Mr. Speaker, I rise today to outline the many and significant failures that exist in Bill C-71.
First, I would again like to bring up that the whole debate is about a bill that has questionable evidence attached to it, and we have yet to hear from the minister who is responsible for the RCMP after they were found in contempt of Parliament. While he may ignore members of Parliament, thousands of law-abiding Canadians, the Assembly of First Nations, and the police, I would like to think that a censure from this House and the Speaker would result in some action. However, that has yet to occur.
On June 19, in his ruling on the RCMP's implementation of Bill C-71, the Speaker stated:
the vast majority of the information was presented as though the provisions will definitively be coming into effect or are already the law of the land. Nowhere did I find any indication [that] the bill was...in committee and was not yet enacted law.
The Speaker further added:
The work of members as legislators is fundamental and any hint or suggestion of this parliamentary role and authority being bypassed or usurped is not acceptable.
The RCMP presumed the will of Parliament, assumed that the bill would pass, and attempted to enforce the new rules before decisions came from committee, the House or the Senate.
While addressing his attempt to undermine Canada's democracy, the Minister of Public Safety continued to pass the bill based on false information, despite the concerns of millions of Canadians and many members of Parliament. These concerns were raised by Conservative members on this side of the House, expert testimony, written submissions, the media, my own consultations across the country, and ultimately confirmed by Liberal MPs on the committee. This is bad legislation, which was flawed from its start, and was based on misleading information that attempted to pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians.
The Minister of Public Safety has made questionable comments regarding this bill. Recently in the House of Commons, the minister tabled a list of the organizations that were formerly consulted on Bill C-71. To date, seven of those individuals or organizations have come forward to say that they were not consulted. The Assembly of First Nations, for example, stated that it was not consulted and that this legislation is an infringement on treaty rights.
The Liberal MP for Ajax, who was the parliamentary secretary at the time, made the outright claim that national consultations were held. He stated in this House that there were “discussions in every corner of this country, including with first nations chiefs, chiefs of police, the firearms community, and others..”. The minister has never set foot in any of my communities to hold consultations.
From my own consultations with Canadians across the country, I can say that they are very concerned. There is nothing in his bill that deals with criminals, gang violence or illegal firearms. There are only more rules for law-abiding Canadians, and they are very angry about that.
The consultations, if they did happen, were done poorly. As one stakeholder told me, “If I was consulted, I think I would know about it.”
In the height of the irony, the minister held a summit on gangs and guns. It was clear that the issue brought forward by those experts was not around law-abiding gun owners; rather, it was about organized crime, gangs and violent criminals. Not only did the Liberals not listen to those who were impacted by the bill, they almost entirely ignored what experts said was the problem in Canada, which is gangs, organized crime and gun violence.
Experts from across the country told us about a whole host of crime issues at that summit. They discussed illegal firearms, primarily handguns, straw purchases, stealth shipping and gangs. Still, the minister came to the committee of public safety and national security with false and inaccurate information.
He appeared before the committee and stated:
While crime rates in Canada overall have been on the decline, thankfully, for decades, the rate of gun violence has been going up in recent years. Between 2013 and 2016 the number of...incidents involving firearms rose by 30%. Gun homicides in that period went up by two-thirds. Intimate partner and gender-based violence involving firearms was up by one-third. Gang-related homicides, most of which involve guns, were up by two-thirds. Break-ins for the purpose of the stealing of firearms were up by 56% between 2013 and 2016, and by a whopping 865% since the year 2008.
It sounds like we had a real crisis. However, we should look at what experts said about his misrepresentation of the information.
Solomon Friedman, of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, stated:
The Criminal Lawyers' Association supports criminal law reform that is modest, fundamentally rational, and supported by objective evidence. On each of these measures, Bill C-71, in our view, fails to meet the mark.
First, the proposed reforms in Bill C-71 are unsupported by the evidence. In fact, in presenting its rationale for this bill, the government has misrepresented the objective statistical data to create the appearance of a problem that simply does not exist. As a society, we are the poorer for it when government promotes criminal legislation on a misunderstanding or, worse yet, a willful manipulation of what it claims is empirical evidence.
On May 8, 2018, the honourable Minister of Public Safety...told this committee that between 2013 and 2016, the number of criminal incidents involving firearms rose by 30%. Gun homicides in that period went up by two-thirds. Those numbers are alarming. They give the clear impression that gun crime and homicide by firearm specifically are a rampant and increasing problem in our society.
Mr. Solomon went on to suggest that:
With the greatest of respect to the minister, that is simply not the case. The year 2013, the starting point for the purported trend, was not chosen at random. As we now know, 2013 [was] a statistical aberration in terms of violent crime and homicide in Canada.  saw the lowest rate of [violent crime] in Canada in 50 years. To put that in perspective, every single year since 1966 has been worse than 2013, and it's not surprising that the three years following 2013 would be worse, as well.
The truth of the matter is homicide by firearm has, in fact, been steadily declining in Canada since the mid-1970s, and when an appropriate sample size is taken, the alarming trend that the minister purported to identify is seen for what it is: a selective manipulation of statistical data. The rate of homicide by firearm, when viewed over a [more] reasonable sample size, has remained relatively stable. In fact, it was slightly lower in 2016 than it was 10 years earlier, in 2006.
Here we have a criminal defence lawyer destroying the highly questionable evidence provided by the minister. That is shocking, disappointing, and it should be very alarming to Canadians.
The minister also said that there has been an 865% increase in break and enters dealing with firearms since 2008. It is an interesting statistic. It is true, but what the minister failed to identify is that in 2008, the Conservatives brought in a law that if someone breaks in and steals a firearm, it is a specific offence. It had never occurred before. It was a break, enter and theft before. That is how it was covered off. Therefore, we never had a new offence occurring. The minister had misleading information again.
Additionally, we heard from Dr. Gary Mauser at committee, but the information, the minister presented as facts. He said that 121 of the 141 increased firearm-related homicides were directly related to gangs in cities. The rate of violence in Canada is because there are more gangs and gang-related shootings. Surprisingly, the word “gangs" appears nowhere in the bill. It appears that the minister's increasing statistics on gun violence are selective use of figures and wrongfully attributed to licensed law-abiding gun owners.
What happens when a professor from a trustworthy Canadian university provides evidence that is contrary to the government's flawed legislation and position? The Liberals do what they always do; they call into question their credibility. The reality is that the Canadians right across the country are rightfully beginning to question the credibility of the Liberal government.
The minister went on to say at committee:
Right now, when a person applies for a licence, there's a mandatory look back over the immediately preceding five years to see whether they have in that period of time been engaged in any violent behaviour or been treated for a mental illness associated with violence. Bill C-71 will remove that five-year limitation so that a person's entire record will be taken into account. That will help ensure, quite simply, that people with a history of violence do not get guns.
Again, this is an inaccurate statement. The minister's own officials from the Canadian firearms program, and the RCMP, confirmed that criminal background checks were never limited and are never limited to five years; any criminal history is taken into account, no matter how old it is. Either the minister is ignoring his own experts, or he is presenting misleading information to justify a pointless piece of legislation.
The minister went on to say at committee:
The legislation will also help ensure that people who acquire firearms are actually licensed to own them. Since 2012, all that has been required in this regard at the time of a sale is that the vendor have “no reason to believe” that the purchaser is not licensed. [...] Vendors often check anyway, but they are not, in fact, required to do so.
Again, that statement is blatantly false. Legal experts at committee told us the following:
any violation, no matter how minor or technical, engages the criminal law process. [...] Indeed, this legislation creates new criminal offences where none were needed. For example Bill C-71 will make it an offence for a firearm owner to transfer a firearm—meaning to give, sell, or barter—to another person without first obtaining a reference number from the registrar of firearms. Let me be clear: It is already a criminal offence to transfer a firearm to an individual who is not authorized to possess it.
Section 101 of the Criminal Code prohibits that precise conduct. It is punishable by a maximum of five years' imprisonment....
The government says that the new provisions under Bill C-71 are required to ensure that firearms are not transferred without lawful authority. Not surprisingly, the existing offence under section 101 is entitled “Transfer without authority”. However, under Bill C-71, one law-abiding licensed firearm owner can transfer a firearm to another law-abiding licensed firearm owner and still commit a criminal offence if the government is not duly notified. This does nothing more than create another trap for the unwary, a trap that carries with it criminal consequences. For what? It is not for actual public safety, but for the appearance of public safety.
It is clear to me the minister knew that what he was saying was inaccurate and he likely knew his bill would do nothing for public safety. He is not alone in misleading and false statements. The Prime Minister himself tweeted out early on in the introduction of Bill C-71, “We’re also introducing stronger and more rigorous background checks on gun sales. And if you want to buy a gun, by law you’ll have to show a license at the point of purchase. Right now that’s not a requirement.” Really? That is exactly what the law is now, so I do not know where the Prime Minister and the minister are getting their information. Obviously, it is not factual.
In the fall of 2017, the Minister of Public Safety made an announcement in Surrey, B.C., where there is a real gun problem. Gun violence and shootings there are a regular occurrence. Police in communities across the country need more help to tackle these criminals. He announced $327 million in funding to combat guns and gangs, a great announcement, and no doubt one that would help the Liberal MP for South Surrey—White Rock secure his seat, as it was made during a by-election. Canadians should understand though that to date, not one dime has moved on that funding and it will take a full two years for the Liberals to make that funding available to police.
Since that announcement, the Liberals have tabled Bill C-71, have pushed the House by limiting debate and testimony, and are ramming it though with almost no amendments, despite nearly every witness saying it is not a good bill.
It is no surprise that the Liberal MPs on the committee were expected to limit debate as much as possible. In fact, we had more testimony from department officials, 21 to be exact, than from Canadians and stakeholder groups. There were over 100 briefs submitted to committee from organizations and people who could not appear, who were trying to show that law-abiding firearm owners were not the problem. In fact, my office received 30 submissions after committee members were required to submit its amendments. That means dozens of organizations and individuals who put time and effort into their briefs received no consideration in this debate.
Let us summarize some of the key issues I have heard from Canadians all across the country, including the over 86,000 who signed the petition that was presented yesterday opposed to Bill C-71. First, the bill does nothing to tackle gun and gang crime. Criminals do not follow the law and do not register their guns. Second, the claims by the minister, his parliamentary secretary, the Prime Minister and the rest of the Liberals that the bill would go after criminals while respecting firearm owners are inaccurate and, in fact, insulting to millions of Canadians. Third, the Liberals will not call this a gun registry. The rest of the country thinks it is a gun registry. I guess we will leave it to Canadians to decide in the 2019 election.
Finally, we saw what Liberal MPs thought of Bill C-71 when they finished the bill's discussion at committee. Moments after ratifying the legislation at committee, Liberal MPs were calling for a study on issues raised by witnesses. They called on the minister to address real issues facing illegal firearms getting into the hands of criminals and administrative and process issues resulting in criminals getting firearm licences. They called for more statistics and research into gun violence and the criminal acquisition of firearms. Those are great issues, and they certainly are a lot more productive than what was in Bill C-71 that the minister put forward. However, none of them had the courage during the debate on Bill C-71 to bring those issues forward at the time we had a chance to change the legislation.
This summer, after more gang shootings, will the government now take a hard look at the real issues, the evidence and the problem? Is the new minister empowered to go after criminals and illegal weapons and repair the relationship with millions of law-abiding Canadians? Sadly, the answer is no. Rather, the Liberals are now repeating their previous mistakes with an investigation into a handgun ban. While I understand that the government prefers to look like it is doing something as opposed to actually addressing the issues, Canadians deserve better.
A Canadian Press article highlighted the government's justification for going after law-abiding gun owners, claiming a surge in crime guns, suggesting about one-half of crime guns in Toronto originated from lawful licensed gun owners. However, the comments and the article were lacking in detail and statistical evidence and had many experts and advocates questioning those results.
Albertan Dennis Young, a former RCMP officer and a public servant, submitted a freedom of information request to obtain actual Toronto Police Service stats. Well, guess what: Those stats show a very different reality. The number of crime guns seized was on a downward trend over the last 10 years. The number of domestically sourced firearms was down over the last 10 years. There was no surge, as the minister and others have said. As noted by the media outlets, the overall trend for gun crimes in Toronto is down. Therefore, the crisis is more manufactured than based on fact.
The number of firearms being traced back to their origins is very small, too small for us to have good information, and shows that the government is failing Canadians on public safety if police do not have the resources necessary to trace back the firearms that they seize to their origins.
To quote a Global News commentary about the handgun ban:
Politicians, including the Prime Minister and Toronto Mayor John Tory, who once strongly opposed a ban on handguns, are now either considering or actively calling for one. This would be a major change to the Criminal Code involving potentially billions of dollars in private property. It is not an exaggeration to say the CP report is a key part of this debate.
Do our political leaders know they’re reacting to a story with bad information? Perhaps the more depressing question is whether they’d care if they did.
Perhaps the Liberals are interested in listening to what senior and experienced law enforcement officials are saying.
Mike McCormack from the Toronto Police Association said this in referring to a handgun ban:
There's no way in my world or any world I know that this would have an impact on somebody who's going to go out and buy an illegal gun and use it to kill another person....
The newly minted commissioner, Brenda Lucki, appointed by the very minister in charge of this bill and who we would like to assume he counts on for advice, has no proof that a handgun ban does anything to protect people. She said, “I’m not sure if a complete ban is the answer or tweaking the legislation.”
The Ontario Provincial Police's former chief said:
It would be unmanageable and unfair to the majority of handgun owners who obey the law and always use their guns safely. Let’s effectively deal with the criminals that do not obey the current criminal law.
In Surrey, B.C., a former police officer running for city council indicated that from his experience “a ban would have little effect to decrease gang violence in our community.”
Pointing out that the Liberal plan completely lacks any credibility does not mean we on this side do not see the issues that we face in this country. However, the government's practice of blaming hunters and farmers for the criminal actions of gangs and criminals is wrong. It is morally wrong and it is factually wrong.
It is time that the Liberal government started taking public safety and the government's duty to protect Canadians seriously. Canada has real problems. Criminals are the centre of our gun violence problems, not hunters, not sports shooters, not farmers.
Canadians deserve a government that supports all law-abiding Canadians. The countdown is on to the 2019 election. Canadians are eager for a change to a Conservative government. In fact, many are suggesting that the Liberal government lacks the moral authority to govern. It is time for Canadians to come before partisan talking points. It is time to get back to dealing with the real issues in this country.