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View Don Davies Profile
Thank you.
Mr. Chair, 80% of offenders in our federal prisons have addictions. We know that mental illness is a significant and growing problem in our prisons. The Conservative government has said that there are people in prisons who shouldn't be there because they actually have health issues. Yet this budget doesn't say a word about increasing funding for mental health treatment or addictions treatment.
Given that these are some of the prime causes of crime, and dealing with these issues is an absolutely identified way to reduce recidivism and make our communities safer, can you please explain why?
View Vic Toews Profile
View Vic Toews Profile
2011-03-24 9:20
I can talk about some of the initiatives that our government has taken in funding, for example, that was never in place under the prior government to address issues of mental health. We've contributed significant millions of dollars to the issue of mental health in prisons.
This is an issue, Mr. Chair, that both the provincial and the federal institutions are facing as a result of the shift in policy in the provinces some number of years ago. I was a lawyer for a provincial government during the course of those occurrences that were essentially shutting down mental hospitals or asylums and putting these individuals out onto the street. In many cases, not only were they then out on the street with mental health problems, but they became prey to the drug dealers, so you had a double problem of mental health and drug addiction.
Essentially these--
View Vic Toews Profile
View Vic Toews Profile
2011-03-24 9:21
Essentially these individuals then find their way into the provincial jail system and the federal institutions. We have taken steps to address that, but I think we need a more vigorous discussion with provincial mental health authorities about what would be a more appropriate way of dealing with these individuals. The policies of the 1970s and 1980s in closing down these institutions have not worked, quite frankly, and what we're doing is developing--
Irvin Waller
View Irvin Waller Profile
Irvin Waller
2011-03-03 9:10
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you this morning.
I've made available to the committee some materials in both English and French, first of all a book called Less Law, More Order: The Truth About Reducing Crime. This book is totally consistent with what Senator Hutchinson told you, but it adds to it information from studies in England and in the United States on what is in fact effective and cost-effective in reducing crime, and it actually talks about a strategy to move from overreliance on reactive criminal justice to a balance between smart criminal justice and effective prevention.
I've also made available to the committee a document in both official languages, called in English Making Cities Safer: Action Briefs for Municipal Stakeholders. This was funded by some of the money from the National Crime Prevention Centre and has been very widely used. We actually ran out of copies fairly soon after we produced them by cities from coast to coast. Probably the most interesting city to use this is the city of Edmonton, but it also talks about Montreal, Waterloo, and other cities.
I have been on the public record on a number of the issues here today, and I'd just like to remind you a little bit about how I got to where I am now.
I did the first and only independent evaluation of the prison and parole system in Canada in the seventies. I was a director general in the Ministry of Public Safety in the seventies. I won prizes for my work in getting the UN to adopt the declaration on rights for crime victims, colloquially known as the Magna Carta for crime victims, and I was the founding executive director of the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime affiliated with the UN and based in Montreal.
But more recently I've turned to writing two books for legislators and voters and taxpayers, and a lot of what is in these books is consistent with the right on crime website, but it has perhaps two major emphases that were not mentioned by Senator Hutchinson. One, I'm a crime victim advocate; nothing else. I've been head of the World Society of Victimology. I'm personally a victim of crime, and I currently head the International Organization for Victim Assistance. The main contribution that I make in the victim area is that I'm also a professional social scientist who looks at data and looks at standards and looks at what is in the best interests of victims, and I try to share my assessment with them.
This book does that, and I have a book that actually is already released in the United States and ran out in the first three weeks of its publication, called Rights for Victims of Crime.
Now, what I think is missing from what you shared with us today is a focus on.... If you go on the Right on Crime website, you will see they talk about protecting victims, and I think our public policy in Canada, both federally and provincially, should be totally focused on reducing harm to victims of crime. That means reducing the number of people who are victims of crime, and focusing on what can be done about that harm.
Justice Canada released about a week ago an updated study on the cost of crime to victims in Canada, talking about $85 billion as being the cost of pain and suffering to victims. They also, by the way, estimated the cost of criminal justice at $15 billion, and I guess it's because they're in Justice Canada that they're not following what is going on in the policing area in Canada. It's not just prison costs that Justin Piché talked about. It's also policing costs, and policing costs affect our taxes at the municipal level in this country. So I think we have to see this issue of prison construction in the context of rapidly expanding policing expenditures as well as these rapidly expanding correctional expenditures at the provincial level.
In my view, these expenditures are largely out of control, and there is a need for leadership. And the good news is that there is leadership in this country. The Province of Alberta in 2007 set up a task force to look at the best data from all over the world on what actually works to reduce harm to victims. That task force included the chief of police of Edmonton, an associate dean of law, a native, and so on and so forth.
There were 31 recommendations from the task force, and I'm going to divide them into four parts. First, part of them were about building remand cells because nobody has really come to grips with limiting the reaction to crime. They included some additional police officers. Alberta has fewer police officers per capita than Ontario and Quebec do. Second, it included stuff to deal with mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction. Third, it put into practice the sort of stuff that is in this book, and a number of other agencies. By the way, a lot of this research comes from the United States on what actually works to reduce crime. Fourth, and this is the most important thing for this committee, they established a long-term strategy, not reacting by saying we have to build now because there's going to be double-bunking and so on, but a strategy that says yes, we've got to deal with making sure we've got enough reactive capacity, but we've got to get to grips with the sorts of things that lead to this flood of people into our prison system, and we've got to prevent.
I know my time is limited, but I prepared a longer brief and I will be happy to share it with people in due course. What I've decided to do in the very limited time is to focus on a very brief history. I'm not going to go back 30 or 40 years, which I could do, to tell you about the history.
I just want to translate one thing that Senator Hutchinson told you. He said prisons are expensive. What that means is a taxpayer in the United States pays twice what a taxpayer in Canada does for the privilege of having that number of police, that number of lawyers, and an incredible number of people incarcerated. He said 2.3 million, but in my view it's very close to the population of Toronto that's incarcerated. He told you it was 23% of the recorded prison population in the world. You have to think about that.
While you're thinking about that, and it's a rate of 750 per 100,000, the aboriginal rate of incarceration in Canada is higher than that. If you go ahead with expanding penitentiaries, just think who is going to be incarcerated: aboriginal people, disproportionately; women, very disproportionately; men, disproportionately.
I have the privilege of having a PhD student working on how you solve that problem, and the answer is, you prevent. You focus on why there is so much violence, particularly among urban aboriginal people, and we know exactly what to do. By the way, we largely knew in 1993 when the Horner committee looked at these issues. We largely knew when the O'Shaughnessy committee looked at these issues in 1995. Since then, the World Health Organization in 2002 produced a report, with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States. This report basically tells you in its foreword, and I'll quote from Mandela, that violence is preventable.
You will not find any recommendation in that report that would give you any basis for expanding our prison population. It didn't talk about abolishing prisons. Clearly, we need prisons for the dangerous offenders. Part of what I did as a federal public servant was introduce the first dangerous offender legislation. I don't want Olson calling me up, and I don't want Bernardo being released, and I could mention several other cases. If you look at what Right On Crime says, basically it says to set priorities. You have a certain prison capacity, so use it for those people who are dangerous--I think that was your term, but I may be misquoting you.
The World Health Organization produced their report, and they also produced a major report on return on investment. For me, that's an Alberta term. I was doing a presentation to an American criminal justice group in Toronto yesterday, with the Alberta government, and what they talked about was social return on investment.
These guys in Alberta are smart. They're not just sitting there allowing this flood wave of policing increases and prison construction. They're saying they're going to protect victims; they're going to use taxpayers' money responsibly, which is a very similar line to the website, Right on Crime. The WHO brought that together.
In 2007 the current federal Conservative government doubled the budget for prevention, from $25 million or $30 million to $60 million. When they're spending $4 billion, it's not worth worrying about. Stockwell Day, who is very familiar with the victimization statistics, implied this was going to solve the crime problem. That sort of money for an experimental program will not solve the crime problem.
They've now cut back on that. They couldn't spend the money. There are people out there who could use that money, but they couldn't spend it.
For me, this is an incredible shame. Not only was it too little—limited to experimental—but they didn't spend the money. There are 14 cities in this country looking for $300,000 a year to multiply what works, and they were told there was no longer any money available. This is while we are talking in the press about $400 million.
I've mentioned the Alberta task force. I'm going to go to some bottom lines, and I—
View Don Davies Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I also want to express my condolences to the victims for the suffering they've experienced.
I'm going to take a risk and say something that I think is on everybody's mind here. The prospect of seeing Earl Jones and Mr. Lacroix walk out of jail after serving one-sixth of their time--after two years of a 13-year sentence--is jarring to Canadians. But also at issue here is the wisdom or not of making a policy that applies to 1,000 people a year to target two people. So I'm going to direct my questions to that.
This committee did a mammoth study on the prevalence of mental illness and addictions in the federal prison system. We found that 80% of the people in federal institutions suffer from addictions or alcoholism, and a very high percentage--I don't even think we can settle on a number--suffer from mental illness. I know that getting access to timely and effective treatment for addictions or mental illness is woeful in our federal institutions right now.
Transferring those people who are eligible--first-time, non-violent offenders--into halfway houses in the community, where they have access to far broader community services like addictions treatment, mental health resources, reintegration, connections with their families, and work, is helpful to their reintegration and rehabilitation.
Does anybody disagree with me on that?
I also want to ask about cost. It's my understanding that it costs about $140,000 a year to keep a male prisoner in a federal institution. We heard Ms. Pate say it costs $185,000 for a female--
View Garry Breitkreuz Profile
We are moving into a public hearing.
I want to make it clear that this motion was one that I ruled inadmissible. A motion of censure by a statement is not possible at a committee. Committees do not have the authority to condemn the behaviour or statements by a member.
I just want to apprise the committee of that. I won't read the whole thing.
We will continue now with Mr. MacKenzie.
View Brent Rathgeber Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
There is a problem. The problem is that this committee has no flexibility with respect to its timetable, an issue that was of great concern and great consternation to me at an in camera meeting that I can't talk about. But the end result of that was that this committee has an agenda—that's public, so I can talk about it—that sets certain days for certain matters. As I understand it—and any honourable members of the committee may wish to correct me—clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-391 was set for two hours for today and two hours for Thursday of this week. If my recollection is correct, next Tuesday and Thursday we are to give instructions to the analysts regarding a very comprehensive study on mental health and the state of corrections that this committee undertook last fall, October and November, with trips across Canada and to Norway and Britain, and hither, thither, and yon. I think it behoves us to move forward on that report, given the amount of time and money the committee has expended on studying mental health in corrections. I'm sure Mr. Davies, who's the mover of this motion, would not want to see all the work and time and energy and toil and labour he's put into studying the state of mental health in corrections be put off yet again.
I don't know how you prioritize the state of mental health in corrections versus Bill 391. Certainly the members on this side of the House are anxious to move forward. We support this bill wholeheartedly, at least speaking for myself, and I think I speak for all the members on this side of the table. The committee, as you know, Mr. Chair, is the author of its own procedure; it's the author of its own affairs. This committee has made a motion, and the motion was, as I understand it, to do clause-by-clause consideration today and Thursday. But there may be some technical problems with that.
I'm a little confused as to the starting lineup for today's match, because Mr. Davies—we welcomed him back a few moments ago when he made the motion—hasn't been participating in the hearing of the witnesses, and I was under the understanding that Mr. Comartin, the senior justice critic for the NDP, had a lead on this file. Is the problem that Mr. Comartin is not available today? I don't know. I would suggest, if that's the problem, that's not a legitimate or bona fide reason to adjourn what is to be clause-by-clause consideration from Tuesday and Thursday to Thursday and Tuesday of next week.
Maybe the amendments aren't ready. I don't know if the NDP needs more time. I don't know if the other parties are proposing amendments. I'm a little confused and I'm a little concerned by all of this. All that I do know—or I guess I might know more than this statement—is that the committee had resolved to do clause-by-clause today and clause-by-clause on Thursday of this week. This committee has set its own timetable, against this side of the table's strong opposition, essentially to the end of what was anticipated to be the spring session. So with Tuesday and Thursday already booked to do mental health and the state of corrections, I would suggest to you, Mr. Chair, that this motion is out of order, and I'm sure my colleagues would like to support me on this proposition.
View Shelly Glover Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I too want to voice my displeasure at the fact that we are once again leaving the agenda and trying to make last-minute adjustments. We prepare very hard for these committee meetings. My desk is completely covered in documents. There are a number of reasons we do this. It's because we want to do a good job. I'm sure that all members of this committee from every party want to do a good job.
I am prepared on Tuesday and Thursday of next week to move forward on a mental health issue, and it is pressing. I'm going to tell you why I believe it is pressing.
We just recently saw in a newspaper yet another example of why that study could help save lives and could help to improve the system. I want to read from a newspaper article with regard to that very important case, which was captured by not only our nation, but nations across this world. It's an important case because it could happen again, and we have the power to make some positive changes to hopefully prevent that.
Let me read a few sentences, if you would allow me, Mr. Chair. This is from an article by Dean Pritchard from May 31, and it's from Winnipeg:
The doctor of the man who beheaded an innocent passenger aboard a Greyhound bus less than two years ago is recommending day passes for his client, Vince Li. The treating psychiatrist believes the man found not criminally responsible for slaying Tim McLean in front of a busload of horrified bystanders is ready to leave his secure mental health facility for hours at a time, provided he is accompanied by two “special constables”. Li's treating psychiatrist says Li continues to suffer hallucinations, but at a reduced intensity and frequency than at the time Tim McLean was killed. He said Li is assessed as a low homicidal risk and suicide risk, and he responds well to hospital staff.
Here's a quotation:
“His demeanour on the ward, he doesn’t argue with staff...he is responsive to their requests.”Meanwhile, McLean's family is lobbying to toughen the law against those found criminally not responsible for killing another person and was previously appalled when a psychiatrist commented that Li could be potentially...released within five years.
I might note that this is a case that happened in fact just outside Winnipeg, in my home province of Manitoba, and in fact the mother of the young man who was brutally murdered lives in our colleague Candace Hoeppner's riding, and we've been in close contact with her about this.
Let me continue:
“Tim's Law” aims to set at least a minimum mental health facility term for mentally ill killers. Vince Li has been treated at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre since he was found not criminally responsible for the July 2008 killing aboard a Greyhound bus. Manitoba's Criminal Code review board will perform annual reviews of Li's mental health....
Now, I understand that this tacks on a very large responsibility to a provincial government. However, given that we took the time and energy and used taxpayers' funds to do an extensive study of the mental health system in our prisons, and of addiction, and of how they influence one another, etc., I am anxious to complete this study, not only because it's the right thing to do, but because this is a pressing issue. This is an article, as I stated, from May 31. This is weighing heavily on the minds of the family of Tim McLean and on the minds, might I add, of the family of Vince Li.
I believe it's incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to not only honour the schedule we have lived by, which we all know many of us did not want to agree to and were handcuffed into doing. However, we agreed to it because I am prepared for Tuesday and Thursday to address this very serious issue, which is pressing, which is at the forefront of some of the news articles that we've seen—and I'm sure there are more to come—if not for any other reason than to assure these families that someone is looking at this issue. I don't want to detour from our agenda, because I believe this is a pressing issue.
Those are my comments.
I would hope that members of this committee—although many of them aren't listening.... I want to implore you to think about these families. Were this your son or your daughter who was beheaded and cannibalized by an individual who was found not criminally responsible, who was then about to receive day passes when the psychiatrists have said clearly that there are still hallucinations—not to the same extent as when the homicide occurred, but there are still hallucinations—you too would be very concerned. It would rip at your hearts, it would rip at your very being and your very soul. I will not do that to these families without voicing very clearly here in this committee that it cannot be done. We cannot leave these families in that kind of a state. This study is important to them, and I thank the analysts and the researchers who accompanied us. I know you've done a lot of work to prepare a draft report for us. I want to proceed to evaluating it and to making some significant recommendations for not only this family, but for all Canadians.
Again, I know that many of the opposition members are not listening. I implore you to listen very briefly. You need to do this for these families. Please, Mr. Chair, I need for them to hear this. These families cannot be left in this kind of situation.
Thank you for your time.
View Don Davies Profile
Mr. Chairman, right now, just to inform the committee, I'm seeking instructions from Mr. Comartin. I will be able to give a final answer very quickly.
As it is my turn to speak on this issue, I just want to quickly say that I think Mr. Rathgeber made some offensive comments about our study. He said in the mental health study that we travelled across the country, into Norway, into Britain, and “hither and thither and yon”. Actually, the committee went across this country and we went to Norway and Britain, and that was it. If he's suggesting that was not a wise use of resources of this committee, then it's certainly contrary to what his colleague just spent the last ten minutes prattling on about.
I think it's offensive to regard the work of this committee on mental health as something that is put in nursery rhyme terms. It was a valuable study, and it certainly was a good use of our time.
I also want to point out that we have time in June. I know the committee time has been allocated, but there are a few days still in June. The purpose of my motion would move things one day. This is a very important bill, Bill C-391. It deserves to have the full consideration of this committee. Mr. Comartin wants the opportunity to put some amendments forward. That was the spirit of my motion—to enable that to happen, so that this committee would be able to consider every conceivable aspect of the gun registry bill before a very important vote comes up in Parliament, and so that amendments would be put before this committee for all parliamentarians' consideration.
I'll point out that I hear one of my friends interrupting me, and it makes it difficult to speak, but I will respond. He asked why he is not here. I've explained why he's not here to the chair, but I'll do it again here, as I did to Mr. MacKenzie. He's not here because he was called to a meeting of the Afghanistan committee. Mr. Comartin is our party's nominee, and that's going on right at this moment. I might also point out that Mr. Comartin also advises me that he sent this request to defer this one day to the government House leader, Jay Hill, who didn't even give the courtesy of a reply. That's why I'm bringing it up at the committee here, but if we want to get into that kind of politics, I'll bring that forward for the record so everybody can hear.
As well, I would point out that I did talk to the chairman, I talked to the government leader on this committee, and I talked to all the other leaders. Frankly, before I moved this motion I thought I had the agreement of everybody on this. Apparently we don't. This is what I have to say on this subject.
In terms of the mental health committee study, of course I think we're all in agreement that it's a very important thing, and I think we can get that done by the end of the summer. I don't think one day is going to make that much of a difference on it. That's what I wanted to say to the substance of the matter.
I'm awaiting instructions from Mr. Comartin right now. I'll certainly be able to advise the chairman right away if there's a way I can get this out of the way and move the committee business forward.
Jacques Dupuis
View Jacques Dupuis Profile
Hon. Jacques Dupuis
2010-05-27 15:55
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You have no reason to apologize. I was watching the show, I didn't have to participate; it's almost like a vacation for me.
Voices: Ah, ah!
Hon. Jacques Dupuis: But I have to tell you that it bears a close resemblance to what happens from time to time back home. So, please do not apologize; we understand these things.
First of all, allow me to thank you for your invitation to appear. Since 206, the federal government has shown clear signs of its intention to abolish the registration of non-restricted firearms. Indeed, three bills in pursuit of that objective have been introduced by the government, and two others have been introduced by Conservative members of Parliament. Moreover, in May of 2006, the federal government declared an amnesty, which it has renewed every year since then, thereby contributing to weaker enforcement of the Firearms Act.
The Government of Quebec has made known, on a number of occasions, that it considers the maintenance of the Canadian Firearms Registry, in its entirety, to be essential. Three motions to that effect have been passed unanimously by the National Assembly of Quebec.
In addition, my presence here today before your Committee is in keeping with the commitment I made to form a common front with the Quebec police organizations and with associations and various other groups which are demanding that the Canadian Firearms Registry be maintained in its entirety.
The Government of Quebec has been particularly proactive itself over the past few years in the area of controlling firearms. After the shooting that occurred at Dawson College, in Montreal, on September 13, 2006, Quebec passed the Act to Protect Persons With Regard to Activities Involving Firearms, commonly referred to as “Anastasia's Law”, in memory of Anastasia De Sousa who died during that tragic event. The Act aims, in particular, to enhance the reporting of high-risk behaviours in connection with firearms. It also brought in a good many operational measures, including the creation, in 2008, of a joint investigation unit to combat trafficking in firearms, ammunition and explosives, whose work is coordinated by the Sûreté du Québec.
Contrary to certain claims that are being made, non-restricted firearms are not used exclusively by honest law-abiding citizens. From 2003 to 2009, these weapons were involved in nearly 2,000 violent offences in Quebec. During the same period, 45 homicides were committed in Quebec, and at least 534 people were the victims of robbery involving a rifle or shotgun. In 2009, of the 1,476 offences committed against persons, and considered to have been committed with a firearm in Quebec, 274 were perpetrated with a non-restricted firearm.
There are a number of reasons why the mandatory registration of non-restricted firearms should be maintained.
First of all, the Canadian Firearms Registry contributes to the prevention of tragedies and crimes against persons. In Quebec, between 2007 and 2009, we identified 169 spousal violence events involving shotguns or rifles, while there were 122 involving handguns.
The statistics also reveal that, of the suicides committed using a firearm, 9 out of 10 involved a non-restricted firearm. In fact, coroners have recommended that the Canadian Firearms Registry be maintained, following suicides committed with non-restricted firearms in Quebec.
When police officers respond in these situations, consulting the Canadian Firearms Registry enables them to quickly find out if the persons involved own one or more firearms, and if so, to remove them for preventive purposes.
The Registry also makes it possible to ensure compliance and monitoring of prohibition orders. Under the Criminal Code, orders prohibiting the possession of firearms may be imposed when a person is convicted of a violent crime or, for preventive purposes, when the person's mental state poses a risk to that person or to others. In the past three years, 1,042 prohibition orders have been imposed upon owners of non-restricted firearms in Quebec.
In the event that the long gun registry were abolished, the police would have to carry out more in-depth investigations in order to determine whether persons covered by an order own a non-restricted firearm, which would involve additional costs for law enforcement.
The Registry also contributes to protecting persons who are mentally disturbed, and those close to them. Indeed, in Quebec, universal registration enables the Chief Firearms Officer to verify whether firearms are possessed by persons under an application for an order to confine them to an institution, or calling for a psychiatric assessment.
Under Anastasia's Law, the Chief Firearms Officer is systematically informed of these applications. Between January 1, 2008 and March 31, 2010, 13,383 applications for orders were reported to him, and consultation of the Registry made it possible to conduct 1,193 interventions to ensure the safety of persons.
The Canadian Firearms Registry also constitutes an essential tool for police investigations and interventions. Consultation of the Registry assists in making informed decisions during police operations, in particular by making it possible to find out how many and what type of firearms belong to the individuals targeted by their interventions, and to act accordingly.
In fact, between 2006 and 2008, the Surety du Québec's Tactical Response Unit intervened in 125 operations where a suspect was in possession of a firearm, 81 of these involving suspects armed with a non-restricted firearm—in other words, in two out of every three interventions. According to the latest statistics for 2010, the Registry is queried more than 600 times per day by police officers in Quebec.
The registration of non-restricted firearms is also an important tool for police investigations. Indeed, a query of the Registry may serve as the starting point of an investigation when a firearm is recovered at a crime scene, and also contribute to establishing the chain of possession.
Thus far, 1,507,874 non-restricted firearms have been registered by individuals in Quebec, accounting for 95% of all firearms registered in Quebec. Abolishing the registration of non-restricted firearms would cause us to lose track of these weapons.
Moreover, the importance of the traceability of firearms is recognized, under international law, by two treaties initiated by the United Nations and the Organization of American States, both of which have been signed by Canada. The purpose of these treaties is to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit manufacturing of, and trafficking in, firearms, particularly through “marking”, which facilitates the traceability and identification of each firearm.
Whereas at the international level, Canada has made a commitment to ensure the traceability of firearms that are subject to transnational transactions, it is paradoxical to note that, at the domestic level, Canada is pursuing a policy aiming to abolish a tool that facilitates that very traceability of firearms within the country.
The Registry is also a useful tool for decision-making by criminal prosecutors—for example, in setting the conditions for the release of an accused, so as to enhance the protection of victims and of the public at large.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, I think it is appropriate to recall the circumstances that led to the creation of the current firearms control system in Canada: the École polytechnique tragedy, and many similar events in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Abolishing the Registry would affect the international reputation of Canada, a country that is a leader in the area of firearms control.
I would also like to remind you that the Government of Quebec's position is supported by the police organizations in Quebec, by a number of organizations working in the area of public safety and security, and by the families of the victims of tragedies that have occurred in Quebec. Ms. Suzanne Laplante-Edward and Ms. Louise De Sousa, the mothers of Anne-Marie and Anastasia respectively, are, in fact, with us today.
I also wish to underscore that although the Government of Quebec is against abolishing the mandatory registration of non-restricted firearms, it in no way questions the legitimacy of activities such as hunting, when practised in compliance with the law. The registration of a firearm may take only a few minutes, and is free of charge. The amount of effort required of farmers or hunters is far outweighed by the resulting benefits for society as a whole in terms of public safety.
I have laid out before you the many reasons, with supporting statistics, which have convinced me that the cause defended by Quebec today is important and just.
Yet as a backdrop to this sometimes theoretical argument stands the suffering and dismay of those affected by tragedies caused by firearms—those who are still grieving over the loss of loved ones, or who daily relive tragedies that they will never be able to forget.
As I mentioned, some of those people are here with me today. You are no doubt aware that Quebec has been particularly hard hit by tragic events that have forevermore left their mark on our collective memory.
I will close on this; I promise.
From that perspective, if the registration of non-restricted firearms were to save just one life, from a moral standpoint, its maintenance would be justified. And if you have any doubts about the relevance of that assertion, I invite you to speak to Suzanne Edward and Louise De Sousa.
Thank you very much.
Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu
View Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu Profile
Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu
2010-05-25 16:51
Yes. That said, there is no way of proving whether murders would have been committed if they had not been revoked.
Take for instance the situation which occurred in the Lac-Saint-Jean area last year. A request was issued to revoke the licence of someone who had psychiatric problems. It was never done, and two weeks later, he killed someone.
View Andrew Kania Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Andrew Kania Profile
2010-05-13 17:05
Have any mental health or health organizations come out saying that the gun registry should be ended?
Dave Shipman
View Dave Shipman Profile
Dave Shipman
2010-05-06 16:09
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for providing me this opportunity to speak before you on this important issue.
My name is Dave Shipman. I was born and raised in Winnipeg, and I currently I live in a rural setting just outside the city. I feel qualified to attend at this hearing as a result of my life experience and involvement in law enforcement from the age of 19 to the present.
I spent 25 years with the Winnipeg Police Service and nearly 19 of those years investigating violent crimes in the homicide robbery division. During 16 of those years I was also a member of the special weapons team and a team leader on the entry team.
I retired 10 years ago and immediately took up a position as investigator in charge of the organized crime/gang unit with Manitoba Public Insurance, where I remain so employed.
I've been involved with the criminal intelligence service in Manitoba during these 10 years as well. For those who are not familiar with it, each province has its own criminal intelligence service with the federal governing body, Criminal Intelligence Service Canada.
The CISM includes all law enforcement and investigative bodies in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. The nature of my work, investigating organized crime and gang activity as it relates to organized insurance fraud, and my involvement with CISM, puts me in contact with serving police officers on a continual basis.
My experience in dealing with violent criminals and gang members is probably far more involved than that of the average police officer. Believe me when I tell you that I have put hundreds and hundreds of dangerous violent men in prison over the years, often for unspeakable crimes, including rape, robbery, home invasions, and murder.
It is in the arrest and interviewing of these men and their associates that I've obtained a good working knowledge of their mindset. First and foremost, let me say that a vast majority of violent attacks, attempted homicides, and homicides committed domestically involve weapons other than firearms--knives being the preferred weapon.
Of the few domestic homicides I can recall that involved long guns, committed by either sex on the spouse, they were long guns that were legally owned and there had been no previous encounters with the law. No amount of gun registry would have stopped lives from being taken.
I have watched the long-gun registry with interest, both as a serving police officer and a gun owner/hunter. First, and it has been said time and time again, criminals do not register guns. The guns they seek out and use to commit violent crimes are most profoundly smuggled or stolen handguns and, to a lesser extent, stolen and cut-down shotguns or rifles. Firearms that are capable of firing at an automatic rate are smuggled in from the U.S., and drug dealers and gangs--the two intertwined--are the favourite customers. None of these situations can be corrected by a long-gun registry.
Handguns have always enjoyed a restricted status, and ownership brought significant restrictions as to how and where the firearm could be possessed. Automatic weapons were always illegal to possess, with the exception of law enforcement and legitimate grandfathered collectors. The national gun registry has done nothing to deter illegal possession of these guns.
Again, criminals intent on procuring and possessing these guns are not about to register them. So how does the gun registry assist the police in preventing gun crime? It simply does not, and it offers nothing to protect our citizenry from being victims of gun crime perpetrated by well-armed criminals.
I'm not against licensing of gun owners. The possession and/or acquisition of firearms should be a licensed, controlled process to prevent criminals and otherwise unstable or dangerous individuals from legally obtaining and owning firearms. But the registry is really only about counting guns--guns belonging to people who have chosen to involve themselves in the system.
Civil disobedience to the registry has been rampant, with entire provinces refusing to enforce the failure to register and attorneys general announcing refusal to prosecute. Amnesties that have lasted for years have been put into place. Thousands and thousands of legal guns remain in our country outside of the registry, and many thousands of illegal guns are stolen or smuggled into the hands of criminals whose last worry is the gun registry.
I've heard from proponents of the registry that it assists police officers because they can check with the gun registry to determine if guns are registered to the person they are interested in or the residence or location they are attending. While this check can certainly be done, I've yet to talk to a serving street cop--I'm talking about the average constable attending call after call after call--who has checked the registry, even a single time, or who even knows how to use it. In checking with the supervisor officers of the major crimes unit, the homicide unit, and the organized crime unit, not one can ever recall using the registry before going to make an arrest.
I spoke to the head of the Winnipeg Police Service tactical support team, which is the new term for the old SWAT team that we were on. This is a 24/7 support unit that, from its inception to the level of coverage two years ago, has been involved in several hundred planned operations, mostly high-risk warrant service, drug warrants, Criminal Code firearm search warrants, and the like. He indicated that the gun registry is worthless in preventing gun crime. He did advise that, by protocol, members of his unit confer with the registry when planning tactical operations, but their experience was that the registry has been only sometimes accurate, only sometimes up to date, and largely ineffective—and I quote—“because we all know that criminals don't register their guns”.
By way of history, upon the inception of Bill C-68, the Winnipeg Police Association membership voted by way of referendum that they were strongly opposed to the long-gun registry. Identically, the Manitoba Police Association also opposed the long-barrel registry, after taking the issue to a vote by the membership. And so it went for the police associations in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Then-WPA president, Loren Schinkel, now with Manitoba Justice as coordinator of aboriginal and municipal law enforcement, often referenced Premier Gary Doer's line about the Government of Manitoba not supporting the bill, saying that we need to get tough on gangs and restricted guns, not turn goose hunters into criminals.
If the long-gun registry was going to be such a significant crime-fighting tool, does anybody believe that entire police services would fail to embrace it wholeheartedly? Yes, fragments of police services utilize the registry by way of protocol, but with criminals not registering their stolen or smuggled handguns or cut-down stolen firearms, previously legally registered or not, it is of little use. Because of the hit-and-miss situation of any individual actually registering legal guns, because the registry does not keep up with the movement of individuals from place to place, because criminals do not register, no police officer could ever rely on a check against the registry to determine if a danger did or did not exist. A police officer must be ever vigilant, no matter the circumstance, and the fact that the registry might indicate that an individual or an address does or does not reflect legal gun registration is of little assistance, all things considered. The old possession and acquisition certificate did as much, without the arithmetic of counting guns.
The most alarming area of gun use escalation surrounds the ever-increasing street gang activity tied dramatically to the drug trade. As I deal on a daily basis with gang members in my current occupation and monitor their other criminal activities through my involvement with serving police officers in the criminal intelligence service, I can tell you first hand that gun crime is escalating and that handguns are far and away the weapon of choice of these criminals to enforce their piece of the drug trade pie. Anytime I get a gang member in my office, I turn to the subject of guns somewhere along the way, and it is not unusual for the gang banger to brag, “I've got a nine; I've got a Glock.”
Shots ringing out in certain parts of Winnipeg have become commonplace activity, and drive-by shootings of individuals and residences the same. The registry is not the answer to stopping this.
The long-gun registry was an ill-thought-out piece of legislation in answer to the tragedy at École Polytechnique in 1989. It did not stop another similar tragedy at Dawson College in 2006. It will not stop the next deranged individual from attempting a similar attack in the future.
Holding the long-gun registry out as a protector of women is simply not valid. It is a lie. We must do better to protect women and the citizenry of our country by putting meaningful consequences in place for criminal offences and concentrate on stopping the flow of illegal gun traffic over our border into the hands of criminals.
A minimum sentence for gun crimes with minimum time served would serve as a far better solution than the long-gun registry. It is said that the abolishment of the two-for-one sentencing issue will increase incarceration and associated costs an additional $2 billion, roughly what we've spent on the registry already. Having only registered six million to seven million, with an estimated 17 million total guns in Canada, if that is correct, I wonder how much more money that would cost us. I would rather put the $2 billion towards keeping those criminals in jail and making sure they could not hurt anybody else.
Thank you for offering me this time to speak to you. I sincerely hope that what I've said will assist you in making an informed decision.
View Andrew Kania Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Andrew Kania Profile
2010-05-06 17:19
Okay. Thank you.
This question is for the three retired police officers.
I'll tell you how I believe the registry system does help, and I'm going to give you examples and I'm going to ask you to agree with me.
First, it helps to enforce court orders, because if you have an order from a judge to go into a house and confiscate all weapons, and you know there are 13 registered in that house, that will help you enforce the court order to remove all the weapons, because some could be hidden and you wouldn't know.
I want to go through the list first.
Second, if you have a domestic violence call and you go to a house and you know there's a risk that somebody could cause harm to another person, and you also know, through the registration system, that there are, once again, 13 guns in that house, you can look for them. If you don't know, you will have no idea if some are hidden or just not accounted for.
Third, people who are at risk of suicide are unstable. The same thing applies: if you know that circumstance, and there's a court order or there's an order from a doctor to do something about it, in terms of committing somebody, and you know there are 13 guns in that house, you can go into the house and look for the 13 guns.
Fourth, registration facilitates proof of possession of stolen and smuggled firearms because if the arms have a registration and they're in illegal hands, you will know who is authorized to have those and you'll be able to do something about that.
Accountability. If I'm a gunowner and I have 13 guns registered to me, some gunowners, at least, will be more responsible if they know those particular guns are registered to them in their name. They may not loan them out, they may not sell them, and they may not refuse to keep them locked up properly if they're responsible and they know there will be consequences if they don't follow the law.
Police investigations. If you go to a crime scene and there's a gun there, and it's registered and you can link it to somebody, that will aid you in your investigation, rather than if there's nothing at all. And if there is nothing at all, in terms of the system, and you have to find that gun, you're going to spend police resources and money trying to locate the source of that gun.
So for all those reasons, I believe you must agree with me that the registration system, although not perfect, and I'm not saying it's perfect, must at least make our streets a little bit safer. I can't believe all three of you would say we're not at least a little bit safer based on all those examples.
View Garry Breitkreuz Profile
I'd like to bring this meeting to order.
This is the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, meeting number seven. We are continuing our study of federal corrections, focusing on mental health and addictions.
We would like to welcome our witnesses for the first 45 minutes of our meeting. Ms. Oades is deputy commissioner for women. Ms. Jackson is the director general of clinical services. Ms. Thompson is regional director of health services for the prairie region. We welcome you all.
Do any of you have an opening statement?
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