Debates of June 13th, 1995
House of Commons Hansard #217 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was guns.
- Access To Information
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Government Response To Petitions
- Firearms Act
- Battle Of Stoney Creek
- 2002 Winter Olympics
- International Financial Institutions
- Work Safety
- Maritime Provinces
- Labour Relations
- Party Fundraising
- G-7 Summit
- Referendum On Quebec Sovereignty
- Unemployment Insurance Reform
- Liberal Party
- Reform Party
- Presence In The Gallery
- Unemployment Insurance Reform
- Government Contracts
- Job Creation
- Youth Unemployment
- Goods And Services Tax
- Bovine Somatotropin
- Indian Affairs
- Presence In Gallery
- Firearms Act
- Ways And Means
- Firearms Act
- Peacekeeping Act
- Firearms Act
- Criminal Code
Questions On The Order Paper
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)
Shall all remaining questions stand?
Questions On The Order Paper
Some hon. members
Questions On The Order Paper
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)
Regarding the unanimous consent of the parliamentary secretary to revert to tabling of documents, is that agreed?
Questions On The Order Paper
Some hon. members
Government Response To Petitions
June 13th, 1995 / 10:10 a.m.
Kingston and the Islands
Peter Milliken Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to five petitions.
Allan Rock Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
moved that Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, this morning we embark on the final stage of a process begun over a year ago by which members of this House of Commons have studied and debated questions dealing not only with the regulation of firearms but questions that in a broader sense touch upon the kind of country we want for ourselves and for our children.
It is little wonder that the debate about firearms has at times been spirited, often clamorous, and sometimes divisive. There are many voices that want so much to be heard: the farmers, the ranchers, who must be permitted to continue to use their firearms as the tools of their trade; the hunters and the target shooters, whose choice of sport demands our respect; the outfitters and the townsfolk whose livelihood depends on the success of the hunting season; the sustenance hunter, who feeds a family with a firearm; the police, who like all law-abiding Canadians want the means to deter, to detect and to punish those who would use guns in crime; and Canadians everywhere, who want the government to preserve the civil character of our society and strengthen the values that have always set us apart as a nation, Canadians who have watched the American experience with sadness and who want our national government to chart a different course for our future.
I sincerely believe Bill C-68 now before the House has fashioned an instrument that will ensure a future in which we can preserve those unique Canadian values while respecting the legitimate interests to which I referred while also dealing effectively with the use of guns in crime.
The government believes that the primary objective of regulating firearms should be to ensure that Canada remains a peaceful and civilized country. Canadians firmly intend to safeguard and strengthen the exceptional civility which has always been their hallmark. Our policies attest to this government's commitment to this objective.
The components of Bill C-68 that we will be focussing on today are as follows: firstly, strict measures to counter the criminal use of firearms; secondly, specific penalties to punish those engaged in the smuggling of firearms; and thirdly, broad measures to define what constitutes the lawful use of firearms in a manner that poses no threat to public safety.
In the case of each component, universal firearms registration is a fundamental requirement for achieving the stated objectives.
The government has been consistent throughout in its defence of Bill C-68 with respect to the core principles of the legislation. We have made changes to reflect our response to constructive criticism when it has arisen and to respond to well founded concerns.
May I today express the gratitude I feel toward members of the Liberal caucus who have through their efforts reflected concerns in their communities and have caused us to make many constructive changes to this proposed legislation. May I also acknowledge the hard work done by every member of the justice committee of the House of Commons. Colleagues from all parties in their painstaking work examined clause by clause every aspect of this bill and brought their own scrutiny to bear. I am very grateful for and admire the work they did.
We have made many changes along the way. We have created a new Firearms Act to take the process of regulation out of the Criminal Code to respond to the concerns of firearms owners. We have changed the rules with respect to the use and disposition of those firearms that are prohibited either as handguns or otherwise so they can be traded within the class of existing owners.
We have phased in the process of licensing and registration over eight years to minimize inconvenience for firearms owners. We have changed the nature and effect of the penalty for the first time a person inadvertently fails to register a firearm under the scheme. That will only become compulsory in 2003.
We have changed the inspection powers to respond to those who saw room for abuse. We have provided for relics and heirlooms to be passed down from generation to generation and kept in families for their sentimental or historical value.
The core principles of this legislation have remained constant: stiff criminal penalties for those who would use guns in crime; the longest mandatory minimum penitentiary terms in the Criminal Code for those who use guns in any one of 10 listed serious crimes; cracking down on smuggling by reinvigorating our efforts at the border, by investing in means to reduce smuggled firearms coming into this country; taking handguns out of circulation that have no place in legitimate sports and target shooting; providing for renewable licences for those who own firearms; and the mandatory universal registration of all firearms. We have done this so that as a nation we might have some meaningful control over guns while respecting the legitimate uses of firearms for traditional purposes.
It is the registration of firearms which has attracted the most intense controversy. Many criticisms have been levelled, unfortunately too often without foundation in fact. It is said that before we proceed with such a measure the government must satisfy a heavy onus of proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that mandatory universal registration will reduce the crime rate, that we must establish how many lives will be saved by such a measure.
I reject that false premise. I say it applies no more to this proposal than to any other. The government has by the evidence it has proffered to the committee, to the Commons and to the public, met any reasonable standard of proof required to justify legislation which would regulate the conduct of human affairs.
We tender the evidence of the chiefs of police. We rely upon the views and the opinions of the Canadian Police Association. We put forward the convictions of the Canadian Association of Police Boards. We stand with the victims of violence who have lost family members to crime. We stand with the physicians in the emergency rooms of this nation, with the trauma doctors, with suicide therapists, all of whom contend with one voice that mandatory universal registration of all firearms is nothing more than common sense in the regulation of property in this country.
There are those who attack the concept of mandatory universal registration by trafficking in fictions, and those fictions must be addressed. It is said that registration means nothing because criminals will not register to which I respond: That is the very point. Criminals will not register and by that act will identify themselves. When universal mandatory registration is fully in place as a seamless system for the registration of firearms, the criminals will be identified by exception.
I refer to an anecdote described to me by my colleague, the hon. member for Waterloo. He spoke last week in his riding about an incident where police entered a place on a raid because they had reasonable grounds to believe there was criminal activity going on inside. They found long arms and they were unable to tell whether those long arms were possessed unlawfully or whether they were lawfully in the possession of the people who were arrested. With registration the authorities will have the means to determine just that.
I call to mind the jury in the inquest into the death of Jonathon Yeo who was implicated in the shooting death of Nina de Villiers, the young woman whose life was tragically taken in her youth by crime. At inquest the jury heard months of testimony about those events. Among its many recommendations for strengthening the system to prevent such tragedies in the future, that jury recommended the mandatory registration of all firearms including rifles and shotguns.
While they are trafficking in fictions, those who oppose registration contend this is an effort to solve an urban concern about crime on the backs of the rural part of Canada. I point out that time after time it has been shown that the fatality and injury rates from firearms are significantly higher in rural areas in this country than they are in the cities.
The majority of the people in this country, when they die by firearms, die at the hands of someone they know. Preponderantly firearms are used as the weapon of choice when there is death in the context of domestic violence. On average a woman is shot to death every six days in this country, almost always in her home, almost always by someone she knows, almost always with a legally owned rifle or shotgun.
What has that to do with registration? The police tell us that with a mandatory system of universal registration in place over time they will have the means to enforce court prohibition orders made against people who have shown a propensity for violence. Lives will be saved if those guns are collected in that kind of situation.
Those who would oppose this system traffic in fictions by pretending that the cost is an impediment. They throw around numbers like $1.5 billion to establish the system, $100 or $300 per rifle to register. They are trafficking in fictions.
Someone on the west coast did a study for the Fraser Institute pretending that the cost of registration would be $1.5 billion because the cost to register a handgun under the existing system is on average $82. Factoring in the present antiquated system and individual police inquiries about the background of the applicant, it works out to $82 per handgun on average.
That person has taken that number and applied it directly to the six or seven million long arms in the inventory existing in Canada today. However, he has overlooked the fact that in the registration of the existing inventory of long arms we are going
to ask only that the owners mail in a card to identify themselves and their firearms. There will be a simple CPIC check to ensure that there is no order prohibiting the owner from having firearms and then he or she will be licensed and registered. This will cost nothing like the $82 which this man pretends is going to be the cost of registration in Canada. This is trafficking in fictions and not meeting the point on the merits.
It is also said by those who oppose registration that the system has been tried in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere and has been found not to work. That is not so.
In New Zealand the registration system was established in 1920. It was carried out through handwritten cards. It was abandoned in the early 1980s when the volume overwhelmed the system. In any event, New Zealand does not sit on the border of the world's most gun preoccupied country. It does not have to deal with the challenges we face in Canada. The system in New Zealand was rejected for reasons that have nothing to do with the merits of the argument in Canada.
As for Australia, five of the eight states and territories have mandatory registration of long arms now. In 1990 a national committee on violence recommended it be extended to the whole of the country. Those are the facts. It is time we stopped trafficking in fictions.
Testimony before the House justice committee established that in those European countries where mandatory registration of all firearms is in place, the accident, injury and death rate from firearms is lower compared to countries where that is not the policy.
As to confiscation, those who oppose registration allege that it is the first step to confiscation. To them I respond that in 1940 the government of this country introduced mandatory registration of rifles and shotguns as part of the war effort. There was compliance and no confiscation. To those persons I say that in 1977 when the present system of firearms acquisition certificates was introduced, the voices again were raised that confiscation would be the inevitable result, but there was no confiscation. This is the position of the people who have run out of real arguments against gun control. They are trafficking in fictions.
I would like to spend just a moment on those who have made themselves conspicuous in this House by their opposition to this bill. I speak of course about members of the third party. I bear in mind as I do so that the third party came into this House 18 months ago as the party of the people insisting that the positions its members took, the policies they supported and the views they expressed would reflect the values and views of Canadians in general.
I well recall the days sitting in this place when hon. members of the third party would rise in question period to put questions that were inspired by members of the public. They wanted so much to reflect the views of Canadians in the work they did in this House of Commons.
Some of the members of the third party have stuck to those principles and are going to stick with them. They are going to vote for this bill because they know the majority of the people in their riding support it. To those members I offer my congratulations for their consistency in their principles.
However, the third party, the party of the people, the party of law and order, the leader of this third party and the majority of its members have said they will vote against this bill and against what the majority of Canadians want. As recently as two weeks ago a poll showed that 74 per cent of the people in British Columbia, 58 per cent of the people in Alberta, and 72 per cent of the people in Ontario support registration. Two weeks ago an Angus Reid poll demonstrated consistently that the people of Canada want Parliament to pass the legislation.
Brenda Chamberlain Guelph—Wellington, ON
We represent Canada.
An hon. member
Alberta is 50:50.
Allan Rock Etobicoke Centre, ON
I call on the third party to stand with the government, with the police, with the emergency room physicians, with the victims of crime, and support this bill in the name of the people of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, today we have the opportunity, on behalf of the Parliament of Canada, to speak out on the kind of Canada we want for ourselves and for our children and on the efforts that we are prepared to make to preserve the peaceful and civilized country in which we take pride, and to show just who exactly controls firearms in Canada. Is it the groups who support firearms or Canadians in general?
Today, June 13, I have two little boys who are turning eight years old. They join with their 10-year old sister in wanting to grow up in the kind of country we enjoyed in our youth, a country that is safe, a country that is civil. Those qualities can slip away so easily. They slip away incrementally over time. They require constant reaffirmation of our basic principles as a nation if we are going to keep that unique quality that sets us apart. We must always focus on what is the predominant value for Canadians.
In Bill C-68 we have just such an opportunity to focus on those values. The bill is respectful of the legitimate interests of those who use firearms, but its predominant purpose is to preserve what is uniquely ours. My children, all of our children
and our grandchildren deserve nothing less for their future in Canada.
Lucien Bouchard Leader of the Opposition
Mr. Speaker, it is not every day that a bill before the House generates the kind of public debate that we have seen in the past few months, a debate that will end with the vote scheduled for the end of our proceedings today.
This bill has prompted a public debate because it brings into focus the values that we hold as a society. Before I go any further, let me say-and I am certain there will be no disagreement-that our society is undergoing rapid change, and not always the kind of change we want to see. Violence is on the rise.
This debate is taking place because we are cognizant of the fact that danger threatens our society at every turn. Danger is not a problem found only in cities. It affects people everywhere. It is a problem observed not only here in this country, it also touches our neighbours and friends to the south. In the United States, increasing social problems have led to an upsurge in violence and we are now beginning to witness the same phenomenon here. This is not a trivial matter that we are discussing, nor something that should leave us indifferent. It is an extremely important issue, both for the present and for the future.
Violence can manifest itself in many ways. The use of firearms is not the only factor associated with violence. Very serious social problems can lead to a sense of frustration which in turn, can breed various forms of violence. Psychological, domestic, personal and community problems can all lead to the use, among other things, of firearms.
However, there is nothing trivial about firearms. They represent one of the most significant ways of manifesting the violence to which I alluded. I think we would all agree on this, regardless of the party to which we belong, that a society such as ours which claims to be reasonable, vigilant and civilized, has a responsibility to ensure that the use of firearms is better controlled.
So far, so good. I do not believe that even our friends in the Reform Party would oppose legislation that gives the state the ability to control violence and to intervene to stop its spread. If they would oppose it, I am certain that they will let us know. In any event, I would be surprised if the Reform Party opposed some control over firearms, given the social context. In a society such as ours, it is essential that the state be allowed to step in and assume its responsibilities in the area of gun control.
The bill now before us is a reflection of the government's vision of gun control. What course of action is the government advocating? The key feature of its proposed legislation is firearms registration. Many of the bill's provisions relate to registration. Some reforms were introduced in 1992, primarily to ban certain types of assault, prohibited and military weapons. Some administrative controls regarding storage and so forth were also introduced. This series of reforms will complete the cycle of government action in this field. The central element of the reform is the universal registration of all firearms, essentially those used for target shooting, hunting and so forth, since other kinds of weapons are already prohibited.
The debate has, without a doubt, been controversial, since very opposite views have been voiced. I do not think that we can accuse anyone of failing to understand the validity of the other party's arguments. Clearly, we are dealing with a clash of two different value systems. On the one hand, we have an overwhelming majority of citizens who are concerned about violence in society and recognize the need to control guns, one of the instruments used to commit violence. On the other hand, we have those who perceive the intervention of the state and additional restrictions as an unnecessary attack on individual freedoms.
We cannot dismiss the reaction of the second group lightly. Honest citizens own firearms. The fact that they own guns does not make them any less honest. I would even venture to say that the vast majority, if not virtually all, of the citizens who own guns, who use them for sporting purposes and who have done so for generations, are upstanding citizens. The introduction of these measures has made them somewhat uneasy. They are upset to see the state interfere once again in their affairs and this has a great deal to do with their attitudes.
Although this country has existed for several hundred years, ours is still a young society, still close to its roots, to the time when vast territories had to be conquered and people had to tame, colonize and settle this vast land. Obstacles had to be overcome. Wild animals roamed the landscape and people needed to defend themselves. Trapping and hunting were important survival tools.
It is well known that beaver trapping was a very important activity in Canada. It was the basis of the country's economy. In other words, the country's origins are closely linked with firearms. To many, firearms symbolized-and I would imagine this still holds true today-freedom and man's dominance over an often hostile environment. The issue speaks to long-standing, profound values. Then there is the issue of hunting. The hunting instinct is one of the first known to man. Had men and women not been hunters, humankind as we know it would not have survived to this day.
Therefore, this issue is complex and it is understandable that the debate has been controversial and quite emotional. Another reason why opponents have reacted so negatively and have
expressed outrage from the moment the bill was tabled in the House is because the state has already intervened a great deal.
Individual freedoms have already been restricted considerably by the administrative and bureaucratic actions of the state, so much so that many citizens are quite fed up with what they view as government harassment and red tape.
Some dream of returning to the free, somewhat bucolic society of yesteryear in reaction to the excessively large public service and the systems and networks springing up everywhere. The bureaucracy has exploded, particularly in the last 20 years. People are very leery about more government intervention, particulary now when they feel that their civil liberties are been affected.
Moreover, many people live on large tracts of land or own farms. That was true of my ancestors and of my father. I myself was born on a farm. These people accept that there is a government, a country and law enforcement agencies, but their farm is their domain. When they are at home on their farm, they cannot fathom that someone should be able to interfere and restrict in any way their right to do whatever they want on their own property, their right to use firearms to hunt and so forth.
Along comes this bill which challenges long-standing beliefs and deep-seated cultural reflexes.
Here we must appeal to reason. It is alright for those who oppose the bill to say so. While the vast majority of people support the bill, the Bloc Quebecois included, we must try to convince those who are against it, particularly the hunters who are directly affected by its provisions. We must try to convince them to accept the government's intervention in this area for the sake of higher principles. The citizens of this country are all reasonable people and they will reflect upon this and understand. However, it still comes as a cultural shock.
When the use of seat belts in automobiles became mandatory, I remember clearly my reaction to this announcement. I was a young man at the time, driving my first automobile. All of a sudden, I was required to buckle up. As a young man, owning my first car symbolized freedom. Everyone remembers how important their first car was, what colour it was, how much it cost, and so forth. Not everyone was pleased, myself included, to see the government legislate seat-belt use.
However, I had to learn to live with the law. I have to admit that occasionally, in a moment of weakness, I neglected to buckle up. However, I have been using my seat belt for many years now and it has now become a part of our everyday habits.
This decision was initially viewed and dismissed by many people as government interference. Over time, seat belt use was accepted because it was proven to be in the common interest. Large fines were also imposed.
The same will be true for firearms registration. Registration as such is not something new. People are accustomed to registering their automobiles, their bicycles, even their dogs. They may not have been too pleased the first time that had to get a license for their bicycle-imagine, a teenager having to get a license for his bicycle-but they accepted it.
People have come to accept many things because it is in the common interest and I am confident that this is one such issue. I am confident that the government will work hard to convince people to go along with registration. I have no doubt that the minister, who is an intelligent individual with a good understanding of society, will see to it that these measures are implemented properly, by appealing to people's sense of reason, not by using a strong-arm approach. I am confident that he will proceed in a civilized fashion and be respectful of individuals who have different opinions.
Registration may well be a bother, but fundamentally, this is not a transcendental debate. There are no fundamental principles at issue. The resulting inconveniences will be very minor. After all, people will only be required to register the firearms they own once in their lifetime. Only once! Furthermore, the process will only begin in three years' time. Therefore, we have three years to think about this, three years to discuss the matter, three years to calm down, three years to analyse the situation, listen to others and try to understand the reasons behind this decision. Once the process begins, people will have five years to register their firearms.
In my opinion, this will facilitate the implementation of the legislation and give people time to accept psychologically these measures.
Having said this, I do not believe and our party does not believe that the bill is perfect. On the contrary, we would have preferred something different.
We would have liked to have greater power of persuasion over the minister, in order to make changes we thought were required. However, I must acknowledge that some changes we requested were accepted.
We in the Bloc Quebecois tried not to address the issue from an ideological point of view, not to make it a debate on principle or a debate on religion because, in religion, everyone is right and everyone is wrong. We tried to address it from a pragmatic point of view and to make a party contribution, through the parliamentary process, to bringing in a balanced piece of legislation.
We are in agreement with government intervention, and with registration, and we wanted-or at least we tried-to bring a certain balance to the bill tabled by the government.
We were successful with some amendments, including one essential matter, one essential aspect of the bill: decriminalization. We think this aspect is important, because it is essential that good citizens, the vast majority of hunters, for example, not have the perception that the law lumps them together with criminals.
It is important for honest citizens to be sure that the government does not treat them like criminals, and that hunting and using firearms for sports activities do not make them criminals or people who are reprehensible in the eyes of the government or of society. This is a fundamental right which, to this extent, must be respected.
That is why we thought the government had to be persuaded to make a distinction between people who use firearms to commit crimes and people who use them to behave like normal citizens, for sports like hunting. That is where we got the idea of not making failure to register a firearm, in the case of a first offence, a crime as such. We have never claimed that there should be no penalties. We have never claimed that there be no sanctions, that the first offence of failing to register a hunting firearm, for example, should not make someone liable to punishment. That act had to remain something against the law, a reprehensible act to be punished under criminal law. But there is quite a distinction between criminalizing and penalizing that has not always gotten through to the public.
We would have liked the first offence, someone who fails to register for the first time, to be prosecuted-that is summary conviction procedure-and convicted if guilty, but fined. We would have wanted a first offence not to be a crime within the strict meaning of the Criminal Code, but to lead to a considerable fine, say, from $500 to $1,250, confiscation of the firearm, and a requirement to register it within seven days: briefly, something reasonable and severe-quite severe-, but something that indicated this distinction between a crime as such and an offence to be penalized.
The government did not accept the Bloc Quebecois vision but, on the other hand, it did take a step in the right direction. It made a first offence a new, special offence, ensuring that people will be prosecuted under a statute and not under the Criminal Code; the summary conviction procedure will be used, but the first offence will not be a crime as such-although it is not clear what will happen with the criminal record. There will not be a criminal record in the traditional sense, but it does seem that there will be a register in which offences, even first offences, will be noted. Still, this flexibility is welcome, since I believe it will also give the Crown an option when prosecuting. If a person who has not registered a firearm is a habitual criminal, it is not the same thing as if the person were an ordinary hunter; the Crown can prosecute under another statute. There is discretion that could make it possible to eliminate the aspect we criticized.
Another amendment we proposed has to do with that prohibition on a person who wanted to obtain a firearm licence, if the person was an associate of some other person prohibited from possessing firearms. There, the problem with the initial bill was quite far-reaching, since it had to do with association.
Basically, it was a problem of guilt by association. As soon as you were "an associate"-as defined, an extremely vague, very elastic expression that could have led to witch hunts-of a person who had been prohibited from possessing firearms, you could be prohibited from owning them as well.
So, what we proposed was to keep the expression "an associate", of course, but to specify an associate living under the same roof. If you live in a house where someone prohibited from possessing firearms lives, it would be rather stupid and irresponsible for you to be given a firearm, when the other person living there, in the same house, could have practically the same access to the firearm as you do-even though elsewhere the bill prohibits that person from possessing firearms. The government accepted this amendment.
By means of amendments we proposed two days before the government's amendments, we also persuaded the government that there should be a grandfather clause, that is, a clause recognizing firearms handling courses people have already taken. We know that Quebec in particular has had a system of firearms handling courses, as a prerequisite for firearms licences, for quite some time now. So these courses that people had taken had to be recognized. We must not require people who have already taken courses in Quebec-very well-designed courses, by the way-to take them again. So the federal government agreed to recognize these courses and not require people to take them again under the bill.
We also requested an amendment to tighten up the bill in order to limit the government's former discretion to make regulations allowing the purchase of non-prohibited ammunition starting in the year 2001, during the transition period. The government agreed to tighten up the bill and make those regulations much stricter.
Another aspect to which we drew the government's attention was the power of inspection contained in the first version of the bill. We were not the only ones to make this point; in our society and in all regions, a great many worries and complaints were expressed about the excessive extent of the power the bill conferred on police officers: they were given practically the power to search and seize, without being required to follow the procedures that limit the action they take in other situations, such as the requirement to obtain from a judge a warrant citing a reasonable ground for carrying out a search. Now, in the bill, no
warrant is required, but police officers' power is limited to places other than dwelling-houses, strictly to places where there is reason to believe that there are 10 or more firearms, and the ground must be a reasonable ground, not just an opinion a police officer might have before taking action.
But there are other amendments with which we were not successful. We regret that, although those amendments are not as significant; the issue of fees is an example. We would have liked the government to provide a legal control, a guarantee of its political commitment to act reasonably and not raise fees unduly. We therefore proposed an amendment adding to the bill a mechanism limiting increases to registration fees. We know that the government is in power and we know the present minister's intentions; but there are the public service, the apparatus of government, circumstances and changes in the situation. In five years, who is to say that a deputy minister will not convince a minister to double registration fees? There is no legal guarantee. We would have liked there to be one in the bill. The minister is showing the best of intentions. We hope they will be repeated, but we really would have liked there to be this kind of control; one possible way of providing it would have been, say, to index changes in registration fees to the consumer price index. But the government did not want any such hindrances, and we regret that that was the case.
We also proposed something we think made a lot of sense: a requirement to lock, to install a locking mechanism on, any firearm manufactured or sold in Canada, so that if you are a hunter and you show up in a firearms store to buy a .12 or a .20 or a .22 rifle, you will automatically be sold a firearm on which a locking mechanism has already been installed, for greater safety. We hear that there is nearly consensus on this point, and that even many organizations representing hunters agreed with it. The government did not agree to this request, and we wonder why not. Would the manufacturers' lobby have been that powerful? We do not know. It would have been advisable for this amendment to be accepted, but it was not.
We consider that another aspect of the bill raises an issue of principle, a much more important one: the legality of law enforcement. By means of this bill, the government is giving itself an arbitrary power to make regulations that would allow it, for example, to exempt aboriginal people from respecting the bill and from the constraints the bill imposes on other citizens.
I am not saying that the government will avail itself of that power and exempt aboriginal people but, since the bill includes express mention of this point, we fear that inequitable treatment of citizens under the same law will be set up. It would be a real shame, and terribly irresponsible, to do that.
I do not see how aboriginal people are threatened by the enforcement of this bill. If the bill is acceptable for other citizens, it is acceptable for them, too; they, too, have the right to ensure their safety. The problems of violence exist in their communities, as they do in ours. I do not see how the government can give itself that power. Why is the government giving itself that power?
That point makes me think-in a much less significant vein-of the debate that took place during the referendum on the Charlottetown Accord, when it looked as though the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would not apply in aboriginal communities. I remember that even Mr. Trudeau-on that point alone, I must admit-agreed with the Quebec sovereignists who were saying that made no sense.
We agreed that, under the rule of law, as is the case in Canada, where we favour law enforcement that is equal for everyone, there simply had to be equitable treatment of all citizens, and that it was inconceivable that we could accept that outrageous, incredible, irresponsible concession made by Mr. Clark and Mr. Rae in particular, excluding aboriginal people from the application of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We have somewhat the same thing here.
If this bill is so important, if it is so deeply rooted in respect for citizens' rights and obligations, why would aboriginal people be exempted from its enforcement? We were not successful on this point, but we do count on the government, and on the minister, to reassure us and tell us that citizens will be equal under this bill, as they are under any law, as is appropriate in any democracy.
Lastly, we would have liked to have another amendment passed, and we are very worried that it was turned down. We are really upset about that amendment; it raised considerable debate within the Bloc Quebecois. People in caucus took very strong positions on this point, and we understand them. This point is the requirement that any court impose a minimum four-year sentence on any offender who commits a crime with a firearm: a four-year minimum.
I consider that the minister has lapsed into political correctness and let himself be swept along by the lobbies that have sometimes gone too far. We are going to vote for the bill, but we, too, have been buffeted by headwinds. Outrageous things have been said by both lobbies. The pro-gun control lobby itself has sometimes gone too far.
I feel that, in this instance, the minister may not have maintained a balance. I feel that the minister should have resisted those excessive pressures, which are not at all progressive, which will fill up the penitentiaries with 18-year-olds with no chance of rehabilitation and, further, which will introduce inequity and disparity in sentencing.
Let us take the example of an 18-year old committing his first offence. We do not know what incites an 18-year old to hold up a corner store-we are not justifying it, it is completely unacceptable, serious things happen in those situations-but we do know that often these young people are grappling with drug problems, are in withdrawal, are in fact very well brought up-it happens everywhere-; for the first time in his life he goes and uses a firearm to hold up a corner store, and automatically gets four years in prison.
There is no possibility of the judge looking into the case, making distinctions, taking circumstances into account, or trying to give that young man a chance. When you are 18, you can be rehabilitated after a first offence and become a very good citizen. But with this bill, I tell you, I hesitated before taking a position. I deeply regret that the minister, who appears to be progressive in all respects, has made this abusive lapse, which will mean automatic prison sentences.
Incarceration becomes the only means of rehabilitating young offenders, of reintegrating them in society. That is serious. That smacks of a philosophical conception which worries me a lot. I am surprised that the gun control lobby would have steered the minister in that direction. I am truly astonished because I believe that the forces which impel us to adopt this bill are progressive forces, but not in this case. In this case, there is something absolutely deplorable and senseless, there are things that defy comprehension.
For example, if a sharp 12-inch dagger is held to the throat of a convenience store clerk to commit the same crime, the offender will get the minimum, not four years. I do not see the difference between a dagger and a gun-the clerk might not have his throat cut. It is the same thing with rape. These are dreadful acts. What is the difference between using a dagger or a gun to commit rape on a young woman? The two acts are absolutely abominable. And yet, in one case, it will be four years, automatically, and in the other not.
It seems to me that the minister in charge of developing the Criminal Code could have had a common sense reflex. It is not too late, by the way. I sincerely believe that this is something that should be fixed.
Some hon. members
Lucien Bouchard Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
I know that opponents have their arguments, I have heard them many a time. All members of this House have been submitted to intense discussions with the lobbyists, but I do not think a bill has ever been better scrutinized, analyzed in such depth.
I know the arguments, for example those of the lobbyists. The arguments of those who oppose this bill are not all ridiculous, but I believe they can be refuted. For example, there are those who say that it makes no difference whether firearms are registered or not because criminals are not forced to use a registered gun to commit their crime. But there are criminals who can use registered guns too. A sawed off twelve-gauge shotgun becomes an extraordinary assault weapon. If the weapon is registered, it is that much easier for the police to conduct their investigation.
Do not tell me that police will not be helped by the fact that weapons are registered, that the owner can be identified, that his name can be instantly retrieved in the central registry, in the computer. This will obviously be a powerful tool in the hands of the police when investigating crimes committed with registered weapons.
Unregistered weapons are already banned. It is just a matter of putting in place the means of stopping the illegal importation and sale of prohibited weapons in Canada. To the extent that there are millions of legal firearms, let them be registered. And if, as happens so often, they are used to commit crimes, their registration will greatly increase the effectiveness of police investigations. That argument does not hold water.
All the more so since habitual criminals are not the only ones who commit violent crimes with firearms. We all know that in the case of family violence, acts of desperation, etc., legal weapons are used most often, weapons that are found in the house. Some will say that it makes no difference whether they are registered or not.
I believe that registration will have an extremely important educational value. If, after this great public debate, the bill is passed, there will be an immediate result in that people will no longer be able to take firearms for granted, to treat them as if they were commonplace objects like a slingshot. The attitudes toward weapons will not be the same, the perceptions will be quite different. People will know that the State treats weapons as dangerous instruments.
Indeed, contrary to cars and bicycles, for example, weapons are made to kill. Except for the few of us who practise shooting as a sport, a firearm, if we keep one at home, is used essentially to go hunting, to kill and it is very efficient at that. It is practically the most efficient way to kill.
One must realize that a firearm-and people will become more conscious of this fact, especially if they have to register it-is not an ordinary household object but a dangerous weapon which can easily be used to commit a crime or a violent act.
It is therefore false to say that ragistration will accomplish nothing. Indeed, if such was the case, then why did the powerful lobbies make so much noise? We also heard about costs which would be too high. We have here estimates provided by the minister. There is no reason to question them or to doubt that the minister and his department did their job carefully. The numbers
might vary slightly, since mistakes are always possible. But we are talking here of an average of $24 million a year over five years, for a five-year total of about $119-120 million. Once the registration system is in place and rolling, it will obviously cost less to manage.
Yes, it will cost, but its price does not seem disproportionate to its significance for society, compared to other initiatives which cost much more and amount to very little. Moreover, I was always a bit surprised by the intense opposition, given the benefits for individuals. Let us think about what this act means to an individual, a citizen, for someone who, for instance, goes hunting once a year or keeps three or four firearms at home, maybe a .12, .22 or .20 caliber shotgun. This worried citizen, perhaps made anxious by all the commotion raised by the lobbies, should know what will happen, what this act means.
If the act were passed tonight, what changes does it entail for this person who keeps three firearms at home? There will be absolutely no changes for three years, nothing in 1995, 1996 or 1997, right up to 1998. Then, starting in 1998, that person will have five years to register up to 10 arms all at once, for $10. Now tell me, is it worth putting a country to fire and the sword? There has been much exaggeration. Canadian citizens are used to dealing with much bigger complexities and to co-operate much more with government. This is not a case of undue harassment. This is within reasonable limits, in my estimation.
This debate has pitted people against each other in good faith. Without that, very important principles were at stake, collective principles: the need to address the issue of violence in Canada and in Quebec and, on the other hand, the propensity to protect individual rights. Those are very legitimate questions. All those people are very honourable people and they defend and protect quite legitimate values.
We have to make a judgment, an assessment of those values. In last resort when we think it over calmly and quietly as good citizens, we will have to conclude that it is the right law, the right move to make. It is not the best law. Many things could have been done to improve it. We tried. We succeeded in certain cases; we did not succeed all the time. On the whole there is a balance. If we want to protect our society against the rise in violence we have to do something like that.
For private citizens the negative effects will not be very great. It means that an individual who has three, four, five or ten hunting rifles at home will have nothing to do for the next three years. Starting in 1998 he will have to think about the fact that he will have to register his arms. He will have five years to do it from 1998. Once it is done it will be for life and it will cost $10.
I do not think there is a need for the kind of debate that we have on many other issues in Canada. There will be a much harsher debate this fall. It would be good practice now to accept this as a reasonable question to settle before addressing much more important questions.
The Bloc Quebecois is not entirely satisfied with the act, but its members believe that respect is a matter of striking the right social balance and that, in the common interest, they must vote in favour of the act. This is what we intend to do tonight.
Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB
Mr. Speaker, we sat here until eleven o'clock last night and voted on the final amendments to Bill C-68. In less than 24 hours we are into our final debate, third reading of the bill. It did not really give us much time to assess the consequences of the amendments which are now part of the bill. It reminds me a little of what happened in the clause by clause amendments that were hurried upon us with such short notice after the final witnesses before the committee had concluded.
I begin my address by telling the House and the justice minister of a firearms court case that was heard in Alberta. The judge was a man by the name of Judge Demetrick. In his decision he said that the definition of a firearm as contained presently in the Criminal Code was so convoluted as to be legal fiction and twice removed from reality. When I read that I was absolutely amazed that the Parliament of Canada was producing legislation that our courts are now declaring to be twice removed from reality. I am satisfied that we cannot have legislation that is twice removed from reality unless we have thinking behind the legislation that is twice removed from reality as well.
The present gun control bill is really not a gun control bill at all. It is not going to control guns; it is simply going to register them. When I looked at the bill I realized that it was not an aberration from the good sound thinking that has run the country for the last 25 years. It is not unlike Judge Demetrick pointed out. What has been guiding the country for the last 25 years? When we examine the debt, the Young Offenders Act, the parole system or the judicial system, and some of the disparities in those systems we wonder whether or not the thinking behind them is twice removed from reality.
How can we be in a situation where we are $600 billion in debt if the thinking behind our fiscal and monetary policy is not twice removed from reality? How can we have a Young Offenders Act when the justice system cannot deal with young offenders under the age of 12 for their criminal misconduct? How can we have
that unless the thinking of the creators of the legislation is completely removed from reality and the people it will impact?
Let us look at the parole system, the latest victim of which is Melanie Carpenter. The prime suspect in her murder, Mr. Auger, was paroled, was released, by way of statutory requirement after serving only two-thirds of his sentence, even though the officials felt that it would be a danger to release the individual into society. We have to ask what kind of thinking has produced that kind of legislation. Judge Demetrick told me a bit about that kind of thinking when he suggested that it was twice removed from reality.
This bill is not an aberration from the reasoning that has guided Parliament over the last 20 or 25 years. It is simply a continuation of thinking that is far removed from the impact it will have on the people. I often think the justice minister and his officials do not know what they are doing.
It is an attempt by the government to create the impression it is getting tough on crime and criminals. Yet when the justice minister had an opportunity to vote either for a safer society or against first degree murderers when a private member's bill came up to eliminate section 745 from the Criminal Code, everyone knows he voted in favour of the first degree murderer and against a safer society, in favour of the first degree murderer and against the Melanie Carpenters of this country. We should study carefully the motivation behind this legislation.
We have heard the minister speak today of things such as trafficking in fiction. I have the talking points sent from the Prime Minister's office to members of the Liberal Party on Bill C-68. The first item reads: "The government has reached an agreement with the official opposition to allocate time for debate on Bill C-68, gun control, and Bill C-41, sentencing". Is that not nice? They got together and decided to terminate any lengthy debate that would give an opportunity to all members to express the concerns of their constituents on these two very contentious bills.
The second item says: "Any reasonable person would have to agree that there has been extensive consultation and debate on this legislation". Let us examine this whole business of consultation for a moment and see who is trafficking in fiction.
In response to questions in the House the justice minister stated that he had been in continuous consultation with the attorneys general of the provinces. That has been directly refuted by the testimony of the attorneys general who appeared before the standing committee. In particular, I refer to the Attorney General of Manitoba. When we asked her, she commented that there was extremely little consultation with the justice minister and officials on the gun control legislation.
We heard from the Attorney General of Alberta. The Attorney General of Saskatchewan led a delegation made up of the Liberal leader, Lynda Haverstock, as well as the Conservative leader. They also refuted the whole concept of consultation. The Attorney General of Alberta indicated exactly the same thing.
We heard from the justice ministers of the Northwest Territories and Yukon. They refuted the whole idea that they were involved in any significant way in consultation with the justice minister in the development and creation of this legislation.
People like the president of the Olympic handgun competitors claimed there was no consultation whatsoever. This statement is supported by the fact that when the justice minister brought in his proposals before Christmas of last year he had such little knowledge of handguns that he was banning those used in world cup competitions. When we asked him if he would consider exempting the .32 calibre handgun, which is one of the handguns used in world cup competition, the record tells how much consultation really went on between himself and those groups of people.
He stated he would certainly not consider exempting the .32 calibre. Why? The barrel length was under 105 millimetres and those short barrel firearms are inaccurate and are made only for killing. That is basically the reason to justify the banning of 58 per cent of the legally held and purchased handguns.
When we talk about trafficking in fiction, who is trafficking in fiction? I ask the justice minister who really is trafficking in fiction? To carry on with this whole idea that the justice minister has consulted broadly, widely and in depth with people, groups and organizations involved with firearms is a little ridiculous. These consultations did not take place with the justice ministers of the territories or at least with the attorneys general of the provinces.
Several groups of native peoples also appeared before the committee. The James Bay Cree were represented. Representatives from the Yukon Indians appeared before the committee. Ovide Mercredi and a delegation from the Assembly of First Nations appeared. A group represented by Mr. Borin appeared. They all deny that there was any in depth consultation.
I have a copy of a letter which was tabled with the committee from Mr. Ovide Mercredi to the justice minister dated February 17. I will just quote from this. It states:
Once again your government has acted in a manner that shows a complete disregard for the rights and interests of the people I represent. Your introduction of the gun control legislation without prior consultation with First Nations is a violation of your responsibility as Minister of Justice to uphold the fiduciary trust obligations of your government for all First Nations.
In imposing your plan for firearms registration and regulation, you are breaching our treaties with the crown. You promised a consultation process with First Nations in our meeting on November 14, 1994. Where is that consultation process?
He ends by saying:
For God's sake, respect our rights.
That is what the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations wrote the minister.
During the committee meetings I asked if there had been consultations in the prescribed manner according to what amounts to the appendages to the Constitution with regard to the agreement that was made with the James Bay Cree. It was called the James Bay Cree and Northern Quebec Agreement. I also asked if there were consultations with the Yukon Indians who recently signed an agreement for self-government. The ink is hardly dry on that agreement. The officials of the department assured me and the committee that consultations had taken place in accordance with the constitutional requirement.
When I asked Mr. Mosley, the assistant deputy minister, to table with the committee evidence of such consultations, he agreed to do so but did not. When he next appeared before the committee I asked him about the agreement and the undertaking he had accepted to table documents from the department that would substantiate the claim that substantial consultations, in the prescribed manner, had been undertaken with the James Bay and Yukon Indians, he said that the minister would be tabling those documents when he appeared on the last day that witnesses were to appear before the committee on May 19.
When the justice minister appeared he tabled a half inch stack of documents. That did not give us a chance to examine them so we could prepare questions for the justice minister.
When I did have a chance to examine the documents they did not show evidence of consultation at all. It was evidence, at best, of letters of notification to the 630 bands that these proposals had been presented before Christmas. There was no evidence of consultation.
When the justice minister talks about broad consultations throughout the country with the various groups of people and organizations on which the legislation will impact, I ask, who is trafficking in fiction? There is no doubt in my mind who is trafficking in fiction. It is certainly no one from this caucus when it comes to these kinds of issues.
How in the world was it possible for the justice minister to overlook the requirement to consult with the aboriginal peoples of the country? How could he do that? He understands the law as well as any of us. As stated in the letter by Mr. Mercredi to him, he understands the constitutional requirements to abide by the consultative requirement when legislation is going to impact on the treaties or constitutional rights of aboriginal people or any other Canadian.
I am satisfied that the reason the justice minister and his officials did not first consult with the aboriginal people is because the aboriginal people would have told him exactly what they told the committee with regard to the gun control bill. They would reject the vast majority of it, particularly the licensing and the registration requirements.
Had he gone to them first they would have set the standard for all Canadians. That would not go far enough for the minister because he wanted to impose the restrictions and licensing requirements on law-abiding gun owners. He knew if he went to the aboriginal people first, as he ought to have done, he could not have refuted them and come forward with the kind of legislation he has brought forward today.
Had he gone to the aboriginal people first, they would have set the standard, the benchmark for all Canadians with regard to the manner in which their rights would be interfered with by legislation. He did not want to do that because he knew the aboriginal people would not accept it, as Ovide Mercredi said in his letter.
I refer again to his letter where he said when talking about his own people: "I know that they will not comply with any legislation that violates their treaty and aboriginal rights and I will encourage this non-compliance". That is the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations telling the justice minister that they will not comply with these kinds of regulations.
The justice minister of the Northwest Territories told us as well that many gun owners in the Northwest Territories today are not complying with the firearms acquisition certificate requirements. He and his delegation explained in very straightforward and understandable terms why they are not. It is so impractical for them. He talked about isolated communities where there is no facility to obtain the passport photograph required to obtain an FAC.
Therefore, the present laws are not being abided by in those isolated communities. We heard the Grand Chief of the First Nations say that he will encourage his people not to comply.
There was no in depth consultation before this bill was tabled, because he would have heard the same thing. He did not want to deal with them before the fact; he wanted to deal with them after the fact. How is he going to do it?
Last night the justice minister put forward an amendment in Motion No. 5. That amendment states: "For greater certainty, nothing in this act shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982".
What does that mean? It means that through section 110(t) he is going to be able to go back to the aboriginal people by way of regulations and orders in council and provide whatever exemption he wishes to provide. It is going to result in not all Canadians standing equal before this law. I heard the official opposition leader address this as well. It appears that we may have a two-tier system where there is one set of laws for the aboriginal people and a different set for the non-aboriginal people.
I submit that had he gone forward and obtained the consultation and the input from the aboriginal people first, then based upon those considerations we would all be happy and we could all support that legislation. But it would not have gone far enough for the minister, because he does want to register, he does want to license, he does want to impose those restrictions and those interventions upon the people of Canada.
He has put the cart before the horse and he is trying to finesse this whole thing by going back and saying that through the power of the regulations he has in this act he will be able to consult with aboriginal peoples and address their concerns on their treaty rights and their constitutional rights when it comes to hunting, trapping, and food gathering.
What is emerging here-and I hope I am wrong-is evidence that we are moving toward a two-tier system as far as gun legislation is concerned in this country. I regret that very much. If the minister had consulted with the aboriginal peoples in depth according to what I believe are their constitutional rights, this would not have happened. Now we are going to find ourselves perhaps in a situation where there are going to be constitutional challenges on the basis of discrimination. That is unfortunate. It ought not to be.
My own personal point of view is that in this case the aboriginal people are on the right track when it comes to the control of firearms. They are on the right track. The standard they are saying they want for the use, ownership, and the giving and lending of their firearms ought to be applicable for all Canadians. If that were the case a vast majority of Canadians would agree with it and support it. We should have started with the aboriginal people, used their needs and their requirements as the benchmark for all of our legislation in this bill. I submit that respectfully.
I want to touch on a couple of other points. I want to deal with this whole area of smuggling. I sat in the justice committee when the Canadian Police Association delegates were there. I listened to them carefully. They had basic support for a majority of the contents of the bill, but I remember very clearly what the president of the Canadian Police Association, Mr. Neal Jessop, said. He pointed out that the strength of this bill will be based upon the ability of the government to stop smuggling in Canada.
I have a document here that was produced by the MacKenzie Institute called "Misfire: The Black Market and Gun Control". They did an eight-month survey into firearms smuggling in Canada. They talked to police officers, aboriginal peoples, smugglers, taxi drivers, the whole host of people involved in the milieu of gun smuggling and illicit firearms trafficking. They concluded that if Bill C-68 goes through there is going to be an explosion of smuggling in Canada.
When I compare this to the report submitted from the justice department on smuggling, their report is a hollow whitewash compared to the information contained in this document. I will not take time to go through it, but it is here. It is here for anyone who wants to look at it.
We have real problems, not with the law-abiding gun owner but with the extent of gun smuggling and the smuggling of illicit firearms, prohibited firearms, these so-called assault weapons into Canada. We have a real problem. The authors of the MacKenzie report are saying that it is going to explode if this bill goes through. I just mention that.
I want to touch on the polls and the support. I do not place much support in polls because they go up and they go down, particularly on a bill like this, where the people who are being contacted really do not know the extent to which the guns are controlled now by way of legislation.
We have over 60 pages in the Criminal Code dealing with the ownership, acquisition and use of firearms. The legislation dealing with firearms in this country is very extensive. So when we have a 124-page document adding to that and we ask people on the phone what they think about gun control, adding more laws to the gun control bill, I am not sure how well informed they are when they respond to that.
I do know that if I received a phone call and someone was telling me the government was moving in a direction to extend greater control over guns, I would say that sounds to me like a good thing to do, because it is going to make the homes and streets and communities safer in Canada. If that were my belief, if I were led to believe that from the question asked, Mr. Speaker, you bet I would support it. I would support it today if I could see it in the bill, but I cannot see it. I can understand why the polls vary, depending on the questions and depending upon the extent of information they have at their disposal about the bill.
We can see very clearly that as more and more information gets to the people, not just about the gun registration but what appears to be the possible violation of civil rights, the extension of police powers in order to inspect or search and to seize and so
on, we see a broadening concern over this legislation and a drop in the support for the bill.
I might add that the clearest indication in terms of polling has to be the result of an election where gun control is an issue. We have had two provincial elections recently. I would like to mention at least the one in Manitoba, where the government headed by Premier Filmon publicly rejected the gun registration portion of this bill, as did the NDP in that province. The Liberal Party embraced it. It is interesting to note that a few weeks before the writ came down in that province for the election call the Liberals were very, very close in the polls to the Tories, the government, and it looked like they could form the government. We saw what happened. They lost over 50 per cent of their seats and the Liberal leader lost his seat.
I have an item in the paper here that quotes one of the Liberal candidates. He states that the Liberal campaign was badly damaged by unpopular federal decisions like gun control and budget cuts. He went on to say that it infuriated him to hear the justice minister say after the election that gun control had nothing to do with the Manitoba Liberals' poor showing. "He has his head in the sand" is what this defeated Liberal candidate from Manitoba said.
When we hear the justice minister talk about support and trafficking in fiction, we should examine it carefully. I wish the debate would be made on facts. We can look at the polls, but let us be honest about it and look at the real polls. In this country we now have at least five provinces whose premiers have concerns about this bill. We have the Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba premiers who are concerned about this bill. We have had the Liberal premier from New Brunswick express concern as well about the registration system. Now we have the new premier of Ontario, and I would like to hear further from him. I would like him to have a good look at this bill so that we hear from the premier of the most populated province in Canada. I would like to hear what he has to say now about this bill and whether there will be support from the province of Ontario for the registration system.
I want to end by discussing the cost. Members were accused on this side of trafficking in fiction when it comes to the cost. Let us look at the cost for a moment. The justice minister is indicating $85 million to set up the registration system. That is just to set up the registration system. We first have to register the three million gun owners. We have to license them before we can register a single gun they own. If they are not eligible to hold a licence, what is the point of registering their firearms? They will have to give up their firearms if they are not able to be licensed. What will it cost to license an individual?
Marlene Catterall Ottawa West, ON
Ten bucks for ten guns.
Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB
Ten bucks for ten guns, if we talk about trafficking in fiction. I am talking about licensing the owner, not about registering the firearm. If we look at the cost to license three million gun owners, we can estimate the cost per individual by looking at what the cost is now to process an FAC, a firearms acquisition certificate, because the requirements are similar.
Under clause 5 of this bill, the chief provincial firearms officer is going to have to conduct a review of the criminal record of the individual, a mental health record, and perhaps a neighbourhood background check to see if there is any history of violence. That is not unlike the requirement for an FAC. They go through a similar background check.
The Metro Toronto Police Board analysed the cost to process a single FAC in 1994, and it was $185. That might be high, because it is in Toronto, where the costs are high. But if we take that figure and multiply it by three million gun owners who have to be licensed, what do we get? We certainly do not get $85 million. We get about $550 million. If there are six million gun owners, as some estimate, then it will be well over $1 billion using those figures.
If the Metro Toronto Police Board cost for the application of an FAC is the highest in the country, and we level it out to $100 per FAC across the country and take that as an average-I do not think we can label that as trafficking in fiction-we can get an idea of what the enormous cost is going to be to someone in this country, whether it is the gun owner, the taxpayer, or whoever. That is before a single gun is registered and we come in with the $10 cost to register 10 firearms. What can we register today for $10? It may cost me $10, but what does it cost the taxpayer? What does it cost the organization? What does it cost for the manpower?
I do not know what it will cost, but I am convinced it will not be $10. I do not know what can be processed today in that form for $10. My licence costs me more than that. The registration for my car costs me more than that. It cost me $5 to register my children's bicycles and I did all the work. I took it down to the police station where it was filed. That is what it cost me. I do not know what it cost the police to file it, process it and record it.
When it comes to the cost, $85 million may be a fair representation of what it will cost to set up the registration system, but it is not anywhere near the overall cost to set up a full-fledged universal registration system where individual gun owners will have to be licensed and have to bring in their firearms to have them registered. There is absolutely no way. When we talk about trafficking in fiction, who is trafficking in fiction?
The government has not provided a common sense justification for the registration of rifles and shotguns. I asked witness after witness who appeared before the committee how the registration of rifles and shotguns would reduce the criminal use of those firearms, and they were not able to answer. I have never heard a straightforward answer from the justice minister although I have asked him that question.
We have a handgun registration system that has been around for 60 years. We know it has not reduced the criminal use of handguns, because the handgun is the weapon of choice for the vast majority of street criminals. We see that it has been ineffective in this area and we ask why the justice minister would want to expand a failed system to include rifles and shotguns.
We have spent considerable time on the bill, but is it enough time? I say absolutely not. There was not enough time. When members are denied the right to express the concerns of their constituents in the House, those who want to express them, there is something wrong with the system.
I do not think we have had enough time either at the committee stage or at second reading stage. Time allocation was utilized. A deadline was placed on the number of days to hear witnesses. We went immediately from there into clause by clause study. We did not even have time to examine the testimony of witnesses on a day to day basis, because the time lag from the time they testified to the time we received the written testimony was four days. We did not even have time to fully draft our amendments, go over them with legal counsel and present them in proper form. The bill has been rushed and I ask why. If it is not to become mandatory for eight years, what is the big rush?
I make reference to a wonderful set of speaking points. At the bottom the Prime Minister said to his Liberal colleagues:
The Reform Party says it needs more time to debate gun control, but cops on the beat say they need gun control now.
It is very disturbing that Reformers are prepared to put the safety of police at risk in order to satisfy the gun lobby.
Talk about trafficking in fiction. I have not talked to a street police officer who has supported the bill although their political masters do. I have talked with colleagues all across western Canada. I have been all across the country from Kamloops in the west to St. John's, Newfoundland, in the east. I have talked with people who say that the bill is nonsense anyway.
My point is that if the cops on the beat need the bill now, why are we waiting eight years before bringing it in? It is not the Reform Party that is saying we should wait eight years; it is the government that is saying eight years.
As I said the other night, if guns are really dangerous and if this is not a hysterical response from people who do not know anything about guns and fear them, why are we leaving 58 per cent of the handguns that are supposed to be dangerous in the hands of the people? Why are we leaving them where they are?
In conclusion I would like to move the following motion:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word that and substituting the following therefor:
"Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons, be not now read a third time but that it be read a third time this day six months hence".