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Irvin Waller
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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—
Jacques Dupuis
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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.
Dave Shipman
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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.
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