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 registry.

Topics

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I understand the member for Windsor—Tecumseh has the usual Thursday question.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

October 27th, 2011 / 3 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to ask the Thursday question. However, I am less pleased to see the government once again showing its undemocratic tendency by using the Standing Orders to restrict debate here in the House.

Mr. Speaker, the rules are here to guide all of us. They have to be used judiciously and that is not what is happening.

This will be the fifth time in 38 sitting days that a time allocation motion has been imposed. That is coming close to setting the same record that the Liberals set, which was heavily criticized by the current Prime Minister when he was sitting on this side of the House. The Conservatives are well ahead of the record that was set by the Liberals back in 2002. They will match it over the next few weeks at the rate they are going.

Perhaps the government House leader could tell the House exactly what formula he is using to determine what is enough debate, because we heard that from him and the Minister of Public Safety yesterday and again this morning.

We have had extreme limitations imposed on the ability to start the debate on this side of the House before it is cut off by a time allocation motion from the government. I could go through those, but I will not use up the time today.

We did not even have the opportunity to commence debate on the bill that is before the House today. Before our justice and public safety critic could stand on his feet, the government moved a time allocation motion. That is the kind of abuse we are seeing. We have not had a lot of debate on the bill, which has new provisions with regard to destroying records. We had two hours of debate on the long gun registry in the last Parliament, but it was a different bill because those provisions were not in it.

I ask the government House leader, how soon will he be moving a motion for time allocation on Bill C-20, which was tabled today? How much time will we be given? We on this side of the House want to know what the government considers a reasonable amount of time for debate. Perhaps I should put it this way: how little debate does the government think is reasonable before it slams the door shut and does not allow us meaningful democratic debate in this country?

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the issues we have been discussing in the House of Commons through this fall, for which we have brought in time allocation motions to clarify how long the debate will last, are issues that have been discussed at length over the past five or six years. They are issues that have been debated at length in elections. They are issues we have made commitments to Canadians on in the last election. Canadians responded to those commitments by giving us a majority and asking us to deliver on those commitments. Those issues have been debated in the public forum, the most extensive and important forum possible, where Canadians pass judgment and ask us to deliver on our commitments. The government is doing what it said it would do and will continue to do that.

My approach with regard to time allocation is to move a motion as early as possible so that everyone is clear how much time will be available for debate. It is not to bring a motion at the very last hour to suddenly end debate. Rather, it is to allow people to plan for the debate.

When people at home are listening, they think that the concept of four days of debate is a lot of time, as in the case we are dealing with. In their workplace most people do not debate an issue for four days before they decide what to do. They debate it and they make a decision. In this case, there is enough time to make a very clear decision on an important question.

With regard to our agenda, next week will be democratic reform week in the House. We will focus on measures aimed at integrity and accountability, which the Conservatives committed to during the last election. The cornerstone bill will be the fair representation act, which was introduced earlier today. This important bill fulfills our government's long-standing commitment to move closer to representation by population in the House of Commons. It is a principle as old as the country, and at the core of the original drafting of our country's founding documents by Sir John A. Macdonald.

With that in mind, I have scheduled debate for this bill to begin next Wednesday and to continue on Thursday, after the opposition caucuses have had a chance to consider the bill. I trust that all parties will see that this is a good bill, and that they will support it. I look forward to this debate.

I am also looking forward to the introduction of other legislation on democratic reform next week, and perhaps some other measures. I hope that there will even be time to continue debate on the Senate reform bill at some point next week.

Before we get to Wednesday, we will continue to debate the ending the long gun registry bill this afternoon and tomorrow. The fourth day of debate will occur on Tuesday.

Key to integrity and accountability is the principle that a government should keep its commitments by repealing the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. We are doing what we said we would do. We are keeping our commitments to Canadians.

Finally, next Monday will be the fourth allotted day.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the government House leader did not answer my question as to when he will move a motion for time allocation.

Can I conclude from what the government House leader said that we will only get one day of debate on the seat redistribution bill? That sounds like that is what he will do, move to the reform of the Senate bill after one day of debate on the seat redistribution bill. I would ask him to confirm that.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to confirm that is not the case. I apologize if I was not clear. I said in French that we will be debating the seat redistribution bill on Wednesday and we have also planned to debate it on Thursday of next week.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh has 11 minutes left.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I was in the midst of my address to the House before we broke for question period, I was discussing the costs of the ongoing operation of the gun registry and saying that after all the years I have spent on this file and all of the information we have received, I was quite prepared to rely on the credibility of the RCMP and the figure its officials gave us, which was $4 million for the ongoing cost of the operation of the long gun registry. The handgun registry, the prohibited weapons registry and the licensing are of course additional costs above and beyond that, but that was the figure the RCMP gave us, and I accepted that figure.

While I am talking about the RCMP, I want to raise another issue: the effectiveness of the long gun registry. Quite frankly, I was disturbed today when I was listening to members from the government side claiming that it was totally ineffective, in particular the member who said that he was a former RCMP officer and that he believed the same thing.

That brought back to my mind the use of the long gun registry in the Mayerthorpe incident, an incident that stands as a historical tragedy in this country. We had not lost four RCMP officers in one event at any time in our history. While conducting military operations in the 1800s, the RCMP lost more officers in one battle, but this was the first time in the history of the country in over 140 years that we had four RCMP officers murdered in one event.

The perpetrator of that crime killed himself in the same incident, but we knew that he could not have committed the crime without assistance from at least one other person and perhaps more. It took the better part of a year and a half before officers were able to identify those two other men who had assisted him. They broke that case. The investigation was finally successful because they were able to use the long gun registry and were able to identify the owners of one of the guns used in those murders.

There is no recognition on the part of the government and the Conservative members of that fact. That is one example of our police forces across the country using the long gun registry in an investigation to identify culprits, bring them to trial, and ultimately achieve convictions and sentences.

Conservatives refuse to acknowledge that, and that is a scandal if one believes, as I do, in the important role that the RCMP has played historically in our country and the crucial role that our police officers play in protecting us.

That is what this registry is about. It is about protecting our police officers. It is about protecting our society as a whole. Is it perfect? Believe me, I know the failures of the system, but it is a tool that can be used and is used repeatedly by our police officers.

Conservatives stand in the House on a regular basis and accuse members of the opposition of making up facts and creating an atmosphere that is totally away from reality, but the reality is that the vast majority of police officers in this country support the use of the gun registry once they are trained in using it.

In the last round, when we were fighting the private member's bill on the same topic, out of hundreds of police chiefs, only three could be identified by the Conservative Party and their cohorts as being opposed to the registry. All the other police chiefs in this country were in favour of keeping it, because they knew--not believed, but knew--that it protected their officers.

Is it perfect? No, it is not perfect. Would it prevent every single police officer from facing a gun attack? No, it would not; it would be absolutely naive to think so. However, that is the standard that the Conservatives have set: if it does not work every single time, then we should get rid of it.

If it saves 10% of the lives of police officers, it is worth keeping. If it saves one life, is it not worth keeping? Is $4 million a year not worth spending, if we save one police officer's life? It is my absolute belief that it saves a lot more lives than that.

When the Conservatives stand up in the House and when they go across the country to talk to people, they never talk about Mayerthorpe--never. They refuse to talk about police chiefs, other than every so often, as we saw with some of the proponents of the private members' bills, denigrating our police chiefs and accusing them of conflict of interest. Such accusations are imaginary at best and perhaps paranoid at worst. They are grossly unfair to the role our police chiefs play in protecting our society and protecting their own officers. Quite frankly, those accusations made against our police chiefs were shameful.

With regard to the cost of dismantling the registry, I want to repeat that the Conservatives do not have any idea of what it would cost to dismantle it.

When we look at the reality, we see that the Province of Quebec has now come forward to say very clearly that it will take it on. If the federal government will not take on the responsibility it has to protect members of society in Quebec, the Province of Quebec has said that it will do it. The Province of Ontario is giving serious consideration to doing the same thing. I believe that in B.C. our party, the NDP, is thinking the same thing. After the next election we hope the NDP will be in government and will take on the responsibility if the bill passes.

If that happens in all three cases in those three provinces, it would represent more than 75% of the population of this country. The governments representing them are saying they want to keep the registry. They know it works. They know it protects their citizens.

I want to touch on facts, not emotion. In the period of time the registry has been in place, these are facts: there was a 30% reduction in domestic violence involving long guns, roughly a 10% to 15% reduction in suicides by long guns, and a more than 10% reduction in the number of accidents from long guns, whose victims were mostly children under the age of 14.

That is why the medical associations have come out so strongly in favour of supporting the registry: it is because they saw that guns owned by people who should never have owned a gun were being taken out of circulation over the years. These people were not the regular hunters or farmers who use them responsibly, but people who did not handle them properly, did not store them properly or did not transport them properly. I suppose only the divine knows why they bought the guns in the first place. When we heard of the accident, the suicide or the violent crime, very many of those times it involved a gun that had not been properly stored or taken care of by someone who should never have owned a gun.

I have great sympathy for the argument the Conservatives make with regard to responsible actions by long gun owners. The vast majority of them are law-abiding citizens, as they say so often. When I talk to them, a majority say that they understand why the registry is here. They say it is because of those other people, the people who did not handle guns properly and put this country in a mess.

At the end of the day, if we are serious about performing our fundamental responsibility as members of Parliament to protect our citizens, this bill should be voted down.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Windsor—Tecumseh for his comments, but I am shocked and dismayed that he would cite Mayerthorpe as an example of the success of the long gun registry. He challenged members on this side of the House to talk about Mayerthorpe, and I am going to talk about it.

Mayerthorpe is an example of the failure of the long gun registry, because four brave Mounties died that day and the long gun registry did nothing to protect them. In testimony to the public safety committee when the private member's bill from the member for Portage—Lisgar was before the committee, police officers admitted to me that because the long gun registry is so inherently inaccurate, they cannot rely on it when they go into a situation, and it is inaccurate because criminals such as Mr. Roszko do not register their guns.

How can the member stand up and cite Mayerthorpe as a success of the long gun registry when four brave Mounties died that day?

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is pointing to selective evidence in that committee. When I questioned the people who came before it and gave that kind of evidence--not with regard to Mayerthorpe, which I will come to in a minute, but with regard to its not being effective--repeatedly it was quite clear that they never used the system.

I remember one officer from a community in the west that I will not identify. I was shocked at the police officer's ignorance of the system. He did not have any idea of what the system was like. He had not used it in 10 years. A bunch of training has been done by the RCMP over the last two to three years, and as police officers were trained on how to use the system properly, it was being used much more. Every time the trainers went into a city to do the training, police officers would take the training and the usage of the registry would go up dramatically and effectively.

Coming back to Mayerthorpe, the reality is that we would never have caught those two associates had it not been for the long gun registry. It is true. The investigators were completely stymied until they were able, through the registry, to identify the owner of one of those guns. The two people who were then subsequently accused of aiding and abetting in those murders were primarily convicted because of it. That is the reality.

I have one final point. The police knew Roszko had guns. Had they been enforcing that, the crime might never have happened.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, when the hearings were being held, I made it a point to get to as many as I could in order to to take in the information first-hand. It escapes me how, through the course of those hearings, anybody could say there was no value in the registry or no point in maintaining it, because witness after witness indicated how it does provide a great deal of pertinent information in many cases.

The Conservatives continue to hide behind statements like “This won't solve gangland killings”. It was never purported to solve that kind of crime, but there are so many other areas. Given the domestic violence and suicides in this country, I am at a loss as to why the Conservatives want to take this useful bank of reference information and cast it aside. I know my colleague sat in on many of those discussions. Would he share that same opinion? I am just at a loss as to why they would want to flush this information that has been compiled.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the east coast is absolutely right. There is no logical, reasonable explanation whatsoever as to why we would get rid of all this data.

From a purely partisan standpoint, I understand their fear, because they know very well that after the next federal election, the likelihood is that they are not going to be on that side of the House and we are. If the database still existed at that point, it would be a lot easier to reinstate it, so that as a government, the NDP could provide a sense of security and guarantee, as much as it could, that it would do the utmost to protect our citizens from violent crimes. The only rational reason they would want to get rid of it would be that they are afraid of the outcome of the next federal election.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I stand today, as a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to remind the member that the Conservative Party has 11 members who were former members of police forces across the country, many of whom attended the funeral in Mayerthorpe in full uniform.

Could the member please tell us, because he did not answer the question the last time it was asked, how the registry would have prevented that occurrence in Mayerthorpe? We would point out that that incident started from a grow operation. I do not understand why the NDP is voting against important crime legislation that would reduce grow operations in this country and deal with harsher crimes, such as sexual assault and a host of other crimes that Mr. Roscoe committed before that event occurred. That is a true crime prevention strategy. I would like the member to please answer how the registry would prevent that occurrence.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a question of enforcement of the registry. The police forces in that area knew that Roszko had weapons and that he was not supposed to have weapons. One of the weapons that was found and used to ultimately convict the two members who aided and abetted him had a registered weapon. They found it at the site and were ultimately able to track him. That was on the investigative side.

The reality is that had they charged Roszko for breaching the long gun registry, they could have convicted him of that because they had very clear evidence that he had weapons. That may very well have prevented the incident from ever happening.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question to ask the hon. member since I have just received a message from someone who is watching us live. He is asking if the government's contradictions can be publicized. He is saying that the government is spending billions of dollars on the army, war efforts and border closures. He says that the government wants to lock up offenders and spend money on prisons but it will not allow us, the people who have invested over a billion dollars in setting up the firearms registry, to take that data and manage it ourselves in Quebec.

What does the hon. member think about that?