House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was justice.

Topics

Immigration
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister said at the convention, the Liberal Party of Canada has always been open to immigration in the past and will continue to be so.

The landing fee charged to settle new arrivals is in keeping with the financial efforts asked of all Canadians, including newcomers, in order to achieve the balanced budget we have today.

That said, we will look at what needs to be considered for the next budget among the government's priorities.

Hepatitis C
Oral Question Period

April 1st, 1998 / 2:55 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it has been very difficult to understand this government's refusal to implement the recommendations of the Krever report. Certainly to hide behind the liability and legal issues does not make sense. It was very inhumane.

My question for the minister is one I raised with him on Monday. It is a very constructive suggestion. Will he at least show compassion by compensating those who are sick today and will be sick tomorrow as a result of hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I have emphasized throughout this matter that the decision made by governments was a very difficult one. We had to apply a principle in distinguishing periods during this chronology, during this tragedy.

I have made it clear that whether those governments were NDP, Conservative or Liberal, we all thought that one principle should apply. If we are going to have a health care system publicly funded in which people are compensated regardless of fault, simply because there was risk and there was harm, then we cannot go on. That principle is terribly important and it is that principle that we have applied together in this very difficult circumstance.

Order In Council Appointments
Routine Proceedings

3 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, a number of order in council appointments which were recently made by the government.

Pursuant to Standing Order 110(1), these are deemed referred to the appropriate standing committees, a list of which is attached.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams 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 14 petitions.

Interparliamentary Delegation
Routine Proceedings

3 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association to the meeting of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, held in London, England, on February 23 and 24, 1998.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 25th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the selection of votable items in accordance with Standing Order 92.

This report is deemed adopted on presentation.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 26th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership of the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages and, if the House gives it consent, I should like to move concurrence at this time.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent for the parliamentary secretary to move the motion?

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, presented on Wednesday, December 10, 1997, be concurred in.

At the beginning let me indicate that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Yorkton—Melville.

I rise today to concur with the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in as much as it attempts to make the unacceptable firearms regulations somewhat more palatable.

However I urge the House to vote against the fourth report of the justice standing committee. Valuable and insightful information regarding the legitimacy of the firearms statistics used by the former justice minister to support the regulations referenced in the committee's report have been called into question.

The competency of the Department of Justice and the current Minister of Justice to properly administer the firearms registry has also been questioned. The justice department's competency is being questioned by the police experts the former justice minister repeatedly referred to in the House to defend his ill-conceived firearms legislation.

To demonstrate the full extent of the apprehension expressed by the experts I would like to read directly from a letter addressed to the Minister of Justice dated March 30, 1998, signed by Mr. Scott Newark, executive director of the Canadian Police Association regarding “accuracy of departmental information concerning firearms related offences”. The letter reads:

Dear Minister:

Recently our office was supplied with a copy of correspondence dated July 21, 1997 between Acting Commissioner Beaulac of the RCMP and your deputy, Mr. Thompson, in relation to the above noted subject.

As I am sure you can appreciate, the contents of the letter are deeply disturbing to those persons or organizations involved in the C-68 debate and far more importantly to all of us that interact or work with the department of justice on an ongoing basis.

It would appear that the most senior management of Canada's national police force has found it necessary to urge correction of grossly flawed and misleading firearms data prepared by the justice department in relation to RCMP reported statistics concerning firearms used in the commission of crimes.

What is worse, as the RCMP letter points out, when the error became known to the RCMP following a request for an affidavit in relation to the material in the C-68 reference before the Alberta Court of Appeal and an attempt to meet with the Canadian firearms centre of the department was suggested, the RCMP were rebuffed in their efforts to correct the public record which they knew to be false. So serious is their concern that the RCMP appears to have taken the view that no such further data can be produced for use by the justice department's firearms centre until such time as this basic question of system integrity is resolved.

Assistant Commissioner Beaulac is also entirely correct to note that the situation is severely aggravated by the fact that both the previous minister and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police relied on and made public use of this false data during the C-68 debate and subsequent discussion.

I must confess to wondering whether the Alberta Court of Appeal was notified of the fact that it had inaccurate information before it once that fact became known, which according to the letter took place in February 1997. Failure to have done so would of course be deeply problematic, especially for the department of justice.

Our organization, as you know, is asked on a frequent basis to comment on the Criminal Code and Firearms Act provisions pertaining to the overall regulation of firearms in Canada. We view it as nothing short of imperative that there be a source of accurate, reliable information available to Canadians on crimes involving firearms and that the two leading public institutions in this area be in a position to guarantee that this is so. Failure to meet these most basic requirements will result in a justifiable lack of confidence among Canadians that our government knows what it is doing when it purports to regulate firearms in the fashion chosen.

Finally, and in our view equally seriously, an explanation from departmental officials as to how this massive discrepancy occurred is needed. Public policymakers have no choice at present but to rely on representations made to them by your departmental officials as accurate. In just the recent past our organization has felt compelled to seek independent legal opinions which were contrary to that put forward by the department. In addition, our warnings concerning the inevitable result of C-41's conditional sentencing provision and the victims evidence at 745 hearings and C-45 were ignored, only to be proven subsequently to be entirely accurate.

Both areas, as you recall, needed to be dealt with by amendments to “correct” what had been identified as unintended defects in the legislative intent of Parliament. This phenomena of unreliability, while annoying for us, is, of course, especially serious for the Minister(s) of the Crown who are called on for leadership in matters of criminal justice reform and who depend on the quality of information and advice given them by their officials.

Indeed, in light of the refusal of your officials to provide the legal basis for their position respecting the timing of taking of DNA samples in C-3, (despite independent legal opinion that they are wrong) and your apparent refusal to submit the question to the Supreme Court of Canada for constitutional reference, confidence in your department to properly design and administer a firearms registration system may be called into question.

In light of all of the above, we would seriously appreciate knowing what resolution, if any, has been reached concerning the matters raised in the acting commissioner's letter. We ask this as, like you, we are committed to ensuring that all of our decisions are based on accurate information.

Sincerely yours,

Scott Newark

Executive Officer

The contents of this are very serious. Its suggestion of the consequences of proceeding and relying on information provided by the justice department of Canada and its officials, when we are not completely satisfied as to the accuracy of that information, are a grave problem facing Parliament if not the people of this country.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague, the member for Crowfoot, has pointed out, the premise on which these regulations are based is false. They are before this House on false pretences.

Only recently we find out that the members of this House were presented with false and misleading firearms statistics during the debate of Bill C-68, the Firearms Act, by the Minister of Justice and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

It is not the Reformers or the gun lobby saying this. It is the commissioner of the RCMP saying this in a letter he wrote to the Department of Justice on July 21, 1997.

So Members of Parliament know exactly what the facts are and so there is no confusion from this day forward about firearms and violent crime, I want to read the entire text of RCMP Commissioner Murray's letter to the deputy minister of justice, Mr. George Thomson:

Dear Mr. Thomson:

I am writing to request that the Department of Justice correct its representation of the 1993 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) statistics on firearms involved in crime.

Around June 1994, the Firearms Control Task Group requested information on all files investigated by the RCMP during 1993 where there was a firearm associated with it. Since the RCMP does not collect statistics on firearms in this format, a special software application was written to extract the data for the Department of Justice. The data was provided in electronic format with the coding information necessary to interpret the date. The Firearms Control Task Group tabulated the data and produced reports without consulting the RCMP staff on the accuracy of their interpretation of our data.

The RCMP became aware that there was a problem with the representation of the 1993 RCMP statistics on firearms involved in crimes in February 1997, as a result of the correspondence from Ms. Wendy Cukier of the Coalition for Gun Control, in which she requested an affidavit as to the accuracy of the data in Appendix “A”, titled “RCMP (PIRS) Table 2. Firearms Involved In Crime: Type of Firearm Recovered According to Offence”. Ms. Cukier required the affidavit for use in the province of Alberta's constitutional challenge respecting the Firearms Act. The Firearms Control Task Group created Appendix “A” from the statistics obtained from the RCMP in 1994.

Since the RCMP had not created Appendix “A”, we extracted the 1993 data again and tabulated the number of firearms involved in a crime under the category of violent offences. We believe that most people would interpret the Appendix “A” caption: “Firearms involved in Crime: Type of Firearm Recovered According to Offence” to mean a firearm used in the commission of an offence. In some cases, without completing a more detailed review of the file, it was impossible to make a definite determination; therefore, we resolved some of the questionable decisions in favour of the Department of Justice findings. We determined that our statistics showed that there were 73 firearms involved in a violent crime compared to the Department of Justice findings of 623 firearms involved in a violent crime. A further analysis of the Department of Justice statistics had not been done due to the volume of work involved. However, a cursory review of the remaining 909 cases revealed that only a very small percentage of these would meet the definition of a firearm involved in a crime.

In order to mitigate damages, the Firearms Research Unit, the Department of Justice, and Ms. Cukier were notified that the RCMP could not provide a affidavit on the accuracy of the 1993 firearms statistics presented by the Department of Justice.

At a subsequent meeting with the Firearms Research Unit staff to discuss the release of similar 1995 RCMP statistics, they presented a report entitled, “The Illegal Movement of Firearms in Canada”. This report contains the same statistics as those in Appendix “A”, however, the RCMP statistics are combined with those of other major Canadian police forces. The Firearms Research Unit representatives believed that the firearms identified in Appendix “A” had actually been used in committing a crime.

It is of particular concern that the Minister of Justice and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police relied on these statistics while Bill C-68 was being processed in Parliament as evidenced by statements in the report “Illegal Firearm Use in Canada”.

A quotation from page 2 of the report states that: “It can also been seen that rifles and shotguns were involved in 51% of violent firearm crimes, airguns were involved in 19%, and handguns were involved in 17% of violent crimes. The Firearms Smuggling Working Group was concerned with a significant number of long guns involved in crime.” This statement is not significant when we consider that in 1993, the RCMP investigated 333 actual homicide offences, including attempts, but only 6 of these offences involved the use of firearms according to the statistics provided to the Firearms Control Task Group. Furthermore, the RCMP investigated 88,162 actual violent crimes during 1993, where only 73 of these offences, or 0.08%, involved the use of firearms. If we display the RCMP 73 offences in the same manner as the Firearms Control Task Group, we would say that rifles and shotguns were involved in 79.5% of violent firearm crimes investigated by the RCMP. This is not surprising when we recognize that rifles and shotguns represent 84.4% of all firearms in Canada. The difference between 623 violent firearm crimes credited to the RCMP, compared to the actual number of 73 is significant.

The Canadian Firearms Centre (CFC) staff were unwilling to meet to confirm where the problem occurred with the interpretation of the 1993 RCMP data. Their efforts were focused on producing a report on the 1995 firearms data. The CFC offered to make comparisons between the results of their current research project and other similar research conducted in the past. This proposal was not acceptable since there was no means to validate the 1993 data, only a possibility of some comments on differences between the findings of the two years. This would leave the 1993 data in circulation. The incorrect reporting of the RCMP statistics could cause the wrong public policy or laws to be developed and cause researchers to draw erroneous conclusions. Considering that the data is clearly marked as belonging to the RCMP, we must accept ownership and responsibility for the harm the data may cause. For these reasons, something must be done to correct the data or remove it from circulation.

Since the data in our Police Information Retrieval System (PIRS) and Operational Statistics Reporting (OSR) special reports is open to interpretation, it was necessary to suspend further release of similar firearms data pending an agreement on regulating this problem.

I am, therefore, requesting your assistance to resolve this issue. In addition, you may wish to inform the Minister of Justice about this issue to ensure that she does not refer to the RCMP statistics quoted in the Department of Justice report.

Sincerely,

J.P.R. Murray.

In light of that letter and the seriousness of it, and since the RCMP commissioner's letter was released to us in an access to information request, we have been made aware of the fact that these misleading statistics were also introduced six times in the Alberta Court of Appeal in affidavits filed by the federal Department of Justice and interveners supporting the government's position in the provincial court challenge of Bill C-68.

Mr. Speaker, do you realize the seriousness of what is transpiring here? The RCMP's analysis of its own firearms data was never introduced in the court by the federal government. I urge you to ask them to correct this oversight before alternative legal measures are considered.

It is clear that the standing committee on justice should have the opportunity to reconsider the regulations in light of this new evidence and in the light of a letter written by a senior research officer from the Canadian Firearms Centre. It is in the Ottawa Citizen today. In this article he says the RCMP is wrong.

We need to move the following motion and the hon. member from Cypress Hills—Grasslands will be seconding this motion. The motion reads:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor: the fourth report be not now concurred in but that it be recommitted to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with instruction that they amend the same so as to recommend the deletion of the Firearms Registration Certificate Regulations.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair will consider the admissibility of the amendment.