An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of April 1, 2009
(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 29th, 2011 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Okay.

This is a plea to my colleagues across the way. This is not a hunting weapon. This is not used by farmers to protect their livestock. This is a weapon that is designed, purchased, and used as a sniper weapon. A weapon described by its own manufacturer as being for urban combat is not a weapon for the people we're talking about. The transfer of these weapons into unknown hands is a danger, a clear and present danger for all of us.

All we ask for in this amendment, this change to the bill, is that we regard the classification of these types of weapons two years after this bill comes into force, so that we can understand that we're not letting loose guns into the public that the public doesn't want to see.

We all claim to seek safer streets. This amendment allows us to do that. If the government had similar amendments in their previous bill, as Ms. Hoeppner's did, why have it then and not now? What have you learned in the meantime that says that the transference of these types of weapons is suddenly a good idea? It was in government Bill S-5and in Ms. Hoeppner's bill, which I voted for. That was a good provision.

We have to understand what we're talking about here. We can't simply go back to the public and say that letting this gun loose is a good idea. It's not. So let's make the amendment. Allow for the reclassification of guns that we don't want out in the public. That's what this amendment seeks to do.

It's reasonable and it's what the public wants. It's just to protect the public against these kinds of firearms. These aren't just firearms for hunters, but for other people too, and they are being used for something else. We can improve this bill now, in the next few minutes.

The chair is going to rule this one potentially out of order, but there is a potential for us as a committee to realize that this is incorrect as the bill is written. We can amend this.

This one's not out? Oh, good. Hooray!

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.

June 15th, 2009 / 12:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Is there interference from Bill S-5 and is the bill votable or not?

So, if I understood correctly, there is no interference. The fact that Bill S-5 is before the Senate and that it is somewhat in the same spirit, if not identical, does not interfere with whether this bill is votable or not.

Opposition Motion—Gun ControlBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2009 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, with the greatest of respect, my friend should read the motion that is before the House. It says, and this is what we are debating:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should not extend the amnesty on gun control requirements set to expire on May 16, 2009, and should maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety.

The hon. member would do well to read the motion under debate.

I would also point out that both of the bills before the House, the one emanating from the Senate and the one emanating in this House, reduce the gun registration requirements in this country. Bill S-5 removes the requirement to obtain a registration certificate for firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted. Bill C-301, a bill introduced by my friend's colleague, would end the registration requirement for long gun owners.

Lastly, before I conclude, my friend called this rhetoric. Let me quote from the chief of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police:

The report also underscores that rifles and shotguns account for a substantial proportion of crime guns seized. Recently police in Surrey seized over 200 rifles and shotguns. In Toronto a significant number of crime guns seized were once legally owned rifles or shotguns.

When my friend stands up and calls that rhetoric, perhaps he should direct his comments to the president of the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs and ask him why he is using such language.

Opposition Motion—Gun ControlBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi.

The Conservative government is determined to weaken the gun control legislation. After declaring an amnesty for owners of unregistered long guns three years ago and twice renewing it, the government is planning to change the gun registry with Bill C-301, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (registration of firearms), sponsored by the member for Yorkton—Melville, and Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act, which was introduced in the Senate.

The Conservative government, which is trying to please its militant base, wants to remove non-restricted firearms, meaning rifles and shotguns, from the current gun registry. In fact, the Conservative government wants to do away with the requirement to possess and present a registration certificate for a non-restricted firearm.

The Bloc Québécois has made a firm commitment to improve gun control and maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety. Gun control is one of the most effective ways to prevent crime. That is why the Bloc Québécois is debating the following motion today:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should not extend the amnesty on gun control requirements set to expire on May 16, 2009, and should maintain the registration of all types of firearms in its entirety.

Even though the rate of homicides committed with rifles and shotguns continues to decline, the fact remains that of the 188 firearms that were used to commit a homicide in 2007, 32 were rifles or shotguns, which is still far too many.

Hunting is a popular sport in my riding. I myself have taken a firearm safety course. I know that some hunters probably do not appreciate having to register their guns. But registering a gun takes only a few minutes and does not cost the hunter a cent. It is a simple procedure that can help save lives.

The Bloc Québécois is in Ottawa to defend the interests of Quebeckers. Public safety is not negotiable. Even if Canadian gun control legislation is for the most part under federal jurisdiction, the Government of Quebec has come up with a few tools to improve public safety. It has passed the Anastasia Act designed to protect the people of Quebec by tightening gun control, regulating gun ownership in certain places and creating a system to control the practice of target shooting with prohibited or restricted firearms.

If the Conservative government wants to deregulate gun control, let it transfer those powers to Quebec so that it can administer the firearm registry itself. Quebec MNA's all agree on the necessity of gun control legislation. On March 31, the National Assembly voted unanimously in favour of this motion by the member for Mercier:

THAT the National Assembly of Québec demand the maintaining of the firearms registry, including hunting weapons, and denounce Private Bill C-301 introduced by the Federal Member for Yorkton-Melville... which dilutes the application and scope thereof.

There is no lack of support in Quebec for the gun registry. Police forces report that it is an appropriate and effective tool. Front-line organizations involved in violence and suicide prevention as well as public health agencies report marked decreases in homicides, suicides and accidents involving firearms. They are all opposed to Bill C-301 and call for the registry to be kept as it is.

The Barreau du Québec has expressed the opinion that “the Firearms Act should be kept as it is at present, and that abolition of the gun registry constitutes a threat to public safety.”

Yves Francoeur, president of the Montreal Police Brotherhood, maintains that the gun registry must not be weakened in any way. Even with its limitations, the registry is still a useful tool for Canadian police forces, and it is consulted by them an average of 6,000 times a day.

According to him, since the registry was created in 1998, about 20,000 licences have been revoked or denied, and this has undoubtedly averted a number of tragedies, particularly in spousal violence situations. To all appearances, a large proportion of the Quebec public believes that we need to maintain the gun registry as it is, and end the amnesty granted by the Conservative Party in May 2006.

In particular, we must not lose sight of a sad but true problem in society: suicide. Every year, there are people who use guns to end their lives, and often the weapon used is a hunting rifle. According to Statistics Canada, out of all suicides committed between 1979 and the end of the 1980s, about a third were suicide by firearm. Starting in the 1990s, the proportion began to fall. In 2002, about one out of six suicides was committed with a firearm. The decline in firearms suicides has contributed to the drop in the overall suicide rate. Avoiding easy access to firearms is the best way to prevent suicide. Most suicides would undoubtedly not have happened if the firearms and ammunition had been stored securely.

Firearms control is also a women’s issue. Women account for a small percentage of the two million gun owners in Canada. On the other hand, they account for a large proportion of victims of firearms violence. Over the last decade, the rate of spousal homicides committed with a firearm has fallen by nearly 50%. Is that not excellent evidence that the firearms registry is effective?

In spite of that fact, there is still far too much violence committed against women and children. It is up to the government to invest in preventing spousal homicide. The firearms registry contains tools for that job. The Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale, the Fédération des femmes du Québec and the National Council of Women of Canada, which are all women’s rights advocacy organizations, strongly support the firearms registry.

Some women’s organizations are critical of extending the 10-year licence validity period for all firearms owners, which would reduce the number of opportunities to review the information on the licence and ensure that it is up to date.

When it comes to justice and public safety, the Bloc Québécois firmly believes that the most effective approach is still and will always be prevention. This means that we have to tackle the root causes of crime and the conditions that lead to tragedies in the home. We have to tackle the causes that lead to crime: frustration, violence and despair. We have to find tools to combat poverty and inequality in our society.

The Bloc Québécois in fact believes that the federal government must do more to control firearms, including stricter enforcement of its regulations on the storage, display, transportation and handling of firearms by individuals, which provide that firearms must be stored securely so they do not fall into the hands of criminals.

For all of the reasons I gave in my speech, I call on all my colleagues to vote against Bill C-301, and in particular I call on Liberal Party members, the ones who initiated the firearms registry, and on Liberal senators, to vote against Bill S-5.

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?

Opposition Motion—Gun ControlBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2009 / 1:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, this issue is important. I just spent a great deal of time going through exactly why the registry is such an important tool for our police officers, why we heard nearly unanimously from chiefs of police and why we heard from the Canadian Police Association about why they need this and about how it is used over 9,400 times a day. I talked about how essential this is as a tool and I went through it in great detail.

Respectfully, every time the Conservative Party tries to gut it, whether or not it is in Bill C-301, Bill S-5 or in some speech where the Conservatives try to create division and use this as a political wedge, I am respectfully asking that we work with police on this issue, and turn to responsible gun owners, just as we do to responsible car owners and responsible pet owners, and explain why licensing is important. We need to work with them to ensure we have safer streets and safer communities.

Opposition Motion—Gun ControlBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2009 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this issue. It is one that has created a lot of debate in the House over many years. I will start by explaining how my opinions have been shaped on the issue of guns overall.

My grandfather was a hunter. He had a hunting camp. I had the opportunity to go there and fire a gun with him. I have come to learn a lot about gun ownership, hunting and how important that was to his life. I also learned a lot about how important it is to be a responsible gun owner and how seriously he took that commitment and how important it was to him that the guns were stored safely. Like most gun owners, when he was alive, he was incredibly responsible and was very careful with the weapons that he had. I got to see that side of it. I appreciated how much that meant to him and how much that experience was valued by him.

The other experience that formulated my opinion on this was my time on the Durham Regional Police Services Board. I had the opportunity of working with front-line police officers to see how the registry really worked, how it is put into motion and how it is actually used when we strip away all the rhetoric and the arguments and we talk about what is the real purpose of it.

One of the most defining moments for me when I was on the police services board was when I talked to an officer about going into a domestic violence situation. The police were able to use the registry to confirm that a weapon was present. He explained how it changed his approach in that situation. He explained that most violence, particularly domestic violence, is not planned a long time in advance, but is in fact violence that occurs spontaneously in the heat of the moment. When there is a weapon in the house and there is someone who has never committed a crime before, there is an incredible additional danger both to the police officer and to the person who is the subject of domestic violence.

We do not know who is going to get into this situation and who is not. It is much like when we ask people to register a car. We are not saying that everyone is going to get into a car accident, but we are saying that cars can pose a serious threat to society and other people's lives and it is important to register them and to make sure that those who drive them have the needed skills.

It is the same thing with weapons. Most people who own guns are not going to get involved in crime. Most are going to be responsible. However, we do not know in advance who is going to commit a crime and who is not. It is extremely important that the people who have those weapons be properly trained, that we know where those weapons are and when there is a situation such as domestic abuse that we know whether or not a weapon is present.

When I hear from those officers about how important that tool is, I have to say that it resonates with me. As a legislator I listen to police officers on the front line. It is not just that police officer who shared that experience with me or my time on the police services board. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has been extremely strong in saying the registry is an essential tool to protect police officers and also to protect the public. If that were not enough, the Canadian Police Association expressed the same opinion in a letter. The Canadian Police Association has made it very clear that it is an essential tool for its members. This is something they use more than 9,400 times a day. This is a tool which in the last year was used almost 3.5 million times. The police officers do not use this tool for something to do or because they are bored. They use it because it is an essential tool in crime fighting and in keeping the public safe.

To me, the debate should end there. If police officers are speaking with that degree of unanimity, and that many are saying it is an essential tool and they are using it with that kind of frequency, one would think that should probably end the debate, but unfortunately it has not. In fact, it has mischaracterized this debate as somehow being against hunters or against people who have weapons.

I have never heard anyone make the argument that licensing cars and asking people to get driver training is going against drivers, that we have something against drivers in this country. It is a ridiculous and preposterous argument. If we were against hunting, we would make it illegal, but of course it is not. If we were against long guns, we would make them illegal, but of course we have not. It is a false argument. It is designed to create a wedge and to play games. We should be clear on that. That is what this has really been used for, to create false arguments, false divisions, to create wedges that should not be there, to create clouds around what should be clear arguments.

In that regard, I am going to read some statistics with respect to long guns. There is a lot of talk about excluding the long guns, but let me read some statistics.

Spousal homicides involving firearms occur twice as frequently with long guns than with handguns. Suicides are five times more likely to be committed with long guns than with handguns. The majority of guns recovered or seized by police are non-restricted long guns. Murders with rifles and shotguns have decreased dramatically since 1991, in no small part because of stronger controls on firearms. In fact, the number of murders in 1991 by long guns was 107, and the number for 2007 is down to 32.

People who do not believe the police and want to ignore them, the mass majority, are left with those statistics. In fact, in talking about police safety, police officers report that in the last decade, of the 15 officers who were killed, only 2 were killed by handguns. The remaining 13 police officers were killed with rifles or shotguns.

To say that long guns are not part of the equation of public safety is a false argument. The statistics bear it out and the police repeat it. Yet what we see is a continued misrepresentation of the facts and people trying to pretend that the registry has no function.

If all of that were not enough, let me read directly from a letter dated April 7 from the Canadian Police Association. In this letter the association clearly articulates the reasons that the registry is so important. These are the words from front-line police officers:

Registration is an Important Component of the Canadian Firearms Program.

Licensing firearms owners and registering firearms are important in reducing misuse and illegal trade in firearms, for a number of reasons:

1. Rigorously screening and licensing firearms owners reduces the risk for those who pose a threat to themselves or others. Already there is evidence that the system has been effective in preventing people who should not have guns from getting access.

2. Licensing of firearm owners also discourages casual gun ownership. Owning a firearm is a big responsibility and licensing is a reasonable requirement. While not penalizing responsible firearm owners, licensing and registration encourage people to get rid of unwanted, unused and unnecessary firearms.

3. Registration increases accountability of firearms owners by linking the firearm to the owner. This encourages owners to abide by safe storage laws, and compels owners to report firearm thefts where storage may have been a contributing factor. Safe storage of firearms:

--Reduces firearms on the black market from break-ins;

--Reduces unauthorized use of firearms;

--Reduces heat of moment use of firearms; and,

--Reduces accidents, particularly involving children.

4. Registration provides valuable ownership information to law enforcement in the enforcement of firearm prohibition orders and in support of police investigations. Already we have seen a number of concrete examples of police investigations which have been aided by access to information contained in the registry.

In fact, one of the prime examples that I would point to was a situation involving the shooting of four officers in Mayerthorpe, Alberta in 2005. In that instance the evidence that led to the arrest and conviction of two men was directly related to the registry. The registry helped convict those two individuals. The letter further states:

5. While police will never rely entirely on information contained in the registry, it is helpful to know if guns are likely to be present when approaching a volatile situation, for example, in responding to a domestic violence call. The officer, in assessing threat and risk can weigh this information.

6. Registration facilitates proof of possession of stolen and smuggled firearms and aid in prosecutions. Previously it was very difficult to prove possession of illegal rifles and shotguns.

7. Registration provides better information to assess an investigation of thefts and other firearm occurrences.

8. Recovered firearms can be tracked to the registered owner using firearms registration information.

9. Registration is critical to enforcing licensing. Without registration, there is nothing to prevent a licensed gun owner from selling or giving an unregistered weapon to an unlicensed individual.

10. Illegal guns start off as legal guns. Registration helps to prevent the transition from legal to illegal ownership, and helps to identify where the transition to illegal ownership occurs.

We should look at the overwhelming body of evidence showing how important this tool is for police. As I said, these are not my words or something that I concocted. This comes directly from the Canadian Police Association telling us why it needs the registry to continue.

With all the evidence I have just presented, it seems that this would be a moot matter, that we would not need a motion from the Bloc to try to protect the registry or deal with the issue of amnesty. I think most reasonable people looking at that overwhelming body of evidence would realize that any wedge or distinction was really just manufactured. In fact, that is the case.

The Conservatives, instead of abiding by this overwhelming information and working with law enforcement officials and legitimate gun owners to ensure the program works as effectively as possible, are trying to get rid of it. In fact, a private member's bill, Bill C-301, not only deals with long guns, which I have been talking about for a few moments, but would actually gut the registry for prohibited and restricted weapons. It would cut the registry on things like handguns. In fact, the individual who presented this bill to the House of Commons was first going to be a speaker at an event celebrating the death of the registry where the door prize was a Beretta. This was not just any Beretta. It was a Beretta that was advertised for its stealth.

Why would a marksman who wants to shoot at the range need a Beretta that is advertised for its stealth? The insensitivity is monumental. Where was this event? It was in Mississauga, in the GTA, in our neck of the woods where we have seen an incredible amount of gun violence. One can imagine the reaction.

If all of that gutting and undoing of all the good work I just talked about was not enough, this bill would go even further. This bill would make it legal to transport a fully automatic machine gun. If people have an Uzi, this bill would allow them to drive it through the streets on the way to the range. An Uzi, an fully automatic machine gun is what we are talking about and that is what the Conservatives are introducing.

That did not go over so well In the Senate. As everyone can imagine, a lot of people were upset about this so the Conservatives tried it again and introduced a bill in the Senate to try to gut the registry another way.

I will refer again to the Canadian Police Association's specific comments about the impact of Bill S-5, which, conveniently, was introduced in the Senate where it stands almost no chance of being passed. It makes one wonder whether the Conservatives really are just playing games or what their motives are. However, the following are the words of the Police Association:

Bill S-5 Will Make it More Difficult for Police to Investigate Gun Crimes and Compromise Public and Police Officer Safety.

Bill S-5 will:

Repeal the requirement to register non-restricted firearms...and the offences and penalties for failure to register non-restricted firearms. In recent years the current government has allowed those who have disobeyed the law to avoid compliance and prosecution by creating successive amnesty periods. We fail to understand why the government would relax controls to favour those who deliberately choose to avoid accountability for their firearms.

The second major point it makes is:

Eliminate the requirement for persons wishing to transfer non-restricted firearms to notify the registrar, and introduce a new requirement that the individual seek authorization from the Chief Firearms Officer.... This will devolve the responsibility from the provincial CFO's, who will be required to verify the recipient is licensed to possess the firearm and verify that the firearm is non-restricted. ... --this verification [will be] for each and every transfer. It will be impossible to determine, however, whether or not such requirements are complied with, as records linking firearms to owners will no longer be retained.

The comments go on to explain in many other terms why Bill S-5 is so destructive.

Why exactly are the Conservatives seeking to gut and destroy something that is so evidently needed for public safety and is such an important tool for police?

The reality is that there is a divide between the Conservative rhetoric on crime and the Conservative reality on crime. While the Conservatives talk about being tough on crime, what they are really talking about is creating wedges, about being dishonest on crime, about trying to frame issues in a way that is all about politics and not about making our streets safer. This is a perfect case in point.

I will give the House another case, the crime prevention budget. The crime prevention budget for last year was $43 billion and, of that, only $13 billion were spent. They talk about being tough on crime and yet the Conservatives underspent that budget by half. In fact, when this party left office, that budget was well over the amount that it is right now and was fully deployed and fully spent.

The Conservatives talk about ending the two-for-one remand credit, which we support, but they are not doing anything with respect to addiction in correctional facilities which creates a deadly cycle of people coming back in and out of the system. They are not doing anything about mental health issues. About 60% of those who are incarcerated are facing addiction issues and yet we just keep throwing them back in jail and they come out and reoffend and we throw them back in jail. Nothing is being done.

The Conservatives can talk about being tough on crime. We are not afraid of being tough on crime, but they need to be even tougher on the causes of crime. They need to be tough at ensuring there are not victims in the first place, and that is the abysmal failure of the government and where its rhetoric does not match up to the reality.

We need to ensure that we ask gun owners to be responsible. No one likes to have to register their car, register their pet or file taxes but if the government says that we do not need to do that because it is not important, then people, naturally, get conflicted and get angry. What we should do is go to the good men and women who own firearms and present them with all the facts that I gave today. We need to collectively say as a body that this is something we need for public safety, that we need to work with people to ensure our communities and streets are safer, that we need to prevent things like domestic abuse, that we need when responding to a suicide call and that this is information that is vital. If we present it in that way, we will be doing the right thing and we will be responsible.

Instead, the choice to this point is to use this issue as a wedge, as a divide, to create false divisions and separate rural and urban Canada. The issues that face public safety, whether it is in a small town in Alberta or in my hometown of Ajax or in Pickering, are the same. It is time we were honest and responsible and it is time we cut through the nonsense rhetoric used on this issue.

Opposition Motion—Gun ControlBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2009 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I am rising in this House, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, to support the motion tabled today by the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. That member has a long and distinguished career in the area of public safety. He is one of those people here who really knows what must be done to improve public safety and, for example, to fight organized crime, as he did for so many years during his tenure at the Quebec National Assembly. Today, I salute him and I am telling him that the Liberal caucus will support his motion.

I also want to stress the important work done by many Canadians on the very complex issue of gun control. For example, Suzanne Laplante-Edwards, who is the mother of one of the victims of the tragedy at the École Polytechnique, has done a lot to promote gun control. She is in Ottawa today to remind parliamentarians of the importance of supporting measures that will help control guns and increase public safety, and also to remind us of past tragedies that show the importance of continuing to fight to improve all these measures, which are so critical to ensure public safety. Gun control and the gun registry are undoubtedly two initiatives that help us achieve these goals.

I want to be very clear. Liberals will be supporting this motion tabled by our colleague for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. We believe gun control and the firearms registry are essential elements in the effort to improve public safety across Canada. However, Liberals also recognize that there are persons across the country and in rural communities such as the ones I represent who legitimately use firearms, non-prohibited weapons, for sporting purposes, hunting and target practice.

We recognize and respect that some Canadians have a legitimate need for firearms, but they must also recognize that the legitimate need to protect public safety and to follow the advice of Canada's front-line police officers and police chiefs across the country requires that all firearms need to be part of an effective firearms registry that serves as an essential element of the police officers' work to protect public safety.

In a question a few moments ago, I think my colleague for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine reminded the House of a very important document that was sent to our leader by the Canadian Police Association, a group that represents 57,000 front-line police officers. The elected president of this association wrote to the leader of the Liberal Party on April 7 and asked the Liberal Party to continue to support the firearms registry. He asked members of our party and members of Parliament in other parties to oppose Bill S-5, currently sitting in the Senate, and to oppose Bill C-301, a very irresponsible private member's bill that sits on the order paper of the House.

I want to quote from the letter from the Canadian Police Association, where the elected president said:

It would be irresponsible to suspend or abandon any element of [Canada's firearms program]

In 2008, police services used the firearms registry, on average, 9,400 times a day. They consulted the firearms registry over 3.4 million times last year alone. In that year, 2008, they conducted an inquiry of the firearms registry on over 2 million individuals and did over 900,000 address checks at the firearms registry.

Another organization that in our view is eminently qualified, more so than government members of Parliament, to speak on the issue of public safety is the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. In a letter sent to our leader on March 9, they also said they were asking members of Parliament to oppose Bill C-301 and to maintain the registration of all firearms.

That is precisely the thrust of the motion tabled today in this House. It is important to maintain the integrity of the gun registry and to end the amnesty which, in our opinion, has watered down the integrity of the registry, something which certainly does not help public safety.

The government across the way claims to be interested in public safety. Mr. Speaker, I am sure that you have often seen cabinet ministers and government members wanting to be photographed with police officers. These people make announcement on various bills, or on amendments to the Criminal Code. We often see police officers standing behind the minister announcing such changes to the Criminal Code.

It is obvious that Conservative members view the support of police officers as something symbolic, but also very important for their so-called improvements to the Criminal Code. However, when these same officers, through the duly elected officials representing their associations, ask them to put a stop to a policy which, in their opinion, is irresponsible and goes against the goal shared—I hope—by all members in this House, namely to improve public safety, government members do not agree with the people with whom they had their picture taken just weeks earlier.

There is no doubt, in our view, that extending the amnesty poses a threat to public safety. That is why we will oppose the idea of extending or renewing the amnesty.

If we think about the whole idea of an amnesty with respect to a Criminal Code provision, it is a rather bizarre way to make criminal law in the country. For a government to simply decide that it will suspend the application of a particular section of the Criminal Code or another criminal law is, to me, not a very courageous or legitimate way to make public law in Canada.

If the government had the courage to table a bill in this House that would do what so many government members in their speeches or in their questions and comments claim they want it to do, it knows very well that the bill would be defeated. What does the government do? It signs an order in council or a minister simply directs crown prosecutors that, for this or that reason, for a period of time they should not enforce the criminal legislation.

That is as irresponsible as deciding that the sections of the Criminal Code, for example, that apply to impaired driving would be suspended for two weeks around Christmas. It is the same sort of notion that the government can tell prosecutors or justice officials that we are going to provide an amnesty.

Earlier we heard members claiming that this was only so that firearms owners would come forward and voluntarily choose to register their firearms. If that were the original intention of the one year amnesty when it was announced almost three years ago, why was there a need to continually renew it? The reason the amnesty was renewed is because the Prime Minister has made it very clear that he does not support effective gun control in Canada and he wants to find a way to do what he cannot do legislatively in this House, which is to weaken the firearms registry that is so important for public safety.

The government's true agenda with respect to gun control and public safety is found in two measures. It is found in private member's Bill C-301. The government likes to say that it is a private member's bill but it is the first time I have seen the Prime Minister address a large gathering of persons in front of the media and urge members of Parliament to support a private member's bill, as the Prime Minister did in support of Bill C-301.

However, when the Prime Minister's office realized that it was an irresponsible and appalling piece of legislation, which, for example, as my colleagues have identified, would allow people to transport automatic weapons such as machine guns through neighbourhoods on their way to a target range, it then said that the government would not support the bill on the same day the Prime Minister publicly called upon members of Parliament to vote for it. However, as a way to sort of recoup the embarrassment, the government then presented in the other place Bill S-5.

It is pretty transparent why the government did that. It is because it does not have the courage to move legislation in this House of Commons that would weaken public safety and compromise the safety of police officers and Canadians by weakening gun control measures across the country.

The government likes to use this issue to try to drive a wedge between rural and urban Canada and has done so on many occasions.

I have been fortunate enough to be elected four times in a rural riding in New Brunswick. The largest town in my riding is probably Sackville, which has about 5,000 people. The rest of my riding consists of small towns or unincorporated areas that do not have a municipal government.

So I have been elected four times in a rural riding and I have visited hunting and fishing clubs there. Where I live, in the Grande-Digue area of New Brunswick, the local hunting and fishing club organizes a community lunch once a month on Sunday morning. I have gone to it many times.

It is not true that our position in favour of registering all firearms means we are against the legitimate use of hunting rifles in parts of the country where hunting is a common sport.

The Prime Minister tries to use this issue to divide people. I can assure the House that the Liberal Party fully respects the legitimate use of firearms, whether for sport or by people who simply collect guns. We also value the lives of the people who are responsible for ensuring the safety of Canadians all across the country, including in rural areas, and who want us to keep the firearms registry.

The idea that rural areas are safe from threats to public safety and tragedies involving guns is also not realistic. Just a few months ago in the town in Shediac, where I have my riding office, someone died as a result of a crime. Three people entered a house and killed a young man with a hunting rifle. Criminal charges were laid a few weeks ago and the case is now before the New Brunswick courts.

Public safety definitely matters to people in the town of Shediac, New Brunswick, on the banks of the Northumberland Strait, just as it interests people in such big Canadian cities as Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg or Montreal. We are all affected by measures to improve public safety, but it is in the interests of us all to preserve a balance between the legitimate use of firearms and the need to have a full and complete registry that is used more than 9,400 times a day by Canadian police officers who need to consult the registry for their own protection and to conduct criminal investigations.

The Liberals are interested and will always be interested in ways to improve the registration process for firearms. We acknowledge that over a number of years there have been some improvements but there can continue to be ways to make registration easier and simpler for those who legitimately have firearms that are not prohibited weapons for legitimate purposes.

To have an interest in seeing how we can improve the firearms registry for those who apply to have firearms registered is as legitimate as the desire to want to preserve the integrity of the firearms registry and not allow an amnesty, which is an irresponsible back door measure to do what the government does not have the courage to do legislatively, which is weaken the firearms registry across the country.

We spend a lot of time in the House talking about public safety and about ways improve criminal legislation. We have seen a number of examples where Liberals have worked with other parties in the House and the government to make amendments to the Criminal Code that will improve public safety.

Yesterday, the House passed Bill C-25 at second reading and it will now go before the justice committee. That was important because it would reduce the two for one remand credit which will improve public confidence in the justice system. We also supported Bills C-14 and C-15. Yesterday evening, I, along with my colleague who chairs the justice committee and committee members, passed Bill C-14 without amendment and it will be referred back to the House. That bill attacks some of the difficult problems of organized crime. It would the police increased ability to lay criminal charges to deal with some of the tragedies in some of the difficult situations that we have seen in places like Vancouver.

On this side of the House, the Liberals are very interested in working in ways that are responsible, balanced and recognize the importance of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms but we also recognize that the Criminal Code needs to be modernized and strengthened and to give police officers and prosecutors the tools they need to preserve and improve public safety.

One of those tools is a national system of gun control. Canadians across the country support the idea that there should be effective gun control measures in the country. Much to the chagrin of Conservative members, that includes, in the opinion of police officers and police chiefs, the registration of all firearms in Canada as an essential tool in the pursuit of improved public safety.

Our hon. colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin was right to introduce this motion and we intend to support it.

We will be supporting this motion when it comes before the House for a vote because we will not play the games that the Conservative Party wants to play in pretending that this is a great divide between rural and urban Canada.

I stand before the House, as a member elected in a rural riding, as living proof that the people in my riding support effective gun control measures and understand that when the police officers across the country say to us that this is one of many tools they need to improve public safety, we should be careful before acting in an irresponsible way that would diminish and reduce something that I think we all share as a desire to have safer communities, safer homes and safer streets all across the country.

Opposition Motion—Gun ControlBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2009 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, it was quite interesting to listen to the member opposite speak about how there are lawful owners. I would like his reaction to a letter that the Canadian Police Association sent, in which its president stated, “It would be irresponsible to suspend or abandon any element of this program now that it is starting to deliver the intended results. Bill S-5”--that is the government bill introduced in the Senate--“and Bill C-301”--that is the private member's bill from the member opposite--“will compromise public safety”.

The president also went on to state in his letter that while critics of the registry have characterized it as penalizing law-abiding long gun owners, primarily hunters and rural residents, he noted that of the 15 police officers fatally shot in Canada during the last decade, 13 were killed with rifles or shotguns. He also pointed out that long guns are used two times more frequently than handguns in spousal homicides and five times more in suicides. He stated that in 2005 it was a registered long gun that allowed the RCMP to actually find out who had murdered other RCMP officers.

I would like the member's comments.