Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Daryl Kramp Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much.
Ms. Ablonczy, your time is up.
Before we suspend for a change of witnesses, I would just bring to the committee's attention a budget issue on Bill C-637. The chair would like a motion to pass today so that we can cover our witnesses under Bill C-637. I bring that to your attention. The chair will be looking for a motion on that before we adjourn today.
At this point, I would like to thank our witnesses for appearing here today. Certainly, your time was well spent.
We will now suspend for a change of witnesses.
View Daryl Kramp Profile
CPC (ON)
Colleagues, welcome back. We now go to the second half of our meeting.
We have, from the Privy Council Office, Ms. Isabelle Mondou, assistant secretary to the cabinet and counsel to the Clerk of the Privy Council, and Mr. David Vigneault, assistant secretary to the cabinet, responsible for security and intelligence.
Welcome, both of you.
Before we go to opening remarks, just briefly, the chair mentioned that he would appreciate a motion for the budget for Bill C-637. Could I have a motion on the floor?
View Gordon Brown Profile
CPC (ON)
We're going to call this meeting number 48 of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage back to order.
For this last half hour, pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, November 5, 2014, our topic is Bill C-597, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day).
Mr. Dykstra.
View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. If you allow me just a moment to clarify what we're prepared to do, it might expedite the process of voting on the bill.
I would move that that Bill C-597 be amended by deleting lines 12 to 14 of clause 1, which state, “on Remembrance Day, the Canadian flag on the Peace Tower shall be lowered to half-mast.” If that is agreed, we would be prepared to support the rest of the bill, on division.
View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
Thanks very much.
We would certainly support that amendment. It honours an agreement to eliminate that clause, which was made before the bill was brought forward for second reading. That's what helped us to get it fast-tracked through second reading.
View Gordon Brown Profile
CPC (ON)
If that's the case then we would have to deal with clause 1 first.
(Clause 1 as amended agreed to on division)
(Clause 2 agreed to on division)
The Chair: Shall the title carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
An hon. member: On division.
The Chair: Shall the bill as amended carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
An hon. member: On division.
The Chair: Shall the chair report the bill as amended to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
An hon. member: On division.
The Chair: Shall the committee order a reprint of the bill as amended for the use of the House at report stage?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
An hon. member: On division.
The Chair: As there is no further business, the meeting is adjourned.
View Daryl Kramp Profile
CPC (ON)
Good morning, colleagues and witnesses. Welcome to meeting number 70 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
Today, we are following up our study on Bill C-637. We have witnesses for the first hour and the second hour.
I would just notify the committee that we will be breaking in the second hour to go to committee business for a few minutes at the end so that we have a schedule to come back to on the 28th. Give some thought to that, knowing that this will be coming up.
In this first hour, we have with us, in person, Mr. Greg Farrant, manager of government affairs and policy at the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. By way of teleconference from Winfield, Alberta, we have Mr. Todd Brown from the Concerned Firearm Owners of Alberta. We will not have video, but we should have audio.
Mr. Brown, could we have a little word from you to make sure we are all live here?
Todd Brown
View Todd Brown Profile
Todd Brown
2015-05-14 8:47
Yes, we are all live.
I just want to make a quick correction. That is the Concerned Gun Owners of Alberta.
Greg Farrant
View Greg Farrant Profile
Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 8:47
Thank you very much.
Good morning, Mr. Chair, members of the committee, and Mr. Brown in absentia.
On behalf of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, the largest conservation-based organization in Ontario, our 100,000 members, supporters, and subscribers, and our 725 member clubs across the province thank you for the courtesy of inviting me to appear before the committee to speak to Bill C-637, an act to amend the Criminal Code (firearms storage and transportation).
I will attempt to keep my remarks as succinct as the bill is.
It's been clear from some of the discussion around this legislation and from some of the comments made in the House that there is confusion about what the legislation does or does not do and why it is necessary. Frankly speaking, I think some of that confusion is justified, given the diversity of legal judgments and opinions that exist in case law around this matter. As someone who deals with firearms-related matters on a regular basis, initially I too found the issue to be, as my father would have said, clear as mud.
I'm not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be one. However, my job requires me to read a lot of case law related to firearms. Before my appearance today, I spent considerable time reviewing the arguments in cases such as R. v. McManus, R. v. Felawka, R. v. Formosa, R. v. Labrecque, and R. v. Dunn in order to gain a better understanding of why the bill is necessary and what it seeks to achieve.
What is clear from looking at those previous cases is that there is a wide discrepancy in how BB guns, pellet guns, paintball guns, and the like are treated in terms of licensing versus how they are treated in terms of storage and transportation under both the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code.
It seems to me that the original intent of Parliament was to treat these types of guns differently under the act, as evidenced by the fact that you do not require a licence to purchase, own, or use low-velocity BB guns. Consequently, I do not believe that it was Parliament's intention to make it a criminal offence to transport or store BB guns or pellet guns differently, but that is what appears to have occurred under the law, which has resulted in the inconsistency of application we are facing.
It has been suggested that R. v. Dunn changed the game. It did not. In fact, it is clear in reviewing a summation of the case law by a crown prosecutor attached to the guns and gangs task force, that if anything, Dunn emphasized the discrepancy. I noted a moment ago the difference between how BB guns and pellet guns are treated in terms of licensing as opposed to how they are treated in terms of storage and transportation. Before this, no one contemplated the criminalization for storage or handling of an air gun until the Firearms Act, which is why we are here and why the bill is necessary.
Quite simply, Mr. Sopuck's bill seeks to create a mere exception so that lower velocity air guns will be treated the same under the Firearms Act for storage and transportation as they are for licensing. It deems that lower velocity air guns are not firearms for the purposes of those sections of the act and creates an exemption for individual storing or transporting of lower velocity air guns from the careless use offence under section 86 of the Criminal Code.
To achieve that, the bill would add a new subsection to subsection 84(3) of the Criminal Code to address the above. At the same time, the bill would exclude from subsection 86(2) of the Criminal Code the careless use, storage, and use requirements with respect to lower velocity air guns.
Currently this subsection creates an offence for contravention of storage and transportation regulations under the Firearms Act, despite the fact that paragraph 84(3)(d) of the Criminal Code already exempts lower velocity air guns from the provisions of the Firearms Act and its regulations, including those related to storage and transportation. In our view, this ambiguity needs to be addressed.
During debate there was concern expressed that the provisions of this bill would weaken the law regarding the storage and transportation of air guns and thus increase the risk to public safety. If we felt this to be true, I would not be sitting before you today. If we were dealing with issues around the transportation and storage of firearms that discharge a projectile, using powder and an ignition source, this story would be different. Instead, we are talking about lower velocity air guns that use compressed air from a canister or a CO2 cartridge.
In essence, the issue at hand is that through cases like Dunn, which changed nothing, the courts have highlighted a discrepancy between the previous definition of a firearm and what the courts now consider to be one. This bill clarifies that lower velocity BB and pellet guns are not, in fact, firearms and reinforces the law as it was before Dunn.
I am of an age and a cohort who grew up in a time when low-velocity BB guns and pellet guns were the norm. They were the first gun you had as a youth for plinking at cans on a fence or shooting at paper targets with friends. In my case, and in the case of millions of Canadians, they were a part of growing up and an introduction to a lifetime involvement with firearms. Our parents counselled us about the proper use of these guns and tolerated, in my case in particular, no nonsense if you were caught being careless with them. At the same time, there was never a thought that they posed a risk to the public safety requiring them to be locked in cabinets and transported like high-powered firearms or that a failure to do so should be subject to a Criminal Code charge.
Let me be clear: the OFAH takes the issue of firearm safety very seriously. We deliver the Ontario hunter education program on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, which has taught over 250,000 students in the last decade.
Most of our instructors, which number about 302 currently, also deliver the Canadian firearms safety course. We work closely with the Ontario Chief Firearms Officer and the OPP on campaigns and messaging about safe use, safe storage, and safe transportation of firearms. I have provided the clerk with an example of that, which the committee can deal with as they see fit.
There is no question that, like any gun, low-velocity BB guns and pellet guns should be used responsibly. However, in our view, they do not require regulation in terms of storage and transportation as other firearms do, and owners of these guns should not be subject to Criminal Code charges associated with storage and transportation of them, which is why we support this bill and commend Mr. Sopuck for coming forward to address an inconsistency that exists in the law.
Thank you once again, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for affording me this opportunity.
Todd Brown
View Todd Brown Profile
Todd Brown
2015-05-14 8:54
Thank you very much.
Thank you to the committee for giving me this opportunity to speak to Bill C-637.
I'll give you just a little background. My name is Todd Brown. I have been doing in-depth research on the Firearms Act. I have written over a dozen articles and reviews on current and proposed gun legislation. I have maintained a gun group, which is the Concerned Gun Owners of Alberta, for several years. I am the executive director for FIRE, the Firearms Institute for Rational Education. I have been a firearms instructor and hunter training instructor for over 10 years. I'm in a position to listen to and discuss issues with gun owners as well as to inform them regarding gun legislation.
I will be short and concise as I wish to make only two points.
Bill C-637 would cover the oversight in the regulations that put innocent people, businesses, and kids at risk of criminal charges for the use and sale of BB, pellet, and paintball guns. Unless that changes, the legal door will be open to charge store owners for displaying legal merchandise and kids for using or storing BB or paintball guns.
While I support Bill C-637 in principle, I would respectfully suggest that to further simplify the legislation, the following change be implemented to replace the addition suggested by this bill. The change is that section 84 of the Criminal Code be amended by replacing subsection (3) with the following: “(3) For the purposes of sections 86, 91 to 95, 99 to 101, 103 to 107 and 117.03 of this act and the provisions of the Firearms Act, the following weapons are deemed not to be firearms”.
As you see, all that needs to be done is to add section 86 to the list of sections that section 84 of the Criminal Code will affect.
My second point is that in my time as a firearms instructor, I have also wondered why my teaching kit of disabled guns was still subject to the regulations of safe storage and transportation when they do not meet the definition of a firearm. No teaching guns are capable of discharging a projectile in any manner and as such should be deemed not to be firearms. An addition to subsection 84(3) of this nature would be well received by all instructors across Canada since it would make it easier to transport and store teaching tools while decreasing the amount of paperwork, which should not apply to a disabled firearm. A disabled firearm is no more than a fancy paperweight, and this change would have no negative effects on public safety.
In conclusion, those items that do not meet the definition of a firearm should not be subject to the same legal sanctions as those that do meet the definition of a firearm.
I thank the committee for their time and their consideration of my comments.
View Roxanne James Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you to both witnesses for being able to provide some comments on this bill.
I'm going to start with Mr. Farrant.
You talked a bit about not being a lawyer and so on, but you have read over many of the decisions related to gun ownership and so forth, so you're very familiar with the court case, the reason behind it, that has brought this legislation to this committee.
I know that you're supporting this legislation. What would happen if we didn't bring forward this type of legislation? What if Mr. Sopuck hadn't decided to clarify this grey area, and we simply ignored previous court decisions that have created this kind of discrepancy? What do you think could happen as a result?
Greg Farrant
View Greg Farrant Profile
Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 8:58
I think my colleague out west, Mr. Brown, has outlined what could potentially happen. Do I think there are going to be a spate of charges against 12-year-olds for inappropriately storing or transporting a BB gun or a paintball gun or a pellet gun under the current law? No. Is that potential there? Yes, and not just for children, but for adults as well.
There are millions of these guns in the country that are used by all sorts of people for recreational purposes, as I said, whether it's plinking cans on a fence post or shooting at targets. A lot of kids are introduced to them at a younger age. Technically under the law, all those people would be subject to charges under the Criminal Code if this is not amended. It's pretty cut and dried in that context because there is a discrepancy in the law.
View Roxanne James Profile
CPC (ON)
When we talk about this bill, we talk about BB guns, pellet guns, and paintball guns. Are there any other firearms that would fall into this category of low velocity, as you described it, versus what is required to be licensed for other firearms?
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