areas. The rates at which police officers are shot and killed are higher in rural areas and in the police services that operate there. The guns that are typically used in those environments are rifles and shotguns, which are currently sold as unrestricted weapons.
The other piece that I think we need to be attentive to just as background to this issue is the sources of guns that are misused. When we look at rural communities, when we look at the west, when we look at, for example, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, and so forth, what you will see is a predominance of unrestricted rifles and shotguns, especially in domestic violence, suicide and the murders of police officers, and many of those guns are legally owned.
On the other hand, when we look at gang-related violence in big cities it's no surprise that handguns are the firearms most often used. One of the very troubling trends that we have seen in recent years, which we would say is a direct result of the relaxation of controls over the sales of firearms, and particularly restricted and prohibited weapons, is, first of all, a doubling of restricted and prohibited weapons. There are now more than a million in Canada. They're supposed to be restricted and prohibited because they're considered to represent a greater risk than other sorts of guns. But the other phenomenon, which you may have heard about from other witnesses, is that for the first time in 30 years more of the firearms recovered in crime in Toronto that were traced were traced back to Canadian sources, rather than smuggled in from the United States. That's largely a function of the fact that it's easier to get guns now in Canada and so there's less demand for smuggling.
The Illegal Firearms Task Force from British Columbia, which I'm sure many of you saw, has reinforced that the same thing has happened in British Columbia among the firearms that they have traced. I think it's worth emphasizing that the diversion of legal guns has become a much bigger problem. I want to quote from this and read into the record:
||Over the past three years in B.C., however, approximately 60 per cent were sourced in Canada, according to data from the National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST). NWEST attributes this trend to changes in firearms legislation in states such as Washington and Oregon requiring recordkeeping at the point of sale for all firearms, which allows tracing to identify a purchaser.
||In Canada, there is no national legislation to require record keeping for sales of nonrestricted firearms. Unlike many American states, sellers need not keep any records of sales of non-restricted firearms. Purchasers can re-sell, trade or give away a firearm without keeping records. Without sales records, crime investigators often cannot trace the ownership of crime guns
I think it's critically important to remind people, and I know you know this, that when the registry was dismantled, the registration of rifles and shotguns was dismantled, the 1977 legislation, which required restricted weapons to be tracked by dealers, was not reinstated, in spite of cries from police and particularly conservative witnesses who came before the committee.
There are three amendments that we are hoping you will consider. One is with respect to licensing, ensuring that the provisions are broad enough to address the intent, which is that a person is not eligible to hold a licence if it is desirable in the interests of the safety of that or any other person, meaning suicide prevention is supposed to be one of the measures considered in the licensing provision. We would like a (d) section added to the list that says, is considered a threat to themselves or any other person.
The second revision is with respect to the record-keeping. I refer to the table at the back and the 1977 legislation. We would like to see added, “The business must produce the record and inventory for inspection at the request of any police officer or police constable or any other person authorized by regulations”, etc.
I think returning to the legislation from 40 years ago is a small price to pay. It would bring us in line with the legislation in the United States, and no matter what people say it is not a reinstatement of the registry.
The final point is that previously the authorizations to transport were restrictive, in that they said you were authorized to take your firearm from two or more specified locations, i.e. your home, to a shooting range. The legislation that was introduced a few years ago changed that to require that you be authorized to take the firearm to any shooting club in the province where you're resident. There are shooting clubs in every community. That, in fact, is carte blanche to be transporting the firearm.
Thank you very much. There are some other matters I can discuss with you as well.
I am not an expert in domestic violence, and I know you have had requests from a number of front-line shelters to appear before the committee, and they could answer this better. Obviously, when women feel threatened in the environment, they are not likely to report. Often there are economic issues. Often there are concerns that police can't protect them.
There is another thing, I think, that is important to remember. While taking guns away from someone after there's a threat is, of course, really important, and that's why we have prohibition orders and so on, we want to prevent people who have a history of risky behaviour from having access to firearms in the first place. That was the intent of the screening processes, and specifically the spousal notification measures that were introduced with the previous legislation, and still exist.
The problem I see currently is the way in which this is being framed, police often take things very literally. If the focus is entirely on cases where there has been a conviction, or a formal complaint, or someone has been confined to a mental hospital, you're going to miss a lot of the risk factors that we know often don't make it into formal systems.
Does that answer your question?
As I said at the outset, when I talk about gun violence, I use the World Health Organization's definition of gun violence, so that doesn't restrict it to urban gang violence. It includes domestic violence. It includes suicide. It includes political violence.
I think if you recognize that gun violence includes all of those things and you take a public health perspective, you have to look at root causes. For root causes of gang violence, there's lots of research that talks about the impact of disparity and lack of social capital and age and drugs and, and, and.... We know that.
We know that when it comes to suicide, there is a whole set of risk factors.
When it comes to domestic violence, there are others, as there are with political violence.
We would not say for a moment that gun control is a panacea. Those factors have to be addressed. We also know from the research—and this is pretty universal—that when you restrict the availability of the instrument, i.e., the firearm, you reduce the chances that an assault will become a homicide.
I've read from the B.C. Task Force on Illegal Firearms, which feels that controls over the sales of firearms are absolutely fundamental to stemming the flow of legal guns to illegal markets, because every illegal gun started as a legal gun either in Canada or in the United States. It would be nice if we had a wall, but we don't, so the flow of smuggled guns remains a problem.
We need to do everything that we can to prevent legal guns in Canada from being diverted. The ability to trace firearms by keeping records of sales is fundamental to reducing the flow. We also need better support for policing. We need support for victims of violence to reduce their revictimization and to break the cycle of violence.
There aren't easy solutions to complex problems like gang violence, but stricter controls over firearms are certainly an important part of them.
In fact, it was interesting, because the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police pleaded with the government to reinstate some measures to address the gaps that were created by that legislation. Rick Hanson, who was the chief of police in Calgary, specifically said on the record that he did not support the registry and asked that they reinstate the 1977 legislation and give police access to the records. That's in Hansard, and I'm happy to provide it to anyone in the room
There is no way, except in conspiratorial minds, that you can say reinstating what was in place in 1977 is a registry. The registry was in 1995. Prior to that, we had point-of-sale controls. We did not require individual gun owners to have a piece of paper. That was the registry. When we required individual gun owners to have a piece of paper saying they own this gun, that was the registry. That's what we got rid of with respect to unrestricted firearms.
To suggest that this is equivalent to requiring gun dealers to keep records that the police have access to, which is the case in the United States of America, and was the case in Canada as of 1977, is disingenuous in my view.
It's a combination. I don't think anyone has provided a statistical analysis, because all they know, when they trace the guns—if they're able to trace the guns—is that a bunch of them came from here, and a bunch of them came from there. When you look at where they really came from, in many cases you don't know for sure, but we certainly have cases where people have been prosecuted for straw purchases.
On the gun theft issue, gun owners are supposed to report if their guns are stolen. If there is no accountability, they don't, and that in itself is a problem. We used to see cases, for example, where, when gun dealers were asked about where certain guns had come from, they would suddenly remember that those guns had been stolen. Theft is a problem, without question, sometimes because people have not properly stored the firearms. Straw purchases are definitely a problem here as well as in the United States, and so is people just being careless with who they give their guns to.
We saw one of the worst police shootings at Mayerthorpe. A guy gave his buddy his firearm without thinking about what the consequences would be.
There are a whole variety of ways in which you see diversion of legal guns to illegal markets.
Thank you for being here today.
I am an urban-based member of Parliament from London, Ontario, but London is surrounded by rural areas. Whether one lives in an urban area or whether one lives in a rural area, we can all agree on the need for public safety, the need to make sure that mental health is taken very seriously, and that suicide prevention is top of mind for any responsible government.
You spoke at the beginning about the importance, Ms. Cukier, of suicide prevention. My question is in that vein. The RCMP says that 80% of firearm deaths are suicide, yet an analysis of mental health history over one's lifetime is not required, as you know, in order for a gun licence to be granted. I'm telling you things that you already know, but I think they're important. This came up in the first session, but there wasn't enough time to really engage in it.
The result is that applicants who have put forward an interest in obtaining a gun licence who have disclosed serious mental health problems that they have endured throughout their life have, in fact, been given a gun licence, and the result is that they have taken their own life and, if not taken their own life immediately, put themselves in a position where they endanger their family. The end situation is that their life is taken either by police or by someone else, because of the situation that's created due to their mental illness.
I wonder if you could speak to how critical this problem is, because it's not one or two cases that we're talking about here.
It's interesting, because if you look at the recent review that was done of veterans and post-traumatic stress disorder, there have been a number of quite serious cases. The professor from the University of Manitoba who did the review was very explicit about the importance of addressing the firearms issue, because, of course, people in the military are more likely to have access to firearms.
Mental health issues are always difficult to assess, treat, and judge the severity of. I think, again, no one is saying necessarily that, because someone was depressed 15 years ago, they shouldn't have access to firearms, but I agree with you completely. Suicide prevention experts will say that most suicides are preventable. Even though public opinion is often that if someone wants to kill himself, he'll kill himself, it's not borne out by the facts.
When I started working on this issue, I think about 1,100 Canadians killed themselves each year with firearms, and even though the population has increased, with progressive strengthening of gun laws, we've seen that halved. There has been a very clear decline, and the research shows that, as you put more emphasis on screening and controls over firearms to keep them away from people with mental health issues and build that into your screening, you can reduce suicide.
One of the recommendations I didn't get to bring forward came from the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians. They proposed that physicians be required to report people they think ought not to have firearms, in exactly the same way most provinces require them to report people who ought not to drive motor vehicles. That would go a long way to addressing this more systematically.
You made an interesting point when you said that a background check would be discretionary. I think no one is saying—in your words, as you put it—that if someone had some difficulty with depression that would automatically lead to the denial of a licence.
Opponents of the bill seem to have created a sort of straw man argument by which they say that if someone has a bad day or someone has a brief experience with depression, that would automatically lead to the denial of a gun licence. In fact, if you look at the legislation, it says that the background check on issues of mental health would look at whether the person:
||(b) has been treated for a mental illness, whether in a hospital, mental institute, psychiatric clinic or otherwise and whether or not the person was confined to such a hospital, institute or clinic, that was associated with violence or threatened or attempted violence on the part of the person against any person; or
There is some legal, technical language in there, but we're not talking about a bad day. We're talking about someone who has a real history with mental illness, who has had that challenge, and for whom there is concrete evidence that they've endured it. I think it's important that this point be emphasized. You've done it here, and I've read from the legislation.
It seems that opponents of haven't delved into the details. Perhaps they haven't even read the legislation.
In what remaining time I have, Mr. Chair, I'll pass it along to my colleague, Mr. Spengemann.
Thank you. I'm grateful, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Cukier, thanks very much.
I wanted to put a finer point on the discussion that's already been before you and, in fact, through Mr. Fragiskatos, in front of the previous panel, and that's the question of what weapons should never be placed into the hands of civilian gun enthusiasts or sports shooters.
I'm looking at an iPolitics article from last year titled, “Record-setting sniper rifle available for non-restricted sale in Canada”. The weapon referred to is the McMillan TAC-50, which was reportedly used by a Canadian sniper to kill an ISIS target in Iraq with a record-breaking 3.5 kilometre shot. It's a 50-calibre and has tremendous lethal force. It's not something you'd want to hunt with because whatever you shoot at is probably not going to be around to eat.
Could you give us a bit more of your frame of mind in terms of how we distinguish purely military weapons like the AR-15—my view on this one, certainly—from those that should be legitimately enjoyed by Canadians in a sporting context?
When I knew this bill was coming before our committee, I contacted the Halton Regional Police domestic violence unit and she referred me to the Ontario Office of the Chief Coroner Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, which does an annual report. The most recent was released in September 2017. It was the annual report for 2016.
I want to clarify that it was suggested earlier that the 26% number was made up. That actually comes from that report. It says, “shooting (i.e. handgun, rifle, shotgun or gun not specified) was a death factor in 26% of the deaths”. Those are domestic violence deaths. To be clear, over a quarter of women who are dying at the hands of their partner are dying because a gun was used.
One of the things that hasn't been talked a lot about in this bill is a provision that will see that the guns will be forfeited to the crown when there is a prohibition order. When I mentioned that to the police, they were quite pleased with that. I'm aware of a situation in my community where the guns were actually released to a brother. The person in a domestic violence case was prohibited from having firearms. I said to the officials that it doesn't really matter if they're prohibited or not if they get their hands on the gun.
Do you think that's an important provision, that those firearms are forfeited to the crown, rather than the possibility of being given to a friend or a family member?