House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was registry.

Topics

The House resumed from October 27 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

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine has nine minutes to finish his speech.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief. I want to remind members of what I said yesterday about the bill before us, because the members who are here today may not have heard.

The gun registry protects women, cultural communities, gays and the disadvantaged in Canada. I cannot believe that the government actually wants to abolish it.

I would like to remind members why we have the gun registry. What motivated Quebeckers and Canadians to create this registry? Members will recall that on December 6, 1989, 14 women were killed at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. I was there when it happened. I remember the vigil. I remember people's faces that night. They could not believe that 14 women were dead because a man felt emasculated. That is absolutely unbelievable.

I remember the faces of my colleagues that night. The shock, sadness and anger were obvious. I remember my many colleagues, the Montrealers who gathered at the École Polytechnique, the women who went to the Université de Montréal, the vigil where everyone was asking the same questions. Why? What happened? Did we understand correctly? Did Marc Lépine feel so emasculated that he had to kill 14 women?

Marc Lépine left a note that night. He wrote:

Know that I am committing suicide today 89/12/06 not for economic reasons...but rather for political reasons. I have decided to send feminists, who have done nothing but ruin my life, to their Maker—to the kingdom of the dead.

That event led to the creation of the registry we have today. We remember that before the registry was created, there was another massacre in Montreal. Valery Fabrikant killed four of his colleagues at Concordia University. I was there at that time as well. He killed four of his colleagues. Now they are dead. I want to repeat their names: department head Phoivos Ziogas; professors Matthew Douglas and Jaan Saber; and president of the teachers' union at Concordia University, Michael Hogben.

Mr. Fabrikant killed them because he felt he was not getting enough support from his colleagues. If the registry had been in place at that point, I have no doubt that those four people might be alive today. For weeks, Mr. Fabrikant had walked the halls of Concordia, perhaps with a rifle, and people suspected he was dangerous man. If police had had access to a gun registry that identified him as the owner of a firearm, I doubt that those people would be dead today.

The registry has its place. The government is removing the requirement to register non-restricted firearms. It is also fearmongering. It is clashing with a large part of the public and also with the police, who are responsible for ensuring public safety. This government brags about wanting to make people safe and sending criminals to jail, yet they are depriving law enforcement authorities of a valuable tool.

Last week, the head of the Montreal police oficers' association, the Fraternité des policiers et policières, told us that of the 14 police officers killed recently, 12 were killed by long guns. The gun registry is useful. As of September 30, 2011, the Canadian gun registry was being used more than 17,000 times a day. In my riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, police have said that they use the registry every day. Officers in the Sûreté du Québec consult the registry every time they respond to a situation such as death threats, assault, abuse and suicide attempts.

We will never be able to know the number of lives saved in the Gaspé because Sûreté du Québec or RCMP officers changed their method of intervention after consulting the registry. The Conservatives do not have a column for those figures.

What will Conservative members say to youth protection workers, paramedics and nurses? Will they apologize for putting their lives in danger as well? Likely not, since the government is dismissing their concerns like it is dismissing the opinions of victims groups, most of which continue to support the maintenance of the long gun registry. The government is adding insult to injury by destroying existing long gun registry records. This government, which was elected to represent all Canadians, is gambling with the safety of the public for partisan reasons.

As the official opposition, we have suggested other possibilities to the government. We made suggestions that would have allowed the Prime Minister and the members of his party to reach a compromise. We too want to respond to the concerns of aboriginal and rural communities, but we also want to ensure that the police have the tools they need to keep our communities safe.

In 2010, the NDP made several suggestions to alleviate the problems with the registry. Mr. Layton, who recently passed away, wanted to build bridges between urban and rural populations. He proposed decriminalizing the failure to register a firearm for first-time offenders. Previous versions of the bill allowed businesses to keep an inventory of the sale of long guns. This bill does not contain any such provisions. The government is rejecting these proposals; it prefers to pit urban Canada against rural Canada. Yet, stopping violence is a priority for both rural and urban Canadians. There is no good reason to explain the government's inflexibility.

A study by the National Institute of Public Health estimates that, in Quebec, over 2,000 lives have been saved since the implementation of the long gun registry. Furthermore, an average of one in three women who die at the hands of their husbands are shot. Most of these victims are killed with a legal shotgun or hunting rifle.

Why does the government want to reduce firearm tracking mechanisms on top of eliminating the registry? This bill also does not include any measures to ensure that firearms are transferred only to valid permit holders. The bill does not make any sense in any respect and goes against the values and requests of Canadians.

I call upon the Conservative members to regain their common sense and reverse their decision. Our future depends on it.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, not surprisingly, just contradicted himself. He was trying to convince us that registering firearms would keep people from using them in violent crimes. He just said that many women were shot by their husbands with registered firearms. On the one hand, he is saying that the gun registry will stop this; on the other hand, he is saying that crimes are committed with registered firearms. Which is it? There is no evidence that registering a firearm will stop someone from committing a crime with it.

To have two positions on the same issue is quite confusing and that is probably why the NDP's continued support of this firearm registry is confusing because it does not have a particular position that is logical.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
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10:10 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the rate of murders in situations of conjugal violence since the registry has been put in place has dropped by 50%. Innumerable lives have been saved with the registry. The fact that there continues to be violence in conjugal situations is unfortunate and I do not think we can claim that we will ever put a complete stop to it.

However, the registry has proven to be effective. It has reduced the number of murders in this country. We are pleased to see that the registry is used by police in order to defend women in situations where they are likely to be victims. I do not see any contradiction in thinking that $4 million a year to save even one life is worth it.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his famous dissertation on war, Sun Tzu said that the most important aspect of any military campaign is information. I believe he said that not to destroy the enemy, but rather to spare the enemy as much as possible and have a decisive victory. Clearly, the firearms registry is a crucial source of information for police officers, to protect not only their own lives, but also the lives of those close to any firearm owners who may be in crisis, and the lives of troubled firearm owners themselves.

After listening carefully to my esteemed colleague, I wonder if he could explain why the Conservative government wants to deprive our police officers of such an important information tool, one that could save many lives and prevent injuries?

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments. They are very much appreciated.

I am having a really hard time understanding why the Conservatives refuse to take the viewpoint of police officers from across Canada into account. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and associations like the Montreal Police Brotherhood have told us over and over again that the registry is very useful and that it saves lives, including their own. They are the ones in danger on the front lines. They are there to protect us, and the Conservatives are telling them that their lives are not important enough to give them all the tools available to protect themselves. They are there to help the public in situations of domestic violence, as pointed out by my colleague across the floor, to help women who are in danger. Police officers have told us many times that the firearms registry is relevant and that it is worth keeping it at a cost of $4 million a year.

I have a question for the Conservatives: how much is one life worth?

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the previous question by the hon. member opposite. He was wondering why we should have a firearms registry if it does not prevent certain crimes. However, during the debate on Bill C-10, the government used the opposite argument, saying that minimum sentences would help victims by preventing and deterring criminals from committing crimes.

I would like to know how the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine sees this contradiction between the arguments the Conservatives seem determined to make about Bill C-10 and those it is currently making about the firearms registry.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
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10:15 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his comments. The contradiction is quite clear. They want to save $4 million a year by scrapping the firearms registry, but they are going to spend an undetermined, exorbitant amount of money on opening new prisons across Canada. I understand this might create some jobs. I am happy for the guards. I used to be a teacher and I taught some of them; I tip my hat to them. However, why does the government want to build more prisons? In the meantime, it does not want to use the existing tools to save the lives of Canadians. Honestly, I do not understand this.

We have adequate tools. We do not need to burden the Criminal Code with new legislation that will impose harsher sentences on people who commit crimes. I do not see how a harsher sentence is going to save the life of woman who is already dead. However, with the firearms registry, we can prevent that woman from being killed and prevent a trial. We can ensure that, in the case of a man who might fire a gun without thinking, the police will be there to intervene in a situation that would otherwise be, most unfortunately, fatal.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will discuss another aspect of police work and demonstrate how useful the registry can be. When there is a hit and run accident involving a pedestrian or cyclist, we know very well that the information contained in the motor vehicle registry is a tremendous help to police in their investigation. A parallel can be drawn with the firearms registry. I imagine that the police use the registry as an additional investigative tool, an unlimited source of information, to piece together what happened and prove that the weapon in question is the one used in the crime. Of course, I am not familiar with all aspects of police work, but I imagine that the registry is very useful in their investigation and that it also helps protect officers' lives.

Should we not be providing tools for our police and not taking them away?

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my dear colleague for his comments. We must keep and even improve all tools available to the police. Our firearms registry has proven its worth. It could be improved. We are listening to what our police officers and all stakeholders have to say in order to improve the tools available.

This bill affects the most disadvantaged people, who feel attacked and targeted. We must take that into consideration. If we scrap the firearms registry, we will be endangering the lives of countless Canadians. That is unacceptable. Police officers are aware of this. They have told us many times that the registry must be kept in place. We want to save Canadians' lives. Scrapping the firearms registry will have the opposite effect. It will put the lives of people at risk, especially women, but also gay people and members of cultural communities. Almost all these people are wondering what is happening. We will pay a high price for the $4 million a year in savings.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Cariboo—Prince George.

It is with considerable respect for the people of my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke that I rise today to speak in support of this legislation that will finally scrap the long gun registry. Of all of the issues I am called upon to stand up for with regard to the people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke no issue produces a more emotional reaction from constituents than the Liberal long gun registry. I am pleased to acknowledge the many farmers and hunters who have stood by my side on this issue. We never doubted that one day we would be successful. This legislation is their victory.

The issue has been a long road for me since I sat down for the first time at the Buckhorn restaurant in Calabogie and had all of the faults of Bill C-68, which is now referred to as the Liberal long gun registry, clearly explained to me in detail. For those members who have been on the front lines opposing the long gun registry in Parliament, our leader has always been the member for Yorkton—Melville in Saskatchewan, who is helped by his very capable assistant Dennis Young.

In 2003, the member for Yorkton—Melville shared the stage with me at a meeting held at the Renfrew Armouries where over 900 farmers and hunters came to show their support for our efforts to scrap the long gun registry. Some say that the meeting was so hot that the heat spilled over to the outside when a vehicle spontaneously burst into flames in the parking lot. All Canadians owe him a great debt of gratitude. On our behalf, we thank the member. The end to this odious registry is almost near and in no small part due to his efforts.

In my home riding I have been assisted in the fight for freedom and the right to own private property by people such as Donald Broome of Cobden, who has been one of the most articulate opponents of the Liberal long gun registry in my riding. Mr. Broome early on identified the highly undemocratic deficiencies of Bill C-68 that raised the ire of all reasonable Canadians. His treatise The Nation of Sheeple, listed for publication the 11 violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms inherent in Bill C-68, such as the constitutional rights pertaining to unreasonable search and seizure, self-incrimination and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Like Mr. Broome, people in my riding recognized that the opposition to Bill C-68 was about more than just the long gun registry. I sincerely thank Mr. Ron Wilson from Westmeath. Like Donald Broome, Ron Wilson's thoughtful analysis of the faults of the Liberal long gun registry was powerful ammunition to use against our detractors. Ron opposed misinformation from our opponents with facts so he never lost an argument.

I thank all of the members of the Pembroke Outdoor Sportsman's Club as well as all sportsmen in clubs across Renfrew County for their unwaivering support. Their trust was well placed. Over the years many more would enlist in the fight to get rid of the Liberals and their long gun registry.

I also thank international champion marksman Scott Murray from Arnprior; Frank Green from Combermere; Al Groves and the recently deceased Carmen Greer from Beachburg; Larry Gaffney, who has also passed away, from Deep River; Calvin McLaughlin from Haley Station; Ray Brisebois from Chalk River; Ken O'day and our dearly departed Harry Haley from Eganville; Norm Lentz from Palmer Rapids; Ian Fidler from Petawawa; Stan Pecoskie and all of the members of the Renfrew County Private Landowners Association; Graham Faught, who we know as Fuzzy, from Pembroke; Phil Conway from Barry's Bay; the folks who run the Eganville gun show; Kellard Witt from Alice and Fraser; and Garnet Kranz from Killaloe. I hope Garnet does not think his number is going to be deleted from my speed dial because we still have much to do. I could go on and on.

On a very cold winter night, word went out that the Liberal long gun registry minister was making a visit to support a provincial candidate from my riding and from his party. A few phone calls later and in short order a welcoming committee of sportsmen was assembled outside the hall the minister was attending. They intended to make sure he got the message that they wanted the long gun registry scrapped.

For days afterwards I received calls from across eastern Ontario from disappointed hunters who would like to have joined the protest.

Sentiments against the Liberal long gun registry spread across rural Ontario. I can state without a doubt that the crescendo of the first campaign in which I was elected as the MP for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke was that night at an all candidates meeting at the Pembroke Outdoor Sportsman's Club. My opponent, who was the local representative for the Liberal long gun registry, told the packed crowd that had jammed into the meeting that the long gun registry would remain in effect so they had better get a life.

Everyone in the room that night and, as it would turn out, the majority of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke voters resolved to give the Liberal long gun registry and all its supporters a taste of defeat.

In a later election, on that very same stage when one of our country's finest veterans, George Tompkins, asked a question about the gun registry, the Liberal candidate told him he should move to Texas.

In a riding that had not voted Conservative in almost 70 years through the Diefenbaker and Mulroney sweeps, a beachhead of freedom, as it was characterized at the time, was established in Ontario in Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.

Along with my colleague in the riding of Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, we represented a grassroots movement for private property rights that is now represented across the province and in the legislature of Ontario.

I am proud to confirm that the landowners' movement started in Renfrew county and spread across the province. Who knew of the role that would be played by a group of hunters and farmers, the rural people who built this country, who were fed up with big government telling them what they could and could not do or the pivotal role they would have in restoring the true representative democracy of the people of Canada?

We were told we were wasting our time and that the Liberal long gun registry would never be eliminated. Opposition candidates in the five federal elections in which I contested continually attacked my support for the people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke who wanted to see the Liberal long gun registry scrapped. They never wavered in their opposition to the registry and I never wavered in my support for them.

That brings us to today. The long gun registry has to go. When it does I will be celebrating with my constituents. The time has come for us to get on with it.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, something keeps happening over and over and over again. Until now, the debates in the House have been polarized. Of course there are irritants. After speaking with hunters, collectors and the people in our ridings, we on this side of the House realize that there are irritants in the gun registry.

The NDP's position has always been to find a compromise between the views of the Conservatives—and others who oppose the registry for understandable reasons that could well be debated—and the views of those who wish to keep the registry. In particular, I am thinking about the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

I wonder why we cannot find a way to work together to eliminate the irritants and keep the registry, instead of being so polarized in our attitudes and saying that this is a black and white issue and that the registry must either be eliminated or kept. While it was expensive to set up, it has a proven track record when it comes to reducing gun-related crimes. We could work together to come to a compromise that would satisfy those who oppose the registry and those who see a concrete need for keeping it.

I would like to hear the government member's thoughts on that.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, front-line officers tell me that the Liberal gun registry is of no benefit. They automatically assume in any situation they are going into there is the potential that a firearm could be present whether it is registered or not.

Furthermore, they have told me that when they pull somebody over to do a licence plate check, the computer automatically defaults to the gun registry even if they do not specifically access it. This creates an artificially inflated number of times that the gun registry is actually accessed.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
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10:30 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am someone who has done grassroots activism all my life. So, even when I do not agree with the goal, I cannot help but share the member's excitement in the stories of organizing and changing government policy that one opposes.

At this point, as the registry is about to be ended, does the member agree there is money invested in the data and that it would cost money to destroy it? As long as some provinces would like access to it, should we not keep that data available for a period of years so that provinces can assess whether their law enforcement agencies would like to continue to have access to it?

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
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10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question is absolutely not.

My constituents and people across Canada want to see the information destroyed and deleted. As it is, with the passage of time, even within days of receiving the information at the Firearms Centre, the information is outdated. This is what police officers tell us. This bill is what our constituents want.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
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10:35 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am from Halifax and the Halifax chief of police, Frank Beazley, has talked a couple of times, including as recently as two days ago, about why it is important to keep the registry, how he and his police force use it in Halifax.

I find this very perplexing. The Conservatives purport to be the champions of law and order. They purport to be the champions of the police. They purport to be the champions of the victims. However, we have a situation where victims groups and police organizations want to keep the gun registry. If we are really concerned about law and order, why are the Conservatives not keeping their promise to get more boots on the ground? Really, that is what it is about.

When are the Conservatives actually going to keep their promises to police officers about getting those boots on the ground and keeping the registry?

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, once we are no longer spending money on the maintenance of the long gun registry, that will free up some money in the budget to allocate to things such as getting more front-line police officers. That is something we will talk about once the budgetary money is freed up.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
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10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is really an honour to follow my colleague, the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, an MP who has fought long and hard to get rid of Bill C-68. The people in the riding she represents have appreciated that to the extent where they have elected her on five consecutive occasions. They have worked with her and have been of enormous assistance particularly in the fight against Bill C-68 and the efforts to scrap it.

I am pleased to add my voice to those who support C-19, the ending of the long-gun registry bill. It is long overdue. As many of my hon. colleagues have observed, this is not a new issue; we have been discussing this for many years.

I have to mention that some of us who are still in Parliament remember that fateful day, December 5, 1995, when the then minister of justice, Allan Rock, because of a Liberal majority was able to get Bill C-68 passed, despite the mountains of evidence that simply registering a firearm would not stop criminals from using firearms in a violent fashion, to rob somebody or to intimidate somebody. There was no evidence that would stop that at all.

Instead, with the passing of that bill, Mr. Rock turned millions of law-abiding firearm owners in this country into what the Liberal government determined to be criminals, despite the fact that the firearm owners had observed every firearm safety law that there was. They had shown their competence to own and use a firearm. They had licences. Despite all that, the Liberal government said that it did not trust them. The fact that they had used their firearms peacefully for many years, and some for many decades, was irrelevant. The Liberal government said that it did not trust them to be competent and experienced, and to obey the law.

The Liberals decided to make people register their firearms and put their names on a list that would give the government and the police authorities all kinds of unconstitutional powers to monitor and check on them. Notwithstanding that these people had never committed a crime in their lives and that they were law-abiding people with families, people who used their guns to hunt or for sport shooting; notwithstanding the mountains of evidence that they were competent and capable of using a firearm, the Liberals did not trust them.

The Liberals told people that by passing Bill C-68. On that fateful day, December 5, 1995, I was joined by my colleague from Yorkton—Melville, who has been a champion of getting rid of the long gun registry. I was in the company of the member for Calgary—Nose Hill, who is the current Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas and Consular Affairs. I was joined by the member for Vancouver Island North, who is the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. I was joined by the member for Vegreville—Wainwright. Indeed, I was joined by the member for Calgary Southwest, who of course is now the Prime Minister of Canada and leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Our leader promised that we would put an end to the gun registry, and now we are keeping that promise.

In particular, this is an issue of great importance to my riding of Cariboo—Prince George. It is a fairly rural riding with about four areas that we would call cities and towns. There is a lot of rural area.

There are many farmers, outdoor enthusiasts, forestry workers, miners, and many people who spend their time making a living in remote areas of my riding. These are folks who grew up using long guns and who use them sometimes in their day-to-day lives for work and recreation. It goes with the territory of the riding of Cariboo--Prince George. In short, long guns have been in use for many decades in my riding and they are used in a lawful fashion by law-abiding citizens.

Of course, every part of the country has people who use firearms for criminal intent, but they do not much care whether the firearm they are using is registered or not. As a matter of fact, they spend a lot of time looking to purchase or acquire smuggled illegal firearms that come from all parts of the world into Canada through criminal organizations. They do not really care much about the long gun registry and they are going to commit their criminal offences with firearms anyway.

The use of long guns has been a fairly normal part of life in Cariboo--Prince George for hunting, outdoor activity, sport shooting, and on the shooting range. What else is normal is that in my riding office since 1995, we have literally received thousands of cards, letters and phone calls from concerned constituents who want to know when we are going to get rid of the long gun registry that the Liberals put in. It started one day after December 5, 1995. We were charged with the responsibility of getting rid of the long gun registry. It has been a long fight. I have to admit sometimes it seemed like it was just a dream, but we are here with a strong, stable, majority Conservative government, and a Prime Minister who made this promise that we would get rid of the long gun registry. He is keeping his promise. This bill, Bill C-19, is going to do exactly that.

Our Prime Minister made that promise. The member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke made that promise. I made that promise. The member for Yorkton—Melville, my colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright, my colleague from Vancouver Island North, my colleague from Calgary—Nose Hill all made that promise. Led by our Prime Minister, we are keeping that promise today, which is more than we can say for some of the NDP members who made that promise to their constituents and had no intention of keeping it.

The people who have been calling us and asking for our help to get rid of the long gun registry are good people who care passionately about this issue. These are not criminals who are calling us, because after all, criminals do not care whether the firearm they are using in a criminal activity is registered or not.

As a matter of fact, I believe that the criminal elements in this country are responsible for bringing in illegal firearms. In December 1995 they were cheering on the then minister of justice, Mr. Rock, because all of a sudden, their market became pretty darn good for criminals who wanted to acquire firearms. I do not doubt that the price went up considerably when Bill C-68 was brought in.

We have been dealing with that criminal element by bringing in a multitude of anti-crime bills, and we are going to keep doing that. We are going to show the criminal element in this country that they cannot commit crimes under a Conservative government and get away with it. We will put them in jail. We will give them meaningful sentences that fit the crime that they commit.

When Bill C-19 passes, we will have fulfilled our promise to law-abiding firearm owners that we do not consider them to be criminals as the Liberals did and the NDP do. We are going to recognize they are law-abiding citizens capable of owning long guns without having onerous legislation like Bill C-68 breathing down their necks every single moment of their lives.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must point out the contradiction in the conclusion made by my colleague in his speech.

Under the copyright bill, people who break the electronic lock protecting works could be sent to prison or a penitentiary for up to five years. In the meantime, the government wants to be kind and avoid treating gun owners like criminals. That is honourable. We have made proposals to smooth out the process and to avoid having gun owners who have not registered their firearms be systematically threatened with prison terms.

How can my colleague live with that contradiction?

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is missing the point. The fact is that people in this country who want to legally acquire a firearm must get the appropriate licence, the acquisition permits and must show that they are confident and stable enough to own a firearm. The whole point of it is to ensure that no one who is not competent, does not know the safety rules and does not abide by the law ever owns a firearm. Registration is an extension of some sort that the Liberals introduced in 1995 thinking that would accomplish this. They were looking at the back end rather than the front end.

We have always said that unstable people should not have firearms, that people with criminal backgrounds should not have firearms and that people who do not abide by the law should not have firearms. We have always said that good, upstanding citizens who have a good reason to own a firearm should have a firearm. Once all of this has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt through the licensing process and the acquisition process, then that person should be able to own a firearm.

The registry is what it is. It turned into a bureaucratic, incredibly expensive nest egg. It cost about $2 billion in the first few years after it was implemented and after the then minister of justice told us in the House that it would cost, and I believe the number he used was about $300,000 or $400,000. He also said that it would be self-sustaining by the fees. That turned out to be outlandish, which is why we are opposed to it.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been getting a lot of positive feedback in my riding since we introduced the bill. My constituents are very concerned and they would like to see this registry abolished as soon as possible.

I am wondering if the member could tell us how much money taxpayers can expect to save on an annual basis moving forward once we abolish this registry.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
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10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I said, when Bill C-68 was introduced, the minister of justice at the time said that it would cost Canadians about $200,000 to $400,000. Even if he had said that it would cost $2 million, it would not have matter. However, It actually cost well over $2 billion and is now costing us somewhere around $2 million to $4 million a year and is not doing anything more than it did back in 1995 when it was first introduced.

All of the money that we would be able to save by getting rid of the long gun registry through Bill C-19 would go into our anti-crime fight, which is where it should be. Instead of chasing farmers, target shooters and sportsmen and spending time checking out whether they are still law-abiding, all of our resources should be put toward counteracting crime in this country and going after the people who commit crimes.

I am really proud of our Prime Minister and my colleagues who have had to fight against the registry for so many years. Bill C-19 will do the job.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I would like to inform the House that at this point in the debate the time allotted for speeches will switch to 10 minutes for speeches and 5 minutes for questions and comments.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-19, which would abolish the long gun registry. I am pleased because this is the first time I have the opportunity to speak to this issue, which has been discussed for a long time now. There have not been many debates, but we have had some. The issue has been coming up since at least 2006.

The riding of Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques is half rural and half urban. So I can understand both aspects of the debate. The urban part is Rimouski, which has 45,000 inhabitants. The other half of my riding is much more rural. I have spoken with a number of my constituents who are interested in and affected by this debate. I asked them questions about the registry. They replied with arguments for both sides of the issue, which is not surprising.

I spoke with hunters, collectors and long gun owners about this issue. They are concerned about the registry, with respect to some points brought up by the government. They said that the registry cost too much in the beginning, that it criminalizes gun owners and makes them feel guilty, among other similar arguments. I understand that.

However, I spoke with other people, people who work at a shelter for battered women in Rimouski-Neigette called La Débrouille. There, I heard another perfectly valid argument that the registry saves lives and that police officers in the riding use it in domestic violence incidents.

I would like to talk about these various factors and how to reconcile them. To the hunters, gun collectors and other people I speak to about the registry, I tell them that the NDP has made an effort to reconcile the various positions and to eliminate the sticking points of the bill that have been raised, without eliminating the registry itself. Often, they do not know what those sticking points are, but they include criminalization for a first offence for not registering one's firearm, the fact that it does not recognize traditional aboriginal rights and so on. When I talk to people about what was actually in the bill that my colleague from northern Ontario introduced last year, I tell them that we could keep the registry and eliminate those sticking points. They usually reply that this would be a good way of addressing their complaints, their concerns.

I believe that it is our duty as members, as representatives of our constituents, to get away from polarizing debates like this one, in which things are very black and white and we are forced to take a position either for or against. Instead, I think we must try to find a middle ground between the two sides. Honestly, as long as I have been in this House, I have never seen that happen. I have seen many polarizing positions. In the case of Bill C-19 or that of the long gun registry in general, the government has been having a field day with this issue. It was pretty easy to do from a financial perspective, which is too bad.

When I mention this position of conciliation to firearm owners, they understand and they are willing to comply. I would have liked the Conservative members to do the same thing in their ridings, instead of trying to antagonize the situation and polarize people further, which is what they have been doing for the past five or six years.

To those wanting to keep the registry, I submit as an example the situation of the shelter called La Débrouille in Rimouski-Neigette. This shelter says—and this might be news to the hon. members opposite—that when an abused woman stays at a shelter, she can choose to file a complaint against her attacker, her spouse. If she chooses to do so, the police consult the registry to see whether there are any firearms in the family home. If there are, the police can, depending on the situation, get a search warrant and remove the firearms. We are talking about a situation in which a woman is abused, where her life is definitely at risk.

The signs are clear: that woman's life is in danger. In Rimouski-Neigette, which constitutes half my riding—one of the 308 ridings in Canada—the registry is consulted at least once a day by the shelter for abused women, for this type of situation alone. Yes, the registry is useful. Yes, the registry can prevent crime.

I would also like to point out that the statistics do not lie in this case, either: 88% of the spousal homicides committed with a firearm in Canada are committed with a rifle or a shotgun. These are ordinary firearms. That is not to say that hunters or people who own firearms and rifles are potential killers or murderers, but given the number of firearms, it is clear that these firearms are more likely to be used in cases of domestic abuse.

The police have to verify whether there is a firearm, as has been mentioned in a number of debates. The police presume, when they intervene in a case of domestic violence, that there is a firearm in the home being investigated. Knowing human nature and what might be going through the mind of the police officer who has to intervene in all sorts of situations, his intervention will be much more effective if he knows that there is a firearm rather than if he simply presumes there is.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have three minutes to finish his speech after question period. We will now move on to statements by members.

Greek Community
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today as a proud Canadian of Hellenic descent. It was on this day, on October 28, 1940, that the Greek people stood up for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law by loudly professing a resounding oxi, no, to the fascists that were enacting the brutality all over Europe.

For a small nation of just over 7.2 million people at the time, this was a difficult decision, for the world knew all too well the onslaught and massacre that was to follow. This courageous stance by the Greek people resulted in the loss of 805,000 lives or 11.5% of the country's population.

Today Canadians from coast to coast to coast stand with the Greek community and with all veterans in remembrance of all those who sacrificed so much for the rights and freedoms that we all enjoy.

Yamaska Immigration Services
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Réjean Genest Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to talk about the exemplary work of Solidarité ethnique régionale de la Yamaska, or SERY, a non-profit organization in my riding.

SERY's mission is to welcome immigrants and help them integrate into society, and to promote intercultural ties while respecting the values of the host community. Newcomers receive assistance from staff for the first five years. Acceptance and respect for cultural diversity are the team's strengths. SERY's motto is to never judge someone without walking five kilometres in their shoes.

This week, SERY put on its annual show featuring performances by newcomers. There were over 800 people in the audience. On behalf of the people of Shefford and all the members in the House, I congratulate SERY on its success.

Snowbirds
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, on October 21, I watched pilots and technicians work as a team to bring the 41st season of the Snowbirds to a close. The Snowbirds are the famed Canadian icon that thrills audiences across North America every year with their aerial ballet. Representing the skill, professionalism and teamwork of the Canadian Forces, the Snowbirds are an inspiration to Canadians.

This past season was themed “Our Canadian Heroes”, to recognize the sacrifices made by members of the Canadian Forces and their families. Members of the Canadian Forces are often deployed to harsh conditions away from their loved ones. Their sacrifices cannot be measured, but we must do our best to recognize and appreciate their commitment.

I encourage people to check out a Snowbirds show as they pass through their hometowns next year.

Religious Freedom
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party of Canada continues to stand up for the rights of religious minorities and for the universal right to religious freedom for all faiths.

Last night, the Liberal Party of Canada once again stood up to tell the government and the world that the atrocities facing Coptic Christians in Egypt could not be allowed to continue. Through the tireless work of the Liberal MP for Scarborough—Agincourt, along with others in the Liberal caucus and party, including the distinguished member for Mount Royal, the issue of the persecution of Christians has been raised repeatedly by our members on the floor of the House of Commons.

The Coptic Christian faith in Canada is a robust and positive force in Canadian society and Canadian neighbourhoods. In the home of the Coptic faith in Egypt, Coptic Christians have preached peace for centuries, yet they have been persecuted and murdered for their faith and seemingly all but abandoned by those with a duty to protect.

Let us never forget that Coptic Christians are among the original Egyptians who now willingly share their land for one Egypt. Coptic Christianity is one of the oldest religions in all of Egypt, which persevered by the faith of its members and by—

Religious Freedom
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.

The Lincoln and Welland Regiment
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend a great Niagara regiment with a lineage reaching back to the War of 1812, the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, held a parade and memorial service in honour of the battle of Bergen-op-Zoom, fought in October of 1944. As this date falls near Remembrance Day, members of the Lincoln and Welland annually commemorate this battle as part of their active remembrance and regimental reunion.

The battle was one of the defining events in the history of this great regiment, and the valour displayed by the soldiers during the fight that took place marked it as one of the best battalions in the Canadian line. The operations in and around Bergen-op-Zoom were part of the campaign by the Canadian army to clear the Scheldt estuary in order to open the Port of Antwerp. These operations were crucial to the Allied cause. The port facilities of Antwerp were captured intact and the Scheldt estuary cleared for the Allied operations to continue.

The regiment's motto is “Non Nobis Sed Patriae”, meaning “Not for ourselves but for our country”. God bless the Lincoln and Welland Regiment.

Joliette Soup Kitchen
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to take this opportunity to pay a glowing tribute to the directors and volunteers of La Tablée Joliette.

Founded in 1981 by the Clerics of Saint-Viateur, the soup kitchen is a non-profit organization that prepares and distributes 5,000 to 6,000 free meals each year to people in need in my riding.

I was able to see first-hand the exceptional work accomplished by this community organization by helping the volunteers over the Thanksgiving long weekend.

I would like to recognize the involvement of the soup kitchen's president, Raymond Veillette, and his team of volunteers, which include Marie-Pauline Blake, Léonie Ferland, Julie Cornellier, Diane Fournier and Alain-Bruno Bonin.

These people prove that the battle against hunger and poverty is a collective effort, and they deserve all the support we can give them.

Republic of Turkey
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on October 23, the eastern province of Van in Turkey was struck by a powerful and devastating earthquake. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands injured. Canada stands shoulder to shoulder with the Turkish people during this difficult time.

Today Turkey, a friend of Canada, is celebrating the 88th anniversary of its foundation. On October 29, 1923, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk proclaimed the modern Republic of Turkey.

Our two countries enjoy a solid friendship that transcends the economic and political domain. We are partnered bilaterally and multilaterally through organizations such as NATO and the G20, and thousands of Canadians of Turkish origin contribute invaluably to Canadian society.

On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to congratulate Turkey and the Turkish people in celebrating the creation of their modern state. May the future bring peace and prosperity to Turkey and all its citizens.

Agri-Trade Exposition
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am excited to announce the 28th annual Agri-Trade Exposition that will take place in my riding November 9 to 12.

The Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, the Westerner Exposition Association and the driving force behind the expo, Pat Kennedy, are all to be thanked for this year's upcoming success.

This year's theme is “International Agriculture Products and Service”, fitting, as we welcome the U.S. commerce department as one of our 450 exhibitors.

People can come to the Fortis Learning Stage to discuss agriculture ideas, technology, programs and new green initiatives; talk to experts from across the nation to get answers to various farming questions; attend seminars about crops, fertilizing, grain quality; and much more. There will even be a comedian, prizes and student bursaries awarded throughout the expo.

Therefore, I invite all hon. members to come down to Red Deer's Westerner Park and experience a one-of-a-kind exhibition that will cultivate their minds.

Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am so very honoured today to say how proud I am that two teachers in my riding of Scarborough Southwest are recipients of this year's prestigious Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence.

One of those is Lynn Wilkins, an elementary school teacher at Courcelette Public School. Ms. Wilkins' accomplishments are simply too numerous to mention here. Her sustainable building project integrates many different subjects with a view to teaching students the importance of the environment and sustainable development. Another of her projects teaches students to build an NGO from the group up.

If this is not enough, her students raised thousands of dollars to assist in building a school in Haiti, support the World Wildlife Fund and help the Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.

Our community is truly privileged to have such a dedicated, enthusiastic and innovative teacher working in our schools.

I want to extend my sincere congratulations to Ms. Wilkins on receiving the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence and thank her for the commitment she demonstrates on a daily basis to the students at Courcelette Public School.

Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also rise today to honour two teachers in my riding who were recognized recently for their ingenuity, innovation and dedication to education by their students, colleagues and parents.

On October 5, Shirley Dalrymple and Scott Masters were recognized for their leadership with the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence.

Shirley is a math teacher at Thornhill Secondary School. She has given 20 years to the profession and has fascinated thousands of young minds through her integration of technology to make learning fun and interesting for her pupils.

Scott, a history teacher at Crestwood Preparatory School, brings history to life for his students by working with local veterans and students to digitize the stories of veterans with interviews, photos and documents to ensure their stories will always be heard and never forgotten.

I congratulate Shirley and Scott for their selection as recipients of this award. I look forward to seeing more great educators from Don Valley East on the list of recipients next year.

Jimmy Lomax
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, on October 9, Hamilton's Santa Claus, Jimmy Lomax, passed away at his home.

Known throughout our community for his immense generosity and kindness, Jimmy and his wife Susan were the heart and soul of Operation Santa Claus, a charitable organization they founded in 1958 to help collect and distribute gifts to underprivileged families throughout Hamilton.

Jimmy's dedication to helping the less fortunate earned him numerous recognitions, including Hamilton's Distinguished Citizen of the Year, the Queen's Jubilee Medal, the Ontario Medal for Outstanding Citizenship and our highest honour, the Order of Canada.

Jimmy is also extremely deserving of the Hamilton's children's park that will be named in his honour in the coming weeks. Christmas in Hamilton just will not be same without Santa Jimmy.

On behalf of all hon. members, I would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the Lomax family. Jimmy's dedication to helping children, especially during the holiday season, was an inspiration to all, and he will be greatly missed.

World Cup Kabbadi
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me immense pleasure to inform the House that Kabbadi Team Canada will be participating in the second World Cup Kabbadi in Punjab, India.

Across various districts in the state of Punjab from November 1 to November 20, 2011, this mega sports event will feature the participation of 14 countries, including Canada.

I would like to congratulate the organizers and officials who worked tirelessly for our Team Canada, including Joga Kang, Onkar Grewal, Paramjit Deol, Sukhpal Rathaul, Sukh Pandher, and Gurjeet Singh.

On behalf of my constituents of Brampton—Springdale and all Canadians, we are proud of Kabbadi Team Canada and wish them all the success in the world.

Harold Huskilson
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians were saddened this week to learn of the passing of a truly great man, Harold Huskilson.

Mr. Huskilson, who was 91, was committed to his community and his province. He was a lifelong member of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, the Trinity United Church and the Beacon United Church. He was also a charter member of the Shelburne Kinsman Club, the Royal Canadian Legion and an active member of the Masonic Lodge.

Mr. Huskilson served on both the Shelburne Town Council and the Yarmouth Town Council. He was then elected to the House of Assembly as MLA for Shelburne and served in a number of key ministerial posts over a 23-year career.

He worked tirelessly to bring investment and attention to his corner of the province and will be remembered as a man who was there to assist anyone in need.

I know all members will join me in extending our sincere condolences to the Huskilson family.

The Commonwealth
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, the 16 Commonwealth leaders have agreed to a proposal to amend the rules governing the line of succession to the throne. No longer will it matter if an heir's first-born is a boy or a girl.

Obvious modernizations will help the crown to remain an institution that reflects the values of Canadians and all realms of the Commonwealth that have Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as our head of state.

Since the founding of the Commonwealth in 1931, our common heritage has united us. However, the Commonwealth has become more than just about common history. Our common values flow from that history; principles such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law also unite us. From this background, we draw our Westminster system of responsible government. We believe in principles that deserve universal application.

Unfortunately, in some parts of the world, there is still not universal acceptance of these principles.

As the Prime Minister said, the Commonwealth is a “noble aspiration”.

God save the Queen.

Parks Canada
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. minister responsible for Parks Canada recently declared that Sable Island would become a national wildlife area, which in itself is good.

However, this past spring, the same minister cut 56% of the financial support for a number of organizations responsible for safeguarding existing wildlife areas, such as the Baie de l'Isle-Verte National Wildlife Area, which is in my riding and which has been doing remarkable work for decades. What is even more ironic is that this government said that its economic plan would include expanding national parks. This raises some questions.

Does the government plan on increasing the number of wildlife areas while still making massive cuts to financial support? Is the government aware of the negative impact such a policy will have on tourism and on Canada's image abroad? We have to assume that the answer is no, this government is not aware of its bad choices when it comes to the environment and the sustainable economy.

Auditor General
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Goguen Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I know that my constituents and fellow New Brunswickers are outraged at the comments made by the Liberal leader just yesterday on Canada's next Auditor General.

According to the Liberal leader and the Liberal Party, they believe that working in New Brunswick does not qualify for some of the bigger jobs in Toronto or Ottawa. Might I remind the Liberal leader and the Liberal Party that New Brunswick is Canada's only officially bilingual province.

Mr. Ferguson's outstanding performance as New Brunswick's auditor general and deputy minister of finance, according to the Liberal Party, is no experience for the job. That is outrageous.

I call upon the Liberal Party to formally apologize to Mr. Ferguson and all the residents of my home province for this insulting attack.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have learned that the government has decided to take the same strategy it is using with the gun registry and apply it to the Canadian navy: invest billions of dollars in procurement, only to throw it all out. The Victoria, the Corner Brook, the Windsor and the Chicoutimi are being thrown in the trash.

Can the government confirm that it is getting rid of the Victoria-class submarines?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

No, Mr. Speaker. Our government is investing to ensure that we have the ideal mix of naval capacities to protect Canada's sovereignty. We intend to continue working with the Canadian Forces to guarantee the best level of service in order to protect Canada's sovereignty.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it appears the government has already begun to move. Here is what the Minister of National Defence had to say this week, “In an ideal world, I know nuclear subs are what's needed--”.

We can all agree the Liberals did a terrible job when they bought the Victoria class subs. Canadians were misled about their true costs and capabilities. What Canadians wanted then and what they want today is certainty.

Would the Conservatives confirm that their government is really ready to go down a multi-billion dollar rabbit hole of nuclear submarines?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the quick answer to that is, no. I think the hon. member has to be wary of relying unduly on misleading reports from the CBC.

What is true is that our government is investing in the right mix and balance for our forces to have a naval capacity necessary to defend and protect Canada's sovereignty on all our ocean frontiers.

I can tell members and reassure the hon. member that there is no plan to replace the diesel-electric fleet purchased by the Liberals.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it seems quite clear that the Conservatives have absolutely no plans for military procurement. This situation with the submarine fleet reeks of improvisation. In terms of our air force, the Conservatives' decision to purchase F-35s is making less and less sense. Even the government is starting to realize it.

Will the government reconsider its untendered purchase of F-35s?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, our commitment has been, clearly, to give our Canadian Forces members, including those in the Royal Canadian Air Force, the equipment they need to do the job well. The fact is, and reasonable people agree, we need to have new aircraft. The current CF-18s are, of course, aging aircraft that have been around for quite some time.

We are moving forward, together with our allies, with the only fifth generation fighter of its kind. The F-35 is something that offers stealth capability and will protect our Canadian airmen and airwomen, so that they will be able to do their job protecting our sovereignty in the safest and most effective fashion possible.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the pressure is mounting against the purchase of F-35s. Today, we learned that the Minister of National Defence is increasingly offside from other cabinet members and the Prime Minister's Office. Why? Because the F-35 does not work in the Arctic and is plagued by delays. It is wildly over budget, and the list goes on and on.

Will the government finally stop its F-35 boondoggle before it is just too late?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the only boondoggle I know about these days is the gun registry.

However, I am pleased to infuse a dose of reality into the opposition's misguided rant about F-35 aircraft. Recently, I saw first-hand the direct benefits of economic growth and job creation in Magellan Bristol Aerospace in Winnipeg as with over 60-some other Canadians companies.

Canadian families are benefiting from the production in Canada of F-35 components. Our budget is on track. It will create economic growth as well as look after the needs of our men and women in uniform and Canadian sovereignty.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would feel a bit defensive, too, if I signed on to a program that even conservative U.S. senator John McCain called “a train wreck”. Even our international partners, such as Australia, Israel and Turkey, are now delaying their commitment to the F-35s.

When will the Conservatives finally admit their F-35 boondoggle is quickly unravelling and bring it to an end?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the infusion of rhetoric on this very important acquisition of an asset critical to the sovereignty of Canada, providing our men and women the appropriate tools well into the future to do their job, is absolutely overwhelming. It is obviously because of political positioning.

We are focused on what is necessary to maintain Canada's sovereignty. We are not playing politics. This is a critical asset that we intend to fulfill as we go forward.

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Quebec National Assembly voted in favour of a motion calling on the government to grant access to the information in the firearms registry. Why will this government not recognize that this information is very valuable to the provinces and why does it still refuse to give in to common sense?

I will ask the government once more here today. Is the government willing to make this valuable information available to the provinces?

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, our legislation is clear. It will actually eliminate the long gun registry, and that means eliminating the records, which have become inaccurate and unreliable, and they will become increasingly so over time.

We are bound to protect the privacy rights of Canadians and that includes the rights of those who are law-abiding gun owners who have participated in the registry. The existing licensing requirements, of course, are going to remain.

We are committed to eliminating this wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. We will not allow a backdoor re-establishment of the long gun registry.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, TD Bank said yesterday what we all knew already, that the government will not balance its books until 2017, after the next election.

This is bad news for Canadian families, who have been told they had to wait until the budget was balanced for any of the government's promised support for families.

Why do Canadian families have to wait in line for six years to receive any support while the largest, most profitable corporations in the country get their tax cuts right now?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, my Liberal friend opposite has a very short memory.

We delivered tax cuts for Canadian families in the form of lowering income taxes, in the form of tax reductions for things like a sports and fitness tax credit, and participation in the arts tax credit. We reduced the GST twice.

What all those events had in common was that the Liberal Party voted against them. Our party is the only party committed to reducing taxes. We continue to be the only party in this House committed to reducing taxes.

We are also committed to getting our budget balanced in the medium term to ensure that we keep Canada's fiscal advantage, one that has delivered 650,000 net new jobs to Canadians and is leading the G8 in growth.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it makes no sense for these Conservatives to delay support for families until after the next election when, with any luck, they will be out of power. Also, Canadians are going to wake up to a nasty surprise on January 1, an EI payroll tax increase.

Could the government explain by what twisted logic Canadian families must wait and watch while the government levies a massive tax on jobs and refuses to provide them with any support?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, Canadian families did wait for help in the form of reduced taxes for 13 long years.

However, since 2006, they have been receiving those benefits from our government, benefits that now total, for a typical Canadian family, over $3,000 less in taxes paid. That is over $3,000 more in their pockets. That is one of the reasons the Canadian economy has been performing well.

We have avoided the path that the Liberals would have us go, the path that other countries are on--that of high taxes, high debt and high deficit it is the very path that is causing threats to the global economy from elsewhere.

Here in Canada, we have avoided that path. That is why our economy is strong, and we will say on that path.

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the reckless and spiteful decision to destroy all gun registry records shows just how out of touch the government really is. Yesterday, the Quebec National Assembly voted unanimously to demand the records be kept. It is even threatening legal action.

The government is not just destroying records, it is destroying a key tool for keeping our communities safe.

Why is the government insulting provinces that want to create their own registry? Why is it playing politics with public safety?

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, our commitment to Canadians was to destroy and end the long gun registry.

The long gun registry is the data. The data is flawed, it is inaccurate, and it does not target criminals. It targets law-abiding Canadians. We will continue to have the licensing process. That information will be accessible to all law enforcement agencies.

Make no mistake, we will end the long gun registry, which is the data.

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, this government is deliberately turning a blind eye. The Government of Quebec is threatening to go to court to prevent the destruction of the firearms registry data. Quebeckers paid their share to establish this registry. Quebec families, the parents of victims of the Polytechnique and Dawson College massacres, and the president of Quebec's Association of Families of Persons Assassinated or Disappeared, established by Senator Boisvenu, are calling for gun controls to remain in place.

Is this government going to eliminate this method of ensuring public safety?

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, as we said during the election campaign, we will destroy the long gun registry. Why? Simply because this registry does not reduce crime. Those who say the contrary are spouting pure ideology. The crime rate has been decreasing for several years in Canada, but not because of the registry. That takes more stringent laws. This registry unfairly targets hunters and farmers by treating them like potential criminals. I hope that the Government of Quebec will respect the division of powers and Canada's jurisdictions. This is a federal jurisdiction, and we will destroy this registry as we said we would.

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the National Assembly of Quebec voted unanimously to demand that the long gun registry records be kept. Quebec families paid for that registry, and they are asking that it now be given to them. I myself am a hunter, and maintaining this information does not limit my activities in any way. The Conservatives are saying that the data must be destroyed simply because it must be destroyed. When we ask them why, we encounter a black hole, much like their political agenda.

Will this government finally be open with Quebec and grant its request to transfer the data?

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, we are going to destroy the long gun—shotguns and rifles—registry data. Why? Because the registry is the data. That is what we said in our election campaign and that is what we are going to do. I am asking the Government of Quebec to respect the Canadian Constitution. This bill was created and established based on the Criminal Code, which falls under federal jurisdiction. It is in our power. We are doing what we have to do. We do not interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction. We are destroying the registry because it is the best thing to do. We have laws, here in the House, to prevent crime.

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, collecting the data in the firearms registry required an enormous investment. The registry cost a lot of money—it was clearly designed by those responsible for the sponsorship scandal—but now we have that data and we have a provincial government that is asking to be able to use it. As a hunter, I do not have any objection to sharing this information, so why is the government being so childish?

Why spend taxpayers' money only to destroy data for which we all paid?

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, the data in the long gun registry is inaccurate. That is what the Auditor General said in 2002 when she announced her findings with regard to this scandal, as the hon. member just mentioned. The registry was the first Liberal scandal. It was supposed to cost $2 million but it cost several million, if not close to $2 billion. We all remember the second Liberal scandal, the sponsorship scandal. For us, the important thing is that this data is not accurate, as the Auditor General said in 2002. This would be like giving a Trojan horse to the Government of Quebec.

Charitable Organizations
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hundreds of thousands of volunteers and overworked staff at Canadian charities were shocked when they opened their newspapers this morning. With no consultation and no plan, the government is recklessly considering slashing its contribution to Canada's charities unless they meet the Conservative government's narrow partisan agenda.

Charity workers are not vacationing on Challenger jets, like the members opposite. They deserve the government's support. Instead of picking winners and losers, why will the government not stand behind Canada's vital charitable sector?

Charitable Organizations
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, we are always interested in new models to partner with private sector organizations to deliver results. This is why the minister has set up the voluntary advisory committee to discuss ways to leverage government funding and investments to ensure a maximum social impact to help those in need.

While current funding models ensure fiscal accountability, our focus is to ensure that funding gets results and that taxes collected from hardworking Canadians have the biggest impact on those who really need it.

Charitable Organizations
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, that answer did not give comfort to a single charity in this country.

There are about 83,000 registered charities in Canada, and they employ 10% of our country's workforce. Those are a lot of jobs and vital contributions that this country cannot afford to lose. We are talking about over one million hard-working Canadians who contribute to our country every day. They deserve better than to have their government undermine their important contributions and threaten their jobs.

Would the government at least be honest with them about what it has in mind? They and the people they serve deserve nothing less.

Charitable Organizations
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, we are looking at new models to make sure that we can leverage our government's commitment and leverage our government's investments to ensure that those most in need get what they need and get it soon.

Unlike the NDP, which wants to tax individuals and make sure that we are not creating jobs in this country, we have focused on those in need by creating new models that provide them with opportunities to get what they need through charities. In fact, our finance committee is now looking at how to best leverage that, so I look forward to the NDP supporting our direction at the finance committee.

Charitable Organizations
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we learned that the government wants to change how it funds non-profit and charitable organizations.

These organizations generally rely on volunteers and overworked staff. These organizations too often do the work of the Conservatives, who continue to back away from their social responsibilities, and now they are being told that they will receive even less government assistance.

Why is the government attacking these organizations that provide vital services to the people?

Charitable Organizations
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, we are working to build our charitable sector in this country.

What the member opposite said is completely false. The minister has been working with a voluntary advisory committee to discuss ways to leverage our investments to ensure maximum impact for those in need.

I encourage the NDP to get on board with what our finance committee is doing, making sure we leverage what is available to our communities and charities. I encourage all of those members to volunteer, as I do with the YMCA.

Seniors
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, too many seniors are unable to retire when they had hoped to. According to a Sun Life study, the majority of workers will stay on the job well past the age of 65, not by choice, but simply because they lack the money to retire. Seniors lost their savings during the recession and this government does not have a plan to fight poverty among seniors.

When will this government stop the corporate giveaways and take action that will allow seniors not to spend their retirement years in poverty?

Seniors
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we have worked hard to enhance retirement security for Canadians, especially our seniors.

For example, we have reduced taxes for seniors and retirees by $2 billion, mainly by allowing pension income splitting. We restructured the framework for pensions that are under federal jurisdiction in order to better protect retirees. Together with the provinces, we have reviewed proposals for making other improvements, and we are about to implement the new pooled registered pension plan, or PRPP. We hope that the NDP will support this measure.

Seniors
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, we obviously do not live on the same planet. There are more and more Canadian seniors who have too much debt and not enough income.

Seniors
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Seniors
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Seniors
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the number of poor seniors is increasing. The Conservatives have a simple answer: let the financial markets provide guaranteed pension plans for Canadians. That is their answer. We know what happened during the recession. That strategy resulted in lost income because of the downturn in the financial markets.

When will the government finally support Canadians and double Canada and Quebec pension plan benefits? It should do so immediately.

Seniors
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, we strive continually to help our seniors. We introduced several bills and the NDP voted against them. We are continuing, as are the provincial governments, to work on reforming the Canada pension plan, but, like many of the provinces, we share the concerns of small businesses and others with respect to any increase in costs at a time when the global economy is barely recovering.

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, in committee, the President of the Public Service Commission of Canada, Mrs. Barrados, had this to say:

The way we operate in the Public Service is that the language requirement is an essential requirement.... If you don't meet the language requirement, you don't get the job.

Since a mastery of both official languages was clearly indicated as essential for the position of Auditor General and the person appointed by the Prime Minister is not bilingual, does the government realize what it is doing to the public service? Does it realize it is opening a Pandora's box?

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, the government looked for bilingual candidates. After an extensive process, a candidate was chosen because he was by far the most qualified.

Mr. Ferguson is in the process of becoming comfortable in both of Canada's official languages, like many members here in the House. Mr. Ferguson has a proven track record within the provincial public service in New Brunswick.

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, the only member of the government's selection committee for the position of Auditor General outside of government circles was a registered lobbyist by the name of Kevin Dancey, the head of the CICA.

The purpose of lobbying is to benefit the organization being lobbied for. While he was advancing a position on who the Auditor General should be, Mr. Dancey was also actively lobbying every organization on the selection committee, including the Office of the Auditor General. In future, the same individual will likely be lobbying the very same Auditor General he helped select.

Does the government understand and realize the apparent and obvious conflict?

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, the qualifications of our candidate for Auditor General are unparalleled. As an example, the former Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, says, “He will be a very good auditor general. He is very capable, a very nice person and I think once Parliamentarians get to know him, they will appreciate him”.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, Maikel Nabil is a young Egyptian blogger, one of the early voices of the Tahrir Square revolution. He became the first political prisoner in the post-Mubarak era.

He was sentenced by a military tribunal in March to three years in jail on a bogus charge of insulting the Egyptian army and was further compromised by his pro-Israeli views. He is now in the 66th day of a hunger strike and has become, like the Christian Coptic community under assault, a symbol of the betrayal of the Tahrir revolution. His life hangs in the balance.

Will the government immediately seek his release from prison?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Calgary—Nose Hill
Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, we are concerned about this situation. We take it very seriously. I can advise the House that we are in consultation, not just with authorities in the country but with like-minded partners, to address this situation. It is a very high priority for our government.

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us see if the record is still broken. Yesterday, in response to a question from my colleague about the decision to appoint a unilingual anglophone Auditor General, the President of the Treasury Board said, “Upon completion of a rigorous process, the most qualified candidate was chosen.”

Now, we all agree that the President of the Treasury Board has zero credibility when it comes to undertaking a rigorous process. However, we would still like to know what is so rigorous about choosing a unilingual anglophone for a position that requires proficiency in both official languages.

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, Mr. Ferguson is learning French, as are many members of this House and of the public service. If the member opposite doubts Mr. Ferguson's commitment, then perhaps he would like to come to the public accounts committee on Monday and ask him directly, as I am sure he will.

As far as Mr. Ferguson's qualifications are concerned, he comes with excellent references. However, the member need not take my word for it. Let me share one reference with you. The reference states, “He will be a very good auditor general. He is very capable, a very nice person and I think once Parliamentarians get to know him, they will appreciate him”.

Who said that? The former Auditor General herself, Sheila Fraser.

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is obviously still the same broken record. If, after months of searching, they were not able to find an auditor general who, as the job poster indicated, was proficient in both languages at the time of hiring, it shows what kind of employers the Conservatives are.

When a private company requires comprehension of both official languages, it means that it is a critical competence for undertaking the required work. Why are the Conservatives treating this requirement as a minor detail that can be set aside if it becomes an inconvenience?

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, the government sought bilingual candidates. After a thorough process, the successful candidate was determined to be by far the most qualified. Mr. Ferguson has undertaken to become proficient in both of Canada's official languages and he has already begun training. Mr. Ferguson has a proven track record of public service in the province of New Brunswick, but do not take my word for it, here is a quote:

--what Mike Ferguson will face in Ottawa as opposed to Fredericton will be simply a few extra zeroes at the end of the numbers. The same skills and the same types of experience will count in both jobs.

Who said that? It was the Liberal leader, Victor Boudreau.

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the President of the Public Service Commission said that, in the public service, language is an essential requirement. This government continues to tell anyone who will listen that it has nothing against bilingualism and that the Auditor General is perfectly competent, except it has forgotten one important requirement: bilingualism.

Did the government at least take the time to interview him and ask him a few questions in French before offering him the job?

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, our government supports official languages. That is why we allocated over $1 billion to the Roadmap for Canada's Linguistic Duality. This represents an unprecedented investment meant to promote and protect bilingualism across the country.

In regard to Mr. Ferguson, I have another quote. This comes from the premier of New Brunswick who said:

He's outstanding, he's a leader and, quite frankly, that's one of the reasons why I came to him to become deputy minister of Finance in New Brunswick at certainly a very difficult time in the province's history,

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is all well and good to want to favour one's friends instead of choosing the most competent people for essential positions, but when it is done at the expense of francophones from coast to coast to coast, that is unacceptable. The government cannot play the bilingualism card only when it wants to look good.

Will the government reverse its decision and appoint a bilingual auditor general?

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, this government has done more for official languages than any other government in Canadian history, including investing over $1 billion in our road map for linguistic duality.

Mr. Ferguson is the most qualified candidate for the job. We have many different people quoted as saying that and we will stand behind our candidate.

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all, and that is exactly what we are doing.

However, members on this side of the House are not the only ones who received that mandate from the people of Canada. Many NDP MPs promised their constituents that if they sent them to this place they would vote to end the long gun registry. However, we have already seen early in this Parliament that many NDP members are breaking their promises to their constituents.

Would the parliamentary secretary please tell the House how she views the decisions of those members opposite?

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Red Deer for the good work he has done in helping us end the long gun registry.

I believe, and I think we all believe, that members must respect and represent the views of the Canadians who sent them here. I find it very disheartening to hear the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley say that the fever has gone down a bit on the gun registry in his riding, or the member for Western Arctic, who also campaigned on ending the long gun registry, saying that he thinks it appropriate for provinces to develop their own registry.

Canadians find that sort of hedging unacceptable. When MPs make promises, Canadians expect those promises to be kept. I call on all opposition members--

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

Canada Post
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, how does the minister explain the unfair treatment of Quebec when it comes to the cuts at Canada Post? The cuts in Quebec are alarming at 53%, when elsewhere in the country they are only 4% to 8%.

How does the minister explain that Quebec is not entitled to the same postal service as the rest of the country?

Canada Post
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, Canada Post is a crown corporation that is at arm's length from the government. In fact, all Canadians are entitled to the same service from this corporation, but we will not interfere in the day-to-day management of this organization.

Canada Post
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary is avoiding questions on the cuts at Canada Post and continuing to give vague answers.

Can the parliamentary secretary finally tell us why Quebec is being so unjustly penalized? Postal service is crucial across the country. Why is this government abandoning Quebec? Quebeckers deserve an answer.

Canada Post
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, in fact, it is the New Democrats who tried to extend a work stoppage at Canada Post. They are the ones who contributed to the interruption of service to Quebeckers and all Canadians.

It is our government that took action to ensure that Canada Post's services are available to all Canadians across the country.

Canada Post
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Canada Post office in Dorion, Ontario, is also about to close, forcing families to drive up to 75 kilometres just to pick up a package, despite the fact that Canada Post has claimed that there is a moratorium on the closure of rural post offices.

Postal service is vital for rural families and especially seniors in communities like Dorion. They should not need to drive almost an hour just to get to the post office.

Would the minister stand up and assure Dorion families that post offices will not close?

Canada Post
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, Canada Post is a crown corporation, independent from the government. It does provide services to Canadians coast to coast. Those services are provided regardless of region and without discrimination. We will not interfere in the daily operations and management of an independent crown corporation.

Canada Post
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, what kind of leadership is that?

Rural Canadian communities, like Dorion, are being left out in the cold by Canada Post. Last year alone, despite its promised moratorium on such closures, Canada Post padlocked postal outlets in 37 different towns. Thousands of families are cut off from the rest of the country, even while Canada Post raked in $233 million in profit.

When will the minister and the government stand up for rural communities? When will they stop robbing them of their needed postal services?

Canada Post
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, obviously, we are standing up for rural communities. That is why the government is working to eliminate the wasteful long gun registry that has harassed farmers and hunters for far too long. That is why we are giving freedom to western farmers.

On the subject of Canada Post service, it is a little rich for the NDP, which attempted to prolong the work stoppage at Canada Post, to now stand in the House of Commons and claim that it wants to extend the services. It wanted to prevent Canadians from any region of the country from having Canada Post service by prolonging that work stoppage. Thank goodness our government stepped in and ordered it back to work.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, another week goes by with yet another story about the F-35 procurement unraveling before our very own eyes.

Having bought into the program hook, line and sinker, the Minister of National Defence is isolated within his own cabinet. Indeed, it is so bad that the minister now has his own personal babysitter. In short, it is a mess.

What is it that the Minister of National Defence is doing to pull the plug on this program, which is in its own death spiral?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, there is no intent to pull the plug on an asset that is so critical to Canadian sovereignty and provides our men and women the assets they need well into the future to fulfill their missions and return home safe at the end of those missions to their families.

As well, we are now into cutting steel. This is not a reversal item. This is the right plane, the right aircraft for the right time and well into the future. We made that decision. In fact, the Liberal government of the day in 1997 embarked on this very same project.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, now even the babysitting minister whistles past the graveyard.

Serious countries explore alternative procurement strategies. Indeed, some of them have already pulled out of the program altogether.

What kind of a minister sticks with a program where he does not even know the final cost? Open procurement is the only answer. Why will the minister not pull out of this program before he crash lands us all?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the hypocrisy here is beyond belief.

That is the same government—

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The associate minister has the floor.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is the same government of the day that embarked on this very same project, and now it has cold feet. That is the same government of the day that sent its men and women into battle in danger zones in Afghanistan, in a desert setting, wearing green uniforms.

Privacy Commissioner
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week the Privacy Commissioner sounded alarm bells again, raising serious concerns about the Conservative government's lawful access legislation. The Privacy Commissioner said that Conservatives had not justified the sweeping search and seizure powers they plan to foist on commercial ISPs.

Will the Minister of Public Safety accept the Privacy Commissioner's recommendations and fix the legislation before it is reintroduced?

Privacy Commissioner
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I will be perfectly clear. No legislation proposed in the past, present or future by a Conservative government would allow for police to read emails without a warrant. As technology evolves, many criminal activities, such as the distribution of child pornography, becomes easier, and we are proposing measures to bring our laws into the 21st century.

I find it remarkable that the same party that wants to look at the private records of law-abiding gun owners wants to protect potential child pornographers.

Privacy Commissioner
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was an answer, but not to my question.

This is again about the Privacy Commissioner. The commissioner said that this proposal to hugely expand surveillance and weaken judicial scrutiny went far beyond what is needed. According to the commissioner, better alternatives exist to give police the investigative tools they need while still preserving the privacy of Canadians.

When will the government finally acknowledge these serious privacy concerns and agree to fix the bill?

Privacy Commissioner
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, our proposal will not allow for access to private communications without a warrant. What we are proposing is a balanced approach between checking on those who may be distributing child pornography and the right of individuals to have their information remain private.

We ask the NDP to support this good legislation to get it to the 21st century, but also to support the private records of law-abiding long gun owners in this country.

Turkey
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past Sunday, a large earthquake struck eastern Turkey. Over 600 aftershocks followed the devastating earthquake and reports say that thousands of people have been left homeless.

Under the leadership of our Prime Minister, Canada took a leadership role on the international stage. We are often quick to respond to humanitarian crises around the world.

Could the parliamentary secretary tell the House what Canada's response is to this recent disaster?

Turkey
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I am proud that this morning the Minister of International Cooperation announced Canada's response to this disaster. Canada stands by the people of Turkey, and we offer our support and sympathy to the families and loved ones affected by the tragic earthquake.

We are sending 500 winterized tents to Turkey. The tents will ensure urgently needed emergency shelter for 500 families, and we will continue to monitor the situation there.

Government Loans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, some time ago, the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador signed an MOU for a loan guarantee covering the Muskrat Falls electrical project. Since then, we have heard nothing.

In our province, commitments from the government are often taken with some degree of skepticism. We wonder if this is really a commitment, or is it a scheme to keep the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador in line?

My question is for the minister responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador. Has the government completed its due diligence analysis and is it on time for final approval, or is this just another tactic it is using to keep the provinces in line?

Government Loans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we are very proud of the commitment we made to Muskrat Falls. We will continue to show support. This is a very important economic development project for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and, in fact, for all the people of Atlantic Canada. It offers the prospect of clean energy at low cost and economic development and growth and jobs.That is the focus of our government: economic growth and job creation.

Public Safety Officers Compensation Fund
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, for 14 years, Canada's firefighters have been coming to Parliament Hill to ask that their families be taken care of through a public safety officer compensation fund if they die in the line of duty or if they die saving others.

Five years ago, the NDP delivered, and we passed legislation through the House directing the government to do this. Since that time, dozens of Canada's firefighters and police officers have passed away, and their families are often left destitute. The United States has a fund, but Canada does not.

Why will the government not establish a public safety officer compensation fund and why is it showing such profound disrespect to Canada's firefighters and police officers?

Public Safety Officers Compensation Fund
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, this is a government that is listening to firefighters and police officers across the country. Not only are we giving police officers the tools they need to do their job, but we also introduced a firefighters volunteer tax credit which has been supported across the country. It is something firefighters asked for. It is helping them. We respect and appreciate the work they do. We will continue to support them.

We ask the opposition to do the same thing. We ask the opposition members to vote for measures that will keep criminals in jail and not out on the street.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, our government's top priority is to complete the economic recovery and protect and create Canadian jobs. Broadening and expanding access to more markets, particularly Asia, is a key part of our government's job creating pro-trade plan. Canadians get the jobs, the prosperity and consumer benefits that come from increased trade.

Could the parliamentary secretary explain why the Asia-Pacific gateway is so critical to our job-creating pro-trade plan? What is happening to ensure that happens?

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, our government's focus is to create jobs and increase prosperity for hard-working Canadians. As part of the Asia-Pacific gateway, our government announced strategic infrastructure projects worth over $3.5 billion, including federal contributions of over $1.4 billion.

Our approach is winning praise. For example, Linda Styrk, the Port of Seattle's managing director, said: “Canada has done a fabulous job putting together a national strategy to increase the flow of trade and create more jobs”. We agree with her.

We will continue to support the Asia-Pacific gateway because it increases trade, creates jobs and boosts overall transportation--

International Trade
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou.

Tourism Industry
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government could end up depriving the Canadian economy of millions of dollars in tourism spinoffs, because tourists from the countries for which Canada requires a visa must go through a completely arbitrary process. Every year, one out of every five visitors is denied entry to the country. There are no clear criteria, guidelines or standards for granting entry.

What is this government doing to make the tourist visa process fairer?

Tourism Industry
Oral Questions

Noon

Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, I am happy that my counterpart is interested in tourism. This industry is very important to Canada. I want to say that we are working with the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to ensure that our visa process is effective. I just got back from China, where I met with my counterparts over there. I can say that Canada has a very competitive process for granting visas to foreign visitors, compared to what is done elsewhere.

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Conservatives introduced a bill that would irreversibly decrease Quebec's political weight. The Quebeckers in this House have an obligation to object to this assault on the Quebec nation and denounce the bill.

The National Assembly has spoken out three times and Quebec's minister of intergovernmental affairs has made it clear, “...there is an exceptional consensus; Quebec does not want to see its weight decreased.”

Will the government respect the Quebec nation and correct its bill in order to maintain Quebec's current political weight?

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

Noon

Edmonton—Sherwood Park
Alberta

Conservative

Tim Uppal Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, we have introduced principled legislation that is fair for all provinces. Quebec has 23% of the population and will have 23% of the seats in the House of Commons.

The fair representation act would bring every single province closer to representation by population. We on this side of the House are governing for all Canadians.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the 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 responses to seven petitions.

Procedure and House Affairs
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

Noon

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 8th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Pursuant to Standing Order 92(3)(a), the committee hereby reports that it has concurred in the report of the subcommittee on private members' business advising that Bill C-292, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (victims' restitution and monetary awards for offenders), should be designated non-votable.

Condemnation of Russian Corruption Act
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-339, An Act to condemn corruption and impunity in Russia in the case and death of Sergei Magnitsky.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a bill entitled an act to condemn corruption and impunity in Russia in the case and death of Sergei Magnitsky.

The tragic torture and death in detention of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered the largest tax fraud in Russian history and paid for it with his life, is a looking glass into the pervasive culture of corruption and impunity implicating senior government officials in Russia today.

The bill notes that no objective official investigation has been conducted by the Russian government into the Magnitsky case, despite extensive documented evidence incriminating Russian officials in serious human rights violations, in the embezzlement of funds from the Russian treasury, and in the retaliation against Mr. Magnitsky, nor have the individual persons been identified, apprehended and brought to justice in Russia.

Accordingly, this bill establishes a process by which the Canadian government must prepare a list of individuals responsible for the torture and death of Sergei Magnitsky, for the conspiracy to defraud the Russian federation of taxes paid by the foreign investment company known as Hermitage, and for efforts to shield those culpable of those gross violations of human rights. It imposes restrictions on the listed individuals and their family members, such that they are inadmissible for the purposes of entering or remaining in Canada.

The ongoing impunity, and indeed, in this instance shocking impunity, regarding Russian officials is as scandalous as it is shocking. This legislation would uphold the rule of law, would assure Russian human rights defenders that they are not alone, would protect Canadian business interests in Russia, and in particular would remember and honour the heroic sacrifice of Sergei Magnitsky. He acted on behalf of all of us in his protection of the rule of law.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Passenger Rail Service
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of presenting a petition on behalf of the residents of Rossport, Terrace Bay and Schreiber in support of restoring vital passenger rail service that was cut in the late 1980s.

The petitioners note that rail is both environmentally friendly and efficient. Returning passenger rail to one of the most spectacular routes in the country, along the north shore of Lake Superior through Thunder Bay, would be a huge boost to north shore communities and to rail tourism alike.

The petitioners are asking for MPs to support Motion No. 263 to return passenger rail along the beautiful north shore of Lake Superior to Thunder Bay and beyond.

Human Rights
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I present a petition in which 30 Canadians from Saskatchewan and Ontario want the government to ensure the Holodomor and Canada's first national internment operations are permanently and prominently displayed at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

Shark Finning
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present petitions with 753 signatures from across Canada. The petitions were started by people within Saanich—Gulf Islands who are concerned about the fate of sharks globally because of the single practice of killing the shark to obtain the fin to make shark fin soup.

Earlier this week, Toronto City Council took decisive action and voted at the municipal level, as many other municipalities are now doing, to ban shark fins. This petition asks that this House look at the issue. I hope that we will also see a private member's bill on this matter.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 133, 135 and 137 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 133
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

With regard to Table 2-16 in the 2008 Greenhouse Gas Inventory produced by Environment Canada and submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: (a) what are the corresponding sector by sector greenhouse gas emission figures for 2009; (b) has the government revised any of the greenhouse gas emissions estimates from the years included in the above-mentioned Table 2-16, and if so why; and (c) do the oil sands sector figures reported for each year included in the above-mentioned Table 2-16 include the indirect emissions resulting from the electricity used in oil sands facilities, transportation of the oil, refining, and from any associated land use changes or deforestation, and if they are not included (i) why are they not included, (ii) what is the government’s estimate for what they would be?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 135
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

With respect to the business-as-usual Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission projections for Canada, last published in 2008: (a) what are the government's 2011 GHG emission projections for the years 2015 and 2020, disaggregated by source of emission and by sector, including, with respect to the oilsands sector, the GHG emissions related to in-situ bitumen mining, bitumen mining and upgrading; and (b) what are macroeconomics assumptions, data on demand by industry for electricity and energy, petroleum supply and distribution, natural gas supply and disposition, conversion and emission factors and other assumptions that these business-as-usual GHG emissions projections are based upon?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 137
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

With regard to recommendation number seven of the Report of the Standing Committee on Health, tabled on June 17, 2010, titled “Promoting Innovative Solutions to Health Human Resources Challenges”: (a) what is the government’s position with respect to physiotherapy as a method to reduce health care spending while increasing the capacity of Canadian physicians; (b) what is the government’s position with respect to a pan-Canadian increase in direct access to physiotherapy services without gate-keeper consultation from physicians; (c) what is the Treasury Board’s position with respect to allowing employees of the federal public service and members of the federal client groups, including, First Nations and Inuit, RCMP, veterans, immigrants and refugees, federal inmates, and members of the Canadian Forces, to have direct access to physiotherapists, without gate-keeper consultation from physicians?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, to finish my speech, I would like to mention two main things about Bill C-19, or two arguments that have been repeated and that need to be corrected.

My first point—and we agree with the government—is that the cost of initially implementing the registry—over $2 billion—was far greater than what was planned and announced by the Liberal government in office at the time. The cost of implementing the registry was staggering. However, the registry now exists. I found it interesting that the member for Cariboo—Prince George was asked a question by a member of his own party about the annual costs. He was unable to respond. I can say that the current costs are minimal compared to the program's contribution. The registry currently exists. We can use it.

It is a little bit like if someone decides to renovate his or her basement. That individual is told that the renovations will cost $10,000 but, in the end, they actually cost $50,000. Will the person completely scrap the renovations because they cost too much? No. That person will work with what they have got. The fact that the registry initially cost a lot of money—$2 billion—does not justify eliminating it. That does not make any sense. The registry currently exists. The operating costs are minimal, and the registry has many benefits, as I mentioned in my speech before question period.

The second point that I would like to make is that the Conservatives have now decided that abolishing the registry means that all the data must be destroyed, even though the provinces—Quebec, among others—want to keep this data to manage their own program. The Conservatives are saying that they mentioned doing this in their election campaign, but I honestly did not hear anything about it.

The hon. member for Beauce said that this falls under federal jurisdiction, but justice is a shared jurisdiction. The Criminal Code does fall under federal jurisdiction, but the administration of justice comes under provincial jurisdiction and, as far as I know, the Sûreté du Québec does not fall under federal jurisdiction. So now we should all be able to agree. The NDP did its part to search for a middle ground between the government, which wants to completely abolish the long gun registry, and those who want to keep it, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Such groups suggest, and rightfully so, that the registry is used repeatedly and regularly. Many of my colleagues have made that argument. I know that the police forces in my riding of Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques use it. I know they use it especially frequently in cases where there is a risk of domestic violence. This argument cannot be casually dismissed, which is what government members so often like to do.

The firearms registry should be amended to eliminate the sticking points that we have mentioned, that we continue to mention and that I talked about before question period. Those sticking points can be eliminated. My constituents in Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques have said that corrections must be made, including decriminalizing a first offence when someone fails to comply with the registration requirement. There are other sticking points. The NDP is prepared to sit down with the government to eliminate them and ensure that the registry continues in the same direction.

This is an important policy issue. This is not a trivial matter or delay tactic, but rather a fundamental issue concerning Canada's social fabric. That is why we want to work with the government to amend Bill C-19, but we will not be voting in favour of this bill in its current form.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed the hon. member's speech. When we talk about the firearms registry, I think back to the time when I worked at a furniture and appliance store, Ameublements Tanguay. A number of my colleagues were hunters. Some told me they felt as though they were being treated like criminals. I was aware of this type of argument.

We have to remember that at the time of the previous crisis, triggered by this government, with regard to this very registry, Mr. Layton had proposed, both within our caucus and to the government, that there be some sort of arrangement so that people who have to register their firearms could do so in a dignified manner without being labelled as potential criminals. I would like the hon. member to elaborate on this and to reach out to the government so that we can find a solution that suits everyone.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question, which touches on something I wanted to expand on. This allows me to do so.

Members have talked about hunters, gun owners, being treated like potential criminals. The hon. members opposite who use that argument are making allegations that make absolutely no sense. We all know gun owners, people who own shotguns, and we do not think of them as potential criminals in any way.

This argument is as misleading as saying that because we need to register our vehicle—vehicle registration is important because, among other things, it gives the police a way of tracking people who commit hit-and-run offences—all drivers are potential criminals. That makes no sense. We know that most firearm owners are law-abiding citizens who will not commit any crime.

However, we have to acknowledge that some crimes are committed by people with shotguns. As I was saying with regard to domestic violence, 88% of the spousal homicides committed with a firearm are committed with a shotgun. Accordingly, to say there is no justification for this registry because the facts are not there to support it is false; the statistics prove it. There is a prevention effort and the registry truly helps police forces do their work.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a question.

We are talking about a registry for firearms and hunting rifles. A semi-automatic hunting rifle with a magazine of 30 bullets is nothing to laugh at. I do not think that a duck being shot at will turn into a dive bomber and attack the hunter. I do not think that a deer will turn into a tank and crush the hunter. Clearly, long guns include weapons that are not hunting rifles but weapons of war. Currently, it is acceptable to own a semi-automatic weapon with a magazine of 30 bullets, which is exactly what was used at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. It was a combat weapon.

I would like to know how these combat weapons will be controlled if we get rid of the registry.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. He raises a valid point. That is why we need to work with the government to eliminate these irritants and ensure that the usefulness of this registry is being taken into account as well. The government seems to be ignoring that aspect.

The Conservative Party strategy since 2006—and even before then, since we are talking about the creation of the registry—has been to polarize debate, to say that it is entirely one thing or the other, black or white, for or against. The registry involves much more nuanced issues, and they have not been debated in society. Obviously, that has benefited the Conservatives and their fundraisers.

However, the societal issues and technical issues have been removed from the debate. That debate has not taken place in the House. My colleague from Burnaby—Douglas mentioned that, since 2006, there have been exactly three hours of debate on this issue. That is why we are calling on the Conservative government to work with us to eliminate the irritants and ensure that the positive aspects of the registry can be maintained.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-19, the ending the long gun registry bill.

It has been interesting to hear the different debates in the House over the last few days. Two years ago my colleague, the member for Portage—Lisgar, introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-391, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (repeal of long-gun registry), which was defeated by a mere two votes in the last Parliament, against the express wishes of responsible Canadian gun owners.

Although my medical practice and home are located in the wonderful riding of Simcoe—Grey, I was born and raised in the west, in Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, and Brandon, Manitoba. Both are areas of the country that have given me a deep appreciation of the quality of life in rural Canada, as does my own riding.

My grandfather was an avid duck hunter as well as a farmer. Today he would be heartened to know that our government stands on the side of law-abiding firearms owners, including farmers, duck hunters and rural Canadians in every region of the country.

In my riding of Simcoe—Grey we are fortunate to have many retired seniors from regions all across the country who have made our riding their home. Many of them have moved from northern Ontario and rural regions across the country where hunting, fishing and sport shooting are common practice.

My constituency is also fortunate to have many members of the farming community, whether that be the Beattie family, the McNabb family or Tom Walsh, the mayor of Adjala.

Members of the community use long guns as one of the main tools to keep their property and livestock safe from coyotes, foxes and other vermin.

When we put it all together it means that there is a great number of my constituents who care very passionately about the long gun registry. It is something that I heard about repeatedly as I went door to door in the last election from Creemore to Stayner to Loretto. It continues to be something my constituents take extremely seriously. My office has literally been getting hundreds of letters on the issue.

Make no mistake, my constituents are expecting the government to deliver on its commitment to scrap the long gun registry. That is what we intend to do.

Clearly this is an issue that brings out strong emotions in people. We have heard passionate arguments from members across the floor. While I respect their passion I also point out that many of the facts are simply wrong.

One of the points we have heard from the opposition is that the long gun registry saves lives. We are told it prevents crimes and violence. We are told that having it in place makes people safer.

These statements are not only incorrect but also create a false sense of security where it should not exist. Registering a long gun does not prevent it from being used in a violent manner. I recognized this when I saw injured people come through the emergency department regularly when I worked as a resident at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

The long gun registry does not prevent crimes from happening. The opposition members have cited many tragic examples of gun crimes that have happened over the past years. The registry did nothing to prevent those crimes. Those crimes took place despite having the long gun registry.

In addition, the registry is not an effective method of gun control. Gun control occurs through the licensing process, which has nothing to do with the long gun registry.

The registry is not an effective tool for law enforcement, to prevent crime or to target criminals. All it does is make criminals out of law-abiding gun owners. Considering its $2 billion cost to date, that is simply not an effective use of taxpayers' dollars.

The long gun registry was one of the key issues of concern to my constituents during the last election. It was an issue upon which the government was clear, that Bill C-19 will ensure that the government ends the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all.

Bill C-19 includes two important components. It will end the requirement that compels law-abiding long gun owners to register their non-restricted firearms, notably long guns. People wishing to acquire a firearm of ammunition will be required to undergo a background check for a criminal record by the issuer of the licence, pass a firearms safety course and comply with all firearms safe storage and transportation requirements.

The bill will allow the government to end the practice of criminalizing Canadian hunters, farmers and sport shooters for engaging in a way of life that is part of what we view as the fabric of this country.

Bill C-19 also ensures that the records of the registry will be destroyed. We have heard members of the opposition suggest in no uncertain terms that the data that was collected for the purpose of the long gun registry should be shared among the provinces so that they can set up their own registry if they so choose.

When our government made the commitment to scrap the long gun registry there was no caveat. We did not promise to rid Canadians of the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry only to facilitate its creation elsewhere. We said we would scrap the registry. We will do that and we will destroy the records.

What has become increasingly clear over the past few days is that should the NDP ever gain power it would have no qualm about resurrecting the long gun registry. I know that runs counter to the wishes of many of the NDP members' constituents in many of the rural ridings they represent. I cannot imagine turning my back on my constituents in the manner that they are now suggesting.

Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to keep focused on the economy and keep our streets and communities safer. While we are working to fulfill our promise to scrap the long gun registry, we are also continuing to work to deliver safer streets, better jobs and a better future for Canadians. We made a clear point in the last campaign to eliminate the long gun registry. A failure to follow through on that clear promise would only undermine the faith Canadians have in the political system, many of whom already have doubts in the willingness of politicians to live up to their commitments. I am proud to be part of a government that respects its promises, delivers on its commitments and stands for the things that matter to Canadians across the country.

That is why I am proud today to stand in support of Bill C-19. To be clear it is wasteful, ineffective and does not prevent crime. It targets Canadians such as my constituents in Simcoe—Grey who are law-abiding long gun owners. It is time for that to end. I hope that hon. members opposite will take it into due consideration and join the government in its effort to scrap the long gun registry once and for all.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said to an African friend of mine—from Mali, in fact—do not cry over spilled milk.

Two billion dollars was spent to create this registry. Now it is working, or at least it could be if the government did not take every opportunity to undermine it. For five years, this government has done everything possible to keep the gun registry from being efficient and useful. It is like a car owner who refuses to do an oil change or any maintenance and drives around with a flat.

How can my colleague have been complicit in this all along and now justify the destruction of this registry?

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have been extremely clear. We made it clear to our constituents that we will scrap the long gun registry. Unlike the members opposite, whether that be Charlie Angus or Malcolm Allen, who said that they would—

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order. I am sure I do not have to remind the parliamentary secretary to refer to members by their ridings and not their names.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, whether it be the member for Timmins—James Bay or the member for Welland, these individuals said they would scrap the registry and then flip-flopped.

We stand by our promise to stand with law-abiding farmers, duck hunters and rural Canadians in every region of the country and scrap the long gun registry.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, only a fool does not change his mind.

What I find really unreasonable is that we have been making suggestions for a long time. Our late leader made them. When we speak directly to gun owners, users, these are measures that seem perfectly reasonable to them. I have hunter friends who got emotional when they told me that they hated the process of answering questions that practically made them seem like potential criminals. That makes sense and we are aware of that. That is why my colleagues here supported our leader and eventually rejected the bogus private member's bill that had been introduced at the time by this government.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take exception to being called a fool in the House of Commons and await the member's apology in response.

As I mentioned, we will be scrapping the long gun registry. We are standing behind the law-abiding farmers, duck hunters and individuals who use long guns for sport unlike those NDP members, whether it be the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, the member for Sudbury or the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, all of whom said they would scrap the registry and have now flip-flopped.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was present in the public accounts committee when the Auditor General brought in her report and talked about the flawed nature of the data that was in the report. My colleague's profession previous to coming to the House of Commons was that of a physician. She might want to elaborate on just how dangerous it is to try and deal with flawed data as a professional. In this case, of course, I am talking about law enforcement agencies. Maybe she could allude to the fact that data is still available for licensing.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, evidence-based data is data we can act on. In the case of what my colleague had commented on, this data is not clean data. It is not data that can be utilized in an effective manner.

As I also mentioned in my speech, data does not save lives. Those individuals who need to be accountable, who are causing the grief on our streets, and the reason why patients end up in emergency, are not the law-abiding long gun owners we are dealing with here. They are criminals who need to be taken off of our streets.

In this case, we are standing up for those law-abiding duck hunters, farmers, and individuals who are just carrying on with their daily lives, like my constituents in Simcoe—Grey. They are very different from those criminals on the street that we need to ensure are taken into custody.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me the opportunity to join in the debate. I rise more in sadness than in anger, given that during some of the time of the development of the registry I was the solicitor general of Ontario responsible for this file. I was very supportive, as was the government that I was a member of. I understand the background and why this was brought about. I understand, accept and agree with the ultimate goals of why this was brought in.

However, what is probably most disappointing is the government's continuing propensity to find issues that are wedge issues and pit one region or province against the other in Canada. Much of the debate here is really about the differences in the lifestyles of people in the various parts of Canada. Demonizing on either side, quite frankly, is not helpful if the purpose is to build a better, stronger Canada and in this case, a better, stronger, safer Canada.

Jack Layton invested a lot of his political currency in this file. This has been read into the record, but I wish to read it into the record again during my submission today. These are the words of Jack Layton, our former leader. In August 2010 he said:

Stopping gun violence has been a priority for rural and urban Canadians. There’s no good reason why we shouldn’t be able to sit down with good will and open minds. There’s no good reason why we shouldn’t be able to build solutions that bring us together. But that sense of shared purpose has been the silent victim of the gun registry debate.

[The Prime Minister] has been no help at all. Instead of driving for solutions, he has used this issue to drive wedges between Canadians...[The Conservatives] are stoking resentments as a fundraising tool to fill their election war chest. [The Prime Minister] is pitting Canadian region against Canadian region with his “all or nothing show-down”.

This is un-Canadian. This kind of divisiveness, pitting one group against another is the poisonous politics of the United States. Not the nation-building politics of Canada.

When the issue came up, Jack was under incredible pressure to whip the vote because of his strong advocacy to diminish and eliminate violence of all sort, particularly domestic violence and violence against women. Had the registry gone down on that vote, his legacy would not have been the proud one that he ended his life with.

The cornerstone of Jack Layton's political life was respect. He made proposals for changes to recognize and respect the legitimate concerns of women in the country who are seeing far too many other women being killed at the hands of their own partners using guns.

Also, to be fair, the lifestyle in the northern parts of our country is different. I have been privileged enough to be in the high Arctic, to stand in the Northwest Passage. It does not take long to understand that there is a whole different life there, as in rural areas of our provinces and in the extreme corners of our provinces. We are so big that these regional issues are tensions that we deal with all the time.

What upset Jack the most was a government that was deliberately willing to exacerbate those built-in natural tensions that are part of trying to govern Canada given the extremities and differences that exist in how we live our daily lives in this country.

Therefore, it is much more with sadness than anger that I rise. I only have a few minutes, so I will say what I can in the short time that I have.

However, in terms of defending why the registry should stay, under any other circumstance, the debate for the government would begin and end with this one quote:

The registry gives officers information that keeps them safe. If the registry is taken from us, police officers may guess, but they cannot know. It could get them killed.

That was said by the chief of police in Toronto, Chief William Blair, who also happens to be the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

There is not just one quote. Here is another:

Scrapping the federal Firearms Registry will put our officers at risk and undermine our ability to prevent and solve crimes.

That quote is from Chief Daniel Parkinson, who is also the president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.

Now, under any other circumstance, if two prominent police chiefs, heads of national and provincial organizations, were to come out with statements like that, that would automatically be the policy of the government. Yet, here we are, in this bizarre situation where the Conservative government, whose members do everything they can to wear the brand of law and order, is going against the advice of the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and, in the case of my province, the president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.

We will hear members who get up to talk about some rank and file members make comments like this. But make no mistake, under any other condition, the government would recognize that while these chiefs are not on the front line anymore, they are the individuals who we task with making the decisions about which of our officers, and when, put themselves in harm's way. Sometimes it is harder for commanders to put somebody else's life at risk than it is to put their own life at risk.

Here are these chiefs who have to make those soul-searing decisions, saying, “Please don't do this”. To quote Chief Blair, “It could get them killed”.

In my view, there would not be a need for any further debate in the real world. But we are in this place and it is different.

I realize my time is going to run out, so I am just going to keep going for two minutes.

This is a quote from the federal victims' ombudsman, Sue O'Sullivan:

Though there are varying points of view, the majority of victims' groups we have spoken with continue to support keeping the long-gun registry.

It is interesting. The government members always talk about caring about victims, just like they always talk about caring about our soldiers, but they are great in the rhetoric. We hear the “Hear, hear!” and meeting soldiers. They stand and start saluting all over the place.

However, the reality is that it has been the NDP that has been standing up for those soldiers when they come back here and are no longer there for the parades and the send-offs. It has been our caucus members who have stood up for the plight of ordinary veterans who are living in poverty and facing all kinds of medical challenges. The government is not responding to them.

This is the same issue. We have the police chiefs on the one hand, we have our federal victims' ombudsman on the other, both saying, “Do not get rid of this registry, please, in the interests of the women in our society and in the interests of the officers we ask to go out and protect us day to day”.

The argument should be straightforward. It is for us on this side. We will continue to press to preserve this. I do not have any time to talk about the scorched earth policy of eliminating all the data. Maybe we can get into that in Q and As.

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12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether the member is practising for a movie role or not, but I suppose he does not have to deal with facts when he is just trying to display his oratorical skills.

That party is the most hypocritical party that we have ever seen in the House, because those members have voted against every anti-crime bill that this government has put forward, and now they have the audacity to stand up in the House and support a gun registry that does not mean diddly to any person with a criminal intent to use a gun, whether it has a registered number on it or not.

For goodness' sake, millions of illegal firearms are used in the majority of crimes every single day all across the country. The people using those firearms do not care whether they are registered or not, and the police, before they go to a scene, train themselves to anticipate that there could be a firearm involved whether there is a gun registry or not.

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12:40 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure there was an important point in that rant.

The member wants facts. How much more factual do we have to get than the chief of police of Toronto, who is the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police? We are not just making something up.

I made the point in my remarks, and I meant it, that under any other circumstance the Conservatives would be standing up and quoting what police chiefs are saying when it comes to fighting crime and keeping Canadians safe. We are quoting the most prominent police chiefs in Canada, yet the Conservatives are accusing us of playing some kind of game.

I would ask the member to look seriously in the mirror in terms of who is playing games with Canadians' safety.

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12:40 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech just given by the hon. member for Simcoe—Grey, and I noted two things in particular that I would like my colleague to comment on.

The member is a doctor and she just said that data do not save lives. Her statement is based on everyday data from her traditional job. I do not really understand how she can say that data, including the data found in the registry, cannot save lives. On the contrary, the information does save lives and can be used for prevention.

I would like to tell my colleague about a comment my team heard at La Débrouille, a women's shelter for victims of domestic violence in Rimouski-Neigette. Someone at the shelter said that when an abused woman seeks shelter with them, if she presses charges of course, the police consult the registry to see if weapons could pose a risk in a case of domestic violence. The shelter for abused women said that it sends at least one request a day to the Rimouski-Neigette police. We are talking about at least one call a day from one women's shelter alone, which is located in just one of Canada's 308 ridings.

In light of that comment from the women's shelter, can we not agree that the registry contains information that could be useful across the country, especially in cases of domestic violence?

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12:40 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right about the importance of the registry.

We can debate what we think happens when police officers pull up in front of a place. We can debate what we think all of this means, but let us remember what the leadership of the police community in Canada is saying. Let us also recognize that as of September 30, 2011, the Canadian firearms registry was accessed 17,402 times a day. If even one of those relates to my daughter, then I would rather be on the side of safety and have the information, because the opposite is what we currently have.

We recognize that there are different pressures and viewpoints from around the country on how to view this issue, but we are trying to see it from the victim's point of view, from the community's point of view, from the point of view of the police leadership in Canada. We are trying to put forward the fact that the registry makes a difference and it ought to stay. Women in Canada deserve to have this registry in place, and they deserve to know that their Parliament cares about them and their lives.

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12:45 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to speak to Bill C-19, the ending the long-gun registry act. My colleagues have spoken very passionately about the need to end this wasteful and ineffective registry, and I am very glad that the moment has arrived when we are actually able to do so.

Since my election in 2006, I have clearly stated to my constituents that I do not support the long gun registry, because it criminalizes farmers, hunters and target shooters who respect the law, but does nothing to prevent criminals from getting their hands on firearms.

I intend to keep my promise to scrap it, which is more than I can say for the NDP and Liberal MPs from rural ridings, who have long spoken about wanting to end the long gun registry but who vote to continue it whenever they are asked to take a stand on the matter. I will do as I said, as will my Conservative colleagues, and we will abolish this Liberal bureaucratic mess that infringes on the freedoms of Canadians.

As members may know, I represent a rural riding where farming is a way of life. Farmers make a living from the land and they have to protect their livelihoods. That means that a majority of the people who I represent own shotguns or rifles to safeguard their livelihoods.

The thrust of the problem is that these hard-working, law-abiding people who grow food for all Canadians are made to feel like dangerous criminals because of the long gun registry.

This long gun registry's criminalization of farmers, hunters and sport shooters is wrong. How is it possible that imposing needless and extensive red tape on these people is going to stop crime elsewhere? What is the connection between regulating the long gun in the hands of a farmer in my riding and stopping gun crime in Toronto, Montreal or Winnipeg? There is absolutely none, and what is worse is that the resources being used to administer the long gun registry could be used elsewhere to actually fight crime and protect victims.

This issue of the long gun registry demonstrates clearly the fundamental disconnect between opposition MPs and rural Canadians, and Canadians see this disconnect. Canadians elected Conservative members of Parliament on May 2, including, notably, not a single Liberal MP from a rural riding in Ontario. It is not hard to see why. Former Liberal minister of justice Allan Rock, the individual who implemented the long gun registry on behalf of his Liberal government, stated that “Only the police and military should have firearms”. This is a ludicrous statement.

Let us take my situation, for example. As the House knows, I served in the Canadian army for 20 years. During that time, I was trained for, carried and fired guns of all description: pistols, rifles, light machine guns, heavy machine guns, automatic grenade launchers, et cetera. I also trained other soldiers in their safe operation and acted in the capacity of range safety officer on many occasions.

The Liberal position enunciated by Allan Rock would be that despite all of this training, experience and responsibility, now that I am retired, I should have no access to firearms as a hunter or sport shooter and, to make it worse, I should be criminalized by the long gun registry if, for whatever reason, I missed a long gun registration deadline, even if it was not my fault.

This situation must change, and I am very pleased and proud that we now have the opportunity to change it.

I would also like to draw attention to a statement made by the hon. member for Mount Royal to the effect that destroying the long gun registry is synonymous with destroying evidence. Since I am a generous man, I will assume he misspoke. I say this because, interestingly enough, his statement implies that Canadians living in rural areas are criminals about whom evidence must be gathered, whether or not they have committed a crime. We on this side of the House fundamentally disagree with this attitude of the opposition members.

Hunters, farmers and sport shooters are not the people that we need to target if we want to keep our streets and communities free from gun-related violence. We need to target criminals and continue with the practical and concrete measures that the Conservative government has taken in this regard—measures that, I should add, the opposition has rejected. The opposition parties are speaking out against anti-crime measures that work and they are firmly supporting those that do not.

It is clear to the experts that safer streets and communities come from tough, effective laws and from smart crime prevention programming. Our government has taken concrete actions in both of these areas. Whether it is through increasing sentences for crimes involving guns, increasing sentences for gang crime, putting more police on the streets, or improving investments in crime prevention, our government believes in effective crime-fighting measures.

These are the kinds of measures that keep Canadians safe, not increasing bureaucracy, paperwork and red tape on law-abiding Canadians, with the threat of a criminal record if they do not.

Members need not take my word for it. Let me read the following quote: “The federal government has recently introduced a bill to end the long gun registry introduced by the Liberals in the mid-1990s. University of Ottawa criminologist Ron Melchers said the registry has had little to do with the decline in firearm homicides, adding that its absence will also make little difference”.

This is what the experts are saying.

I would also like to address a common inaccuracy used by the NDP and the Liberals. They say we register cars and boats, so why not guns? The fact of the matter is that if I am late filling out the paperwork to register my car, I get a small fine, but if I am late filling out the paperwork to register my shotgun, under the current system I am threatened with being charged, convicted, given a criminal record and perhaps being sent to jail.

Another point about the registration of cars and boats is that we only have to register them if we are going to use them. We can store a car in the backyard or garage and leave it unregistered for as long as we want. It is only once we start using that car that it has to be registered. However, if I store a long gun in a locked storage container in my basement and I do not look at it for 15 years, it has to be registered that whole time, or else I am committing a criminal act under the present long gun registry.

Turning law-abiding sport shooters, farmers and hunters in rural regions into criminals is not an effective means of gun control.

The bill before the House today is, in fact, very simple. It makes it possible for this government to do exactly what it promised—to abolish the expensive and ineffective long gun registry. It is not complicated. Members simply need to vote for or against it. Are they in favour of imposing useless bureaucracy on farmers because of their occupation? Are they in favour of treating hunters like criminals simply because they own firearms?

I know where my constituents stand, and that is why I will be voting to support the ending the long gun registry act. I call on all members opposite to do the same.

They need not listen just to me. The NDP member for Western Arctic said, “They say [the long gun registry] is effective, but effective for what?”

The NDP member for Timmins—James Bay said, “What rural people were concerned with is wasting money tracking down your grandfather's 20-gauge rifle as opposed to putting money into urban gun violence”.

Many similar statements have been made by both NDP and Liberal MPs who are members of the House today. It is my hope that they will reflect on the words that they themselves have spoken, that they will represent the will of their constituents and that when the time comes to vote, they will do the right thing, stand in their place and vote to end the expensive and ineffective long gun registry, which has criminalized responsible and law-abiding Canadians for far too long.

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again we have some unfounded allegations from the government and its stakeholders.

I think we on this side, as do government members, realize that no one in this House thinks hunters and farmers are criminals. What the member just spoke about, the fact that a person becomes a criminal if he does not register, are things that the NDP tried to eliminate in the bill it introduced last year. We tried to eliminate the irritants and we can still do so.

The member who just spoke also indicated that the issue is all black or white, either you are for it or against it, when reality is somewhere in the middle. I would like to know why the member who just spoke will not agree to work with the NDP to create a bill that could eliminate the irritants but would still help police forces do their job. The arguments made by my colleague from Hamilton were very clear: police forces need the registry and use it regularly.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, the question is simple: why does the NDP refuse to work with the government to abolish the long gun registry?

The registry does not work and does not help police officers fight crime. We need to implement measures that will help them. Every time this government tries to do so, the NDP votes against it. When we try to include more money and resources in the budget for police forces, the NDP votes against it.

I do not know if my colleague comes from a rural riding, but if that is the case, I am almost positive that some of the farmers and hunters in his riding would like to see the long gun registry abolished.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, front-line police officers have told me that because there are so many illegal and unregistered firearms, whenever they attend a domestic violence situation, even if there is no record of any firearms being in that resident, they always treat it like there could be one in the residence.

Therefore, previous members' statements are contrary to what the police chiefs have said. Could my hon. colleague verify comments that he may have heard regarding police preparedness training when they are going into a domestic violence situation?

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to police officers in my riding and they have expressed exactly the same concern. They treat all situations as high-risk situations. They have no confidence in the gun registry because the gun registry is riddled with errors. The gun registry may show that there is a gun in a home when in fact there is not or it may show that there is no gun in a home, when in fact there is. They have no confidence in it, so they treat all situations as high-risk situations.

I will just take a moment to point out what I see to be quite logical.

When a crime is committed with a long gun that has been registered with the long gun registry, it is quite evident that the crime was not prevented by the registry. The registry has failed in preventing that crime from occurring with a registered long gun.

When a crime is committed with a long gun that has not been registered for whatever reason with the registry, it is quite obvious that, once again, the long gun registry has failed to stop that crime with the non-registered long gun.

I really must put this back to my opposition colleagues. They keep saying how effective the long gun registry is in preventing crime, yet I have given two opposite examples that show that the registry has no role to play in preventing crime. They must answer that question because the long gun registry oppresses law-abiding Canadians and law-abiding Canadians are the ones who register their guns, not the criminals.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to debate Bill C-19. Once again, the Conservatives are showing their narrow ideology in trying to eliminate the Canadian firearms registry. This registry is strongly defended by our police forces and by the majority of Canadians, but this government is choosing once again to ignore reality.

The arguments in favour of this bill are not very convincing, while there are many arguments against the bill that are backed by data and by groups that work in protecting Canadians. Yes, the initial cost of the registry was exorbitant, but it has already been paid for by Canadian taxpayers. Abolishing the registry will not bring back the billions of dollars that have already been spent. According to the RCMP, abolishing the registry would result in direct savings of just a few thousand dollars. That is what the lives of the thousands of people saved by this registry are worth to the Conservatives. If this government claims to want to destroy the registry to save money, then to them, a life is worth nothing. This so-called savings is nothing compared to the unavoidable increase in the cost of police investigations that will result from abolishing this registry. In other words, the Conservatives' main argument for wanting to abolish the registry is simply ridiculous.

The other argument frequently used by the Conservatives for destroying the registry is that it is supposedly ineffective. This argument does not hold water. Police forces, as we have said a number of times today, consult the registry more than 17,000 times a day and want the registry to be maintained. It allows police officers to plan their operations better when they have to intervene with individuals, which contributes to the safety of our police forces. The registry also helps reduce the cost of police investigations. When a long gun is used in a crime, police officers can easily track the firearm and its user.

The registry has also helped save many lives. Even though the majority of murders are committed with handguns, long guns are used in the majority of spousal murders and suicides in which firearms are involved.

Various women's advocacy associations want the registry to be maintained. Year after year, long guns are used in two out of every three murders when firearms are involved. The registry has greatly helped diminish the number of spousal murders. For example, only a third as many spousal murders were committed with long guns in 2007 as in 1996, despite the population growth, which shows the usefulness of the registry.

These long guns wreak even more havoc on Canadian society when we consider suicide. Year after year, close to 60% of firearms suicides are committed with long guns. The registry makes it possible to quickly determine if, for example, a depressed person owns a firearm, which allows authorities to save many lives. The number of firearms suicides dropped from 569 in 2001 to 475 in 2004, proving once again that the registry works.

Since we know that most homicides committed with firearms are suicides, it is of the utmost importance for the government to take action. However, this government is irresponsible and would rather ignore the facts and introduce a bill that will lead to the death of hundreds of Canadians. The survivors of the various massacres that have occurred in Canada also want the registry to be maintained.

On one hand, the Conservatives say that they are on the side of victims of crime but, on the other hand, the Conservatives ignore and turn their backs on those victims when they take a stand that does not correspond with the Conservative ideology. This government is illogical. The Conservatives say that they want to make our streets safer by imposing repressive bills and, yet, they want to allow the free circulation of firearms. This clearly shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with the Conservative ideology.

In addition, one of the main reasons that there are problems with the registry is that the Conservatives did not enforce the legislation. By giving offenders amnesty since 2006, the government has been sending the message that the laws pertaining to the registry are not important and that the Conservative government supports offenders. As a result, millions of firearms are still not registered. What credibility does this irresponsible government have when it states that the registry is ineffective given that it is directly responsible for the problems with the registry?

The Conservatives have done nothing but sabotage the registry since 2006. This government claims to want to enforce the laws but, instead, it is sending the message that only the laws that are consistent with the Conservative ideology have to be respected. Unfortunately, that is not all. Many provinces, including Quebec, are insisting that the registry be maintained and, yet, the Conservatives are completely ignoring them. This government would rather completely destroy the registry instead of giving the data to the provinces. This shows the contempt that the Conservatives have for our constituents.

Must we remind this government that every Canadian paid for this registry, not just the Conservatives or the Conservative Party?

The people of the provinces that want to keep the firearms registry paid to create it. Are they not entitled to keep what they paid for? The Conservatives, blinded by their regressive ideology, absolutely want to destroy the registry without giving the data to the provinces. These same provinces will have to waste our money to recreate a registry from scratch. The Conservatives are showing their contempt for the provinces, especially Quebec, where 84% of voters voted against the Conservative Party. In fact, a motion was adopted yesterday by the National Assembly of Quebec calling on the federal government to transfer the firearms registry data to the Government of Quebec.

Another argument used by the Conservatives to justify destroying this registry is that it would violate the freedom of firearms users by imposing red tape. That does not stand up. Only two million people have to deal with the registry's red tape out of a total population of almost 35 million Canadians. Why destroy this registry and sacrifice the majority of Canadians to save a very small minority from the administrative irritants of the registry? Should we stop registering vehicles? That is the argument. Yet there are far more users of vehicles than of firearms. Of course, vehicle registration does not go against the Conservative ideology.

It is appalling that this irresponsible government is again trying to destroy the registry. Once again, this government is lying to Canadians to justify its position. Once again, this government is allowing U.S. interests, in this case the powerful gun lobbies, to dictate policy. It is time for this government to start listening to reason and the facts. Abolishing this registry will result in more suicides and more spousal homicides. Abolishing this registry will make police work harder and more dangerous.

This government is showing contempt for Canadians by imposing this ridiculous bill. The Conservatives always lower the bar simply because their position is dictated by regressive ideology.

I will continue to stand up for all Canadians abandoned by this government. I will fiercely oppose this irresponsible bill. I welcome any questions.

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's intervention with interest. As he knows, some colleagues in the NDP have introduced a bill to actually fix some of the problems with the registry because it would be foolish to say that it is perfect. Everything can stand to improve.

I know my colleague will agree with me that the Conservatives are playing divisive politics with this bill. They are pitting urban against rural. They are pitting Canadians against one another and are refusing to compromise on anything.

Would the member be willing to consider amendments, or a different bill or ways in which we could actually improve the registry? Or is this just something that he and his party are blindly hoping to save at all costs?

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, in my speech, I spoke about the Conservatives' ideology and how they cannot help themselves, but, once again, it is politics of division. In this case, we see men versus women. It is a clear case of where the government wants to create divisions between men and women. It did it with the poor against the rich, the middle-class and the lower-class, the religious and non-religious and urban and rural. It is a continuous process.

Hopefully the bill will not pass second reading but, if it does, I hope that in committee we will be able to put forward some amendments and that the Conservative government will be willing to acknowledge that some bills need to be amended and that it will work with members from both the NDP and Liberal Parties to make this a proper bill. If it does not want to listen to members of Parliament, it can always listen to members from some of the provincial legislatures, like the National Assembly of Quebec that just passed a motion yesterday saying that it supports the gun registry.

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1:10 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech earlier, when I make a commitment to my constituents, as do my colleagues on this side of the House, we keep it. We said that we would abolish the long gun registry and we are doing exactly that.

What are the member's colleagues for Malpeque, Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor and Avalon going to say to their constituents about their flip-flop on the long gun registry? They said before that they would scrap it and now they are not. What do they plan to say to their constituents?

We have made a commitment to our constituents. We are scrapping the long gun registry and keeping our commitment. What are they saying to their constituents?

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what I was saying. We should forget about the divisive part because it is understandable. That will happen in every question they ask. The fact is that some of the members in my party have decided that is the way to go. It took a while but we are finally convinced. If we look at the last two votes on the gun registry, every member of Parliament in the Liberal Party supported the maintenance of the gun registry. It is very simple.

There are members in the Conservative Party who want to abolish it but they are so scared of the Prime Minister that they will not do it. The Liberal Party is known for having an open policy. The Conservatives should wake up and allow everybody a free vote and then we would see if we could get a proper bill out of the chamber.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, this bill is actually quite consistent with the policies of the government, which is generally an evidence-free government. It does not seem to matter how many times it is told that minimum mandatories do not work, it still pursues it.

I was listening to one of the Conservative members who said that it was actually better that there be no gun registry because when police officers approach a situation, they always approach as if there are firearms. In this particular case, they are actually downloading their evidence-free philosophy on the police, implying that they would rather not know that there is something in the registry when they approach the house. Does that make any sense whatsoever?

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

That is how you make mistakes.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Evidence-free government.

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it was such a great question that he is still asking it.

The member is a hard-working member. I know he has been here for a while and knows all the issues. Maybe I could simplify it. The only similarity I can think of is when someone goes home and is hungry. The person is not sure what is in the fridge but he or she knows there will be some food there. There may be some things missing but at least we know that when we get home there will be some food in the fridge. It is the same thing. Police officers who know there is a gun in a house will be prepared differently than if they know there are no guns. Members can speak to any police officers. There are different ways to prepare for an operation.

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1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in my place and contribute to the debate on Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, also known as the ending the long-gun registry act.

Several members on this side of the House have opened their interventions by talking about their personal history with respect to firearms, and I think I ought to do the same.

I do not own any firearms. I can count on one hand the number of times I have used a firearm, and I can state for the record that I do not even really like firearms. For me, this is not an issue about firearms. This is an issue about liberty. It is about individual liberty and it is an issue concerning the role of the state and, I would suggest, the tendency over the last two or three decades of the state encroaching upon the rights of law-abiding citizens and the individual liberties of Canadians. That is the perspective and the lens on which I assess the merits and the values of the long gun registry that was set up in the mid-1990s by a previous government.

As a libertarian, I must concede that we compromise on our libertarian values every day of the week. For example, when I arrived here on Parliament Hill this morning in a motor vehicle, we need to respect certain rules of the road. We can only drive on the right-hand side. We must observe speed limits and traffic control devices, both for our own individual safety and, obviously, for the safety of other pedestrians and other operators of vehicles. I accept that.

For any law, regulation, registration or registry to be valid and legitimate, it must to pass three tests and those tests are the following: first, it must serve a valid purpose; second, it must be effective in achieving that purpose; and third, it must do so in a cost-effective manner. I would submit to members of the House that the long gun registry fails on at least two out of those three tests.

Is there a valid purpose? I suspect there actually is. The long gun registry was implemented in response to a very tragic event at École Polytechnique in Montreal. It was a tragic incident, one of the black marks in Canadian history, and there was considerable political pressure to do something to protect women and citizens generally against the violence of firearms.

I think the response of the government of the day was legitimate. I do not actually share the view of some of the members on this side of the House that the purpose of the bill was to criminalize hunters and farmers. I do not think that was the purpose. That is what happened, but I do not think that was the purpose. I will give the former government the benefit of the doubt that it actually was a legitimate purpose, although not well thought out.

The second test concerns whether the registry or the legislation was effective in achieving its purpose? I say, unequivocally, that it was not and it was not from the beginning because it was not thought out properly.

Members of the House, such as the member for Prince George—Peace River, who has been here since the infancy of the long gun registry, predicted back then and maintains to this day that we cannot effectively control violence with guns by targeting lawful, law-abiding gun owners.

That is consistent with any matter of policing. I live in the city of Edmonton where there has been over 40 murders this year and, incidentally, not one by a long gun. The weapon of choice most frequently used for murder in Edmonton is a knife, but that is a story for another day.

The police use their resources to police neighbourhoods and parts of Edmonton where they know crime occurs with greater prevalence and where criminals elements are known to exist. They do not routinely and frequently patrol the neighbourhoods where law-abiding citizens are known to exist.

When the authors of the registry decided that they would force legitimate gun owners, such as sportsmen, hunters and trappers, to register their weapons, they went after the wrong people. As was predicted and what should have been known and which was argued, if we check the Debates on Bill C-68, it was known then as it is now that criminals simply do not register their weapons. The program was ill-conceived, ill-thought out and, in fact, has not been effective in reducing crime.

I serve on the public safety committee. I served on the public safety committee in the last Parliament when the private member's bill sponsored by the member for Portage—Lisgar was before our committee. I had the opportunity of examining evidence, in some detail, from the then-president of the Canadian Police Association, Mr. Charles Momy. Mr. Momy came to the committee to tell us that abolishing the long gun registry would be a huge mistake, that it was a critical tool in the arsenal of the police toolkit. However, when pushed on that issue, he admitted to me that the police could not and do not rely on the long gun registry.

I will tell the House why he admitted that. When police respond to an incident, they do a long gun registry search. If the registry shows that there are no registered weapons at the residence, we asked Mr. Momy if the police could safely assume there are no weapons? His answer was, “Of course not”. They have to go in hoping for the best but being prepared for the worst. The police do not rely on it when it shows there are no weapons registered at that residence.

I asked him a second hypothetical question. What happens if the long gun registry search shows there are in fact two weapons at that residence and the police go in, find the two weapons and take them out of play, does that mean they now have a safe crime scene? Can the police assume there is not a third or fourth weapon? His answer was. “Of course not. You always have to assume that there are additional hazards, additional perils at that scene, notwithstanding that the registry said there were two weapons and two weapons were found”.

We have two examples, one where there was a negative result from a registry search and one where there was a positive result, and in neither circumstance did the police actually rely on the data.

We know that the police do not and cannot rely on the long gun registry. We know that it does nothing to deter crime under the very simple premise that criminals do not register their weapons.

The third part of my test regarding whether there is an appropriate legislative or registration response to a problem is the cost-effectiveness. Members will recall that the original estimate for Bill C-68, the long gun registry, was $2 million. Now, that does not sound like a large sum of money to promote a legitimate goal, as I identified, which was to reduce violence, to reduce violence against women and reduce gun violence generally.

As we know, $2 million was a gross underestimate of the actual cost. Was the estimate out by a margin of 10 or a margin of 100? No. It was out by a margin of 1,000. This long gun registry has cost taxpayers $2 billion. It has done nothing and can do nothing to deter crime or prevent guns from falling into the hands of criminals. Although chiefs of police like to say that they are in favour of the long gun registry, when pushed and asked if, in a world of finer resources, they would prefer more boots on the ground or a long gun registry, they always answer that they would prefer resources for something other than a long gun registry.

On that test, the long gun registry fails. It is not an effective response to a legitimate goal. It is not a cost-effective response to a legitimate goal.

I am proud to stand in this House and be part of a Conservative government that will actually put an end to what was a train wreck from the beginning. I think the liberty of law-abiding farmers, hunters, fishermen, trappers and others will be preserved. I encourage all members to vote in favour of Bill C-19.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to my colleague at work in the justice committee and he is always very factual and to the point. I have heard many of his colleagues stand today and say over and over that they intend to keep their promise to abolish the registry.

What about the promise to actually do something about crime in our communities? What about the promise that the Conservatives made, I think it was in 2005 but I will stand corrected if I have the date wrong, when they pledged, as part of their platform, that they would put 1,000 RCMP on the ground and 2,500 municipal police officers on the ground? They had a whole campaign about boots on the ground. What about the promise to actually do that and actually make our communities safer?

This is not about keeping a promise, as we all know. This is about pure ideology. I would like to hear an answer from my colleague.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy a good debate with the member for Halifax. She is always prepared and brings her A game.

With respect to the question, I will keep my promise, and I promise to abolish the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.

With respect to our other promise regarding whether we are going to do something to fight crime, perhaps the hon. member is familiar with Bill C-10 which is before the justice committee. It is a comprehensive bill that includes nine pieces of legislation from the former Parliament which we were not able to get through that minority Parliament. It deals with a variety of mandatory minimum sentences for individuals who grow drugs and sell them to children and sell them near schoolyards. It deals with some sexual offences against children. It is a great bill, and I encourage her to support it.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Edmonton—St. Albert for his presentation. I even tweeted it because I had not heard anyone in the House of Commons say “as a libertarian” at the beginning of a statement. I found that to be riveting.

I am baffled in this debate. Whenever a member of the opposition says that the police chiefs of Canada voted unanimously that they find the long gun registry useful, and whenever anyone in the opposition says that the RCMP commissioner, William Elliott, sent a report to the government on August 27, 2010 in which he said that the firearms registry is a critical component of the RCMP's entire firearms program and further, that it was cost effective and efficient, the response from the government tends to be that the opposition made these things up, that they did not happen. These reports stand.

I ask the hon. member to explain how it is that the institution of the RCMP and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have supported the registry, yet the government members say it is not useful for them.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to question Chief Blair on this very issue when he appeared before the public safety committee on its examination of Bill C-391, a private member's bill in the last Parliament. I have no doubt Chief Blair supports the long gun registry and has his reasons for doing so, but I would submit to the hon. member that he does not speak for all the chiefs of police across Canada. He does speak for the association because he is the president.

The hon. member will do doubt know, or should know, that quite a number of chiefs broke ranks, although there was considerable political pressure not to break ranks. For example, Chief Rick Hanson from Calgary came to the committee. He did not share Chief Blair's advocacy for the long gun registry. I think if we asked police chiefs generally, in a world of finite resources where they have to choose between more boots on the ground or an ineffective long gun registry, they would answer that they want resources diverted elsewhere. If we asked them straight out about the long gun registry, they would probably give us a positive response, but if we asked them to rank it vis-à-vis other more effective resources, we would get a very different response.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier that I was in the public accounts meeting when the Auditor General talked about the flawed nature of the data. There is a perception that an officer inquires on the long gun registry every time, but it is actually a computer program and there are a number of checks when a CPIC check is done. What data can be relied on? Does the member know about licensing and that data which is available all the time?

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has raised a good point. Yes, the registration information is inherently unreliable. It is searched thousands of times a day simply through a CPIC search when a motor vehicle is pulled over on a routine stop.

The licensing information is much more accurate. Nothing in this bill changes the licensing regime. Individuals who want to purchase firearms or ammunition will still need a licence. That information is much more accurate and much more effective in the hands of law enforcement.

Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

moved that Bill C-300, An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to begin our discussion regarding Bill C-300, an act respecting a federal framework for suicide prevention.

I want to thank the member for Toronto Centre for dedicating an opposition day to this important issue, and the member for Halifax for raising this issue in two consecutive Parliaments. I thank them for ensuring that this very political issue did not become partisan.

In that spirit, I use the word “discussion” rather than “debate” because I am convinced that the House is eager to take action on the national tragedy that suicide represents.

I also want to acknowledge the important contribution of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, its executive director, Mr. Tim Wall, and president, Dammy Albach, and Dr. Adrian Hill.

I also wish to extend a special thanks to Mr. Rory Butler of Your Life Counts, as well as Tana Nash and the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council, and Dr. Antoon Leenaars, psychologist and suicide researcher.

Each of these individuals and groups has contributed to my work and I thank them for their efforts in suicide prevention.

I also want to acknowledge the 20 members who have added their formal support for Bill C-300 by attaching their names as seconders of the bill. Members of all parties in the House have voiced their support formally and informally and I am grateful as it signals that long awaited action is imminent.

I believe that all members will want the bill to move quickly on to committee for further study where any possible improvements can be incorporated into Bill C-300 before it is returned to the House for final approval. The sooner the bill receives royal assent, the better for all Canadians.

This will be the first small but very crucial step in providing additional hope for those who have worked in the trenches doing this noble work for years and years, often with far too little coordination, too few resources, and a lack of federal leadership and vision.

For far too long there has been a call for some strategic national leadership and unifying coordination of the great efforts of many community groups all across Canada, suicide prevention groups that have been key in identifying and addressing the risk factors relating to suicide. They have also worked within communities, schools, commercial companies and families to provide support and care for those left to deal with the burden of grief.

Bill C-300 establishes the requirement for the Government of Canada to develop a federal framework for suicide prevention in consultation with the relevant non-governmental organizations, the relevant entity in each province and territory, as well as the relevant federal departments.

In Canada, far too many lives, almost 4,000, are lost each year to suicide. Over 10 Canadian lives are ended each day prematurely and tragically, leaving behind broken communities and shattered family dreams. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Canadian youth 10 to 24 years of age. In my home area of Waterloo region, three youths lost their lives to suicide in just one single week last year. Suicide has a horrific impact: shortened lives, shattered dreams, grieving families, devastated friends, and broken communities.

We need to do more to protect the sacred gift of human life, and I believe that all human life is sacred. I will stand for the protection and preservation of the dignity of all human life well after others may have decided that a specific life is no longer worth the extra effort, the extra care, or the extra protection in late senior years. My convictions and beliefs as they relate to this issue of life without a doubt have been shaped by my life's journey.

I was elected to Parliament in January 2006. I have the honour of representing the great people of Kitchener--Conestoga. Throughout these past five years plus, I have had the honour of meeting some incredible people from all sides of the House, many of whom have become very close friends.

One of the most welcoming and encouraging MPs I met in those early days would often take the time to say “great job” or “this 2006 class of MPs is exceptional”, or “hey, I know where you could find this, or here is someone who could help you with that”. Dave Batters was positive, he was an encourager, and he was fun to be around.

Our Prime Minister spoke at Dave's memorial service about his many contributions:

Dave held a place in all our hearts. To his wife and family, he was a loving and beloved husband, son and brother. To his friends, he was unfailingly loyal, generous and caring. And among his colleagues in Parliament, myself included, he was greatly admired for his dedication to his constituents, our party and our country.

In my experience, no one on either side of the aisle ever had a bad word to say about Dave.

His passion for the causes he embraced was combined with respect for his opponents. Dave was always excited about whatever issue or initiative he was working on. His energy and enthusiasm were infectious. He had a good sense of humour. He lifted spirits and inspired others. In fact, I used to tell my staff that I wished I could match Dave Batters' liveliness and optimism.

Members can imagine my shock and disbelief, and the shock of my colleagues, when we heard the tragic news that Dave Batters, MP, had lost his life to suicide. How could it be that someone so full of life could lose hope when he seemed to be enjoying life so much, including his role as member of Parliament? What brought about that deep sense of despair?

These are bigger questions than I am prepared to answer. Suicide and its causes are extremely complex and the solutions are also not simple. However, these big questions bring me back to another question. Why did I run for public office in the first place?

The reason I ran for public office, as I am sure every member in the House did, was to do my part to make this great country of Canada an even better country for my children and for my grandchildren. My family, my community, my life experiences here in Canada and internationally have all shaped my world view.

My faith journey as a Christian informs me that as humans we have the imprint of our creator deeply imbedded within each and every one of us regardless of social status, educational achievements, ethnic background, gender, colour of skin, so-called disability issues, or age. The list of the glorious variety placed within the human race goes on and on, but we are brothers and sisters.

As it relates to the tragic premature loss of life, what steps can we take to restore hope to those who are in despair? What can we do to improve the support mechanisms for those who are dealing with acute and chronic mental health challenges, or for those who have simply lost hope? What leadership can Parliament or the Government of Canada provide?

I am certain that everyone in this chamber can tell us how they, their family, or a member in their community has been negatively impacted by suicide. Each of us knows someone whose sense of hope was overcome by despair and ended his or her life by suicide. We understand that suicide does not end the pain; it simply transfers it to the family, friends and community.

There is no way to calculate the loss to families, our communities and our country. It is estimated that for every suicide there are 22 emergency department visits and 5 hospitalizations for suicide-related behaviour. It is a huge economic cost that must be considered.

More important than the economic costs, we must think of the thousands of families robbed of loved ones long before their time. These losses deprive our communities and our country of the important contributions that those lives, which were ended prematurely, could have made. Four thousand times a year we suffer a tragic loss of human potential.

Suicide is a triumph of fear and the loss of hope. Suicide is most often the result of pain, hopelessness and despair. It is almost always preventable through caring, compassion, commitment and community.

In the first paragraph of the preamble to Bill C-300, members will find the following words:

Whereas suicide is a complex problem involving biological, psychological, social and spiritual factors, and can be influenced by societal attitudes and conditions;

It is widely recognized that in many cases, there may be biological, psychological, or physiological factors related to chemical balances and imbalances which lead to mood disorders.

The Canadian Mental Health Association of Ontario states:

People with mood disorders are at a particularly high risk of suicide. Studies indicate that more than 90 percent of suicide victims have a diagnosable psychiatric illness, and suicide is the most common cause of death for people with schizophrenia.

Social factors also may be a contributor to higher suicide rates. As we know, the suicide rate among aboriginal youth is five to seven times higher than among non-aboriginal youth. Along with the biological, psychological and spiritual factors, there are some key social factors that are having an impact on these high suicide rates.

The national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy was launched by Health Canada in 2005. It is a five-year strategy developed in full partnership with the Assembly of First Nations and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, with an investment of $65 million to establish community-based, culturally appropriate levels of prevention. Specific focus was placed on promotion of life and well-being. Budget 2010 added $75 million to expand this program up to 2015.

Evidence is accumulating that when aboriginal communities, including Inuit communities, design their own interventions, typically, based on traditional cultural values and practices, the efficacy of these interventions is high. Therefore, there is hope, but much more needs to be done. We need to offer hope to those who are facing this unbearable pain and who subsequently descend into a state of hopelessness and despair.

I have touched briefly on the possible biological, psychological and cultural factors that may affect suicidal behaviour, but there is another key factor that far too often is ignored.

Professor Margaret Somerville of McGill University has said:

Hope is dependent on having a sense of connection to the future, even if that future is very short-term....Hope is the oxygen of the human spirit; without it our spirit dies.

Hope is a sense of connection to the future. Hope is the emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. Hope is a belief that life's events will turn out for the best.

Each of us can relate to the importance of having hope in our lives. That hope might be very short term, like getting through Grade 5, or graduating from high school, or getting one's driver's licence for the first time or even the upcoming weekend trip.

For people of faith, a longer term hope, in fact an eternal hope, is ours because of our belief in the reality of the resurrection.

A colleague in the House recently used the phrase, “death shall have no dominion”, crediting it to Dylan Thomas. In fact, this phrase finds its origin in the Scriptures, in the Book of Romans 6:9, in the context of Christ's victory over death, a victory offered to each of us.

I have a strong hope of seeing my grandchildren in a few hours, when I travel home for the weekend. Over the next number of years, I hope to see my grandchildren graduate from elementary school and secondary school. I hope to see my grandchildren get married and develop strong families. I hope to see each of them contribute to the building of a stronger and better Canada. My ultimate hope, however, is in the reality that I will again see by wife Betty, who left this earth almost six months ago.

These smaller and shorter hopes and the longer-term hope remind us of the many joys in life. However, for those struggling with life, and perhaps struggling with suicidal thoughts, these sources of hope have dimmed or perhaps been lost altogether.

How can each of us make a difference? How can we help?

The very fact that this discussion is happening in the House of Commons in Canada is a huge step forward. It is time to break the silence.

Too many Canadians are in the dark about this issue. A recent survey by Harris-Decima conducted on behalf of Your Life Counts found that 86% of Canadians did not know that suicide was the second leading cause of death among our youth. Over one-third thought it was a small problem or not a problem at all. Over 96% of respondents stated that in order to reduce suicide, the topic should be freely discussed, without fear or shame. An overwhelming 84% believed that government should invest in suicide prevention.

Suicide is obviously a mental health issue, but it is so much more than that. Suicide is a public health issue affecting all Canadians. All of us, including all levels of government, need to do our part to face this issue head on, to work with communities across Canada to do all that we can to relieve the mental, emotional and spiritual pain of those who are in despair and who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, so we can keep them alive and safe.

A national framework for suicide prevention will create the connections, promote the consistent use of best practices, offer hope and send a clear message that this issue matters and is important, that every life is important. By working together, we can, and we will, make a difference.

Already a lot of great work is being done in suicide prevention across the country, but with some federal vision, federal coordination and federal leadership, we can do better for vulnerable Canadians.

I ask all hon. members of the House to please support Bill C-300 in order to make that happen.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be the first recognized in what I am sure will be a fairly long list of members of Parliament who wish to congratulate the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his leadership on this issue and for bringing forward the bill. I am very proud and look forward to being able to vote for it. I commend the member.

Could the member set out further the really critical role for mental health strategies that are so severely lacking, particular for our youth?

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague called and wanted to second the bill. Unfortunately we already had 20 seconders. I thank her sincerely for her strong support.

If we take time to read the preamble and a number of points that are within the bill, what we are asking for is simply some coordination, national leadership and sharing of best practices. In our communities we all have great community groups already doing excellent work, but, without exception, they are calling out for some national leadership and visions and for the resources to help them do their job even better.

If we can get some of the research that is already being done and that is going to be commissioned out of the classroom and into the hands of people who are doing the work in the trenches, that is a good thing.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for his initiatives on Bill C-300. I have to admit a certain fondness for that name and a fondness for the member as well. I and our party will be supporting the bill. Therefore, from that standpoint there is not really much of a discussion about the issues.

However, I wanted to get into his vision about what the bill, in his ideal version, would accomplish. The bill talks about designating the appropriate entity to establish best practices, do education and things of that nature. In the member's ideal vision of how this bill would roll out over time, what would he actually see, both from an organizational standpoint and also from a best practices, best purposes standpoint?

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his support as well.

We were careful to craft the bill in a way that would not enter into jurisdictions not under the federal government and that would give latitude to whichever entity this would be referred. I assume that would be Health Canada, however, I do not want to presume that. Nor do I want to presume that Health Canada would necessarily set up an agency within itself to do this work.

However, we are giving it the freedom to do this. A lot of great work has already been done by Health Canada, and we need to acknowledge that, and we need to bring together these groups already doing the work within Health Canada. We have too many different groups within our government, and not just related to suicide prevention. However, too often the silos of information are not being shared. By sharing the information across jurisdictional lines and within Health Canada, we will have a better approach to moving forward.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we heard in the news, and as the hon. member mentioned this in his speech, people from his riding and some people in Ottawa felt they were different and because of that they felt they were being discriminated against and bullied. Whether they were different by the place they went to worship or by the colour of their skin does not matter.

I know the member said in his speech that we all have a responsibility. Could the member comment on some of the things we might be able to do in a proactive or mentoring way, as leaders in our community, as members of Parliament or just as average citizens?

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, the very fact that this discussion is happening is a big piece of that. Each of us works with people, one on one, here in the House or in our previous employment. We need to have our eyes and ears open to know what is happening. However, too often there is a stigma, a silence, a secrecy surrounding suicide.

I could reference some people whom I have come into contact with, such as a friend who said that he knew his aunt died of suicide, but the adult children of that aunt were not talking. They do not know that she committed suicide. Anything we can do to have a greater degree of openness to discuss it would be a good thing.

On that note, I want to commend the widow of the late Dave Batters for her openness in discussing this issue frankly and clearly, and not only being willing to discuss it, but taking great initiative to promote suicide prevention initiatives across Canada.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is at times like these that we realize what an incredible responsibility we have as members of Parliament when we feel compelled to speak about an issue as important and as complex and difficult as suicide. It is also at times like these that we are most impelled to speak from the heart.

Despite centuries of knowledge on the problem of suicide and various attempts to address the issue, it remains a persistent phenomenon, one which we cannot seem to tackle effectively. Perhaps it is the depth of the question which escapes us and makes it difficult for us to find concrete solutions, for suicide, perhaps unlike any other problem, condemns our society and culture.

As Albert Camus once wrote following upon the atrocities of the second world war and the loss of faith in human nature this entailed:

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.

Though I may disagree with his conclusions on the question of suicide, I agree with his sentiment. Having seen those close to me grapple with depression and social exclusion and having been good friends as a teenager with a person who attempted suicide several times, it is difficult for me to see suicide as anything but a failure of the very social fabric of our society.

We are social beings, after all, and the suicide of one is the failure of all, a collective failure to tolerate and to forgive, a failure to accept those who feel and are different and those who struggle under the ravages of mental illness and the stigma associated with it, but above all, a collective failure to love.

It is hard not to come to the conclusion that over the centuries of awareness of this problem that we as elected officials have been afraid to look into this problem. Perhaps it is because it entails taking a very long and very difficult look at ourselves and our immense fear of death. However, as an elected politician, I am here to say, and add my voice, that we are the representatives of those contemplating suicide as much as we are the representatives of any other Canadians. We have the responsibility to speak out and act. Our shared humanity compels us to act whether it be in our families, social circles or ridings.

It is truly sad that evidence continues to point to the failures of our inability to act. The suicide rate for Canadians, as measured by the WHO, continues to hover around 15 per 100,000 people. Populations at an increased risk of suicide include aboriginals, youth, the elderly, inmates in correctional facilities, people with mental illness and those who have previously attempted suicide.

In Canada, more than 100,000 Canadians have committed suicide over the past 20 years—10 suicides a day and more than 3,500 suicides a year. In Quebec, the most recent data from the Institut national de santé publique du Québec indicate that 1,103 people committed suicide in Quebec in 2008. Adults between the ages of 35 and 40 are most at risk. Even though it has improved over the past few years, the suicide rate in Quebec remains an ongoing problem at 13.8 out of every 100,000 people. That is higher than Greece, Italy and even the United States. Each day, three Quebeckers commit suicide. In 2009, 1,068 people killed themselves, and that does not include those who attempted suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 25- to 49-year-olds.

The situation is even worse in the aboriginal community. The suicide rate is four to six times higher for aboriginal youth than for non-aboriginal youth. The suicide rate is more than 10 times higher among Inuit than in the rest of Canada. The suicide rate for young men between the ages of 15 and 24 is 28 times higher in Nunavut than in the rest of the country.

That is shameful, absolutely shameful. The need for action is the main reason that I wholeheartedly supported the motion regarding a national suicide prevention strategy. That is why I made this speech. I support my colleague's bill with great enthusiasm. And I congratulate the hon. member for choosing to act, and I offer my help in his effort to prevent suicide.

Though the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not, it does not consume it. Darkness is but the absence of light, and as children of that light and of its hope, I must believe that we can always choose to move toward it.

I believe suicide can be prevented. We must do it together. As elected officials, it is our duty to help these people through prevention and treatment programs in all communities. Suicide prevention is everyone's business. We need to raise public awareness of this issue and encourage everyone to help, rather than judge, those who suffer. Many initiatives have been launched across the country in recent years, such as establishing national guidelines for suicide prevention among seniors and funding research into suicide among aboriginal people. Now we need to develop a national strategy in order to offer services across Canada.

Everywhere in Canada there are people like those of Tel-Aide Outaouais, the distress centre in my riding, who are dedicated to suicide prevention in public administrations, and I would like to commend their excellent work. As we know, simply being able to talk to someone at the right time can make all the difference in the world. At the same time, however, it is appalling that these efforts are often underfunded, in addition to being inconsistent and disorganized. The federal government must take action.

For instance, it needs to officially recognize that suicide is a major public health concern and make it a public policy priority in Canada. It must fund, support and coordinate a range of effective initiatives to prevent suicide. It must systematically evaluate initiatives and gaps in services across Canada. It must promote dialogue, research and the sharing of knowledge and skills among governments and stakeholders. Lastly, it must monitor trends and develop national guidelines in order to improve practices and intervention.

In closing, like Stendhal, I hope that, in the future of our country, tears become the ultimate expression of a smile for everyone, and that love becomes the miracle of our civilization.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again it is an honour to rise and talk about this subject. The last time I spoke about this subject was on October 4. I spoke not only about the statistics and the facts of suicide in this country, but I also related a personal story, as did many members in this House, over one of the more extraordinary days we have had here.

It became clear to me after that day, as I reflected on it and was literally inundated by telephone calls, emails and personal approaches, that this was a subject matter the Canadian public was ready to have their elected representatives talk about.

I want to commend my hon. colleague from Kitchener—Conestoga for keeping this conversation alive. I think he has made a really good initiative. I hope we do not get lost in the weeds. As an initiative, it is about as carefully a thought-out initiative as it can be at this stage. I hope that this bill will go forward and I hope that when it does go to committee, it will receive some thoughtful reflection.

I was approached, I do not know how many times, after that speech on October 4. Colleagues who I only know in a peripheral way came up to me afterward. The pattern of the conversation was, “I want to commend you for the courage you showed in speaking”. Then they would get into their own personal stories.

Almost without exception, the stories were heartbreaking, really heartbreaking. I asked one colleague what his story was, and he said he had lost his wife to suicide 20 years ago. Another colleague in the other place lost a son to suicide. I was standing in line at the local LCBO, paying for my wine purchase for the weekend, and a lady tapped me on the shoulder, told me she had heard my speech and went on to tell me her story.

These cameras and these speeches actually can have an impact. I think that the hon. member is appropriate in bringing this forward and trying to do some form of legislative response which will hopefully move the ball forward.

Other colleagues have talked about the impact on individual populations, whether it is the gay youth or aboriginals or young people. Each story is very discouraging. How to reach into that darkness of those who have suicidal ideation is really quite a challenge. I do not know what the answer to that challenge will be, but with this initiative there is some possibility that we may be able to reach those who attempt suicide, and apparently there are 100 attempts for every “successful” suicide. Perhaps by some means we can enter into the mind of the person who is contemplating that.

I was extremely touched by a pastor friend of mine who talked about the 13 suicides he has officiated at, at two of which he literally cut down the body, and some he had been counselling up to somewhere in the order of three hours prior to the death of the individual.

There is not a person in this room, and I dare say there is not a person who is watching this debate, who has not, in some manner or another, been affected by suicide.

I think we actually have moved forward. I was raised in a generation where if uncle so-and-so died in strange and mysterious circumstances, it would be described, particularly to the children, as something other than a suicide. We have moved off that point and made some progress.

It may be that the member for Kitchener—Conestoga will be part of moving us to that next stage where we de-stigmatize, which I think is good, and get beyond de-stigmatization to bring the rates of suicide down, not only for the general population but for discrete populations as well. Whatever we can do in that respect would be worthwhile for us as legislators.

We know our limitations and what we can do in the form of legislation and regulations, but it is certainly an improvement over doing nothing, and I want to commend the hon. member for this initiative.

I did ask a question earlier with respect to his vision of how he sees this operating. I appreciated his answer, that he is not entirely sure how this will roll out in the form of government response to legislation. He shows a certain openness, and I hope the government in turn shows a certain openness to his initiative.

From my side and my party, I would encourage the government to be very open with this piece of legislation. There would be a level of collaboration, which is not frequently seen here, and I hope the consequence of that collaboration could be the best possible legislative, regulatory, financial response that we could have to this plague, this blight on our society.

It is hugely ironic that we as a wealthy, well-developed, and well-educated populace have the third highest suicide rate in the industrial world. It does not seem to be quite right. Something is not good in this country. I commend the hon. member for his initiative and for pointing that out to us.

I do want to again thank the hon. member. He can count on me and our party for whatever support we can offer him as he goes through this legislative process.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-300, An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention, put forward by the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga. I am also pleased to have the opportunity to provide some insight into the context surrounding suicide prevention and to highlight some of the efforts under way.

Suicide has devastating impacts on families and communities across the country. In Canada, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall. Approximately 3,600 Canadians commit suicide every year. Among Canadians aged 15 to 24, it is the second leading cause of death, and at-risk groups face disproportionately higher rates than the rest of the country.

Along with the enormous life-changing toll this takes on families and communities, it impacts every one of us directly or indirectly. For example, the economic cost of suicide and related behaviour in Canada is estimated at over $2.4 billion per year. Recently several high-profile cases have brought significant media attention to this issue, including here in Ottawa.

Canadians know of the complexities of suicide and want to hear that we are acting collaboratively with communities, governments, health professionals, the private sector and many others. They want us to help ensure that resources are there, awareness is being raised and the information on prevention, treatment and coping is being shared. This is where we can make a difference, and these are the reasons I am pleased to speak to the bill put forward by the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga and thank him for his tireless work to bring the issue of suicide prevention out of the shadows.

As my colleagues will know, this bill seeks to establish a federal framework for suicide prevention. It calls for a framework to recognize that suicide, in addition to being a mental health issue, is a public health issue, and as such is a health and safety priority.

The framework would guide and strengthen coordination of existing Government of Canada suicide prevention efforts. It would promote collaboration and coherence, guide our engagement with many partners, including provinces and territories, and help inform potential future initiatives. It would also serve as a reporting tool for more systematic documentation and tracking of related current federal actions and investments. Further, federal work on each of the elements of the framework would help support multiple stakeholders across Canada to optimize their efforts. The baseline information, best practices and research results generated would help ensure that the most effective interventions and services are provided to Canadians.

The bill recognizes that the prevention of suicide is complex and, like so many other health issues, cannot be addressed within the health portfolio alone. The bill provides a solid rationale for why we must harness the great work happening across the country. Many schools and communities across Canada are helping to raise awareness about the stigma of mental illness, initiating programs to prevent bullying and providing counselling and support for at-risk populations.

Provinces and territories are also carrying out programs to strengthen individual resilience and self-esteem and improve mental health. Nunavut's suicide prevention strategy, New Brunswick's Connecting to Life strategy and the 10-year plans established in Alberta and British Columbia are just a few examples. Countless others are providing new means of counselling, services, awareness raising and other activities for the workplace, schools, the community and individuals.

The Government of Canada is also a full partner and participant in suicide prevention. It invests in a number of programs designed to build positive mental health and address the underlying factors that can affect mental health and potentially lead to suicide.

For example, the government is very proud to provide funding of $130 million over 10 years to establish and support the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The initiatives of the commission include the development of a mental health strategy for Canada, a knowledge exchange centre, and an anti-stigma campaign entitled Opening Minds.

Several federal departments and agencies also support and disseminate leading-edge research on mental health and suicide, including Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, among many others.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is investing $27 million over the next four years to support nine large-scale mental health promotion initiatives in over 50 communities across Canada, and Budget 2010 provided $75 million until 2015 to extend the national aboriginal suicide prevention strategy.

We can work together, and are working together, in a more collaborative way within government to ensure that our actions are guided as coherently and efficiently as possible. For this reason, the creation of a framework, which Bill C-300 proposes, is an important next step in this battle. It will report on progress being made and outline concrete measures that can improve the state of mental health.

After all, the federal family is complex and involves activities related to the health of many populations. For example, the RCMP and Canadian Forces are directly responsible for the health of their members, Health Canada is responsible for the promotion of health for first nations people living on reserve, as well as Inuit populations in the north, and Veterans Affairs provides services in support for veterans who have performed active service in a war.

By contrast, there are other departments whose actions provide guidance to Canadians as a whole. The Public Health Agency of Canada, for example, is responsible for providing public health guidance and coordinates health promotion and chronic disease prevention with complementary activities of individual provinces and territories.

Research on mental health and compilation of mental health statistics is conducted by a myriad of federal players, including the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada.

Given a topic as big, broad and complex as the prevention of suicide, it would make sense for these departments and agencies to come together, share information and ensure their approach to this issue has the benefit of shared expertise, best practices and lessons learned.

It requires that the Government of Canada assume responsibility for six main activities: first, in providing guidelines to improve public awareness and knowledge about suicide; second, in disseminating information about suicide, including information concerning its prevention; third, in making existing statistics about suicide and related risk factors publicly available; fourth, in promoting collaboration and knowledge exchange across domains, sectors, regions and jurisdictions.

I want to elaborate on this point for a moment. We will be undertaking this activity in the very near term; I raise the point because it gets to the core of why we are all here, which is to ensure a collective and coordinated effort across Canada.

The fifth recommendation lies in defining best practices for the prevention of suicide. The final area is promoting the use of research and evidence-based practices for the prevention of suicide.

We are in agreement with the spirit of Bill C-300: that collectively, we can and must and will do more.

I want to again thank the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his dedication and passion in bringing the bill to the House.

We are committed to doing more. We encourage people to talk about suicide and mental health concerns with loved ones or with health professionals. We hope no one suffers in silence.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to support Bill C-300, regarding the creation of a federal framework for suicide prevention.

The NDP congratulates the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for introducing this bill. For years, the NDP has been calling on the government to develop a national suicide prevention strategy. It is encouraging to see the Conservative government introduce a bill to address the serious issue of suicide at the national level.

The issue of suicide is particularly worrisome to me. I cannot forget the recent suicide of Jamie Hubley, a 16-year-old gay man who was the victim of harassment by his peers. As member of the NDP's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender caucus, I was proud to hear our caucus's LGBT critic, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, speak in the House of Commons on October 20, Spirit Day.

Spirit Day was started in 2010 by Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan to remember the LGBT and questioning youth lost to suicide. Spirit Day is also a time to rally governments and institutions nationwide to denounce homophobic bullying, which is a major contributor to these tragic losses.

In the Gaspé, this issue has many faces, and every year dozens of families and children are tragically left in mourning. These situations are even more tragic because they are often shrouded in silence and guilt.

In Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine the suicide rate per hundred thousand people is 25.2. This is far above the Quebec average, which is 15.

According to the Portrait statistique des conduites suicidaires en Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, a report on suicide published in 2009 by the health and social services agency in Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine:

The Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine region has one of the highest suicide rates in Quebec. The region's suicide rate is 64% higher than the provincial rate.

According to statistics from 2003-2007, men in the region have a significantly higher suicide rate than other Quebeckers.

According to the most recent data, the regional hospitalization rate for suicide attempts is significantly higher than the provincial rate.

Following the increase in suicide in the 1990s, the provincial rate has decreased since the start of the 2000s. However, studies on suicide trends in Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine paint a different [and very worrying] picture for the region, where the suicide rate continues to increase.

This increase in the regional suicide rate since the mid-1990s is mainly attributable to the increase in the number of male deaths. If we compare the five 5-year periods between 1983 and 2007, it is clear that the male suicide rate significantly increased during that period. For example, the suicide rate for males in the region increased from 25.4 per 100,000 in 1998-1992 to 38.1 per 100,000 in 2003-2007.

Suicide affects every part of society; however, there are some segments in which the suicide rate is quite a bit higher for social, economic and personal reasons. These segments must therefore be directly targeted by a national suicide prevention strategy. We are speaking about aboriginal people; youth, particularly young men; people with disabilities; abuse victims; seniors; people suffering from serious mental illness; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people; and others.

While I applaud the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for bringing the bill forward and recognizing that suicide is a medical issue that needs to be dealt with nationally, it is also true that suicide is much more than a medical issue. It is a social and economic issue as well.

In fact, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes that suicide rates rise and fall with the economy. In tough economic times, suicide rates go up as people lose their jobs and often their homes.

According to the study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2011:

The overall suicide rate generally rose in recessions like the Great Depression (1929-1933), the end of the New Deal (1937-1938), the Oil Crisis (1973-1975), and the Double-Dip Recession (1980-1982) and fell in expansions like the WWII period (1939-1945) and the longest expansion period (1991-2001) in which the economy experienced fast growth and low unemployment.

If we want to keep people from falling through the cracks, we need to ensure they have decent jobs and good government services.

My riding is made up of dozens of small towns and villages. Because there are no large cities in the region, residents do not have access to all the social and economic supports and services available to city dwellers. The government services we do have are crucial to our well-being.

Federal government services and programs like those offered by Service Canada centres and post offices are anchors for the communities in the Gaspé and the Islands. This is why the NDP is fighting to stop the Conservative government from closing down Service Canada centres in regions like mine.

At the New Richmond Service Canada centre, as many as 30 employees could lose their jobs delivering essential services to my constituents, services like employment insurance benefits. Citizens in my riding rely on EI payments to keep food on the table when they are out of work.

The Service Canada centre in New Richmond also provides access to training programs for aboriginal people, labour market information, disability benefits, pensions, old age security and job search tools. All these services help keep people from falling through the cracks. They help keep communities intact by making it easier for people to stay in their regions instead of being forced to move to a big city to find work and obtain government services.

Suicide is a problem for the communities in my riding, but in fact it is a national problem. People in distress need support in their community and appropriate public health resources. The suicide rate in Canada is one of the highest in the industrialized world. In Canada, 10 suicides are committed a day, or more than 3,500 suicides a year. More than 100,000 Canadians have committed suicide over the past 20 years. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people aged 25 to 49 and the second leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 24.

In Canada, the number of people affected by suicide is roughly 3 million. No sector of Canadian society is spared from suicide and everyone suffers from the stigma attached to suicide, depression, addiction and mental illness. Suicide is symptomatic of a community that is not doing well, that is facing challenges. That is why Canadian society as a whole has to work on finding solutions to deal with this scourge.

It is this need to act on a national level that makes Bill C-300 so important. It is a first step in ensuring that Canada has a national strategy for addressing suicide.

The bill calls on the Government of Canada to establish a federal framework for suicide prevention that recognizes suicide, in addition to being a mental health issue, is a public health issue and that, as such, it is a health and safety priority.

The bill would ensure that suicide prevention is a national priority and would allow experts to work toward reducing Canada's suicide rate. Given time and the political will, we can move our communities to a place where the factors that can lead to or cause suicide are significantly improved upon.

I call on the Conservative government to pass the bill, but I also call on the Conservative members to consider that suicide is more than a mental health problem. It is just as much a problem caused by the weakening of our society and our economy. It is the Conservative government's responsibility to invest in Canada's economy and to maintain and improve the essential programs and services that all Canadians rely on.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before I call on the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton, I will have to tell her that I will need to interrupt her speech partway through when we get to the half hour mark, but we will begin.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, suicide, mental illness and depression have been the topics of several thoughtful and compassionate discussions of late in the House of Commons and it is an honour for me to participate in this critical discussion today on Bill C-300.

I congratulate the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his leadership on this critical issue. I thank him for his leading role on the parliamentary committee on palliative and compassionate care, where he has entertained submissions from the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

As we have heard today, suicide is a tragic issue which affects all Canadians. Sadly, as members of the House know all too well, aboriginal youth are affected by suicide more than any other group within our society. I will use my allotted time today to address issues within the aboriginal community.

Helping young aboriginal people, their families and communities as a whole is and must remain an issue of importance to Canadians. Our government has invested in many initiatives that play an important role in improving the quality of life for aboriginal people. We are building safer, healthier and stronger communities.

As a government we remain committed to working with all partners to help improve aboriginal health outcomes. As part of our commitment, budget 2010 allocated $730 million over five years to renew aboriginal health programs. They focus on suicide prevention, diabetes, maternal and child health, health service integration, and aboriginal health human resources.

That builds on investments made through Canada's economic action plan to help create and renovate health facilities in first nations communities. By providing $135 million in funding over two years we have successfully completed 40 major health infrastructure projects and 135 renovation projects on existing infrastructure.

My time for debate is coming to end so I will close there. There are many more initiatives the government is undertaking to help aboriginal youth and aboriginal communities. We will continue to work with our partners to invest in first nations and Inuit suicide prevention programs in order to support communities, families and individuals in tackling this complex and wide-reaching issue.

Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton will have seven minutes remaining for her remarks when the House next takes up debate on this piece of legislation.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 2:30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)