House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was registration.

Topics

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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5:10 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my esteemed colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis for sharing his time with him.

I also would like to thank the members from the opposition, which is quite unusual, for some of the questions that they asked of my hon. colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis concerning whether there was in fact public support for gun control and the gun registry program and whether some of the associations that have publicly supported the gun control legislation, the gun registry program, the firearms registry program, are in fact supportive. I will address most of my comments to the public support.

We have heard much in recent months from vocal opponents of Canada's gun control program. In fact some of our opponents, with the motion that is before the House right now, are trying to accomplish indirectly what they were not able to accomplish directly, which is to destroy gun control and eliminate gun control and to eliminate the firearms registry program in Canada.

Canadians do not agree. Canadians continue to support the government's multifaceted approach to public safety that is intended to reduce firearm death, injury and crime in Canada.

The program improves public safety by controlling access to firearms and ammunition, deterring their misuse and controlling specific types of firearms. The underlying philosophy behind the Firearms Act is to prevent people who are a danger to themselves, or others from getting access to firearms.

The Government of Canada, as has been heard repeatedly by members from this side of the House, is committed to gun control and to the gun control program. This preventive approach to firearms safety is supported by a majority of Canadians. An independent Environics poll taken in January of this year 2003, not 1995, indicates that 74% of Canadians support both licensing and registration.

It also is endorsed by a wide range of public health and safety experts across the country. This includes the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canada Safety Council and the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. This is to be underlined. This is public support because the overwhelming majority of police associations do support gun control and do support the gun registry program.

Notwithstanding what has been said by members on the opposite side of the House of the official opposition, these groups are among the many prominent Canadians who continue to push for gun control in Canada and who have spoken out in support of the gun control program that the government has put into force and into operation on numerous occasions.

In both January and February, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Police Association publicly restated their support for the gun control program and its essential crime fighting tools.

In his remarks, David Griffin, Executive Officer for the Canadian Police Association, stated:

We know that there's been a lot of attention on the issue of costs, but it's important to realise that with any public safety program, there is a cost to ensuring public safety. The licensing of all firearms owners and the registration of all firearms are important public safety features of this program that have required a significant investment to establish. However, there are significant long-term benefits to these measures.

Police Chief Vince Bevan, Vice President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, speaking on its behalf, said:

The new law brings us in line with other industrialised nations and is an important part of a coordinated international effort to fight the illicit trafficking of firearms and organised crime... Improving the regulation of legal firearms is critical to preventing their diversion to illegal markets.

In fact, Canada is one of many western nations that is taking steps to create stronger gun control. The licensing and registration components are fully in line with other countries, including Great Britain and Australia.

While Canadians have rightly expressed concerns about the rising costs associated with the program, victims of crimes are pointing out that while prevention is not cheap, it is a sound investment. In the words of Steve Sullivan of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime:

I am alarmed that the voices of the victims of gun violence are being drowned out by the controversy over costs. We know from the polls that the majority of Canadians continue to support this law in spite of the costs, but the vocal opponents seems to be dominating the media and the political agenda. We are here to say we have fought for this law and will not waiver in our support.

Opponents of this program also argue that licensing and registration of firearms is just a big city issue. In fact, this program is helping to achieve safe communities, large or small, across the country. As recently stated by Tim Quigley, a law professor of the University of Saskatchewan:

The terrible irony is that rural Canada and the West, with the highest rates of firearm ownership and the most vocal opposition to gun control, are also the places with the highest rates of firearm deaths.

While the gun control program is still in its infancy, we are already seeing public safety benefits in the form of reductions in crimes and accidents involving firearms. According to Neil Boyd, criminology professor at Simon Fraser University:

The available evidence on gun control to date suggests that we can gain--and have gained--substantial benefits in community safety. Strengthening controls over handguns, rifles, and shotguns appears to be producing the intended results. Consider, as well, the relatively minimal intrusion of gun licensing and registration--practices that we don't even question for automobiles.

The Firearms Act is about enhancing public safety. It is about preventing firearm related deaths and accidents. Too many young people are injured and killed in preventable firearm incidents. That is why the public health sector has been steadfast in its support for the gun control program.

According to Kathy Belton, a co-director of the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research:

Guns kill more youth in the 15 to 24 age group than cancer, drowning, and falls combined. The gun control program is still in its infancy, yet data suggests it has already caused a decline in gun deaths and crimes.

Gerald Dafoe, Chairman of the Canadian Public Health Association, recently stated:

We should not lose sight of the fact that, every year in Canada, the social and economic costs of deaths and injuries from firearms total some 6.6 billion dollars. Moreover, given the number of deaths and injuries attributable to firearms, we believe that the cost of licensing and registering firearms compares very favourably with the cost of many other preventive measures in such areas as highway safety or vaccination.

There can be no doubt that the implementation of the Firearms Act has been very challenging and remains a challenge. The government is committed to ensuring that the gun registry goes forward. As a government we are accountable to Canadians, but we will remain steadfast that gun control is a priority. It is for the majority of Canadians and we will continue to do what we can to ensure that the gun registry program continues.

Business of the House
Government Orders

March 25th, 2003 / 5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations between the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, at the conclusion of debate on Bill C-280 all questions necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill be deemed put, a recorded division requested and deferred until the end of government orders on Wednesday, March 26, 2003.

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5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member is misleading Canadians and anybody she speaks to when she says that the majority of Canadians support the gun registry. I have before me an Ipsos-Reid poll which clearly says that the majority of Canadians say the gun registry should be scrapped immediately.

The member referred to a poll. I have the question in front of me. I wonder if she has even read the question. She is claiming that this is support for the gun registry. That is a bogus claim because the question asks:

The government of Canada has passed a law concerning the ownership of firearms. This law requires that Canadians register each firearm that they own, prohibits certain kinds of firearms, requires that owners pass a safety test and a safety check, and that firearms are stored unloaded in a secure place. In general do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose this law?

If all of these things are mixed into a question, I myself who knows about it would say yes. This is how ridiculous it is for the member to claim that somehow Canadians support gun control. Canadians support improved public safety. Canadians support police that are able to have a proper check on their systems. That is what they want.

I would support--

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5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order, I am sorry to interrupt the member, but we have to give the parliamentary secretary a chance to respond to his intervention.

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5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am amazed. Yes, I have read the poll. Yes, I have read the question. I am amazed that the member from the opposite side would claim that I am attempting to mislead Canadians.

A lot of publicity has gone on about gun control and the gun registry since the Auditor General tabled her report in December. The statements by members of the opposition in particular from the Alliance Party, both in the House and before the microphones outside the House, have received a lot coverage where they have denounced the government saying it is close to $1 billion of wasted money. Believe me, most Canadians know exactly how to break down the question that the member just read and which was part of an Environics poll in January 2003.

I would like to add that not only does that poll break it down, it also breaks it down in terms of region.

Quebeckers support the Canadian gun control program. A survey—the survey conducted in February 2003—showed that 85% support the program. We see that 81% of Bloc supporters polled were also in favour of the program.

I am offended when a member says I tried to mislead Canadians. It is the member and his party who are trying to do that.

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5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to make the point that the questions do not reflect how Canadians feel once they find out the costs are going to $1 billion and they are probably going to $2 billion or $3 billion in the next few years according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Library of Parliament. This thing is out of control.

How much more money should be spent on this system? Will the member continue to support the gun registry if the costs go to $2 billion and $3 billion? It is not gun control. The surveys that are done always portray this as gun control. The gun registry is not gun control. It is a paper pushing exercise that has spun out of control. How much more money will the member be willing to put into the system before the government will say no?

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5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry but the member from the opposite side is incorrect.

As a result of all of the media coverage, Canadians know that the gun control registry will cost $688 million in the words of the Auditor General. The member of the party opposite, the Canadian Alliance, and the media have made front page news of it over and over again. Canadians do know the costs associated with it. Given the opposition day motion today, they also know the additional money the government has said it will require in order to complete the gun registry program. When Canadians were polled, they knew the facts.

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5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

I separate this issue into two issues: gun control and firearm registration, the long gun registry.

On gun control I look upon things such as safe storage, youth education, severe penalties for criminal misuse of firearms and control of military automatic weapons in public hands.

On the long gun registry side of the issue I would like to go back to the original debate in the House. At that time I admitted that because I am a hunter, I am too biased to make an unbiased observation in this debate. What I did in my speech, a very significant speech in my early parliamentary career, is I looked at the international experience in those places that had gone down the long gun registry route. It was a fascinating opportunity for me because the minister of justice was in the House at that time. He crossed the floor following my speech and our interchange was fascinating.

Let me tell the Canadian public what I found in the international experience in those countries that went down the long gun registry process and what I predicted.

The first thing I found was that the cost of the firearm registry would be enormous. That was from Australia and New Zealand, the two countries that were similar to Canada that embarked on this process. The second thing I found was that the level of compliance was surprisingly low. In other words, they could not convince 100% of the folks to comply. The third and most disturbing thing I found was that there was no change in criminal misuse of firearms in those jurisdictions.

I predicted in the House, and the record will show this, that the costs in Canada would be much higher than we were being presented with, that the level of compliance would not be as high as we were being told and finally, that there would be no impact on the criminal misuse of shotguns and rifles. Notice I used the phrase shotguns and rifles because they are long guns.

The conversation I had with the justice minister was fascinating. Because it was a private conversation, I can only give certain portions. The justice minister did say that those were good and intellectually sound arguments. He went on to say that he wanted to tell me why my arguments would not hold water. Without betraying a confidence, he said that the new computer systems were going to make it so simple to register, so easy to go through this process that we would not have the problems with cost and we would not have the problems with compliance. Therefore, he said that we would end up with criminal misuse of firearms being lower in this country.

That conversation ended with a challenge from me. I said to the justice minister that I wanted him to remember the conversation because I predicted that his comments would fail.

I do not believe in saying that I told you so and I will not say I told you so, but the predictions made at that time have come true. Sadly, I wish it were not so.

I want to spend a few minutes on the practical aspects of the registry. Remember I said that I am a hunter. I have firearms. I personally went through the registration process. I did that late in December 2002 for symbolic reasons.

I said to my constituents, “I disagree with the registry, I think it will fail and I am going to wait until the end to register”. I did that. On December 14, 2002 I registered all the firearms, the long guns that I owned.

I did that through a possession only certificate. I cannot buy a new firearm in Canada. I chose to register my disturbance with this legislation by getting a possession only certificate. I have that here in front of me. It has my name and a number on it. It has my birth date, identification issues.

On December 14 I registered all the firearms that I own. I did it on the Internet. I actually did it over three days. There were three separate times that I went to the Internet.

It is now late March and I have received two registration certifications but I have more than two firearms. Here is the most disturbing part about this. Nowhere on these registration certificates is the number that identifies me and connects those firearms to me.

I will go through what the registration certificate states. The gun I own is a bolt action Browning rifle. It has a serial number on it that is accurate because I checked it. The certificate stated that the barrel is 470 millimetres or greater, and that is the only identifier. However the certificate has two other numbers on it. It has a registration certificate number and a firearm identification number. My .22 Browning bolt action rifle, which has been registered with this possession only certificate and a specific number, now has three other numbers connected to it.

I took this certificate to one of the police officers in my community. It is all set so that it goes into my wallet as a separate card. I asked him to tell me, if he found this firearm and I had this registration certificate, how he would identify that it belonged to me. He looked at it and said, “Well Doc, I cannot do that”. Nowhere on this certificate does it say my name. Nothing on this certificate connects it to this possession only certificate. He said that he only had one method and that was to go to the CPIC computer and bang out a number, but he was not sure which number to use, the registration certificate number, the firearm identification number or the serial number. He tried the identification number and that was the one that actually did identify me.

The gun registry is not gun control. This is the issue for me that is the most striking. How many criminals will register their firearms before they commit a crime? What bank robber would go on the Internet and type in “This is Joe Bank Robber Charlie and I have a .45 automatic” , give the serial number and then go rob a bank? There will be no change in the criminal misuse of firearms due to the firearms registry.

What is the Alliance calling for with this motion today? We are calling for a cost benefit analysis of the registry. We are asking that if the government thinks this idea of a registry is valid will it do a cost benefit analysis, because scientifically that is the only way we should proceed. I actually asked the justice minister if he would put a sunset clause in place if this thing fails. I think many legislative ventures should have a sunset clause.

We can go down a road with the best of intentions. I believe my Liberal colleagues, on this issue, have the best of intentions. I do not for one second think that they intended to waste a pile of money. I think they really believe that public safety will be served, and I said that to my colleague across the way. He and I disagree on whether the registry will be effective.

Here is the opportunity for members to vote for this motion, and if there is evidence that its cost benefit is on the positive side, I will shut up. I will never talk about the registry again. However as long as there is no evidence of criminal misuse change, as long as there is no evidence that compliance will be sufficient enough, I will talk about this until I cannot breathe.

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5:35 p.m.

Northumberland
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it was brought forward that the member looked at his certificate, noticed that there was no name on the certificate and he was critical of that point.

The hon. member and his party have always talked about seeking support and consideration from grassroots organizations. I wonder if he would comment on the fact that the reason there is no name on that certificate is that the stakeholder groups did not want their guns to be identified by having their names on the certificates.

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5:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will take that opportunity. Of course the stakeholder groups were not an important part of this consultation because if they had been there would not be such a registry.

However I went to the individual who I thought would be the most useful in looking at the registration certificate. I asked a police officer whether he could identify the firearm with me.

The issue is that I could give this certificate and the firearm to a friend and, having done that, those two things together would get a nod from the officer. The officer said that if he saw those two things together he would be quite satisfied. In fact, the criminal could take this certificate and the firearm and have them together and satisfy 99% of the police officers in this country.

I will repeat again, no criminal misuse change, and if the member can tell me that there is or will be, I will be quiet.