House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firearms.

Topics

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Right, I will slow down.

A single murder investigation costs about a half-million dollars. In addition to that there are the costs of hospitalization, long-term care and imprisonment, which could continue to grow, so we are talking about millions and even billions of dollars, and of course that is not counting another very significant cost, the psychological cost to the families of the victims and the victims themselves.

The Conservatives also want to destroy all of the information accumulated for the long gun registry. Police associations, which query the registry an average of 17,000 times a day, are completely against it, as is my province, Quebec. If the registry were unfortunately to disappear, at least the provinces could use the information, not information from all the provinces, but from their own, to protect the people there, because the federal government seems to be refusing to do it.

The murders at the École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989 that I referred to earlier prompted a lot of people to think about ways to at least try to prevent that kind of tragedy, as much as possible. Out of that came the firearms registry. Do we really want to move backward? Do we want to tell the families of Anastasia De Sousa, Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz—pardon me, Barbara—and all the other victims that their deaths were ultimately for nothing? Do we want to take risks with people’s lives? My answer is clear: no. The way we can really protect lives is by strengthening gun control. In my opinion, even one life is worth it.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, a short time ago in the House, the member for Yukon spoke, and he quoted Robert Service. I am sure the member opposite is familiar with Robert Service, a bard of northern Canada. However, he did not quote from another poem of Robert Service:

When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear.

The reason I quote that is because here is someone who was out in the cold and the dark, and came into the warmth and the light.

I appreciate the hon. member's passion for this subject, but I do not understand how everything that says registration is good, when in reality we are registering licensed gun owners.

As a hunter and a gun owner, if I get stopped for running a red light, the RCMP would put my name through the database. They would get the same results today as they would have gotten prior to the elimination of the registry because I am still a licensed, registered gun owner, so the safety aspect that we talk about is still there. To say it is not is just contrary to logic.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I know that the law is not perfect and that there are ways to change it. Before we can change it, however, we have to keep it. We must not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Suppose there are changes that could be made when it comes to the north, for example. In order to be able to make those changes, we have to have this law on the books. If we vote with the Conservatives and abolish it, there is no way to improve it.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention that one of the names that was not mentioned by my hon. colleague was that of Heidi Rathjen, who was one of the lucky ones who was not killed that terrible night. The hon. member mentioned stories close to her home. Heidi Rathjen was a woman who grew up in my home town. I went to elementary school with her sister Claudia. I know the family very well and I know how that act of violence deeply touched that family in particular.

Ms. Rathjen has been very vocal over the years about the preservation of the gun registry. I am wondering if my hon. colleague could elaborate on the consequences if the registry is scrapped and Ms. Rathjen's fear that gun-related tragedies will increase as a result.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. There are a lot of crimes committed with shotguns, long guns. There is talk of removing these weapons from the firearms registry. Imagine a police officer who responds to a call from a family—a husband and wife—and he has information from the registry. Neither party is a criminal. And yet, if the police officer knows, based on information from the registry, that there are firearms in the house, long guns, he can respond differently and protect the lives of the people in the house as well as his own life.

Moreover, many people have said that having a registry really improved things. For example, I would like to quote Pamela Harrison, provincial coordinator for the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia, an organization that provides emergency services to women who are victims of violence and abuse:

The long-gun registry has made a significant difference in the safety of women in Canada since its inception in 1995. The rate of spousal homicide by gun has gone down 69 per cent and we attribute most of that to the impact of the gun registry.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her very heartfelt presentation and for sharing her direct experience with the need to have a registry to track the illegal use of long guns.

This matter has been reviewed in previous Parliaments and presentations have been put forward by a vast array of people. The Canadian Association of Police Boards, the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, the Ontario Public Health Association, the Medical Officer of Health of Toronto, the Canadian Federation of University Women, and the National Council of Women of Canada all support retaining the gun registry.

I am told that the officers were able to locate and try to convict the two people involved in the Mayerthorpe, Alberta killing of the RCMP officers because of the gun registry. That is only one of many examples given to me by the police and the police chief in the city I come from. I am told that yes, there is a handful of police officers who have private collections and do not like having to register, but generally speaking, the police of Canada support the use of this tool.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is quite accurate.

Moreover, in Canada, only three police chiefs disapprove of the registry. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is totally in favour of the registry and does not want to see it scrapped. So what my colleague said, and what my other colleagues also intimated, is exactly what we just heard: police officers are against the abolition of the long gun registry. That says a great deal.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech that was given by my colleague across the way. These stories are very heart wrenching and our hearts go out to the victims of these tragedies. To link the registry with these, however, is disingenuous. Experts who examined what happened at École Polytechnique admitted that the registry probably would have had no effect on what happened. The member cited the Dawson College tragedy. In fact, the gun was registered.

It does not make any difference to have a registry. It would be much better to take the billions of dollars that were spent and target the root causes of these things and try to find these individuals in society and deal with them. We will not solve these types of problems with a gun registry.

I wonder if the member has any comments about that.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that having a registry will not completely wipe out crime. I am very aware of that.

Moreover, the crimes were committed with weapons that were registered. I know that. However, do we really know how many crimes were prevented as a result of the registry? We know which crimes were committed with registered firearms, but what we do not know is how many were prevented as a result of the firearms being registered.

I am now going to read out another quote. Sue O'Sullivan, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime stated that the majority of groups representing victims want to keep the registry. That is also telling. She said:

Our position on this matter is clear—Canada must do all it can to prevent further tragedies from happening, including using the tools we have to help keep communities safe, like the long-gun registry.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Fundy Royal.

I congratulate the Minister of Public Safety, the member of Parliament for Provencher, for bringing forward Bill C-19. This is an incredible day. Finally, there is a government bill before the House for debate. After all the long years that I have been advocating against the long gun registry, finally we have this opportunity not only to debate the bill, but to vote on it and successfully remove the long gun registry.

I also want to thank the member for Portage—Lisgar, who is also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, for all the work she has done on the gun registry and for bringing forward Bill C-391 in the last Parliament which we had hoped to get through the House until it ripped my heart out to see it defeated by one vote. However, I know that she has continued to fight for the removal of this wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. She has travelled across the country to hear from Canadians from coast to coast to coast about the horrors of having to deal with such a bureaucratic process, one that made criminals out of law-abiding citizens.

Finally, I have to thank my friend, the member for Yorkton—Melville, for all of the work he has done right back to 1993-94 when this registry was first floated by Allan Rock, the minister at that time, and the Liberal government. The member for Yorkton--Melville has been one of the stalwarts. He has fought against this ineffective and wasteful use of taxpayer money and has ensured that we do the right things in fighting crime rather than penalize citizens who happen to own long guns, whether they are farmers, hunters, or sportsmen.

I was fighting Bill C-68 going back to 1995. The Senate committee was travelling across the country taking testimony on Bill C-68. I appeared before that committee when it was in Manitoba, in Interlake in my riding.

People in my riding of Selkirk—Interlake have long opposed this gun registry. It created a huge stir. There were public protests. Organizations were set up. I joined the Manitoba Firearms Coalition. People wanted to fight this huge impediment to their freedoms and their rights as citizens. Unfortunately, Bill C-68 has pitted rural Canadians against urban Canadians.

Maybe it is not fair for me to say that urban Canadians all support the gun registry, because there are plenty of hunters and sports enthusiasts who live in urban centres who also oppose this long gun registry. Over the last few years as we have been out campaigning, we have been hearing from Canadians in urban centres. They know it is not working. They know the registry has not reduced crime. They have seen gun violence and gang violence in the streets rise. They know the registry is a waste of money. They want more resources put into policing services. They want more money put into gang prevention. They want more money put into youth at risk. They know those will be the right investments, rather than wasting money on a bureaucracy, on a registry that has no impact whatsoever in reducing crime in this country.

I am a licensed firearms owner. I acquired a PAL, a possession and acquisition licence. I took my hunter safety course in 1976 when I was about 14 years old. The hunter safety course is what actually prepared me to get my PAL. I am a licensed firearms owner; however, I have never registered a firearm. I do have a firearm, but it is not registered. I have made that statement before in the House because, as a matter of civil disobedience, I have always said this is a wrong thing. That firearm does not have any impact on the safety of people. It is the people who handle the firearm that are the issue.

If we want to look at reducing crime or reducing accidents that happen from handling firearms, we need to do more in the areas of safe storage, safe handling, in training the people who are going to be using firearms. That is where we would get the biggest bang for our buck.

We know from the statistics that since the late 1980s we have seen a reduction in accidental shootings. We have seen a reduction in misfired guns. We have seen a reduction in suicides that have been caused from long guns.

We have seen reductions in those events because people are practising safe storage. Those firearms are under lock and key. Ammunition is stored separately under lock and key. It is more difficult for children to access those firearms. It allows time for cooling off in instances of heated debates between friends or family members. It allows people to think about what they are doing as they are reaching for a firearm they may want to use in an illegal way.

Much misinformation has been propagated by opposition members and we really need to set things straight. They talk about policing services accessing the gun registry thousands of times a day. They are not actually accessing the registry. They may be checking an address or licence plate and that automatically goes into the firearms registry. If they are looking at a serial number of a gun, it accesses the licensed firearm owner. That is not going to change. There still will be a complete list of everyone who has a licence to possess a firearm in this country. That will not change. We know that police officers on the front line can still enter an address or licence plate number into a computer and they will be told whether an individual is a licensed firearms owner.

Police officers will have to deal with every individual as if he or she owned a firearm. We do not want to give them a false sense of security. They have to assume in every situation they go into that there are firearms present. We know that criminals do not register firearms. We know that criminals do not get licences under the current legislation. Criminals do not have possession and acquisition licences for firearms. We know that to be a fact. In every situation for their own self-interests, police officers have to enter a premise or approach a vehicle as if the individual had a gun.

There is all this talk about homicide rates dropping because of the gun registry. We know that homicide rates have been on the decline since the early 1970s. Since the registry came into being in Canada, the rate has stabilized at just under 1.9 murders per 100,000 people. There will not be a huge impact, because homicides have been stable on a percentage basis for the last dozen years or so since the registry has been in place.

If we look at the population of licensed firearm owners, the murder rate is only .38 per 100,000 owners of firearms. These are the most law-abiding citizens in the country. These are individuals who have gone out of their way to become licensed firearms owners and to get the training they need to own firearms. They are the ones who respect the laws of the land. Why are we targeting these individuals when there are so many other people who are involved in gangs, drugs and illicit crimes? Those are the individuals we need to invest in finding, tracking and getting off our streets to make our neighbourhoods safer.

Professor Gary Mauser has said that of all the murders that have been committed since 1997, less than 2% of them have been committed by licensed firearm owners and the guns that were registered to those individuals only represented 1.2% of homicides. The question then becomes, was that a good use of taxpayer dollars? Over $2 billion was spent to track 1.25% of those who committed homicides in this country and owned long guns. That is ridiculous.

In Vancouver in 2003, of all the guns that were taken off the street, 97% of them were illegal handguns that were smuggled in. We have to start looking at the big issue. Let us quit focusing on one group in society that we, unfortunately, made into criminals because they did not register their firearms. Half the guns on the streets today are still not registered. Let us do the right thing and get rid of the long gun registry and invest in front-line policing.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member opposite the same kind of question I posed earlier. Since he freely admitted his guns are not registered, should his residence be broken into and it happens that a police officer discovers the break-in and chases after the criminals but has no idea that there are guns on the premise and is subsequently killed, what will he say to the family of that police officer?

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, police officers enter every premise under the suspicion that there is a firearm present. They have to. Otherwise they would be taking unnecessary risks. They do not go in all guns ablazing, but at the same time they go in there in a defensive mode.

I have met with policing agencies. I had them come to my office when we were debating Bill C-391. I have talked to officers in my riding and they tell me time and time again that at the front line level they have to approach every situation as if that individual has a firearm whether it shows up in the computer database or not.

At the same time, we will make the investments to ensure, and we have already done this since we formed government in 2006, we make things better to help our police officers. We are working on the tackling violent crimes act. We are working on tackling auto theft and trafficking of property obtained by crime, ensuring we are getting that off the streets. We are creating a new offence of drive-by and reckless shootings. We are also standing united, without hesitation, on why the long gun registry should be scrapped for law-abiding citizens. We are going to put in place laws that help police officers get criminals off our streets and we are not going to make criminals of law-abiding citizens.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to continue a line of questioning that I have put to other members. Municipal jurisdictions always want to co-operate, as much as possible, and build relationships with Ottawa. However, in this case the province of Quebec has told the federal government that it sees value in retaining a gun registry for the province of Quebec.

By Ottawa saying no, that it cannot have access to that data bank, would the member then agree that Quebec is now going to have to re-establish its own data bank, thereby spending a lot more money than it would have had to as opposed to just getting a copy of the data bank from Ottawa? The biggest loser is likely to be the taxpayer.

Would the member agree with that assessment?

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Winnipeg North for stating the obvious. Every province has under the Constitution the right to register property. That is why cars are registered provincially. That is why land titles are held provincially. If the province of Quebec wants to register firearms, it can do that. That is within its constitutional jurisdiction.

However, the registry that was started and created by the Liberals, their legacy which we are going to destroy and which I am quite proud of, is a federal registry. This is an opportunity for us to respect the private rights of individuals and to destroy that information so it never gets out in the public again.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Selkirk—Interlake for all of the work he has done and the members of our party who have for many years tried to work with the police community and with victims to bring about what we believe is a more fair and just system.

I know that he, like many members of the party and many members involved in this debate, have spoken to front-line police officers and police chiefs. There is a bit of a misnomer that somehow the police have been crying for the continuation of this registry and that simply is not the case. I have spoken to people like Sergeant Duane Rutledge and Chief Chisholm in my home community of New Glasgow and they tell me that they approach every call, particularly where there may be violence, as if there will be a weapon involved. There is this idea that the registry is necessary, that it will provide fair warning, but police officers already approach every call as if there may be impending danger.

Could the member comment on that scenario?