Madam Speaker, I rise today to debate Bill C-47, a bill that would implement an international arms control treaty. Bill C-47 lays bare a fundamental difference in the foreign policy approach of the Conservative official opposition and the Liberal government. I agree very much with my NDP colleague that the difference is that the Liberal government is primarily concerned with optics as opposed to real results for Canadians, lots of nice fancy window dressing with little or no results.
Previously, my colleague on this side of the House formally laid out the practical problems we have seen with this legislation, and the practical reality that we already have a strong system of arms control in this country that achieves the stated objective.
We oppose the bill on the grounds that it complicates existing arms control mechanisms that are working extremely well at present, and that, in the process, it introduces substantial problems for responsible, law-abiding Canadian firearms owners. I want to take this opportunity to discuss some issues we have in terms of this proposed legislation.
In real terms, Canada already has a strong and effective system of arms control that in practical effect exceeds the system proposed by the UN treaty. The current system includes the Trade Controls Bureau, which, through the responsible minister, has the ability to prevent us from supplying military equipment to countries where those exports might threaten Canadian security, or in cases where the weapons could be used in an internal or external conflict in general. The current system also includes provisions that allow a complete ban on trade with high-risk countries. Further, it is currently set that the Canada Border Services Agency, CBSA, and Statistics Canada collect all such information on goods exported from Canada.
Some might argue that signing on to this UN treaty is important to aligning Canada with other nations. In previous deliberations on this legislation, though, one of the members opposite referenced the nations that had initially signed on to this treaty. However, if we look at the ratification record of countries, we note that the countries accounting for a majority of the sales of military equipment have not signed on to it. Therefore, in actual fact, this treaty is not at all about establishing an effective international regime that we can all align with.
At best, despite amendments, we are in a place where Canadians know one thing for sure, that they cannot trust the government on firearms legislation. We are at that point yet again. Despite earlier attempts through Bill C-47, the government has failed to recognize the legitimacy of lawful firearms ownership and has moved to create all sorts of unnecessary problems and red tape for responsible firearms owners.
This legislation effectively recreates the federal gun registry by requiring the tracking of all imported and exported firearms, and requires that information be available to the minister for six years. Firearms groups and individual owners have repeatedly expressed concerns about the implications of this. They want a strong system of arms control, but they point out that we already have one.
Beyond that, firearms owners are generally frustrated by a constantly shifting classification system that does not provide any meaningful certainty to law-abiding gun owners in Canada. A firearm that is considered legal today could be considered illegal tomorrow, without even the due process of an order in council.
Let us address the trust issue that many law-abiding Canadians have with the government. With respect to the Liberals' new gun legislation, Bill C-71, it does nothing to address real crime and gun violence. It is essentially a regulatory bill, not a public safety bill. What is apparent is that it was drafted without any thought of what it would do to law-abiding firearms owners, like farmers, hunters, collectors, and sport shooters. There is nothing in that proposed legislation that addresses any of the real gang and gun problems facing Canadian families, police, rural communities, first nations, inner cities, border agents, or the issue of rural crime.
Legislation should be about the values and merits of what Canadians need to improve their quality of life, what they need to protect their communities. Legislation should be about empowering people to prosper, not the Liberal Party.
We have heard what Canadians need for safer communities. In ridings like mine with vast rural areas, police can sometimes be hours away. Rural Canadians often feel they are left to fend for themselves. With crime rates increasing by 41% in rural parts of Canada over the last few years, the bill would do nothing to address the needs of rural Canada. However, it has the potential to turn rural Canadians into criminals if they own a firearm.
The reality is that many Canadians have firearms because of where they live and because their livelihood depends on it. Many need a firearm to deal with aggressive predators and to protect their livestock. Others need it for their work, like farmers who might have to put down an animal or control rodents. Sadly, in some rural communities, due to excessive crime, some Canadians feel they need firearms to defend themselves. There are many reasons that rural Canadians need firearms, and they own them legitimately.
Recently at a summit on guns and gangs, police referenced the increasing number of gangs involved in gun violence. This violence often stems from drug related crimes, with shootings often related to gangs protecting their territory. Guns acquired by drug dealers and gang members are almost always acquired through the black market, via smuggling and theft. We know that those involved in gang related shootings do not register their guns; they do not get a licence to own a firearm. They will not show a licence to buy a firearm; they do not go through a background check. They do not submit to police scrutiny. The only people who do that are law-abiding Canadians.
Adding more processes and background checks for law-abiding citizens would do nothing to effectively combat gang related gun violence. Nothing the Liberals have proposed will deal effectively with gangs and their acquisition of illegal weapons, and there is no mention even of gangs, organized crime, or smuggling in the bill.
I talk about all of that because we have a piece of legislation before us that is supposed to work to ensure that international dealings and trade in arms is done responsibly, and that when Canada is exporting weapons or other types of military equipment, we ensure that it is done in a responsible way.
However, there are three problems. The UN treaty does not do that. In fact, what we currently have in place in Canada is extremely effective, and we have already discussed a number of times the already effective way that we export firearms. One wonders, therefore, why are the Liberals so intent on ratifying this agreement.
There are six main arms dealers in the world and three of them have not even signed onto this. We know that the government is quite fascinated with doing things the UN wants, not always thinking about what is in the best interests of Canadians or people who are affected by what the UN says and does. We know that the Liberals like to take their direction from the UN.
In this case it is going to have a negative effect on law-abiding Canadians. Indeed, because of what we have previously seen in Bill C-71 and from the Liberal government generally, members will know that the Liberals introduced the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry and that firearms owners in Canada have been battling with the Liberals for years and years. Liberals think that law-abiding gun owners are criminals.
The bottom line is that Canadian firearms owners just do not trust the Liberals when it comes to any kind of legislation around firearms. In this case, our regime has been adequate. Fulfilling a political promise is one of the reasons I think the Liberals want to do this, because the Prime Minister said he would ratify this particular agreement. However, we know that he made a whole lot of promises without actually thinking through the implications and that he has broken the majority of them.
The NDP have their reasons and we have ours, but I do not think anybody would be heartbroken or surprised if the Liberals just scrapped this. This bill is not a good bill. It is not going to do anything to effectively combat illegal parts of the international gun trade with our best interests in mind.
The big six arms trading countries are Russia, China, the United States, France, Germany, and the U.K. I will wind up by noting that the countries that are not part of the arms trade treaty include North Korea, Syria, Iran, Russia, and China. Here, I would say that there is sort of theme with the government in who it likes to challenge and who it just kind of lets go to do their own thing.
I thank the House for this opportunity. I believe very strongly that we just need to scrap this piece of legislation and get on with the business of actually doing things to control illegitimate, gang related gun crime.