An Act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code (amendments permitting the accession to the Arms Trade Treaty and other amendments)

Sponsor

Status

Second reading (House), as of Sept. 21, 2017

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Summary

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

This enactment amends the Export and Import Permits Act to

(a) define the term “broker” and to establish a framework to control brokering that takes place in Canada and that is undertaken by Canadians outside Canada;

(b) authorize the making of regulations that set out mandatory considerations that the Minister is required to take into account before issuing an export permit or a brokering permit;

(c) set May 31 as the date by which the Minister must table in both Houses of Parliament a report of the operations under the Act in the preceding year and a report on military exports in the preceding year;

(d) increase the maximum fine for a summary conviction offence to $250,000;

(e) replace the requirement that only countries with which Canada has an intergovernmental arrangement may be added to the Automatic Firearms Country Control List by a requirement that a country may be added to the list only on the recommendation of the Minister made after consultation with the Minister of National Defence; and

(f) add a new purpose for which an article may be added to an Export Control List.

The enactment amends the Criminal Code to include, for interception of private communications purposes, the offence of brokering in the definition of “offence” in section 183.

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.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, our government believes that regulating the international arms trade is essential for the protection of people and human rights. This is especially true for control and regulation that aim to prevent the illicit trade of arms.

The Arms Trade Treaty is about protecting people. It ensures countries effectively regulate the international trade of arms so that they are not used to support terrorism, international organized crime, gender-based violence, human rights abuses, or violations of international humanitarian law. Our government is committed to advancing export controls as a means of reducing the risks that come from the illicit trade in conventional arms. Joining the ATT, which calls on all of its state parties to set up effective export controls, is the next important step in advancing these export controls and reducing these risks.

Joining the Arms Trade Treaty will put Canada back on the same page as its closest partners and allies. Canada is the only NATO ally and the only G7 partner that has not signed or ratified the ATT.

The Arms Trade Treaty was negotiated in response to growing international concern about the direct and indirect consequences of the global arms trade on conflict, human rights, and development.

The goal is to ensure that all states take responsibility and rigorously assess arms exports. States must also regulate the legal arms trade and use transparent measures to combat illicit trade.

We recognize that unregulated or illicit arms transfers intensify and prolong conflict, lead to regional instability, contribute to violations of international humanitarian law and humans rights abuses, and hinder social and economic development.

Indeed, the proliferation of weapons, and particularly of small arms and light weapons, is one of the greatest security challenges faced by the international community. Armed conflicts affect civilians. Women and children are too frequently targeted or are innocent victims.

The consequences of illicit or irresponsible flows of conventional arms also go beyond the immediate threat of death, injury, or violence. Proliferation and illicit weapons trade contribute to a climate of persistent fear and insecurity, which undermines socio-economic growth and stability.

The Arms Trade Treaty has an important role to play in addressing these issues. Canada must be a leader in this effort, and we must lead by example.

The ATT represents the first time that the international community has agreed to a legally binding and global commitment to control exports of conventional arms. It sets a high common standard for export of arms, and seeks to eliminate illicit trade and diversion of conventional arms.

States acceding to the ATT must assess the risk that an export might be used negatively, including for human rights abuses or to contribute to organized crime. This is not always black and white. It requires looking not only at the state as a whole but also at who will take possession of the weapon, their track record, the risk that the weapon could be diverted from the purpose intended when it was exported, and other similar factors.

The ATT also requires states to consider mitigation measures to address identified risks. This treaty is very clear. If there is no way to ensure that a given export will not pose a serious threat to human rights or be used to violate international humanitarian laws or perpetrate international terrorism or crime, it must be forbidden.

Therefore, Bill C-47 would further strengthen Canada's existing processes in relation to the global movement of arms. Our changes, including those to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty, will make Canada's export control system even more robust, and will ensure a continued high standard for addressing the pressing issue of arms proliferation around the globe.

Canada’s existing export control system complies with 26 of the 28 provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty. In that sense, some changes are needed to bring Canada into full compliance with the two articles of the treaty where we fall short, namely, article 7, export and export assessment, and article 10, brokering.

One of the things the bill before us does is introduce the necessary legislative changes to ensure that we meet our ATT obligations.

Article 7 of the Arms Trade Treaty establishes common, clear, and rigorous standards regarding the factors that states must take into account before authorizing the export of any items subject to the ATT. These factors include an assessment of the potential that Canadian exports could be used to commit serious violations of human rights law or international humanitarian law, as well as the potential that the exports could fall into the hands of criminals or terrorists.

The ATT is the first arms control treaty that focuses specifically on the issue of gender-based violence and violence against women and children, issues that are very important to our government. These criteria are designed to ensure that Canada assesses the risks associated with the export of a given product or piece of technology regarding the intended end use and end user.

Bill C-47 will also ensure that Canada can fulfill the stipulations of article 10 of the ATT, which requires that every state regulate brokering. Brokering captures the transfer of arms without an export permit. The provisions of the bill ensure that Canadians who arrange the transfer of arms between a second and a third country follow the same rules as those who export arms outside Canada.

Regulating brokering activities will give our government the ability to monitor the activities of individuals and organizations that serve as intermediaries between arms dealers and the end users of military goods.

Moreover, these brokering permit requirements would also apply extraterritorially, meaning they would apply to Canadians engaged in brokering activities abroad. This additional capability will allow us to have a better idea of the types of brokering control list transfers involving Canadians that occur globally and to bring a greater level of visibility on potentially high-risk transactions brokered by Canadians.

Our government intends to go beyond the standards set by the Arms Trade Treaty and ensure that brokering regulations cover not only the conventional weapons covered by the ATT but also military articles and dual-use items that are likely destined to a weapon of mass destruction end use.

Requiring permits for brokering would ensure that comparable levels of scrutiny would also be applied to brokering activities. As a result, Canadian export permit authorities can better assess the risks of potential arms transfers before they occur to determine their suitability, and to deny a permit for such transfers where there is an overriding risk of the negative consequences of one of the export permit criteria, including the risk of serious violation of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.

I would like to point out that there is a legitimate role for brokers who arrange or facilitate sales for reputable arms manufacturers. Unfortunately, there are also those who do not act responsibly and who choose instead to profit from the sales of arms, even though they know that they will fall into the wrong hands.

Internationally, there are far too many cases where unscrupulous arms dealers put profits ahead of human life. Transactions facilitated by those dealers have given rise to the transfer of firearms to conflict zones, in direct violation of United Nations firearms embargoes, and to terrorist or criminal groups. This legislation will make it possible for responsible Canadian dealers to hold permits and conduct legal activities. It will ensure that those who choose to act unethically will also end up acting illegally.

Beyond the changes required by the ATT, the bill will enhance Canada's export and import controls by addressing the issue of penalties imposed on individuals who try to circumvent Canadian law and regulations. The bill will increase the maximum fine for a summary conviction offence from $25,000 to $250,000 for any offence under the Export and Import Permits Act. Increasing the maximum penalty underscores the seriousness of these offences that contribute directly to destabilizing accumulations of weapons and technologies in conflict zones around the world.

Let me reiterate that these new measures would ensure that our government will be better able to pursue bad-faith actors and hold them to account. At the same time, Canada would be in a better position to review bona fide arms transfers to legitimate end-users. Canada would also be able to effectively penalize those who would try to circumvent these processes.

I would like to make it clear that Canada's accession to the Arms Trade Treaty does not and would not affect domestic ownership of firearms or Canada's domestic firearms laws and policies. The ATT would govern the import and export of conventional arms, not the trade in sporting and hunting firearms owned and used by law-abiding Canadian citizens.

However, the ATT does not limit the number or type of arms a country can sell. The ATT simply requires states to establish rigorous export controls of the kind that Canada already has in place to ensure that exports are not put to unforeseen harmful use.

The ATT is not a one-size-fits-all system. It recognizes that states' export control systems must meet their national needs. It does not prevent states from including expedited processes in their export control systems, as Canada does for close allies, such as the United States.

The government will ensure that exports are assessed in accordance with the criteria set out in the ATT and that they do not violate the prohibitions in the treaty.

Turning now to the Export and Import Permits Act and to the Criminal Code, we have indicated to Canadians that our government is committed to strengthening Canada's export controls with respect to military and strategic goods and technology. This bill and our commitment to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty are part of our promise to increase the rigour of Canada's export-control system. As members are aware, Canada already has a robust export control system. We are a key member of a number of export control and non-proliferation regimes that allow us to exchange information on trends in arms movement and on best practices with our allies.

In addition, Canada has a strong sanctions regime that includes sanctions related to the export or sale of arms. Canadian sanctions are part of a multilateral action. They reflect the work we do in concert with our allies. Sanctions are implemented in Canada through the United Nations Act or the Special Economic Measures Act.

Canada has its own financial intelligence unit with respect to illicit financing of arms. The mandate of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada is to facilitate the detection, prevention, and deterrence of money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities. Our government is taking steps to ensure that these new obligations do not unduly hinder or restrict legitimate transfers of military, dual-use, and other strategic items that are aligned with our national interests and do not pose undue risk.

It is the government's intention to apply the ATT assessment criteria not only to those goods specifically outlined in the ATT, but also to all dual-use, military, and strategic goods. Our government will also apply the ATT assessment criteria to both export and brokering permit applications. We will thus exceed the standards set by the ATT, and strengthen our export control system at the same time. Indeed, our government intends to see Canada establish a particularly high standard when it comes to gender-based violence and violence against women and children. The fact that this issue was included in the treaty is a clear sign of the power of advocacy by states like Canada who are determined to address gender-based violence.

While this is given less attention and consideration in the ATT than other criteria, Canada intends to propose including gender-based violence in the regulations, applying a higher standard, and assessing the risks related to gender-based violence to a broader set of exports than those defined within the ATT. These new measures would ensure that our government is better able to pursue bad-faith actors and hold them to account. Canada would also be better able to effectively penalize those who would try to circumvent these processes.

Canadian businesses would still be able to conduct legitimate transactions in pursuit of Canadian strategic and defence interests and the strategic interests of our allies.

Finally, these changes would allow Canada to meet its international obligations and accede to the ATT. I encourage all my colleagues here today to seek to advance this bill rapidly so that Canada can once again take its rightful place with its international partners as a state party to the Arms Trade Treaty.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my honour to rise today to debate Bill C-47, particularly after the speech from the parliamentary secretary, which ended with incorrect information to this place in response to the question from the member for the NDP. Actually, Canada would be worse off than it was before. He said that this would send Canada ahead with respect to the aims of the treaty. That is not only incorrect on the factual review of the treaty itself, but it shows the parliamentary secretary's lack of understanding of our current arms control regime in Canada.

Therefore, for his benefit, and for the benefit of the few of my Liberal friends listening, I will take him through that.

The bill is part of the Liberal's election promise to implement the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, the ATT, which has been debated in the UN, has been brought forward, and signed by some countries but not by others.

My remarks will focus on four key points. Three of those go to the inferior nature of the ATT when compared, side by side, with what Canada does now, and did do under the previous Conservative government, the Liberal government previous to that, and so on, back to the 1940s. I will give three points on how it is inferior and a final point on its inherent unfairness, lack of clarity, and over breadth.

First, this is inferior to what Canada does now under the Export and Import Permits Act and the regulations and orders in council that can be brought forward by government under that legislation. I hope the parliamentary secretary will take notes, because he will need to research this after I go through some of it.

The first point I make is on the Trade Controls Bureau.

We empower a department of the government, and have since the 1940s, to ensure that military equipment sales, issues related to security, crypto logical equipment, and nuclear biological risks are not only governed and tracked but are controlled. We have a bureau already, not in New York, in Ottawa, that has been doing this very effectively for many years. The Trade Controls Bureau has been empowered and does this for each Parliament. I would invite the member to look at the Trade Controls Bureau and see how we specifically address, track, and control trade in military equipment, other items of security, or other interests. All Parliaments have done it. Both Liberal and Conservative governments have done it.

My second point is that we specifically name, from a Canadian point of view, items for export that need to be tracked and controlled. I will review what those are for the member because they are called out specifically.

Military or strategic dual use goods, so some goods that can be used for a military or civilian purpose, are specifically tracked. Other items are nuclear energy materials and technology; missile related technology; chemical or biological goods; and crypto logical equipment and code breaking, particularly in the age of the Internet. Many companies in Canada are world leaders in this technology, like SecureKey and others. We already monitor, control, and, in many cases, restrict export of these technologies.

One problem in the past that we know of was that a previous government, the government of Pierre Trudeau, had some issues when nuclear technology was traded for peaceful use and was tracked, but unfortunately may have been used to develop capabilities with respect to weaponized use of that technology.

I use that as a point of reference to show how, over many Parliaments, Canada has done this. We did not wait for the United Nations. Had we done that, it would have been a bit of a lawless west. As a responsible parliamentary democracy, Canada has been doing this.

I invite the member to review the specific items controlled under the Export and Import Permits Act that we charge the Trade Controls Bureau to monitor.

My third point on how our existing system is superior to an inferior UN treaty is the tracking.

The items I just outlined, including military equipment, cryptological, nuclear, and biological, are tracked by both the Canada Border Services Agency and by Statistics Canada, and not just under our own reference points. We use the World Customs Organization tracking figures for these items. We track and limit the trade in these items far more than what the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty does.

An article in Ceasefire magazine calls the UN's ATT a failure. The third item it tracked was its lack of transparency. There is no tracking internationally under this treaty. Canada already does it.

I hope the parliamentary secretary rewrites the notes the government has been passing around on the bill, because they do not accord with our legislative record or Canada's responsible treatment of controlled technologies, including not only military but nuclear technology as well.

Canada was the fourth country to have controlled nuclear fission. We have 70,000 people in Canada that work in this area. Our CANDU technology is the best in the world in capability and its safety record. We have taken this very seriously since the 1940s and we track according to the World Customs Organization tracking codes for each of those items.

I have a fourth point at which I would invite the Liberals to look.

Right now, we have what is called an area of control list under the Export and Import Permits Act. That empowerment in the bill, through an order in council, can specifically limit sales of anything to a country. Right now the only country on the area control list is North Korea, and it is probably very good it is on there. I would agree with the government if it wants to keep that country on the list. In the past, the area control list has included Belarus and Myanmar.

Not only do we already have a system of controls, tracking, and itemization that is far superior to what is proposed in the bill, our legislation as it stands in Canada can ban a country entirely. That is a tool the government can use if it is about control of anything, not just our controlled items that I have said are tracked.

The cabinet is charged with making decisions on why countries should be removed from that list. As Myanmar opened up, it was removed from that list. It was the same with Belarus. However, we still have to track. We see problems in Myanmar right now with respect to Rohingya. Perhaps the civilian oversight of the miliary is not quite as it would seem.

The Liberal government has within its power now, not by the United Nations treaty, to limit entirely sales to a country. I would invite the parliamentary secretary to review that.

Finally, like many UN treaties, the main players are not part of the treaty. In global arms trade, there are six countries and they are called the “big six”. Three of those countries are not part of this treaty. I am not worried, because Canada's regime, as I have been describing to the House, is superior to this treaty.

The treaty came as an election promise by the Liberals, but I want them to see that what Canada is doing now, and has been doing responsibly, is superior. If we want the UN to have the tracking, to have the transparency, we should be pushing to have these discussions before a treaty is brought forward. Many MPs on both sides of the House want to ensure that Canada adheres to its Export and Import Permits Act, so they need to know what a good job it is already doing.

Finally, another inferior part, and quite frankly short-sighted part of the UN ATT is article 5, which would suddenly include the Department of National Defence into the military equipment provisions of that treaty, preventing, or in some cases limiting, government to government transfers. We have never had to catch DND within our own export and import permits regime, because DND is the government. It is a crown ministry. It is part of the crown.

Therefore, if we want to do military-to-military aid, perhaps sending training materials to the peshmerga that our special forces are working with and training, this measure would encumber that process. I am quite sure that most Canadians believe that DND is responsible for its own equipment. Why then would we catch them in a treaty that most groups are calling a failure anyway, which does not involve three of the big six players in terms of the global arms trade?

Finally, I have listed five or six items demonstrating that what Bill C-47 proposes is actually inferior to what Canada is already doing.

The last item is about unfairness, and this where the politics of it come in. Just as we are seeing with small business, there is no consultation on concerns about overbreadth or the fact that hunters, sport shooters, or recreational users under a regulated regime of lawful firearm use could be caught within the confines of the measures in this bill. I have placed this last because, while the parliamentary secretary insists it is not the case, all industry groups insist it is, but without consultation, how does the parliamentary secretary know?

It is clear that he does not understand the export and import permit regime. Maybe he knows a little more about it now, which I think is part of why we have debate now in the House of Commons. It is to show that regulation in Canada is in many ways superior to what is done anywhere else in the world, including the United Nations. Before we even talk about what the UNATT does, we should talk about what Canada is doing already, and whether it is insufficient to limit and track items that we consider potentially dangerous: military equipment, nuclear technology, chemicals, biologicals, cryptology, or anything that could adversely impact our national interest.

On the last point, the cryptological sales, we have seen the current government green-light sales to China of pretty much any technology out there. I would suggest that some of these technology trades occurred without the proper oversight, without the full review that is normally done. For some reason those reviews were waived in the case of one of the most recent sales to China. Those reviews are important, because technology is actually the threat of the future to the public safety and security of Canada and our allies, and Bill C-47 does not address that.

As I have said, particularly on my third point on transparency, this treaty is inferior. Civil society groups out there have called this treaty a failure, particularly because of its lack of transparency, and as I said, our Trade Controls Bureau has been empowered for two generations to track the sale and control of goods that Canadians deem important.

On that final note, this hearkens back for me, as a member of Parliament for a suburban riding that has a rural element, to the lack of consultation on the last element, on which Canadians have genuine concerns about whether their lawful and regulated use of a firearm for hunting or sport shooting could be impacted. The parliamentary secretary uses the words “phony argument” when we suggest that. I would invite him to go hunting with someone outside of Fredericton and see if they are being phony about their concerns. What we need is consultation to see if my concerns are overinflated or if the parliamentary secretary is being dismissive. I am not suggesting that I know, but as a lawyer, I will tell members that overbreadth or lack of clarity in law is a failure in itself.

The last government made interventions with respect to the negotiation of this treaty on many fronts, and one was a simple and reasonable carve-out of regulated civilian firearms use. I do not know why that was not pursued by the UN when there is zero transparency. However, as I said, fortunately our existing regime has transparency, while this treaty has zero.

While things were watered down as this was negotiated by the United Nations, while three of the big countries that are actual players in global trade are not part of this regime, while those issues were going through the negotiations, a simple and effective carve-out of the legitimate, historical, and cultural use of firearms was not carved out, for whatever reason.

Some of the cases before the Supreme Court of Canada on inherent rights of our indigenous peoples relate to hunting and fishing. This is as cultural as the earliest peoples of this land. Certainly, most people in this House think of the hunter in the duck blind and that sort of consideration, but the inherent right for our first nations to hunt, in both modern and traditional ways, is a constitutional protection.

Would it not be reasonable to carve that out in a treaty that on many fronts is inferior to what Canada is already doing? I really hope the parliamentary secretary and other members of his caucus refrain from that divisive language suggesting that even having a reasonable concern is somehow phony. The last time I saw that degree of arrogance in the Liberal Party, it was from a member from Toronto named Allan Rock, who polarized Canadians by suggesting that people who were law-abiding hunters or sport shooters were somehow a public safety hazard for Canada.

I know some of my Liberal friends, including from rural parts like Yukon and Labrador, know how much it hurt Canadians for the government to suggest that bringing in a licensing and registry system for people who were already trained and responsible was going to have an impact on crime. It became a divisive, rural-urban issue. This Parliament, as much as it can, should try to have debates that do not quickly revert to that approach.

I have been hard on my friend, the parliamentary secretary. I know in Fredericton, especially with the base there—and I know he supports our men and women in uniform—he knows that culturally a lot of people find hunting and fishing to be a way of life, so if they have a concern, I think it is valid to consider that concern.

It is also a valid question to ask the United Nations why, when transparency provisions were wiped out in the negotiations over the ATT, a simple reference providing explicit exclusion for law-abiding and regulated use by hunters and sport shooters, as we do in Canada very effectively, was not provided for. That is a failure of this treaty. Certainly groups out there that still have this concern want to know that the government is at least hearing them and is not suggesting that it is a phony argument. I am hoping, as we debate this bill over the coming days, that we can talk about it in those terms, and that we can talk about it from a starting point of what Canada is doing now.

As a parliamentary purist, I have great respect for our parliamentary democracy, in both Houses and on both sides. This is where we debate the laws and regulations that govern Canadians. When we can work with our allies at NATO or the United Nations to help limit arms sales to North Korea or to places where there is conflict or so that we do not exacerbate someone's pursuit of technology that could be harmful, of course we would do that. We always have. However, we should also make sure, as parliamentarians, to remind Canadians that the starting point for Canada with respect to regulating, tracking, and limiting the export of military equipment and biological-chemical dangerous items is already superior to most of the world. If we do not start from that basis, I do not think we are being fair in this debate.

The final point I will make before I close is that it is not elevating debate in this House to suggest that if the Canadian Shooting Sports Association has a concern about overbreadth, their concern is somehow phony. I hope we have a debate that is better than that, and that we have the context of the Export and Import Permits Act regime to underline a debate on Bill C-47.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 10:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I too enjoy when the Minister of Transport weighs in on things. I enjoyed his interventions much more when he was sitting on this side as opposed to that side, but that is the way Parliament works. I have the utmost respect for him.

In that list of items, one thing I found absent was our world-leading position as a country in space and some of our technology related to space. I know the minister knows the issue far better than anyone in the House.

In the last government, the sale of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates was prevented because of national security concerns. The member liked some of the arguments I made and did not like others.

Why did I sound defensive? It was because the parliamentary secretary ended his question and comment period in French by saying that this was going to be taking what Canada is doing to the next regime. I was listening without translation and from a distance, but he was leaving the effect that the regime Canada had in place was somehow inferior to Bill C-47.

My speech was intended to show that it is not. In fact, our tracking is far superior, and because of uncertainty—and with respect, I do think it is genuine, although he may suggest it is not genuine—all groups that have hunters and sports shooters, including indigenous hunters and sports shooters, who have a constitutional right for that, think it is unreasonable that one definition could not go in this treaty to carve out responsible and legal firearm use. To coin a term, I think that is a modest proposal, but because we do not have that carve-out and because I hear the language of the nineties creeping back in, I oppose the bill. However, I rest easy at night because our regime in place now is already doing more than this treaty would.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 11:55 a.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, on behalf of the other Liberals who are not allowed to speak, I wonder if at some point the member could share a little of the space here. He has been here a while. So many new Liberal MPs have told me how keen they are to speak in the House of Commons. Some of our time is taken up by my friend, over and over again, regardless of the bill.

Very specifically, on this piece of legislation, the government has said we should not sell arms to countries that flout human rights abuses, yet, under Bill C-47, there is a provision, a loophole, that allows Canadian arms to be manufactured here in Canada then sent through the United States and on to those very same countries, particularly because Donald Trump feels they are okay, and he is looking to make a deal and wants to sell more weapons.

We could, at committee, allow a provision that would say that if we cannot sell directly to a country like Nigeria, which we cannot, then we cannot sell indirectly to a country like Nigeria through the United States. That seems like a reasonable and consistent position to take. Otherwise, the Liberals would be open to the accusation of hypocrisy to say they will not look, but will continue to practice abusing human rights using Canadian armaments to do it.

I think my friend, who says he is very knowledgeable about the ATT and the bill, would see that as a glaring error in its construction right now. This loophole through the U.S., with the current administration, which I hope my friend does not agree with when it comes to human rights or respect for international law in the vision of Donald Trump, should be closed. We should not allow Canadian weapons to be diverted through the United States, and then on to regimes that Canada does not support, nor respect.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-47, an issue that is important bill to members on all sides of the House.

The Arms Trade Treaty holds the record for the quickest entry into force of any arms control treaty. It is a sign of the great importance that the international community attaches to this treaty that it reached the required number of ratifications required to enter into force so quickly.

The ATT now has 91 state parties and a further 42 states have signed on but have not yet ratified the treaty. It is now time to add Canada to the number of state parties. Canada has long sought to advance export controls as a means of reducing the risks that can come from illicit trade in conventional arms. Joining the ATT, which calls on all state parties to set up effective export controls, is a natural step. Canada's accession to the ATT would further demonstrate to all Canadians, from coast to coast to coast, and to the international community our commitment to tackle the risks associated with irresponsible and illicit trade in conventional weapons.

Canada, however, cannot fulfill the global aims of the ATT alone. Universalization of the ATT is essential to its success. The ATT, if broadly adopted internationally, can contribute substantially to global peace and security.

Terrorists rely on access to arms largely from illicit or poorly controlled sources. Transnational crime both uses and profits from illicit arms trade. Conflict and instability is fuelled by easy access to conventional weapons. All of these scenarios can and will be reduced, if not stopped, by preventing these weapons from being illegally traded or diverted. This is what the ATT aims to achieve. Ensuring that the treaty fulfills its promise requires the widest possible adherence and effective implementation around the world.

It is important to note that properly regulated arms trade does not prevent states from meeting their legitimate defence and security needs. The treaty recognizes there is a legitimate place for international arms trade when it is undertaken responsibly and with carefully crafted controls. In accepting international norms for the transfer of arms, ATT state parties have struck a balance between national security interests, including legitimate uses of weapons, and the need to address the consequences of unregulated trade in conventional weapons.

Canada has a role to play in advancing the universalization of the Arms Trade Treaty. We have already begun to do so by participating as an observer in meetings of ATT state parties and by supporting multilateral efforts to encourage states to ratify or accede to the ATT.

Our work here today helps set an example for other states considering accession to the ATT.

First and foremost, we are demonstrating our commitment to full implementation of the treaty. Accession to the ATT is a relatively straightforward process for Canada. We already conform to the spirit of the treaty and have strong export controls in place. However, our government realizes we need to do more. There are elements of the ATT that Canada does not yet fully meet, notably, in regulating brokering, and we have taken a firm position that we will not accede to the ATT until we are fully compliant with it.

Second, we are committed to implementing the ATT in a manner that not only meets but exceeds the requirements of the treaty. Bill C-47 would further strengthen the rigour of our export controls to meet and, indeed, seek to exceed the obligations of the ATT. We intend to share this experience with other states in forthcoming meetings of the ATT.

However, leading by example is not enough. All ATT state parties must establish a national system for the control of arms. They must strengthen their laws, regulations, and enforcement mechanisms. Our government recognizes that implementing new legislative systems and export controls can be difficult, particularly for states that may not have significant previous experience in this field.

We are therefore committed to assisting other states that wish to join the ATT, or that have become state parties or are unable to fully implement the treaty. The government has therefore contributed $1 million to the UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation. The UNSCAR is a multi-donor flexible-funding mechanism to provide focused and effective support for the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty and the UN program of action on small arms and light weapons. Through this trust facility, Canada is working with other international partners and with the UN to help states accede to and effectively implement the ATT.

It is unfortunate that, to date, in several regions of the world where flows of conventional weapons contribute to high levels of conflict, there is still a low number of ATT state parties. The UN trust facility can also help these states improve their legislation, end-user controls, and management of weapon stockpiles. Its focus on gender and children further supports the goals of the ATT and can make a real contribution to those who are too often the victims of illicit trade in conventional weapons.

Of course, accession to the ATT alone cannot stop illicit weapons flows, which is why our government has also partnered with the international NGO small arms survey, contributing $224,000 to survey a list of weapons flow in the key region of the Libya-Chad-Sudan triangle. This survey is a starting point to implement concrete follow-on actions to reduce illicit arms flows along the pathways identified by the small arms survey. In doing so, we will contribute concretely to reducing access to weapons in a region where these conventional arms undermine security and socio-economic development. We will also promote international security by cutting out flows of arms to terrorists and criminal groups in the region.

Canada can play an important role in promoting the universalization of the ATT. However, we can only do so if we take a leadership role, which our government is doing on a number of fronts, in countering the proliferation of conventional weapons and promoting strong export controls as a means of ensuring that legitimate trade in conventional arms is conducted responsibly, something I am sure all members of the House desire. It is therefore essential that we rejoin our international partners and allies in their collective effort through the Arms Trade Treaty. Canada needs to be at the table.

It is time for Canada to promote internationally agreed standards for the arms trade that will reduce human suffering, help prevent arms from being used in serious violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, and combat terrorism and organized crime.

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September 21st, 2017 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the first thing I would like to say is that the Arms Trade Treaty does not and will not affect domestic ownership of firearms in Canada.

I grew up in northern British Columbia in the riding of Skeena—Bulkley Valley, which is represented by another individual in the House. A number of friends and family members are farmers and hunters who hunt for moose for two weeks with friends. It is something they do annually. It is a big fishing community, so the farmers and fishermen have my full support. Nothing in Bill C-47 would impede their privacy or right to purchase a hunting rifle or shotgun, or whichever weapon they choose to legally buy.

I would like to clarify and make sure everyone is on the same page with regard to individuals wishing to bring in a weapon from Italy, for example, such as a Beretta. Under Bill C-47, nothing would change in the process. The process remains absolutely unchanged for someone wishing to purchase a weapon in Italy, for example, and bring the weapon here to Canada. That needs to be pointed out to the members on the opposite side, because I keep hearing that and I want to make sure we put on the record that nothing changes.

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September 21st, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-47 and Canada's leadership on this issue and coming to the table with international partners not only on this issue but on a number of issues, including climate change, gender parity, and a number of fronts where we are leading the way, is very important. We can be at the table and help end suffering in certain areas of the world where conflict does exist, and a number of mechanisms in the bill will allow us to achieve this goal, which we should pursue on a day-by-day basis.

It is something that our government remains focused on. It ensures that Canada strengthens existing practices and becomes a party to the ATT, something that the previous government unfortunately failed to live up to its duty to do.

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September 21st, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me walk the member through the process. That is probably the best way I can do it.

The process that existed under the Conservatives would remain absolutely unchanged under Bill C-47. First, if someone wishes to purchase a weapon in Italy and then bring it to Canada, the individual must be at least 18 years old and have a possession and acquisition licence, a PAL, with a licence privilege for the classified arm that is being imported. Second, all firearms must be declared at Canadian customs and the applicable duties and taxes must be paid. Third, no import authorization for firearms that are not prohibited under Canadian law would be required. If the individual wanted to travel to Italy with a sporting or recreational firearm, he would need to apply for an export permit. This is the system that existed under the former government, and there is absolutely no change to that. It will be the system that exists under the current government, which I have the pleasure of serving with.

If the Italian government wanted to verify his permit, it would be done without providing personal information. Again, this is the same system that existed under the prior government, and Bill C-47 would not change that system under the current government.

I hope I have clarified that for the hon. member.

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September 21st, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Peace River, who will be speaking after me.

It is an honour to rise in this place to speak on Bill C-47, an act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code. As the government has signed the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, this bill takes steps to meet its obligations.

The Arms Trade Treaty is very broad in scope. It governs the trade in everything from small arms to main battle tanks, as well as combat aircraft. In fact, article 5 of the treaty explicitly requests that the treaty be applied to “the broadest range of conventional arms.” Why illegal hunting rifles should be regulated by the same treaty as an attack helicopter is still a little unclear to me, but perhaps the hon. members opposite have figured it out.

Given the treaty's unfortunately broad scope, the process of meeting Canada's obligations under this treaty deserves close scrutiny. We need to ensure that law-abiding firearms owners are not negatively impacted.

To its credit, the Arms Trade Treaty is a treaty with laudable objectives. Preventing and eradicating the illicit trade in conventional arms is undoubtedly an admirable goal. Canada must not stand idly by as weapons flow to conflict zones, where they may be used to inflict horrific abuses on civilian populations and fuel terrorist organizations.

Conservatives have always been supportive of measures to establish international arms control standards. However, the government's own former minister, the hon. member for Saint-Laurent at the time, stated in June 2016 that “Canada already meets the vast majority of Arms Trade Treaty obligations." He also said, “In fact, the Arms Trade Treaty was designed to bring other countries up to the type of high standard that Canada already applies through its robust export control regime”.

These remarks do make me wonder at the wisdom of subjecting the arms industry to regulatory upheaval by signing the Arms Trade Treaty and introducing this bill. Apparently Canada was already more than compliant. It is important to remember that major arms exporters such as Pakistan, Russia, and China are not party to the treaty, which will limit its effectiveness in actually controlling the global arms trade.

It is also notable that contrary to the Liberals' talking points, Canada was not the only holdout on the bill in G7. Our closest trading partner and ally, the United States, has not ratified it, so we are far from alone in abstaining.

It is also troubling that the treaty's scope is extremely broad. It does not acknowledge the legitimate, lawful ownership of firearms for personal and recreational use. What is in the preamble is not in the treaty.

Nevertheless, I respect that the government at least has good intentions in contributing to the treaty's stated purposes of international peace, stability, and reducing human suffering.

With that said, I am the representative of a riding with a large rural population. I must question how lawful firearms could be affected by amendments this bill makes to the Export and Import Permits Act. Legal firearms in Canada are subject to an extensive, strict regulatory regime. The Firearms Act regulates the transportation, storage, and display of legal firearms by individuals. It also mandates the possession and acquisition licence. Further, firearms are currently listed in the Export and Import Permits Act as a controlled import.

Despite the government's assurance that the proposed changes will not impact the legitimate and lawful use of sporting firearms, the implementation of brokering controls and permits is yet another addition to the substantial regulatory system already in place. The new brokering permits seem to cover everything related to firearms, including accessories such as optics.

The first question that this bill raises is this: what additional bureaucratic burden might the brokering permit application place on the Canadian firearms industry?

It remains unclear what specific documentation will be required to apply for the permit. As a first step, the government should provide assurances to firms that are compliant with the existing regulations. They need to know that the new brokering permit requirement will not render them unable to continue their businesses.

Also notable is the government's commitment to establishing a brokering control list that exceeds the Arms Trade Treaty requirements by covering more goods and technology.

I assume this promise is an indication of the government's earnest desire to contribute to the Arms Trade Treaty objectives. However, the government should be aware that this promise raises yet more questions for lawful Canadian firearms owners and organizations who are unclear on what the ultimate result of a more expansive list might be.

Bill C-47 would also require that all documentation pertaining to the application for a brokering permit be retained for six years. Yet again, the bill leaves the question unanswered as to what documentation will be required.

We only recently removed the wasteful debacle that was the long gun registry. I am sure the government can understand that the lawful firearms community is wary of any provision that mandates data collection without giving any indication of what data will actually be collected.

For example, will any consumer data form part of the documentation required to obtain a permit? Here, too, there is an opportunity for the government to provide some assurance to the lawful firearms community. The government should give us some sense of how the bill meets the Arms Trade Treaty obligations while still respecting legitimate trade and use of legal hunting and sporting firearms.

As the bill stands, we do not know what documentation will be required to obtain a brokering permit under the new system. We do not know what goods or technology might be added to the brokering control list at the minister's discretion. We do not know what documentation will need to be retained for the mandated six year period. This makes it difficult to appraise its potential impact on the lawful firearms community.

The government's former minister of foreign affairs stated that brokering controls would be a new regulatory area for Canada, and a good example of where we are adding rigour to the existing system. The rigorous new regulatory area being added to the existing program needs far more explanation.

With all of these questions up in the air, it is incredible the Liberals conducted little or no consultation with the lawful Canadian firearms community before introducing this legislation.

Beyond the unanswered questions I have already asked, does the government know the cost to the firearms industry of adapting to the new brokering control permits? There is a serious potential for the loss of jobs as manufacturers and importers transition to the new regulations.

If the government had consulted with lawful firearms community stakeholders, it would know that the questions I pose in my remarks are important to that community. It is a large Canadian demographic already subject to a strict regulatory environment.

Our former Conservative government declined to sign the Arms Trade Treaty specifically because there were concerns about how it might affect lawful and responsible firearms owners. The United Nations refused to exempt civilian firearms from the treaty. The government's own assessment found that Canada was already meeting the vast majority of Arms Trade Treaty obligations, but still the Liberals have opted to sign on.

The government likes to say the treaty will have no impact on law-abiding civilian firearms usage. Why then are civilian firearms even included in the treaty? Why was the United Nations against exempting them? It makes one wonder.

As a result of the Arms Trade Treaty not explicitly protecting the rights of law-abiding firearms owners, it is the responsibility of the government to provide assurance it will meet its obligations without overly impinging on the lawful Canadian firearms community. I look forward to the government doing the right thing, and demonstrating some openness to working with lawful firearms community stakeholders.

This legislation is designed to meet the obligations of a treaty that has lumped in hunting rifles with large calibre artillery systems. The government needs to listen to lawful firearm owners to mitigate the potential damage the bill might do.

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September 21st, 2017 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had a private member's motion in the last Parliament. It specifically addressed the ATT and our not signing on to the particular agreement, and not being a part of it in the form that it was currently in. It was Motion No. 589 which stated:

That, in the opinion of the House: (a) Canada already exceeds all the standards listed in United Nations resolution 55/255 concerning firearms (the resolution); (b) the regulations envisioned in the resolution would do nothing to enhance public safety, and would serve only to burden the law-abiding firearms community; and therefore, the government has already surpassed its obligations with respect to the resolution and is not required to take any further steps.

I mention that today because the same problems that existed when I presented my private member's motion in the last Parliament still exist to this very day. What needs to be understood by a couple of our friends who maybe are not part of the firearms community out in Canada today, and they are watching, is that Canada already has an extremely good system in terms of monitoring the sales and permitting sales of military equipment around the world.

The trade controls bureau regulates the Export and Import Permits Act, which, since 1947, has allowed the minister to prevent the supply of military equipment to countries for a variety of reasons, including security threats, internal and external conflicts, or sanctions by the United Nations. That is already in place, and Canada already abides by that and uses it effectively.

I will bring the question back to the firearms community. Why not exclude the firearms community from this particular Arms Trade Treaty? We would maybe have broad agreement throughout the firearms community that it would not be such a bad thing, but since it is not exempted, it would become a big problem for firearms owners.

I will bring this all back to pre-election 2015. The Liberal Party promised it would not reinstitute a firearms registry in Canada. It was a very hot topic for the Liberals. There were many rural Canadians who were upset by a firearms registry, and it was a big problem for the government because the prior Liberal government was the one that brought it in.

It was not a very popular piece of legislation. Pre-election, the Liberals said they were not going to do this again. The minister, by all his actions, is showing the exact opposite. He is just trying to do it through the back door, and we have mentioned it many times. My colleague from Red Deer—Lacombe and I mentioned this before when this was brought forward in the House. With Bill C-47, there is a real desire to bring in a back door registry without saying so.

I will read out some of the parts of what this bill would actually require. This is Bill C-47 for all those in Canada watching. They can see the actual act. I am going to read what it would require of business owners who sell long guns and firearms. It would require them to keep records.

It states:

Every person or organization that applies for a permit, import allocation, export allocation, certificate or other authorization under this Act shall keep all records that are necessary to determine whether they have complied with this Act.

If company X is a company that sells firearms, it might export and sell them to somebody from the U.S. who buys them. This would then apply to that company's database. I might go in and buy a firearm from this particular company, and this is a question that some have asked. What limitations are there to access the records of that particular company? Are all records accessible? For every firearm that was bought and sold, is the record accessible? Because the bill does not exclude firearms owners or long gun owners, it really says that all databases would be made available to the minister.

I will talk about some more things in the actual act, and why we have problems with it. Under electronic records, the bill states:

Every person or organization that is required to keep a record and that does so electronically shall ensure that all equipment and software necessary to make the record intelligible are available during the retention period required for the record.

Those are computers, so they need to be accessible. Under inadequate records, the bill states:

If a person or organization fails to keep adequate records for the purposes of this Act, the Minister may, in writing, require them to keep any records that the Minister may specify, and they shall keep the records specified by the Minister.

Those are not some records; those are any records.

The period for retention is another issue with firearms communities. Is it just for a week? Is it just for a certain period of time? It is actually much longer than a week. The bill states:

Every person or organization that is required to keep records shall retain them until the expiry of six years after the end of the year to which they relate or for any other period that may be prescribed by regulation.

It could be up to seven years. Firearms companies such as a little local firearms store in my community's backcountry, like Corlanes in Dawson Creek, because they are exporters and importers, would be required by the minister of public safety and this Parliament to have accessible records of those sales. It sure sounds like a firearms registry to me.

Let us get to the bottom of it, where this is all coming from is demand by the minister. The bill states:

If the Minister is of the opinion that it is necessary for the administration or enforcement of this Act, the Minister may, by a demand served personally or sent by mail, require any person or organization that is required to keep records to retain those records for any period that is specified in the demand, and the person or organization shall comply with the demand.

There it is. There is the back door registry. The minister has already talked about, in another piece of legislation that is coming before us very soon, handing over the previous firearms registry data to a province in this country. It seems that on one hand he reassured his electorate, especially those in Saskatchewan who sent him back to Ottawa, that there would never be a firearms registry brought forward again by a Liberal government, but here we have two examples—today, in Bill C-47 and next in Bill C-58—of doing the exact opposite. That is why our firearms community is so concerned.

We saw it was ineffective the last time it was brought in. It was very expensive and it was putting the focus on the wrong individuals. I am a firearms owner myself. I do it lawfully. I have been trained in how to safely fire and handle restricted firearms, non-restricted firearms, etc. For people who obey the law and do it properly, this is unneeded attention on a community of people who safely and lawfully buy and sell firearms and do it as part of our history.

I have a pin on my lapel. I am co-chair of the parliamentary outdoor caucus. I do that with my colleague across the way. We support hunters, anglers, outfitters, trappers, etc. We support the historic events that really started this country. It started with the fur trade. A lot of my constituents still hunt, trap, and fish. I like to do that when I have time to get out there. These kinds of laws have a negative effect on those communities, because we put the focus on them as if they are criminals already, when they have done nothing wrong. All they have done is chosen to buy a firearm to go hunt and provide food for their family.

The crux of my argument today is that the Liberal government said it was not going to bring in a firearms registry. The Liberals said it over and over again, because it was a big deal to a lot of their constituents. A lot of rural folks elected Liberal members of Parliament with the reassurance that it would not happen, and here we have a minister and a government that is trying to do that. From one back door or another, it is determined to get a firearms registry re-established in the country.

We need to come into this with our eyes wide open. Voters who are watching this today need to understand this is a big deal. This is why we did not accede to the Arms Trade Treaty when we were in government. It was because it did not have exclusions for firearm owners written within our particular act. My private member's bill spoke to that. It was one more reason why we did not accede to it.

I challenge the government to have a sober second thought and look at this again. We implore the government not to accede to the ATT. We already have enough regulations and laws that get to the same end the ATT is trying to get to in terms of selling military equipment across the world. The Liberals should especially think about the firearm owners to whom they promised they would not start a registry. Hopefully, the government will not support this legislation today.

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September 21st, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, “bogus” is certainly language I would not use to refer to the concerns of this community. We are talking about doctors, lawyers, professionals, carpenters, and mechanics who are all part of the hunting community and are advocates against what this particular piece of legislation is trying to collect. I suggest that the government really needs to listen a lot more closely to that particular community. The government made promises to this particular community that it was not going to bring in a registry, and by bringing Bill C-47 in through the back door, that is exactly what it is doing.

This seems to be the government's attitude when it chooses language like the word “bogus” with this particular community. This community has said loudly that it does not want a registry, and I think it is prepared to speak loudly again. I just hope the member is prepared for that.

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September 21st, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a delight for me to stand in the House again after a wonderful summer break to address the House on a very important issue. This is an issue that the Liberals sprinkled out at a time when they were introducing bills with much more severe and longer impacting consequences, with the hope that probably this bill would just be swept under the carpet and maybe not given the attention it deserved. In fact, I believe it does deserve a lot of attention.

By way of background, in 2016, the Liberals announced that Canada would accede to the Arms Trade Treaty. Subsequently, Bill C-47 was introduced to that end. The bill would effect changes in several different ways. First, it would establish controls over brokering in military goods between two countries outside of Canada. Second, it would create a legal obligation for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to consider certain assessment criteria before authorizing permits. Finally, it would increase the maximum fine under the Export and Import Permits Act from $25,000 to $250,000 for summary conviction offences. However, since the 1940s, under the Trade Controls Bureau, we already have provisions for Canada to do exactly what the bill is addressing.

Before I go any further, I would like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with the member for St. Albert—Edmonton.

As hon. members will recall, our previous Conservative government refused to sign the Arms Trade Treaty, because we were concerned about how the treaty would effectively be responsible to law-abiding gun owners. These concerns are just as real today as they were at that time. Conservatives have always supported efforts to establish international standards for the trade of arms, which help prevent illicit transfers that fuel conflict and encourage terrorism or organized crime. Unfortunately, without providing protection for law-abiding gun owners included in the text of the ATT, I cannot support the bill.

In fact, we already have in place the things that the bill attempts to do. Our government is already abiding by that through the Trade Controls Bureau, as I mentioned earlier. We take very seriously the trade of arms between other countries, to make sure they are not going into regimes that support terrorism or that fuel conflict by way of countries that should not be receiving these types of arms.

As parliamentarians, our first responsibility is to protect the rights of Canadians. The Government of Canada has a duty to ensure that the rights of Canadians are not outsourced to foreign countries. Unfortunately, the Liberals are refusing to acknowledge the potential infringements on law-abiding gun owners that could come as a result of participation in the ATT. Bill C-47 would require records to be kept on Canadian firearm owners who have imported or exported their guns or else face stiff fines of up to $250,000 or even imprisonment. This provision would have a direct impact on those who participate in lawful recreational and hunting activities that involve firearms.

What is most disconcerting about Bill C-47 is that it represents an attempt by the Liberal government to revive the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry, which was eliminated by our previous Conservative government. Bill C-47 would allow for the government to create regulations that demand firearm importers and exporters to report and keep all of their import registry data for at least—

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September 21st, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I, too, thought what I had to say was very interesting. I appreciate the fact that you have brought attention to that.

Bill C-47 would also allow governments to create regulations that would demand firearm importers to report and keep all their import registry data for at least six years and have it available to government. In its simplest form, this is the start of a backdoor firearms registry. It would force the information of individuals to be registered with importers and sellers and be available to government. It sounds pretty much like a registry to me.

Moreover, these proposals will add costs onto the manufacturers and distributors of legal firearms, which will ultimately be passed down to the consumers, the purchasers of firearms. Somebody has to pay for this extra cost that will be incurred with Bill C-47.

When our previous Conservative government was in office, we listened to Canadians and eliminated the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. Instead of treating law-abiding firearms owners like criminals, we repealed the requirement to register non-restricted fire arms, long guns, rifles, shotguns, and provided for the destruction of all records pertaining to that registry held by the Canadian Firearms Registry under the control of the chief firearms officer.

While we removed the need to hold a registration certificate for non-restricted firearms, this did not change the requirement for individuals to hold a valid firearms licence in order to acquire or possess a firearm. They also had to pass the required Canadian firearms safety course, undergo a screening process, and obtain a registration certificate for restricted and prohibited firearms such as handguns. Through these changes, we recognized that recreational firearms users were not criminals. At the same time, we ensured that appropriate measures were taken to maintain public safety through licensing and gun safety education.

Acceding to the ATT could impose another burdensome bureaucracy on Canada that would mirror the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry our previous Conservative government eliminated. The same problems that we had with the gun registry, the lack of accountability, the immense costs, and the overall uselessness of it, are highly likely again under the ATT regime, unless amendments are made to it.

Interestingly, through Bill C-47, the Liberals are trying to bring back the registry through the backdoor with as little attention as possible.

The Liberals have a tendency to do this, introduce proposals they know will not be accepted by Canadians at a time when they hope it will go unnoticed. Take their recent massive tax hikes on local small businesses, farmers, and professionals as an example. The Liberals waited until the middle of the summer to sprinkle out these proposals when they figured Canadians were enjoying time with family and friends or perhaps were out of town on vacation. Of course, they made the consultation period run right through the fall harvest season, which would severely impact the ability of farmers to interact and contribute to the discussion on this very important proposal before us.

In a similar fashion, when this backdoor gun registry bill was introduced, the Liberals hoped that no one would hear about it. They introduced it at the same time as their marijuana legislation, both Bill C-45 and Bill C-46, the day before the Easter long weekend. The expectation here was clearly that this bill would fall under the radar while the marijuana bills dominated the discussion and the news cycle.

Whenever the Liberals insist on pushing forward with an agenda they know Canadians will not stand behind, this is their standard way of going about it. However, if they know Canadians do not support this legislation, as evidenced by the fact they are trying to keep it as low profile as possible, why are they trying to pass it at all?

Canada's export regime as it stands today is already among the strongest in the world. I think the Liberals would agree on that point. Canadian governments of all political stripes have always ensured Canadian values are reflected in export decisions and have taken steps to prevent illicit transfers that fuel conflict, encourage terrorism, or organized crime. It seems to me this is another Liberal solution in search of a problem. If it were benign, it would be one thing, but because it has the potential to negatively impact law-abiding Canadian farmers and hunters, we as Conservatives must speak out against this.

The Conservatives have taken a clear and principled stand. We believe that any arms trade treaty should recognize and acknowledge the legitimacy of lawful ownership of firearms by responsible citizens for their personal and recreational use. This includes Canadian heritage activities, such as hunting, sport shooting, and collecting. More than that, the legitimacy of these activities are recognized around the world, including those state parties to the ATT. Our previous Conservative government insisted that this be a part of any serious treaty on this subject.

For the Liberals to move ahead with this legislation without having received such a basic concession is disappointing. The Prime Minister may believe it will help him secure the United Nations Security Council seat that he wants so badly, but to do so would be at the expense of the rights of Canadian gun owners.

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September 21st, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to have side conversations with other members in the Conservative caucus.

To me, it is quite clear that Bill C-47 is entirely about arms trade. It is entirely about export of armaments. It has no application to domestic sale of long guns or guns of any kind.

It is unfortunate we are having this conversation in the House, because I think it could unnecessarily alarm people, including people in my own riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands who are long gun owners and gun owners and who do not want these imaginary burdens that the Conservatives imagine are created by the bill.

I will try to explain it, if I can, for my friends in the Conservative caucus. When we go through the bill, the structure is clear. Everything in the bill is related to amendments to permit accession to the Arms Trade Treaty. My question for the Liberals, if I had a chance to put it, would be about the huge loopholes that have been left on the sale of arms.

However, going back to the concern about legitimate hunters, “broker” is defined only in terms of export and import of armaments. The list that is concerning people, which is found in paragraph 10.3 of the bill, “keeping records”, only applies to those, under the purpose of the bill, keeping records necessary to determine if they have complied with an act which is about the export of armaments that could be used by terrorist organizations around the world.

If my hon. colleague were satisfied, as I am satisfied, that there was no way this bill could have any impact on domestic owners, would the member please agree that it would be better for the world to limit the sale of armaments?

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September 21st, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-47, an act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code. In essence, what Bill C-47 would do is implement the Arms Trade Treaty, which was signed by the government.

Without more, I oppose Bill C-47 for two broad reasons.

First, I am not satisfied that the Arms Trade Treaty and Bill C-47, the implementation of that treaty, would actually strengthen Canada's arms control regime.

Second, I oppose the bill because of serious concerns and questions that have been asked by law-abiding firearms owners and users in our country, concerns and questions that the Liberal government has refused to answer with respect to whether the legislation would result in a backdoor gun registry.

I will first address the issue about whether the bill would actually strengthens Canada's arms control regime. The fact is that Canada has long had a very strong arms control regime. It is a regime that has been in place for about 70 years. It is a regime that is robust. Canada is a leader when it comes to arms control with respect to our export regime.

As the hon. member for Durham highlighted in some detail, the scope of the that regime includes the Trade Controls Bureau, which has operated since 1947. What does the Trade Controls Bureau do? It governs, tracks, and controls the export of military weapons and arms out of Canada. It has worked very well. Under the import and export regime that Canada has with respect to arms control, the items subject to control are listed. They include military weapons, nuclear, chemical, biological materials, among other things. Canada does not just list those items subject to control; it tracks the export of controlled items. We track it by way of the CBSA, through Statistics Canada, and we track it in a very robust way, one that is consistent with international standards, including the World Customs Organization. That is the standard by which Canada tracks. While Canada tracks, one of the things lacking in the Arms Trade Treaty, as the member for Durham correctly pointed out, is transparency and tracking.

We then not only have the Trade Controls Bureau, we also have what is called an “Area Control List” that, by way of order in council, can block the export of not only weapons but anything from Canada to another country. Right now, North Korea is on that list.

What we have is again a very strong and very robust regime. It is one that has worked and is working. There are questions about whether this bill would in fact improve upon what Canada has. However, in some respects it would water it down. I cannot support a piece of legislation that arguably would weaken the very good regime that Canada already has.

As has been raised by a number of hon. members in the House, there are serious questions about whether this bill would, through the back door, re-establish a gun registry. We know of course what a disaster the long gun registry was, as introduced by the previous Liberal government. It was a registry that targeted law-abiding firearms owners, cost the taxpayers of Canada some $2 billion, and did absolutely nothing to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of criminals. On the contrary, it in fact made the situation worse by creating a black market for various firearms. When the firearms community, every firearms organization in Canada, unanimously raises questions about whether this bill would impede law-abiding firearms owners by way of a back-door firearms registry, those concerns have to be taken seriously. However, instead of listening to the firearms community, instead of consulting with law-abiding firearms owners, the current government would prefer just to dismiss them out of hand.

I heard my friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the member for Fredericton, when he stood up in the House. I respect that hon. member, but he asserted that the claim that acceding to the treaty would create a back-door gun registry was phony and bogus. I say let us look at the language of the Arms Trade Treaty and Bill C-47. Let us start with article 2.

Article 2 states:

This Treaty shall apply to all conventional arms within the following categories

It then lists a whole series of categories. At the end, article 2.1(h) refers to small arms. Small arms include any firearm that could be operated and used by an individual, so it would include a rifle or any number of firearms that are lawfully used by Canadians for civilian recreational purposes every single day.

We then go to article 12, which says:

Each State Party shall maintain national records, pursuant to its national laws and regulations...[in terms of] conventional arms covered under Article 2.

As I mentioned, article 2 includes small arms.

We then go to Bill C-47 and look at the substance of it, and we see, among other sections of this bill, proposed subsection 10.3(6), which says that every person or organization under the act, which would include a broker, is required to retain records for a period of some six years.

Bill C-47 goes a lot further than that because it provides for the specific manner in which those electronic records must be kept by way of an electronic database.

I see I am out of time, but it raises very serious questions about this issue. I would be happy to pick up from where I left off in questions and answers.