CPC-12 is an amendment to remove all the references to a specific date, and amend it to be prescribed in regulations once the bill receives royal assent.
You'll see the motion is that, in clause 3, Bill C-71 be amended, (a) by replacing line 26 on page 2 with the following:
||firearms on the prescribed date
Then (b), by replacing line 1 on page 3 with the following:
||(i) the prescribed date, in the case where at least one of
Then (c), by replacing lines 17 to 18 on page 3 with the following:
||(b) was registered as a restricted firearm on the prescribed date or, in the case of a firearm that was not a restrict-
Then (d), by replacing line 30 on page 3 with the following:
||firearms on the prescribed date
Then (e), by replacing line 8 on page 4 with the following:
||(i) the prescribed date, in the case where at least one of
Then (f), by replacing lines 1 and 2 on page 5 with the following:
||(b) was registered as a restricted firearm on the prescribed date or, in the case of a firearm that was not a restrict-
Now, members of this committee, the House of Commons, and the Senate all deserve the appropriate time to consider this and many of the other bills, as we know, to ensure that they meet the standard and meet the test of good governance, and are honest with Canadians. There are many who don't believe that this legislation is honest, or fair, or in any way deals with the issues that Canadians want—gangs and guns—or the issues Liberals claim it does. It seems only reasonable that artificial deadlines that the government is already trying to impose be replaced with a date after which it passes.
What's interesting is that on this particular issue of prescribing regulations once the bill receives royal assent, on our prescribed date, I rose last week on a question of privilege in the House about online publications that the RCMP, respecting Bill ....
The RCMP, on its website, presumed the adoption of this bill already. As a result of that, which is what led us to think this language was necessary, there is no caveat on the RCMP website, describing Bill , that this legislation is subject to parliamentary approval. There is no acknowledgement of the parliamentary process at all. In fact, in my view, as I explained to the that day, it was contempt of Parliament.
Let me read a sampling of the content found in special business bulletin no. 93, that the RCMP had on its site. “Because...all CZ firearms will be impacted by changes in their classification, businesses will need to determine if their firearm(s) will be affected by these changes. Bill C-71 also lists a number of specific Swiss Arms (SA) firearms that will also become prohibited. If you own CZ/SA firearms, the steps below can help you identify whether your inventory of firearms is affected by Bill C-71. They explain the grandfathering requirements and how to avoid being in illegal possession of a firearm.”
That language is actually quite clear. Now, it has, “will be impacted”, “will become prohibited”, and “is affected”, not could be, may be, or might be. Later in the bulletin we read that:
||Business owners will continue to be authorized to transfer any and all impacted CZ or SA firearms in their inventory to properly licenced individuals, until the relevant provisions of Bill C-71 come into force. For an individual owner to be eligible for grandfathering certain requirements must be met by June 30, 2018.
Now, you might think about the language about this bill coming into force, possibly conceding the need for parliamentary approval, so let me continue reading what the quote says.
From the same bulletin, “The proposed changes to classification status for CZ/SA firearms listed in Bill C-71 will come into force on a date to be determined by Governor in Council. This date is yet to be determined.”
I would contend that any conditional language one might read or infer in the RCMP's special bulletin document is left to the mind of the reader and, therefore, is a matter of cabinet discretion, not Parliament's discretion.
Turning to a second document where the issue of this amendment comes up, entitled “How would Bill C-71 affect individuals?”, we see additional presumptuous language. A lot of it mirrors what I quoted from special business bulletin number 93. Other passages, however, include, “If your SA firearm was listed in Bill C-71, it will be classified as a prohibited firearm.”
The language used, “was”, seems as if Bill is a document from the past, not a bill currently before a parliamentary committee.
Later in that same document, it says, “To qualify for grandfathering of your currently non-restricted or restricted CZ/SA firearm*, the following criteria must be met:”
Now there follows a list of details for firearms owners to meet, which just coincidentally happens to be laid out in clause 3.
So there follow the details for firearms owners to meet, which just coincidentally happen to be laid out in clause 3 of Bill , yet there is no indication in that document that these are proposals before government, before Parliament, let alone in need of parliamentary sanction to be enforced.
Now in RCMP documents, we're talking about a publication that gives advice on how to avoid becoming a criminal. One of the passages I referred to earlier said, “They explain the grandfathering requirements and how to avoid...being in illegal possession of a firearm.”
Another passage was, “If your SA firearm was listed in Bill C-71, it will be classified as a prohibited weapon.” The unlawful possession of a firearm can lead to a jail sentence of up to five years.
Now we've been very clear on this side and on the record about our concerns with the RCMP having arbitrary reclassifying authority for firearms, and that's why the previous government gave the Governor in Council an oversight role. Now, suddenly, with one blanket move, what dozens or even hundreds of thousands of people already possess is somehow deemed illegal, and the bill hasn't passed. We've seen this disrespect before, and this is an institutional history, unfortunately.
In the research we've done, we've found at least 10 previous occasions where this has occurred. So it goes without saying that it comes as absolutely no surprise that our national police force, unfortunately, would snub its nose at Parliament, or—and this I highly doubt—that the new commissioner would order this on her own without some approval from the , rather than urging compliance with the rules of Parliament.
Now what's interesting is that I rose on this on a Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, that same website that the RCMP manages was changed, and it was changed back to the language that now would verify what we have been saying. I stood again on the Wednesday and said that it had been modified on the Wednesday, May 30, and the posting now has a disclaimer that Bill was a proposed law. In fact, when you print out that particular document from the website, it actually has a date stamp saying it was changed on May 30.
Again, this speaks to the whole idea that the RCMP has caused confusion with this bill by having an arbitrary date of June 30, and advising Canadians that this will come into effect then, when it hasn't even gone through this committee yet. As well, the conversations we had on Tuesday about an arbitrary date will add confusion.
I am recommending that this amendment falls in line with other bills where it fits with a reasonable time and there's no artificial deadline. It's when this bill comes into play at a prescribed date, whenever it is passed and receives royal assent.
We're asking that the list of firearms identified in Bill be deleted because it completely contradicts the government's objective. Bill C-71, a government bill, identifies firearms, four Czech firearms and 16 Swiss firearms. That's a political decision. At the same time, it's requested that the RCMP be responsible for doing this work in the future. There is already a contradiction here.
We have no idea why these firearms would become prohibited. I understand the example of the CZ 858 model. It's virtually identical to the WR 762 model, a firearm that will remain restricted. These are therefore arbitrary choices, and we would like to know why these firearms are included in Bill C-71 in a political manner before the RCMP is subsequently permitted to make the decisions.
Mr. Chair, I don't know who can answer my question.
Sir, maybe I can provide an answer to the questions you're looking at.
These firearms were imported into Canada, the CZ was first imported in 2005, the Swiss Arms was first imported in 2001. The firearms when imported were believed to be non-restricted and the determination of classification was made as such. Information came to light that identified them as being something other than what they were purported to be, namely that the CZ was a variant of the Czech VZ-58, which is a prohibited firearm, and that the Swiss Arms Classic Green, which was purported to be a variant of the SG-540, which is a non-restricted firearm, was in fact a variant of the Swiss SG-550, which is a prohibited firearm.
Consequently these firearms were determined to be correctly prohibited firearms. The previous legislation, Bill , deemed them to be non-restricted and restricted based on barrel length, but that did not change the determination made by the Canadian firearms program in terms of their classification in accordance with the Criminal Code.
This is from our colleague, , who's an associate member of the committee and represents a riding a bit to the south and west of here. I happened to visit it a little while ago. I talked to the folks in Bancroft at the rod and gun club, which the fish and game association has there.
I think this is consistent with some of the things that has brought before this committee as well, when he's appeared as an associate member, talking about the whole issue of the ATT.
As you know, Mr. Chair, I think our friend Mark Holland has a little trouble with this right now because of some of the comments he made in the House about the changes to the ATT.
What's at stake here is the fact that was adopted in the previous Parliament. It provided authorization to transport for the most vetted community in Canada, the firearms community, for anybody who wants to take a restricted firearm in that classification, which is usually, generally, a handgun, pistol, revolver, and some long guns. The only place they are lawfully allowed to take these firearms is to a range or to a competition or to a gun shop. In the previous Parliament, we thought it was onerous that every time they wanted to do something as straightforward as that they would have to get an authorization to transport.
We've heard from various witnesses who've appeared before the committee that the vast majority of times when the electronic ATT, which shows up right away and is easily caught through the information system...whereas a paper one is regressive in the way we do business.
Notwithstanding that, is obviously getting some significant pressure, as is , who asked these questions as, I imagine, a lot of the rural MPs who are in the governing caucus right now are probably getting. We know that about 2% or 3% of the time at the very most, somebody is transporting a firearm to a gunsmith; that's what's been heard before this committee. It makes no sense to require them to get a paper ATT to do that.
We fully support 's amendments. Expanding this amendment by re-including the ability to take your restricted firearm to a gunsmith only makes common sense for law-abiding firearms owners. It does nothing to curb crime. I've heard no statistics to suggest that this is what organized crime is doing. They're going through the process of buying a gun licence and getting their RPAL in the guise of taking their firearm to a gunsmith to transport their firearms. Nobody said that in all seriousness.
I would agree with , even though I'm sure his colleagues at the table here won't.
I applaud for speaking for what I've been told is certainly some silenced Liberal MPs from the backbenches in rural areas.
So we can make an informed decision, Mr. O'Reilly, you're best qualified to answer my next question.
Can you explain, currently under the law, the six transportation authorities that exist now, what the law is around them and how they are applied in those rules, so we understand what is happening today, and the requirements of each individual PAL owner who wants to transport the firearm for the six reasons that they can? What are those rules and what does each one mean?
Let's give our friends another chance. Our amendment is similar and concerns the transport of firearms for manufacturers and gun shows. I think it's quite clear.
We received a letter from William Golds, of Oakville, Ontario, which you, Mr. Chair, and Ms. Damoff also received. In it, Mr. Gould stated that Judge Khawly, of Toronto, told chief firearms officers on September 21, 2012 that authorization should include transport to manufacturers and verifiers. in his view, it is logically in the interest of public safety that firearms should function properly. That is what my colleagues mentioned earlier. He also said it was absurd to deny such authorizations merely because chief firearms officers had rarely granted them in the past.
Again according to the judge, from the standpoint of public safety—and we are the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security—a firearm that is legal and is used for hunting and on firing ranges must be safe. It makes no sense to complicate further the lives of honest firearms owners by requiring them to obtain an authorization each time they transport a firearm.
Mr. Bossio's proposal was really perfect. Now we have another chance with the Conservatives' amendment, which I believe should be adopted.
Chair, again, this goes back to adding the authority-to-transport clauses for gunsmiths and ranges as they were previously and for gun shops and gun shows. I understand why open-ended transportation permits for anyone would be an issue. For those who receive a firearms licence, however, who we understand are already subject to daily scrutiny, as has been identified, they can have their property seized by police much more readily than regular members of society, despite not being the problem. As we know, gangs and guns, drug issues, and violent criminals are the problem. It would stand to reason that restricting the straightforward and legal necessary transportation of a firearm to a gunsmith, a gun shop, or a gun show would continue to be a reasonable measure and would offer no significant risk to the public.
Now, from experience, I can tell you that I have on occasion stopped vehicles that were transporting firearms. Law-abiding gun owners, in all the circumstances that I recall, advised me upon my approaching that vehicle that they were licensed gun owners and had a firearm in their vehicle, and they advised me of where they were coming from and where they were going. They posed no threat to me, and they certainly posed no threat to anyone else in the public from that perspective. In most circumstances, I didn't see the firearms, because they were either in the trunk or secured in another location in the vehicle. In all circumstances, their triggers were locked, the guns were in a locked case, and they were not readily available to be seen by members of the public.
I am at a loss to understand any rationale from a public safety perspective, as indicated before, as to why the ATTs should be reduced at all. We already know that individuals and licensed businesses are subject to significant criminal sanctions if they break the rules. We know that if a gun shop sells a firearm to someone who doesn't have a PAL, if they sell it illegally, they could face up to five years in jail. A legal expert told us at committee that individuals and businesses are subject to gun-related offences should they not follow the rules.
It's unfortunate.... We have an opportunity here to maybe even endear this to some of our law-abiding firearms owners who have been ranting, appropriately so, against this particular bill, for them to recognize there's some reasonableness behind it. To me, reinstating some of the authorities to transport in this legislation provides at least a level of reasonableness that the law-abiding gun owners in this country are looking for from the current government.
Actually, I'm very pleased to have the question, because it gives us a chance to correct what has unfortunately emerged as a misperception about how clause 5 is drafted.
Clause 5 as drafted does in fact provide for the transfer of more than one firearm. The notion that has emerged that it is one reference number per firearm is not correct. It is in fact one reference number between a vendor and a seller, with no limit on the number of firearms.
At the bottom of page 6, it states:
||A person may transfer a non-restricted firearm
It is not intended to limit that to a single firearm. There's nothing in the bill as set forward that would intend to require separate reference numbers for separate firearms. The number of firearms covered by a reference number could be one, it could be many, or indeed, as we've pointed out before, it could be zero, because it does not in fact confirm that the transfer took place. It confirms that the licence of the buyer was in fact valid.
I'm a hunter, and it happens from time to time that we borrow each other's firearms or lend each other firearms, sometimes for a short term. It can be as simple as two hunters in a duck blind borrowing each other's shotguns.
I'm not suggesting that there is going to be a problem there, but there are also hypothetical situations. You find yourself in the back country. If the rifle you brought has malfunctioned, you forgot the ammunition after you've driven a long way, and you want to borrow a firearm from your colleague, would that be caught up in the need to do a transfer for borrowing? Is there some provision in the law that I'm not aware of that would allow two hunters, who both have the licences and everything they need, to lend their firearms for a short term or intermediate term?
By intermediate term, I would suggest that would be for a week. For example, if I were on a week-long hunting trip and my firearm for whatever reason was disabled, and I wanted to borrow a spare rifle that one of my colleagues brought on the hunting trip, is that caught up in this?
It's the order in which they are received.
May I call the question on amendment NDP-2?
(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: That, therefore eliminates amendments CPC-20, CPC-21, and CPC-22.
Members, it is my intention to take a break at around 5:30. I hope that meets with the approval of colleagues.
On amendment CPC-23, Mr. Paul-Hus.
This is a very important amendment.
Mr. Chair, even if the Liberals adopt the bill as it stands, the fact remains that, despite the amendment we adopted on Tuesday, this is a kind of registry because the established concept is consistent with that of a registry. At the same time, I'm pleased to see that the Liberals have voted to add a line to the bill providing that this is not a registry, but, in actual fact, what is here will nevertheless stand.
I received a letter from a Calgary couple, Mr. and Mrs. Delamont, who had an idea for a way to simplify the process. We were short of time, we had four meetings, and we didn't really have enough time to do everything we wanted to do and conduct a good study of Bill . Our travel was also denied.
Amendment CPC-23 eliminates the obligation to issue a reference number and requires only that the transferor's licence be verified as valid. That would be enough, somewhat as we have just done with amendment NDP-2.
Adding verifications and reference numbers is merely one way of restoring, once again, a kind of verification, a kind of registry—we'll call it what we want.
I understand that people are tired, but that's life. We're here to do our work.
As regards amendment CPC-23, I don't know whether there are any differences of meaning between the English and the French. Here's the French version:
||b) le cédant a vérifié auprès du directeur, par écrit, en ligne ou par téléphone, le permis du cessionnaire.
The translation corresponds; the wording is accurate.
What bothers us is the matter of the reference number for the transferor and transferee. It's not the same thing, but it is the same principle, although it's a different clause.
Can our experts provide some verification?
With the greatest of respect to my colleagues around the table here, as a former database administrator, data architect and systems analyst, I will say that you can't trace something against a database that doesn't exist. A database is a registry by any other name.
I guess it doesn't matter...the inconsequential amendments that were adopted unanimously at this table for CPC-2.... This amendment eliminates the provision for requiring a reference number to transfer a non-restricted firearm, but it still requires that they get the approval; it just removes the reference number. Given the fact that CPC-2 was actually adopted and everybody at this table agrees that this is not a registry, do you believe that the adoption of CPC-2 actually puts in conflict the current...? If we don't adopt this particular section, then we're not actually living up to the provisions that were adopted in CPC-2 that got rid of the traceability of records and reference numbers.
My question is just that. If you have a database, if you have a reference number, you have a primary key identification number in a relational database. You guys might know these things. I know these things like the back of my hand. If we don't adopt this, how are we going to be in conflict, or could we be in potential conflict, with the fact that the committee has already adopted CPC-2?
Notwithstanding the fact that it's a trace—I understand that the police and the minister believe that tracing a firearm back to its original source is actually going to somehow solve crimes, the presumption being that the initial purchase of the firearm by a law-abiding licensed firearm owner is somehow the cause of the crime that happens subsequently—how does this actually advance public safety? I don't see how this advances public safety in the slightest. It might make things, with regard to investigative procedure or from an investigative point of view, slightly easier. However, if we're investigating an unlawful firearm or a firearm that's used unlawfully by somebody who is licensed or by somebody who is not licensed, those are completely different investigations.
I'm not suggesting that you're suggesting that. I'm suggesting that the purpose for making these changes legislatively, and the government's position, is that there is a problem here that needs to be fixed, that there are illegal transfers going on. That's why the reference number is there.
I haven't had a single firearms owner in the community come to me and say they're worried that the firearm they bought might not have been a legal transaction. I don't have that problem. This is a solution in search of a problem, as far as I'm concerned.
I'm trying to figure out what the public safety value of this particular change actually is, other than that the reference number you're suggesting, Mr. Koops—and I'm not even going to disagree with you—provides a number that the transaction is valid. There are other ways to provide that it's valid, by simply saying to please verify the transferor's licence in writing, online, or by phone with the registrar.
When I go to a gun shop to buy a firearm or to buy ammunition, I must produce, contrary to what.... I mean, everybody who retails checks the licence. They have to.
That's fine. That's a different clause that we're going to be talking about.
In this particular case, all that's really happening is that reference number is being provided. I'm asking the question, what is the public safety value for that?
I understand from a police investigation perspective, but that happens post an event actually happening. They wouldn't be doing an investigation unless there was already an incident.
It's not preventing or protecting anybody, from a public safety perspective. I'm simply asking why this isn't sufficient. This is the current law right now. This is basically reverting to what the current legislation or the intent of the current legislation is. Right now, what are the problems that this is going to resolve?
I don't have any firearms owners coming to me and saying they want the protection of a reference number. I don't have a single law-abiding firearms owner in my constituency saying, “I really want the protection of a reference number for the transactions.” I don't have one.
Please tell me what public safety value this has.
It's the same word in French, "registraire". It means a person who manages a registry. The records are thus maintained by the registrar. So someone somewhere possesses the information—we can't deny it. You can call it what you will, a list, a database, or a registry, but the fact nevertheless remains that we are playing with words here. There is someone in an office who has a computer connected to the cloud or who records the information on a hard disk.
We aren't opposed to the point raised by Ms. Damoff concerning the traceability of crimes, but the fact nevertheless remains that the information is stored somewhere. This is therefore a registry.
From what my colleagues and I have understood, and based on the information Mr. O'Reilly is giving us, this contradicts amendment CPC-2, which carried unanimously, because the act will prohibit the creation of a registry. However, it is a registry. We have to stop playing with words.
Amendment CPC-25 concerns a reference number validity period of which we don't see the point.
From the moment a reference number is issued, a transaction is imminent, regardless of whether it is conducted on the day or the next day. We don't understand why there is an expiry date for a reference number. The reference number is issued, and we don't see the need for an actual expiry date.
This may cause another problem. If, for reason x, the transaction is not completed on the day or the next day but at a later date because the person did not remember the expiry date, that will constitute an offence because the act prescribes a date.
In our opinion, from the moment the reference number is assigned, the transaction will normally be completed as soon as possible. However, if, for reason x, it is not completed as soon as possible, that could cause a problem.
I want to thank our friends at the end of the table for being here and for their efforts. I know it isn't easy for them, but they are essential to our work. Otherwise we would be talking in a void.
So I would ask you to explain that to me.
The notion of the validity period is intended to prevent a situation where a reference number is issued concerning the licence of a purchaser where the purchaser, for whatever reason, no longer retains that licence eligibility, for example, if a person has had their licence rescinded or if they are subject to a prohibition order, or some such thing.
If a reference number were valid ad infinitum, there is a chance the licence could be suspended, revoked, or whatever during the period that the reference number was purporting to cover as being valid. Firearms regulations must be tabled in Parliament and available for scrutiny by committees of both Houses. By prescribing in regulation the validity period, the scheme ensures that a person with a reference number can transfer the sale of a firearm only within the reasonable period that the check covers the licence as being valid.
If we remember that there is no information being kept about the firearms involved in relation to the reference number—it is simply about the vendor and the purchaser—the reference number provides the vendor with proof that they have done their due diligence. However, that would have to be subject to some time limitation, lest we run the risk that the validity of the purchaser's licence changes, or expires, in the interim.
What will the transferor do if there's no response? He might have to wait a long time without knowing why. He has to know. The transferor must be informed of a refusal on the registrar's part.
Everyone is happy if a reference number is requested and obtained, but, if the request is denied, the transferor isn't informed of that fact. The amendment is quite simple: its purpose is to ensure that the transferor is informed. The transferor must know, or else he'll have to wait a long time. I'm trying to understand how it would be logical not to accept our amendment.
I think it's simply logical to inform the transferor of the fact that the reference number has not been issued. If, upon verification, the registrar discovers that the potential buyer of a firearm is not eligible to purchase, he won't issue a reference number. That's how we proceed. However, the seller waits for a response. That's why we're asking that the act requires the registrar to inform the transferor if he refuses to do so. The registrar need not disclose the reasons for his refusal, which concern the potential purchaser, but he must at least inform the transferor that the transaction will not take place. Otherwise, the latter will be stuck in limbo. I would like to hear your opinion on that point.
I'm curious with the way that language is currently in the act, that he may “inform the transferor”.
Would we not potentially be putting someone who may not be able to acquire a firearm or transfer a firearm, as the case may be...? Are they going to violate the law because of it? If he doesn't tell them, how does that individual then go about knowing why he or she was rejected or turned down? How does that look? Without some parameters around the reason, you set someone up. We talked earlier today and on Tuesday about, well, there's always the avenue of a judicial appeal.
It would seem reasonable to the average Canadian to be given an explanation as to why someone, why the registrar in this circumstance, wasn't satisfied that the transfer was allowable, for example. I know it says “may”. I'm curious to know why we would not consider that other language,“shall”, that he has to.
We have to look at things in context. Here we are examining and passing laws, but things are different in real life. That's the way it goes. A reference number is requested, and, if the two individuals are standing beside one another, they're told that the transaction is denied or authorized, and everything's fine.
Here's an example of a problem that might arise. Let's say I agree to sell Mr. Berthold my firearm for $1,000. He's happy, and I am too because I'll be $1,000 richer. We've reached an agreement. He subsequently tells me that the transaction has been declined. No one has informed me of that fact, and I don't believe him. So there could be a conflict. I might think he's telling me that because he may no longer want to buy my firearm. If the registrar, a person in a position of authority, had informed me that the transaction was declined and that no reference number was issued, I would nevertheless have received confirmation. However, according to the current provision of the bill, Mr. Berthold would be responsible for telling me that it was declined, without anyone confirming it for me. I might doubt his word and think he has changed his mind, which could cause conflict.
I would like my colleagues on the other side of the table to listen because I get the impression I'm speaking in a vacuum. If that's the case, let's go away and come back next week.
It's in the public interest to clearly understand what I have just raised. A single word could cause conflict. If the registrar informed me that the transaction had been denied, I would understand, but, it was the buyer who told me that, I might not believe him, and there could be conflict. That's the point I want to make. I'm not asking you for your opinion since you've already expressed it.
I'm done, Mr. Chair.
This was introduced by my colleague, Mr. Motz:
||That Bill C-71, in Clause 7, be amended by replacing lines 5 to 8 on page 8 with the following:
||(b) the business must record and keep the following information
Basically what we're trying to do here is replace the current language proposed by the government. The government has made the case many times that this is not a registry, that it is a database of transactions through their office of the registrar. Now we have a database being kept in a distributed format at places of business. Should that place of business fold or cease its operations and not pass on that information, then it is passed on to the government for keeping.
In an effort to be consistent with the government claims that there isn't actually a registry of firearms, whether it's transactional or otherwise, I would suggest that we adopt the amendment by my colleague from Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner so that we can have greater certainty that these records will not not cause any of the following three results: one, consternation for law-abiding firearms owners who do not wish to have the information about the firearms that they may or may not have in their possession getting into the wrong hands; two, as we've already seen with the previous registry that happened a long time ago through Bill , the potential for escalating costs; and three, as has been suggested here through a number of questions I have asked, little or no increase in public safety.
I urge my colleagues here at the committee to adopt the motion.
If that's the rationale that's being used to justify that particular clause, correct me if I'm wrong, but in virtually every case that I'm aware of, over the years I've been here, of Canada entering into an international treaty, virtually every international treaty has required an act of Parliament in order for the ratification of and accession to that treaty. That's how things like the United Nations work. They adopt an overarching treaty, and each member country then has to go back and go through that process, which generally requires legislative accession. Why would we need to put in legislation now a clause that gives that flexibility? If a treaty went beyond the scope of 20 years, why wouldn't we want to give parliamentarians of the day an opportunity to debate that and see if it's worth it at that particular point in time?
This isn't a question for you guys. This is a question for my colleagues across the way. I would hope that somebody over there could explain that to me. If that needed to be changed legislatively because of Canada's accession to a treaty that's unsupposed at this particular point in time, why wouldn't we let the parliament of the day determine that legislatively and make the amendment then?
To the witnesses who are here right now, are there any treaties that we are currently going through the process of for which this particular amendment was put in place in anticipation of?
Of course, when legislation to adopt a treaty, ratify a treaty, accede to a treaty is put before both houses, any amendments to the Firearms Act that need to be made to accommodate those changes at that time could also be done at that time.
My question for you, Mr. Koops, or for anybody who's here, is this. Is there currently a treaty that is in the process of being negotiated where legislation might be forthcoming before this House that we as parliamentarians ought to be aware of?
I would suggest to my colleagues across the way that this isn't necessary as part of the legislation right now. If we go through the accession process to another treaty, this legislation could be changed at that particular point in time, and that debate should be allowed before the parliamentarians in both houses at that time. What we're doing right now is predetermining, in my opinion, the accession to a future treaty, whatever that happens to be, and making the decision for the parliamentarians of that day.
I don't see any colleagues across the way willing to engage me in debate on this. That's fine. But I still do have my outstanding question for the witnesses.
Are you guys aware of any current treaty or treaties where we're going through that process for which this clause would need to be here now?
Thank you, Chair. I would like to move my amendment and debate it. I'm assuming I have the floor.
Mr. Chair, this amendment proposes a similar change, namely that Bill , in clause 7, be amended by replacing line 23 on page 8 with “in the circumstances that may be prescribed or seven years after the records were transmitted to them, whichever is earlier.”
I'm proposing this because notwithstanding the evidence that we've heard here today about what might be a norm, my concerns are now exacerbated by the understanding that there is a proviso in the legislation that allows for an automatic extension of the 20-year period to something larger as a result of Canada assenting to the international trade agreement that was brought to my attention just now, which is CIFTA. Without knowing what that prescribed period or timeline actually is, the record-keeping norms we have in Canada would suggest a keeping of the records for seven years, which is how long we have to keep tax information and all other manner of documentation in terms of government record-keeping.
Notwithstanding virtually every rationale that a firearms vendor would have on behalf of whoever the supplier or the original manufacturer might be, I'm not aware of any reason to go beyond seven years for conditions of warranty or what have you. That is the normal reason for a vendor to keep that information on behalf of the manufacturer, in case there is a warranty issue, not particularly because it's a public safety concern.
Given the fact that the previous motion to reduce the 20 years down to 10 was defeated, and that the motion to get rid of the clause that would allow anybody to extend the 20-year period was defeated as well, I don't hold out much hope for this one, but I'd like to move it nonetheless.
There will be a bit of work to do on amendment CPC-37. We'll have to discuss its objective in particular. We also feel there are some translation problems.
First, the objective is to protect records in order to protect citizens. In our view, an inspector may not simply enter a business and access records without a warrant. The idea is, above all, to protect citizens, in view of the fact that there is purportedly no registry. We do not see why an inspector can simply enter a business without a warrant justifying his doing so. Furthermore, we are talking here about a private business. The government has decided to require that private businesses maintain the registry. However, business owners are not required to receive these impromptu visits or to provide access to all their information, particularly since they are not paid to do so.
I would like to hear the opinions of the experts here on access to information and on how to proceed. We are talking here about private sector business owners who have an obligation to keep records without being compensated.
Do they have a right to ask that inspectors have warrants if they wish to access their computers and information?
That may be a question for the people from the Department of Justice.
We will have a recorded vote.
(Clause 7 agreed to: yeas 6; nays 3)
(Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to)
The Chair: Before we debate LIB-3, which is a new clause, we have a ruling from the chair.
The amendment seeks to create a new reconsideration process for decisions to revoke or to refuse to issue a licence registration certificate or authorization. According to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Third Edition, page 770, “An amendment to a bill that was referred to a committee after second reading is out of order if it is beyond the scope and principle of the bill.”
In the opinion of the chair, the reconsideration process introduces a new concept that is beyond the scope of the bill. Therefore, I rule it inadmissible.
We have a consequential ruling to LIB-4 as well.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I'll likely get to that after I go through my thoughts on this.
This amendment is put forward by a rural Liberal MP who won his seat by a handful of votes and understands the travesty of justice that Bill poses for law-abiding firearms owners. He is seeking protection and amelioration for himself and some of his colleagues for what he knows is coming once this law is passed.
It's unfortunate that he's not here to present the motion himself tonight. On his behalf, I would like to challenge your ruling, Mr. Chair, because I don't believe this is beyond the scope. It fits in nicely with everything that we're discussing, which is licensing provisions and transaction provisions for the transfer of firearms between one licence-holder and another. This is paramount. The fact that this Bill changes how licences can be granted is certainly within the scope of this legislation.
Therefore, I believe that 's addition through this amendment, which also changes how licence rejections can be appealed, is in order and should be allowed to be debated before this House. I would like the opportunity to do so and the only means I have is to challenge your ruling.
As regards amendment CPC-38, section 101 of the Criminal Code is very clear: it is already an indictable offence to sell a firearm to someone who does not hold a licence.
As the Criminal Lawyers' Association has said, this provision merely adds a criminal liability threat if two individuals authorized both to possess and acquire firearms fail to inform the government of their lawful transactions.
What additional safeguard will this provision achieve for Canadians? Does someone think that gangs that buy illegal firearms concealed in trunks of cars will stop to get a reference number before conducting the transactions? That's absurd.
Perhaps it's more like the statement made in the House of Commons by Mr. Holland, who said that people who had authorizations to transport were thugs who travel around a million places. I know that Mr. Holland got a lot of coverage in the firearms community following that comment, and I accept his statement that there was some misunderstanding.
However, let's be clear: the only people with firearms who can be called thugs are those who don't have licences to acquire firearms, and absolutely nothing in the bill concerns them, despite what the experts in the Prime Minister's cabinet may tell us.
That's why this is amendment is so important. Instead of devoting government resources to telling law-abiding firearms owners what they already know, namely that they are law-abiding firearms owners, we could use those resources to target thugs and criminals.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Amendment CPC-40 is apparently the same as amendment CPC-39, so amendment CPC-40 cannot be moved.
Amendment CPC-40.1 was reference number 9928789. We already made the original ruling back under CPC-15 that it was ruled out of order for vagueness.
(Clause 10 agreed to: yeas 6; nays 3 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
(Clause 11 agreed to on division [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: There are no amendments to clause 12.
We're on amendment CPC-40.2, reference 9927639, in the name of Mr. Calkins.
I would just make the observation—I'm not going to rule against it—that there's, borderline, a scope issue, but beyond that, you've moved it and we'll let it stand.
One of the things this committee heard about, particularly in the testimony of Dr. Gary Mauser, Professor Emeritus, is the fact that in the past this bill has created a lot of paper criminals. This is a long-standing frustration of law-abiding firearms owners. This is actually why they're so up in arms and incensed with Bill . Again, they feel that it is an attack on the law-abiding citizen rather than an actual focus on going after criminals, organized crime, contraband, and all of those things.
As Mr. Mauser pointed out in his testimony when he appeared before the committee, on average there are about 15,000 firearms charges and subsequent other Criminal Code charges that are laid as a result of these particular issues, so what I'm proposing—and I'm hoping my colleagues will see it—is that in the event that somebody finds themself offside with the law in the sense that it's only a paper crime for which there is actually no victim.... For example, a police officer goes to a house for an unrelated reason, sees a firearm that's not being properly stored, and lays a charge in accordance with the Criminal Code or the Firearms Act, when there is no victim.
We can have a debate or argue all the time about whether or not public safety is actually served by that, but I would appeal to the angels in the room. If we actually don't have a victim, we shouldn't be sending people to jail. We have enough people in this country who are committing crimes for which there are plenty of victims and for whom the rationale of giving them light sentences, parole, or bail is that we don't have incarceration space for them. That is a reality.
I'm proposing this amendment so that it can give at least some assurance to law-abiding firearms owners who, through something that might have happened inadvertently or a result of a misunderstanding of the legislation or what have you, find themselves.... Unless we actually have a victim or somebody who is harmed as a result of a violation of this act, we shouldn't be sending people to jail.
I'm moving this and hoping that the folks in the room see its reasonableness. This is a reasonable amendment. I'm all for cracking down on actual perpetrators, on people who actually commit offences and have the intention to either deprive people of their property or commit harm to another person, but for those who don't do that, I want to give them at least some small victory. The fact is that Bill is going to pass, much to their concern. I'm hoping that we can give them this victory, Mr. Chair. I think this is beyond reasonable, and it shouldn't be a partisan issue at the table.
I want to applaud my colleague for presenting this amendment, because I think it speaks to where we find ourselves with the majority—97.3% of gun owners, based on the statistics—who have never committed a crime with their firearm. Because of a paper error, we potentially are going to create for them criminal records.
If public safety is the ultimate goal of Bill , which we are told repeatedly that it is, then it would be reasonable to accept this amendment for an individual who has committed an infraction of which they are unaware, as we have said before, with respect to a paper infraction.
I can tell you from my experience in my previous life that when you come across someone who has committed a minor offence—a bylaw offence, a minor Criminal Code offence, a traffic infraction, anything—and they actually don't know that what they've done is wrong—
Thank you for your kindness, Mr. Chair.
Amendment CPC-42 aims to preclude the possibility for the Governor in Council to make regulations for the provision of information by the transferor, the transferee, and the registrar for the purpose of issuing a reference number.
We feel that firearms owners in Canada are already the Canadians whose behaviour is most highly scrutinized and who are subject to the most verifications.
If we trust them enough to allow them to have firearms in their homes, why create this security theatre, as the Criminal Lawyers' Association has called it? Why create an even larger bubble around subsequent firearms purchases?
The public safety benefits of this kind of measure are very limited. It must be said that people who commit crimes do not buy their firearms at Cabela's or at Firearms Outlet Canada in Ajax, for example. They get them illegally.
All this measure does is encourage those who have limited knowledge of how the firearms authorization process works, and who suppose that we are like Americans, to think that we're doing the same thing.
Once again, this is consistent with the logic of this bill as a whole. An attempt is being made to scare people and make them believe that it's like the United States here: it's the far west. However, Canada is one of the countries with the highest level of firearms control.
I repeat that it is the criminals who are the problem. There are already enough constraints and verifications. There is no need to add more. That is why we recommend this amendment. At some point, we have to stop adding on.
This has to do with the deadline for the new ATTs, the changes in the rules that come into effect to allow a reasonable adjustment, which will take place well after the next election.
If you look at Bill in clause 15, we're talking about replacing line 23 on page 10 with the following:
||prohibited firearm or a restricted firearm are revoked on the 3rd anniversary of the day on which this section comes into force, namely
Proposed section 135.1 revokes the ability to transport prohibited and restricted firearms and it makes that start as soon as the bill comes into force. This amendment would change the coming into force to allow a reasonable amount of adjustment time for the government to properly establish, fund, and operationalize their process for providing authorizations to transport.
Having spoken with some chief firearms officers and knowing that they are already underfunded and backlogged, I know that the ability to handle the expected influx of the requests as soon as the bill receives royal assent is somewhere between ridiculous and outrageous, depending on your expectations of the government.
I would therefore submit that should the government want to revoke the reasonable ATTs that exist today, they should take the time to ensure that the systems are in place first.
After making that statement, I would liken this to the Phoenix program, which the government was clearly told not to implement until it was ready, as well as the way we don't have a plan for the illegal border crossers. Perhaps we need to stop making the same mistakes over and over again, but I doubt that's going to happen. It seems to be a consistent practice that we're going to vote everything down that comes from a Conservative.
If I remember right, when Bill came into effect, there was huge push-back from the RCMP and from officials from the firearms program, Mr. O'Reilly, about how it was not possible to get this act implemented and all the rules put in place and how you would need long-term timelines to make that happen.
I see with Bill that there's no indication of that, and yet we do know that there are backlogs for firearms officers, CFOs, and we know that there will be huge amounts of backlogs for them, and they are underfunded. I'm wondering what your take is on waiting, as the amendment says, until the third anniversary after this becomes law before the changes to the new ATTs take effect.
Many Canadians are concerned that the RCMP have the last word on evaluation of firearms owned by law-abiding Canadians. Even your colleague , my dear Liberal friends, has expressed this concern. I hope that won't cause too many problems.
We acknowledge that the RCMP has firearms expertise, but it should not necessarily have the last word on everything.
We have to have this kind of safety valve that allows for a kind of reevaluation. The RCMP must not be the only authority that decides to what category firearm belongs. This amendment proposes the establishment of a committee of firearms experts that would be responsible for reviewing the RCMP's decisions. This would be one way to respect honest citizens.
I want to point out for the record that the basis of our remarks and of all the proposals we have submitted to date is in no way ideological. From the outset, we have proposed very specific and very technical amendments with complete respect for citizens. The Liberals, moreover, have rejected several proposals that in no way compromised public safety.
Coming back to amendment CPC-46, we acknowledge the RCMP's effective work, but the fact remains that a committee responsible for reviewing the RCMP's decisions would serve as a safety valve.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I know you're fed up, but it's almost over.
We have worked hard to improve Bill . Unfortunately, we have not achieved the desired result. What can I say? Next year, we'll be able to take back control.
I could read you a passage from page 972 of O'Brien and Bosc, which states that it is important that members who sit on the committees have a good working relationship and get along with each other. Members are appointed to a committee on a permanent basis to improve their skills and abilities. My NDP friend, for example, has been sitting on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for a long time, and he knows his business. On our side, we are improving day by day, and it's a pleasure for me to work with you. The fact remains that it will be different next year.
For the moment, let's get back to amendment CPC-47. We are asking that subsection 117.15(3) of the Criminal Code, which provides that a firearm may be prescribed to be a non-restricted firearm despite the definitions of the terms "prohibited firearm" and "restricted firearm," be retained. However, we maintain that subsection 117.15(4) of the Criminal Code, according to which a firearm may be prescribed to be a restricted firearm, should be repealed.
What I have said will change nothing, but it's nevertheless a pleasure for me to speak. My impression is that we, on our side, are the only ones who are warm.
Do you have anything to add?
Well, give me a chance.
The ruling is that this is inadmissible because it infringes on the prerogatives of the crown. It would create a new firearms classification board to which remunerated members would be appointed. Again, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, page 767, states:
||Since an amendment may not infringe upon the financial initiative of the Crown, it is inadmissible if it imposes a charge on the public treasury, or if it extends the objects or purposes or relaxes the conditions and qualifications specified in the royal recommendation.
It is therefore the opinion of the chair that the amendments, and this will apply to both CPC-47.1 and CPC-47.2, would impose a new charge on the public treasury. Therefore, I rule that they are inadmissible.
(On clause 19)
The Chair: Moving now to clause 19, CPC-48.
Are you tired, Mr. Paul-Hus?
(Clause 22 agreed to: yeas 6; nays 3)
The Chair: May I group clauses 23 through to 30 for the purposes of the vote?
Some hon. members: On division.
(Clauses 23 to 30 inclusive agreed to on division)
The Chair: Shall the title carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
An hon. member: On division.
The Chair: Shall the bill as amended carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the chair report the bill as amended to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
An hon. member: On division.
The Chair: Shall the committee order a reprint of the bill as amended for the use of the House at report stage?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you, colleagues.
I have to respectfully suggest that both of these motions seem to me that we now have suggestions to the government by this committee that we do what we should have done in this committee, and that's to take a stand on some of these issues.
Now we're trying to cover our ass, the proverbial CYA. I'd like to add to the record the very limited amount of time we had to review this very serious legislation and to listen to witnesses. There's a multitude more; we did not hear from witnesses who wanted to testify before committee.
Their briefs that were submitted to committee weren't even considered as part of putting this bill together.
The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions' recommendations were not considered.
A brief submitted by Benjamin Copithorne was not given consideration, nor were his recommendations.
A gentleman by the name of David DeCosse was not considered. A Dr. Barbara Kane was not considered. A gentleman by the name of Mike Duynhoven was not considered.
If I may continue, number six is the national office of the Canadian Federation of University Women, which submitted a brief but was not included.
The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime was not included. Priscilla de Villiers, the executive director of the Victim Justice Network, was not included. The National Association of Women and the Law was not considered. Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre was not considered.
Dr. Mark Sinyor was not considered. Terry Warner from Ontario was not considered. The name of Bill Skinner, on behalf of the Arnprior Fish and Game Conservation Club, was submitted and was not considered. Mr. John Melnick was not considered. James Veltkamp was not considered.
Michel Parent of B.C. was not considered. Evan Koziel was not considered. Justin Law was not considered. Colette Prevost, for the Toronto YMCA, was not considered. There were numerous other ones.
I think it's important that Canadians appreciate that they all took the time to make their recommendations and their submissions to this committee. They were thwarted from being heard because of the self-imposed arbitrary timelines to rush this bill through Parliament.
Mr. Chair, this just confirms what everybody in Canada who has been paying attention to this debate has known all along: that this is the fire, ready, and aim approach that the government has taken when it comes to firearms.
I find it regrettable that the motions for which we have just been given notice in front of this committee weren't given on day two of the standing up of this committee after the last election. I shudder to think of what Bill actually might have looked like had this committee had the opportunity to pursue these two notices of motion and had thoroughly studied and brought back some recommendations to the government for a bill that might effectively have reduced crime and actually improved public safety.
It seems a bit rich to me that with less than a year to go in the parliamentary calendar, this committee is going to be embarking on this. It sounds to me like the Government of Canada and this committee are pursuing a Liberal platform for the next election campaign rather than actually pursuing good legislation on behalf of Canadians.
This committee has also been tasked with a motion that was just passed unanimously in the House of Commons dealing with rural crime, and my guess is that will get short shrift when it's compared to these notices of motion, which I'm sure will be passed next week by the majority of members on this committee.