Evidence of meeting #47 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 registry.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

5 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Thank you, Chair. Thank God there's middle ground between socialist and conservative.

You answered one of the questions I was going to ask, which is that a province could require that these records be kept and that they be available to the police.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Well, it would have to be pursuant to some type of lawful production order. In a regulatory statute, you could have some kind of a production order in the same way that workplace safety and health officers would have access to certain types of information. But there would have to be lawful access authority in that type of a provincial statute.

I would think that if the material were in a private dwelling, a provincial lawful access provision wouldn't be sufficient. It would have to still be some type of a warrant to allow access into a dwelling.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

It seems to me that at one point there was some controversy surrounding health and safety legislation—was that it?—whereby.... Correct me if I'm wrong, because you know how it is in this place, in that we tend to focus on our portfolios, more or less. But there was some controversy around provisions of product safety legislation that gave the state, really, the power—in the extreme case—to access someone's home without a warrant, I think, to take something off a shelf that might be a dangerous product.

If I'm not mistaken, the government didn't really back down on that. Did it?

5 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

I can't remember the specific case, but there has been a lot of discussion by the Supreme Court on that issue. It goes back to the definition in the charter's section 8: to be safe “against unreasonable search and seizure”.

So what is “unreasonable”? If it's a regulatory scheme as opposed to a criminal scheme, then different access rules apply.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

So I guess even if it is regulatory under the harmful products act, just the fact that somebody can come into my home, if I'm running a business in my home, on the basis of a suspicion that the product I'm selling is not safe...that's a fairly serious infringement. Now, maybe it's reasonably justified, but here's what I'm trying to get at. Yes, I understand that gun-shop owners don't want to feel intimidated. I understand that, but we're not dealing with an innocuous product here; this is a.... I understand that 99% of gun owners, long-gun owners, are law-abiding citizens. I know many myself, and I've said in the House that they're the pillars of the community.

On the other hand, we're not dealing with an innocuous product. It's something that could be misused. My understanding was that the green book was a way of encouraging or even requiring a gun-shop owner to check if the purchaser of the gun has a valid licence, because I think they have to enter that information. Now, the law requires that someone be sure that the buyer has a licence before they can sell them a gun. But what you're doing, it seems to me, is that you're making it more likely that somebody won't check if there's a licence.

I'll give you an example. In the United States, you cannot sell a gun to somebody who is not lawfully entitled to own one, so you would think that a seller would verify that the person has a licence before selling to them. But an investigative reporter did a story wherein he posed as someone who wanted to buy a gun over the phone or on the Internet and sort of hinted to the seller that he didn't have a licence. What he said to the seller was, “Look, I'm just telling you, you wouldn't want to necessarily sell me a gun if you knew...”. The seller went ahead and sold anyway.

So I'm just a little concerned that there are some retailers.... And I'm not impugning all retailers, but we know there are retailers who sell to underage kids. Some retailers might say that they're not really going to check whether that person has a licence or not, and by getting rid of the green book you're essentially making it easier for them to get away with that. I think that's a concern. That's a valid concern. That has to be weighed against the desire to not have retailers feel intimidated by the state.

I think that's a valid concern and I'd like your comment on that.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Well, I think what we did was balance the concern about what should be registered and what should not be registered by the difference between a handgun and a shotgun or a rifle. We've also looked at what the power of the federal state is in terms of interfering in this particular business, and basically we've decided that this is more appropriately a matter of property and civil rights in the province, rather than a matter of criminal law.

So as I say, if the province wishes to regulate that—and they could recreate that ledger exactly as you've indicated—they can do that. But it's essentially a regulation of property and civil rights.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Here's my next point, which is related. We heard from many front-line police officers who came to this committee. We know there are some who are adamantly opposed to the registry. We know their associations didn't agree with them, but we met some who were adamantly opposed to the registry. I didn't hear any of them say they were adamantly opposed to a green binder. So I don't know that there's really pressure out there, from even those who oppose the registry, for getting rid of the green binder.

We also know that the green binder helps the state. It helps police officers across this country locate and identify a criminal—not a law-abiding citizen who's never done anything wrong and just wants to own a shotgun, but somebody who's suspected of committing a crime, such as Marc Lépine. It allows them to find out who bought that gun.

I don't know why we're not supporting our police officers at this very minimal, almost innocuous level. I just don't understand why we're washing our hands of it and saying, well, this is really a matter for civil and property law.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

That's time, Mr. Scarpaleggia.

Very quickly, please.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Let me just answer that.

If we make that a requirement, then it's a requirement under criminal legislation.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

So be it.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

But that's the difference; then it is a criminal offence not to do that. That's why it's more appropriate in the context of property and civil rights.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Minister.

We'll now move back to the opposition, to Madame Boivin.

June 19th, 2012 / 5:05 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

I find that last comment interesting, because now I feel like you're shifting your interest in the sense that all through Bill C-19 it was about the hunters, the good law-abiding hunters, about the sportsmen, about the collectors. Now I feel that where you're going is that you're now the protector of the gun shops, which, we can agree, is a totally different situation, because if the onus to keep the ledger.... It's not an infraction on the person who buys; it's an infraction on the gun-shop owner, who is not asking or keeping.

Where I have a hard time following your government's position on this is that even those who were your advisers—and am I mistaken when I say—like Mr. Bernardo, who was super happy the day you filed those regulations? He has said throughout, through all the meetings he went through all the years, through all shape and form of the different types of bills you presented.... He said, “That green book has been the status quo for at least 30 years.”

I mean, it's a long time that the green book has been there. It's still there now, to this day. Even with the registration, merchants still have to do that. They have to maintain that book.

And even in front of the Senate standing committee:

Remember that all businesses are required to keep records mandated by the chief firearms office of the province that they live in. To remove the record from this registry does not remove their obligation to keep business records. Business records are mandated by the chief firearms office in the issuance of a business permit.

As well, “The RCMP only runs part of the program.” And I could go on and on.

Gun-shop owners have been highlighting the importance of the ledger. Brad Thomas, owner of Lake Huron Rod and Gun, talked to the Owen Sound Sun Times:

“You talk to any gun store, they are happy with the ledger,” said Thomas. “I don’t want this ledger to go away and I don’t know too many businesses that would.”

In a sense, as my colleague previous was just saying, it's kind of a protection on the gun-shop owner. If there's something happening with some long gun, some non-restricted gun, wouldn't you prefer to be on the safe side? And that we had, because all your....

Despite all your arguments for abolishing the gun registry—you said it would not have protected a single life, since someone with a gun would have committed murder anyway—this registry has still had a positive impact. We have seen evidence of that here in the committee. We have learned that, in an investigative context—after the fact—the registry has been useful.

The registry no longer exists, but at least, certain information on guns sold is kept, even if those are non-restricted guns.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you.

Minister.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

First of all, if businesses want to keep the record, they can. There's no question about that. They can. And if you say the majority of businesses will continue to keep that because they think it's a good practice, they can.

But what we also know is that your party has committed to bringing back the long-gun registry. You have committed to bringing back the long-gun registry.