Ladies and gentlemen, I see a quorum.
It's 10 minutes to 12:00. I apologize to our witnesses for the interruption by the vote. However, it is the time of year when these things happen.
We've had to make some adjustments. We're going to have just one panel with everybody. I appreciate that this may not be optimum for some; however, in order to make up some time, that's what we're going to do.
I want to see whether there's any appetite to reduce the seven-minute rounds to five, bearing in mind that the burden would be on Mr. Dubé. If not, we'll just stick with the same round.
No? Okay. He's a tough guy, that Mr. Dubé.
Do you want to end up with another five, Matthew?
Are you fine with that, colleagues?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: We'll just do five minutes. That way, we'll hopefully make up some time.
One final thing that I want to mention is that, in our voting last week, we voted on a motion by Mr. Motz that had not actually been tabled. Therefore, the vote is null.
Your motion is still a live vote.
With that, I'm going to ask Dr. Drummond, who has patiently waited in Calgary for the better part of an hour, to lead, in the anticipation that we don't always get co-operation from our technical services.
Colleagues, is there an appetite to extend by half an hour until 1:30?
Seeing no negatives, I'm going to assume that we're going to 1:30, assuming that there are no other votes between now and then.
Again, Dr. Drummond, if you would begin, please. You and Dr. Kapur have 10 minutes between you.
Dr. Kapur is an emergency physician at the Ottawa Hospital. I am a rural family physician in Perth, Ontario, so we bring both ends of the spectrum to this discussion.
We're representing the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, which is the national specialty society of emergency medicine in Canada, representing 2,500 physicians, and looking after 16 million people in Canada on an annual basis.
For us, this whole discussion of firearms is a public health and safety issue. We appreciate that crime is an issue for many of our citizens, but for us, principally this is an issue of preventing suicide, of reducing the lethality of intimate partner violence, and also making sure we can prevent unintentional pediatric injury.
In Canada, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 34, and the lethality of firearms as a suicide method is incontestable. Eighty per cent of all firearm deaths in Canada are related to suicide, and 500 Canadians commit suicide on an annual basis with the use of firearms. Between 2003 and 2012, at least 6,000 Canadians ended their lives with guns. Canada has one of the highest rates of suicide by firearms in the entire developed world.
There is strong scientific evidence that a gun in the home increases the risk of suicide by firearm. More recently, it has been shown that for every 10% decline in gun ownership, firearm suicides drop by 4.2% overall.
Firearms are responsible for somewhere between 21% and 31% of intimate partner homicides, and rifles and shotguns, the common firearms in Canada, are used in 62% of all spousal homicides. Keeping a gun in the home is a risk for spousal homicide.
Again, this is an issue for us, not of access to firearms and whether ownership is the issue, but rather keeping guns out of the hands of individuals who are at risk.
CAEP has previously produced two position papers relating to firearm violence in Canada. This is our third appearance before a committee since 1995 on the same issue, and it remains an issue of major concern for our members.
With respect to the bill that's currently being discussed, our response to the proposed legislation is one of overall general support, while noting that in our view the bill does not go far enough. We agree entirely that there should be an enhanced screening provision, or at least expansion of the timeline for seeking clinical red flags. That resonates with us a great deal.
We agree entirely that there must be rigorous screening and restriction of licensing for those individuals who are deemed at risk. We would suggest that we take that one step further overall, that there be mandatory reporting by physicians of those individuals who own firearms who are deemed to be at risk by virtue of mental illness, psychosis, substance abuse, or previous history of intimate partner violence. This would allow for identification of individuals at risk, and the restriction of their owning firearms, even if it's on a temporary basis during the period of initial treatment.
We would like to see safe storage provisions become more meaningful through assessment and documentation that they actually exist, and perhaps greater emphasis on gun locks. Any prevention attempts should focus on education, on engineering, and enforcement. The idea of safe storage is probably quite key, and making sure that, on the purchase or the collection of a firearm, that the safe storage provisions are actually being used.
We would suggest greater research into firearm-related injury and death so that scientific data, rather than opinion, guide future efforts at making Canadians safer.
Last, we would like to see greater educational efforts for the public and the medical profession on the roles of firearms and their role in completed suicides.
That concludes my presentation. Thank you.
Mr. Chair, distinguished members of the committee, once again, I would like to thank you for having the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police present to you today during your study on Bill . My name is Mario Harel, and I am appearing before you as President of the CACP.
Allow me to introduce my colleague Superintendent Gordon Sneddon, who is the supervisor of the Toronto Police Service organized crime enforcement unit. He also acts as a firearms advisor to the CACP.
I can't speak to the extremes within this debate to either increase the number and fire power of guns or prohibit all firearms. I can only speak to what I believe is the position of most Canadians, who are law-abiding and who balance their individual privileges with the broader rights of society. They understand and support regulations that, as much as possible, place a priority on public safety and the protection of the most vulnerable among us. They, in my view, represent the very premise of a just and responsible society.
We believe that the has appropriately conveyed a very disturbing trend of gun violence that continues in Canada despite reduced crime rates. Between 2013 and 2015, there was a 30% increase in criminal incidents involving firearms. Gun homicides were up by 60%. Intimate partner and gender-based violence involving the use of a firearm was up by one-third.
Gang-related homicides, the majority of which involve guns, were up by two-thirds, as well. Break-ins for the purpose of stealing guns were up by 56%. In 2016, 31% of all gun-related homicides involved the use of non-restricted firearms. Even more troubling is the fact that about 50% of all handguns used in crime that we have been able to trace were diverted from legal Canadian firearm owners.
Without concrete action, we do not foresee any changes to this growing trend. We need protections to help mitigate the impact of the worst outcomes of gun violence, even if those protections place requirements on law-abiding firearm owners. It is important to state that we support this legislation, not because it is panacea to gun violence, but because it is part of an overall strategy to help prevent victimization by way of a firearm.
To the best of our ability, we need to minimize opportunities for criminals to continue to wreak havoc in our communities, not only in major centres like Toronto and Vancouver, but throughout Canada. There is no doubt that further action is required, and we, as police leaders, will be developing a broader position in the near future. I would like to highlight a few of the areas of the bill that we believe are very important and suggest a few amendments to further strengthen it. I do so from the lens of law enforcement agencies' core responsibilities—the safety and security of all Canadians.
This legislation changes enhanced background checks on those seeking to acquire firearms beyond five years, so the applicant's full record, as it relates to violence and criminal behaviour, can be taken into account. We are very supportive of this change and, in fact, we would support calls for physicians to be required to advise authorities if, in their expert opinion, they felt that a person should not be in possession of a firearm for the safety of themselves or the public. This is much like the concept of revoking a driver's license given health concerns.
The requirement that, when a non-restricted firearm is transferred, the buyer must produce his or her firearms license and the vendor must verify its validity is critical in our view. Currently, license verification is voluntary.
Unfortunately, non-restricted firearms are being sold to and purchased by individuals without appropriate verification taking place.
Too often, we witness these firearms getting into the hands of those who are subject to prohibition orders or bound by recognizance. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to domestic violence cases. Additionally, we have seen cases where a stolen or fraudulently obtained licence was used in online sales to purchase firearms.
As domestic firearms trafficking cases increase, this initiative will also allow police to better identify mass purchases of firearms where the purchase patterns suggest illegal resale. Therefore, the ability to trace non-restricted firearms that have been used in crime will be improved.
Regarding record-keeping by vendors, I would say that most reputable businesses are already doing this for their own purposes. Since the long gun registry was abolished, the police have been effectively blind to the number of transactions by any licenced individual relating to non-restricted firearms. The absence of such records effectively stymies the ability to trace a non-restricted firearm that has been used in crime. The tracing of a crime gun can assist in identifying the suspect of a crime and criminal sourcing of a trafficking network.
When the serial number is known, the Canadian National Firearms Tracing Centre can provide the information about the vendor where the original sale took place. A production order must still be used to obtain the information about the buyer from the vendor.
The CACP submits that the standard to obtain such a specific order should be amended from “reasonable grounds” to “reason to suspect”.
In the United States, it is interesting to note that they federally mandate each store to track and keep records of sales. The U.S. authorities also stated that one of their biggest issues is the sale of firearms through the secondary market, such as gun sales that are not recorded.
When it comes to the transportation of prohibited and restricted firearms, the CACP appreciates and supports this change as a positive step. This change to the legislation means that discretion is afforded to the chief firearms officer in determining limitations on the transporting of firearms.
It was our view that the prior change that allowed automatic authority to transport was too broad and allowed too much latitude for abuse. In practical terms, it allowed the licence holder to carry the firearm at all times, even if they were not forthcoming about their purpose and intent.
It also allowed for a false defence to be articulated at trial suggesting that the firearm was being transported to a border crossing, a gun show or a gunsmith. In short, it provided an escape route to a person who is willing to break the law.
Finally, a system in which Parliament defines the classes but entrusts experts in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to classify firearms must be restored. We support elected officials determining firearm classes. However, we must rely on the professional expertise provided by the RCMP to classify firearms and do so without political influence. Their impartiality lies in public safety, which, as I stated earlier, must be given priority over individual privileges.
I will conclude by saying that we respect the debate that has occurred and the opposition to our views by those who simply want to hunt and engage in the sport of shooting. We do not wish to punish law-abiding citizens for the illegal actions of criminals. However, we want law-abiding citizens to accept their responsibilities and adhere to a set of laws and regulations targeted towards the safety and security of all Canadians.
Mr. Chair, vice-chairs, honourable members, thank you for inviting us to address you on the subject of Bill .
My name is Solomon Friedman. I'm a criminal defence lawyer and a managing partner of Edelson and Friedman LLP. I'm joined today by my associate Mr. Fady Mansour. We're both members of the Criminal Lawyers' Association.
As you may know, the association comprises over a thousand criminal defence lawyers, many of whom practise in the province of Ontario, but some of whom are from across the country. It's both a privilege and a pleasure to be given the opportunity to appear before this committee to express our views on this particular piece of legislation.
The Criminal Lawyers' Association supports criminal law reform that is modest, fundamentally rational, and supported by objective evidence. On each of these measures, Bill , in our view, fails to meet the mark.
First, the proposed reforms in Bill are unsupported by the evidence. In fact, in presenting its rationale for this bill, the government has misrepresented the objective statistical data to create the appearance of a problem that simply does not exist. As a society, we are the poorer for it when government promotes criminal legislation on a misunderstanding or, worse yet, a willful manipulation of what it claims is empirical evidence.
On May 8, 2018, the honourable , Ralph Goodale, told this committee that between 2013 and 2016, the number of criminal incidents involving firearms rose by 30%. Gun homicides in that period went up by two-thirds. Those numbers are alarming. They give the clear impression that gun crime and homicide by firearm specifically are a rampant and increasing problem in our society.
With the greatest of respect to the , that is simply not the case. The year 2013, the starting point for the purported trend, was not chosen at random. As we now know, 2013 represents a statistical aberration in terms of violent crime and homicide in Canada. That year saw the lowest rate of criminal homicide in Canada in 50 years. To put that in perspective, every single year since 1966 has been worse than 2013, and it's not surprising that the three years following 2013 would be worse as well.
The truth of the matter is that homicide by firearm, in fact, has been steadily declining in Canada since the mid-1970s, and when an appropriate sample size is taken, the alarming trend that the purported to identify is seen for what it is: a selective manipulation of statistical data. The rate of homicide by firearm, when viewed over a 10-year period, a reasonable sample size, has remained relatively stable. In fact, it was slightly lower in 2016 than it was 10 years earlier, in 2006.
The same lack of empirical evidence extends to 's contention, echoed by others who have testified before this committee, that there has been some dramatic change in the sources of firearms used in crimes. They claim that these guns are increasingly being traced to domestic sources, such as break and enters or straw purchasers. These claims are anecdotal and wholly unsupported by Statistics Canada research on this topic. I cite no greater authority than Lynn Barr-Telford, director general of health, justice and special surveys at Statistics Canada who stated at the recent guns and gangs summit, “We don't know...the origin of firearms involved in gun crime” in Canada.
Surely if the numbers cited by certain police representatives were based on hard evidence, word of this would have reached Statistics Canada. That, however, is not the case.
Second, this committee should bear in mind that there is no stand-alone scheme for regulating firearms in Canada outside of the criminal law. Accordingly, any violation, no matter how minor or technical, engages the criminal law process. As all justice system participants know well, the criminal law is a blunt tool. It is more akin to a sledgehammer than a scalpel, and most importantly, it is an ill-suited implement of public policy. Indeed, this legislation creates new criminal offences where none were needed. For example, Bill will make it an offence for a firearm owner to transfer a firearm—meaning to give, sell, or barter—to another person without first obtaining a reference number from the registrar of firearms. Let me be clear: It is already a criminal offence to transfer a firearm to an individual who is not authorized to possess it.
Section 101 of the Criminal Code prohibits that precise conduct. It is punishable by a maximum of five years' imprisonment. In fact, I have personally represented retailers who have been charged under the existing scheme for failing to check licence validity.
The government says that the new provisions under Bill are required to ensure that firearms are not transferred without lawful authority. Not surprisingly, the existing offence under section 101 is entitled “Transfer without authority”. However, under Bill C-71, one law-abiding licensed firearm owner can transfer a firearm to another law-abiding licensed firearm owner and still commit a criminal offence if the government is not duly notified. This does nothing more than create another trap for the unwary, a trap that carries with it criminal consequences. For what? It is not for actual public safety, but for the appearance of public safety.
With respect to one final area of Bill that is particularly worrisome, I'll give the balance of my opening time to my colleague, Mr. Mansour.
Bill effectively removes parliamentary oversight over firearms classification decisions that can now be unilaterally made by the RCMP. This is both bad criminal law policy and bad precedent.
First, it is particularly troubling in light of the RCMP's history of questionable, and sometimes incorrect, technical classification decisions. Notwithstanding that history, however, this deference is inherently undemocratic. Bill would stand alone in our criminal law in giving a police agency the power to determine what is legal and what is illegal when it comes to firearms and related classification, and to punish such an infraction with criminal sanction.
As with many issues in public policy, reasonable people can disagree about the appropriate ways to classify and regulate firearms, but Bill takes that debate away from lawmakers, who are traditionally entrusted with wrestling with these complex and weighty policy matters. In fact, it's a complete reversal of our democratic process. In our system of responsible government, elected legislatures make laws and the police enforce them. Bill C-71 would turn that on its head. Once again, recall that these classification decisions made by the RCMP are more than just opinions about the legal status of firearms. They can, in an instant, transform an otherwise law-abiding citizen, a licensed firearm owner, into a criminal who is subject to criminal sanction.
I'll conclude by saying this: You have an offence that is in pith and substance regulatory in nature being punished with a criminal offence in a justice system that is currently plagued by extreme delays and that currently cannot handle, and is overburdened by, the number of cases before it. This would only make that problem worse.
Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I appreciate this opportunity to appear before you.
I am Gary Mauser, professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University. As part of my academic duties, I have published in criminology and political science journals for more than 20 years. My presentation is based on Statistics Canada data, not heart-rending anecdotes.
Bill ignores violent crime completely and merely harasses law-abiding people. It is a distraction from the real problems. Canada has a gang problem, not a gun problem.
Two-thirds of gun murders in 2016 were gang related. Most of these were in our bigger cities. As you can tell, gang crime and gang-related homicides have been increasing for over a decade. They declined for a while, but since magic date they have increased again. Increases in gang-related homicide is what accounts for the recent increase.
Bill also ignores the suffering of aboriginal Canadians. These aboriginal-against-aboriginal crimes are what account for most of the violent crime in rural Canada. Public gun ownership does not threaten public safety.
Professor Gary Kleck, one of the most distinguished and well-respected criminology professors in the United States, recently reviewed a host of academic articles looking at the link between gun ownership and higher violent crime rates. He found a very strong relationship between the technical quality of the research. High-quality, well-done studies did not find a link. Those that were weak, poorly conducted, and possibly manipulated did find such a link. This suggests that public gun ownership is not linked to public safety.
Licensed Canadian gun owners are less dangerous and have a lower homicide rate than the rest of Canada. The national homicide rate is 1.85 over the time period I compared, and the licensed gun owners were one-third of that. This is not a dangerous group.
Rural Canada, where there are more guns per capita than urban Canada, has a lower percentage of misuse of firearms and homicide than does urban Canada.
The research is clear that general gun ownership is not the source of violent crime, so it is no surprise that general gun controls do not limit violent crime. An example is the Republic of Ireland, where they've virtually banned all firearms, although a few .22 target rifles were excluded, in an effort to stem the increase in murders. It did not work. It's a similar problem in Jamaica. These are island countries. You would think that you could control this easily. There is a total ban on firearms. A bullet would get you 10 years in jail and, for a gun, life in prison. No defence. You find it. You got it. The police charge you and you're in jail. That's it. It did not work. The homicide rate continued and still continues to increase.
The fundamental flaw of Bill is the assumption that gangsters somehow get their guns from law-abiding gun owners. This is predicated upon two false assumptions.
First of all, the police secretly changed the definition of “crime gun”. They now have a bigger pool, so therefore it increases. By this definition, they increase the access of domestic sources.
Second, “domestic sources” falsely implies law-abiding firearms owners. Gang members cannot, statistically, get their guns primarily from legal sources. At the height of the long-gun registry, Stats Canada documented that 9% of the firearms involved in homicides were registered. This was at the height of the long-gun registry.
Why does Bill ignore more than 90% of guns used in homicides? Where do gang members get their guns? Sometimes the police are straightforward. The Toronto police chief says that 70% are smuggled. The Vancouver Police Department says that 90% are smuggled. Toronto Police Services say that 2% to 16% are stolen from Canadian owners.
Let's look at the change in definition. I claimed it was a change, so let's look at this so we can see in detail what's going on. The traditional definition of “crime gun” is any firearm that has been used or suspected of being used in a criminal offence, which means a violent offence. This is still the definition used by the FBI in the U.S., by the Home Office in the U.K., but no longer in Canada.
In the new RCMP decision, which was hidden from the public, hidden from Parliament—except that MP finally got a copy—we saw that a crime gun is now any firearm that is illegally acquired. This means that found guns are now included as crime guns. Somebody commits suicide by hanging themself and the police arrive at the scene and find a gun—a long gun or whatever—in the closet and confiscate it, and it's a crime gun.
Some old duffer like me forgets to renew his PAL. His guns are confiscated, and these are crime guns. Well, it's a crime to own a gun without a permit, so these are crime guns, but this is not what is traditionally meant by a “crime gun”. It was not used in a crime; it was merely an administrative problem.
In fact, most firearms crime is administrative. Roughly 1,300 victims are injured each year by an aggressor using a firearm, but 10 times as many charges are laid for administrative firearms violations—roughly 15,000—and 2,000 of the 15,000 are for things like unsafe storage or paper permit difficulties.
You realize that any error—any error—on any paperwork submitted for your PAL is your fault. It's a criminal charge. Some 90% of these charges do not involve any additional violent crime. This is just some quiet, non-violent person being charged with a paperwork violation.
My final technical point is the definition of “domestic sources”. This is not synonymous with PAL holders, as the minister would have us believe. There is a large pool of firearms in Canada of questionable legality. In 2001, when licensing was introduced, about one-third or one-half of then law-abiding Canadians declined to apply for a permit. The official estimates—this is not StatsCan data; this is Government of Canada data—for Canadian civilian gun owners ranged from three million to four million gun owners. Fewer than two million licences were issued.
To sum up, government has not provided solid justification for why more regulations would improve public safety. Indeed, the government has never provided a public report of an evaluation of the present system. Has it improved public safety? We don't know.
Other than police claims based on a secret, bloated definition, there's no support for the change in the source of crime guns. According to Stats Can, lawful owners cannot be a major source of crime guns. According to StatsCan, PAL holders are much less apt to commit murder than other Canadians.
Increased regulatory complexity does not mean greater public safety. Why is the government scapegoating PAL holders?
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you to all our witnesses for being here today.
I wanted to start with a question for the chiefs of police and the emergency physicians.
We had a brief submitted to us by Dr. Sinyor, I believe his name is. He's at Sunnybrook hospital. He's a suicide prevention expert and founder of the program of research and education to stop suicide. He was in support of Bill , but he did suggest some amendments to it. One of them had to do with the background checks. As you know, we've extended the time period for background checks, but it's a very prescriptive criteria that are used.
One of his suggestions was, where the current criteria is when someone has a history of behaviour that includes violence, or threatened or attempted violence, to add “including public online behaviour”. The second suggestion was to add the criteria “or for any other reason considered a threat to themselves or other”. This is for the application for the licence.
I'm wondering if the emergency physicians and the chiefs of police can perhaps give me their opinions on that. Maybe the emergency physicians could start.
No. It's as simple as that. I'll tell you why.
Let's pick up on the very last thing this committee just heard about: the authorization to transport. Somebody who's in the business of applying for an authorization to transport is licensed, which means that they have been more heavily screened than probably any person in this room. Government security clearances don't touch on the daily screening through the Canadian firearms program that possession and acquisition licence holders are subject to. As a sports shooter, as a hunter myself, I get a background check every day. I don't know how many people in this room could say that—maybe some of the people at this table.
You have a pre-screened population for legality. Take a look at the authorization to transport. Think about it this way. It's a piece of paper, okay? It's not a lock. It's not a tracking device. The previous amendments under the prior government made perfect sense. They recognized that restricted firearms, when owned responsibly and legally, are used in legal and non public safety threatening activities all the time. It allowed for that instead of overburdening the system. That's what we're talking about. Every decision Parliament makes costs money; all these resources that the police use can be redirected away from true public safety concerns.
On the authorization to transport, I can't even imagine from anecdotal evidence.... I recall when the last amendments were being suggested under the previous government that , now our Prime Minister, said, “Well, this is going to allow people to take their gun to Tim Hortons.” It was curious. Even in the language used today, I heard about “carrying” restricted firearms. Let's be clear: restricted firearms and prohibited firearms can't be carried. They can't be carried by anyone except the police officers that we trust to do it and a tiny subset of trappers and people living out in wilderness areas who get the most difficult to obtain public safety permits in our country.
Nobody is carrying restricted or prohibited firearms. They're either transporting them—and if they're transporting them, they're locked with a trigger lock in a box that is locked in their vehicle—or they're using them at a range. The moment you hear someone talking about carrying restricted or prohibited firearms, you know the entire premise of the discussion isn't based on the evidence.
That's my concern. I look at this bill and I don't see a targeting of public safety. I see a targeting of the licensed, law-abiding firearm owner population.
They're alleged thugs, okay?
I see a fundamental consistency, actually, between Bill and Bill .
I have to tell you that a lot of defence lawyers were excited when the new government took office, because we were promised—what was that phrase again?—evidence-based decision-making. We were promised that empirical criteria would be used to reform criminal law. We were promised that it was going to be a brand new era.
I look at Bill and I look at Bill , and I ask, where's the data? Instead what I see is the most regressive of thinking. We're not here to talk about Bill C-75. I could talk about Bill C-71 for a long time, so imagine what we could discuss when it comes to Bill C-75. Where did objective, evidence-based decision-making go? It's a profound concern to the Criminal Lawyers' Association.
We may be strange bedfellows, but we're all interested in one thing: a fair and just society where individuals are not deprived of their liberty without all of the protections that we take for granted as a society. That's what the Criminal Lawyers' Association wants. That's what parliamentarians want.
That's my fundamental question. How can we create more criminal law legislation that further increases the risk that individuals will be unjustly penalized when there's no data to support it? We see it in Bill . We see it as well in Bill .
Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you all for being here.
Mr. Mansour, I want to ask you some questions about how you characterize the RCMP classification. You used the phrase, circumventing our democratic process, and I'm just wondering about that, because the process that was actually in place was a Governor in Council recommendation. In other words, if that process existed, no one around this table who are elected MPs would actually have any say on that type of regulation.
Also, according to the information that I have, and perhaps I'm mistaken, there are 180,000 firearms that are classified in the reference table, something along those lines. That might not be exact but I'll use it for discussion purposes.
I'm wondering, given that the RCMP can make mistakes, what reason we would have to trust the cabinet to make those types of decisions, particularly when the cabinet of the day might be less ideologically friendly to some of the goals that seem to be attained.
If they choose to use that provision. That's still within their discretion to actually use the grandfathering provision, and that would only be for that small subset of people who at that moment possess them.
The current grandfathering provision that's being put into this legislation has a small subset. It can't be passed on. The next person can't pass it on. The moment that person passes away or decides to no longer own it, that firearm must go to somebody else who is currently grandfathered, or it has to be destroyed or go to a policing agency to be destroyed.
The problem, what I was getting at, is you can't challenge these decisions. These instantly become criminal conduct or you're at least liable for criminal conduct, and might be stopped and charged with a criminal offence, and the moment you are charged, regardless of what the result is, your life will have changed for the worse. You'll have the stigma of a criminal offence, a firearms criminal offence, and the cost and the time that it takes to defend you. Even if you ultimately win, you have to go through that process, and in many cases you have lost your job and have the stigma of that offence, and that's a problem.
Mr. Chair, thanks very much.
My first question is for Mr. Sneddon.
Mr. Sneddon, I represent Mississauga—Lakeshore, which is part of Peel region, Canada's fourth largest region.
I have some data here that takes us through 2015-16 on shootings, shootings being the discharge of a real firearm. The number of occurrences is up by 25%. The number of victims is up 58%. Estimated rounds fired are up 100%, the net number of rounds being 271 in 2016. We see similar trends in 2017.
I'm wondering if you could enlighten the committee on what you think this bill would do to address these trends. I know there are discussions about gangs. Much of the problem is gangs, and there are other mechanisms through which we address gangs. Nothing is done in isolation.
On the bill as you see it in front you, what would it do to help bring down the trends in these occurrences?
Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's good to be here.
To all of our guests, thank you very much for being here.
As Mr. Spengemann mentioned—I have a little variance from it; I'm a Conservative—I very much believe in responsible gun ownership, as most law-abiding gun owners do.
The statistics that Mr. Friedman and Mr. Mauser gave are the kinds of science-based information that should be there—present and responsible—when making legislation.
One thing Mr. Mauser said, I believe, was that if there's a transport infraction or some other minor thing, or if somebody commits suicide by hanging and yet they own a firearm, that becomes a gun-related crime or a gun crime.
Mr. Harel, would you confirm that, yes or no?
I want to go to some statistics, which I believe you gave, Mr. Friedman.
Gang crime is up 66%. Stolen guns are up 56%, yet gun crime is up 33%. That means that in looking at those figures, it's very clear that with responsible, law-abiding firearms owners, the percentage of those where these crimes are committed is next to nil. It's not nil; stuff happens, which is unfortunate.
My question is for you, Mr. Harel and Mr. Sneddon, and my time is limited.
The government said that it wants to address stolen guns and gang crime, which I know you gentlemen do as well. Point to me in legislation, in 15 or 20 seconds, where this bill actually addresses those two things.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here today.
Mr. Calkins is not here, Mr. Chair, but he did note a few moments ago that he has a desire to hear from gun vendors, which I think is important, but I can put them on the record right now. There is at least one gun vendor, and I have spoken to others who have not spoken publicly, but who are in favour of Bill , who see no problem with it, who do not believe that it's a gun registry. In fact, I would like to read into the record the thoughts on Bill C-71 that one Ontario gun vendor has. His view on the bill is:
[T]here's not been a real big change on the actual aspect of logging the customer's information and keeping on record what they've purchased. We already do it with ammunition, now they're just asking us to do it with guns. By doing it with guns we're going to give the police and the community the tool to begin to track where guns are purchased, how they're being trafficked and how they're being used, so that's not a bad thing.
He continues by saying, Mr. Chair, that Bill “just gives the police a starting point when they have to investigate a crime”.
Under Bill , as we've heard, at the point of sale, the date of purchase is now going to be required to be kept by gun vendors, as well as the firearms licence number, and the make and model of the firearm.
With that in mind, I would like to ask the police representatives here the following questions:
Under Bill , is sale record information overseen by the RCMP in any way, yes or no?
Dr. Drummond, thank you for being here. My first question is for you.
Throughout my career I have had the misfortune, if you will, of attending far too many suicides, many of which I cannot erase from my memory.
A study in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy found that while there is an obvious connection between firearm ownership rates and firearm suicide rates, there is no direct connection between firearm ownership rates and overall suicide rates. While it is logical to assume that the presence of a firearm can lead an individual who was contemplating suicide in the first place to act in a quicker fashion, so to speak, it seems that the facts don't always bear that out.
Would you not agree there are many more complex issues—the societal factors, sir, more than just the presence of a firearm—that have an influence on the suicide rate?
I would say that, certainly, there is clear and firm scientific evidence, and not from journals reviewed by law students but from real peer-reviewed journals which suggest that the presence of a gun in a home is associated with an increased risk of both suicide and intimate partner violence.
I, too, have attended far more than my share of deaths by firearm-related suicide. They're not pretty, and it would be sometimes nice, I think, to show pictures of these scenes so that.... This kind of legalese that we get into really doesn't portray the actual picture. There is no doubt there are multiple methods of potential suicide uses that could be tried, but there is equally no doubt that if you put a gun to your head and pull the trigger, you're not surviving.
The purpose of our being here today is to say suicide is a substantial risk in Canada. It's a substantial public health problem, and guns certainly increase the lethality of that suicide attempt. Some would argue, falsely, that if you aren't successful with one method, then you might go to another. That really hasn't been borne out in the literature. Suicide is, by its very definition, an impulsive act, often decided within minutes of actually pulling the trigger. We're not talking about restricting firearms in the home. Let's not get this confused. What we are talking about is that if somebody is identified as being potentially at risk for suicide then that gun, temporarily, at least, is removed from the home.
You are, yes. Thank you.
Before I thank the witnesses on behalf of the committee, I want to note that Carole Savard, who has been an interpreter here for 35 years, is retiring at the end of this week. This is her last time with us.
Now, apparently she has already left, in part because we went on. At any rate, on behalf of the committee, and I'm certain on behalf of all parliamentarians, I want to thank her for her 35 years of faithful service.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
The Chair: In addition, on behalf of the committee, I want to thank each of the witnesses. This has certainly been a lively panel.
With that, we will adjourn until next Thursday.