House of Commons Hansard #79 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was registry.

Topics

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question for a Liberal member of the House. I am not going to pretend to imagine what was going on in the minds of the brain trust over there, but our party, and certainly under the leadership of Jack Layton, accepted the fact that rural Canadians had an issue with the gun registry. That is very clear.

I would like you to attempt to understand that when you weaken the framework of gun control in our country, it is seen as an attack on urban Canada. We need to work together to strengthen gun control and not have a $1 billion bonfire.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I would remind hon. members to direct their comments and questions through the Chair.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of wanting to continue the dialogue on this issue, I think the Progressive Conservative Party had a different twist on gun registry years back. In fact, to go back to December 5, 1991, people might be surprised, but it was actually the Conservative Party that first came up with the idea of having a gun registry. Bill C-17 passed the Senate. Legal and constitutional affairs, chaired by Senator Nathan Nurgitz, wrote to the minister, at the time Kim Campbell, advising her to look carefully at the regulations and registration of all firearms.

Does the member believe there might still be some Progressive Conservatives out there who would still support it? We know the Conservatives do not support it, but what about progressive-minded Conservatives?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have only been here for a few months. I never expected on the one hand to be asked to speak for the Liberal Party and then on the other hand have to speak for the Conservatives. I do not know what I have done. It must be the sweater vest or something.

There was a time in Canadian society when there was an understanding that we endeavour to control the proliferation of weapons in our society, guns, handguns, long guns. I think at one point there was widespread buy-in from all parties. Unfortunately, the ideological drift of the current government has blown a lot of that conversation away.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on doing a great job.

The NDP caucus in 2010, and subsequently, brought forward some very substantive amendments to try to deal with the concerns that had been expressed by government members and people across the country. Would the member suggest that was a constructive way to deal with this situation and something to which the government should have paid attention?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the only way that we as a Parliament and the Canadian people can move ahead on these very significant public policy, public safety issues is through dialogue and the consideration of the real grievances on both sides.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour for me to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-19 on abolishing the firearms registry. It is an honour for me as a woman, as a person from Laval, as a Quebecker and as a Canadian. It is also a great honour for me to tell my colleagues what the people of Alfred-Pellan think about abolishing the firearms registry.

The Conservatives often use demagogic terms and bogus contexts to get across their message on abolishing the firearms registry.

The members opposite often say that by abolishing the registry, hunters and farmers will no longer be viewed as criminals. I really did not know that the Conservatives viewed the farmers of Alfred-Pellan as criminals.

I will say a few words about the people of the riding I represent. Alfred-Pellan is a riding located on Laval Island, very near the greater Montreal area. One of the rather unusual characteristics of this eastern part of Laval is that it is 80% farmland. Many farmers and hunters live in my riding. No one thought to ask them what they really think about the firearms registry.

I know most of my neighbours, having lived in their community for 28 years now. Most of them want to keep the firearms registry. We all agree that changes need to be made, but the NDP has proposed some changes to the firearms registry and that is what we must continue to work on.

I would like to remind the members opposite that I too am a hunter and my family has been hunting for many generations. My cousins, my uncles and my father are all hunters and they all register their firearms. It is their pleasure to do so. They have no problem with that.

Are my colleagues on the other side of the House not indirectly treating members of my family as criminals? We must realize that the gun registry is very important to them. They have families; they respect the work of police officers across Canada; and they want them to have the tools to do a good job.

Does this government really believe it can fool Canadians by spouting such nonsense and demagoguery? At times, it is sad to see how weak some of the Conservatives' arguments are in certain matters. It is also appalling to see this government lump everyone together. I would like to point out that not all the men and women who hunt and farm think like the members opposite.

This also proves that they are completely out of touch with the Canadian reality and that they do not understand the complexity of the problem before us. The Conservatives often tell us that, in any case, the gun registry data are outdated and inaccurate. I would like to remind the House that it was this government's responsibility to maintain the quality of the existing gun registry. The Conservatives failed to fulfill this responsibility and now they are telling us that the data are no longer up to date. Furthermore, in 2006, this government declared an amnesty on gun registration. The amnesty was renewed every year, which sadly weakened enforcement of the Firearms Act. Rarely have we seen such bad faith from a government in power.

I would also like to remind my colleagues that on May 2 last year, the current Prime Minister promised to work for all Canadians, no matter what their political affiliation or where they live. Unfortunately, it is clear that he has not kept his promise.

I would like to remind all MPs that, on six separate occasions, Quebec's National Assembly unanimously voted in favour of maintaining a universal firearms registration system. This registry is an extremely useful tool in my province. Among other things, it helps prevent crime. Police officers rely on it as they carry out their daily duties.

Does this government respect Quebeckers' position and choices? I do not think so. Let us talk about the information in the registry and why it is so important to the thousands of police officers who use it every day. They use it to find out how many firearms an individual owns so that they can respond accordingly. It is very important for anyone entering the home of a violent person to know how many firearms that individual owns.

The registry can also provide a starting point for an investigation. For example, if a firearm is found at the scene of a crime, the criminal responsible could be tracked down through the registry.

The members opposite talk about how most firearms are illegal and not registered because they are bought on the black market. I would like us to focus on the fact that some registered firearms are used to commit violent crimes. In the case of registered guns, the police can sometimes prevent crimes, and of course they can investigate and find the criminal involved.

Domestic violence is another interesting situation that often involves long guns. Long gun registration has reduced the number of crimes against women who are victims of domestic violence. The number of these crimes has dropped by about one-third since the long gun registry came into effect. The police can find out if an altercation involves a violent spouse who owns a long gun.

I would like to take the time to quote Robert Dutil, who testified before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on November 17, 2011. He spoke about another extremely important thing about the data in the firearms registry.

It also contributes to protecting individuals with mental health problems and their loved ones. Universal registration enables the chief firearms officer of Quebec to determine whether the weapons are in the possession of people under an application for an order to confine them to an institution, or calling for a psychiatric assessment.

In the second paragraph, he refers to Anastasia's Law. Before I continue, I would like to explain this law to the House. It is a Quebec law that was implemented after the Dawson College massacre, where Anastasia DeSousa was unfortunately killed. It bans the possession of firearms in educational institutions at all levels, in day care centres, and in public and school transportation. It also requires people to report any behaviour that could be a public safety concern.

Mr. Dutil continues by saying:

Under Anastasia's Law, the chief firearms officer is systematically informed of these applications. Between January 1, 2008 and November 1, 2011, 18,661 applications for orders were reported to him, and consultation of the registry made it possible to conduct more than 1,000 interventions to ensure the safety of persons. I am convinced that many lives were saved because of this. Abolishing the registry will limit the application of Anastasia's Law.

My colleagues and I have spoken a lot about prevention. As the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas mentioned, it is very difficult to measure prevention because we do not see the results. However, we are convinced that Anastasia's Law and the long gun registry are excellent preventive measures.

In order to unite all the different positions across Canada, the NDP has proposed several amendments to the long gun registry that should be taken into consideration. We are very aware that, since its implementation, the long gun registry has received its share of both praise and criticism. We agree. In addition to the delays and the significant cost overruns under the Liberal government, there are also other serious weaknesses in the registry.

The NDP is proposing, for instance, that the registry be modernized and adapted to current Canadian realities. Yes, preserving the data is possible. We can respect the aboriginal and rural populations while still providing police forces with the equipment they need to do their job. Here are the changes we propose: decriminalizing the failure to register a firearm for first-time offenders and issuing a ticket instead; indicating in the legislation that long gun owners would not have to pay registration costs; prohibiting the disclosure of information about firearms owners, except for the purpose of protecting the public or when ordered by a court or by law; and finally, creating a legal guarantee to protect aboriginal treaty rights.

I could continue for quite a while, but I see my time is up. I would be pleased to answer any questions from members.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Kenora
Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for bringing a thoughtful perspective to this debate. Some of the points she raised had not necessarily been visited, so I appreciate that.

I want to back to an earlier discussion from another member and say that one of the most important things that happened in this place for me personally was when the defence critic for the opposition stood and said that no party should capture a specific grip on the rich military history of this country. I agreed with him and I told him that. It was in the context of the Veterans Affairs debate.

Similarly, I want to make it completely clear that, when it comes to the École polytechnique and those tragedies, we collectively mourn them. Nobody disputes that on this side of the House.

The Quebec registry is an interesting issue. I have no problem with the Quebec registry. What I have a problem with is the fact that my obligations as a citizen, even if I were not from Quebec, are to submit to federal legislation. Who in their right mind would expect somebody to allow the federal government to transfer information to the province without having any say in it? We have had a referendum and a Supreme Court of Canada decision which show that the people need to speak on that. Do not tread on me. My rights are to that federal legislation, not to the Province of Quebec.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question and for his compassion for the women killed at the École Polytechnique. I would remind the member that as federal representatives, we represent all Canadians. Among those Canadians are Quebeckers, who unanimously oppose the federal government, because they want to have the data from the firearms registry. Taxpayers paid millions of dollars for that database, only to be told that they cannot have it. It is unthinkable. It is very sad that the Conservatives cannot consider the vision of a united Canada and respect the other provinces that absolutely want to have the data.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member presents a very cogent case. I appreciate that she has reminded the House of the alternatives that we brought forward to this House, which, regrettably, the government did not give due consideration to. The main argument that we have heard over and over from that side of the House has been that the law was criminalizing ordinary citizens, and yet when we proposed that we would decriminalize, the Conservatives were not willing to consider that change.

I would like the member to speak to that and speak to the fact that she is standing in this House as a person who is law-abiding. She and her family registered their guns. Could she elaborate on that and on the kinds of changes to that law that would make her constituents happy?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for that excellent question. As I was saying in my speech, we all agree that the face of Canada is changing. We have to update existing programs. We cannot just cut them. We are talking about decriminalizing the failure to register a firearm. The problem with the firearms registry is that failing to register a firearm is considered a crime. Respecting hunters would change things and make things easier. Then we could keep the data for the police to use to prevent acts of violence.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

February 13th, 2012 / 5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Huron—Bruce.

It gives me great pleasure to speak in support of Bill C-19, the ending the long gun registry act. I would like to thank my hon. colleagues who have presented strong arguments in favour of the legislation that will finally end a measure that has had no clear benefit and many downfalls.

The legislation before us, as with many bills we have introduced, is straightforward and to the point. We tell it like it is, plain and simple. There is no confusion as to what the bill will do. Just to ensure that my hon. colleagues are clear, however, I will briefly explain what the bill is all about.

First, it would eliminate the requirement to register long guns. Second, it would allow for the destruction of the registration information for non-restricted firearms that is in the Canadian firearms registry and under the control of the chief firearms officer. This is the extent of Bill C-19.

With the countless hours of debate and discussion that have taken place regarding this legislation and proposed bills that have come before it, one would think it is a far more complicated issue. In fact, I would argue that of all the words that have been written, spoken and perhaps sometimes even yelled in this House and in the media on this topic, the most important one is “wasteful”. This is a strong word, but it is the only accurate word to describe the long gun registry.

What do we mean by wasteful? The dictionary defines wasteful as using or spending too much. That is the perfect way to describe the long gun registry. It has used up a tremendous amount of time and energy for millions of Canadians. This includes the time wasted by millions of law-abiding long gun owners to go through the unnecessary registration process.

In fact, up until 2006 when our government made amendments to the rules, Canadians were expected to provide physical verification of their rifles and shotguns. We can only imagine what this adds up to in terms of wasted time and energy on the part of these individuals.

Even with the changes put in place in 2006, individuals registering their rifles and shotguns must still answer a series of questions by phone. We must ask ourselves, is this truly an effective form of gun control? Do we really believe that criminals will go through the registration process, diligently sitting through a telephone conversation to ensure their non-restricted firearm is properly registered? The answer is no. The individuals wasting their time registering their firearms are the law-abiding hunters, farmers and sports shooters in Canada, in other words, ordinary Canadians who are doing their best to comply with the heavy-handed registration system.

The long gun registry has also proven to be a waste of time for the police officers it was originally purported to protect. We have heard the testimony of several police officers who appeared before committee and told us the registry is inaccurate and unreliable. One Saskatoon police officer who testified in committee put it this way:

For officers using the registry, trusting in the inaccurate and unverified information contained therein, tragedy looms around the door.

Knowing what I do about the registry, I cannot use the information contained in the registry to swear out a search warrant. To do so would be a criminal act. Thus I cannot in good conscience tell any officer, junior or senior, to place his faith in the results of a query of the Canada firearms registry online.

This is a chilling indictment of the long gun registry. Not only is it a waste of time for police to rely on the data contained in the long gun registry, it also creates a false sense of security that could lead to deadly consequences for our brave police officers.

It is impossible to put a price tag on the amount of time Canadians have wasted on this long gun registry over the course of the last 16 years. What we can do, however, is put a price tag on the second part of the definition of wasteful, that which refers to spending too much. The state broadcaster has done just that. The CBC has estimated that the long gun registry has cost Canadians in excess of $2 billion. This is an affront to Canadian taxpayers.

Worse still is the fact that despite our government's ongoing efforts since 2006 to pass legislation that would eliminate the long gun registry, it still remains in place today, costing millions of dollars each and every year. This wasteful spending is an insult to ordinary citizens who place their trust in their government to spend their taxes wisely on policies and actions that keep them safe.

We know that Canadians are willing to pay for effective crime prevention measures. They understand and accept the need to follow reasonable and fair regulations as part of a nation that adheres to the rule of law. In return, they deserve nothing less than a government that is careful with their money, while taking into consideration the need to invest in areas that will build a better, stronger and safer Canada.

It has always been our government's commitment, first and foremost, to keep our streets and communities safe. In the matter of gun control, this responsibility translates into making the right decisions on how to best prevent violent gun crimes. It has been shown empirically that the current gun licensing system is one of the best tools at our disposal, and it is a system that is widely accepted by gun owners as a necessary and fair measure. That is why Bill C-19 will not make any changes to this system. Obtaining a valid firearms licence will still require individuals to undergo the Canadian firearms safety course and background checks to determine their eligibility to own a firearm. Further, we will make no changes to the regulations in place regarding restricted and prohibited firearms.

This legislation is the work of a responsible government that is committed to focusing our resources and efforts on what works rather than pouring money into an ineffective measure that does not. It is the work of a government that stands by its commitment to Canadians.

When we first came to power more than six years ago, we told Canadians that we would crack down on crime, put the rights of victims first, and strengthen our police forces. We have delivered on that pledge. Over the past six years we have introduced legislation that gives victims a voice at parole board hearings and which ensures that offenders cannot pull out of their parole board hearing at the last minute. We have passed legislation to crack down on violent gun crimes and to make sure that those who commit serious crimes face serious consequences. We have passed legislation that gives our police officers better tools to do their jobs, tools that are actually effective. Even if we had a well run long gun registry that remained within its estimated budget, it still would not prevent violent gun crimes. It still would not change the fact that criminals do not register their firearms.

In conclusion, the time for endless words and debate is over. Now is the time that we must take action and eliminate the long gun registry. I call on all hon. members to look at the facts and listen to their constituents, particularly those in rural and remote areas of Canada. I call on all members to make the responsible choice and support this bill.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to understand the various Conservative members who have already spoken. We just heard once again that a gun owner must take a course—or perhaps this was said by a previous speaker—and obtain a permit to use a gun. When these two requirements are fulfilled, the owner is registered somewhere.

It is like buying a car: we are registered right away and we are in the registry. It could be very easy to create this registry, it could be very easy to develop it and very easy to maintain it, if there were goodwill. Could the member comment on this?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is very much the reason behind why the long gun registry is so wasteful. I talked about waste. It is a duplication of a process that is already in place. There are measures to protect Canadians. There are measures to make sure that those who have guns should be able to have them. They have to go through a licensing process. They have to go through a background check, as I mentioned in my speech.

Those processes are already there. Why would we add a very costly, to the tune of a billion dollars, system to enhance something that is already there? That is the reason we need to scrap the long gun registry.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, as the debate continues, it is important that we get to the truth and the nub of the debate.

Earlier there were comments made by members that there was no testimony with regard to the impact the registry has had on suicide rates. I would like to read into the record some testimony and get a comment from the member. The Quebec suicide prevention association told the committee that the long gun registry, combined with licensing of owners and safe storage regulations, has been associated with a dramatic reduction in the number of gun deaths, on average 255 suicides and 50 homicides annually. That information was gleaned from a study that was done by the Quebec public health institute.

I wonder if the member from the government side understands that the gun registry was never intended to stop gangs. That is a lot of Canadian lives, 255 suicides and 50 other gun-related deaths, that the association believes were reduced by the gun registry.

Does the member not agree that that has had a tremendous impact?