House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was registry.

Topics

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the Liberal member would like to think back to what the consequences were for the Liberal Party in the west from bringing in this legislation. At one time Saskatchewan was represented by at least three or four Liberal members of Parliament, who have since lost their seats as a direct result of the gun registry.

It would perhaps be in his best interest to set the record straight when he says he speaks for millions of people. Conservatives speak for their constituents. The member mentioned that his interest lay with victims and that Conservatives had not put laws in place to help victims. Our tough on crime legislation was to help victims in particular. Where was he when it came to vote to help us prevent repeat and serious offenders? I would like his comments.

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, there were a couple of questions and I will try to answer them if can remember them.

I mentioned in my speech that the cost overruns to establish the gun registry were unacceptable. Certain areas of this country paid the price for that. We have to move on, though. We have already incurred a cost and heard from a lot of provincial premiers who represent some Canadians, believe it or not, who say they are going to continue the registry. That is going to be an additional cost to the provinces and Canadians when trying to re-establish the gun registry. We will see how they do with that.

The other question related to the bills regarding crime—

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. The time has expired and we need to move on to the next speaker.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Peace River.

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in this House to speak in support and in favour of the legislation that we are debating today, which is the ending the long-gun registry act.

Today, we are speaking on behalf of Canadians in rural and remote parts of this country who have been unfairly burdened and targeted by the simple and legal act of owning a firearm and a long gun. Who are these Canadians? These are our friends, families and the people I represent in my constituency. These are responsible, law-abiding individuals who use rifles and shotguns to hunt, either for sport or for sustenance or for both. These are athletes who participate in sharp-shooting events, like the biathlon and skeet shooting, and who are internationally recognized for their impressive conditioning and their precise skills. These are also hard-working farmers who are protecting their livestock and their livelihood in the same manner that their ancestors did and have done for generations in the past.

For many of these individuals, their rifle and their shotgun are tools of their trade. Each of these people who own firearms had to undergo the proper steps to obtain a valid firearms licence before acquiring a gun. These include passing the required Canadian firearms safety exam, as well as undergoing the proper background checks to ensure they are eligible to own a firearm.

The current long gun registry adds an unnecessary and, frankly, a useless layer of red tape to this process. It also carries with it the uncomfortable stigma that makes these long gun owners feel like they are criminals. What we are doing is putting more burden onto legal long gun owners while having zero impact on criminals themselves.

I wonder if the opposition members who are yelling at me right now are really trying to convince Canadians that gang members and organized crime groups will go through the steps required to register their firearms. It is not likely. What conclusion can be drawn from this? This long gun registry is a waste of time and money.

I will take a moment to say that our government is not against investing in effective measures that make a dent in real criminal activity. Quite the opposite is true. We are proud of what we have done to strengthen our police forces. We have committed $400 million to the police officer recruitment fund to assist provinces and territories in hiring additional police officers in order to correct the dismal trend of low recruiting numbers that we saw under the failed leadership of the previous Liberal government. Do members know that the Liberals actually took the unprecedented step of shutting down the RCMP training depot? That goes in the wrong direction. The $400 million was a significant federal contribution to the policing costs in this country in helping the provinces and territories in their efforts to recruit new police officers and make our communities safer.

In that way, since 2009, our government has allocated funds for another 1,800 police officers to be hired across the country. We are also investing in policing through our partnership with the provinces and territories in the first nations policing program. To help encourage new recruits, our government has also provided crucial funding for RCMP cadet allowances and for improvement to the infrastructure at the RCMP training academy depot division.

Those are all worthy investments to our front-line law enforcement.

Another key piece to the puzzle of reducing crime, and another area worthy of investment, is our efforts to prevent crime before it happens. These investments include supporting community-based crime prevention programs that help at-risk youth make smart choices and avoid criminal activity.

In 2010 alone, our government funded hundreds of community-based crime prevention programs through the national crime prevention strategy, which had an impact on the lives of tens of thousands of at-risk youth. These investments are making a tangible difference in the lives of at-risk youth, and we are proud to support the efforts to steer them in the right direction. Every youth who decides to go to school instead of joining a gang has taken a positive step in the right direction toward success instead of violence and guns.

We make no apologies for these investments because we know that the cost of crime to victims and to our society is far greater.

According to a Department of Justice study, the cost of crime, including everything from property damage to emotional impacts on families and victims, is estimated at nearly $100 billion on an annual basis. In the face of this statistic, we stand firmly behind our decision to invest in effective crime prevention and in appropriate reforms to the law and justice sectors.

What we will not do is allow our scarce resources to continue to be funnelled into an ineffective measure like the long gun registry. We will not focus our efforts on laws that are not having an impact on reducing actual crime.

We know that most homicides committed in Canada do not involve rifles and shotguns. We know that, in 2006 alone, three times as many homicide victims were killed with a handgun, not a rifle nor a shotgun. Again, in 2009 we saw that handguns were used more frequently than long guns in homicides. Two-thirds of homicides committed in 2009 were carried out with handguns, not rifles nor shotguns.

To add to the evidence against the effectiveness of registering long guns, we have seen that in the cases where long guns were used for homicide, the vast majority of these firearms were unregistered.

It is obvious that the long gun registry is not worth the billions of dollars that have already been spent on it. It is nothing more than a bureaucratic database with dubious benefits.

In a time of fragile economic recovery, the money that is currently being spent could be better diverted to more effective programs that prevent gun crime and protect our police officers and our public. That is money that could be better utilized in our efforts to strengthen our border enforcement and crack down on the illegal smuggling of firearms that cross the U.S. border, which is where most firearms that are illegally smuggled into Canada come from.

In order to fix what is wrong and make it right, we must take action to finally abolish the long gun registry. The legislation before us today would eliminate the need for law-abiding firearm owners to register their long guns.

For those who argue that this move would weaken our gun control legislation, I reply that it does nothing of the sort. Rather, it would free up resources to be reinvested in programs that actually work.

We will also ensure that all of the data currently listed with the Canadian firearms registry and under the control of the chief firearms officer will be destroyed to respect the privacy rights of millions of Canadians who have complied with these requirements.

Just as important is what Bill C-19 would not do. It would not remove the requirement for Canadians to apply for a licence in order to own and use a long gun or any other type of firearm. They would also continue to face a requirement to undergo background checks and pass the standard Canadian firearms safety course.

In addition, Bill C-19 would not make any changes to the current requirement for owners of restricted and prohibited firearms to register these firearms through the Canadian firearms program.

Bill C-19 strikes an appropriate balance between the effective licensing measures and the responsible checks and balances that protect citizens and our law enforcement officers. I therefore call on all hon. members of this House to support the rapid passage of Bill C-19.

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. When the hon. member for Peace River was speaking he referred to people yelling at him from this side of the House. I am a strong advocate of civility in this place and I have nothing but respect for the hon. member. However, I want to reassure him that, from where I was sitting, nobody was yelling. There were some off-conversations but there was no disrespect toward the hon. member.

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I think the point is taken.

We will now go to questions and comments. The hon. member for Edmonton--Strathcona.

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member for Peace River from my wonderful province of Alberta that I put to one of his colleagues in the House earlier. As I mentioned to his colleague, I met with the former chief of police and the head of the red gun registry in Alberta, both of whom expressed strong support for continuing the registry. They gave me a number of examples of how the registry has been found useful in detecting and bringing charges in serious crimes. One of those was the case of Mayerthorpe. They informed me that the key reason that the officers were able to detect the owner of the guns used to kill the four RCMP officers at Mayerthorpe was through the gun registry.

In view of the fact that not only those officers from Alberta and the Canadian Association of Police, the Canadian Professional Police Association, Canadian emergency associations and so forth have supported the long gun registry, would the member prefer that we do not have this mechanism anymore to detect offenders?

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are many things that I need to address with the most previous intervention.

First and foremost, being a fellow member from Alberta, I can tell the hon. member that I actually have met with front-line officers from one corner of my province to the other. The police chiefs, as well as front-line officers, universally oppose the long gun registry because they understand that it is a complete waste of money. The resources are going after the wrong people. Hunters and farmers are being targeted by a program where really the resources should be allocated to going after the real criminals. I think, generally, Albertans understand that and certainly front-line officers understand where the resources need to go.

It is my belief that people who are mentally unstable should not have access to guns and that is why the licensing provisions are still required. When she talks about being able to figure out who committed a crime after the fact, I do not think that brings lives back. Quite frankly, $2 billion wasted going after the wrong people really has been indicative of what the problem is. We need to go after the actual criminals, which is where we are heading.

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to address one point that my hon. colleague made when he said that it was a complete waste of money. That means that even under the worst circumstances it has never saved anyone one cent.

The chief of police in Waterloo described a situation there in which police officers found a deceased gentleman next to a gun and therefore thought he had been murdered. They checked with the registry and found that it was his own gun and therefore that it was a suicide. They were able to stop the investigation and thereby save police resources.

As there are instances where the registry has saved people money, I do not think the member should be making categorical statements, but I am sure he did not mean to.

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member points out exactly why it is a complete waste of money. He could not bring a single example of a life that has been saved after spending $2 billion on the registry. I think what is really important to Canadians is that we save lives.

I believe we need to take the allocation of the scarce resources that we have in today's day and age and ensure that the police officers who are fighting crime and communities in general can go after the real criminals and save innocent lives in our country.

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

February 7th, 2012 / 1:20 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo
B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, when I travel throughout the riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, I am amazed at how angry our hunters and farmers are about the long gun registry after all these years. When I talk to people who think it might be a good idea, they do not understand the whole system around possession and acquisition licences and how that provides protection.

Would my colleague talk a little about how the possession and acquisition licences will give the framework for ongoing protection?

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the licensing provisions, as members know, will be retained. I think it is important that the public know that these will be retained.

These provisions ensure that the people who have received the licence have gone through training, a safety course, so they know how to use and respect a firearm. Background checks are also made to ensure that they are mentally stable and do not have a criminal record. This is done in the interests of the general public. Those provisions are there; the protections are there.

What we are not going to continue to do is go after hunters and farmers, treating them like criminals the way the previous government did.

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, as one of the few members of the House who was actually here on that fateful day way back in the mid-1990s when the then justice minister, Allan Rock, introduced this gun registry, I can tell members that while it has been a long and frustrating journey over the years, I am pleased to see that this wasteful and ineffective gun registry is finally going to be put to rest. It is only fitting that something as costly and ineffective as the long gun registry act will rightly end up in the archives somewhere, hopefully never to be opened again.

I remember the debate back in this House in 1995 when the then justice minister, Allan Rock, brought in that bill. The Liberals, over and over again, tried to defend their action with arguments that were so incredible and hypothetical that there was not an ounce of credibility, at the end of the day, to any of their arguments about how the firearm registry would immediately start saving lives in our country.

The fact is that after all this time there is not one single shred of credible evidence clearly showing that the gun registry saved a life in this country. That was the big argument the Liberals made when they brought the bill in. They did not have any data or any information: it was all hypothetical, rhetorical and without credibility.

The fact is that we were right back then. I was a member of the Reform Party. We fought the bill long and hard, day after day, until the Liberals finally brought in closure. Gee, did they do that? They brought in closure on the bill, it went to vote and, since they had a majority, it went through.

However, as it turns out these many years later, we were right. Our arguments have all been borne out over the years. We were the ones who were credible in what we said, and it has been borne out that the Liberals simply were not.

Here we are, 16 or 17 years later, after probably spending somewhere around $3 billion in total on the gun registry, and it has yet to be demonstrated with any credibility whatsoever that the registry saved a life in this country.

What we can demonstrate is that the gun registry act has unfairly and unjustly targeted law-abiding Canadians who hunt and shoot and use guns for other sports-related activities. They are the ones who have paid the price, not the criminals who are out there with illegal handguns and illegal long arms, committing crimes, shooting people and each other. They have not paid a price because they have never had to register their guns, nor would they ever intend to.

It has been the law-abiding hunters and farmers who have been paying the onerous price of having to adhere to this ineffective and expensive long gun registry, and the taxpayers have been paying the bill for it.

Therefore, I am delighted to rise today to contribute to report stage debate on Bill C-19, the ending the long-gun registry act. I love the sound of that title. Our government's longstanding commitment to law-abiding citizens is one step closer to fruition today, making this a great day for Conservatives and, indeed, a great day for Canadians.

The reasoning behind the bill is very simple. The Conservative government does not support a piece of legislation that treats law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters like criminals. We could never support that. No politician in their right thinking could support a bill like that, yet we have had to live with it for 16 to 17 years.

This policy is as wasteful and ineffective as one can imagine. We have called it the long gun registry. It has cost Canadian taxpayers a ton of money, billions of dollars over the years, and has been shown to be completely ineffective. It has not fulfilled the promises the Liberals made in trying to defend the gun registry bill when they introduced it.

The money could have better served Canadian citizens funding other initiatives and other programs, including more law enforcement personnel, new crime prevention techniques, rehabilitative treatment in prisons, or victim support systems. From these things we could have seen some constructive results and seen that the money had not simply disappeared into some black hole called the gun registry. These types of programs are just the tip of the iceberg in protecting our communities.

In light of the significant monetary investment made in the gun registry, it would be reasonable to expect high returns in the form of crime prevention from it, but this has not been the case. As I stated before, there has not been a single statement, argument, fact or piece of data presented over the course of this entire debate that has conclusively proven that the long gun registry has stopped a single crime or saved a single life in this country since the day it hit the floor of this House. There is not one argument that has come from the other side that could show that. There is lots of rhetoric, lots of maybes, lots of possibilities, but not one single factual argument or statement.

This is because the guns used in crimes are primarily ones that have come into Canada illegally for an express criminal purpose. These types of guns are never registered, to the surprise of some of my colleagues over there. Criminals do not register their firearms; they do not register their hand guns.

This results in the registry being nothing more than a list of guns owned and legally used by Canadian citizens. We will not find a single gun in there that has been registered by a criminal or someone who brought the gun into Canada illegally for the purpose of committing a crime.

The fact of the matter is that the long gun registry does absolutely nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. It never has and never will. People who smuggle illegal firearms into this country do not care about the long gun registry. Criminals in this country, the people who buy these illegal guns, do not care about the long gun registry. People who commit crimes with these firearms, these handguns, do not care about the long gun registry. That is the fact. We are able to present that fact, and it is credible when stated. The opposition has never been able to disprove it with facts, only with rhetoric and hypotheses.

It is outrageous that hardworking Canadians have had to fund, with their taxes, such a useless expenditure that has done nothing to make them and their families safer. They have had to fund this over the last 16 to 17 years.

Last May Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to keep our streets and communities safe, and we heard that. We told them that we would do it. They said “Yes, we believe you”. They elected a strong Conservative majority government, and we are fulfilling that promise to Canadians.

We have been focusing on these issues. We created the safe streets and communities act as a start to fulfilling our promise to Canadians. Unfortunately, the opposition parties have consistently chosen to ignore the facts and argue against the reforms and initiatives the government has worked for to keep our streets and communities safe. They would like to see the government continue to pour money down the drain of the long gun registry, instead of using it where it is needed most, for the protection of our families.

Our government has strongly and consistently opposed the previous Liberal government's $2 billion gun registry because it is wasteful and ineffective. Furthermore, we are committed to keeping our promise to Canadians and removing all traces of the long gun registry. If provincial governments choose to pursue their own registry, they are free to do so but we are not going to help them. We will in no way assist with setting up other registries, because they are a clear waste of public money and time and an obvious attack on law-abiding citizens.

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I really do not know what to say here, with the Conservatives basically ignoring the chiefs of police who have told them many times that the gun registry is a tool they use daily. Police officers use the gun registry thousands of times a day to further their investigations.

The Conservatives have ignored the fact that the RCMP considers the registry a tool for it to solve crimes. Furthermore, the 2010 RCMP evaluation of the Canadian firearms program states:

—10 of the 13 police officers killed on the job in the last decade were murdered by long guns—

I wonder if my colleague could tell me why the Conservatives will not allow this tool to be used by the RCMP so those police could be safer on their jobs?

Report Stage
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me correct the member's last statement: Criminals and people who are unstable and should not have firearms have killed police officers over the last few years. That is the correct way of seeing it.

Over the years I think I have talked to far more police officers than that member has. The gun registry has been an issue in my riding since before it was passed and has been an issue ever since.

The member's statement about police officers using the registry thousands of times a day is not credible, and he knows it. When an RCMP officer stops a car for a broken tail light and punches that licence in, everything comes up on the computer, including the long gun registry. Did the officer stop that vehicle because he wanted to check and see whether that person had an unregistered firearm? No, it is just a fact that it is in there, and whether the police use it or not for that particular purpose is their decision.

There is not a trained police officer in this country who, when attending a particular scene where there is criminal activity, like a domestic disturbance, goes into that house based solely on what he or she has seen on the computer. The officer is always prepared for the possibility of a firearm being there.