moved that Bill , an act to amend certain acts and regulations in relation to firearms, be read the third time and passed.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to open third reading debate in the House today on Bill , an important piece of legislation in support of public safety and the ability of law enforcement to investigate gun crimes, while at the same time being reasonable and respectful toward law-abiding firearms owners and businesses.
Following years of declining crime rates in Canada, a number of critical statistics concerning firearms pivoted in 2013 to show a significant increase over subsequent years. In 2013, there were 211 attempted murders involving guns; in 2016, there were 290. In 2013, there were 134 gun homicides; in 2016, there were 223. For armed robbery, the numbers jumped from 2,096 in 2013 to 2,870 in 2016. According to the most recent data from Statistics Canada that became available just this summer, between 2013 and 2017 overall offences involving guns increased by 44%. It is this troubling trend that Bill would help to address, hand in hand with our investment of $327 million over five years, rising to $100 million every year thereafter, to intensify our battle against guns and gangs.
That new funding will be aimed at three key goals: first, increasing the capacity and the effectiveness of the Canada Border Services Agency to interdict gun smuggling at the border; second, bolstering the work of the RCMP to identify and take down illegal weapons trafficking operations; and third, to support provinces, municipalities and local law enforcement in their efforts to disrupt gangs, prosecute offenders, prevent young people from being drawn into gangs in the first place and to help them exit that destructive lifestyle. This initiative has been very well received by our provincial and municipal counterparts and many stakeholders, like those from all across the country who attended our guns and gangs summit last spring in Ottawa. Discussions are well advanced on how to make the best use of the new federal dollars. The new will be rolling out the details in the weeks ahead.
In the meantime, we continue to advance Bill . The public safety committee of the House studied this bill very carefully, and during its consideration it accepted amendments from all of the major parties. I would like to extend my thanks to the committee members who, as always, conducted a very thorough study of the subject matter and sent the bill back to the House in improved form.
During the last election, the Liberal Party ran on very specific campaign promises relating to firearms. Bill deals with those promises that require legislative change. They were as follows: first, repeal the changes made by Bill that allowed restricted and prohibited weapons to be freely transported without a permit; second, put decision-making about weapons restrictions back into the hands of police and not politicians; third, require enhanced background checks for everyone seeking to purchase a handgun or other restricted firearm; fourth, require purchasers of firearms to show a licence when they buy a gun and require all sellers of firearms to confirm that the licence is in fact valid before completing the sale; and finally, require firearms vendors to keep records of all firearms inventories and sales to assist police in investigating firearms trafficking and other gun crimes. We are delivering on each of these promises to make our communities safer and to support law enforcement while not targeting law-abiding firearms owners.
First, on the issue of enhanced background checks, currently when deciding whether to issue a possession and acquisition licence, a PAL, the law requires the chief firearms officer of a province or territory to consider the past five years of an applicant's history to determine if their past activities or behaviours indicate a public safety risk.
Bill proposes to eliminate that five-year limitation. That idea stems from a private member's bill introduced by former Conservative cabinet minister James Moore in 2003. Upon tabling his private member's bill, Mr. Moore told this chamber the following:
Currently the Firearms Act says that if in the past five years a person has committed a violent crime and has been convicted of a violent crime or of threatening to commit a violent crime, that person cannot apply to own a firearm for five years.
My private member's bill does not say after five years: it says if a person has ever committed a violent crime in their life never does that person get to own a gun. If a person has ever beat his wife or ever committed rape or ever committed murder and is released from jail, never in his life does that person get to own a gun....
Those are the words of the hon. James Moore.
Mr. Moore's bill obviously did not pass, because today the Firearms Act still says five years. Bill , however, will remove that time limitation, as well as expand the kinds of things that the CFO can consider when deciding whether to issue a licence or not. There are, for example, explicit references in the law to gender-based violence. Thanks to amendments made by the committee, which were adopted unanimously, the CFO would also be able to consider an applicant's online behaviour as well. There appears to be broad and multipartisan support for these measures on background checks.
For indigenous hunters who engage in the traditional practices of hunting, the aboriginal peoples of Canada adaptations regulations will continue to apply. The regulations allow an applicant to ask an elder or community leader for a recommendation to go to the provincial chief firearms officer to confirm the importance to the applicant of their engaging in traditional hunting practices, which are, of course, a section 35 treaty right. Therefore, we can see the legal framework here attempting to make sure that the appropriate indigenous considerations are taken fully into account.
Secondly, on the issue of transporting firearms, specifically restricted and prohibited firearms, before former bill made changes to the Firearms Act in 2015, the owner of a restricted or prohibited weapon was required to get an authorization to transport it, what is known as an ATT, every time the owner took that firearm anywhere. The Harper government loosened that restriction by attaching an automatic authorization to transport to every possession and acquisition licence for the purpose of transporting the firearm home from a store or to an approved shooting range or to a port of entry or a gunsmith or a gun show. Because the ATT was automatic and applied to numerous different destinations, it became virtually impossible for police to detect the transportation of restricted or prohibited weapons for illegal purposes.
Bill seeks to narrow and clarify the scope of the ATT rules. An ATT would continue to be included automatically with a PAL licence to transport restricted or prohibited weapons to a certified shooting range, but beyond that, a separate ATT would be required. This would assist law enforcement without impacting gun owners in any major way. In addition, we will work to ensure that the firearms centre is properly staffed to issue ATTs as required, and we will provide an electronic portal where firearms owners can apply online and get their ATTs in a matter of just a few minutes. If people need to go to a gunsmith after they have been at firing ranges, they would also be able to get an ATT on their smart phones. Therefore, the objective here is to make sure that the service is efficient.
Third, on the classification practices, it is of course up to Parliament, up to the House of Commons and the Senate, as a matter of law, to determine how firearms are classified. For years Parliament has identified and defined three categories: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited. Parliament is always free to change those categories if it sees fit. It can change the characteristics that apply to each of the three categories. That is Parliament's sovereign right.
Administratively, after the definitions have been set in law by Parliament, it should be firearms experts who make the technical determination as to which firearm fits into which category. That is a factual, technical function, and it should not be politicized. Bill makes that point very clear. It grandfathers those individuals who may be adversely affected by the previous government's decisions to allow the cabinet to contradict the experts and assign a lower category to a particular firearm, contrary to the definitions in the Criminal Code.
Let me turn next to the question of licence verification. Currently in Canada, if people want to buy ammunition for a non-restricted firearm, they must show the vendor a valid firearms licence. It might surprise many people to know that they do not currently have to show a valid firearms licence for purchasing a non-restricted firearm.
Mr. David Anderson: Tell the truth, Ralph, you'll feel better. What kind of rubbish is that. You know better than that.
Hon. Ralph Goodale: This formerly mandatory practice was changed—
Madam Speaker, the practice was changed by the previous Conservative government in 2012. Actually the law was changed so that this became a voluntary provision. The law now says the vendor simply has to have “no reason to believe that the transferee is not authorized to acquire and possess that kind of firearm.” In other words, they do not have to ask. They can ask, but they do not have to ask.
Of course, vendors have that option, and all the reputable ones that I know actually ask the question to determine that the licence is still valid. Most businesses probably behave in that way. It is just common sense. However, if someone without a PAL is looking to get a shotgun, for example, that person is more likely to try to buy it from a vendor known not to run the licence check.
Bill would make it an offence not to verify the licence. This is not only important to stop those who have never had a licence from acquiring a non-restricted firearm. If a gun shop is dealing with a regular customer, the sales clerk might be tempted not to check the licence that he or she has probably seen many times before on previous transactions. However, if that customer had recently lost their PAL due to a court order, the sales clerk would have no way to know that unless he or she actually checked its validity with the registrar. Customer service will be important so that verification can be done in a quick and efficient manner.
On firearms record-keeping, Bill proposes to make record-keeping of non-restricted firearms a requirement for all businesses. With proper authorization, police will then be able to better trace the origins of firearms found at crime scenes. This was a requirement for businesses from 1979 until 2005. It is also a standard requirement across virtually all of the United States. It is simply a good business practice commonly applied already by major retailers like Cabela's, Canadian Tire and many others.
Some people have suggested that this will amount to a new long-gun registry. Of course, for such an argument to be logical, it would also mean that Canada first had a long-gun registry back in 1979. Obviously, that would be nonsense. To make this point crystal clear, the Conservatives moved an amendment in the committee, which reads as follows: “For greater certainty, nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to permit or require the registration of non-restricted firearms.” That amendment was supported unanimously by all members of the public safety committee, who were in total agreement that nothing in Bill C-71 remotely resembles a long-gun registry. That point is now beyond all doubt.
In addition to meeting our platform commitments, we are currently reviewing other options to ensure that firearms do not fall into the wrong hands. For example, we are examining the regulations relating to the safe storage of firearms, especially after hours on commercial premises. Firearms theft from such premises have been steadily rising, and we should try to prevent that trend from getting worse.
We are examining firearms advertising regulations to see if they are appropriate to prohibit the glorification of violence and anti-personnel kinds of paramilitary conduct. We are examining the issue of whether there should be some flagging system with respect to large transactions or bolt sales that may trigger questions on the part of police forces. We are also examining the possibility of enabling medical professionals to flag when they feel a patient may pose a significant risk to the safety of themselves or others.
I would point out that in 2012, Quebec passed what is known as Anastasia's law, which banned firearms in places like schools and relieved physicians of their usual obligations with respect to doctor-patient confidentiality when they felt that someone under their care who owned a firearm might be a danger to themselves or to others. It is a concept that other provinces may wish to examine, and it will be discussed at federal, provincial and territorial meetings this fall.
I will be working with the new on these supplementary measures as well. As members know, the new minister has also been mandated to lead an examination of a ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians. That consultation will be going forward this fall.
When taken together, this strategy represents a responsible firearms package that will help make our communities safer. It will help police forces investigate the illegal use of firearms. At the same time, these measures taken together will not overburden legitimate firearms owners in exercising their legitimate rights.
Madam Speaker, I rise again today to speak about the logical absurdity at the heart of Bill . We on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security have read and worked on the text of the bill. The conclusion is inescapable: the Liberals are trying to look like they are fighting crime, but in reality, they seem to be favouring the rights of criminals over those of law-abiding citizens. This is nothing new. Canadians are all too familiar with the Prime Minister's track record. I do not need to persuade anyone that the Prime Minister has an overly liberal attitude towards terrorists and street gangs.
Bill proves my point. We have been debating this bill for some time in the House, but I can guarantee you that thousands of citizens have been continuing the discussions across Canada. Yesterday, my colleague from presented a petition signed by 86,000 law-abiding Canadians — certainly not criminals — calling for Bill C-71 to be scrapped.
The Prime Minister likes to brag every chance he gets about working for reconciliation with first nations. This has been yet another failure, since there have been no discussions with first nations. Maybe he thought it would be too difficult to have a conversation with them, so he did not bother.
Firearms are a way of life for many indigenous peoples. They hunt every day, as it is part of their ancient traditions, and we understand that. However, they were not able to share their views, except in committee, and only because the Conservatives requested that first nations witnesses appear. Those representatives said they did not deem that Bill applied to them and they had no need for it. They therefore have no intention of obeying it. That is a pretty serious problem.
As I said earlier, we have not debated Bill for quite some time. I would therefore like to remind Canadians what the bill is all about. Let me remind Canadians that this bill does nothing to fight street gangs and organized crime. I would also remind Canadians that the bill is an attempt by the Prime Minister to impose a gun registry and yet another burden on law-abiding citizens for no good reason.
Now I will go over some of the finer points of the bill to illustrate to what extent the Liberals have lost their way. The following are some of the gaps in Bill : the proposed legislation would remove the reference to the five-year period that applies to background checks for permit applications, thereby eliminating any time restriction on those checks. What is more, every time there is a transfer of ownership of a non-restricted firearm, the purchaser and vendor will have to check whether the licence is valid. Retailers will also be required to keep records of their inventories and sales at their own expense. The current wording of the bill repeals parts of our former Bill , which gives parliamentarians, not the RCMP, the power to classify firearms. Under this bill, specific transport authorization would be required every time a restricted or non-restricted firearm is transported across communities, except when a firearm is transported between a residence and an approved shooting range, as the said.
In his speech, the mentioned that the amendments of all the recognized parties had been accepted. However, we proposed 44 amendments and only one was accepted. The members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security worked extremely hard. We took off our jackets, rolled up our sleeves and worked for hours to make this bill more logical. We proposed 44 amendments to improve the bill. They were not ideological amendments. The Liberals rejected all of them except for one.
One of our amendments proposed that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness be the one to change the classification of firearms based on recommendations from the manufacturer and the RCMP. This amendment would have prevented the RCMP from having a complete monopoly over the classification of firearms and ensured that consultations would precede any reclassification. That would have ensured public accountability by forcing the minister to provide his reasons for the reclassification in the Canada Gazette. The Liberals rejected that amendment.
We also proposed an amendment that would have made it unnecessary to conduct background checks on people seeking to renew a firearm licence or firearm owners the year of the first background check since the continuous eligibility process involves daily checks. The amendment sought to simplify the process without reducing the number of checks. Of course, we all agree that background checks must be conducted.
We wanted to improve the bill so as to make it a little simpler, but we were rebuffed. We also proposed that people on indigenous reserves or in remote areas who live off hunting be exempt from the regulations on firearms transfers, but once again we were told no.
We are now at third reading stage, and I believe it is important to remind Canadians of the Conservative Party's position on this matter. Canada's Conservatives believe that Canadians' safety should be the top priority of any government. Talk is not enough; action and specific measures are needed. Unfortunately, this law does not have any new measures to tackle the gang violence in Surrey or Toronto and the increased crime rate in Canada's rural communities.
We cannot trust the Liberals when it comes to firearms legislation, because they are not cracking down on criminals who use weapons to commit violent crimes, and they are treating law-abiding gun owners like criminals.
The Conservatives will continue to advocate for real action to keep Canadians safe, and we will focus our efforts on the criminal causes of gun violence.
Our leader was very clear yesterday when he said that next year, in 2019, when the Conservatives form government, we will repeal Bill and replace it with a law that targets criminals and street gangs, not law-abiding Canadians.
We have concerns about Bill , another bill introduced around the same time. The government claims that Bills C-71 and C-75, which were introduced in tandem, are meant to combat gun violence. However, as we have said, Bill C-71 will criminalize law-abiding gun owners. Bill C-75 is even worse. It will turn certain criminal offences, such as participating in an activity of a terrorist group, administering a noxious substance, like the date rape drug, advocating genocide, or participating in organized crime, into offences that could be punishable by a fine. It makes absolutely no sense for the government to do this.
Criminals are criminals. Unless the government stops trying to please and mollify interest groups every time it decides to do something, it will never be able to introduce meaningful, relevant measures that really tackle the problem.
Under Bill , what are now certain criminal offences could become punishable by mere fines. They say their goal is to relieve pressure on the justice system. If the justice system is a problem, fix it. Criminal sanctions should not be downgraded just because the government has a problem.
We will take care of this next year.
In addition to making life difficult for law-abiding individuals, Bill C-71 is telling business owners, people who work hard for their money, to keep records about clients and firearms. They are being forced to keep those records for 20 years. They will have to have a computer system. The government is forcing them to do more, but they do not have the money to do it. Any costs associated with record-keeping will be their problem, unless there is something else we have not heard about.
I would now like to talk about the difference between the work of elected officials in the House of Commons and that of public servants or bureaucrats. Once again, the government is putting Canadians' safety in the hands of bureaucrats instead of allowing elected officials to decide what is important for Canadians. For example, the government is giving the RCMP total control over firearms reclassification. It is now up the RCMP to decide whether an individual is a criminal for owning a firearm that the RCMP now deems to be unacceptable.
We think we should be playing that role, even though it is true that no one here is an expert in the matter. We would need to get accurate information and advice from manufacturers and the RCMP. Then, the minister would make a decision based on the evidence. It is up to us to tell Canadians that after holding consultations or conducting checks, we decided to change the classification. Why would we not be able to do that?
Why let the RCMP make those decisions on our behalf? Once again, the government is giving power to bureaucrats who are not accountable to anyone, who can sit in their offices and decide to change the rules and prohibit a firearm without us having any say in the matter. What are we doing here? This is our job. We are not perfect, but that is why we would need to listen so that we could understand the situation properly and make an informed decision.
With regard to the registry, this is the second time that the Liberals have tried to punish law-abiding citizens. The first time was in 1993. Twenty-five years ago, the “little guy from Shawinigan” introduced a registry and told us not to worry because it would cost only $2 million. Shortly after that, we learned it would cost $2 billion, and we all know what happened next.
Now the Liberals are introducing a bill that requires retailers to collect data and send it to the government if their business shuts down, but they deny that this is a gun registry. That is what they want us to believe. As the saying goes, they are taking us for fools. They are trying to tell us in every possible way that this is not a gun registry. As soon as someone enters data on a computer, and businesses are required to send that data to the government if they shut down, what is that? It means that information on citizens and on guns is being shared. That is a kind of registry.
Getting back to indigenous peoples, I asked a question on that topic after the minister's speech. He replied simply that this pertains to section 35 of the Constitution. The minister just said directly that, from the standpoint of national security and harmonizing security across Canada, there is a constitutional problem. In its current form, Bill is unconstitutional if it applies to indigenous peoples. Indigenous representatives told us that themselves, and the minister just confirmed it. Now what is happening? The Liberals are pushing ahead, and once again, the first victims they go after are our law-abiding hunters and sport shooters. We have no shortage of laws in Canada. This is not the United States. It currently takes eight months to get a licence, and there are quite a few hoops to jump through.
I realize that the Constitution gives indigenous peoples certain rights. Still, as I said when I asked the minister my question, people who own guns are human beings, citizens, on an equal basis as other Canadians. Why would we impose a law on one group of individuals that would not apply to another group under the Constitution? That will not work.
I know this is complex, but I think law-abiding citizens are entitled to wonder why this bill is targeting them instead of criminals. The Liberals have yet to answer that question, and they cannot always claim it is because of the Constitution. When it comes to safety and security, that answer is not good enough. The government cannot just fool around with safety and security by simply saying that the Constitution protects its decision and that is that. That is not going to work.
The Conservatives are being told that we are all talk and no action. I just want to remind the House of what our government did to fight crime. When we were in government from 2006 to 2015, we fought tirelessly to keep Canadians safe. For example, we passed the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act. This act simplified the licensing system while strengthening firearms prohibitions for people who had been convicted of an offence involving domestic violence. We also passed the Tackling Violent Crime Act, which strengthened bail provisions for people accused of serious offences involving firearms.
The legislation we passed to tackle organized crime and ensure protection in the justice system provided police officers and justice officials with new tools that would go a long way in fighting organized crime. We supported the national crime prevention strategy. We funded initiatives across the country to advance Canada's crime prevention and community protection objectives under the national crime prevention strategy.
We created the northern and aboriginal crime prevention fund under the national crime prevention strategy in order to meet the needs of northern and aboriginal communities when it comes to crime and community safety.
We created the youth justice fund. In December 2006, the guns, gangs and drugs component of the youth justice fund was put in place to help rehabilitate young offenders.
We also created the youth gang prevention fund in 2006 to support community groups that work with troubled youth in order to prevent them from joining gangs by addressing the risk factors associated with gangs.
In other words, we kept our promises and worked for law-abiding citizens, not against them.
Let no one doubt our determination to fight crime. The Liberals, on the other hand, promised $327 million almost a year ago, but not a single penny has surfaced so far. The Liberals say they want to fight crime, they promise money, but we have yet to see a single penny.
Crime and gangs do not take time off. Gangs keep on committing crimes. The current government is spending a lot of money on a lot of silly things. They promised money to fight gangs and we agree with that, but now one year has gone by and we have yet to see a single red cent. That is outrageous. We need action now.
History is repeating itself. In 1993, the Liberals created the gun registry to make it look like they were fighting crime. Twenty-five years later, the Liberals are pulling out the same old strategy in the hope that Canadians will again be fooled by the smoke and mirrors of the and his team. They tell us that they are looking after us and will help up. In reality, Canadians are not fools. That was demonstrated by my colleague's petition this week. People understand that this is not the way to fight crime. We will deal with the problem next year.
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the and the member for for their speeches.
The issue of gun control is never an easy one to debate. After all, there are law-abiding gun owners. However, victims of gun crimes have told us tragic and horrible stories. We cannot just lump everything together. We have to respect both sides of the debate, which can be very emotional.
Unfortunately, over the course of the past 15, 20 and 25 years, the debate has been politicized, and that does not serve public safety nor the making of good public policy. The debate on Bill is proof of that. After this bill was introduced, the Liberals sent out fundraising emails. In the House, we also heard Conservative members whisper their thanks to the Liberals for providing a quote to be included in their solicitations. Political fundraising on the backs of victims of gun crimes and gun owners who simply want an acknowledgement of their views can lead to problems and does not advance public safety and public policy.
Let us put this aside and consider the facts before us.
Notwithstanding Bill , I want to start by recognizing something that everyone in this House agrees on, which is this disturbing trend we are seeing in particular in urban centres, in Canadian cities. It is a trend that is so problematic we have seen violence in Toronto, Surrey and other communities such as those.
I was proud to work with our leader, Jagmeet Singh, in writing a letter to the recognizing that more needs to be done to address the root causes of what is causing this violence, whether it is the radicalization of young vulnerable people who are facing all sorts of issues, mental health issues, extreme poverty, victims of the housing crisis, who are being recruited into gangs, their vulnerability being preyed upon by these types of organizations, or whether it is the fact that cities want to see the federal government do more. What form that will take remains to be seen. We will be very engaged in that debate. However, the fact of the matter is that there is a serious issue in this country that needs to be addressed. When I hear what the Conservatives say, the Liberals say, and we as New Democrats say, it is something we all agree on and will be moving forward on in the following months.
As pleased as I am to hear the minister raise the issue of what needs to be done at the border for firearms coming in from the United States, what needs to be done to address the spike in rural crime that is leading to, among other things, the theft of firearms owned by law-abiding firearms owners, or dealing with those issues I mentioned a few seconds ago relating to what is happening in cities notably with regard to gang violence, while the minister is saying the right things and seems to be on the right track, it is clear that more work needs to be done. Arguably, what the government is proposing is not enough. More needs to be done not only to invest in these things but also to tackle them in a more surgical way.
To come back to Bill specifically, there are several elements I want to discuss.
The first is the least controversial. The way I see it, everyone agrees, or at least should agree, on background checks. There is one thing that I think needs to be cleared up: contrary to what the Conservatives have claimed in committee and in the House, background checks already cover more than the required five-year period, owing to several court rulings. This is already being done by default. The only thing Bill C-71 does is enshrine lifetime background checks in law.
As my colleague from just mentioned in her question to the previous speaker, background checks are not meant to punish people or to block someone from buying a gun or getting a licence just because they shoplifted a bag of candy from a corner store 30 years ago. They are meant to identify someone who might have been arrested 15, 20 or 25 years ago on domestic violence charges or for uttering threats against women.
That is the kind of person we want to identify, not someone who was arrested at 16 for simple possession of cannabis or for shoplifting, like the example I just gave. I am talking about much more serious crimes that can represent a major threat to public safety and security. As we learned from the studies that have been presented to us on violence against women and self-inflicted violence, the suicide rate is extremely high, and firearms are a commonly used method. These are the issues we need to seriously examine. We all agree on background checks.
As for the issue of retailers keeping records, the opposition wants to portray this as a backdoor registry. Let me be clear. Such records have been kept in the United States for a very long time, and even in Canada, before the gun registry was created in the 1990s, record-keeping was already required under the law.
As the retailers who appeared before the committee said themselves, every respectable business owner who wants to maintain proper records already does this, for accounting purposes, for example. The bill is only meant to ensure that the few non-compliant businesses—which is a very small minority, I might add—are brought into line. The records also need to be standardized, to make it easier for police officers to do their jobs, which is central to this matter.
When the registry was abolished in 2012 by the Conservative government, there was one witness in particular whose testimony stood out to me. Calgary police chief Rick Hanson, who was brought to committee by the Conservative members, spoke in favour of abolishing the registry. He pointed out two things. The first was that while he was favourable to abolishing the registry, there needed to be more robust PAL verifications, which included background checks. The second was that when one firearm owner is transferring to another, whether through a private sale or otherwise, and I will come back to that in a moment, because that is part of Bill , he stated, “We must reinstate point of sale recording. This existed prior to the gun registry”, which is an important distinction, not that it is another registry but existed prior to the gun registry, “and was useful for two reasons. The first is that it allowed for proper auditing of gun stores to ensure that they are complying with the law requiring them to sell only to those with proper licences. That is a starting point should that gun be identified as being used in a criminal offence.”
One element that someone playing devil's advocate to this point might want to raise is to ask about the costs imposed on a business by doing so. The fact of the matter is, to go back to a point I made earlier and a point that everyone in the House should agree on, all reputable businesses already do this. Apart from some minor tinkering, as the process goes forward through regulation for ensuring that the record-keeping is uniform, for all intents and purposes, any costs associated with this change to the law will be minimal, particularly considering that the law already required this prior to the creation of the gun registry in the 1990s.
This is very important. The police officer I quoted earlier emphasized that. When representatives of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, they made it very clear that this is an important tool in the work they do. They said that when retailers maintain standardized records, they feel a little more confident when they have to go and talk to a retailer as part of a criminal investigation for a crime involving a firearm.
That brings me to the next point, the question of transferring from one firearm owner to another, in a private sale for example, and the need to verify that the person's licence is valid. One of the concerns that was raised in committee was the generation of more than one reference number during such a transfer, so a reference number for each firearm transfer. For example, if individual X is transferring to individual Y, each firearm would generate an individual reference number. When one read the legislation as it was originally drafted, before being sent to committee, the plural was used. Officials comforted us by saying the plural was always used in drafting legislation and, unless otherwise specified, could mean the singular and therefore only one reference number.
Putting aside all that technicality, I proposed an amendment so that only one reference number would be generated per transfer, regardless of the number of firearms being transferred from one individual to another. That amendment was adopted unanimously by all members of the committee.
To create greater certainty in law, it is not a question of registering the reference number to ensure the individual is respecting their moral and public safety obligations, but now also an obligation under the law to simply verify the validity of another individual's licence. I would argue 99.9% of responsible firearm owners in Canada already do that anyway. It is to make sure that the reference number is not portrayed as some kind of bogeyman, it is simply a tool used by the chief firearms officer to ensure that individual is respecting the law. That amendment is extremely important to make sure we have that certainty and that the intention behind the generation of that number is extremely clear.
Some proposed amendments regarding authorization to transport firearms were not adopted. This was a highly controversial issue. We realize that in the bill that the Conservatives introduced at the time, automatic authorization was almost always a problem. Police forces and other stakeholders brought up these problems.
The government made a change to stop the automatic authorization for every case, even though it still happens in some cases. One important point came up. Currently, there is automatic authorization to transport a firearm from the store to the location where the firearm will be stored, for example, the owner's home. An authorization would also be automatically issued to transport the firearm to a shooting club or range, so that the owner can practice shooting. One important point is missing, which is the transportation of the firearm from the location where it is stored or the shooting club or range to a government-approved businesses that services firearms. This is extremely important because, as we heard, a damaged weapon can be a safety hazard and can be dangerous.
We were told it is important to be able to transport a firearm from the place where it is stored or used legitimately, such as a gun club, to the place where it is to be repaired. Interestingly, an amendment was proposed by a Liberal member, an associate member of the committee who was not present for our deliberations. The New Democratic Party, represented by me, and the Conservative Party supported the amendment, but unfortunately, the Liberals rejected it. That is one aspect of the bill that still needs work.
I want to emphasize that there is an extremely important public safety element here, one we have to take very seriously. I mentioned it earlier in my speech when I talked about tragic situations related to street gang violence and horrific experiences that victims shared with the committee. PolySeSouvient was formed after the horrifying events at École Polytechnique, and in the years since, it has taken on the tremendous task of making sure elected representatives understand the importance of implementing appropriate rules for the use of firearms.
A retired RCMP officer told us the story of her daughter, who was murdered by her ex-spouse. His campaign of harassment turned violent, and a gun was used to commit the crime.
In those situations, it is important to be respectful of those victims and to understand the advocacy work that they are doing to make sure that the gun control that we adopt as legislators is appropriate, ensures public safety and achieves those objectives.
At the risk of repeating what I said at the outset of my speech, for too long there has been a division. Different political parties, which have been in power at different times, have put into confrontation the needs of these victims for better gun control to ensure public safety and the advocacy work they are doing against the advocacy by law-abiding firearms owners, who are simply trying to make sure that the regulations and laws that are adopted do not create an overbearing burden and a cumbersome system on sports shooting, hunting or the different activities that take place in our constituencies. This is not just in rural constituencies, but even in suburban areas such as mine where individuals who will not necessarily be hunting in the riding, but who will go to other areas to engage in sports shooting.
It is important that we stop putting these two groups as being in constant confrontation, that we stop trying to exploit one group or another. If we really want to adopt good public policy and ensure public safety, we need robust background checks to make sure that individuals who have serious mental health issues, those with a history of violence against women and who make misogynous threats of awful violence, do not obtain firearms. We must also listen to individuals who respect the law and are willing to work with government and elected officials to make sure that we are adopting good, sound public policy that does not go in one direction by creating a specific burden that does not enhance public policy. We need to create awareness among elected officials that we are not constantly fighting with one group or another and that we recognize as elected officials that none of that is achieving the objectives that we all say we want to achieve.
We will vote in favour of Bill for the simple reason that most of the provisions it introduces were already part of the legislation before the registry was created, including provisions on record-keeping by retailers. As far as background checks are concerned, we are simply codifying what is already being done. Lifetime background checks are already being done in some cases. They go back further than five years if there are any red flags. We can support that part of the bill, since these are good measures and they are not that onerous.
However, to truly address the problem of gun violence committed by street gangs or other individuals in major cities and in our communities, such as Toronto and Surrey, we have to acknowledge that a lot remains to be done. We also have to do more to address the suicide rate, which is extremely high, especially since suicides are often committed with firearms. One suicide is one too many. Even though we support Bill , it does not go far enough in that respect.
I urge the and the to acknowledge that there is a lot more work to be done and to work with us and all stakeholders on ending the partisanship that has marred this debate for far too long and prevented Canadians from having a healthy debate on the issue of firearms. That would allow us to adopt effective public policy to ensure public safety.
Madam Speaker, I represent the riding of New Brunswick Southwest, a riding with many gun owners. We have at least 30 gun clubs. We also have one of the busiest gun dealerships in Canada.
For owners, guns can mean recreation and, sometimes, a way to put food on the table. For the clubs, sports shooting enhances socializing among those who admire craftsmanship in weapons and accuracy in targeting. For the dealerships, guns provide jobs.
I have discussed this legislation with owners, club members, dealers and other citizens all over my riding of New Brunswick Southwest. I also studied and completed a two-day course in firearms handling. I am proud to say that I now hold a firearms possession and acquisition licence.
I also talked with women's organizations, survivors of gun violence and law enforcement officials. I spoke with the . I brought his to my riding to speak directly with gun club presidents.
Along the way, I discussed the bill with a good many members opposite. I enjoyed going to a shooting range near Ottawa with the outdoors parliamentary caucus. I have worked hard to fathom out this legislation and what it means for my constituents and other Canadians.
I conclude the following. I support responsible gun owners. I cannot see that Bill hurts them. Therefore, I support the legislation because it helps protect gun owners, as it does all citizens.
My riding, with its good, responsible gun owners, is considered a safe area. However, Fredericton and Moncton were also traditionally considered safe areas, too. We all remember the headlines about the tragic shootings in Fredericton in August of this year, and in Moncton in June 2014. It can happen so quickly when guns fall into the wrong hands.
Responsible people should be able to keep their guns without undue hindrance, but good people should be able to live freely in cities, towns and villages without undue risk from gun-carrying criminals or people who have threatened or inflicted harm on others.
Let us all remember the shocking number of tormented souls among us who, even though they were showing signs of mental difficulty, got hold of guns and committed suicide. Whether it is mental health, criminality or threatening behaviour, we should be able to double-check for dangers.
The bill is not a new handgun ban. It is not a long-gun registry. In large part it is not new. There is a commitment in this legislation not to reinstate the long-gun registry. A number of its main features existed before. We lived with those regulations for a long time, and they protected lives.
Then the previous government took them away. Since that time, for various reasons, gun-related deaths in Canada have sharply increased. So has the number of female victims of violent crimes with a firearm present.
Recreating and strengthening sensible legislation can put us back on a better track. For example, authorities will once again be able to require a permit for transporting restricted and prohibited weapons. This does not affect ordinary guns, only those on the higher side of danger.
In another restored regulation, the seller of a firearm will need to verify the purchaser's possession and acquisition licence. This will take a brief phone call. Responsible sellers and buyers will not object to that. Nor will they protest legislation that, as in decades past, required firearms vendors to record what they sold.
The existing law already enables those granting a firearms licence to consider an applicant's criminal offences or mental illness associated with violence or other history of violence, but only for the last five years. Bill allows taking account of the person's earlier history. That is a sensible change. It derives from a private member's bill put forward by a former Conservative MP.
The legislation incorporates other amendments from other parties in the House.
I hope we can continue to put public safety over partisanship. I am sure none of us want to hurt good people who own guns, but neither do we want guns in the wrong hands to hurt good people.
When all is said and done, this is a good bill for responsible gun owners. At times, strident voices from here and there have tried to paint too many responsible gun owners as villains. Sensible legislation can reassure the public that we are taking reasonable measures to keep guns in good hands and that common sense is prevailing.
I will be splitting my time with the member for , and I support this proposed legislation.
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to participate in this debate on Bill . The bill comes at a time when trends relating to violent firearms crime are rising at an alarming rate, making it crucial for all members of the House to support this legislation. The bill also deals with aspects of gun violence that are often overlooked: gender-based gun violence and suicide.
As legislators, we must do more than simply acknowledge a problem. We are here to pass legislation that will help to address those problems. Bill 's balanced and practical reforms would do just that. One of the aspects of this bill that I am proudest of is the introduction of mandatory life-history background checks that would expand the current timeline for background checks from five years to life.
I am pleased to see that the government has advanced the amendment that I made to Bill C-71 in committee, which should help to address the issue of intimate partner violence and suicide involving a firearm. The Toronto Star published an editorial this week entitled, “Gun control is a women's issue”, which stated that “Access to a firearm by an intimate partner increases the likelihood of femicide by 500 per cent.” The amendment puts a greater focus on intimate partner violence, and for the first time would explicitly require the chief firearms officer to look at a firearms licence applicant's online behaviour for signs of violence. I thank the member for for her assistance with this amendment. Public online behaviour is a red flag for violent behaviour. The members of the public safety committee clearly agreed, as the enhanced background check amendment I just mentioned passed, although some members of the Conservative Party abstained.
Yesterday I watched the stand with the member for , his status of women critic, and state that he would repeal Bill . He would repeal enhanced background checks and protections for women; he would repeal a provision in Bill C-71 that firearms are forfeited to the Crown when the courts prohibit firearms ownership. Instead, the Leader of the Opposition would support these firearms being given to a friend or family member who has a firearms licence.
Another amendment that I was pleased to see passed unanimously by the committee was put forward by the member for , which read, “For greater certainty, nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to permit or require the registration of non-restricted firearms.” This is an important amendment because, as we know, during the election campaign the promised to deliver effective, common sense firearms legislation and also promised that we would not bring back the long-gun registry, and we have not. The amendment put forward by the Conservatives would ensure that every Canadian who read Bill could see that it clearly is not a long-gun registry. That sentiment was echoed by the Conservative member for , who later that day told the committee, "everybody at this table agrees that this is not a registry". The should perhaps consult with the members of his party sitting on the committee.
Other than that one amendment, the Conservative members put forward amendments that could not be supported. The vast majority of their amendments were nonsensical. Let me provide just one example of a Conservative amendment. Conservative amendment 40.2 read:
The act is amended by adding the following after section 11:
112. Despite sections 109 and 111, no person guilty of an offence set out in those sections is liable to imprisonment if, in the commission of the offence, the person causes no bodily harm to another person.
Let us see what kinds of offences are referred to in sections 109 and 111 of the Firearms Act, which the Conservatives would not like to see punished. One of those offences is deliberately lying in order to get a firearms licence. The law says that one knowingly has to mislead in order to be convicted. The Conservatives wanted there to be no punishment for that. Another one is tampering with a firearms licence or registration certificate, or operating an illegal firing range. The Conservatives wanted no punishment for that. Another is how to store prohibited weapons. The Conservatives wanted to remove the penalties for people who just leave a fully loaded automatic handgun sitting around. The Conservatives also wanted to remove the penalties for lying to a customs officer about a firearm or for falsifying a customs officer's confirmation document, in other words weapons trafficking. They wanted to remove the penalties for cross-border weapons trafficking.
What is worse, when the Conservatives asked an official from the Department of Justice during the meeting about the effect of the amendment, he told them very clearly that the amendment would remove the punishment for all of these offences, including weapons trafficking, and they still voted for it. We, of course, defeated the amendment.
My colleagues in the chamber might think that maybe the Conservatives went a little bit rogue in introducing this amendment at committee. In fact, this amendment was introduced deliberately. The amendment was drawn directly from the leadership platform of the leader of the Conservative Party, a platform that happened to be taken down from the Internet just hours after he became the Conservative Party leader.
Let us return to the committee deliberations. The Conservative member for told the committee members that this amendment was about helping prevent people from becoming paper criminals. Specifically he said that "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...”.
Let me read from page 10 of the leader of the Conservative Party's leadership platform in which he made seven distinct promises on firearms. The sixth commitment was to “Decriminalize administrative infractions”, which he said were “a complete waste of government and police resources.”
Anyone who has been around this place have heard Conservative MPs talk about how people should not become paper criminals for having committed an administrative infraction. Conservative amendment 40.2 may seem nonsensical to most people. Why would anybody remove penalties for people who lie to customs officials to traffic weapons into our country? However, it was in the platform of the leader of the Conservative Party and the Conservative members of the committee were merely trying to implement what their leader had promised Conservative party members in order to win the leadership of the party. As I said, Canadians should be very concerned about this.
The Conservative Party leader's other platform commitments included things like eliminating the prohibition against handgun magazines that can hold more than 10 bullets. What transpired at committee shows that he intends to keep his leadership election promises. Indeed, just yesterday, the Conservative Party leader held a press conference, standing alongside one of my Conservative colleagues on the status for women committee, the member for . At it he vowed to repeal this legislation should Canadians choose to elect a Conservative government in 2019. Personally, I find it disturbing that the member for Lethbridge, who is also the status of women critic for the official opposition, would support repealing a bill that strengthens protections for survivors of domestic violence.
On this side of the House we do believe that someone who deliberately lies to get a firearms licence should face a penalty. We believe that someone operating an illegal firing range should be punished, not only because it is dangerous but also because it takes business away from properly licensed owners of legitimate shooting ranges. We certainly believe that you should not be able to lie to a customs official to traffic weapons across the border and get away with it, and we believe that women deserve protections.
In fact, coercive control, such as when a man uses a gun to control women without ever pulling the trigger, is real and happening right now. An Oakville resident sent me a note that states, “let me just say that you can endure the physical and emotional abuse but when he pulls out a double barrel shotgun, loads it and tells you he is going to kill you then you know true terror! Thank you for looking out for the victims before they become statistics.”
Our government is speaking out for women like this, while the Conservatives continue to ignore them. We are taking into account domestic violence and suicide when we are looking at Bill and not ignoring those important issues for Canadians. That is why I encourage all of my colleagues in the House to support this bill at third reading
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to outline the many and significant failures that exist in Bill .
First, I would again like to bring up that the whole debate is about a bill that has questionable evidence attached to it, and we have yet to hear from the minister who is responsible for the RCMP after they were found in contempt of Parliament. While he may ignore members of Parliament, thousands of law-abiding Canadians, the Assembly of First Nations, and the police, I would like to think that a censure from this House and the Speaker would result in some action. However, that has yet to occur.
On June 19, in his ruling on the RCMP's implementation of Bill , the Speaker stated:
the vast majority of the information was presented as though the provisions will definitively be coming into effect or are already the law of the land. Nowhere did I find any indication [that] the bill was...in committee and was not yet enacted law.
The Speaker further added:
The work of members as legislators is fundamental and any hint or suggestion of this parliamentary role and authority being bypassed or usurped is not acceptable.
The RCMP presumed the will of Parliament, assumed that the bill would pass, and attempted to enforce the new rules before decisions came from committee, the House or the Senate.
While addressing his attempt to undermine Canada's democracy, the continued to pass the bill based on false information, despite the concerns of millions of Canadians and many members of Parliament. These concerns were raised by Conservative members on this side of the House, expert testimony, written submissions, the media, my own consultations across the country, and ultimately confirmed by Liberal MPs on the committee. This is bad legislation, which was flawed from its start, and was based on misleading information that attempted to pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians.
The has made questionable comments regarding this bill. Recently in the House of Commons, the minister tabled a list of the organizations that were formerly consulted on Bill . To date, seven of those individuals or organizations have come forward to say that they were not consulted. The Assembly of First Nations, for example, stated that it was not consulted and that this legislation is an infringement on treaty rights.
The Liberal MP for , who was the parliamentary secretary at the time, made the outright claim that national consultations were held. He stated in this House that there were “discussions in every corner of this country, including with first nations chiefs, chiefs of police, the firearms community, and others..”. The minister has never set foot in any of my communities to hold consultations.
From my own consultations with Canadians across the country, I can say that they are very concerned. There is nothing in his bill that deals with criminals, gang violence or illegal firearms. There are only more rules for law-abiding Canadians, and they are very angry about that.
The consultations, if they did happen, were done poorly. As one stakeholder told me, “If I was consulted, I think I would know about it.”
In the height of the irony, the minister held a summit on gangs and guns. It was clear that the issue brought forward by those experts was not around law-abiding gun owners; rather, it was about organized crime, gangs and violent criminals. Not only did the Liberals not listen to those who were impacted by the bill, they almost entirely ignored what experts said was the problem in Canada, which is gangs, organized crime and gun violence.
Experts from across the country told us about a whole host of crime issues at that summit. They discussed illegal firearms, primarily handguns, straw purchases, stealth shipping and gangs. Still, the minister came to the committee of public safety and national security with false and inaccurate information.
He appeared before the committee and stated:
While crime rates in Canada overall have been on the decline, thankfully, for decades, the rate of gun violence has been going up in recent years. Between 2013 and 2016 the number of...incidents involving firearms rose by 30%. Gun homicides in that period went up by two-thirds. Intimate partner and gender-based violence involving firearms was up by one-third. Gang-related homicides, most of which involve guns, were up by two-thirds. Break-ins for the purpose of the stealing of firearms were up by 56% between 2013 and 2016, and by a whopping 865% since the year 2008.
It sounds like we had a real crisis. However, we should look at what experts said about his misrepresentation of the information.
Solomon Friedman, of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, stated:
The Criminal Lawyers' Association supports criminal law reform that is modest, fundamentally rational, and supported by objective evidence. On each of these measures, Bill C-71, in our view, fails to meet the mark.
First, the proposed reforms in Bill C-71 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 Minister of Public Safety...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.
Mr. Solomon went on to suggest that:
With the greatest of respect to the minister, 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 [was] a statistical aberration in terms of violent crime and homicide in Canada.  saw the lowest rate of [violent crime] 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 homicide by firearm has, in fact, been steadily declining in Canada since the mid-1970s, and when an appropriate sample size is taken, the alarming trend that the minister 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 [more] reasonable sample size, has remained relatively stable. In fact, it was slightly lower in 2016 than it was 10 years earlier, in 2006.
Here we have a criminal defence lawyer destroying the highly questionable evidence provided by the minister. That is shocking, disappointing, and it should be very alarming to Canadians.
The minister also said that there has been an 865% increase in break and enters dealing with firearms since 2008. It is an interesting statistic. It is true, but what the minister failed to identify is that in 2008, the Conservatives brought in a law that if someone breaks in and steals a firearm, it is a specific offence. It had never occurred before. It was a break, enter and theft before. That is how it was covered off. Therefore, we never had a new offence occurring. The minister had misleading information again.
Additionally, we heard from Dr. Gary Mauser at committee, but the information, the minister presented as facts. He said that 121 of the 141 increased firearm-related homicides were directly related to gangs in cities. The rate of violence in Canada is because there are more gangs and gang-related shootings. Surprisingly, the word “gangs" appears nowhere in the bill. It appears that the minister's increasing statistics on gun violence are selective use of figures and wrongfully attributed to licensed law-abiding gun owners.
What happens when a professor from a trustworthy Canadian university provides evidence that is contrary to the government's flawed legislation and position? The Liberals do what they always do; they call into question their credibility. The reality is that the Canadians right across the country are rightfully beginning to question the credibility of the Liberal government.
The minister went on to say at committee:
Right now, when a person applies for a licence, there's a mandatory look back over the immediately preceding five years to see whether they have in that period of time been engaged in any violent behaviour or been treated for a mental illness associated with violence. Bill C-71 will remove that five-year limitation so that a person's entire record will be taken into account. That will help ensure, quite simply, that people with a history of violence do not get guns.
Again, this is an inaccurate statement. The minister's own officials from the Canadian firearms program, and the RCMP, confirmed that criminal background checks were never limited and are never limited to five years; any criminal history is taken into account, no matter how old it is. Either the minister is ignoring his own experts, or he is presenting misleading information to justify a pointless piece of legislation.
The minister went on to say at committee:
The legislation will also help ensure that people who acquire firearms are actually licensed to own them. Since 2012, all that has been required in this regard at the time of a sale is that the vendor have “no reason to believe” that the purchaser is not licensed. [...] Vendors often check anyway, but they are not, in fact, required to do so.
Again, that statement is blatantly false. Legal experts at committee told us the following:
any violation, no matter how minor or technical, engages the criminal law process. [...] Indeed, this legislation creates new criminal offences where none were needed. For example Bill C-71 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....
The government says that the new provisions under Bill C-71 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.
It is clear to me the minister knew that what he was saying was inaccurate and he likely knew his bill would do nothing for public safety. He is not alone in misleading and false statements. The himself tweeted out early on in the introduction of Bill , “We’re also introducing stronger and more rigorous background checks on gun sales. And if you want to buy a gun, by law you’ll have to show a license at the point of purchase. Right now that’s not a requirement.” Really? That is exactly what the law is now, so I do not know where the and the minister are getting their information. Obviously, it is not factual.
In the fall of 2017, the made an announcement in Surrey, B.C., where there is a real gun problem. Gun violence and shootings there are a regular occurrence. Police in communities across the country need more help to tackle these criminals. He announced $327 million in funding to combat guns and gangs, a great announcement, and no doubt one that would help the Liberal MP for secure his seat, as it was made during a by-election. Canadians should understand though that to date, not one dime has moved on that funding and it will take a full two years for the Liberals to make that funding available to police.
Since that announcement, the Liberals have tabled Bill , have pushed the House by limiting debate and testimony, and are ramming it though with almost no amendments, despite nearly every witness saying it is not a good bill.
It is no surprise that the Liberal MPs on the committee were expected to limit debate as much as possible. In fact, we had more testimony from department officials, 21 to be exact, than from Canadians and stakeholder groups. There were over 100 briefs submitted to committee from organizations and people who could not appear, who were trying to show that law-abiding firearm owners were not the problem. In fact, my office received 30 submissions after committee members were required to submit its amendments. That means dozens of organizations and individuals who put time and effort into their briefs received no consideration in this debate.
Let us summarize some of the key issues I have heard from Canadians all across the country, including the over 86,000 who signed the petition that was presented yesterday opposed to Bill . First, the bill does nothing to tackle gun and gang crime. Criminals do not follow the law and do not register their guns. Second, the claims by the minister, his parliamentary secretary, the and the rest of the Liberals that the bill would go after criminals while respecting firearm owners are inaccurate and, in fact, insulting to millions of Canadians. Third, the Liberals will not call this a gun registry. The rest of the country thinks it is a gun registry. I guess we will leave it to Canadians to decide in the 2019 election.
Finally, we saw what Liberal MPs thought of Bill when they finished the bill's discussion at committee. Moments after ratifying the legislation at committee, Liberal MPs were calling for a study on issues raised by witnesses. They called on the minister to address real issues facing illegal firearms getting into the hands of criminals and administrative and process issues resulting in criminals getting firearm licences. They called for more statistics and research into gun violence and the criminal acquisition of firearms. Those are great issues, and they certainly are a lot more productive than what was in Bill that the minister put forward. However, none of them had the courage during the debate on Bill C-71 to bring those issues forward at the time we had a chance to change the legislation.
This summer, after more gang shootings, will the government now take a hard look at the real issues, the evidence and the problem? Is the new minister empowered to go after criminals and illegal weapons and repair the relationship with millions of law-abiding Canadians? Sadly, the answer is no. Rather, the Liberals are now repeating their previous mistakes with an investigation into a handgun ban. While I understand that the government prefers to look like it is doing something as opposed to actually addressing the issues, Canadians deserve better.
A Canadian Press article highlighted the government's justification for going after law-abiding gun owners, claiming a surge in crime guns, suggesting about one-half of crime guns in Toronto originated from lawful licensed gun owners. However, the comments and the article were lacking in detail and statistical evidence and had many experts and advocates questioning those results.
Albertan Dennis Young, a former RCMP officer and a public servant, submitted a freedom of information request to obtain actual Toronto Police Service stats. Well, guess what: Those stats show a very different reality. The number of crime guns seized was on a downward trend over the last 10 years. The number of domestically sourced firearms was down over the last 10 years. There was no surge, as the minister and others have said. As noted by the media outlets, the overall trend for gun crimes in Toronto is down. Therefore, the crisis is more manufactured than based on fact.
The number of firearms being traced back to their origins is very small, too small for us to have good information, and shows that the government is failing Canadians on public safety if police do not have the resources necessary to trace back the firearms that they seize to their origins.
To quote a Global News commentary about the handgun ban:
Politicians, including the Prime Minister and Toronto Mayor John Tory, who once strongly opposed a ban on handguns, are now either considering or actively calling for one. This would be a major change to the Criminal Code involving potentially billions of dollars in private property. It is not an exaggeration to say the CP report is a key part of this debate.
Do our political leaders know they’re reacting to a story with bad information? Perhaps the more depressing question is whether they’d care if they did.
Perhaps the Liberals are interested in listening to what senior and experienced law enforcement officials are saying.
Mike McCormack from the Toronto Police Association said this in referring to a handgun ban:
There's no way in my world or any world I know that this would have an impact on somebody who's going to go out and buy an illegal gun and use it to kill another person....
The newly minted commissioner, Brenda Lucki, appointed by the very minister in charge of this bill and who we would like to assume he counts on for advice, has no proof that a handgun ban does anything to protect people. She said, “I’m not sure if a complete ban is the answer or tweaking the legislation.”
The Ontario Provincial Police's former chief said:
It would be unmanageable and unfair to the majority of handgun owners who obey the law and always use their guns safely. Let’s effectively deal with the criminals that do not obey the current criminal law.
In Surrey, B.C., a former police officer running for city council indicated that from his experience “a ban would have little effect to decrease gang violence in our community.”
Pointing out that the Liberal plan completely lacks any credibility does not mean we on this side do not see the issues that we face in this country. However, the government's practice of blaming hunters and farmers for the criminal actions of gangs and criminals is wrong. It is morally wrong and it is factually wrong.
It is time that the Liberal government started taking public safety and the government's duty to protect Canadians seriously. Canada has real problems. Criminals are the centre of our gun violence problems, not hunters, not sports shooters, not farmers.
Canadians deserve a government that supports all law-abiding Canadians. The countdown is on to the 2019 election. Canadians are eager for a change to a Conservative government. In fact, many are suggesting that the Liberal government lacks the moral authority to govern. It is time for Canadians to come before partisan talking points. It is time to get back to dealing with the real issues in this country.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
I rise today to speak on , an act to amend certain acts and regulations in relation to firearms.
It is appropriate that this is the topic of my first speech following my return from medical leave. While I was away, a series of unfortunate and sad acts of violence involving firearms across Toronto have driven home to our community the cost of firearms violence, how they ripple across the community beyond just the victims and their loved ones, and the need for new ideas and a new approach to combatting firearms violence.
We can talk about statistics. I can tell members how, in 2016, there were 223 firearms-related homicides in Canada, which is a 23% increase from 2015 and the highest rate since 2005. Between 2013 and 2016, the number of female intimate-partner violence victims when a firearm was present during the incident increased from 447 to 586. However, statistics, while important for context, cannot illustrate the emotional, physical and psychological toll these acts of violence leave in their wake.
I would like to highlight three recent acts of firearms violence that have shaken my own community of Scarborough Centre in recent months. In fact, two incidents have taken place in the last two weeks, within days of one another.
Last Friday night, a 16-year-old boy was shot and died on Bellamy Road North. This was not a case of being in a dangerous area late at night. He was in front of an apartment building in the early evening. Police responded to reports of gunshots around 6:45 p.m. Neighbours say that he was a good kid and not involved in any bad activities. Perhaps it was a case of mistaken identity. This young man who lost his life at the age of 16 will never finish high school, never have the chance to go to college or university, and never have the chance to pursue his dreams. He was Toronto's 77th homicide victim of the year, but behind that statistic is a life that will never be.
Just a little more than a week earlier, on September 4, the day our kids went back to school after Labour Day, a woman's life was forever changed on a Tuesday evening in her own home on Birchmount Road near Ellesmere Road. Emergency crews were called to a basement apartment in a private residence just after 10 p.m. to find a woman believed to be in her fifties with a gunshot-related injury. There was no one around, and because of her injuries, she was unable to communicate to the responding officers what had happened. She had been shot in the neck. Thanks to the efforts of the first responders and medical professionals at a nearby trauma centre, she will survive, but she has suffered life-altering injuries and could be left paralyzed. Another life has been dramatically changed by an act of firearms violence.
In May, there was another incident of senseless gun violence that hit close to home. It happened next door in Scarborough—Guildwood but the victim and his family are from Scarborough Centre. On May 21, around 3 a.m., an 18-year-old was shot dead and a 17-year-old suffered life-altering injuries when they were shot in their car in the Scarborough Golf Club Road area near Ellesmere Road. Neighbours were shocked, as they call it a quiet neighbourhood. Police say they believe it was a targeted shooting. The 18-year-old victim was Mohammed Gharda. He was Toronto's 30th homicide of the year. The survivor's family has asked that his name not be released. I visited him and his family at Sunnybrook's trauma centre in the days following the incident. He faces a long and difficult road to recovery and has lost his vision in one eye.
These are just three incidents out of many that have touched my community and have touched Toronto. There have been too many others. Between the incident in May and the one last week, 47 more people were murdered in Toronto.
As a mother of two young men now attending university, I think of how I would react if I got that phone call, if the promise their lives hold and the dreams my husband and I have for them were suddenly extinguished, just another statistic. Behind every number is a story: a grieving family, a life snuffed out. Too many of the victims are youth, with their whole lives ahead of them: future teachers, future doctors, future scientists. Who knows what they could have accomplished, what they could have achieved and what they could have contributed to our communities and the world?
I would consider Bill , which we are debating today, to be a common-sense bill. It is a first step that contains a number of provisions related to firearms safety that certainly make sense to me and are worthy of our consideration and support. It is not our intention in any way to penalize law-abiding firearms owners, but merely to put in place regulation and policy that help ensure only law-abiding citizens have access to firearms and that they use them in a responsible manner. As with many other things in our society, it is about balancing rights and responsibilities and the interests of public safety.
With enhanced background checks, for example, we are making sure only responsible people can become firearms owners. Currently, only the last five years can be considered while making a decision to grant a firearms licence. We will remove that five-year limitation so that if a person has committed one of several listed criminal offences, is being treated for mental illness associated with violence or has a history of violent behaviour, that information can be considered. I find that hard to argue with. We should be diligent when considering who can and will be a responsible firearms owner.
With Bill , we are also seeking to close a loophole around licence verifications. Before 2015, if individuals or retailers were selling firearms, they had to verify the purchaser had a valid possession and acquisition licence, or PAL. Basically, they had to make sure they were legally licensed to own firearms. The last government changed that to, “the transferor has no reason to believe that the transferee is not authorized to acquire and possess that kind of firearm.” Basically, they were asked to take the person's word for it. That is fine if the buyer is indeed a responsible and licensed firearms owner, but, as we know, irresponsible people try to get their hands on firearms, too. By returning to the pre-2015 system, sellers will need to make a call to the firearms registrar to verify the seller's PAL. It will take less than five minutes, cost nothing to the seller or the buyer and will close one loophole that could allow firearms to enter the wrong hands.
We are also strengthening requirements for vendor record-keeping. Most vendors already track sales information, but there is no requirement that they do so. Provincial governments used to require record-keeping as a condition of obtaining a licence to sell firearms, but the last government prohibited them from making that a requirement of licence in 2011. We will again make record-keeping a federal requirement. It is important to note that this information will not be available to police except through a court-ordered search warrant obtained in support of an active investigation. I think we can trust our courts to make the right decisions. I would note that this is also federal policy in the United States.
Finally, another provision I would like to highlight is weapons classification. The Conservative government took the decision-making ability for firearms classification decisions away from the experts at the RCMP and, instead, turned it over to the federal cabinet. Let me be clear that I have great faith in my capable colleagues who serve Her Majesty in cabinet. However, they are not firearms experts and I do not think such decisions should be made by a group subject to political whims and pressure. By returning this classification authority to the RCMP to operate based on law passed by the people's elected representatives in this Parliament, we are removing political interference from the equation and ensuring that evidence-based decisions are made by independent experts.
As I said earlier, I believe Bill is an important first step in common-sense firearms safety and I will be supporting it, but I believe we need to do more. My constituents in Scarborough Centre want us to do more. We need to look at why so many young people turn to violence. Too many people have lost their lives to firearms violence. I think we can and must do better, we can and must do more.
Mr. Speaker, before I start, may I say it is a delight to see my colleague for back in the House after her recent illness. We share a border, and I know her to be a very hard-working MP. When she supports Bill , I know it is on the basis that she has a very good ear to the ground and has worked hard with her constituents to establish her support.
It is an honour to rise and speak to Bill . I have the good fortune to chair the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. As the chair, I remained relatively neutral as the debate occurred. However, it is not as if I do not have an opinion on Bill .
After hearing 39 witnesses, reading 101 briefs, and meeting for over 18 hours, we now have an amended bill back in the House. This does not include either the minister's or his parliamentary secretary's extensive consultations, both within and outside of caucus.
At its heart, Bill is a relatively modest bill. It tries to do three or four things.
First of all, it tries to remove the decision on the classification of guns from the Governor in Council, namely the government, i.e. politicians, and place it with the RCMP.
Second, it grandfathers individual licence-holders in two sets of prohibited weapons, one being Czech and one being Swiss. Then, on a specific day that has already passed, June 30, it reinstates those weapons as prohibited weapons and makes new acquisitions prohibited. Under the previous legislation, or the order under the Governor in Council, those guns were not prohibited.
Third, it expands the realm of inquiry into background checks.
Fourth, it requires vendors to keep a record of sale and have a potential purchaser show a valid licence. There has been some considerable discussion about that over the course of the morning.
In addition, two very significant amendments were made. The first was unanimously agreed to by the committee, and I quote from the amendment: “nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to permit or require the registration of non-restricted firearms.” In other words, it was unanimously agreed that this bill is not a gun registry. That amendment was moved by a Conservative member, the critic for public safety.
As my colleagues know, the term “gun registry” sends both sides of the debate into paroxysms of fear and loathing, which is not particularly helpful in actually reconciling this dialogue of the deaf. It seems to happen every time guns are debated on this floor. Apparently, anything that might make it easier for police to trace a weapon in an efficient way is something to be resisted at all costs, even at the cost of solving a crime.
The second amendment expands the realm of inquiry for someone looking to acquire a firearm licence. For instance, looking into somebody's digital life is good, and looking into someone's history of violent and threatening behaviour is also good. That amendment also passed unanimously after some vigorous back and forth among committee members.
In my view, the arbiter of the weapons classification system should be the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, not the Governor in Council. The first of the two main arguments against the removal of the GIC states that there is no right of appeal. This argument presumes that there should be a constitutional right to challenge the RCMP's classification or that of the Governor in Council.
ln my view, when those who are in the pro-gun lobby think that a weapon has been classified as too restricted, i.e., prohibited or restricted, there is no one they can lobby to downgrade that classification: not an MP or a minister, and not during an election or after an election. The reason is as imaginative as one can be. I cannot understand why people would think that I, a politician, not particularly familiar with the classification of guns, should have any say in whether a gun is restricted or prohibited or not, on the basis of its millimetres, calibre, frequency of fire, length of barrel, etc. This is a responsibility that is appropriate for the RCMP only.
The second argument is that the RCMP makes mistakes. I do not know anybody who does not make mistakes. I do not know of any organization that does not make mistakes or is entirely consistent, including the courts, and indeed including this chamber.
However, there are a number of administrative and quasi-judicial entities from which there is no right of appeal and whose decisions are final. The classification of firearms seems to me to be one of those areas of administrative law in which it is appropriate that the police classify and make the final decision. I would note that any administrative decision can be appealed regardless.
Personally, I would rather take my chances with an organization that has a daily life experience with firearms, rather than some people in cabinet or on the floor of the House.
The firearms that are listed in Bill , the Swiss and Czech firearms, which were grandfathered until June 30, were given a lower classification. This just illustrates the problem: Some people would have classified them as restricted, some would have classified them as prohibited, and some would have classified them as not restricted. I believe the RCMP should make that decision.
Finally, Bill requires a business to keep a record of sale. This might be thought to be obvious, and apparently it has been obvious for a number of years in a number of jurisdictions. Bill makes this a requirement. Many are convinced that this makes for a backdoor registry. Apparently, business records held by multiple private businesses across the country constitute a backdoor registry in the minds of some. I would hope that the amendment, as moved by the Conservative member, and as agreed to unanimously by the committee, puts an end to that argument.
In conclusion, this bill is exceedingly modest. Expanding background checks is good. Removing political input into the classification of firearms is good. Requiring the retention of sales records is good. The reclassification of certain weapons is good. I believe colleagues should support this bill as amended.
Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute honour to rise in the House today to stand up for law-abiding gun owners as I declare my opposition to Bill .
I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
Today is my last opportunity to address the flaws in this failed legislation brought forward by the Liberal government. We all know the Liberals intend to ram it through the House of Commons without due process. They have already shown us that.
The Liberals shut down debate at second reading and at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, members of the committee asked that Bill be allowed a sufficient number of meetings and witnesses, but the Liberals decided to cut it short. They do not care about what law enforcement agents have to say. They do not want to give time to legislative experts. They certainly do not want to give voice to the Canadian public.
When those empowered turn a deaf ear to the people they represent, arrogance incapacitates any ability to exercise logic or common sense.
From the start, the government did not want to debate Bill . It did not want to consult or listen; it wanted to just ram it through. The Liberals would rather push through this failed legislation that aims to deceive Canadians into believing that it actually would do something to protect them, when, in fact, it does nothing. In actuality, the Liberals are going after those who already follow the law. At the same time, the Liberals are putting legislation in place that would reward criminals.
Bill would create a backdoor long-gun registry. It calls for the confiscation of firearms that were legally purchased by Canadians and would allow the federal government to share firearms records with the province of Quebec. Furthermore, it would remove the ability of licensed firearms owners to transport their restricted firearms to a gunsmith or trade show.
Bill C-71 is flawed legislation that would crack down on responsible, law-abiding firearms owners and would do absolutely nothing to go after those who would engage in violent crime.
The Liberals are rushing through flawed legislation that would potentially criminalize tens of thousands of responsible citizens, while allowing a whole host of criminals to go free.
When I was in Nunavut this spring, I had many opportunities to speak with hunters. These Inuit hunters talked to me about the potential implications of the legislation and how upset they were by it. At the public safety committee, indigenous leaders said that the legislation actually threatened them and, therefore, they could take legal action against it, that it infringed upon their constitutional rights.
I am proud to live in the southern Alberta riding of Lethbridge. Many families there enjoy the heritage of hunting and sports shooting. These are peaceful individuals. They are peaceful gun owners, men, women and youth. They have the opportunity to use their firearms in a responsible manner and have gone through a rigorous vetting process in order to do so.
When I talk to my constituents, they are deeply concerned about Bill . In fact, I recently sat down with my youth advisory board. It is a non-partisan group of individuals between the ages of 16 and 24. I had the opportunity to listen to their thoughts. This is what they wanted me to share with the on their behalf.
They asked me to remind the Prime Minister that he was the leader of a country and not a teacher in a high school drama classroom. They asked me to remind him that he needed to lead with honesty, that he needed to function with integrity and that he needed to stop attacking those who owned their firearms legally and used their guns responsibly. Instead, they asked him to put legislation in place that would go after the real criminals.
They called this legislation “absolute nonsense”. They said that this legislation was an emotionally charge response to a problem in the United States and unfairly punishes law-abiding Canadians. Furthermore, they begged the question, “Why is the skewing facts and telling mistruths in order to pass this legislation that punishes those who lawfully own a firearm?”
The fact that indigenous people across the country and the youth of my riding strongly oppose this bill should be some indication to the House that there are huge flaws. However, there is more.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of standing in the House and presenting e-petition 1608. As the sponsor of this petition, which calls for the repeal of Bill , I felt it was absolutely essential to provide Canadians with the opportunity to oppose the Liberals' reckless and nonsensical legislation.
This petition was started by a 15-year-old in my riding by the name of Ryan Slingerland. As an informed and engaged young Canadian, he was upset when he learned about the Liberals' failed legislation. To quote Ryan directly, he said, “law-abiding citizens are not the issue with gun violence”.
With more than 86,000 signatures, e-petition 1608 is the second most signed e-petition in Canadian history. It sends a strong message to the Liberal government, and that is to back off.
The e-petition has signatories from every single province and territory, which means this is an issue that impacts our country as a whole. There are voices standing up in unity from coast to coast, asking the government to do something about the real criminals and to stop going after those who are law-abiding citizens.
The government is clearly more interested in painting a picture of caring rather than actually caring about the safety of Canadians. That is wrong. That is not good governance. Canadians from coast to coast can tell this, and they are calling on the government to be honest and to put proper legislation in place.
Good governments rest on the principle of listening, followed by action. Therefore, on behalf of law-abiding gun owners, I am pleading with the government today to exercise wisdom, to do what is right and take a step back.
The irony in all of this is that while the Liberals are demonizing hunters and sports shooters, the is actually reducing penalties for a massive list of extremely serious crimes. I am talking about participating in a terrorist group, trafficking women and girls, committing violence against a clergy member, murdering a child within one year of his or her birth, abducting a child, forcing marriage, advocating for genocide or participating in organized crime. The list goes on and on. That is just a sample.
Under Bill , the government is reducing the penalties for these crimes. Does that sound like a government that cares about taking criminals off the street? Does that sound like a government that cares about protecting the well-being of Canadians, about making sure that moms are safe at home with their kids, or that they are safe at the park, or that Canadians are safe to go and enjoy an ice-cream cone out on a patio on a public sidewalk? Does that speak of a government that actually cares about our general border safety and control and security of the country? No, absolutely not.
A government that cared about the well-being of Canadians would put laws in place that would combat gang violence and organized crime. That government would not go and reward those people.
The current government is saying that it wants to keep Canadians safe and prevent gun violence, but Bill does absolutely nothing to accomplish this end. It fails to address gang violence. It fails to address the issue of illegal firearms and it fails to address rural violence and crime. In fact, the Liberal government's failure is so severe that of the $327 million it earmarked to tackle gun and gang violence, not a single penny has gone out the door.
Again, I ask this. If the government were really concerned about the well-being of Canadians and wanting to tackle crime and go after perpetrators, should it not be rolling out the money it put in the budget to do so? However, it is not concerned about that at all. Instead, it is concerned about going after the women and men who properly own their firearms, who have been extensively researched, who have a licence and are able to possess their firearm legally and use it responsibly. Why is the government doing that?
Bill targets those people unfairly and it creates the failed long-gun registry that cost Canadians $1 billion to set up the very first time. I am proud to be part of a party that scrapped that wasteful legislation. We have vowed to do the same thing when we become government again.
Furthermore, it should be noted that the legislation before the House also unfairly turns thousands of Canadians into criminals overnight. It does this by reclassifying a number of firearms as prohibited. I am talking about firearms that are legally brought into Canada and that are legally possessed. This has been done for years. These individuals would, overnight, be in possession of something that would be illegal, thanks to the government.
Not a single one of the measures being put in place would take guns out of the hands of criminals. Criminals do not purchase their guns legally and they certainly do not register them.
In summary, Bill is yet again another failed piece of legislation from the government. It does absolutely nothing to protect our communities, to make them safer or to target those who are responsible for crime.
I am proud to say that a Conservative government will repeal and replace this legislation. We will replace it with a law that targets criminals, protects Canadians and respects those who lawfully own their firearms. That is a good government. That is the government that the House will see in 2019.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill , an act to amend certain acts and regulations in relation to firearms.
I have many concerns with this piece of legislation, but as there is limited time, I would like to focus my remarks today on what I consider to be a shocking oversight. I believe that all of us in this place would agree that it must be the highest priority of a government to protect the lives and safety of its constituents, of the people they are serving. Of all our duties, this is the most profound.
In order to protect our citizens, to put effective solutions in place, it is vitally important that we understand the problem. In this case, it is to recognize who is committing the violent crimes within Canada. I believe there is a simple answer to that question, and it is gangs.
In 2016, one of every two firearms-related homicides was committed by organized crime, yet nowhere in this bill are the words “gang” or “organized crime” mentioned. At best, this is an unintentional oversight. At its worst, it is intentional. After all, the himself spoke about this issue earlier this year, saying on March 18:
Criminal gun and gang violence is a grave threat to the safety of our communities. While overall crime rates in Canada are much lower than decades ago, homicides, gun crime and gang activity have all been steadily increasing. Gun homicides have almost doubled over the past four years—and more than half are linked to gangs.
Before continuing, I want to address one point about this statement. Statistics can provide a good basis for solid policy, but only if they are seen within their proper context. I believe the minister did not provide that proper context. The minister chose to use a particular timeline in the quote above, namely “four years”. As was made clear by his office, the year he is referencing is actually 2013.
Why is that significant? The minister claimed that gun homicides have almost doubled over the past four years. That statement is very misleading when placed in context. The year 2013 happened to have had the lowest number of firearms homicide ever recorded by Statistics Canada. The next closest year on record, 1998, had 13% more homicides.
The Liberals chose 2013 as the base year to make it appear as if gun homicides were growing at a shocking rate. Now the Liberals are using these statistics to justify punishing highly vetted, law-abiding gun owners by painting a picture of Canada as the wild west. However, an unbiased look at the numbers reveals a different story. If there is to be any comparison to the wild west, it would have to refer to our ongoing struggle with gang violence.
In 2016, gang members committed 114 firearms homicides compared with 134 total homicides in 2013, the year referenced by the minister. That is a shocking statistic, no matter how it is viewed. The minister noted that gang-related firearm homicides made up half of all firearms homicides in 2016. This is significantly above average and is a cause for concern.
How is it that after recognizing the central role of organized crime in firearms murders on March 8, the minister introduced a bill just days later that ignores organized crime?
Further, not only have the Liberals failed to meaningfully address gang violence in this bill, but in this bill's companion piece, Bill , they are weakening the laws currently in place to combat gang violence. Bill amends the Criminal Code to lessen the sentences for serious and even violent crimes to as little as a fine. Among those crimes is participation in organized criminal activity, in other words, joining a gang.
What is the justification for lowering the legal penalties for gang members while punishing legal firearms owners? I cannot think of one. However, time and time again the Liberals have gone after legal firearms owners rather than the criminals who use firearms.
Gang members or other criminals are not going to be deterred by a law that further restricts legal firearms owners. They will only respond to laws that hold serious consequences for their illegal activities. The government had two opportunities to address the significant problem of gang violence, a problem the minister is very aware of, yet has failed to do so. The government has failed by weakening the punishment for gang activities, and again by not making changes to our firearms laws that would target gangs.
Not only does Bill do nothing to address gang violence, but it misses the mark on rural crime as well. My riding of Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek is a large and mostly rural riding. I have heard numerous concerns from constituents about the growing issue of rural crime. This place recognized the severity of that issue and passed unanimously the motion brought by my colleague from , Motion No. 167. That motion will result in a committee study of rural crime. Every Liberal member who was present voted for the motion, including the . Surely that must mean the government understands there are unique problems faced by rural Canadians, yet nothing in this bill addresses rural crime.
Instead, Bill targets law-abiding firearms owners by, among other things, breaking the Liberals' election promise and reintroducing the wasteful and divisive long-gun registry through the backdoor. In this bill, the Liberals have introduced a backdoor registry by requiring firearms retailers to keep a registry of every firearm they sell for 20 years and by requiring private transfers to be verified by the registrar of firearms. This should come as no shock, but registrars keep registries. Firearms retailers would now be required to act as registrars themselves. They would be responsible for the cost of maintaining this information and for the security of that information. The private and personal information of millions of Canadians must by law be kept by a business for 20 years. These registries would be accessible by law enforcement and must be turned over to the government if the retailer goes out of business.
It is a registry by any other name, but the Liberals will now continue to refuse to use the term “registry” because they know how upset Canadians were about the last Liberal long-gun registry. They think that by not naming it and obscuring its location, Canadians will not notice. They are wrong. I have heard from hundreds of constituents who are frustrated that the Liberals have broken their campaign promise and reintroduced the firearms registry. They feel betrayed by the current government. They are disgusted that the Liberals would try to hide their broken promise behind technicalities and muddied language. They deserve better than to be treated like criminals.
In closing, I believe that we as parliamentarians have the responsibility to create laws that protect our citizens; that reflect real-world, objective data; that treat law-abiding Canadians fairly; and that address the concerns of Canadians regarding crime and gang violence. This bill does not meet any of those requirements. For this reason, I cannot and will not support Bill .
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
It is a pleasure to rise at the third reading stage of this important legislation. Bill will uphold the commitments made by the government during the last election to introduce modest measures on firearms that address weaknesses in the current legal firearms regime. That includes the commitment not to reinstate a federal long-gun registry.
From the start, the bill has been guided by the priorities of protecting people and communities, supporting law enforcement and ensuring law-abiding firearms owners are treated fairly and reasonably. I am pleased to note that throughout the bill's progress, those priorities were reaffirmed by a broad range of stakeholders, partners and individual Canadians. Consultation does not mean that everyone agrees. It means that we have made the effort to hear all of the arguments, pro and con.
At committee there were some important motions for amendment. In fact, the amendments that were adopted came from every party. The first added to the specific criteria that must be considered when determining eligibility to hold a firearms licence, specifically to add threatening conduct, non-contact orders and more explicit language around risk of harm to self or to others. The amendments also make it clearer that when threatening violence and conduct occur, it includes those communicated in the digital realm. The amendments also specify that when considering eligibility for a firearms licence, expired orders prohibiting the possession of firearms where an offence in which violence was used, threatened or attempted against an intimate partner or former intimate partners must also be considered.
This should reassure Canadians that in the interest of public safety, the process through which a person can obtain a firearm includes a more comprehensive consideration of eligibility factors. Explicitly including the concept of harm on that list, which includes self harm, may also have important impacts. It is an absolute tragedy that 80% of firearm deaths in Canada are suicides and while suicide prevention is a whole-of-society issue, there are meaningful actions we can take through legislation. This is one of those contributing actions. Prevention experts agree that limiting access to guns for those at risk of suicide is part of the solution, along with access to mental health support.
I am glad to see that the concept of harm is clearly identified in the bill before us. I will also point out that the additional new criteria reflects the types of violence that predominantly target women, and I thank the member for for all her work on this issue. This includes harassment and cyber-violence. In the online space, women are often targets of intimidation and propaganda and young women and girls are impacted disproportionately by cyber-violence, bullying and harassment. Adding these new factors updates our laws to reflect and address today's reality of increasing online abuse and harassment. It is consistent with the government's gender-based violence strategy.
Other amendments add some clarification to the bill. For example, the committee amended clause 1 to make it clear that the government will not recreate the federal long-gun registry. We now have that clarification right in the text of the bill. I will point out that the bill never included any components that would have permitted or required the registration of non-restricted firearms. While this amendment does not change the effect of the bill, I am confident it can provide reassurance that the long-gun registry will not be reinstated.
In addition, another amendment to clause 5, which was adopted at committee, will help clarify that a person meeting the conditions to transfer a non-restricted firearm can transfer more than one. In practice, the amendment changes the word “a” in the bill to “one or more”.
In fact, as proposed, the bill would not limit the number of non-restricted firearms that can be transferred, providing the conditions to do so are met. Once again, the bill is now clearer on that issue by virtue of the amendments. It now spells out specifically that a valid licence and a valid reference number attesting to the licence validity can support the transfer of ownership of more than one non-restricted firearm.
I am grateful that all parties have played an important role in the close scrutiny of this bill. It started off on solid footing. It already strengthens current laws around eligibility to hold a firearms licence. For example, it requires licensing authorities to consider specific information from the applicant's life history rather than just the previous five years. It improves licence verification, requiring anyone selling or giving a non-restricted firearm to verify the validity of the recipient's firearms licence. It improves record-keeping requirements among firearm businesses by requiring them to keep records of sale for non-restricted firearms. Responsible vendors already do this, but making it mandatory would not only set in law what they already do, it would also provide police with an additional tool to track non-restricted firearms which may have been trafficked from the legal to the illegal market.
The bill strengthens the regime around the transportation of restricted and prohibited firearms, but does not include non-restricted firearms, the ones used by hunters and farmers. It creates a more consistent approach to classification, responsibly leaving the technical determination on the classification of firearms to experts.
Today we have new measures with added benefits, such as enhanced background checks, greater certainty that no federal registry will be created and welcome clarification on non-restricted firearms transfers. Many Canadians from all walks of life have told us that the measures in this legislation are important. It is just one part of a larger package that will help make our communities safer and give law enforcement the tools they need to do their jobs.
In closing, I want to thank the members on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, all those who provided testimony and my colleagues in the House for helping shape this important legislation along the way. I encourage all members to join me in supporting Bill .
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand behind the amended Bill at third reading. In my riding of Surrey Centre, guns and gangs have plagued the streets. Gun violence has increased, and it has continued to increase in the last few years. This is an issue that all three levels of government are working hard to tackle.
At the federal level, the has also announced that the federal government will spend $327 million over five years on anti-gang initiatives and gun crime crackdown, and $100 million ever year thereafter. The government also held a summit in March to identify the best ways to control and curb gun violence. I am incredibly proud to represent Surrey Centre at the federal level, and to help end gun violence in my riding.
I have worked hard fighting against youth violence since my teens, and I have seen how prevention, intervention and community engagement combined can end and control these horrific levels of violence. I was honoured to be part of the mayor's task force on gang violence prevention, which was formed nine months ago, and has recently released its final report which contains six recommendations.
I believe that the first step in tackling this issue is to improve the firearms regime in Canada. Over the last decade, it is fair to say that controls over the transfer and movement of firearms in Canada were weakened. At the same time, converted automatic firearms have fallen into the wrong hands far too often. The Governor in Council used its authority to deem certain models as non-restricted or restricted, despite the fact that they met the Criminal Code definition for prohibited firearms.
In keeping with the mandate from the , the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice have taken action to ensure that our regime is more appropriate. Strengthened background checks, licence verification, required record-keeping by vendors, more sensible rules around transportation of restricted and prohibited firearms, and a consistent approach to classification are before us today in the form of Bill .
I am pleased to see that the legislation, as amended by the committee, has further strengthened the original proposals. The original Bill aimed to enhance background checks, for example. The amended Bill C-71 has taken that miles further, by adding specific new criteria that must be considered over the life history of an applicant, namely, whether the applicant has a history of threatening conduct; the applicant is or was previously prohibited by a non-contact order and presently poses a risk to the safety and security of any person; the person was previously subject to a firearms prohibition under order and in relation to an offence where violence was used, threatened or attempted against a person's intimate partner or former intimate partner; and the applicant, for any reason, poses a risk of harm to any person.
The amendment has taken this further by clarifying that threatened violence and threatening conduct can include what is communicated online, through the Internet or other digital networks. That is a welcome addition to the current regime.
Presently, when licensing authorities determine whether a person is eligible for a firearms licence, they are only required to consider certain factors, like a history of violence or mental illness that is linked to violent behaviour over the preceding five years of the applicant's life. Under Bill , these authorities would be required to consider certain factors spanning a person's entire life rather than just the past five years. This will be a positive change in Canada. It would increase the confidence of Canadians in the overall effectiveness of our firearms licensing regime, and would assure them that all firearms licence applicants will, in the interest of public safety, have their backgrounds comprehensively vetted.
I would like to point out that at this stage, this does not in any way unfairly single out those with mental health issues; it is only mandatory for chief firearms officers or judges to consider mental health treatment related to violence, or threatened or attempted violence. All of this is in the interests of public safety and all Canadians.