Evidence of meeting #14 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was firearm.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Étienne Blais  Associate Professor, School of Criminology, University of Montreal, As an Individual
  • Gary Mauser  Professor Emeritus, Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies, Simon Fraser University, As an Individual
  • Greg Illerbrun  Firearms Chairman, Past-President, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation
  • Nathalie Provost  Students and Graduates of Polytechnique for Gun Control
  • Heidi Rathjen  Spokesperson, Students and Graduates of Polytechnique for Gun Control
  • Caillin Langmann  Emergency Medicine Resident, Fellowship Program of the Royal College of Physicians Canada, Division of Emergency Medicine, McMaster University, As an Individual
  • Duane Rutledge  Sergeant, K-9 Unit, New Glasgow Police Service, As an Individual
  • Bruno Marchand  Director General, Association québécoise de prévention du suicide
  • Eve-Marie Lacasse  Main Coordinator, Fédération des femmes du Québec
  • Manon Monastesse  Managing Director, Fédération de ressources d'hébergement pour femmes violentées et en difficulté du Québec, Fédération des femmes du Québec

11:50 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Randall Garrison

One minute.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

I'm going to give it to Mr. Breitkreuz. Thank you.

November 24th, 2011 / 11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to participate.

I think one of the disservices that has been done in this whole discussion is that gun control has been equated with, or the terms have been interchangeable with, the gun registry and with Bill C-68, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Professor Mauser, I want to follow up what my colleague asked you about. I have staff sergeants in my constituency who have voluntarily come to me and told me that they have instructed their officers not to consult the registry. One of the statements you made is that the registry has reduced the effectiveness of police. I would like you to elaborate on that.

The second thing I'd like you to elaborate on is the fact that the U.S. rate for homicides has fallen more rapidly than the Canadian rate. I find that interesting.

Maybe you could comment on both of those.

11:50 a.m.

Professor Emeritus, Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies, Simon Fraser University, As an Individual

Dr. Gary Mauser

Yes. Thank you very much for your question.

First of all, it is arguable that if gun control is effective in any sense, the only way it can be effective is by limiting access to firearms. That is a very different approach. In the United States, they also have gun control, but it is not designed to limit the access to firearms.

Homicide rates have fallen faster in the U.S. during the 1990s and the 2000s. They have a set of laws that encourages law-abiding citizens to own and carry firearms. That has now covered virtually all of the states in the United States. If that were a threat to peace, their homicide rate should have increased. It did not.

Our gun control has attempted to criminalize formerly law-abiding citizens—hunters, target shooters—and restrict access to firearms on the assumption, as I've said, that doing so will decrease homicides. It has not; it cannot be shown that it has.

Second, the basic notion of police is not that of a military occupying force. The basic notion of police is to cooperate with the policed. Sir Robert Peel, when he started the police, made a very clear statement that the police and the policed must cooperate for effectiveness and efficiency. The police, certainly in all Anglo-Saxon countries, argue that they must cooperate and encourage cooperation with the police.

Bill C-68, by criminalizing law-abiding citizens, has created a breach, a rupture, between citizen and police. This discourages contact with the police. It discourages cooperation and in that sense decreases the effectiveness.

A third point—and I get back to the point that was asked before about trusting the registry—is that data as presented by computers, and to all people, not just to police, has a worshipful quantity. In data processing, we call it “garbage in, gospel out”. You can put anything in. The weak part of the registry—and of licensing, for that matter—is that there has been very little verification and very little check on the data that goes in.

Your own earlier ATIs, Mr. Breitkreuz, show just how many errors and omissions are in the registry and in the licensing system. Nevertheless, when a normal person looks at a computer-generated display, it looks as though it must be true—the government, the computer—doesn't it? It's not. That puts officers' lives at risk.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Thank you very much.

Mr. Illerbrun, here is a quick question.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Randall Garrison

Mr. Breitkreuz, your time has expired.

We'll turn now to Mr. Scarpaleggia.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Thank you.

Mr. Mauser, you mentioned that the suicide rate has been going down.

11:55 a.m.

Professor Emeritus, Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies, Simon Fraser University, As an Individual

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Perhaps you're correct, but you're aware that the interparliamentary committee on compassionate and palliative care released its report last week. I'm looking at the stats in the chapter on suicide prevention. The stats I'm seeing are that in 2007 suicides were 3,611; in 2006, 3,512; and in 2005, 3,743. It seems to be bouncing up and down. You're saying there's an actual downward trend in suicides?

11:55 a.m.

Professor Emeritus, Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies, Simon Fraser University, As an Individual

Dr. Gary Mauser

In terms of actual number of suicides, the numbers, as you correctly state, are increasing. In 1991 there were 3,593 suicides in Canada. In 2008, in the most recent number, there were 3,700. As you also realize, the population in Canada has increased substantially since 1991, so the rates have gone down while the raw numbers have increased.

The key question, of course, is the methodology, but you have not asked me that.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

You're saying that there's a downward trend in per capita suicides.

11:55 a.m.

Professor Emeritus, Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies, Simon Fraser University, As an Individual

Dr. Gary Mauser

That's correct.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

It's not bouncing around or anything.

11:55 a.m.

Professor Emeritus, Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies, Simon Fraser University, As an Individual

Dr. Gary Mauser

The population has increased, as you know.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

But the RCMP, in one of its case studies, has said that firearms were twice as likely to have been present in the homes of suicide victims than in the homes of suicide attempters and a control group. I guess you would dispute that study.