An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (non-registration of firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Stockwell Day  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of June 19, 2006
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act to repeal the requirement to obtain a registration certificate for firearms that are neither prohibited firearms nor restricted firearms.

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.

November 24th, 2011 / 11:15 a.m.
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Heidi Rathjen Spokesperson, Students and Graduates of Polytechnique for Gun Control

Good morning. I will continue in English.

Up until now, the debate surrounding Bill C-19 has mainly focused on the registration of guns. However, the impacts of this legislation reach well beyond the issue of registration.

For example, clause 11 eliminates the requirement to keep any record of the transaction involving long guns. This means that there won't be any more paper or electronic traces indicating that a sale has taken place. There are more than 1.5 million of these private sales in about two years.

The requirement to record sales was introduced in 1977 and, in the absence of a more effective centralized registry, was at least able to serve the public safety by helping police in some criminal investigations. For example, sales records allowed police to identify the perpetrator of the Polytechnique shooting, who was unrecognizable, having shot himself in the face.

So unless a store voluntarily keeps a detailed sales record, there will no longer be any trail linking a seller to a buyer or to a gun that was sold, nor will there be any trace indicating that the sale took place. The sales will be taking place in the dark.

Bill C-19 will also critically weaken a second crucial component of gun control: the controls on ownership or licensing.

When in 2006 the Conservative government tabled Bill C-21, an earlier attempt to abolish the registry, it nevertheless recognized the importance of verifying the validity of a licence to own when selling or transferring a gun--any gun. In the accompanying fact sheet, the Conservatives reassured the public that the proposed amendment would still “require current owners to verify that a potential purchaser or another new owner of their non-restricted firearm has a valid firearms license by contacting the Chief Firearms Officer”. It stated, “This measure will assist in ensuring that guns do not end up in the hands of individuals who shouldn’t have them, such as convicted criminals”.

Yet clause 11 also repeals the obligation for anyone selling or transferring a long gun, whether it is a gun store or a private individual, to verify the validity of the buyer's licence. All they have to do is have “no reason to believe that the transferee is not authorized to acquire and possess that kind of firearm”. Technically, they don't even have to ask to see a licence.

In order to properly understand the implications of this incredible loophole, consider this. Someone about to purchase a long gun can simply hold out something that looks like a licence. It could be a revoked licence, a counterfeit licence, or even a shabby but slightly official-looking plasticized card that could be produced in any copy shop.

With Bill C-19, there would be no obligation for the seller to check the validity of the licence with the Firearms Centre or to record anything about the licence, its number, the rifle being sold, or the person he is selling it to. He just has to believe that the owner is authorized to own a gun. The buyer can convince the seller: “I promise that I have a licence”. Is that enough?

In the event that the rifle is used in a crime, it will be practically impossible to hold accountable the person who sold the gun to an individual without a licence. All the person has to say is: “Yes, I sold a gun to someone. I seem to remember that he or she had a valid licence. At least, I believed he or she did at the time, but I didn't verify its validity or write down the licence number or the buyer's name”. There is no technical violation of the law unless the police can prove that this person didn't believe something.

Opposition Motion—Gun ControlBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2009 / 1:55 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, as you know, my riding is home to a lot of farmers and hunters. The gun registry is certainly a controversial issue in my area.

When the registry was put in place, had it been clear and simple, everyone would have been happy and we would not be facing the dilemma we are today. It must be said that the Prime Minister was the only Reform member to vote in favour of gun registration when the Liberals first introduced their bill.

My colleague mentioned a few bills.

The hon. member talked about Bill S-5. What is really interesting about the bill is that it is virtually the same as Bill C-21, introduced by the Conservatives in 2006, and Bill C-24, introduced in 2007, and the Conservatives never allowed either bill to come to a vote.

The other point I want to make is that introducing the bill through the Senate is very unusual and that the Conservatives again seem to be playing partisan games with divisive issues. Senators are already signalling that they will amend the bill, so we really do not know what it is going to look like.

So my question for the member is, what are his concerns with regard to Bill C-301 because he also mentioned that bill?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2007 / 10:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise today, albeit for three minutes, and speak to this very important legislation.

The bill is about accountability. We have a duty as elected representatives of the people of Canada to be accountable for the safety of our loved ones. We have a duty to be accountable with the taxes we receive. We have a duty to be accountable with the freedoms we have. We also have a duty to be effective. We need to ensure the bills we pass, the laws we implement and the programs we establish are effective.

This leaves us with a role that we must play wisely and carefully, so I would request that when examining and debating Bill C-21, we do so while remembering the importance and duty we have to be accountable and effective for all of Canada.

Gun crime is a serious issue in Canada; there is no doubt about that. There have been a number of recent incidents in my city of Winnipeg.

On Friday, May 25 of this year a 22-year-old man was shot early in the morning in Winnipeg's Spence Street neighbourhood. The man was out walking around 1:30 a.m. when he was approached by a pair of teenage boys. They reportedly made comments related to gang involvement before shooting the man in the upper body, police said.

Just this past weekend a 20-year-old man was gunned down on an inner city street. He died after being taken to hospital in critical condition.

Just an hour before in a separate incident, a 15-year-old girl and a 37-year-old man were shot and taken to hospital. The residents in the area where the shootings occurred were frightened and would only suggest the shootings might be gang related and they were fearful of repercussions.

The residents in my city of Winnipeg should not be afraid. They should not have to live in fear. We need to protect these citizens in an accountable and effective manner. That is why our government is taking steps to strengthen gun control by making it effective. We want to tackle the criminal misuse of guns, not hunters and farmers.

Bill C-21 will address the concerns of legitimate hunters and farmers as well as the legitimate concerns of the public for their safety and the rising gun crimes.

Bill C-21 will refocus our gun control efforts on what works in combating the criminal use of firearms by repealing the requirement to register non-restricted long guns and requiring firearms retailers to record all sales transactions of non-restricted firearms.

It is clear that requiring legitimate long gun users to register their guns is not a way to prevent gun crimes. Hunters and farmers are not criminals and should not be treated that way.

Long guns are not commonly used in gun crimes. In fact, there are over seven million registered long guns in Canada. However, as I said earlier tonight, of the 569 murders recorded in Canada in 2003, only two were committed with long guns known to be registered. That is only .3% of all the murders in 2003.

I would like to point out that it is not only the government side of the House that feels the long gun registry is ineffective. There are many members in the official opposition who feel the same and want to ensure that legitimate gun users are not penalized. I feel it is important to recognize their wisdom on this issue. The deputy leader of the Liberal opposition--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2007 / 9:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House and speak to something that I and a large majority of my constituents are very passionate about, and that is Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, also known as the long gun registry.

It has been well stated tonight that the country has had the toughest handgun laws in the world since the 1930s, yet that has not prevented gun crime from happening. It is unfortunate, but it is a fact.

In 1989 we had the troubling and tragic Montreal massacre at École Polytechnique Institute. This is remembered to this day. In 1995, as a result of that terrible incident, the Liberal government of the day, with a knee-jerk reaction and without thinking, introduced Bill C-68. It was a Firearms Act that was called the strictest gun control legislation in the world.

When it was first established, the Department of Justice estimated the cost of the Canadian firearms program, also the gun registry, to be $2 million. In the end, the Auditor General reported the cost as way over a billion dollars and approaching $2 billion and still climbing. It has turned out to be the biggest single deception of the Canadian people ever, another Liberal boondoggle, nothing more than a black hole for taxpayer dollars. Their money went nowhere and was used to accomplish nothing, our money.

The goal of the bill was to license all firearms, including shotguns and rifles. Furthermore, it was supported by the anti-gun, anti-hunting crowd that put their support behind it, knowing full well that it would do nothing to reduce crime, but would move them one step closer to their ultimate goal and their naive dream of the total ban of guns from the average citizen. This would suit the criminal element in society just fine.

We all know that we cannot eliminate guns totally and that the criminals will always have their way. A good example was during the temperance movement years ago. Liquor was still smuggled in. The criminal element will always find a way.

Do we throw up our hands and penalize the rest of society instead of targeting the real problem? No. That is the Liberal way. They did it. It was “let us go after the farmer, the duck hunter, the target shooter”.

Bill C-68 will not and has not prevented gun crime from taking place. Now, unfortunately, last fall there was another tragic example of that in our country. The shooting at Dawson College was carried out by a man using a registered gun. This registry was supposed to stop this kind of thing, but the reality again was it did not.

These events, in addition to the numerous shootings that have taken place in other Canadian cities, have all occurred with that legislation in place. The gun registry has not saved any lives. Many speakers, including the hon. member beside me, have spoken to that point. Any member in the House or any police officer would support that kind of an objective, but unfortunately Bill C-68 did not do this.

History speaks for itself. If we continue along this same path, the future will repeat itself. We need to make changes, and Bill C-21 is about that.

Something that needs to be pointed out is the lack of on the ground police support for the gun registry. While some police leaders have supported it, it is very hard to find an actual police officer out there on the ground who will say the registry is needed. That is a fact.

The opposition and the anti-gun, anti-hunting lobby continually mislead the public and the media by telling them the police use the registry 5,000 times a day to check out criminals. This is a total misrepresentation.

The gun registry is automatically linked so when an officer investigates someone on a regular traffic infraction, he or she is also checking that person out on the gun registry. However, the officer does not even know that he or she is running that person's name in the gun registry. The officer does not see any information from it and does not keep or use that information. Total blarney, a whitewash, just another “fiberal” scam.

Unlike the previous government, the Conservative government is not interested in licensing guns. It is committed to licensing people. People with long guns do not rob Mac's Milk stores. People with long guns do not hold up gas stations. People do not use legal long guns in drive-by shootings.

We believe in targeting criminals, not duck hunters and farmers. That is why in budget 2007 we allocated $14 million over two years to improve front end screening of first time firearms licence applicants. This will help prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands.

Individuals will still be required to have a valid firearms licence. We are not opposed to that. They will still go through a police background check. For 25 years I went through a police check to purchase a gun. I do not have a problem with that and neither does the long gun owning crowd.

Safety training is still going to be part of it. We have no problem with that. In order to purchase or possess firearms and ammunition, individuals will still also continue to be required to register prohibited and restricted firearms such as handguns.

Through a quick background check, our police officers will be able to determine who is in legal possession of firearms and who is not. The government invested $161 million over two years to add 1,000 more RCMP personnel to focus on law enforcement priorities, such as gun smuggling, restricting conditional sentences such as house arrest for serious crimes, especially gun crimes, imposing mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes and keeping the most violent and dangerous repeat offenders in the country in prison.

I have to point out that the opposition party across the way and many other members in the House en masse voted against our tough on crime bills. It is unbelievable. Yet they still stand and say that they want to get tough on crime.

Bill C-21 will refocus our gun control efforts on what works in combatting the criminal use of firearms by repealing the requirement to register non-restricted long guns and requiring firearms retailers to record all sales transactions of non-restricted firearms.

At the outset, I said this was a passionate issue for my constituents. In my last householder I conducted a survey in my riding just to be sure the mood had not changed. On the topic of the gun registry, more than 95% said yes to scrapping or revamping the long gun registry.

The government has introduced an amendment to the Firearms Act that will eliminate the expensive and ineffective long gun registry. It has not saved lives. It has cost us billions and is still climbing. The bleeding must stop.

It is fair to say that all in the House truly want to reduce gun crimes, but I implore everyone on all sides of this issue to think with their heads. Let us tackle gun smugglers, gangs and all criminals and give our police officers and border guards the tools and support they need, and we will make headway.

In that battle, unfortunately, we will never eliminate all the Marc Lepines of the world or get them off the street before it is too late. Unfortunate as it is, it is simply a reality.

I urge everyone here to support Bill C-21.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2007 / 9:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the NDP for her support on Bill C-21., and we appreciate that.

She made reference to the tragedy of December 6, and we all recognize that as a tragedy. There is nothing we can say here tonight that would in any way bring out the degree of sympathy we feel, and that we feel all the time, when such tragedies take place.

However, I will mention this. Retired Montreal detective sergeant Roger Granger was there. He was one of the individuals who investigated the Lepine shooting in 1989. He was a police officer. I have never met the individual, but I am certain he has probably been to many tragedies and seen many things. One thing he said in regard to that was that federal gun registry created by the Liberals under former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was totally ineffective.

When I go around my constituency and when I stop in and speak to the detachments, to the RCMP and municipal police, they make it very clear that they do not support the gun registry.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2007 / 9:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand this evening and participate in the debate on Bill C-21, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act.

Where I come from, predominantly a rural riding in Alberta, this bill is one of the most important changes that my constituents, over the seven years that I have been a member of Parliament, have asked for. They want to see the gun registry changed and the long gun registry dropped.

This bill is the start of a process that would reverse the burden that has been placed on rural Canadians by Liberal governments for far too long, approximately 10 years. Farmers and ranchers, those of us who live in remote and rural communities, have been taxed and red-taped by the Liberal government's failed gun registry for a decade now and they are saying that enough is enough and that it is time to make changes.

We have lived with this type of registry for a long time but we have lived with firearms, and long guns specifically, for generations in rural Canada. We have lived with them safely as responsible and law-abiding owners and users. However, when urban Canada, and our largest cities in particular, began to suffer from gun violence on an increasing basis, the Chrétien government launched a long gun registry. However, it did not address the problems in these urban centres and caused considerable hardship to rural Canada.

The Conservative Party campaigned on a promise to address what some estimate to be now a $2 billion waste of taxpayer dollars and to remove the yolk that the Liberals placed on rural residents when it comes to firearms ownership.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

Unlike the current Liberal leadership, Canada's new government is committed to effective gun control in tackling the criminal misuse of firearms. We understand that serious gun crime problems are very evident in our urban areas. They continue to rise and this government will do something about it.

The truth is that the vast majority of these firearm homicides are committed with illegal, unregistered firearms. That is why we believe in targeting the criminals themselves, the criminals who use and traffic in illegal firearms, not the duck hunters, not the farmers and not the ranchers who have nothing to do with the criminal element or criminal activity.

The Liberals continuously neglected our licensing system. We allocated $14 million over two years in budget 2007 to improve front end screening of first time firearm licence applicants.

I have listened to people tonight from the other side say that we were getting rid of every type of regulation. That is not right. We want to ensure that those who apply for a firearms licence will be trained and screened so they will be responsible firearm owners. Those are very important measures that will help prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands. It was the aspect of a licensing and screening system that was totally neglected by the previous government.

Instead, over more than a decade the Liberal Party wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on a long gun registry that could have been used for fighting crime and the sources of criminal behaviour.

The other failure of the Liberals' long gun registry is well-documented by the Auditor General. Data was too often inaccurate and costs skyrocketed while Parliament was, in my opinion, intentionally misinformed about the progress that was being made.

As a government, I am proud to say that my party has changed the focus from paperwork and charging fees to farmers and duck hunters to focusing on dealing with crime on the front lines.

We have invested $161 million over two years to add 1,000 more RCMP personnel to focus on law enforcement priorities, such as gun smuggling, a very real problem in this country that needs to be addressed.

Since taking office, we have brought forward 11 new legislative proposals that will help crack down on crime, proposals such as restricting conditional sentences such as house arrest for serious crimes, imposing mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes, and keeping in prison the most violent, most dangerous repeat offenders in the country.

Canadians are watching as the opposition parties in this minority Parliament are being soft on crime and blocking our tough on crime bills from moving forward.

Canadians expect action, not further delays, yet that is what the opposition is doing with its majority of votes at the justice committee. They opposition members are slowing down and watering down and doing everything they can to postpone the proposals to strengthen our criminal justice system. Yet again, getting tough on crime was one of our major planks in the previous election and the Canadian electorate supported our proposals.

The Liberals' attempt to count and track every long gun in Canada has been ineffective and costly. It has misdirected police resources from what is most important: going after criminals who use firearms in crime.

Bill C-21 will take the focus back to where it should be. It will refocus our gun control efforts on what works in combating the criminal use of firearms by repealing the requirement to register non-restricted long guns and requiring firearm retailers to record all sales transactions of non-restricted firearms.

Under our Bill C-21, in order for a Canadian to purchase or possess a firearm and to purchase ammunition, a person will still be required to have a valid firearms licence. In fact, when a person purchases a non-restricted firearm, the validity of his or her licence will have to be verified. This can be done relatively simply and not at a huge cost, but we want to make certain that the right and responsible type of firearm owners are the ones doing the purchasing.

Applicants will continue to go through police background checks and safety training. Canadians also will continue to be required to register prohibited and restricted firearms, such as handguns, as has been the case since 1934.

Our intention is not to change the handgun registry. It is not to take that away. We recognize that it is the gun of choice for the criminal element. It is not our intention to touch that.

Again, we are talking about the long gun registry. Through a quick background check, our police officers will be able to determine who is in legal possession of firearms and who is not.

In 1995, the Liberal government told Parliament that the long gun registry would involve a net cost of just $2 million. That is a fact. Anyone can check. That is what was in the Auditor General's report in 2002 in chapter 10.

In May 2000, the Liberals admitted that the cost had actually ballooned to at least $327 million. Again, that is a fact. Members can check the Auditor General's report of 2002 in chapter 10.

By March 2005, the net cost of the firearms program was over $946 million. Today those costs exceed well over $1 billion, according to the Auditor General's report of 2006 in chapter 4.

This $1 billion figure does not even include the costs incurred by law enforcement agencies in enforcing the legislation or the compliance costs for law-abiding firearms owners and businesses, which are astronomical and likely run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What is worst of all is that by 2006 the Auditor General said that the Liberals had misinformed Parliament about the many costs of their failed long gun registry.

In the many towns and villages in my riding, the waste of these taxpayer dollars by the Liberals in a phony attempt to fight gun violence is overshadowed only by the tremendous and terrible burden placed on rural Canadians and, I dare say, also on western Canadians. The Liberal gun registry targeted every rural Canadian and certainly out west it would seem to me that we felt it the most.

The Liberals deny and then after electoral defeat they wonder why they are having problems in western Canada. Their long gun registry is a prime example.

I will not mention the fact that the Liberals ignored and dragged their feet on the agriculture file, that they denied rural Canada a real and useful child care policy, that they refused to appoint our elected senators, that they racked up surpluses while forecasting deficits, and many other things.

Bill C-21 would put an end to the waste of taxpayer dollars being spent on a failed Liberal long gun registry. That is why I am proud to stand in this place and support Bill C-21 and say goodbye to the long gun registry.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2007 / 9:15 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Western Arctic for his support of this bill. He is a member from rural Canada and understands the importance of legitimately owned firearms in our areas.

He mentioned and I agree with him totally that Bill C-21 does not change the screening process of ownership of a firearm. A person still has to become licensed to own and purchase firearms. There are still the areas of safe storage which are so important to us.

The member mentioned the problem in urban centres. What we are seeing across Canada are illegal guns and how they are tied to the drug trade. I know in Manitoba we see a lot of people growing marijuana and then trading that for illegal guns in the United States and bringing those back so that they can carry out their crimes.

I want to get back to this issue of legitimate ownership. I know that one of the things we both talked about was the need for subsistence living. We have a lot of Métis and aboriginal hunters in our ridings that use their firearms as part of their daily living. I know in my riding a lot of people hunt for geese, ducks and deer in the fall, and they stock up their freezers and they are good for the year. The member mentioned that and that is important to me as well.

Also, what has been affected in my riding is the outfitting business. It has become difficult for people to transport their firearms across the line. We do not have those international visitors coming in any more and supporting these people. That has hurt our local economy.

Would the member expand upon that and explain if that is one of the same concerns that they have in the western Arctic as we have in Selkirk—Interlake? Again, I want to thank the member for his support of this bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2007 / 9:05 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Trinity—Spadina.

I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-21. I would like to thank the government for finally bringing the bill forward, for finally finding the courage of its conviction at this very late date. If we approached all the bills with the same degree of courage the government has shown with this one, we would be way behind in our legislative agenda.

Coming from the Northwest Territories and being our party's critic for rural and remote communities, I have run in three elections supporting the concept of taking away the registry on long guns and shotguns. Throughout those three elections people across the north consistently said to me that it is not required, it is not necessary and it is not really working for them.

I want to take a step back from that and look at what is working in gun control in Canada now. What is clearly working right now is the registry that is in place for licensing. Quite clearly, we have a better system of licensing now. I guess we can thank the Liberal Party for delivering that in the legislation in 1995. We have a better computerized system. It delivers for licensing. We are more organized and efficient at processing licences. I have heard the number of rejected licences, some 16,000, for people who were not considered appropriate to have firearms. That is a good and meaningful figure. It is a figure that makes Canadians safer on the ground. We can thank the Liberal Party for that.

However, when it comes to suggesting that one party or the other in Parliament has the vision to put everything together, that has the ability to transcend the ideology and politics of the day, whether it is in 1995 or 2007, and come up with a plan that is going to match what is required for Canada, that is a very egotistical approach.

We suffered under that with the majority Liberal government. It did not understand the nature of gun control. The Liberals had a law that tried to do too much. The things that it did not do well are the certificates for individual firearms, for long rifles and shotguns. Those are the things that were not done well. Those are the things that this bill will take out of the system. This is not the end of gun control in Canada. It is an adjustment to the gun control legislation that we have in the country. Quite clearly, that is what we are doing here and that is why we should all look at it in that fashion.

This is not about one party being against the other. This is about looking at what is good for Canadians. As a New Democrat in an open party, I feel very good about standing here today and supporting the adjustment that is being proposed by the government. Why? Because in my territory, before the gun registry, the value of subsistence hunting was some $60 million for 45,000 inhabitants. That same message is repeated right across northern Canada and northern parts of the provinces. For people who use rifles and shotguns for their way of life, the gun registry did not work.

It was said at the time in 1995 in Parliament that it would not work. It was not adjusted to make it work. The importance of that to many people across the country was not recognized. We had a situation where a majority government, not a minority government as we have today, made a decision in its magnificence to create a gun control law that went too far.

We are taking it back now perhaps with this bill. This is a minority government and we may find that this bill will not meet the test of all members in this House. It meets the test of this member standing here right now. I support it because I see it as a necessary adjustment to gun control.

The bill does not pass up the good work that is in gun control now. If the government decides to put more effort into licensing by ensuring that the people who own firearms are capable, competent and not criminal in nature, then the gun registry is an excellent investment of public funds. It is an investment that will be returned to everybody in the country.

Storage is extremely important. Safety is extremely important. Training is extremely important. These characteristics that we have built into gun control now should be enhanced and regulated to a greater degree. Quite often if guns are not stored properly, they become available to people who may use them wrongly. I have seen too many tragedies involving young people or people who are not in their right mind who are impaired in one way or another, taking somebody else's rifles or guns that are not stored properly and either doing themselves in or doing in others. We can control that through legislation. We can make a difference to all legal gun owners and the safety of this country.

There is a huge requirement for the control of handguns in our cities. There is a huge requirement for the control of restricted weapons that are easily concealed and are the basis of the criminal industry in this country. A ban on handguns in the future may be part of the legislative agenda of this House, perhaps not with the present government, but perhaps with the next. There would be an onward evolution of gun control in this country. I hope when we debate it that we make sensible choices about how to put that in place.

There is one other aspect of the use of guns in this country that I want to speak to and that is what guns are being used for. Guns are being used to feed the appetite of Canadians for drugs and illicit goods. The majority of illegal guns are causing death and havoc in our cities.

We say that we have to stop criminals by catching them and putting them in jail. We need to recognize the necessity of adjusting our legislation to truly change the criminal state. We need to take some of the oxygen out of the criminal system, what makes it worthwhile for someone to have a handgun in his or her possession, the tens of billions of dollars of illicit drugs that are being sold in this country.

How do we stop the appetite of Canadians for illegal drugs and illicit goods? Are we doing a successful job at that through enforcement, through all the tricks of the trade that we have developed in our war on drugs? I do not think so. I think it has been an abject failure. If this legislature does not come to grips with that, we will never truly understand how to deal with crime in this country.

On the one hand I support this legislation. It is a great adjustment to the gun control legislation in Canada. On the other hand, we have so much work to do to reduce crime in this country.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2007 / 9 p.m.
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Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I think the member is incorrect. I think it is an impression that has been created by members who do not seem to want to believe that the Liberals' gun registry was a complete fiasco. Bill C-21 has been misrepresented by remarks and comments members made earlier tonight.

I do not think the member comprehends what the bill will do or how important it is for gun owners and responsible firearms owners.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2007 / 8:50 p.m.
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Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I may be from the west but I am not an Annie Oakley and I have never handled a gun. I do not know if I could shoot, aim or load one but I do know that responsible gun owners in my riding and across the country continue to say that the Liberal gun legislation did not focus resources where they were needed. They believe that the current long gun registration is inefficient, unnecessary, wasteful, intrusive, ill-conceived and badly executed.

I am rising in support of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act for the purpose of non-registry of firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted. For the past seven years, as a member of Parliament, I have been told repeatedly by constituents that the registry needs to be replaced. I have been reminded that we promised to do that and I have been encouraged to carry through on that pledge.

I am happy to say that today we are doing that. Needless to say, I am anxious to speak to this bill and express my certainty that it has a speedy passage because it is both necessary and just. However, I thought perhaps a constituent should be allowed to speak first, and since he relies on my presence in this House to make his opinions known, I would like to quote from a letter that he has sent me.

On May 10, 2006, Mervin Hollingsworth wrote:

I want to ensure that our new government follows through with their commitment to repeal the ENTIRE Firearms Act and their pledge to replace that unjust legislation with efficient, effective, rational laws that recognizes the right of responsible citizens to own firearms.

That is why we are here today and that is why I am standing with my colleagues to support Bill C-21.

Although this government has applied the principle of amnesty for long gun owners, vis-à-vis the registry, clearly that is not enough and not what Canadians from coast to coast and a vast majority of my constituents in Blackstrap are demanding from us.

As another constituent, Doreen Ross, put it, she was distressed “over the uselessness of the gun registry in keeping weapons out of the hands of those that choose to conduct themselves in ways that are deadly and illegal”.

Lest there be any in this House or among those listening to my words today who would question whether Mrs. Ross has sufficient knowledge of guns or an adequate knowledge of gun violence, I can only say that she knows the problem well and better than most of us. One of her family members was killed by a man wielding an unregistered gun.

From this tragedy that the gun registry did not prevent, I would turn to a typical story of frustration that the registry has created. Steve Beck from Watrous, Saskatchewan, cannot even shoot a gopher because he has yet to receive confirmation of his registration. He recently called my constituency office to tell us about it.

Ordinary Canadians know that this registry has not kept guns out of the hands of criminals. They know that it has not saved lives. They know that it is not an effective tool in fighting crime, in reducing violence or in making our streets and communities safer.

They do know that it has cost over $1 billion. They do know that it has intimidated, harassed and criminalized law-abiding gun owners and duck hunters. They do know that it is yet another example of how the previous Liberal government created ineffective programs that never dealt with the problems that they were intended to target.

I have been hearing this message from my constituents since I was first elected in the House of Commons and I am happy to be able to deliver on our promise to repeal this registry as Bill C-21 begins its legislative journey to hopefully passage.

Let me be clear that this government is very concerned about gun-related crime. Unlike the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP, this government is committed to effective gun control and tackling the criminal misuse of firearms. We believe in targeting criminals, not farmers and not duck hunters.

The Liberals continuously neglected our licensing system, which is why we allocated $14 million over two years in budget 2007 to improve front end screening of first time firearms licence applicants. This will help prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands.

The Liberal Party wasted $1 billion on a failed long gun registry, which was acknowledged by the Auditor General, and our government is investing $161 million over two years to add 1,000 more RCMP personnel to focus on law enforcement priorities such as gun smuggling.

We have brought forward 11 new legislative proposals that would help crack down on crime.

The government passed legislation to restrict conditional sentences for violent criminals.

Although Bill C-9 was weakened by opposition parties during justice committee hearings, those convicted of most violent crimes will no longer walk the streets and enjoy the freedom of serving sentences at home.

Bill C-19 bans street racing.

The government raised the age of consent from 14 to 16 years of age to protect children from sexual predators. That was something we tried to do in opposition on at least six occasions, through private members' bills and opposition day motions, but the previous Liberal government kept saying no.

We are trying to impose mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes but the opposition does not like that either.

The government just does not talk about fighting crime. We do not create another committee or another registry to create the appearance of fighting crime. We go to the heart of the criminal justice matter and insist that violent criminals serve their time. We do not blame the victims. We punish the criminals. We do not arrest duck hunters. We try to stop violent offenders. We do this because Canadians told us that they were tired of the Liberal delay, confusion and diversion.

Canadians expected action and the Liberal gun registry was not the kind of action they wanted. Canadians already knew that nobody could find ways to waste a billion dollars like the previous Liberal government. They did not need to be shown again by the example of the gun registry, which has been a disaster for Canadians.

Attempting to count and track every long gun in Canada has been ineffective and expensive. It has misdirected police resources from what is most important, which is going after criminals who use firearms in crime.

Bill C-21 would refocus our gun control efforts on what works in combating the criminal use of firearms by repealing the requirement to register non-restricted long guns and by requiring firearms retailers to record all sales transaction of non-restricted firearms.

Individuals would still be required to have a valid firearms licence and to go through police background checks and safety training in order to purchase or possess firearms and to purchase ammunition. Individuals would also continue to be required to register prohibited and restricted firearms, such as handguns.

Through a quick background check, our police officers would be able to determine who is in legal possession of firearms and who is not.

In 1995, the Liberal government told Parliament that the long gun registry would involve a net cost of $2 million. That was in the Auditor General's report 2002, chapter 10.

In May 2000, the Liberals admitted that the costs had actually ballooned to at least $327 million. That was in the Auditor General's report 2002, chapter 10.

By March 2005, the net cost of the firearms program was over $946 million. Today it exceeds $1 billion. That was in the Auditor General's report 2006, chapter 4.

The $1 billion figure does not even include the costs incurred by law enforcement agencies enforcing the legislation and compliance costs to law-abiding firearms owners and businesses, which likely runs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. That was in the Auditor General's report 2002, chapter 10.

The Auditor General said that the Liberals misinformed Parliament about many of these costs. That was in the Auditor General's report 2006, chapter 4. However, misinformation has ruled the day.

I will be happy to end my speech by quoting Edward Hudson of Saskatoon. He stated:

Canada's current Firearms Act is not achieving the stated goal of improving public safety.

Historical government data indicate that compliance with both licensing and registration has been grossly overstated by the previous administration.

I do not think the voice of the people can be more emphatic and yet restrained at the same time.

Firearms legislation needs to be refocused toward the criminal use of firearms and away from the regulation of law-abiding citizens and their activities. For these reasons, the current Firearms Act must be repealed and replaced.

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June 19th, 2007 / 8:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I already indicated when I went through the facts and the myths that are being perpetrated by the official opposition and others on this very subject, Bill C-21 is not about the licensing of individuals. This is about the long gun registry, nothing more, nothing less. Our position is to scrap that and no longer have a requirement where law-abiding, legal firearm owners would need to register their rifle or shotgun.

It is not about the licensing. I have said that we are open to discussion on the licensing provisions. There will still be licensing requirements and they will still need to strenuously go through a system to check their background, et cetera.

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June 19th, 2007 / 8:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Charles Hubbard Liberal Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, in order to own a firearm in this country, the owner must have a licence and that licence must be renewed every five years, which is the major complaint with the system.

Could the government whip please indicate to the House tonight whether his party also intends to do away with the need for a farmer back in Prince George who has an old shotgun to pay a licence fee every five years in order to maintain the firearm that Bill C-21 talks about?

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June 19th, 2007 / 8:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think my hon. colleague, as I do, echoes the concerns and sentiments of the vast majority of our constituents in rural western Canada and obviously others who have spoken tonight demonstrate that this is not unique to western Canada. It is all across the land that law-abiding firearm owners are incensed about this and they continue to be because they believe it is a direct attack upon them. They want to be law-abiding and obviously they will try their best to obey whatever laws there are in the land.

I would contend that this new Conservative government has brought forward over a dozen pieces of substantive legislation now. We recognize that we are a minority government but with the help of some of the other parties we have been successful in moving some of that legislation through.

Bill C-9 is just one example of something that I fought for unsuccessfully for 10 years against Liberal governments of the past. It would impose certain restrictions on the use of conditional sentencing, which is known as house arrest. We finally put that through so that we could hold criminals accountable for their actions. We are about holding criminals responsible for their actions.

Bill C-21 would help us to take the onus away from law-abiding firearms owners and instead impose stronger restrictions and laws on those who criminally misuse firearms.

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June 19th, 2007 / 8:40 p.m.
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Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeSecretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise. I would like to state at the outset that I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Blackstrap.

I will begin by describing a little about the riding I am privileged to represent in the House of Commons. The riding of Prince George—Peace River is over a quarter of a million square kilometres up in northeastern British Columbia. It is almost perfectly dissected by the Rocky Mountains. It is a huge rural riding. Without a doubt, one of the most controversial and emotional issues that my constituents deal with and feel about is the long run registry and their opposition to it. It is almost uniform throughout my riding. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to rise tonight and raise their concerns.

As someone who was a member of the House of Commons, when the original legislation to establish the firearms registry was being debated in 1995, I cannot adequately convey my relief that we have now been provided with an opportunity through Bill C-21 to right that wrong.

We knew back then that the move to register each and every long gun in Canada was the wrong move. Many of us spoke out about that increasingly and persistently throughout that debate and in the years since. We knew then it was a waste of tax dollars that would do nothing to keep Canadians safe. Of course, history has proven us correct. The statistics have proven us correct.

Unfortunately, even MPs, like myself, who opposed the long gun registry could have predicted that the cost of this failed Liberal experiment would spiral from their projected estimate of $2 million to somewhere in the order of $2 billion today.

This evening I will use my limited time to reassure those Canadians who may have been misled by distorted facts and misinformation by the official opposition and others, as they attempt to defend their fiasco known as the long gun registry. In other words, I want to dismiss the most obvious myths about the long gun registry that members from the other side of the House are attempting to portray as fact. Indeed, we have heard a number of them repeated here again tonight.

The myth is the Conservative legislation to scrap the long gun registry will make it easier for Canadians to obtain firearms.

The fact is the registration of each and every shotgun and rifle in Canada is separate from firearms licensing. Nothing will change in regard to licensing. Canadians will still require a thorough background check and safety check. Violent behaviour and certain criminal convictions will continue to be checked as well. Applicants for a licence will also be subject to specific safety standards and training. Stringent storage requirements will also be maintained.

The former Liberal government was fond of quoting the fact that tens of thousands of firearms licences were refused or revoked under firearms legislation. Again, this is a licensing issue and is not a registry issue.

The myth is the proof that the long gun registry is an essential tool relied upon by law enforcement agencies is the fact that the Canadian Firearms Registry On-line, or the CFRO, gets 6,500 hits per day from police officers. We hear various numbers. Some people say 5,000 or 5,600. I will quote 6,500.

The fact is that figure certainly sounds impressive until we realize that whenever a police officer enters a person's name for any reason, even an address check, an inquiry or hit is generated with the CFRO. Regardless of any changes to the registration of long guns through Bill C-21, police will still know whether a person is authorized to own a legal firearm.

The myth is the $2 billion spent on the problem ridden long gun registry are well worth it because the registry helps to reduce gun deaths in Canada.

The fact is according to Statistics Canada 2004 homicide report, firearms homicides actually went up 13% over a two year period. In fact, statistics continue to demonstrate that the long gun registry has done absolutely nothing to reduce firearms homicides. That is because most gun crimes are not committed with registered firearms. I know it has been repeated many times before in the House, but criminals do not register their firearms. That is why our Conservative government has taken concrete steps to target criminals on our streets.

As we also heard tonight, Bill C-10, which I am pleased was passed by the House late last month, targets organized crime and gangs by imposing tougher mandatory penalties on those who use firearms to commit crimes. We recognize that we have to target the people who are using firearms to commit crimes, not the firearms themselves. Two billion dollars are better spent cracking down on the people who commit gun crimes than on reams of paper and bug ridden computer systems to chase down millions of rifles and shotguns legally owned.

The myth is Bill C-21 will remove the need to register handguns.

The fact is the handgun registry has been in effect in Canada since 1934. Bill C-21 does not change that. Whereas shotguns and rifles are an essential tool in many parts of Canada, and I already mentioned my particular riding, handguns are primarily for the use of sportsmen and collectors. Handguns are also easier to conceal and are best registered to better avoid their misuse.

Two-thirds or 65% of firearms homicides in 2004 were committed with handguns. That is because they are the weapon of choice for organized crime and gangs. Again, Bill C-10 targets the real root of gun crime and firearms homicides by going after the real criminals.

The myth is a complete ban on handguns is a worthy consideration to enhance the safety of Canadians.

The fact is although our Conservative government believes handguns should continue to be subject to registration, we do not believe they should be banned. As I said earlier, it is a perfectly legitimate use for sportsmen and collectors to possess handguns. A handgun ban will do nothing but unnecessarily impact upon those individuals.

I contend that gangs and other criminals could care less whether there are registration requirements or an outright ban on handguns. If they want a gun, it has been well proven, not only in our society but in other western societies, that criminals will get their hands on a gun if their intent is to use it for a criminal purpose.

The final myth about firearms registration, which I will address tonight, concerns the Conservative government's fundamental position on this matter. I want to reassure my constituents and all Canadians that this Conservative government, as demonstrated by Bill C-21, remains as committed as we ever were before to putting an end to this long gun registry that imposes a great burden upon law-abiding Canadians, consumes substantial federal resources, yet brings no measurable benefit to public safety.

In short, we are as committed today as we were for the last 12 years, which seems like a lifetime, not only to myself but to those of us who have been waging this fight against this senseless registry. We will scrap the long gun registry and redirect those previous resources to measures that will actually make our streets and communities safer for all Canadians.

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June 19th, 2007 / 8:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak today to Bill C-21. I am speaking steadfastly against Bill C-21, and further, against it moving forward to committee. This bill should not even be seeing the light of day.

Bill C-21, whose intention is to repeal the requirement to obtain and hold the registration certificate for a non-registered firearm, specifically rifles and shotguns, is a dangerous weapon in and of itself, created by the minority Conservative government. If it is passed, millions of people in possession of long guns will no longer be required to register their firearms.

This act means gutting the gun registry and seriously weakening gun control in our country. It means that the registrar of firearms will no longer issue or keep records of registration certificates for non-restricted firearms.

The Conservative minority government is seriously flawed and its wrong-headed objective to remove the long gun portion of the gun registry is patently wrong. Not only is this attempt by the government against the wishes of the majority of Canadians, as reflected in the Ipsos Reid poll with 67% of Canadians who said so, against the wishes of the majority of parliamentarians, against the wishes of the victims of the tragic recent Dawson College shootings and their families, as well as victims of other such tragedies and their families, it completely flies in the face of the vocally stated wishes of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the president of the Ontario police chiefs, York Regional Police Chief Armand La Barge, the Centre for Suicide Prevention, and more than 40 national women's associations. All oppose strongly this attempt to cripple the gun registry and to weaken gun control in Canada, in turn diminishing the capacity of police to keep Canadians safe, to err on the side of caution, all for the sake of a flawed and ill-conceived election promise, even though it is clear that by including the long gun portion the gun registry works.

It is an important preventative tool. We cannot only look at the measures after a crime is committed. It is essential that we always strengthen prevention, not lessen it. This is inconceivable when we consider that on average more than 5,000-plus queries are made daily by police. Approximately 15,965 firearm licences have been refused or revoked since the firearms act came into effect, and this was born of the tragedy of École Polytechnique in Montreal. Also, more than 500 affidavits have been provided by the Canadian firearms registry to support the prosecution of firearms-related crime in court proceedings across the country.

As is abundantly clear, the gun registry in its entirety continues to provide a vitally necessary tool used by both police and the courts, helping to safeguard and strengthen the safety of Canadians. The safety of Canadians is paramount. This is not something to be taken lightly or trifled with and that is precisely what the Conservative government did when it implemented an amnesty last year and recently extended it for one more year, which has already resulted in an increasingly outdated registry.

This action by the government is of particular concern and is another blatant example of its pattern of governing by stealth, totally disregarding Parliament, its duly elected representatives, and in effect, then, disregarding, disrespecting and bypassing the very Canadians that we as MPs are elected to represent. The removal of the important long gun portion of the registry will have significant far-reaching implications that will reverberate, adversely impact Canadians and compromise the safety of Canadians.

Also, a number of legal implications surrounding the untracked firearms will definitely lessen our ability to carry out searches for firearms and ensure effective enforcement of no firearms conditions on bail or prohibition orders. The fact is that all types of gun deaths, homicides, suicides and accidents, have declined since the registry was brought into force. This includes deaths involving handguns and long guns.

The Minister of Public Safety and National Security has repeatedly defended this decision by stating that Canadians will not be any less safe with these actions because owners will continue to be licensed even while long guns would no longer have to be registered. This is completely misleading, erroneous and disturbing. The fact is that we need both: licensing the individual and the registration of every firearm, including long guns. Without the critical requirement of registering each long gun, police will not know how many long guns people possess when approaching a potentially dangerous offender or crime scene. There could be 5, 10, 20 or more.

This diminishes the capacity of our law enforcement personnel and puts our officers and others at higher risk because, in the words of the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Winnipeg Police Chief Jack Ewatski, who also opposes removal of the gun registry and the long gun portion, “information is the life blood of policing”. He says, “The more information we can give our front-line officers, the better position they are in to perform their duties”.

The Conservative minority government is demonstrating a smoke and mirrors approach on this issue at the expense of the safety of Canadians. It is time for the Conservatives to come clean, be honest with Canadians and tell them that licensing and registering are not one and the same, as both are equally essential to Canadians' safety. One cannot take the place of the other. This fact cannot be overstated.

Clearly, the Conservative government knows it is on very shaky ground and is not secure in this action. This is further reflected in its new firearms advisory committee, which the Conservatives have kept secret. As my hon. colleague from York West said, “They have turned the committee into a gun-loving secret society”. That is, until the muzzle slipped, she said, and the member for Yorkton—Melville boasted that the Conservative faction was stacked with pro-gun activists opposed to gun control.

Unusually, there was no routine announcement and there were no biographies released. This was kept under wraps and under the radar of accountability. As the member for York West continued, she said, “Why did the government change it from the firearms advisory committee to the firearms advocacy committee?”

As the member for London West continued, she said, “If the government really supports the police, why was the Canadian Police Association left off this list?” Why was there no representation, she wondered, asking, “Could it be because it dared to support the gun registry?” She asked, “Why does the advisory committee only hear the voices of the pro-gun lobby?” She asked where the balance is that we had before when we were in government.

The Conservative government has repeatedly put forward money as the primary rationale for these dramatic changes to the gun registry, as the rationale for taking out the long gun portion and weakening gun control. The fact is that since the government's amnesty was implemented, there have been virtually no savings. Total spending remains stable, this after the government crippled the gun registry and after the two year amnesty for long gun owners who are exempted from the existing law.

As the former vice-chair of public safety and national security committee, I participated in the committee meetings on both the departmental estimates and the Auditor General's report. The Minister of Public Safety meanwhile implied that by cutting the long gun registry the government would be saving $10 million this year, when in fact his own deputy minister expressly testified that the $10 million in savings would happen no matter what, because they were administrative savings due to management. It had nothing to do with reducing the registration of long guns. This was erroneous again. This completely debunks the government's supposed rationale.

In addition, I state strongly on behalf of Thornhill residents and all Canadians that we must invest in the safety of Canadians. It is non-negotiable.

While on that committee, I vigorously supported a motion to keep the gun registry intact in its entirety, including the long gun portion. This motion was unanimously passed by all three opposition parties yet was ignored by the Conservative government. The government continually states that it supports the average Canadian, yet when it comes to gun control, and in fact all issues, it is completely out of touch with what Canadians want and displays a total disregard toward the wishes of the majority of Canadians, the wishes of the average Canadian.

To the contrary, the government turned its back on Canadians and used a backdoor, non-transparent method of weakening gun control, getting around what it clearly saw as a little nuisance: Parliament and therefore Canadians themselves.

The Conservative minority government's dogged determination to fulfill its ill-conceived election promise despite indisputable facts and the absolute responsibility of government to do everything in its power to ensure the safety of its citizens is indefensible. Anything less than a fully intact gun registry is unconscionable.

Tonight we heard the Minister of Public Safety say that the government's intention with Bill C-21 is to dismiss the long gun portion of the gun registry. The truth is out. The Conservative government, through this bill, is dismissing the safety of Canadians. This is shameful.

We also heard the minister tonight call the registration of guns in Canada an unfortunate journey. This belittles and makes light of Canadians' safety and it is also a major slap in the face to those who have been victims of firearms.

From day one the government has made it abundantly clear that it is ideologically committed to weakening gun control in our country. In fact, incredibly, tonight we heard from one of the hon. members who spoke that it probably would be good to abolish the entire gun registry.

How can Canadians have any confidence in the Conservative government when it is clearly putting a misguided, deeply flawed election promise before the safety and well-being of Canadians? The government, through this bill, will fail to uphold the most important responsibility of any government: the safety of its citizens. I take this very seriously, as do Canadians.

I do not support Bill C-21 and I definitely do not support sending it back to committee. This bill should not even be on the table. To pass it would go against the very sensibility of the majority of Canadians, against what they know is right and what they know is in keeping with the needs in Canada today. What I do support is protecting Canadians and strengthening, not weakening, gun control in our country.