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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.
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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?
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View Gordon Brown Profile
CPC (ON)
View Gordon Brown Profile
2015-05-25 17:31
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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.
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View Rick Dykstra Profile
CPC (ON)
View Rick Dykstra Profile
2015-05-25 17:32
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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.
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View Dan Harris Profile
NDP (ON)
View Dan Harris Profile
2015-05-25 17:33
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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.
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View Frank Valeriote Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Frank Valeriote Profile
2015-05-25 17:33
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The Liberals would support that recommendation as well, Mr. Chair.
(Amendment agreed to)
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View Gordon Brown Profile
CPC (ON)
View Gordon Brown Profile
2015-05-25 17:34
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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.
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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?
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Todd Brown
View Todd Brown Profile
Todd Brown
2015-05-14 8:47
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Yes, we are all live.
I just want to make a quick correction. That is the Concerned Gun Owners of Alberta.
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Greg Farrant
View Greg Farrant Profile
Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 8:47
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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.
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Todd Brown
View Todd Brown Profile
Todd Brown
2015-05-14 8:54
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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.
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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?
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Greg Farrant
View Greg Farrant Profile
Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 8:58
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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.
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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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Greg Farrant
View Greg Farrant Profile
Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 8:59
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Again, I'm not aware of that. It doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Certainly this is different from high-velocity guns that exceed certain standards in muzzle velocity, which are subject to storage and transportation restrictions under the law because of their velocity. I'm not aware of other examples. Mr. Brown may be able to comment on that, but generally speaking, we're talking about BB guns, pellet guns, paintball guns, and the like.
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View Roxanne James Profile
CPC (ON)
We heard from Mr. Sopuck, the mover of this private member's bill, on Tuesday. He talked at great length with regard to the outdoor community and the use of these types of low-velocity firearms. I don't even call them firearms. With respect to that community, do you agree it would be in support of this type of legislation?
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Greg Farrant
View Greg Farrant Profile
Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 9:00
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I do. For instance, the OFAH has a very large heritage hunting and fishing centre next door to our head office in Peterborough that was opened several years ago. There is a rifle range and an archery range in the basement. We use low-velocity air guns on the rifle range. These are used by classes of children from primary school up to high school when they're visiting the centre on a regular basis.
If this law's not passed, this would affect a lot of people even in the way we carry out our business at the heritage centre.
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View Roxanne James Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much.
Mr. Brown, thank you very much for your opening remarks. You mentioned very briefly about cleaning up the regulations with respect to Bill C-637. You talked about the impact it would have on businesses, and you said kids. When we've been talking about this bill, our focus has been more on the user community as opposed to those who sell or distribute these types of guns.
I'm wondering if you could expand on how you think that might have an impact on businesses that might sell these types of firearms, these types of things that outdoor communities use. What businesses are we talking about?
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Todd Brown
View Todd Brown Profile
Todd Brown
2015-05-14 9:02
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The businesses would be outdoor stores and stores that specifically deal with paintball guns. Canadian Tire sells BB guns and whatnot. Right now, they're not subject to the same laws that a regular rifle would be subject to. The businesses would have to come up with the facilities to be able to lock everything up. Some of these stores would also have to put in all sorts of stuff for the paperwork that would need to be done, to deal with the regulations, and for the handling of them as well.
Right now, with the BB guns, you can go into Canadian Tire or Walmart, or wherever, and you can buy one without too much difficulty. If all of a sudden they have to start coming up with the facilities to store these things, and then they have to check on licences, and that sort of thing, it seems a little overboard on something that's of a low velocity. Basically it's a teaching tool to bring kids and other people into the general knowledge of what firearms are all about.
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View Roxanne James Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
It's interesting that you mentioned Canadian Tire and Walmart, because I think those are two stores that probably everyone on this committee has been to, and probably most Canadians across this country are familiar with those two larger retail stores.
Going back to the reason this bill was brought forward, which was with respect to the grey area, or the discrepancies, the courts have recently highlighted with respect to the safe storage and transportation, I'll ask you the same question. What do you think the result would be if we didn't move forward with this type of legislation? I know you have presented an alternative method to achieve the same desired result, but with respect to the impact if we do nothing at this point, what could happen?
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Todd Brown
View Todd Brown Profile
Todd Brown
2015-05-14 9:04
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I think my colleague who is sitting with you there today put it very eloquently: businesses, kids, and adults will be open to charges they may not even be aware that they could be charged with.
This is something that's buried in the legislation. Not everybody is aware of it until they get charged with it. This kind of thing would come as a distinct surprise to anybody using one. They would be quite upset, I would think, to think something as innocuous as a BB gun or a pellet gun, or enjoying their hobby as paintballer, would be affected by the same kind of storage regulations. I'm not saying it would happen, but the opportunity for abuse by law enforcement is there, and I think that door should be closed.
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View Rosane Doré Lefebvre Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I would also like to thank Mr. Farrant and Mr. Brown for joining us today to discuss Bill C-637.
My first questions will be about a concern of mine, a concern shared by a number of police officers with whom I have discussed the bill. It deals with the impact it could have on their work.
It is sometimes very difficult to distinguish an air gun from a regular gun. I have several air guns myself, including one that looks very much like a rifle equipped with a big telescope. From a distance, someone unfamiliar with rifles could well think it was a regular one.
I have discussed the change the bill proposes in this regard with a number of police officers. It is one of their concerns. It will certainly make their work more difficult because they will now have to distinguish between an air gun and a regular firearm. In their opinion, that could make their working conditions more dangerous, depending on the confrontations that might arise and the situations that police services may have to deal with.
My first question goes to Mr. Farrant.
Have you discussed this with any police officers? Do you understand their concern and, specifically, what do you think about it?
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Greg Farrant
View Greg Farrant Profile
Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 9:07
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Thank you very much for the question. I appreciate it.
I have not discussed it with police officers; however, we did have a meeting last week with the Chief Firearms Officer of Ontario at her offices to discuss a number of issues. This was one that was on the table and there was no particular concern expressed on the part of the CFO, who is also an OPP superintendent on the force currently. There was certainly nothing expressed in concern with that.
I appreciate what you're saying, but if this change is made, police officers still have the ability to stop someone and to check a firearm. This is not about replica firearms. We're talking about a firearm that already is exempt under one section of law and not exempt under another section of law, which is confusing, quite frankly.
When you have the Criminal Code say one thing and the Firearms Act say another thing, there's no consistency there for firearms owners or for police or for anyone. Mr. Brown has indicated that there may be charges inadvertently laid in the current circumstances.
We certainly appreciate the fact that police officers have a difficult job to do. I don't think that this bill does anything to cause any further increase in public safety issues or threats to police officers. They still have the right to stop and check firearms, etc., as they would with any firearm.
But we live in a very litigious society right now and I can certainly see if the law is not changed more litigation being brought forward against people who are possessing these air guns, the low-velocity ones we're talking about, who could be subject to litigation because of the confusion in the law. We've seen a number of cases where that has been true.
I think there is a concern there to try to clear up.... Any time you can clear up the law and make it more definitive and more succinct, I think it's a good thing.
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Todd Brown
View Todd Brown Profile
Todd Brown
2015-05-14 9:09
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I can add a little bit.
If there is a problem with the police distinguishing the two and the pellet gun's being used in the commission of a crime, it is already covered under the definition of a weapon in the Criminal Code and they can lay charges as such. However, for the general use of these tools, there won't be any more problems than there have been in the past.
I might ask you the question, what did police forces do 20 years ago with pellet guns? Usually they would go up to the individual, identify what was being used and how it was being used, and that was generally the end of it. Without these kinds of changes put into place, the possibility for criminal charges being laid, because the police forces aren't sure of what the regulations actually are, are still there.
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View Rosane Doré Lefebvre Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you very much.
Mr. Farrant, in your presentation and your reply to my first question, you talked about people who might face, or who currently do face, criminal charges under the current act.
Have many members of your organization ever faced criminal charges under the current act, that is, before the changes proposed in Bill C-637? Has that ever happened to any of your members? If so, could you give us an approximate idea of the number of people it has happened to?
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Greg Farrant
View Greg Farrant Profile
Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 9:11
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Candidly, no, I'm not aware that any of our members have been charged under this section of the Criminal Code, but we do have 100,000 members across the province and I'm not always aware of what's happening to each individual member at any given time.
There has been significant case law with other people being charged.
The number of cases that I read was at least up to a dozen, and even the courts themselves were confused and they came up with different interpretations. Is the firearm a weapon? Is it not a weapon? When is it a firearm and when is not a firearm? When is it a weapon and when is it not a weapon? The courts themselves have had some difficulty in addressing how to dispose with these particular cases.
When you read the case law there have been dissenting opinions and most of those cases go right up to the Supreme Court. Clearly even the judiciary has some trouble in terms of definitions and in terms of establishing exactly what is and isn't correct under the law as it's written right now, which is why we feel this bill would clarify that and clear that up, and hopefully if there are charges laid it would be much easier to deal with in that respect for the courts.
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View Rick Norlock Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and through you, thank you to the witnesses for appearing today.
Thank you for mentioning the need to make firearms regulations more simple so that the average person who owns a firearm, or even a pellet gun, or a BB gun, can rationalize its use. I'll be asking another witness a different question, based on my grandkids, but let's get around to some of the testimony that was given and to some of the questions asked at our last meeting.
You mentioned in your opening statement that the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters delivers a hunters safety course on behalf of the Province of Ontario. I guess it would be more appropriate, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, to say that it's in collaboration with the Province of Ontario, based on a curriculum that you both have agreed to. You also mentioned that you give the firearms safety course in conjunction with the federal regulations.
Would it be correct to say, with regard to the 100,000-odd members of your organization, that you speak on their behalf, and that the credibility of your voice would be representative of most hunting and fishing organizations throughout Canada, with whom you converse on a regular basis, from coast to coast to coast? In your opinion, would you say that most would be agreeable not only to this bill but to the opinions you've expressed here?
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Greg Farrant
View Greg Farrant Profile
Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 9:14
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Mr. Norlock, yes to all your questions. We work very closely with our affiliates across the country, in every province and every territory, from coast to coast to coast. I sit on several panels and committees with many of them on issues related to firearms and other issues. We talk about these issues among ourselves on a regular basis. So yes, I think I can safely say that my views would represent those of our affiliates across the country.
I also can speak with confidence, I believe, in saying that I represent the views of all our members. At OFAH our slogan, if you will, is: the voice of anglers and hunters. We speak frequently for our members on issues related to firearms and other issues that are before this committee and before Parliament. So yes, I do so with great confidence.
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View Rick Norlock Profile
CPC (ON)
Would you say that one of the primary responsibilities you would take on as an organization, and your members accept wholly, is that you are conservationists first, because you want to conserve our fish species and you want to conserve the game animals that we hunt? I say “we” because I am a member. I am an avid hunter. I'm also a member of Safari Club International.
Would you not agree that conservation is the number one issue that we deal with, and that your members, in addition to conservation, simply want to be able to engage in angling and hunting, and want those laws that govern those two activities so that they can understand and properly teach their children and other people proper fishing and hunting responsibilities?
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Greg Farrant
View Greg Farrant Profile
Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 9:16
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Yes. I agree. Most definitely we are first and foremost a science-based conservation organization concerned about the conservation of our fish and wildlife resources in both Ontario and across this country. Indeed, we work with partners across North America on those issues. We're certainly concerned, given that we deliver the hunter education program in Ontario, and given the fact that our instructors are also firearms instructors. They deliver the Canadian firearms safety course either separately or in conjunction with hunter safety, known as the one-stop course. As I said during my comments, we take safety very seriously.
The item I left with the clerk of the committee to deal with is a joint production by us, the Chief Firearms Officer of Ontario, and the Ontario Provincial Police about the safe storage and safe transportation of firearms. We believe in this very strongly. We work very closely with those organizations on those issues to ensure that people understand what the rules and regulations are and what the law says. Unfortunately, as Mr. Brown has pointed out, in this particular context, a lot of people out there with low-velocity BB guns and pellet guns and paintball guns would have no clue whatsoever that they could be subject to charges for moving these around, as it currently stands.
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View Rick Norlock Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you for mentioning that, because that was actually going to be my next question.
To your knowledge, based on the fact that you are intimately involved with hunting and fishing, not only in the Province of Ontario but across this great country of ours, would you say that some folks wouldn't realize that, if this legislation does not go through, some—and I will say so publicly—overzealous police officer who goes into a house and sees a BB gun in the corner might look at the Criminal Code and say, “My goodness, there is a charge here”?
Most police officers wouldn't lay a charge unless there were some other indications, something very serious in conjunction, but would you agree that if we leave the Criminal Code and firearms regulations in such a complicated way, because of a whole mishmash of different people who think they are doing good things, the majority of those folks who want to engage in a lawful, peaceful, and healthy pastime could end up being on the wrong end of the law?
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Greg Farrant
View Greg Farrant Profile
Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 9:19
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That's correct. I'll speak to a couple of things there.
Most police officers, the vast majority of them, do their job very well and do it as they understand it. Until this bill came forward, I admit quite candidly, I did not realize that this loophole existed, and I deal with firearms on a daily basis and have done so for 15 years at OFAH.
We find, however, on a consistent basis, that police officers across this country do not necessarily understand the Firearms Act and what safe storage and transportation are all about. There are repeated cases that occur all the time, every day, somewhere in this country, where a police officer stops somebody and lays a charge of unsafe transportation of a firearm, when in fact the person with the firearm is adhering to the law and it is the officer who doesn't understand what the Firearms Act means in terms of safe transportation. That is a problem now, and unless this is fixed, it is certainly a problem for a whole range of other people.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2015-05-14 9:20
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Thank you to both witnesses. Thank you, Mr. Farrant, for the additional research you did before coming to this committee.
Before I start my line of questioning, Mr. Chair, rather than take time from the committee, I have a question for the clerk.
I mentioned at the last meeting that I felt Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness should come before the committee. I understand they have refused. Did they give a reason why?
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Leif-Erik Aune
View Leif-Erik Aune Profile
Leif-Erik Aune
2015-05-14 9:21
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The correspondence is on the system. I don't have a hard copy with me for reference, but I would be happy to forward the exact correspondence to you.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2015-05-14 9:21
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Please do, if you could.
There are some questions that I think need to be asked of Public Safety on this particular bill. When it's a government bill, they are always here. When it's a private member's bill, the same implications are on society, and I think they should be here. I am extremely disappointed they refused.
In any event—
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View Roxanne James Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, on a point of order, we discussed this last time, and I think the member just answered his own question. This is a private member's bill. Instead of trying to make this something it is not, I think that perhaps we should just get back to questioning.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2015-05-14 9:21
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Mr. Chair, you can take this out of my time.
Whether it's a private member's bill or a government bill, when it deals with the Criminal Code, it has the same implications. In fact, when it is a private member's bill, and I've put forward some private member's bills, you don't have the advantage of having the Department of Justice go through it as you do in a government bill, so I think it is even more important to have them here.
In any event, they have refused for whatever reason, so we will not belabour the point.
Mr. Farrant, I didn't look into this, but you mentioned archery in one of your statements. How are archery products treated under the law?
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Greg Farrant
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Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 9:22
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They are not subject to licensing requirements or storage requirements that I am aware of. Certainly not—
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Greg Farrant
View Greg Farrant Profile
Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 9:22
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They're certainly not subject to the same requirements as firearms.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2015-05-14 9:22
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I went to an archery range last summer, and there are some pretty powerful archery products out there as well.
Mr. Brown, I am actually intrigued by your proposed amendment. It would simplify things considerably if just certain products, pellet guns, paintball guns, or whatever, were exempt under the law. It would simplify it a lot more than the current proposal. If we were to look at that, what are the areas that you would see as being exempt?
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Todd Brown
View Todd Brown Profile
Todd Brown
2015-05-14 9:23
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I don't believe I said that anything was exempt. I was working within the confines of this bill, and the recommendation I made was to put section 86 into the list of sections that section 84 of the Criminal Code will affect. I don't believe I said anything should be exempt. That would be a whole other topic that would take up too much time than what would be necessary here at the committee today.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2015-05-14 9:24
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I guess I didn't use the right words. I meant “deemed not to be firearms”. I think those were your exact words.
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Todd Brown
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Todd Brown
2015-05-14 9:24
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Yes, okay. That makes a difference. As you know, in the law, terminology can mean everything. I'm very up on the terminology.
The one thing I had mentioned was that as a firearms instructor—and I will state that I am a former firearms instructor due to exigent circumstances; I still own my teaching kit—all these firearms are disabled firearms that are not able to shoot or discharge a projectile in any way, shape, or form. Why they should be still considered a firearm is beyond me.
Instructors have their restricted teaching kit, for example, which are restricted class firearms that are all deactivated. They are no longer functioning firearms, so why they shouldn't be exempt under the law is something that's always bothered me in that respect. As instructors we're out there teaching and trying to make people safer, and we're being penalized by paperwork and government bureaucracy in trying to help people learn a new skill.
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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2015-05-14 9:26
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Let me come back, Mr. Chair, to the transportation and storage aspect of this particular bill.
I understand the public safety offence would still exist. That's correct, right? Mr. Farrant, you can answer that if you could.
I've said this in the House that part of the value of having these pellet guns, BB guns, etc., under the transportation and storage rules is the value of education. The Criminal Code penalty does seem a little excessive. If not that, then what?
I have two questions. What do you suggest in the absence of the current law on transportation and storage? Do you believe the public safety offence should remain if these are used at a risk to public safety?
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Greg Farrant
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Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 9:27
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Thank you, Mr. Easter, for the questions.
The courts in previous judgements have said that a firearm becomes a weapon only if it is used, or intended to be used, to cause death or to threaten or intimidate a person. If somebody is using a firearm, regardless of what type of firearm, for that purpose, they should still be subject to the law and charges under the law that are appropriate.
We are talking here in this context about people who innocently are going about their business with low-velocity firearms or guns where you don't even classify it as a firearm. In fact, Dunn says that pellet guns that fire under the standard that's been established have never met the definition of a firearm because they are incapable of causing serious injury or death to a person. They have further suggested that neither storage regulations made under the Firearms Act or the Criminal Code firearms offence provisions apply to them.
Far be it from me to correct a court, but subsection 86(2) creates an offence for the contravention of storage and transportation regulations made under the Firearms Act. However, paragraph 84(3)(d) of the Criminal Code exempts lower velocity firearms from the provisions of the Firearms Act and its regulations, including those relating to storage and transportation. On one hand the court is saying one thing, and on the other hand the law is saying something different.
I think this bill serves the purpose of identifying there is an inconsistency in the law. I do not believe that in any way, shape, or form changing this legislation, approving the bill and making the change to the Criminal Code as proposed will in any way, or shape, or form threaten the public safety any more than what we currently exist under.
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View Élaine Michaud Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
First, I would like to thank Mr. Farrant and Mr. Brown for their presentations.
Mr. Brown, I would like to follow up on a question that my colleague Ms. Doré Lefebvre asked. Do you know whether any members of your organization have ever been convicted under the current legislation?
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Todd Brown
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Todd Brown
2015-05-14 9:29
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No, I don't. However, given the thousands of people who are in my organization, I don't have a daily discussion with them over this.
My concerns are with the potential for something bad to happen. This is something that would be like a preventative measure. We don't want to see somebody having to go through the court system to deal with something involving a pellet gun or a BB gun.
This, as I said, is more a preventative measure. Rather than waiting for something bad to happen and saying that we have to fix it, we've identified the problem. Let's fix it before something bad happens to somebody else and they get dragged through the court system for a piece of legislation that's unclear.
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View Élaine Michaud Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you very much.
In my constituency of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, there are a lot of hunters and anglers. So I am quite sensitive to their concerns. The head office of the Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs is located in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, which is also in my constituency. So I am very familiar with the issues.
Mr. Farrant and yourself said that the bill we are studying would have a preventive effect, but that it does not seem to tackle the real issue. That is what I understand from your comments. Moreover, the Canadian Police Association mentioned that the number of actual convictions, not the number of charges brought to court, is very low, less than 10, actually. I am still new to this committee and I am trying to understand the need for this bill.
Gentlemen, I am going to bring up something else. You mentioned that businesses could be affected by the legislation. Do you know of any businesses that have financial difficulties because of the current legislation, that might have had things seized or other problems as a result of the current legislation?
Mr. Brown, you can answer first and Mr. Farrant can comment later.
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Todd Brown
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Todd Brown
2015-05-14 9:32
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Personally I don't know of any problems yet, but as I said, let's take care of a problem with a preventative measure before something happens. This bill will cover something that has left a hole in the legislation, with a potential for misuse and for charges to be laid. Why don't we take care of this before something happens?
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View Élaine Michaud Profile
NDP (QC)
To your knowledge, it is not a problem and has not been a problem in the past for the businesses selling this kind of firearm.
Mr. Farrant, are you aware of any problems that business are currently having?
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Greg Farrant
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Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 9:32
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No, I'm not, but I would point out that, as I said earlier, we live in a very litigious society. We also live in a society in which there are people—and everybody is entitled to their views—who very adamantly oppose the use of firearms in any way, shape, or form. There are people who believe that no person, let alone a younger person, should have access to a firearm of any type, and all it takes is one complaint and the next thing you know you have litigation.
While the number of convictions under the current law may not be high—I certainly have seen the 10 cases that were cited during the Dunn proceedings—the fact is that litigation, particularly for an individual, although for a business as well, is extremely expensive.
We have seen cases involving other parts of the Criminal Code pertaining to cruelty to animals and other parts of the law in which individuals have had charges brought against them on the basis of an individual complaint by someone who didn't like something or the actions of a person, and it has cost the individual tens of thousands of dollars only to be found not guilty or to have the charges dropped somewhere down the line. That litigation can ruin careers; it can ruin finances for people. This is a preventative measure.
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View LaVar Payne Profile
CPC (AB)
View LaVar Payne Profile
2015-05-14 9:34
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I'd like to thank the witnesses for coming today and also those participating by audio conference.
As a youngster, I had a BB gun and I was taught how to use it. My father taught me that you never point it at anybody and that you make sure it's not loaded. These air guns that we're talking about, whether they're paintball guns, pellet guns, or BB guns, are air guns of low velocity, as has been stated a number of times.
I think, Mr. Brown, you said that some 20 years ago a police officer would actually stop somebody, check the air gun, and speak with them, and without a problem.
I just want to confirm that these were your comments in your opening remarks.
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Todd Brown
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Todd Brown
2015-05-14 9:35
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Yes, I have mentioned that. Perhaps 20 years ago wasn't enough. As I age, the years seem to pass by more and more quickly. I'm referring to the time pre-1995.
As a young boy, I used to have an air gun and a pellet gun. I was never bothered by the police, even though I was out with it alone quite frequently. I never did anything illegal with it.
There were times when I had friends who had been stopped by the police or law enforcement, and things were checked out. “You guys aren't up to any trouble or anything”, they would be asked, and everybody would say no, that they were just out having some fun or doing whatever, and that was that. There were no issues, never any criminal charges laid, and the parents weren't brought into it. It was done in a very rational manner.
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View LaVar Payne Profile
CPC (AB)
View LaVar Payne Profile
2015-05-14 9:36
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I think, Mr. Brown and Mr. Farrant, you both indicated that if you use one of these air guns irresponsibly—you point it at somebody, threaten somebody, use it in a criminal manner—you could still be charged. I want both of you to make a comment on that.
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Todd Brown
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Todd Brown
2015-05-14 9:36
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Yes, absolutely. Anything can be used as a weapon, and an air gun and a pellet gun are not exempt from that. Under the definition of a weapon in the Criminal Code, I could throw my coffee cup at you with intent and be charged with assault with a weapon. The same could be said for any of the pens that are on the table before you. It's no different with a BB or pellet gun. As long as it's being used in a responsible manner, there's no problem, but if you want to use it to commit a crime or in the commission of a crime, then yes, you are still open to criminal charges.
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Greg Farrant
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Greg Farrant
2015-05-14 9:37
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That's correct. Anybody who uses a firearm, no matter whether it's an air gun, a BB gun, a pea gun, whatever type of article that is a firearm or a gun of any sort, in a threatening manner is subject to charges. The amendment proposed in this bill doesn't change that fact at all.
It is a fact, however—and please, I don't say this in a pejorative manner, because police officers have a very difficult job and do an admirable job—that not all police officers have an understanding of firearms law or of what safe storage or safe transportation is.
In this particular context, you could certainly see a charge being laid against somebody under the letter of the law as it currently stands. That would be unfortunate, because in the end the court would throw it out, but somebody would still have to face that issue in court. This just clears it up for police officers and everybody else in terms of understanding exactly what the law means.
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View LaVar Payne Profile
CPC (AB)
View LaVar Payne Profile
2015-05-14 9:38
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I have a major concern about hundreds of thousands of kids with air guns being charged because the law isn't clarified.
I know both of you said that you're safety training instructors for firearms. Mr. Farrant, you indicated that at the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters you teach young children, using air guns, in some facility that you talked about.
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