Mr. Chairman, honourable committee members, and fellow witnesses, it is an honour and a privilege for me to appear before you today to assist you in your deliberations on Bill C-391.
As you already know, my name is Murray Grismer. What some of you may or may not know is that I am a serving member of the Saskatoon Police Service with over 23 years of service protecting the citizens of Saskatoon and Saskatchewan. At present, I hold the rank of detective sergeant, assigned to the major crime-serious crimes unit.
The courts in Saskatchewan have qualified me as an expert witness, able to give opinion and evidence on firearms. I have provided assistance to both federal and provincial prosecutions in the area of firearms-related crime. I'm a master instructor for the Canadian firearms safety courses and an approved verifier certified by the registrar of the Canadian firearms registry.
I want to make it clear from the outset that my comments here today before this committee are mine and mine alone. They do not reflect the opinion of my employer, chief, or the police service.
That said, I am the elected spokesperson of the Saskatoon Police Association on firearms issues, specifically the Firearms Act and the firearms registry. I was also the spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers on the issues of the Firearms Act and the firearms registry until the fall of 2002. During that time, I sat on the advisory panel to the Honourable John Nilson, justice minister and Attorney General for the Province of Saskatchewan, which brought forward Saskatchewan's position to opt out of the administration and enforcement of the Firearms Act.
I understand this august committee has had the opportunity to hear from a number of retired police officers who share my belief that the registry for non-restricted rifles and shotguns, commonly referred to as long guns, should be brought to an end. It's also my understanding I will be the only serving police officer called to appear as a witness who holds this position.
Therefore, ipso facto, I also represent the opinion of thousands of police officers across Canada who are, in my opinion, the silent majority and, for some, the silenced majority: not only police officers who have been ordered not to speak out against the long-gun registry but also officers who fear for their careers should they voice an opinion publicly in opposition to continuation of the registry or against the position adopted by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, their chief of police, or commanding officer.
To say the police community is divided on support for the long-gun registry is an understatement. The committee has heard from Mr. Charles Momy, president of the Canadian Police Association, who claimed that he represents the opinion of 41,000 police officers in Canada. The CPA endorses the continuation of the registry, yet in truth, they adopt this position without ever having formally polled their membership.
The CPA's position is not that of the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers, nor that of the Saskatoon Police Association. The Saskatchewan Federation is the only provincial federation or association that has polled its entire membership on the issue of the registration of firearms. When polled, the Saskatoon Police Association was 99.46% against a long-gun registry, while many of our compatriots in Saskatchewan were 100% in opposition to the registry.
There are some who may choose arrogantly or foolishly to consider the opinions of those who oppose the registry as uninformed or uneducated. Nothing could be further from the truth; we are neither. Instead, we recognize the cornerstone of public safety is the training, screening, and licensing of owners, not the registration of non-restricted rifles and shotguns.
The mantra of the former government of the day and the CACP was that “gun control is crime control”. The registry misses the target of the criminal use of firearms. Instead, it targets millions of legitimate firearms owners in the name of crime control. The fact is, the registry can do nothing to prevent the criminal use or criminals from obtaining firearms any more than the registration of vehicles can prevent them from being stolen or used by impaired drivers.
Ms. de Villiers of CAVEAT advocates on behalf of Canadians Against Violence. This is a laudable cause and one that I believe every Canadian supports, for violence makes victims of us all. To Ms. de Villiers, I offer my profoundest sympathy on the loss of your daughter, Nina de Villiers. However, a registry for long guns would not have stopped such a tragic event or addressed the failings of the justice system, and the retention of the registry will do nothing to prevent any such further event. Training, enhanced screening, and licensing of firearm owners, as we see today, might have prevented Jonathan Yeo, in the first instance, from being able to obtain a firearm. However, not even Canada's strict licensing regime or firearms registry can prevent random acts of violence. The best example of this failure is the shooting rampage at Dawson College by Kimveer Gill.
Chief Blair and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police contend that Canadians continue to support the registry that costs taxpayers over $2 billion and that in over a decade cannot be shown to have prevented even one death. Furthermore, what he is not telling you is that the CACP is not unanimous in their support and never has been. The fact is, the CACP publicly supported Allan Rock in the establishment of the registry in the beginning and continued to support it for the next 15 years, denying the mountainous cost overruns despite the ever-mounting evidence of the true cost to Canadians. This was projected in the beginning by firearms groups across Canada.
The complicity between the CACP and successive Liberal governments to establish and maintain the registry is nothing short of duplicitous. Now the CACP suggests to you that Canadians everywhere should turn a blind eye to the $2 billion oversight, claiming the money is spent. They say get over it, the registry now only costs $4 million a year to run. Moreover, this figure tends to change depending on which chief or senior member of the RCMP happens to be speaking.
At first blush, it may appear to be a miracle in business management rather than an exercise in creative accounting due to the amalgamation with the RCMP. Past yearly budgets of the Canadian Firearms Centre were in excess of $92.8 million.
Chief Blair will attempt to convince you that the retention of the registry is an officer safety issue. To the layperson, having no personal knowledge of firearms or the registry, this may appear reasonable. However, once one knows and understands the failings of the registry, the issue of officer safety takes on a far more sinister meaning. For officers using the registry, trusting in the inaccurate and unverified information contained therein, tragedy looms around the next door.
Knowing what I do about the registry, I cannot use the information contained in the registry to swear out a search warrant. To do so would be a criminal act. Thus I cannot in good conscience tell any officer, junior or senior, to place his faith in the results of a query of the Canadian firearms registry online.
To illustrate, it's acknowledged by persons within policing, the firearms centre, and the recreational firearms community that there are, at minimum, in excess of one million firearms in Canada that have not been registered. The registry does not indicate where firearms are stored or who may have control of the firearm, nor does it denote ownership. Tens of thousands of firearms are registered inaccurately using patent numbers and catalogue numbers in place of serial numbers or model numbers. Many firearms in the registry have multiple registrations for the same firearm.
This is but the tip of the iceberg for problems with the registry. Projections from within the Canadian Firearms Centre privately state it will take 70-plus years of attrition to come close to eliminating all the errors and to have all firearms currently in Canada registered.
This level of inaccuracy is unacceptable for any industry, let alone law enforcement. Police officers deserve better; the public and courts demand better. If there were to be the same potential for error within the national DNA data bank or the automated fingerprint identification system, the public and the courts would be outraged, and with just cause. Every entry in these databases is empirical--a level of accuracy the registry has not and cannot attain.
As a team leader for the Olympic security force, I had the opportunity to speak with police officers from across Canada. The vast majority of officers I spoke with did not support the continuation of the registry. They do not trust the information it contains and see it as a waste of time and money. Some I spoke with who did support the registry were shocked to learn of the vast inaccuracies and the potential officer safety risks associated with the registry.
Again I take you back to the issue of police safety. Police across Canada cannot and must not place their trust and risk their lives on the inaccurate, unverified information contained in the registry. From my perspective, if doing away with the long-gun registry saves even one life of one of Canada's front-line police officers, it is worth it. Retaining the registry at the risk of one police officer is too great a price to pay.
Mr. Ignatieff has proposed first-time failures to register long guns be treated as simple, non-criminal ticketing offences, instead of criminal offences, as they are currently. This epiphany has received the endorsement of many members of the CACP. However, it is disingenuous at best, nothing more than mere smoke and mirrors in an attempt to appease the concerns of the public and firearms owners across Canada.
The truth of the matter is that the CPA demanded such a condition of Allan Rock and the Liberal government of the day in order to receive their support for Bill C-68, the Firearms Act. Thus section 112 was placed into the Firearms Act, which makes it a summary offence for the firearms owner to possess an unregistered firearm in the first instance. The only difference is that Mr. Ignatieff's proposal makes it a ticketable offence like a traffic ticket. His problem is there is no federal mechanism, such as the Summary Offences Procedure Act, which allows for this. Firearms owners would still be forced, by appearance notice or summons, to attend court and be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than $2,000 or imprisonment for six months, or both.
In closing, I wish to thank you for your attention and leave you with these thoughts.
Polls indicate that the majority of Canadians want to see the registry for non-restricted rifles and shotguns ended. I contend this position is supported by the majority of police officers in Canada.
Bill C-391 is worthy of your consideration and support, for it brings an end to a registry that represents the largest and most contentious single waste of taxpayers' dollars, a registry consumed with errors and inaccurate data, and, more importantly, a registry that risks the safety of front-line police officers across Canada.