Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-71 at report stage.
In my opinion, Bill C-71 is like a bad play. Let me explain. First, with regard to parliamentary work, the government shut down debate at second reading. What is more, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security asked that it be allowed a sufficient number of meetings and witnesses, but the number of meetings was cut short. From the start, the government did not want to debate Bill C-71; it just wanted to impose the bill on us.
This bill was introduced for marketing purposes. We saw the government doing just that. The Liberals told themselves that they would introduce a bill on firearms to win votes and to get the Conservatives all worked up and drive them crazy. Well, we decided not to get all worked up. We have been smart about this. We looked at what was happening and we saw that it was not working.
Ultimately, Liberals in rural ridings are only hurting themselves. Those people are not fools. Canadians are not fools. Law-abiding Canadians can see that this bill plays politics by targeting the wrong people. It targets hunters and sport shooters while giving street gangs and real criminals a free pass. The Liberals tried to impress, but they ended up shooting themselves in the foot, no pun intended.
This also marks the return of a version of the gun registry, which was abolished a few years back. The Liberals resurrected a very insidious approach, in the form of reference numbers and records that gun retailers have to keep. When a retailer closes, the government takes possession of that information. Reference numbers are kept forever. The Liberals say there is no registry, they swear they are telling the truth, but all the elements are there. In a moment, I am going to talk about the amendments we proposed to fix these problems. All our amendments were rejected.
In order for us, the members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, to do our job properly, we asked for at least seven meetings. We conducted an analysis and examined what had been done by the minister's much-vaunted committee. Incidentally, the Liberals provided a long list of witnesses they said they had consulted, yet those people said they had never been consulted, despite appearing on the list. That is another problem the minister needs to consider.
We, the members of the committee, determined we needed seven meetings to do our job properly. The Conservatives had a list of 21 witnesses representing a variety of perspectives, from firearms advocates to civil rights defenders. There was a little bit of everything. We wanted to do a good job, but the Liberals cut the number of meetings down to four and limited us to seven witnesses. We had to make some tough choices. The Liberals raced through the study of the bill. We were hoping to get things done so everyone would be happy, but it did not work. The government was in a mad rush to get it over with, because constituents in rural Liberal ridings were getting on their case, and rightly so.
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness created a committee to discuss guns and street gangs. As I said at the beginning of my speech, all the focus is on hunting weapons instead of street gangs. I do not know what happened between the minister's consultations and the tabling of Bill C-71, but the bill contains absolutely no mention of street gangs. This has yet to be cleared up. It is a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes. Maybe one day we will find a solution.
When the minister introduced the bill, he wanted to scare people. He spoke about the serious problem of the rise in crimes committed with firearms in Canada. What he did not say was that the Liberals were using 2013 as their reference year. In the past 10 years, 2013 was the year with the fewest crimes in Canada. He spoke about a surge in crime, but the crime rate was returning to its usual levels. They used the 2013 statistics to indicate that there was an surge in gun crimes and that something had to be done about it. However, crimes are not committed by hunters and sport shooters, but by street gangs. Nevertheless, there is nothing about that.
The other serious problem, as I pointed out at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, concerns first nations. As much as the Liberal government cares about all issues that affect first nations, it did not consult them and is now to some extent ignoring the problem. In committee, a representative from Saskatchewan told us that first nations would not abide by Bill C-71, first, because it is unconstitutional, and second, because guns are traditionally handed down from generation to generation. Canada's first nations are saying that Bill C-71 does not apply to them and that they will go to court to have it declared unconstitutional if the government tries to impose it.
What are we to do, then? The Liberals introduced a bill that does not address the issue of street gangs and that indigenous people are going to disregard. The only ones left are the hunters and sport shooters, who will once more be subject to stricter gun controls, which are already the strictest in the world.
The first nations issue is not a partisan matter, but it is very troubling. When we return in the fall, we need to clarify that, because the fact that indigenous peoples are not concerned about Bill C-71 and are not following the rules is problematic. We cannot have one type of security for one group of individuals and another type for other groups. We must all be on equal footing.
Our committee meetings to ask witnesses questions were limited, but we still did our work. We brought forward 45 amendments to Bill C-71. We took our work seriously. I will list a few of them, so that Canadians can see that they were reasonable.
First of all, we addressed the issue of firearms classification. It is currently the government that determines which firearms are restricted or prohibited, but Bill C-71 puts that entirely in the hands of the RCMP. We proposed an amendment that would give the minister the authority to change the classification of firearms based on recommendations from the manufacturer and the RCMP. Thus, we are proposing that the RCMP and the manufacturers still do their jobs, but that the government retain the power to make certain decisions to prevent the RCMP from making all the decisions, without the government being able to intervene.
Then, there are the chief firearms officers, who will be able to visit the premises of firearms retailers and check their records without a warrant. The government can therefore enter into the place of business of law-abiding retailers with no particular reason other than they sell arms. I believe this needs justification and a warrant.
Now, I want to talk about the date. Today is June 18, and on June 30, a list of 20 prohibited firearms will come into force, even though the bill is still being debated in the House. The firearms that will be prohibited are currently restricted. We are not even at third reading, and the Senate has not yet studied it. We asked the government not to set a fixed date and to implement the act once the bill passes, but the government rejected this legitimate amendment.
As for the list of firearms, the RCMP will now decide which firearms are prohibited, but the bill lists the firearms that will be prohibited. The government lists the firearms in the bill, even though it says that the RCMP will draw that list sometime in the future. This makes no sense. We proposed another amendment to fix this.
Lastly, I want to talk about the reference number that will be required for a transaction. This number will be retained and recorded. This government is therefore creating a registry, no matter what it claims.
No matter what the government said, it is bringing back some form of registry through the backdoor.