Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to share the time with my esteemed colleague for Portage—Lisgar.
I rise to share the disappointment of tens of thousands of Canadians who are once again under attack by the government for being law-abiding citizens.
Bill C-71, the Liberals' new gun legislation, is a regulatory bill, not a public safety bill. The Liberal government is again ignoring anything to address crime and gun violence. What is apparent is that it was drafted without any thought of what this would do to law-abiding, gun-owning Canadians, like farmers, hunters, gun collectors, and sport shooters. There is nothing in this proposed legislation that addresses any of the problems facing Canadian families, police, rural communities, first nations, inner cities, border agents, gun violence, gangs, or rural crime.
Legislation should be about the values and merits of what Canadians need to improve their quality of life, protect their communities, empower 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 in rural parts of Canada by 41% in 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 gun.
Many Canadians have a gun because they need it. They need it to deal with with aggressive predators. They need it for their work, like farmers who may have to put an animal down or control rodents. Sadly, today, many Canadians feel they need these firearms to defend their homes, families, and property from violent attacks and criminal activities.
No one wins when those in rural Canada need to defend themselves from violent criminals. No one should be afraid in their homes, on their farms, or in their communities. However, this is the reality for far too many Canadians in rural communities in Alberta and across our great nation. The fact that this reality is ignored in this regulatory bill is a slap in the face for hard-working, gun-owning Canadians. The bill fails rural Canada and public safety.
As recent as a few weeks ago, we heard at the minister's own guns and gang conference about the challenges facing communities and police, with rising violent crime rates and, in particular, organized crime, guns and gangs. As a former police officer, I understand that police services are doing what they can with the resources available to them and with the many restrictions law enforcement have placed upon them. Criminals do not follow these rules.
We heard from the police at the summit about the increasing number of gangs that were involved in gun violence. These gangs are typically drug dealers or drug related and the shootings are related to protecting territory. These drug dealers and gang members have acquired guns through the black market, smuggling, and theft.
These people do not register their guns. They do not show a licence to buy it. They do not go through a background check. They do not submit to police scrutiny. Only law-abiding gun owners follow these processes.
Adding more processes and background checks does not improve the fight of our communities against gun violence and gangs. Nothing in the bill deals with gangs and their acquisition of illegal weapons. There is no mention of gangs, organized crime, or smuggling in the bill.
The legislation would do nothing to help rural residents in my community. It would do nothing for families dealing with gangs in Surrey. It would do nothing to help police in Montreal or the GTA. It would nothing to combat illegal weapons coming through the black market, smuggled across our borders and into our cities. However, it would provide the Liberals with an ability to say that they tabled legislation, even if it really would not deal with the problem we face.
Here is what I am hearing from Canadians in response to this proposed legislation. How will Canadians be better off with the bill? The government has not provided any evidence that Canadians will be any safer. Why are Canadians who are law-abiding taxpayers being made to look like criminals, while criminals are not being dealt with? What the minister should be concerned about is real public safety issues in Canada, keeping guns away from gangs and violent criminals.
For example, the Liberals would remove the limit on background checks from five years to indefinite to meet their promise to enhance background checks. That seems logical and a good idea. However, what would aid Canadians and Parliament is having evidence that this would actually improve public safety. Currently, possession and acquisition licences for firearms must be renewed every five years. The government checks the registry automatically against criminal charges laid in Canada against anybody who had a licence, daily.
Are there Canadians who, in retrospect, should not be receiving gun licences? How would these changes improve public safety? Would longer background checks result in more people being denied guns for good reasons? A better question might be this. If we lift that five-year background check, what reasonable limits will be placed on it?
For example, for mental health screening, what mental health issues would make someone ineligible? What about recovery? Does a minor anxiety issue make one less or more likely to be blocked from hunting? If a veteran has returned from combat and has gone through a mental health issue or battled back from an illness like depression, what would the response be from the chief firearms officer? Would hunters who have gun licences and respect every aspect of our gun laws have their licences removed because of an incident that occurred 25 years ago?
It is not just the new licensing provisions we are hearing about from Canadians. It is the real fear that the Liberals are only looking to bring back a gun registry for unrestricted guns like hunting rifles. This is their fear. In fact, government members have been pushing one line over and over again, which is that this is not a gun registry. Well, that line is as believable as the Aga Khan being a close family friend, as believable as “these taxes will only affect the rich” or “It was India's fault”.
When the Liberals keep telling the House and the public that something is not true, we all have reason to be cautious and scrutinize them carefully.
First, this bill makes specific reference to the “registrar”. I think most Canadians would agree the point of a registrar is to keep a registry. The registrar will have a list of names of licence holders and require all gun sales to consult that list in advance of the sale. That registrar will require all businesses to keep a list of sales and make them available. The registrar will take the records of a gun shop going out of business and keep those records.
The Liberal government is now changing the rules to transport guns again as well. People taking unloaded and trigger-locked guns for repair will now require permission from the chief firearms officer to do so. Then there are the new costs, which have not even been addressed. It would be no surprise to anyone in Canada if the cost of gun licences will increase as a result of all the added red tape.
What should we be doing? There is a better way than ignoring the problem. We cannot address Canada's concerns for safer communities without addressing the cause of these problems. From my perspective, and those with whom I have spoken, there are a number of things the government can do that will have a far greater impact on reducing gun and gang violence in our communities.
Let us actually provide the police the promised funding and the plan for the $327 million to tackle gangs and gun violence. Get that money into the hands of the specialized police units across the country to deal with guns, gangs, and drug traffickers. The RCMP has raised the issue of straw purchasers. Those are people who acquire guns with licences and then sell them on the black market. Instead of punishing law-abiding gun owners who follow the rules, let us empower the police and put in legislation to go after those criminals. We cannot licence the problem away.
Let us help our border agents. CBSA has had a battle, and is in a battle, of dealing with increased black market activities and tens of thousands of illegal border crossers, with no extra resources. Agents I have personally spoken to are exhausted. Let us enforce our border rules, remove illegal crossers, and give CBSA agents the tools to find illegal weapons being smuggled into the country. Let us cut off criminals from their supply of illegal weapons.
Let us focus on intervention programs that stop at-risk youth from entering gangs in the first place. The Conservatives launched these programs in 2006, and I would urge my government colleagues across the way to focus efforts on reducing the flow to new gangs and between gangs.
Finally, let us stop supporting terrorism, terrorists, and criminals and start taking the side of law-abiding Canadians. Law-abiding gun owners should be trusted above criminals.
This bill would hurt law-abiding, honest, hard-working gun-owning Canadians. I hope all members in the House will shift the focus to protecting Canadians by targeting criminals.