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.

Topics

Bosnia
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

York West
Ontario

Liberal

Sergio Marchi Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the valiant efforts the member of Parliament noted on behalf of our peacekeepers, the government has seen fit to extend two special immigration programs to try to assist some of the citizens of the former Yugoslavia.

The first has been a family class program that has had its criteria relaxed so that people can be reunited with families living in Canada. As a result of that program, over 7,200 individuals have been reunited with their loved ones in Canada. The second program has been to try to focus on some of the refugee relief work in that troubled area. To date the results indicate that over 8,200 private and government sponsored refugees now call Canada their home.

These programs are working well but it is a modest response to a horrific situation. The only answer, as we all know, is for civility and peace to return to the region. We all hope and pray that it will be sooner rather than later.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

June 13th, 1995 / 3 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, I would like to draw your attention today to the presence in the gallery of two outstanding Canadians.

One is an internationally acclaimed author. She won the 1993 Governor General's Award and the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Stone Diaries . Colleagues, I present to you Carol Shields.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, the other prominent Canadian made history in 1984 when he became Canada's first man in space. He continues to be a source of inspiration to many young Canadians and will be returning to space in 1996. I present to you Dr. Marc Garneau.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now ready to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Saint John on May 30, 1995. For providing me with the relevant facts and documents related to this matter and for their contributions to the discussion, I would like to thank the hon. member and the hon. Minister of Health.

In her presentation, the member brought the House's attention to a photograph of her used in an expert panel report entitled "When Packages Can't Speak". The report concerning plain and generic packaging of tobacco products had been prepared at the request of the Department of Health.

The member claimed that the unauthorized use of her picture in a visual impact study included in the report had violated her privacy, was an assault on her dignity as an individual and as a member of the House, had opened her up to ridicule and had stereotyped her in a manner that misrepresented who she was and thus could impede her ability to perform her duties as a member of Parliament. She therefore requested a public apology from the Prime Minister and an explanation from the Minister of Health as to how her picture could have found its way into this expert panel report.

On June 1, 1995, the hon. Minister of Health responded to the matter. In her intervention, the minister explained that she, members of the expert panel and representatives of the private company charged with selecting the photographs, when informed that the picture used was one of the hon. member, had immediately issued a letter of apology to the member. The minister then tabled a copy of a letter to the hon. member explaining how her picture had been selected.

This matter has troubled me and I have looked into it carefully. I believe that it is important that I give the House a chronology of certain events which preceded the raising of this question of privilege, for the panel report in question is part of a larger study in which the House, through one of its committees, has been directly involved.

On June 21, 1994 the Standing Committee on Health presented its first report entitled "Towards Zero Consumption: Generic Packaging of Tobacco Products". Pursuant to Standing Order 109 the government was requested by the committee to table a comprehensive response. On November 18, 1994 the Minister of Health tabled the government response to the committee report. In responding to the standing committee's recommendations the government noted that:

-an expert panel, comprised of specialists in marketing, package design and consumer behaviour, and chosen in collaboration with provincial and territorial partners in the National Strategy to Reduce Tobacco Use, has established a study framework designed to determine what relationship may exist between generic packaging and the taking up of smoking by youth.

The Government response also noted that Health Canada would thoroughly review and analyse the evidence assembled by the expert panel and would take into account the study and conclusions of the Standing Committee on Health. Thus, the standing committee could be said to have been anticipating the opportunity to give detailed study to the panel report.

The report dated March 1995 was released to the media and the public on May 19, 1995. To ensure that the committee was familiar with its contents, that morning Health Canada held an informal briefing for the committee attended by members, staff and researchers. Copies of the report were also distributed to all members of the House in the usual manner.

Photographs of members of Parliament and images of the House of Commons and the Parliament buildings are seen everyday on television and in newspapers and magazines. These images form part of the media coverage of Parliament that we have come to expect. They may be used in a straightforward manner or satirically, but their focus is ultimately on the work of Parliament and parliamentarians.

It is possible however that these same images of members and of the institution of Parliament may be misrepresented. In our history there exist examples of cases where the symbols of Parliament have been used inappropriately. In each instance objections have been raised in the House.

As examples, I would refer members to Speakers' rulings regarding the Sperry and Hutchison Company, as found in the Journals of February 16, 1960 at pages 156 to 158, and the Steelworkers of Hamilton Council as found in the Journals of March 23, 1965 at pages 1159 and 1160. In both cases, documents meant to look like Hansard , a publication carrying with it the image of the House of Commons, were published and distributed by non-parliamentary bodies. The Speaker ruled both matters to be prima facie cases of privilege.

As members are aware, Erskine May's 21st Edition , at page 69, defines privilege as follows:

Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively as a constituent part of the High Court of Parliament, and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals.

Neverthless, not every matter which is seemingly offensive to the House may fall within the strict definition of privilege. As May continues:

When any of these rights and immunities is disregarded or attacked, the offense is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under the law of Parliament. Each House also claims the right to punish as contempts actions which, while not breaches of any specific privilege, obstruct or impede it in the performance of its functions, or are offences against its authority or dignity, such as disobedience to its legitimate commands or libels upon itself, its members or its offencers.

Most relevant to our current situation, May further points out on page 121 of the 21st edition that:

Indignities offered to the House by words spoken or writings published reflecting on its character or proceedings have been constantly punished by both the Lords and the Commons upon the principle that such acts tend to obstruct the Houses in the performance of their functions by diminishing the respect due to them.

Reflections upon members, the particular individuals not being named or otherwise indicated, are equivalent to reflections on the House.

My role is to determine therefore whether or not at first glance the circumstances of the question of privilege before me fit the criteria as described by Erskine May. The question is: Has the use and publication of the photograph of the hon. member for Saint John constituted a contempt of the House?

The hon. Minister of Health has explained to the House and to the hon. member for Saint John how this incident arose. She has also apologized on more than one occasion, as have others involved in the production of the report.

Based on my research and my understanding of the citations found in Erskine May I cannot conclude the member, although perhaps embarrassed by this event, has been impeded in performing her duties as a member of the House of Commons.

In the absence of malicious intent or any other obvious motive it is difficult to find that a contempt of the House has occurred.

Members of Parliament are public figures and frequently appear in the media. Those who interact with government and with Parliament must remember the use of a member's photograph in a situation totally unrelated to his or her parliamentary duties may well lead to unforeseen difficulties and could cause considerable embarrassment.

In this case I can only go so far as to remind everyone that the House of Commons and its members must be treated with respect and dignity first by its membership and also by all intervening parties. I hope all members appreciate the seriousness and potential dangers of a repetition of a situation such as this.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons, be read the third time and passed; and of the amendment.

Firearms Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Sault Ste. Marie
Ontario

Liberal

Ron Irwin Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to offer my support for this vital piece of legislation currently before the House of Commons.

I am particularly honoured to offer my congratulations to the House on its passage of the non-derogation clause as requested by numerous presentations to the justice committee.

Unfortunately I am faced with the irony of the Reform Party which in its presentation in debate and through question period attested to the valid and warranted requests by aboriginal people for their treaty of aboriginal rights to be respected in this matter. Yet it voted against this clause last night in an effort to continue to try to discredit what we as responsible parliamentarians are privileged to support.

Why have we created this clause? Since the government's action plan on firearms control was tabled in November of last year aboriginal people throughout the country expressed their concerns about the impact of the legislation on constitutionally protected aboriginal and treaty rights to hunt and trap. Submissions were made to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs by several organizations including the Council of Yukon Indians, the Assembly of First Nations, the Grand Council of the Cree, the James Bay and Northern Quebec agreement hunting, fishing and trapping co-ordinating committee, the Métis National Council and the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada. Submissions were also received from the governments of the Northwest Territories and Yukon.

The federal government recognizes the need to take into consideration these concerns. The government has moved this motion to address such concerns and has thereby ensured aboriginal treaty rights are respected when this new law is implemented throughout Canada.

The legislation will help protect the aboriginal treaty rights and the aboriginal people of Canada. We will see these rights are

reconciled with the highest standards for public safety which is in this firearms act and part III of the Criminal Code.

We must challenge ourselves as people who are wiling to do the best for our country and our fellow Canadians. We have acted responsibly in showing Canadians that in a number of instances we have heard their concerns with respect to this legislation and have acted on them. I am proud we are accomplishing that in the House.

I am a bit disappointed with the Reform Party. It says it is the party that will listen to the people, but it will not. When three of its members will eventually support this legislation I will not mock out of respect because I respect parties and people who keep their word. Reformers said they would listen to the people but they will not. They said they would allow free votes in their party but they are not adhering to that. They ran on the issue of safe streets but they have forgotten that promise. They said they want to come to Parliament and address fiscal responsibilities but they obviously do not know the difference between a bond and a bullet.

Firearms Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it has been an experience in the House today listening to Liberal members trying to defend this indefensible gun control legislation, Bill C-68.

We in the Reform Party, the hon. member would be surprised to know, understand the recognition of aboriginal rights contained within the Constitution. We certainly can read although he may doubt that sometimes.

Recognizing that in the Constitution hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering rights are protected for aboriginal people, the Constitution does not specifically refer to methods of hunting, trapping or fishing. We are not talking about entrenched treaty rights in the application of Bill C-68 to aboriginal people. We are talking about the use of an implement to carry out their hunting, fishing and trapping rights.

This same instrument is used by many non-natives in northern hinterland areas. I assume these non-natives who hunt for sustenance enjoy the same or similar hunting rights as aboriginals. I find it questionable that the government in its amendments to this bill has not recognized hunting for sustenance activities of non-natives who live in remote northern areas.

I ask the hon. minister of Indian affairs whether his government specifically sees a difference between a remote residential aboriginal hunting for sustenance and a non-aboriginal who lives in a remote district of Canada and hunts for sustenance. Why would one under the proposed legislation be required to comply with all the regulations of Bill C-68 and yet a special provision might be given to another?

Firearms Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ron Irwin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, in broad terms we have populations of aboriginals in Winnipeg, Toronto, Kenora and other areas as high as 60,000 to 65,000. Within these areas aboriginal people are more at risk to violence by all facts right now. It is in their best interest to look at our policies of safe streets, knowing that we are not attacking gatherers or hunters or tourism or farmers, all things the Reform, I thought, stood for.

The hon. member says I would be surprised by some things Reform does or says. Nothing surprises me when it comes from the Reform.

There are provisions in the act having nothing to do with being Indian or not. If you are under 18 and a gatherer there is an exemption. You can use your gun if you are a gatherer of food.

The member talks about methodology, and I have said over and over again this does not free any person on methodology. Surely using the test of reasonableness under the treaties no aboriginal person can go hunting with a Sherman tank. By any test of reasonableness we can control and legislate on methodology.

Firearms Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before we resume debate I understand the hon. Secretary of State for Financial Institutions wishes to table a motion.

Ways And Means
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Doug Peters Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I wish to table a notice of ways and means motion to amend the Customs Act and the customs tariff and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for the consideration of this motion.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons be read the third time and passed; and of the amendment.

Firearms Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Shaughnessy Cohen Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on third reading of Bill C-68 on the final day of debate on this fine bill.

I am very proud to rise as a member of this caucus because I am proud not just of our position on this bill but also of the strength of our caucus in standing up to criticism which, although many times unfair and certainly very emotional, has been strong and relentless. I am also proud of the Prime Minister and particularly of the justice minister who has seen this legislation through from beginning to end.

I am proud also because I know I am representing the views of my constituents in Windsor-St. Clair. We have heard a lot of the importance of representing the views of our constituents today. We heard a lot from the third party about that. There are some very specific reasons the people of Windsor-St. Clair want me to vote for the bill.

In Windsor we enjoy a great deal of American tourism. We are less than a mile from the United States. When thinking where to go for lunch one can actually factor in restaurants in Detroit. One can go there and get back on one's lunch hour. That is how close it is. We have clean, safe streets. We have tremendous cross-border shopping in reverse and we have a casino which attracts 17,000 visitors a day, 90 per cent of whom are American.

People who are active in the tourist industry in Windsor, hoteliers, people at the casino and others, tell us one of the great reasons for the attraction of our community is that it is in Canada and people feel safe there. They tell us clearly and unequivocally that when they canvas their customers, when they talk to the patrons at the Windsor casino, gun control is a factor.

This bill in a very specific economic sense is good for my riding. The people of my riding appreciate it, understand it and want it. That is not my only reason for supporting it and certainly is not the only reason my constituents have for supporting it.

It is my view and the view of the majority of my constituents that the bill is not just about crime control. The people of Windsor-St. Clair and I as their representative suggest the bill is about the kind of Canada we want for the future, in our retirement for our children, for our grandchildren. It is about the values we share as a country.

There is no constitutional right to bear arms in Canada. There is no right to pack a pistol on one's hip or to hide one in one's car; nor should there ever be. On the other hand as a society we value hunting, sport shooting and aboriginal rights and we struggle to find the balance between those seemingly competing interests. In Windsor we know this very well. We also know what happens when firearms as a commodity go out of control.

As I said, we live less than a mile from a country with a very different view of this commodity, a country where firearms are indeed out of control. We watch the Detroit news in Windsor, and every night purposeful criminal shootings and accidental shootings are displayed on the air as though they were car accidents or as though they were just another fact of life. In those American cities they are.

I worked in Windsor in the criminal courts as both a defence lawyer and a prosecuting lawyer. Every Monday morning in bail court-court room number three, for those of you who are listening in Windsor-there would be a parade of American visitors to Canada who came into the country, passed that great big sign that says that firearms are prohibited in Canada, came across the border and had their firearms seized. Why? They would tell us they had forgotten they were in the car. They would be under the front seat, loaded, or in the glove box loaded or in the trunk loose and loaded, sometimes carelessly stored, sometimes kept loaded and right on hand.

Very often these same people would be offended by our laws and highly indignant, all of them feeling that they have a God-given right to carry a gun, and in spite of the warning at the border they were going to continue to carry it. Why do they feel that way? They feel that way because their culture is different from ours, but also because many of them feel a need to carry that gun. They feel they need protection. This is not the society or the culture the vast majority of Canadians want to live in.

I enjoy Americans very much. I like going to the United States. There is much to admire about their culture, their industry, their enthusiasm, their protection of individual rights. There is much to recommend in their democratic system. Yet last February the President of the United States came to this House and spoke to a joint sitting of the House and the Senate, and what did he talk about? He talked about our efforts to control firearms in our society. What did he talk about when he was introduced to our justice minister that evening? Both he and Mrs. Clinton wished him well in his struggle to control this commodity.

My friends opposite like to talk about democracy and about the need for us to represent our constituents. They like to talk about the importance of representing the folks back home in this House. I believe that is what I am doing. I believe that the constituents of Windsor-St. Clair support me, support this government, support the Prime Minister and the justice minister in this effort to control this commodity. I believe as well that the vast majority of the constituents of the members of the third party feel the same way.

Firearms Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the speech the member made. I know she has spent some time on this.

I feel very frustrated in trying to communicate to the Canadian people all of the things that are contained in this 128-page bill, so I took it upon myself for the last year and a half to regularly inform them through news releases. I think I have sent 31 or 32 news releases out informing them as to the contents of this legislation.

We have also promised that if it proves to be ineffective we would repeal it. We are quite confident that it will not meet the high expectations this government has put forth in this legislation.

My question for the member is simply this. Why did she oppose my amendment to have an independent auditor review this legislation after fives years to see whether it is cost-effective and whether it is meeting the goals this government claims it will meet? If they are so confident that it is going to make our society safer, why did they oppose that common sense amendment?

I also have another comment with regard to the comments made by the previous speaker.

I have many native people in my community and I regularly visit with them. They are strongly opposed to Bill C-68. And even with the amendments that were introduced yesterday, they are still going to be opposed to it, because they say they do not want more provisions in Canadian law that give them special status. They would like to see us move toward equality. They are not appreciative of what the government is doing by trying to tinker with C-68 to make it more palatable for native people. They are very concerned about that.

In light of the events of last night, I should review them for the people who are watching on television. Last night we sat here for hours and hours simply going over all the amendments that were made at the last minute, many of them by the government, to fix up this flawed legislation to make it a little more workable in their eyes.

Would it not make sense to postpone this, in light of the fact that it will not take full effect until the year 2003 anyway? Would it not make sense to postpone it a few more months to make sure it is workable? Because we have pointed out many flaws in it.

Would the member object to those two amendments? We feel it is really important to look at these things. I would like some good answers from the government. Maybe the member can address those two questions.