An Act respecting firearms and other weapons

This bill was last introduced in the 35th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in February 1996.

Status

Not active
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

June 2nd, 2017 / 2 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House to debate Bill C-346, an act to amend the Firearms Act, and to perhaps straighten out some of the misconceptions that have been put on record today by the third party and the parliamentary secretary.

The legislation was introduced by my Conservative colleague, the member of Parliament for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies and at this time I would like to thank my friend, now my seatmate, for his work in supporting Canada's firearms owners and for bringing common sense forward as a solution that I know many have long called for.

Far too often gun legislation and responsible firearms owners have been treated unfairly. I am not here today to relive Bill C-68 and it is not my intention to rehash old battles. I know there are many new members in the House who were not around to deal with the common-sense firearms act that was passed in the last Parliament. For the benefit of those following the debate, it was the Conservative government's legislation that enacted simple and safe firearms policies and streamlined the licensing system.

The legislation amended the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code to create a six-month grace period at the end of a five-year licence to stop people from immediately becoming criminalized for a paperwork delay. The legislation also streamlined the licensing system by eliminating the possession-only licence and converting all of the existing licences to possession and acquisition licences. The other important elements of the legislation were to make classroom participation in firearm safety training mandatory for first-time licence applicants and to strengthen provisions relating to orders prohibiting the possession of firearms where a person is convicted for an offence involving domestic violence. While the Liberals and the NDP voted against these common-sense measures, I can assure members of the House that constituents of theirs who are firearms owners openly celebrated the passage of the bill.

As a member of Parliament who represents countless firearms owners, I can say that I unequivocally support their right to own and use firearms. However, with this right comes great responsibility. I support their right to hunt wild game for either sustenance or as a traditional way of life. I support their right to take part in sport shooting. I recognize that firearms are a tool for farmers and those who live in rural Canada, and last of all, many Canadians are devout collectors of firearms and are passionate about their hobby.

It was the previous Conservative government that eliminated the ineffective and costly long gun registry, even with the help of a few NDP members.

Furthermore, former colleague Rick Norlock passed his private member's bill to designate a National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day and it was the Conservative government that created the national hunting and angling advisory panel. For far too long, Canadian firearms owners who abide by the law and cross their t's and dot their i's have tried their best to follow the rules and regulations, even when it was abundantly clear they were not always designed in the most coherent fashion.

Bill C-346 builds on the Conservative caucus's long and proud history of defending the rights of Canadian firearms owners. The bill builds on the progress made to ensure common-sense legislation that allows Canadians to become licensed firearms owners in a structured, yet simple mannered process, without compromising the security of Canadians. While much has been done to correct many of the wrongs that the previous Chrétien government implemented, it is good to see that Bill C-346 is being debated today.

The goal of the bill is quite simple. It is aimed at preventing honest, law-abiding firearms owners from being unjustly charged and becoming criminals. Bill C-346 aims to ensure that no law-abiding firearms owner is criminalized for an administrative issue. As the law currently states, should firearms owners fail to have their paperwork finalized when renewing their licences, they can be criminalized. We do, however, take issue when law-abiding individuals can be unfairly criminalized through no fault of their own. Let me explain.

The Firearms Act, as it currently stands, fails to address the issue that paperwork delays do not always occur due to the fault of the firearms owner but also due to the fault of the government. Indeed, the Phoenix pay system has made it quite clear that the government does not always run as smoothly as possible.

If departmental staff delay the processing of a licence application or a renewal, there are no safeguards built into the existing legislation that protect the gun owner from being criminalized. This is wrong. That is why I am pleased to support the legislation, as it will address this problem. If passed, C-346 will amend the Firearms Act to eliminate the expiry date of firearms licences, but includes the mandatory provision that the licence holder must update the relevant information every 10 years.

This is a positive step for licence holders, as they no longer have to worry every five years about the expiry of their licences. For those who think this would be too long of a period, let me just remind the House that our passports now have a 10-year life cycle. I think we can all agree that this change has been very widely celebrated as it has reduced the inconvenience of getting a new passport photo and filling out the paperwork every five years, let alone every year.

As well, Bill C-346 would not revoke the licences of gun owners who have not updated their information. Should a gun owner fail to update their information, the licence is subsequently suspended. Such a suspension can be cancelled as soon as the necessary required information has been provided to the proper authorities. It further states that no licence may be revoked simply because it is suspended due to the required information not being provided.

This is a crucial part of the legislation. It makes the process far easier to navigate for law-abiding firearms owners, as they would no longer have to go through the process for applying for a brand new licence, should they fail to get the required information in on time. Their licence would simply be suspended until said information is provided. We see no reason to continue to make the process unnecessarily onerous and criminalize individuals who have done nothing wrong.

This new legislation also includes a relinquishment section. Many firearms owners who no longer wish to have their licences, simply do not send in their information so that their licence is cancelled. If Bill C-346 is passed, this would not happen, as the licence would be classified as suspended.

Obviously the Liberals, at least the member for Ajax, never read the motion. The relinquishment section of the legislation allows an individual who no longer wishes to keep their firearms licence, to voluntarily surrender their licence to a chief firearms officer with no negative consequences. This ensures that any individual wishing to let go of their firearms licence would be able to do so in a simple manner.

Another reason this proposed change should come into force is that the RCMP continuous eligibility system, which verifies the validity and conditions of licence requirements every single day, has proven itself effective over the years. This system ensures that any offence that would immediately suspend or revoke a licence is provided to the appropriate law enforcement, and as the law enforcement will have the most up-to-date address for the individual who committed the offence, it would easily allow for the licence to be suspended or permanently revoked.

However, the safeguards built into the system say that if an individual does not update their information, they would not be allowed to purchase a firearm or ammunition from any supplier. This is a reasonable condition to place upon any firearms owner.

In closing, I believe that law-abiding duck hunters, deer hunters, sports shooters, among others, are responsible members of their communities, and when safety measures are followed, provide no threat to others. For far too long, firearms owners have not been treated with respect.

The member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, from Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, the former minister of public safety and the current member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, and our current chair of the Conservative hunting and angling caucus, my friend from Red Deer—Lacombe, among others, have played an integral role in defending and promoting the rights of firearms owners, and I commend their efforts.

Also, I feel the efforts of our law enforcement officials should be invested in tackling the illegal gun market and those who commit heinous and violent acts of crime. Let us work together to ensure that the firearms regime is targeting those we need to target, those who have demonstrated they pose a threat to society. In particular, these efforts could be aimed at the safety of women and children in their homes.

I encourage all members to vote in favour of the legislation and to open a dialogue with their constituents who own firearms to hear how these measures are a step in the right direction.

May 12th, 2015 / 9:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

In any event, since you talked about the hunting and angling caucus, I want to outline clearly that we are strong supporters of the hunting and angling community. It is big business and important to the economy in the country. For many people, hunting is a way of life, and they're to be congratulated on it.

I want to come back just for a minute to.... Bill C-68 always seems to come up with Allan Rock's name. I wonder if you have any idea who drafted the original bill that became Bill C-68.

April 28th, 2015 / 9:20 a.m.
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President, Coalition for Gun Control

Wendy Cukier

If we look at the regulation of potentially dangerous substances or objects, normally there is a reliance on expert opinion. The classification of prohibited weapons, and indeed, restricted weapons, is certainly the subject of much debate. Different countries have different approaches. The police have said repeatedly that since the initial list of prohibited weapons was set with Bill C-68, manufacturers have been skirting those prohibitions by changing some features or changing the name of the firearms.

Basically, industry will find its way around the regulations, so I would add that some countries have a permissive approach, which means that instead of saying, “These guns are prohibited”, they say, “These guns are allowed.” This is much more the approach that we have, for example, with the regulation of pharmaceuticals. If you want to bring a new drug into Canada and administer it, you have to demonstrate that it's not a risk to health or safety.

There are some fundamental challenges with the way the legislation is currently crafted, because it allows these loopholes for new guns coming in that would otherwise be prohibited. Our view is that if your intent is public safety you should look at the process and at ways to tighten the process. As unfortunate as the retroactive classification of the Swiss Arms firearm was, if that's the thing you're concerned about, you don't make a massive change to the system in order to address what is a relatively small issue. Perhaps you have one process that addresses the importation of new kinds of firearms, and in the event that the RCMP wants to retroactively change the classification of a gun, a different process kicks in. But—

November 24th, 2011 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will be sharing my time with Mr. Armstrong today.

Thank you to all of our witnesses for coming today.

This question will be for Mr. Mauser.

We did hear the last testimony here, and I'm just wondering if you'd be able to comment from your perspective as a criminologist, because I definitely heard some differences of opinion there in regard to the drop in homicides by long guns being attributed to Bill C-68.

Can you comment from your findings as to whether we're talking coincidence here or if there's some cause and effect that can be attributed to the registry for the drop in homicides rates by long guns?

November 24th, 2011 / 11:05 a.m.
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Greg Illerbrun Firearms Chairman, Past-President, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation

I'll be speaking on behalf of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation.

Mr. Chairman, honourable committee members, and fellow witnesses, it is an honour and a privilege to speak to you today.

Our time is valuable, so let me get to the point: the thousands of people I represent support the permanent elimination of the registry.

This is a vital first step in fulfilling this government's long-standing commitment to replace the current law with one that preserves the right to our traditional lifestyle. I have a passion for hunting and the shooting sports that I share with three daughters: two are avid hunters and the third one raids my deep-freeze.

Hunting is a widespread family tradition in Saskatchewan. I am a former RCMP officer as well as a past provincial president of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, one of the largest wildlife organizations of its kind in the world. Since 1995, I have been the chair of the Saskatchewan Recreational Firearms Committee, which works with firearm groups, local governments, and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. These organizations comprise everyday people interested in the outdoors and the use of firearms. We, along with other Canadians, took great offence to the creation of the Firearms Act, still commonly referred to 16 years later as Bill C-68.

What is so offensive about this legislation?

Former Auditor General Sheila Fraser summed it up best when she stated that the initial focus was to use the registry information to target high-risk cases, but this was expanded to regard all gun owners in the same way, as the use of firearms is a “questionable activity” that requires strong controls. This law targets law-abiding citizens, but does little to stop the criminal use of firearms. That approach is fundamentally wrong. Look at the example of the handgun registry: in place for decades, yet we see increasing use of handguns by criminals today. Registries do not work to stop crime. Check the record in New Zealand.

You may be aware that Allan Rock, former Justice Minister, once said, “I came to Ottawa...with the firm belief that only the police and the military should have firearms”. This plan to rid Canada of private firearms was strategically planned and made possible by the Liberal Party through the creation of Bill C-68. The tools were carefully crafted into law, where they exist to this day, waiting to be used. Here's some quick background on the Firearms Act today.

First of all, it is a criminal offence for anyone other than a soldier or a police officer to possess a firearm. The current licence is a temporary permit that prevents the police from charging you for the crime you are committing. At the whim of government, it can be revoked or made difficult to obtain or keep. Without it, you cannot possess a firearm.

Many Saskatchewan residents have been charged with a criminal offence simply because they forgot to renew their licence. As a former police officer, I cannot support convicting farmers who need to use a firearm for pest control, and I submit to you that some of these same people were veterans, who should not have their freedom, paid for in blood, vanish with the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen. A firearms licence must be made valid for life unless the individual has lost that right through a criminal act.

Second, it is a criminal offence to possess an unregistered firearm. Some would suggest that this is the same as registering a dog or a vehicle. Dog and vehicle owners do not receive a criminal record for failing to comply. Using criminal law to enforce gun control is not acceptable yet, sadly, we have spent two billion dollars tracking honest citizens. Please kill the registry and use the money to deal with real criminals.

Third, the government can change any regulation through order in council, including firearms classification. This means that any firearm that is currently legal can be re-classed and confiscated as the result of a closed-door cabinet meeting. Confiscations have and will continue to happen as long as this insidious legislation exists in its current form.

Fourth, government inspectors--not police services-can enter your home without a warrant based on the suspicion that there is a firearm, ammunition, or documentation of a firearm. Am I painting you a clear picture? It sure doesn't seem like firearms owners are treated the same as other Canadians.

Fifth, the Firearms Act removes your right to remain silent. Inspectors can demand that you tell them where your firearms are--or any other related evidence--and if you do not assist them you can be charged and put in jail. You do not have the right to remain silent. This is not because you are a drug dealer, a sex offender, or a murderer. It is because the law identifies you as a legal firearms owner. Criminals enjoy more rights than firearm owners.

Is there a long history of legal gun owners using them for illegal purposes? The answer is no. The entire regime was built for a potential risk that I can tell you today does not exist. The previous Liberal government deliberately drafted these tools and others so that over time they could bring an end to all private ownership of firearms in Canada. Leave the current act as it is, and it's only a matter of time before government will use those tools to end a time-honoured and legitimate way of life in Canada.

Ending the registry is an excellent first step towards replacing the Firearms Act. I challenge the government to continue to lead by integrity.

Keep your promise to develop a law that all Canadians can support.

Thank you.

November 17th, 2011 / noon
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Professor Wendy Cukier President, Coalition for Gun Control

Thanks very much.

I'll try to be brief because I want to save some time for my colleague, Dr. Barbara Kane, to speak.

The Coalition for Gun Control is a non-profit organization. It was founded more than 20 years ago. Its position on firearms regulation has been supported by more than 300 public safety and community organizations across the country. We maintain that Canada's Firearms Act as it is written is an important piece of our national strategy to prevent gun crime and injury and to support law enforcement, and considerable research has shown that effective regulation of firearms is linked to reductions in firearm homicide, suicide, accidents, and crime.

In our opinion, the amendments contained in Bill C-19 will put Canadian lives at risk. Like previous legislation aimed at ending the requirement that individuals register their non-restricted firearms--guns that include the powerful semi-automatic Ruger Mini-14, which was used in the Montreal massacre, as well as sniper rifles, including some .50 calibre variants--this bill will allow a licensed individual to acquire an unlimited number of guns without even checking if their licence is valid, which was an important improvement in the 1995 legislation. There will also be no means of knowing who owns these guns, who sold them, and how many are owned.

There will be no way to trace a gun recovered at the scene of a crime back to its original owner. We are losing not only an important public safety tool, but an important investigative tool.

Briefly, registering all non-restricted firearms to their legal owners is key to the effectiveness of our gun control policy, because these guns are used in homicides, suicides, and unintentional injury. They account for a substantial proportion of firearms recovered in crimes and for the majority of guns used in the murder of women, in suicides, and in the murder of police officers. It isn't just an urban issue, as you will hear from Dr. Kane, and it's important to emphasize that the registration provisions in the legislation reinforce the licensing provisions by reducing the chances that legal gun owners will divert their firearms to unlicensed owners.

The link between the licensing of firearm owners and the registration of firearms was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in its unanimous decision on the Firearms Act in the year 2000. The firearm registry has demonstrably helped remove firearms from dangerous individuals. It was also significant in aiding police investigations, including the prosecution of two men as accessories to the murder of four RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe, Alberta.

In Canada, the rates of firearm death and injury have fallen dramatically with successively stronger firearm regulation, and the costs of maintaining the registration of rifles and shotguns are dwarfed by the cost of gun death and injury.

However, Bill C-19 goes far beyond simply repealing elements of Bill C-68, the 1995 legislation. It removes critical measures that have been in place since 1977, including the following measures.

It eliminates the requirement that businesses keep a record of sales. In 1977, the government introduced the requirement that all gun transactions be recorded in firearm business records. Your legislation makes no requirement to reinstitute this.

It also eliminates the requirement that a firearms licence be verified when guns are purchased, increasing the chances that someone who is prohibited from owning firearms and represents a risk to public safety will be able to access guns.

Of particular concern is the fact that this legislation requires the erasing of the data on 7.1 million rifles and shotguns currently registered, in spite of the fact that the data is essential as an investigative tool for police officers. Several international treaties require that countries maintain these records.

We may not be able to prove exactly how many lives the registry has saved. We know for certain, however, that the firearms registry never killed anyone, and this legislation may in fact put Canadian lives at risk.

I would like to give my remaining time to Dr. Kane.

November 15th, 2011 / 12:10 p.m.
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Greg Farrant Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon, members of the committee, and my fellow panellists. On behalf of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, one of the oldest and largest non-profit conservation-based organizations in Canada, we appreciate this opportunity to appear before you today to comment on Bill C-19.

Although we've provided the clerk with a longer written presentation, it will not meet the seven-minute test, so I'll use my time to home in on a few specific issues referred to in that document.

As I noted during my appearance before this committee last year in support of Ms. Hoeppner's private member's legislation, Bill C-68, as has been noted by Ms. Byers, was born partly out of tragedy attributable to public concerns in the aftermath of the horrific 1989 shooting at École Polytechnique. There's no doubt that the impact of that event on the families of the victims and the survivors cannot be underestimated or understood by those of us who have not experienced such loss. However, that loss cannot be used to justify a system that has been an abysmal failure, and we strongly support the fact that the Harper government has moved quickly to introduce a bill to address this issue.

When Bill C-68 was created, the Coalition for Gun Control attempted to explain the need for this registry and other components in the bill, and I quote:

The argument for gun control has never been based on individual cases.... [It] has always been based on the general principle that if you have adequate control of all guns you reduce the chances that dangerous people will gain access to them.

At best the coalition was being disingenuous. The entire debate over gun control and the creation of a long-gun registry under Bill C-68 was in fact a direct result of the misguided actions of a lone individual. Prior to that, gun control in Canada was not a major public policy issue, and the creation of a regime to regulate legal firearms, particularly non-restricted long guns, as a means of protecting the public from individuals with a grudge was flawed from the start.

A paper trail of trained, legal, licensed firearm owners does not address the real problem. Even a well-run registry, which this is not, will not prevent random violent crime. Believing in that ignores the glaring reality that the vast majority of criminals don't register firearms; and in the rare case when they do, a piece of paper and the creation of a system where possibly 50% of the firearms in Canada are not included does nothing to anticipate the actions of an individual, nor do anything to prevent such actions in the first place.

It also ignores the fact that police in this country have noted repeatedly that anywhere from 70% to 90% of illegal guns in Canada are smuggled in from south of the border. Despite this, we hear little from gun control advocates about the need to address this serious problem, which is indeed directly linked to dangerous people gaining access to these guns.

The OFAH represents a large number of hunters and recreational sport shooters in Ontario, responsible firearms owners who believe in effective gun control. In the early 1960s, we called upon the provincial government of the day to create a formal structure for the delivery of hunter education. For more than 26 years, we have delivered some form of hunter education on behalf of the provincial government, and since 1998 we have done so under formal agreement.

The success of that program is readily apparent: 310 hunter education instructors, most of whom are also firearm safety instructors, have trained over 170,000 first-time hunters. The program has an admirable safety record, as do the majority of responsible firearms owners in this country who understand how to use them safely, how to store them safely, and how to transport them safely and use them precisely for what they are intended for—recreational shooting and hunting.

As a conservation-based organization, the OFAH is involved in a vast number of conservation programs based on the best available science. Science relies on fact. Scientific theory is tested, and if the facts are found wanting, a theory is rejected and the search continues for a rational explanation. In the case of the long-gun registry, there's a glaring absence of fact-based evidence to support its existence. Suggestions that gun crime in Canada has declined since the introduction of the long-gun registry under Bill C-68 ignores the fact that gun crime, particularly gun crime using long guns, has been on the decline in this country since the 1970s, two decades before this registry ever came into being. Crimes committed with long guns have fallen steadily since 1981. Bill C-68 was not introduced until 1985 and wasn't mandatory until 2005.

Noted academics like Rosemary Gartner of the University of Toronto have recently commented that experts have had difficulties in accounting for the decrease, and Dr. Ron Melchers, professor of criminology right here at the University of Ottawa, recently stated that the decline cannot be attributed to Canada's gun registry.

Believing that something works without evidentiary material to support that belief is nothing more than supposition and conjecture.

The present system focuses all of its efforts on law-abiding firearms owners and includes no provisions for tracking prohibited offenders, who are most likely to commit gun crimes. Witness the recent arrest of an individual in Newfoundland for gun crimes, an individual who has been under a prohibition order for 10 years.

This should be about who should not have guns rather than about who does. We strongly support the creation of a prohibited persons registry to focus on real, not perceived, threats to public safety.

Another prominent argument we've already heard here today is how many times per day the system is used by police. Some say 9,000 times. Some say 5,000. We've recently heard 14,000 and 17,000. Liberal leader Bob Rae has suggested 11,000. The vast majority of so-called hits on the registry have little or nothing to do with gun crime. The majority of these are cases of an officer maybe stopping a vehicle for a plate identification or an address identification, which automatically touches all databases, including the long-gun registry, despite the fact that the check has nothing to do with firearms in the first place.

The Canadian Labour Congress, with all due respect to my colleagues here on the panel today, suggests that social workers, paramedics, firefighters, and other first responders use the information to keep themselves safe on the job. These groups and individuals do not have access to the database. So unless the CLC is suggesting that each and every time a social worker, firefighter, or paramedic responds to a call, they first contact police and have the database queried specifically to determine if firearms may be present, it's difficult to understand how this happens. In fact, for police to share the information on the database may well be a breach of privacy.

Over the last few years, public support for the registry has eroded. While this confidence has waned, the level of rhetoric from supporters of the registry has increased exponentially. This has resulted in an increase in unfounded generalizations, devoid of factual evidence. For instance, on second reading of Bill C-19, members of the official opposition who voted with the government were punished. The irony of this is not lost on us, nor is the discrediting of these two members—which is interesting given that when Bill C-68 was created, eight of nine NDP members at the time voted against the bill that they so vigorously defend today.

Recently some media sources, members of the official opposition, members of the third party, and registry apologists have suggested that the introduction of Bill C-19 will do various things. For example, they say that scrapping the registry will involve delisting various guns and sniper rifles; that lawlessness will rule the day; that solving gun crimes will end, because police will have no more tools at their disposal; and that this is a Conservative plot to undermine a Liberal-created program.

May 25th, 2010 / 3:40 p.m.
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Kevin Gaudet Federal Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen of the committee, and my fellow witnesses.

My name is Kevin Gaudet. I'm the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. We're a national, non-profit, non-partisan organization with more than 74,000 supporters nationwide. We have offices in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Toronto, and Ottawa, and soon to be Atlantic Canada. The mandate of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is to advocate for lower taxes, less waste, and more accountable government. We've been doing this for a long time, celebrating our 20th anniversary this year. We don't take government money or issue tax receipts.

I'd like to take this opportunity now to thank the supporters of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, whose contributions allowed me to be here today to testify. We refused the offer of the committee to cover our expenses. Instead, we relied on the support of our supporters. I'm pleased to be here today on their behalf, to speak against the wasteful long-gun registry and for its appropriate elimination, thanks to Ms. Hoeppner's Bill C-391.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the chair of the committee on behalf of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for his many years of work on this issue and to thank all the MPs on the committee who supported our attendance today.

Mr. Chairman, all the members of the committee and their parties are to be commended for the open free vote that allowed this bill to come before the committee. Free votes are a key element to a fully functioning democracy. If it wasn't for the support of MPs from the NDP and the Liberal Party, joining the Conservatives in support of this bill at second reading, we wouldn't even be here today having this reasoned discussion. All of these MPs should be applauded for their courage and conviction on this issue.

That same open and free approach, we submit, should be continued in the House when this bill comes up again for vote after third reading. This has been a long-standing privilege that MPs have enjoyed for decades. It is a practice that ought to be followed without exception, after third reading on this bill.

Given the sensitivity of this debate, many have been calling for a compromise on this issue, and I agree. I suggest that Ms. Hoeppner's bill does just that. It provides a reasonable compromise for responsible and trustworthy gun owners, and we support it. This bill is a compromise because many responsible and trustworthy gun owners would have preferred to see more changes regarding hand guns, licensing, and other restrictions. It became clear that a bill with such changes was not going to get majority support from the House, so Bill S-5 was introduced in the Senate. It was deeply flawed, with the possibility of creating a new gun registry in every province. Thankfully, it too would not gain majority support.

As a result, this bill was created. Ms. Hoeppner's bill provides a compromise, having stripped away all other changes save for this one: the elimination of the wasteful long-gun registry. The long-gun registry has been an extremely wasteful and burdensome placebo that provides false impressions of improving public safety. Most importantly, the long-gun registry has been a substantial financial boondoggle since its creation in 1995 by then Minister of Justice Allan Rock. It has cost well beyond $2 billion, and the final figure is still yet unclear.

Some would like to argue that annual operating costs associated with the registry run at only $3 million. This is false. This figure does not reflect true fully-loaded direct costing, nor does it factor in indirect costing. In fact, the registry costs taxpayers more than $106 million per year, and a final figure cannot be known. As the Auditor General has pointed out, not once but twice, for a program that does little to nothing to keep Canadians safe, this is and has been a huge waste of taxpayer money. And all of this wasted spending originates due to misleading information having been given to Parliament when Bill C-68 was passed.

Related, of course, is that Canadians don't even know if the $2 billion is a complete figure. In 2002 we in the Canadian Taxpayers Federation presented Auditor General Sheila Fraser with a petition of over 14,000 signatures, requesting that her office audit the program. She did so and found astonishing waste.

In the second audit of the program, in 2006, Ms. Fraser found that whenever costs ballooned beyond what Parliament had authorized, or above what the government had publicly promised, the true amounts were hidden from legislators and the public. The Auditor General concludes that hiding these costs broke the law and violated the government's own accounting practices. It also meant that Parliament's constitutional power to decide how taxpayers' dollars are spent was usurped by bureaucrats. This is where the committee ought to be focusing its time more appropriately.

In 2006 my predecessor delivered to then public safety minister Day another petition, this time with over 28,000 petitions, calling for the elimination of the wasteful long-gun registry.

To quote from the Auditor General's report from December 2002, “From the start insufficient financial information was provided to Parliament”. The Auditor General says that Parliament was misled in 1995 to believe that the program would cost a net of only $2 million. Canadians may never know the full and true cost of this program.

We know, thanks to the Auditor General and the CBC, that it has cost over $2 billion. The program has been disastrously managed. According to the Auditor General, 70% of all money approved by Parliament for the creation and management of this program came from supplementary estimates. As you parliamentarians are aware, this is a clear indication of just how out of control the program has been, as this spending had not been budgeted.

The Auditor General's report is scathing. It outlines waste and mismanagement of immense scale. An important excerpt from the audit reads:

In our view, the financial information provided for audit by the Department does not fairly present the cost of the Program to the government. Our initial review found significant shortcomings in the information the Department provided. Consequently we stopped our audit of this information....

The Auditor General notes that costs exceeded $1 billion, according to the department. And she noted that the cost was importantly incomplete.

The auditor also highlights that the program's focus had changed from high-risk firearms owners to excessive regulation and enforcement of controls over all owners and their firearms. The department concluded that, as a result, the program had become overly complex and very costly to deliver, and that it had become difficult for owners to comply with the program. Importantly, the Auditor General notes, “The Department also did not report to Parliament the wider costs of the Program as required by the government's regulatory policy.”

As a result, the CBC submitted a freedom of information request to attempt to gain better information on full costing. They ran a story in February 2004 reporting the full wasteful program costs at more than $2 billion. Canadians likely will never know how much the wasteful program costs to date. Equally, we don't know fully how much it costs annually in direct and associated costs.

The RCMP reports it spends $8.4 million a year on registration. Leave aside for a moment the credibility of this number. Simply add it to the $98 million annual operating costs for other related programs, as outlined in the detailed research report from the Library of Parliament in 2003, and the total operating costs for the impact of this wasteful registry exceed $106 million a year. Of course, we don't even know the real cost to the RCMP, as the ongoing registry's operating costs have been routinely, purposely misrepresented.

In her 2006 audit, the Auditor General points out repeated examples of improper accounting where spending was hidden from Parliament. One example is for $17 million and another example is for $22 million. She notes in 2006 that the managers intended to continue with this accounting practice of hiding costs.

Nor do we know the true feeling of the rank and file members of the force. On May 5 of this year, Deputy Commissioner Killam issued an outrageous memo to all commanding officers regarding Ms. Hoeppner's bill, ordering the commanders and all their employees to keep their opinions to themselves and their mouths shut. With this kind of culture of chill in the RCMP, the true costs of managing the wasteful registry may never truly be known, nor may the true attitudes of the front line officers.

The only way to save taxpayers from this ongoing debacle is for this committee and Parliament to put an end to the wasteful long-gun registry.

Thank you for your time.

December 6th, 2006 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the witnesses for appearing. I've listened with interest to all of your testimony.

I want to read something from Statistics Canada this past year that says that the national homicide rate rose for the second straight year in 2005, reaching its highest point in nearly a decade. Firearms-related killings increased for the third year in a row. There were 658 homicides last year, 34 more than in 2004. Of these, 222 were committed with a firearm, up from 173. They report that 107 homicides were believed to be gang-related in 2005, 35 more than in 2004. Two-thirds of gang-related homicides involved a firearm, most often a handgun.

What all that tells me is that it's beyond dispute, in my opinion, that what we're doing currently is working. That's what it tells me. I'm not satisfied with those statistics, and I think we can do a lot better.

Mr. Moriah, I listened with interest to what you had to say, and some other witnesses have made the same point. A piece of legislation can't be the be-all and end-all. We have to work from all angles to tackle the problem. I agree with you.

I think Mr. Doob or someone mentioned jobs, opportunities. No one is against those things. We're all in favour of jobs, opportunities, and resources. Some of the things we've done have been to put more law enforcement officers on the streets and at the border, dedicate resources to help prevent crime, and focus specifically on preventing at-risk youth from getting involved in street gangs and drugs.

We can do all those things, but I haven't heard from any of the witnesses that there's any place at all for the Criminal Code. I didn't hear any suggestions of how we can make this bill better. You say you're against the bill, but we do in fact have a Criminal Code that deals with a situation when, despite all our best efforts, someone has taken a gun and shot someone.

We can talk about root causes all we like and we can go back as far as we like, but at that moment that someone has taken a gun and shot someone, I don't think we should make excuses for that person. At that point, there's a role for the criminal justice system, I believe. Some of you may disagree, but I'd like to hear what you propose. What role do you see for criminal justice?

I'll give you all an opportunity to speak to that.

I do have to mention something. Concerning Dr. Levitt, we've heard testimony that mandatory minimums do deter, and we've heard testimony that they don't. Dr. Levitt, of course, is not here to defend himself. He was one of Time Magazine's 100 people who shape our world, for 2006. He is a senior fellow for the American Bar Foundation. Without him here to defend his own work, I don't quite take what my colleague Mr. Bagnell said, that all evidence that this would work has been debunked. I think you've made arguments on one side. There's other work on the other side. I would like some comment on that.

Mr. Kulik, you said your organization supported Bill C-68, and you oppose this Bill C-10. Bill C-68 was, overall, misguided. I think history now, after ten years, has looked at it as a total failure. The problem with Bill C-68 is that it went after law-abiding citizens and said you have to line up and register your duck gun, and it ignored gangs that use handguns on the streets. Those people did not register their gun. The evidence that I just cited from Statistics Canada says people continue to get handguns.

We talk about resources and what this bill will cost. Bill C-68 has cost over $1 billion. Imagine what we could have done with $1 billion wasted registering people's legal firearms. I have to say, on the cost associated with Bill C-10, firearm cases are, I think we'd all agree, very serious incidents, but they represent less than 1% of the national caseload. So what we're talking about overall, globally, in cost, we have to put in perspective.

I've touched on a number of bits of your testimony, I think all of you, except Mr. King.

I do want to mention one thing. This is not an American three-strikes rule. I appreciate hearing the American perspective, but this bill is focused on specific crimes. Gangs committing crimes with handguns--that's where the problem is. It's not a broad three-strikes rule. We don't have broad application of mandatory minimum sentences. It's very focused. And we've seen evidence that says when you have very focused use of mandatory minimums, it works, because it takes those who continue to commit crimes off the street.

So I'd appreciate all your comments on your testimony.