Mr. Speaker, as with Liberals in the past, Bill C-71 targets legal and responsible gun owners while doing nothing to combat the criminal and unauthorized possession of firearms, address gang violence, or combat crime in Canada. The lack of focus on crime is particularly frustrating for everyday Canadians, who have felt helpless as crime, with increasing violence, has become a crisis in rural communities, as it has in Lakeland. It also shows how out of touch the Liberals are with rural Canadians who legally own firearms and need them for protecting livestock and pets from predators or for humane euthanasia of livestock suffering from fatal, catastrophic illness or injury when a vet is hours and miles away. For example, on March 5, a cougar attacked a group of farm animals at a rural Comox Valley property, killing a lamb and injuring a donkey. The owner called the RCMP and then shot at the cougar, and the predator subsequently ran away. These are the everyday uses of firearms by farmers and rural Canadians in remote communities.
Responsible firearms owners in Lakeland have seen what Liberal predecessors did, with the creation of a long gun registry, which treated law-abiding firearms-owning men and women as suspicious and nefarious by default, and they have been bracing for legislation similar to Bill C-71 to be introduced. It epitomizes the Liberals' approach of swinging blindly at an issue, in this case the real and serious problems of the unauthorized possession of guns, gang violence, and actual gun crimes, and penalizing only those who have done nothing wrong. Constituents in Lakeland are disappointed but not surprised that the Liberals missed the mark so badly. Tyler Milligan, a proud gun owner who enjoys going hunting with his grandkids, said this: “As a very active hunter and a competition shooter, I feel this bill is an attack on law-abiding gun owners, and I feel that this bill is not targeting issues that Canada has related to guns.”
It is clear that this legislation was created by individuals who have no experience with law-abiding gun owners and no understanding of the legitimate use and need for firearms in rural and remote communities, or of those for whom firearms are culturally and socially significant, representative of pioneering and western heritage, or treasured family heirlooms.
Bill C-71 is yet another broken promise. The Liberal election platform said that the Liberals would take pragmatic action to make it harder for criminals to get and to use handguns and assault weapons in crimes, but law-abiding firearms owners' guns are not on the streets. They are safely secured and locked up in safes and cabinets, or they are on the range or in the fields with their owners. These people are not criminals. They should not be penalized for their choices to hunt or to sport shoot. The Liberals are repeating history and showing that they have learned nothing from the mistakes of past Liberal governments that were expensive and burdensome when it came to the legal possession of firearms in Canada, while being ineffective in actually addressing the criminal use of guns.
Bill C-71 also gives an indication of planned prohibitions to come. I get the strong sense that while the Liberals are trying to reassure Canadians by saying they are not banning anything today, Bill C-71 sets out a framework to implement bans in the future. Proposed subsection 12(9) does not explicitly state who would make the determination of which firearms could be added to a restricted list and under what legislative authority. It is also not clear if there would be any sort of appeals process or provision should a heavy-handed, behind-closed-doors decision without evidence or consultation be made to add a firearm to the list, penalizing law-abiding gun owners. I ask members to forgive the skepticism of everyday Canadians, but there have been mistakes made with incorrect firearms classification in the past, when there was, at the very least, a check and balance of elected officials. With this power removed, who would be left to ensure that law-abiding firearms owners are not suddenly and immediately criminalized and unfairly targeted by incorrect firearms classification? Anyone who supports civilian oversight of law enforcement should be concerned about Bill C-71.
Let us be honest. There is little trust to begin with between law-abiding firearms owners and the Liberals of today. Perhaps the aspect of Bill C-71 that I have already heard the most concern about is the creation of a registry by another name, a backdoor registry. The Liberal campaign also promised explicitly not to create a new national long gun registry to replace the one that had been dismantled. However, under Bill C-71, businesses would be forced to keep a record associating individual people with specific, individual firearms. If this is not a registry, what is? It would create a registry without actually saying so. Under this legislation, firearms owners would be issued a reference number by a registrar. What do registrars do? They maintain registries. Canadians know that the long gun registry, which the previous Conservative government scrapped, was wasteful and ineffective, and did nothing to combat gun violence.
It is incredibly disappointing and frustrating for law-abiding gun owners to face new costs, responsibilities, and hurdles, when that will do nothing to get illicit firearms off the streets, or deter or punish criminals who use firearms in their heinous acts.
The Liberals claim that Bill C-71 is safety legislation. The public safety minister is cherry-picking statistics to maximize the illusion that the situation in Canada is dire, and that this particular legislation is desperately needed. Let me be clear. Conservatives believe strongly in making our country as safe and secure as possible and taking logical and effective steps to empower law enforcement and to protect vulnerable and innocent Canadians.
Let us look at the facts of what the public safety minister could have done to make Canada safer.
The public safety minister held a guns and gangs summit, but chose not to address gangs in this apparently flagship legislation.
The public safety minister has mentioned the insufficient commercial storage for firearms, but has not expanded on the issue and does not deal with it in Bill C-71, which does not allow us to debate it.
The Liberals have failed to invest in technologies to enhance the ability of the hard-working men and women who serve as border guards to detect and halt illegal guns from the U.S. into Canada.
Instead of spending $8.5 million on a skating rink on the Hill, next door to the largest skating rink in the world, the Rideau Canal, maybe if the Liberals wanted to choose a campaign promise to follow through on they could have provided, as they promised, $100 million per year to the provinces and territories to combat illegal gun activity.
Bill C-71 does nothing about any of that. It does nothing to combat gang violence in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, gun violence in the GTA, or the escalating crime rates in rural communities, which are making many in my home province of Alberta vulnerable and they feel totally abandoned by the government's slow inaction on crime.
Perhaps the Liberals will listen to Jennifer Quist, from Lakeland, who writes that people “have lost the 'small town' way of life to constant waves of crime without the punishment. It is the unlawful who run the show around here, the criminals with nothing to lose who win at this game.” She also wrote, “Such bureaucracy in a time when all we hear about is the way our government is wasting the money of the taxpayer.”
What the Liberals ignore is that responsible firearms owners across Canada are careful and conscientious. They believe in a culture of safety in the possession and handling of their firearms. They, more than anyone, want stiffer penalties and real action against those who use firearms to commit crimes, and against gang activity that puts us all at risk.
Roy Green gave a good explanation of what law-abiding firearms owners do. He stated:
To legally own a firearm in Canada comes with responsibility. When not in approved use, a trigger lock, at least, must be engaged on each gun. Ammunition must be stored separately from the gun it is intended for. And separately doesn’t mean an ammo box parked beside the firearm. Separately means just that — perhaps rifle in one room, ammunition in another. Gun owners with children frequently will store their firearms, trigger locks engaged, in a gun safe with ammunition in a locked box some distance away.
These are citizens committed to safety, who are vetted to ensure they can acquire a firearm, not thugs on the streets who are quite obviously not worried about laws, rules, regulations, or paperwork.
I would like to end by imploring rural members of the Liberal backbench to listen to the common-sense concerns they are hearing from their constituents about this legislation. They know, as well as I do, that Bill C-71 does nothing to combat criminal activity and illegal possession or use of firearms. Law-abiding gun owners should not be treated like criminals. I hope these Liberals will not give in to caucus pressure to vote for this ill-conceived legislation, and instead will do the right thing and listen to the hunters, farmers, and sport shooters in their ridings, who are not criminals.
Bill C-71 should be scrapped. The Liberals should listen to everyday Canadians about what it is like to legally own and responsibly handle firearms. They should take action to crack down on criminals, protect the security of innocent Canadians, and prevent more victims of crime. The Conservatives will not support legislation like that. We will continue to be in favour of concrete actions that will actually keep Canadians safe. There are no new measures in Bill C-71 to combat gang or gun violence in urban areas, or to address the serious concerns of escalating armed crime in rural communities.