Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to begin the final day of third reading debate on Bill C-19, the ending the long-gun registry act.
As I said last week, this is a very proud day for long gun owners and, indeed, people who are fiscally prudent and taxpayers in our country from coast to coast to coast. We are one step closer to fulfilling our longstanding commitment to ending the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all.
I am pleased to tell Yukon citizens, trappers, hunters, athletes, sport shooters, collectors and first nations who rely on long guns to protect their heritage, culture and traditional way of life that the long gun registry, as promised by our government, is finally coming to its rightful end.
Long guns have been a staple tool in Yukon since its beginning, before it was designated as its own territory. This is indeed true of Canada itself.
Throughout this process of debate we have heard all of the reasons our government is opposed to this misdirected legislation. We have heard how wasteful and costly the long gun registry is. The costs have surpassed $2 billion. Can one imagine how many police officers that money would have hired, how many crime prevention programs could have been funded, how much rehabilitative treatment could have been developed and how much victim support could have been provided? When we stop to think about it in those terms, it is an absolutely grotesque and astounding waste of money.
Throughout this entire debate, whether in second reading or committee stage, we have also heard that it is ineffective. Frankly, for the last 17 years, not one person has convinced me that the long gun registry has ever stopped a single crime or saved a single life.
What would stop crime is smart prevention, effective policing and sentences that deter crime. That is the approach to criminal justice this Conservative government is taking and will continue to take into the future.
The single biggest impediment to police work today is paperwork. Crimes by and large are not solved from behind a computer desk. There is as much value today in good old fashioned, on the street, door to door efforts as there ever was. This holds infinitely true when we discuss crime prevention. Crimes are not prevented from behind a desk.
Supporters of the long gun registry continue to claim that it will help the police. Ask any officer if they would like a partner or a computer and a database and the overwhelmingly answer would be a partner. However, the $2 billion blown by the Liberal government went to a database that did nothing, and the police are now buried in databases wrought with errors.
What do I know about this? I was a member of the RCMP's Troop 4 in depot division the year the Liberal government shut it down. It was the second last troop to graduate before a complete closure of the depot for the first time in 125 years of the RCMP's existence. Troop 4 was told well past the mid-point of training that the depot would be closing and there would be no jobs to go to. For the first time in 125 years, facilitators met with our entire troop to say that while we could remain there until graduation, there would be no jobs.
How can the Liberal member now stand in this House and say that the registry keeps Canadians and the police safe with a legacy like that?
It keeps police behind desks. It keeps police buried in data so that they are not on our streets to prevent crimes. The wasted $2 billion could have been $2 billion spent on a partner that every officer would love to have. That would have been $2 billion well spent.
After all the fearmongering and hyperbole the opposition has continued to use at every single juncture of debate, I thought it would be a useful exercise to again review with everyone what I like to call the seven myths of the opposition, by which they have repeatedly misled Canadians.
Myth number one: The long gun registry will help keep suicide rates down. At committee we clearly heard evidence from peer reviewed studies by Dr. Caillin Langmann, Ph.D, Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine at McMaster University. He stated:
—the discontinuation of the registration of non-restricted firearms is not likely to result in an increase in the aggregate suicide rate by long gun.
I treat suicide and violence on a daily basis.... [T]he money that has been spent on the long-gun registry is unfortunately wasted; however, we can prevent further waste by taking the money we currently spend on the long-gun registry and spending it on....women's shelters; police training in spousal abuse; and psychiatric care, which is sorely lacking in this country. We are not winning the battle against suicide.
Myth number two: The long gun registry will keep women safer. The committee clearly heard about peer-reviewed research which demonstrated that the discontinuation of non-restricted firearms will not result in an increase in homicide or spousal homicide rates through the utilization of long guns. This only makes sense because the people who register their long guns are not committing these crimes. These are men and women who are impeded by the red tape and the stigma associated with being long gun owners. They do their civic duty despite the unnecessary and wasteful burden imposed upon them. They register their firearms because their government tells them it is the law.
Meanwhile, criminals do not do any of this. They enjoy the freedom to operate outside of the law and have all the rights and protections of the law. The opposition attempts to position this debate in long guns as men against women, and offender and victim. The committee heard directly from women, women who hunt, women who trap, women who have represented our great nation in international shooting competitions. The opposition would like Canadians to believe that it is only men who own guns. This is simply not the case.
Madame Hélène Laurente, volunteer coordinator of the Quebec women's hunting program, said this in committee:
As a hunter, I don't think it's fair that we are being treated like criminals... The registry does not protect women any more than it does society as a whole.
Myth number three: Guns will now be as easy to get as checking out books at a library. The opposition is ignoring the facts. It is deliberately misleading those who do not own long guns and who are not familiar with the process. I can tell Canadians, as any long gun owner can, that the requirements for licensing are not changing. They include Canadian firearms safety courses and, for some, additional firearm, hunter ethic and safety development courses and, of course, pre-screening security background checks.
Myth number four: Police support the registry and elimination of the registry will put police in danger. This is what the committee heard from law enforcement personnel:
I can tell you that the registration of long guns did not make my job as a conservation officer safer.
That testimony was from Donald Weltz, an Ontario conservation officer.
The committee heard about a survey conducted between March 2009 and June of 2010 of 2,631 police officers from all across Canada, 2,410 of whom voted to scrap the registry. In April 2011, a further survey of Edmonton city police concluded that 81% voted in favour of scrapping the registry. The committee heard that the Auditor General found that the RCMP could not rely on the registry because of a large number of errors and omissions. Numerous individual police officers stated that they do not trust the information contained in the registry and would not rely on it to ensure their safety.
Myth number five: The data should be saved and turned over to provinces that wish to create their own registry. The registry is the data. Our commitment to the Canadian people was clear. Anything less would be disingenuous. The data was collected under federal law for a federal purpose. It will not be turned over to another jurisdiction. The committee heard evidence that the RCMP had reported error rates between 43% and 90% in firearms applications and registry information. It also heard that the manual search conducted discovered 4,438 stolen firearms had been successfully re-registered. With these errors, it would irresponsible to the extreme to allow this unreliable, ineffective and grossly expensive system to be handed over to anyone.
Myth number six: Registering a long gun is no different than registering a car. What did the committee hear on this assumption? Solomon Friedman accurately stated that, unlike registering a car, failure to comply or errors in the application process have criminal implications. People will not be going to jail or receiving criminal records if they fail to register their cars.
Myth number seven: Registering a firearm is simple, so what is the harm? Again, the harm is that any mistake has criminal implications. The mistakes in the registry are staggering.
We should further consider additional testimony from Mr. Friedman:
I have two law degrees. I clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada, and I practise criminal law for a living. Even I at times find the provisions of the Firearms Act and the gun control portions of the Criminal Code convoluted, complex, and confusing.
If this is the case, how can we expect average Canadians to navigate this quagmire without error? How can we have criminal consequences as a result? How can we expect our law enforcement officers to interpret and apply complex and convoluted legislation with discretion and consistency if a criminal lawyer, well versed and studied on the subject matter, finds it difficult?
Linda Thom, who is a Canadian Olympic gold medal shooter, said:
I’m accorded fewer legal rights than a criminal. Measures enacted by Bill C-68 allow police to enter my home at any time without a search warrant because I own registered firearms, yet the same police must have a search warrant to enter the home of a criminal. I’m not arguing that criminals should not have this right, they should. I’m arguing that this right should be restored to me and all Canadian firearms owners.
Finally, I would like to highlight the conclusion of Gary Mauser, PhD, professor emeritus at the Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies, Simon Fraser University. He concluded:
First, responsible gun owners are less likely to be accused of homicide than other Canadians. Second, the police have not been able to demonstrate the value of the long-gun registry. Third, the long-gun registry has not been effective in reducing homicide. Fourth, the data in the long-gun registry are of such poor quality that they should be destroyed.
That is exactly what will happen. Our government has made a clear commitment. Promise made, promise kept.
However, I would also like to focus today on some of the other insincerities offered by the opposition. First and most flagrantly is the NDP, Her Majesty's loyal opposition. This party, sadly, has caved to the big labour special interests. Numerous members of that party from rural Canada told their voters last spring that when they went to Ottawa, they would put the views of people ahead of cheap partisan politics.
Boy, were those people misled. For example, the member for Western Arctic stated recently, and repeatedly, that he would vote to end the long gun registry. He campaigned on this, knowing full well, and in his own words to the Slave River Journal as recently as June 2010, that 95% of the emails he received from the Northwest Territories constituents supported eliminating the long gun registry. The member has now stated in this House that he will vote against ending the long gun registry.
It appears that he is willing to disappoint his constituents, turn his back on them by failing to defend their traditional, cultural, historic and present-day way of life. Why would he do this when he stated in the same article that he believed he would be able to vote as he saw fit? He said:
The NDP has a policy of not whipping the vote on private member's bills, so people are allowed to vote as they see fit.
Alas, the answer. The member for Western Arctic is not prepared to face the wrath of NDP bosses and suffer the consequences.
However, not all members of the NDP are willing to break their commitments. I am referring to the members from Thunder Bay—Superior North and Thunder Bay—Rainy River, who both had the courage to stand up and vote with the Conservative government to end the long gun registry.
Unfortunately, we know how that story went. The heavy-handed union bosses in the backrooms of the NDP spoke and spoke quickly. Immediately these MPs were stripped of the ability to speak up for their constituents. These sorts of intimidation tactics are reprehensible, but frankly not surprising from the disunited NDP.
Let us also look at the Liberal Party members. They have not been as cagey about their position as their New Democratic colleagues. The Liberals were clear prior to the last election that all Liberals would support continuing the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.
Now, thanks to ignoring the will of their constituents, the once-great big red machine has been relegated to the back corner of this place.
Members should not think for a moment that I have any problem with the Liberal tactics. Without these ham-fisted actions by the opposition, our caucus might not have been blessed with the great talents, such as the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming, among others.
Despite the two different approaches of ignoring the will of their constituents, the NDP and the Liberals have something in common. They both support criminalizing law-abiding Canadians through the long gun registry, but oppose punishing real criminals through tough and appropriate sanctions.
This is something that I simply fail to understand. It is the firm belief of the opposition that individuals should have the force of the Criminal Code, the most powerful tool at the disposal of the state, thrust upon them should they fail to fill out some paperwork to register their rifles and shotguns. At the same time, the members opposite grimace and grumble every time our government dares to suggest that those who are trafficking drugs to our children should get serious jail time or that those who sexually abuse children should never have the benefit of having their criminal record erased.
The position not only lacks serious elements of common sense, it is morally bankrupt. All reasonable people agree that individuals must be licensed to possess firearms. We are not changing that. What we are doing is simply taking steps to eliminate a needlessly bureaucratic process that has done nothing to protect public safety.
Anyone who believes that putting a piece of paper next to a firearm makes it safer is not being honest with himself or herself. Let us be clear: Firearms in the wrong hands are dangerous. That is why we are ensuring appropriate licensing still takes place. Firearms in the hands of law-abiding Canadians, however, are merely tools. They are no different from any other piece of property. This again returns to my confusion as to the priorities of the opposition regarding criminal justice.
When I go back to the Yukon I hear the same refrain from all sorts of people. They ask why law-abiding gun owners are treated like criminals, yet criminals are getting off easy. The only answer I have for them is to look back at the history and the legacy of Liberal governments throughout the years.
Our government is looking to take action to correct both of these historic wrongs. We will end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all. We will ensure we develop a correctional system that actually corrects criminal behaviour. That is what we were elected to do, and that is what we will do.
It boggles my mind that any reasonable individual could oppose the bill. There are two fundamental halves. First, as I have touched on, is keeping Canadians safe through effective gun control. Our government does not believe in measures that simply make people feel safe. We are concerned with actually making people safe.
Effective gun control exists through proper licensing and ensuring only qualified individuals have possession of firearms. As I have said before, a gun in the hands of a law-abiding Canadian is just another piece of property. A gun in the hands of a criminal or the mentally ill only leads to tragedy. The long gun registry does nothing to prevent the latter. That is done through screening and licensing, which we have recently increased investment in. That is how people are truly kept safe.
The second half of the bill, which is equally important, is protecting the privacy of all Canadians. For many years the long gun registry made ordinary Canadians feel like criminals for no other reason than the fact that they happened to own a firearm. They were required to register in a cumbersome and paperwork-heavy process. They were required to submit into a database a list of legally owned private property. All for merely having the audacity of being a long gun owner.
Diana Cabrera from the Canadian Shooting Sports Association testified before committee. She said:
There is no question that the long-gun registry has deterred individuals from entering the shooting sports. Firearm owners are subjected to spectacular press coverage in which reporters tirelessly describe small and very ordinary collections of firearms as an “arsenal”.
Some may say that being in a database hardly constitutes being a criminal. There are all kinds of databases. The problem lies with the attitude. Firearms owners are taught that they need be ashamed of their hobby, that somehow, because they own a gun, they are more likely to become a criminal. This needs to stop. That is completely untrue.
On law and order matters, police and the firearms community tend to march in lockstep. However, the long gun registry has thrust a wedge between these two groups. In many cases, firearms owners rightfully feel that they are being targeted by police officers for simply owning a hunting rifle. While the police are merely doing their job and enforcing the law as it stands, a culture of division has been spawned by the policies of the previous Liberal government. Eliminating the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry is an important first step in correcting this needless division of Canadians.
The fact of the matter is that once we eliminate the long gun registry, there will be no change in public safety. Effective gun control will still exist. What will change is that, once and for all, gun owners will be able to feel good about owning their guns.
I see my time is coming to an end. I would just like to conclude that we have seen a number of steps taken that are simply divisive politics. We saw, as an example, on two separate occasions, billboards designed by the NDP to provoke fear in urban communities. They had silhouettes of dangerous-looking firearms and they implied that these scary guns would be everywhere should the registry be scrapped. Plain and simple, they were wrong. Those firearms displayed are restricted and are still subject to gun control measures.
I call on all members, especially those members who campaigned on this promise, to stand with our government and vote to end the long gun registry. Let us put an end to this Liberal-led attack on our Canadian culture, tradition, history and day-to-day life of north to south, rural to urban, coast to coast to magnificent coast.