An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms)

Sponsor

Bill Blair  Liberal

Status

Second reading (House), as of May 28, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-21.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to, among other things,

(a) increase, from 10 to 14 years, the maximum penalty of imprisonment for indictable weapons offences in sections 95, 96, 99, 100 and 103;

(b) establish a regime that would permit any person to apply for an emergency prohibition order or an emergency limitations on access order;

(c) deem certain firearms to be prohibited devices for the purpose of specified provisions;

(d) create a new offence for altering a cartridge magazine to exceed its lawful capacity; and

(e) authorize employees of certain federal entities who are responsible for security to be considered as public officers for the purpose of section 117.‍07.

The enactment also amends the Firearms Act to, among other things,

(a) limit the possession of firearms listed in the regulations made by Order in Council P.‍C. 2020-298 of May 1, 2020 and registered as SOR/2020-96, and of non-restricted and restricted firearms that become prohibited by regulation;

(b) transfer authority to the Commissioner of Firearms to approve, refuse, renew and revoke authorizations to carry referred to in paragraph 20(a) of the Act;

(c) impose requirements in respect of the importation of ammunition;

(d) require that the holders of a licence authorizing the possession of a handgun comply with the requirements and prohibitions relating to the storage and transporting of handguns within a municipality in which a by-law establishing those requirements and prohibitions is in force if the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is notified of the by-law in the prescribed manner, and provide for exceptions to that requirement;

(e) require that the Commissioner of Firearms maintain a publicly available list of the municipalities in which such requirements and prohibitions apply;

(f) authorize a chief firearms officer to suspend a licence if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that the licence holder is no longer eligible for it;

(g) require the delivery of firearms to a peace officer, or their lawful disposal, if a refusal to issue, or revocation of, a licence or registration certificate has been referred to a provincial court under section 74 of the Act in respect of those firearms;

(h) authorize, in certain circumstances, the Commissioner of Firearms, the Registrar of Firearms or a chief firearms officer to disclose certain information to a law enforcement agency for the purpose of an investigation or prosecution related to the trafficking of firearms;

(i) provide that the annual report to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness regarding the administration of the Act must include information on disclosures made to law enforcement agencies and be submitted no later than May 31 of each year; and

(j) create an offence for a business to advertise a firearm in a manner that depicts, counsels or promotes violence against a person.

The enactment also amends the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to, among other things,

(a) provide nuclear security officers and on-site nuclear response force members with the authority to carry out the duties of peace officers at high-security nuclear sites; and

(b) permit licensees who operate high-security nuclear sites to acquire, possess, transfer and dispose of firearms, prohibited weapons and prohibited devices used in the course of maintaining security at high-security nuclear sites.

The enactment also amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to

(a) designate the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness as the Minister responsible for the establishment of policies respecting inadmissibility on grounds of transborder criminality for the commission of an offence on entering Canada;

(b) specify that the commission, on entering Canada, of certain offences under an Act of Parliament that are set out in the regulations is a ground of inadmissibility for a foreign national; and

(c) correct certain provisions in order to resolve a discrepancy and clarify the rule set out in those provisions.

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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2021 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate that the member seem exercised today. I am a passionate advocate myself, so I do not judge that, but I thank him for a lot of the details he gave about his family, his family background and his rant about the public safety committee. Maybe I will ask a question about the details of the legislation, as it seems to me that is what we are supposed to actually be doing today.

I am curious about the member's comments about the hunters he knows who believe they will not be impacted, and that no firearms used for hunting would be impacted by Bill C-21 or by the May 2020 OIC, because the government has built in an exemption for indigenous hunters. Of course, they use firearms for sustenance hunting that are banned under the Liberals' bill, as do thousands and millions of sport shooters and hunters across the country.

One of the other problems, though, is that the government has made it so that indigenous hunters cannot take their firearms to licensed gunsmiths because they are not covered by the exemption. Obviously, that causes a safety concern. It prevents indigenous hunters from being able to use their firearms, and it is a contravention of their section 35 rights.

Will the member fight to fix this?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2021 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Jeremy Patzer Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Sarnia—Lambton.

For this debate, I am adding my thoughts to those of my colleagues from Lakeland and Provencher, who have already pointed out what is wrong with Bill C-21's wrong-headed idea of firearms policy.

The member for Lakeland, who serves as the shadow minister of public safety, has done an incredible job in exposing many of the fallacies and misconceptions in how the Liberal government deals with firearms. After doing so in this House, she received a shockingly bad and partisan response from the Minister of Public Safety. That says it all about how Liberals are handling this important issue.

Simply put, the Liberal government proposes to take firearms from co-operative, law-abiding citizens while doing nothing to stop the flow of illegal guns to dangerous criminals and gangs, which is where the crisis is coming from in the first place. Of course, violent crime with illegal firearms is happening in Canada and has especially been a growing concern for certain cities.

There is a lot more to say about the alarming rise of rural crime as well, which has to do with a completely different set of circumstances for citizens and law enforcement, but today I will focus on a basic principle the Liberal government is totally missing.

Instead of targeting law-abiding Canadians and firearm retailers, the government should be investing in police anti-gang and gun units, and in the CBSA, to provide law enforcement with all the resources it needs to stop illegal smuggling operations and get dangerous criminals and gangs off our streets. This is a common sense approach that would proactively save lives and prevent crime.

In his speech, the member for Kingston and the Islands indicated that rather than deal with high rates of crime, we should just ban guns instead and all crime would magically stop. This is the dangerous mentality the government has when dealing with crime. Rather than deal with the actual problem, it chooses to make a splashy announcement that sounds like it is doing something, but in reality, it continually harasses law-abiding gun owners, who are the most highly vetted citizens in Canada.

This is exactly the problem with what the Liberals have presented in Bill C-21. They are not directing the necessary effort to where expert advice and data indicate it should be going. If we are not keeping illegal guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, then nothing will change.

If there is any real hope of better protecting the public from these threats, we must focus on stronger enforcement and on deterrence of criminal activity, gangs and illegal gun trafficking. That is what it will take for any new firearms policy to be effective. This is what the experts and professionals are telling us. It is what police departments across Canada are saying when discussing this legislation. I will quote a few prominent members of those respective forces.

Toronto Police Association president, Mike McCormack, said, “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 or shoot another person.”

Retired Toronto staff inspector Mike Earl noted, “A handgun ban is ridiculous and doesn’t address the actual problem of criminals shooting up the city. If those people aren't obeying the laws that are already in place, why would they obey a ban?”

Winnipeg police inspector Max Waddell said that, while a ban on all guns might seem like a common sense approach, banning guns wouldn't necessarily stop gun violence. He explains:

I’ll draw a parallel. Illicit drugs are also banned. Yet we see dramatic increases and challenges around methamphetamine...because it’s that supply and demand force that causes individuals to obtain these firearms whether it’s to protect their drug trade, prevent harm, to use it for extortion. Whatever the criminal element is needing these guns for.

There are many more quotes from professionals, people the government clearly failed to consult while drafting this legislation, or else it would have reconsidered a full-scale ban on handguns. If we think about it for a moment, it is a bizarre move for how it wants to set up such a ban and really shows the major flaw with its entire program.

The government would be creating conditions on federal firearms licences to restrict handgun storage of transport within municipalities that have passed such bylaws. These bylaws would effectively be conditions on licences, which means it would only target lawful Canadians who already have the paperwork and are complying with the rules. This provision would only add more red tape and regulations for law-abiding Canadians, and these would be subject to change from community to community depending on whether a particular municipality has passed a bylaw. This is nothing but redundancy and ineffectiveness, and there are mayors who have already spoken out against this bizarre legislation.

Don Iveson, the mayor of Edmonton said, “it’s not the direction we would go in...to pursue a city-specific ban when the issue of the flow of these weapons and their ties to, particularly, drugs and organized crime is much more than a municipality-by-municipality issue”.

He makes a good point. I am all for the division of powers and decentralized government, but when it comes to tackling gun crime and illegal guns, there needs to be a consistent and national approach.

The mayor of Halifax, Mike Savage, points out what we think would be obvious, but clearly it is not. He questioned whether a handgun ban would successfully counter gun violence in a city because, as he says, “A lot of them are not registered weapons”. These are the same handguns used by criminals. Further to his point, these are firearms and they are not obtained legally.

We need to focus on a cost-effective gun control program that is designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, while at the same time respecting the rights of law-abiding Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly. The reality is that at least 80% of guns used in Canadian gun crimes are illegally smuggled in from the United States, meaning that municipal regulations on law-abiding firearms owners will not change much.

Why is the government not focusing on the main supply for gun crime in this country? If it would have consulted those who are dealing with gun crime on the front lines, this bill would be significantly different. Some of the measures that we all support in this House are going to be mandatory minimum sentences for the criminal use of firearms, although the government is moving to remove some of those.

We already have strict processes for people who go in to buy firearms. I referenced earlier in my speech that they are among the most highly vetted citizens in Canada because of the process it takes to acquire the certification to be able to acquire and possess a firearm. One of the most important elements this bill fails to address is putting more law enforcement officers on our streets to deal with the illegal guns and the gangs that plague our cities.

A strange part of the legislation has caught many of my constituents off guard with the prohibition of the importation, exportation and sale of all non-regulated air guns that look like modern firearms. In case members in other parties, especially the governing Liberal Party, were not aware, airsoft guns are not real firearms. We do not have to be afraid of them. They are intentionally designed for games or simply for practice in a controlled environment.

Under Bill C-21, virtually all airsoft guns in Canada will be banned based on their muzzle velocity, as well as their similar look to real firearms. Basically, the government want to ban a hobby enjoyed by thousands of Canadians, including many of their own constituents. In all seriousness, this is more than the Liberals being killjoys. This will affect the real jobs and livelihoods of our fellow Canadians.

According to Airsoft in Canada, the Canadian airsoft market is worth $100 million, and more than 260 Canadian businesses are linked to the paintball or airsoft community. Distributors and retailers are left unsure as to what to do with both their current stock and their stock on order because all of it would be rendered worthless immediately if the government goes through with its ridiculous ban.

There is also a lack of clarity on how this would be enforced. Will they be confiscated, or is the government planning a costly buyback plan for these airsoft guns as well? With this example, it cannot get any clearer that Bill C-21 is not serious about tackling gun crime at all. Sadly, this is the superficial response they are offering to Canadians. They are full of distractions and empty rhetoric.

Canadian lives are at stake here. The government had an opportunity to actually listen to the experts, who have all come to agree that any legislation tackling gun crime must be directed at criminals and gangs, but they have chosen to ignore data-driven policies so they can try to score cheap political points. This is something my Conservative colleagues and I cannot play along with. We will continue to demand real action on gun crime so all Canadians can live in peace and security. This can and should be done while fully respecting the rights and freedoms under the law.

There is one other point I want to address. I addressed this when I spoke to the budget earlier this week. One of the biggest discrepancies we face here in Canada continues to be the difference between urban and rural Canadians. This gun ban particularly hits at the lives of rural Canadians because a lot of the firearms that were banned by the order in council are tools that are used by ranchers and farmers. They are actually necessary for their day-to-day operations in that they help to deal with pests. They help them to protect their herds and their livestock.

There is actually a real need for some of the firearms that were banned by the order in council. To arbitrarily use the bore diameter and the muzzle velocity chosen by the government really does not make any sense because it directly impacts the people who are using them for common sense purposes and reasons.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2021 / 10:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak today to Bill C-21, hoping that I can bring a calm and reasoned approach to this discussion. All parties in the House are united in their desire to get rid of gun crime in Canada. The question is, what is the best way to go about doing that?

We know that we need to be fact- and evidence-based. In fact, the Liberal government is always talking about how it is fact- and evidence-based, but in this particular discussion, it has missed the mark.

We know that 95% of gun crime in Canada is illegal guns and guns used illegally. What does Bill C-21 do to address illegal guns coming into Canada? The answer is, nothing. What does Bill C-21 do, then, about guns used illegally? The answer, again, is nothing. In terms of trying to address gun crime in Canada, this bill misses the mark.

If we look at the 261 gun-related crimes that happened last year, 60% of those were committed with handguns that are already prohibited or restricted. One in four homicides was related to gang activity. If we look at the people who were arrested for illegal firearms offences in 2019, the Toronto chief of police said that the 326 people charged with firearms offences are free on bail. Even when people commit a crime, we are not enforcing the law, and the penalties are reduced.

If we look at an approach of what we ought to be doing to reduce gun crime in Canada, the first thing is to address the illegal guns coming into the country. I am sad to note that the Liberal members voted against a private member's bill from the member for Markham—Unionville that would have introduced measures against illegal guns coming into the country.

Certainly the point has already been made today that we need to step up the effort at the border, because we know from the statistics that most of the guns coming in are coming in from the U.S.A. There is a role to play there. I know that the National Police Federation has called on the Government of Canada to increase the funding to the RCMP border integrity program to enable dedicated and proactive RCMP investigative weapons enforcement activity in order to address gun crime at the border.

Another issue that Bill C-21 does not address is organized crime and gangs. We have heard the statistics about one in four homicides being related to gang activities. This is something that has not yet been addressed.

What does Bill C-21 actually do? There are a number of things in the bill, but basically, for firearms that have already been banned for lawful gun owners, they are allowed to keep them but there is no defined compensation yet. Again, this is a measure that comes against people who are abiding by the law, and now the government is punishing them. They are not allowed to use these guns, and they are not going to be compensated. Nothing has been put forward on that.

At the same time, the Liberals are trying to remove the provincial authority for the chief firearms officer to “approve, refuse, renew and revoke authorizations to carry” and to give that power to a federal commissioner of firearms, another “Ottawa knows best” kind of strategy coming from the government.

In terms of importing ammunition, the government wants to add additional requirements for a licence to import ammunition. Again, it is always focused on people who will obey the law, and what it is missing is the main point that criminals do not obey the law. They do not obey the existing gun laws, and they would not obey these new guns laws. They would not obey a requirement to have a licence to import ammunition. The naïveté needs to stop, and we need to start with reasoned approaches to actually address the issue.

The municipal ban that is proposed by Bill C-21 has actually been opposed by many of the mayors across the country. The government ought to listen to mayors who are saying that this is not municipal jurisdiction. The RCMP has the expertise in this area, and that is where the power should rest.

At the same time that the government is implementing things that will not do anything about gun crime in Canada, we also see that it is introducing other bills, like Bill C-22, that will reduce the penalties for crimes committed with guns. I cannot even imagine why Liberals would think about doing that.

Bill C-22 repeals several minimum penalties. Let me read the list: unauthorized possession, possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a weapon obtained by crime, weapons trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, reckless discharge, discharge with the intent to wound or endanger, and robbery with a firearm. Why would we ever reduce the penalties for those very things that are part of the problem of gun crime in Canada, which is the thing we are trying to solve?

At the same time, Bill C-22 would also eliminate a number of offences that would be ineligible for conditional sentencing, such as sexual assault, kidnapping, trafficking in persons for material benefit, abduction of people under 14, motor vehicle theft, and arson for fraudulent purposes.

Again, we are trying to solve the problem of gun crime in Canada: illegal guns, guns used illegally, and the kind of organized crime and gang crime activity that is related to all these illegal activities. We have a huge issue of drugs in the country, so we should definitely be putting our money there.

I see that my time is drawing short, and yes, I am going to get to my points. There has also been an allegation that suicide is a reason for the banning of weapons for lawful gun owners, that it would really do something about suicide in the country. I would offer that people who are going to kill themselves, sadly, are going to find other ways: hanging themselves, slicing their wrists, taking pills.

We see a huge increase in suicide in this country. In fact, because this pandemic has gone on so long and the Liberal government has failed to get a plan to exit, we have seen a quadrupling of suicides. Instead of the 4,000 people a year who typically commit suicide, if that is quadrupled, the number of people dying from suicide is approaching the number of people dying from COVID-19. This is why it is important for the government to focus its efforts there and, if it really wants to eliminate suicide, get us a plan to exit this pandemic, absolutely.

The undefined buyback program needs to be clarified so that we can actually comment on it. Right now it just looks like weapons will be banned and there is no defined plan, but the plan is likely to be very expensive and it looks to me like the initial estimates have underestimated what that cost will be.

All in all, Bill C-21 misses the mark on eliminating gun crime in Canada. I want to summarize by saying that the problem is illegal guns and guns used illegally. Bill C-21 does nothing about illegal guns. It does nothing about guns used illegally.

What do we need to do? Let us step up the efforts to keep illegal guns from coming into the country and the penalties associated with being involved in gun smuggling, and once those people are convicted, let us keep them in jail and not let them back out on the street with their weapons again.

Let us make sure that we focus on organized crime and gang activity. I think there are resources that would be better applied there. In fact, the National Police Federation said that we should divert from the monitoring activities on lawful gun owners that we spend on and put some of those resources into crime prevention. That is a very good thing to do as well.

At the end of the day, all of us want the same thing. We all want to eliminate gun crime in Canada, but Bill C-21 does not do it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 23rd, 2021 / 10 a.m.
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Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I guess this is a central question around Bill C-21. What is mind-boggling to me, the Conservatives and law-abiding Canadian firearms owners, collectors, sport shooters, hunters and the people who have firearms in their family collection of heirlooms is that these are the most law-abiding, responsible, vetted, law-abiding firearms citizens. With Bill C-21, the Liberals and its proponents are trying to make the argument that it is about public safety and reducing crimes.

In a situation like Toronto, where shootings have increased since 2014 by 161%, those residents have a right to say that their government ought to be taking action to keep them safe. However, those shootings are being caused by criminals and gang members who do not worry about laws—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 23rd, 2021 / 10 a.m.
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Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I literally just said that residents in cities like Toronto and other places, where gangs are shooting up their streets, deserve action from the government to keep them safe. However, this is what the Liberals are doing. They are repealing minimum penalties for unauthorized possession of a prohibited firearm, a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition, possession of a weapon obtained by crime, weapons trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, reckless discharge, discharge with intent to wound or endanger and robbery with a firearm.

Bill C-21 would also allow relaxed penalties for sexual assault, kidnapping, trafficking in persons for material benefit, abduction of persons under age 14, motor vehicle theft and arson for fraudulent purposes.

What is mind-boggling to every Canadian who agrees that government should be protecting his or her safety and security is that Bill C-21 would do nothing about that except target law-abiding firearms owners—

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April 23rd, 2021 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I will not talk about this in my speech, but I want to comment briefly on what the Conservative Party member just said. One of the important things we are doing with Bill C-21 is increasing maximum penalties for certain offences, such as trafficking and smuggling. We should all keep that in mind as we study the bill.

That said, I appreciate this opportunity to add my voice to the debate on Bill C-21 at second reading. I believe this is one of the strongest legislative packages ever introduced in this country to combat gun violence. It proposes a wide range of measures to help keep people safe and deliver on the firearm policy commitments we made to Canadians during the last campaign.

These measures are urgently needed, because gun violence remains a tragic reality that too often affects our cities and regions. We only have to look at the Polytechnique tragedy, or what happened four years ago at the Quebec City mosque, in my riding, when a killer entered the mosque and murdered six people, leaving many kids fatherless, and injured several others. We must also remember the massacre that happened more recently in Nova Scotia.

No one should have their life cut short so tragically and senselessly in our country. No one should have to live with the pain of losing a loved one to gun violence. That is why our government made it a top priority to protect Canadians from gun violence, including by regulating their use and strengthening Canada's gun laws.

Last May, we took a significant step forward in protecting Canadians by prohibiting more than 1,500 models of assault-style firearms and their variants, which have too often been used in tragic incidents here in Canada and in the rest of North America. The vast majority of firearm owners are responsible and law-abiding citizens, but these powerful and dangerous firearms that we banned on May 1, 2020, were not designed for legitimate activities such as hunting or sport shooting. Rather, they were designed for use on the battlefield and have no place in our cities, on our streets or in our lives.

Bill C-21 goes even further in protecting Canadians. To finish what we started last May when we banned more than 1,500 models of assault-style firearms and their variants, Bill C-21 proposes to amend the Firearms Act to provide a non-permissive storage option to the owners of firearms prohibited on May 1, 2020. That means an owner could choose to keep their firearms but would not be permitted to use them, sell them, give them to someone else or bequeath them. That is far more restrictive than the grandfathering rules that accompanied previous firearm prohibitions in Canada.

According to these rules, grandfathered owners can buy from and sell to other owners who hold the same grandfathering privileges. Some grandfathered firearms may also be authorized for use at a shooting range. None of that would be allowed with respect to the assault-style firearms prohibited last May. They would have to be stored away safely and kept there under lock and key.

This approach would essentially freeze the market for these firearms, while treating existing owners fairly. Over time, the number of prohibited firearms in Canada would decrease substantially, and they would eventually be eliminated. To accelerate that process, and unlike what was done with past prohibitions, the government also intends to introduce a buyback program as soon as possible. Owners who wish to surrender their firearms for compensation as part of that forthcoming program could certainly do so.

It is impossible to know how many people would take the government up on that offer, but it is highly likely that many owners would take compensation in exchange for their firearms. Those who want to retain their firearms as part of a collection or for sentimental value can do so, but as I was saying, they would not be permitted to bequeath them, transfer them or use them.

Failure to comply with those regulations would also result in criminal prosecution. Any prohibited firearm remaining in someone’s possession would, and this is very important, also need to be registered, including those that were previously classified as non-restricted. Regulators and law enforcement would know exactly who the owners are, and where their assault-style firearms are located.

Moreover, owners who choose to retain possession of these firearms would be required to comply with additional requirements. That includes successfully completing the Canadian restricted firearms safety course and upgrading to a restricted possession and acquisition licence, with all the associated fees that would entail.

The requirements I just mentioned, and the permanent inability to lawfully use or transfer these firearms, for any reason, would essentially make those firearms useless. Logically speaking, all of those things would be major incentives to participate in an eventual buyback program.

Removing these powerful prohibited firearms from society is one of the many goals of this legislation. However, it is also important to immediately remove any firearms from potentially dangerous situations, including situations involving domestic and intimate partner violence, an issue that has been compounded by the pandemic. Sadly, there have been too many such incidents in Quebec over the past year. Beyond domestic violence, there are also other situations where a person may be suicidal or has openly advocated hatred or violence against someone.

To respond to these situations, Bill C-21 proposes the creation of red-flag and yellow-flag provisions. These provisions would make it easier for anyone who feels threatened by the presence of a firearm in their home or by an individual who owns a firearm to take action to protect themselves and others.

More specifically, the red-flag regime would allow anyone, not just police, to apply to the courts for an immediate removal of an individual's firearm if they pose a danger.

Similarly, the yellow-flag regime would allow anyone to ask a chief firearms officer to suspend and examine an individual's licence if there are reasonable suspicions that the person is no longer eligible to hold a licence.

I will remind members that these measures build on the amendments made to the Firearms Act in 2019, which establish that a firearms licence applicant's lifetime history of intimate partner violence and online threats are mandatory grounds for consideration in the determination of licence eligibility.

Gun violence continues to be a major problem in our communities. It is important to remember that all firearm tragedies, from the public ones we commemorate to the private ones that occur in the home, create untold sadness and are often preventable. All Canadians deserve to live in a place where they can be safe and secure, and that is the objective of Bill C-21.

As the Prime Minister said, “we need more than thoughts and prayers. We need concrete action.” That is exactly what Bill C-21 proposes: concrete action to stem the tide of gun violence in Canada.

I am very proud to support this bill at second reading, and I hope that my colleagues will do the same so that it can be sent to committee and we can hear what various groups have to say about Bill C-21. For decades now, various civil society groups have been calling for a ban on military-style assault weapons like the one we implemented on May 1, 2020, which will be strengthened by Bill C-21. These weapons were designed for the military and are not appropriate for civilian use. We have seen them used in too many incidents, too many tragedies and too many killings. They were designed for military use and manufactured to be efficient killing machines. They are not used for hunting or sport shooting and have no place in our society because they are too dangerous.

I am proud to be part of a government that, after decades of dithering, finally decided to move forward with prohibiting 1,500 different models of firearms, including the AR-15 and Vz58. This ban essentially froze the market completely as of May 1, 2020, by prohibiting the import, export, use and sale of such weapons.

I would remind the House that the young man who burst into the Quebec City mosque was armed with a Vz58. Thank goodness his gun jammed, but he never should have been in possession of such a weapon in the first place. This is why a ban like the one we proposed on May 1, which is strengthened in Bill C-21, is so important, as are the increased maximum penalties for many trafficking and smuggling offences, and the red-flag and yellow-flag provisions.

I am getting a bit off topic from Bill C-21, but I would also point out the investments we have made to expand our border capacity and dedicate more resources to the community-based organizations working to prevent violence upstream. This is in addition to the resources that have been invested in the RCMP and our law enforcement agencies across the country with programs such as Ontario's guns, gangs and violence reduction strategy.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 23rd, 2021 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton. Today is a big day for her because she just became a grandmother. My congratulations, and I am happy to see her virtually.

To answer her question, it is clear that no single measure will eliminate gun violence in Canada. We have to tackle it on all fronts. It is obviously important to take military-style assault rifles out of circulation, but Bill C-21 includes other measures too.

For example, the bill increases maximum penalties for offences related to firearms trafficking and smuggling. It enhances information sharing among agencies such as the RCMP and local law enforcement services. We are also investing in giving the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP more tools to fight the diversion, illegal importation and smuggling of firearms.

These measures are all important in this fight. We are acutely aware that no single measure will resolve the situation, so Bill C-21 contributes to all aspects of the fight.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 23rd, 2021 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Joël Lightbound Liberal Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, that was in fact one of the commitments we made at the request of municipalities across the country. They would like more authority to limit, regulate and ban firearms in their jurisdiction, and that is precisely what Bill C-21 is proposing.

We are certainly listening, and we will always be prepared to work with the provinces, the municipalities and the opposition parties that want to strengthen gun control in Canada, instead of diluting it as the Conservatives keep proposing.

What the Conservative Party is proposing would be a major step backward for gun control. We are always looking for different ways to strengthen gun control. We will work with the municipalities, the provinces and the opposition parties to do that.

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April 23rd, 2021 / 10:20 a.m.
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Oakville North—Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Pam Damoff LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join in this important debate, and I am proud to be part of a government that takes action on gun control to keep Canadians safe. In the last Parliament I was able to work on Bill C-71. I am proud of that work, and I am proud to continue that work with Bill C-21.

This legislation would introduce some of the strongest gun control measures ever seen in Canada. It would complete the prohibition of assault-style firearms, it would lay the foundation for a buyback program, and it would take needed action in a number of areas critical to improving public safety, including limiting or prohibiting access to firearms for those who pose a risk to themselves or others, fighting gun smuggling and trafficking by strengthening measures at the border, increasing maximum penalties for certain firearms offences under the Criminal Code, combatting the unlawful use of firearms in diversion to the illicit market, and strengthening the rules for those firearms that are indistinguishable from legitimate ones.

Bill C-21 is good news for the public safety of our communities, our institutions and our most vulnerable citizens. It would also add new tools that could be used toward reducing needless deaths from family violence and suicide. I would like to recognize the work of those who have repeatedly stressed that the focus of action on firearms needs to be on those who die by suicide and are victims of femicide and domestic violence. The Canadian Women's Foundation notes that the presence of firearms in Canadian households is the single greatest risk factor for the lethality of intimate partner violence. In conversation with the Lethbridge YWCA, the group told me every single woman who came to their shelter had been threatened by a partner with a firearm. Over the past five years, nearly 2,500 women had been victimized by partners with a firearm.

My work with local organizations in my riding and across the country has helped to shine a light on the dangers of gun violence. Many women are afraid to report the threats of gun violence they face, or the illegal guns their partners own, and while shelters such as Halton Women's Place provide supports for women while they are at the shelter, women are at their most vulnerable for gun violence once they leave.

Bill C-21 would be the first step in removing guns from the hands of abusive partners, but we must remain committed to engaging and encouraging women to report illegal guns and abusive partners and ensuring they have the support needed. Too often, survivors are without support in the justice system, and this must change.

Our government proposes to invest $85 million to help ensure access to free legal advice and legal representation for survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, no matter where they live. This investment is good news, but we must also continue to work with women's organizations that help survivors of domestic abuse and gun violence find safety from abusive partners. Intimate partner violence accounts for 28% of all police-reported violent crime in Canada, and that number has risen during the pandemic.

Of 945 intimate-partner homicides that occurred between 2008 and 2018, eight in 10 involved female victims. One woman or girl is killed in Canada every other day on average, according the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. We have it in our power to help reduce these senseless deaths and this tragic violence. Bill C-21 is not a panacea: It is a tool that we must use, in conjunction with investments like a national gender-based violence strategy, to reduce this hateful violence.

There were 580 individuals, overwhelmingly male, overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly rural, who died by firearm suicide. Dr. Alan Drummond and Dr. Eric Letovsky of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians have been vocal in saying that we must do more. Over 75% of firearm deaths are deaths by suicide. Introducing a mandatory reporting mechanism for doctors to call the police to remove guns from at-risk patients immediately is a recommendation I heard from them, and is worth exploring if it is in federal jurisdiction.

The bill contains key new measures that could limit or prohibit access to firearms for those who pose a threat to themselves or others. Bill C-71 took important steps in that direction with lifetime background checks that take into account intimate partner violence and online behaviour. These provisions must be implemented as soon as possible, but they are still insufficient methods for preventing a dangerous situation from becoming deadly. If someone suspects an individual with access to firearms might pose a danger to themselves or others, authorities only have limited power to intervene. With Bill C-21, we would introduce red- and yellow-flag laws.

A red-flag regime under the Criminal Code would empower both law enforcement and all Canadians, including those organizations that support survivors of abuse, to take action. If someone is aware of a potentially dangerous situation, they would be able to apply to a court to order an immediate temporary weapons prohibition order. There would also be judicial discretion to order the immediate seizure of firearms.

This means that any member of the public, including a family member or caregiver, could take action if there were reasonable grounds to believe that an individual should not have access to firearms. These include online behaviour. A person would also be able to apply to a court for a temporary access limitation order to prevent someone who was subject to a weapons prohibition order from accessing firearms possessed by another individual. The weapons prohibition order could require the individual to surrender to law enforcement the firearms in their possession. It could also be accompanied by a search and seizure order.

In the United States, 19 states and the District of Columbia have enacted extreme risk laws, and these have been effective. A recent study in California details 21 cases in which this law was used in efforts to prevent mass shootings.

Recently, I hosted a round table on Bill C-21 with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and stakeholders in my community. We heard from representatives of Sheridan College, a local post-secondary institution, who voiced their concerns about how areas of congregate settings such as colleges are vulnerable to mass shootings and gun violence. Bill C-21 is a good step towards protecting our students on campus. Those at the round table expressed some concerns about the need to do more. They talked about the need for judicial education on domestic violence and coercive control if these red-flag laws are to be effective.

I have heard from a number of individuals and organizations that have either lost someone to gun violence or support survivors. They say that these red-flag laws need to be strengthened. I am committed to learning from them, and I am grateful for their future contribution once we start to study this proposed legislation at committee. We will invite advocates with lived experience, and they will bravely tell us about the worst day of their lives and why we need to take stronger action. It is incumbent upon everyone at that committee table to listen with an open heart and hear about what we, as parliamentarians, can do to make sure other families are not faced with the same devastating news that they have lost a loved one due to preventable firearms violence.

These red-flag provisions are one tool that aligns with Canada's strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence. It builds on current federal initiatives, coordinates existing programs and lays the foundation for greater action on this critical issue. The strategy is organized across three pillars: prevention of violence, support for survivors and their families, and promoting responsive legal and justice systems.

Gender-based violence is one of the most pervasive, deadly and deeply rooted human rights violations. The bill before us is paramount to the creation of strong and safe communities for everyone, and we have seen support for these measures.

Jan Reimer, a former Edmonton mayor and now executive director of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, said that the legislation proposed is:

...a step in the right direction.... We see women being threatened with a gun. It's one of the major, if not the major, causes of death for women in domestic violence relationships. Better control doesn't take anybody's rights away, but it does protect women's rights to safety.

Bill C-21 is one more tool we can use to prevent gun violence across our country. I look forward to testimony at the public safety committee from advocates who push us to create and strengthen legislation that protects our communities from gun violence. I am proud to support our efforts to keep Canadians safe.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 23rd, 2021 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to join in the debate in this virtual sitting of the House of Commons on Bill C-21, which is obscurely named an act to amend certain acts and to make certain consequential amendments on firearms.

I first want to say that what New Democrats want is for Canadians to be safer and feel safer. What we do not want is a polarization and a politicization of an issue that should be about public safety. Unfortunately, it deteriorates fairly rapidly into a debate about something else. We understand there are differences of opinion as to how best to make Canadians safer, but we do not want a clash of cultures. This is not a debate about cultures; this is a debate that ought to be focused on public safety.

I sat through two Parliaments before the previous one and heard issues debated regarding gun safety and the long-gun registry and it was not very helpful, frankly, in terms of gun safety and people's safety. We are in a situation now where the banning of assault rifles is one of the two most important measures. This is not about gun culture, hunting, law-abiding citizens or anything like that. We know there are efforts to talk about law-abiding citizens and I agree that most of us are law-abiding citizens, but the reality is that guns are a serious problem in our society. There have been mass shootings and I can go over some of them.

In December of 1989, we are all familiar with the horrendous events at École Polytechnique, where 14 were killed and 14 injured. In August of 1992, there was a massacre at Concordia University and in 1996, in Vernon, B.C. there were nine killed. In January 2017, we know about the Quebec City mosque shooting in Sainte-Foy, with six dead and five injured. Last April, there was the horrendous event in Nova Scotia, where 22 were killed and three injured. We know that these things happen and that they are likely to happen again. If something can be done to reduce the danger of this happening, then we should do it.

The two most important measures that deal with gun violence are the ban on military assault-style weapons and assault weapons with those kinds of capabilities and the empowering of municipalities to restrict or ban handguns within their boundaries. Both measures are ones that New Democrats have long supported and, in the case of the municipal handgun ban, were even the first to advocate. These measures would provide some support and defence against the possibilities that someone, in the case of assault rifles, who may have an obsession, grievance, hatred or some form of mental imbalance or anger associated with that, could cause mass deaths in a very short period of time, causing significant and horrendous death and loss of life of innocent people. As was pointed out, these guns have no use in our civil society. These are military weapons designed to be effective killers of people and New Democrats support the ban of these weapons.

We also want this legislation to receive the largest support possible in the House of Commons and largest level of acceptance by the general public. We know there is significant public support for a ban on assault rifles. A May 2020 poll said that 82% of people support a ban on the possession of assault-style weapons by civilians, 87% of women and 88% of Canadians aged 55-plus support a ban on military assault-style weapons and 87% of Canadians agree that the federal government should increase funding to suppress the smuggling of assault-style guns into Canada. Of course, this is another measure that we have been advocating for for at least a decade, that smuggling enforcement has to be improved considerably.

We heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety say that measures have been taken, but they are very late in coming and they are not even installed properly yet. In fact, going back to 2014, over 1,000 Canada Border Service Agency agents were removed from service and have not been replaced by the government since it has been in power, since 2015. That is something that is seriously deficient in the response that has taken place.

We will have committee hearings. There are serious concerns that have been raised by groups that have been advocating for victims of mass shootings. They have come forward and said that they do not believe that the Liberals are very serious if they are not prepared to put measures in place that take the long-term effect of removing these weapons seriously.

The so-called “grandfather clause” that allows people to keep weapons for potentially 20 to 60 years, despite the fact that they are prohibited weapons, is something that causes people to be concerned about how serious the government is in actually changing things, particularly when we already have a commitment from the Conservative Party to reverse that ban and therefore the lobbyists are encouraging people not to participate in a voluntary buyback program.

The minister's parliamentary secretary and the previous speaker suggested that a study of the New Zealand situation proved that only 40% of guns were actually returned in a voluntary buyback program. I do not believe that is an effective and proper analysis of the facts. The only figure that is based on is a figure put forth, unverified, by the gun lobby suggesting that there were 170,000 assault-style rifles in place. The other evidence shows that as a result of the buyback program, there has been no change in the price on the black market for assault-style weapons and there is no indication that this has not, in fact, been effective in reducing and eliminating further actions of that nature in New Zealand.

In fact, a ban in Australia was very important in effecting change for what happened in 1996, the Port Arthur massacre, that killed 35 people and injured 23. A national firearms ban was put in place and placed tight controls around automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Since then, there has only been one mass shooting since 1996, defined as more than five killed. However, between 1978 and 1996, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia, proving that the ban would be effective.

This is another failure of the government. There are other aspects of this bill, and I think the previous speaker touched on the red flag laws. We need to hear about the effectiveness of them. It looks to me that they can be effective in improving the possibility of getting guns out of the hands of people who may be an immediate danger to themselves or others. That is a very positive thing, but we do need to hear evidence on that because there are some of contrary views as to whether they are proper and able to do an effective job in that.

We have also a need for consultation from these groups. We need to also hear from another group that has a great deal of interest in this legislation and I am speaking here of the airsoft industry. It has come forward after being effectively put out of business by this legislation without any notice, without any consultation and without any alternatives. The failure to consult with other groups in the preparation of this legislation was also evident in this area because there are possibilities of using regulation as a different method of control in the airsoft industry.

For those who do not know, it is akin to the paintball industry. It is called airsoft because it is essentially an air gun that is used in recreational activity. Many of them are replicas of other styles of guns. We have legislation and regulation within the movie industry to allow it to use replica guns in film work with licences and regulations.

There is no reason to believe that regulations could not be developed in consultation with the airsoft industry to allow that industry to continue in a regulated fashion. That is something that may or may not be able to be done with committee hearings. It may be something that ought to be put off for further consultation.

This legislation was brought in after the order in council, very quickly after the Portapique massacre in Nova Scotia last year. We do not think that sufficient consultation was made, with all of the things that are contained in this legislation. We do need to have a closer look at much of what is in this legalisation. There is a lot of detail here.

I would like to hear that the government is prepared to be serious about considering other ways of ensuring that if we are going to have a ban on assault rifles, it is going to be an effective one that would be permanent in nature. It has been suggested, for example, that instead of having a compulsory buyback, if people wish to keep these assault-style rifles because they are collectors and want to have a display and show them to their friends, etc., there are methods of rendering them inoperable. It has been suggested that might be an alternative to the grandfathering clause, which would be quite easily overturned, rendering ineffective the measures that the government has taken.

It is not something that I think ought to be left lingering. We do not control the future, obviously, but to have a measure that provides legislation that lingers for decades but is not effective for that period of time is something we need to avoid.

The bottom line here is that we have legislation that meets the need to ban assault rifles, to make it more difficult to use, to be put into place. We hear as part of the discussion, and we have already heard it here this morning, talk about law-abiding citizens. The law-abiding citizens are people who do not break the law. There are many people who are law-abiding citizens until they are not law-abiding citizens anymore.

The research on gun violence shows that, for example, in the 16 deadliest mass shootings in Europe, and this is five-year-old evidence, between 1987 and 2015, 86% of the victims were shot by a licensed shooter. In at least 29 American mass gun killings since 2007, 139 people were killed by licensed firearm owners. To look back to Canada, of the firearms seized from Canadians who were violent, had threatened violence or were subject to a prohibition order, 43% were registered to licensed gun owners. In New Zealand, another example from far away, half the perpetrators in both non-fatal firearms-related domestic disputes and in gun homicides have been licensed gun owners.

It is not a panacea to say that we are dealing with law-abiding gun owners and there is no problem, because law-abiding gun owners are being affected by this. In fact, the individual who drove from Manitoba to Rideau Hall last July with a cache of guns had these guns legally. He said he was coming to arrest the Prime Minister, in part because of the gun legislation being brought forward.

We are not talking about one category or another here. We are talking about protecting the public and making the public safer. We are talking about assault-style rifles. One of the prohibited weapons from last year's order in council was held by this individual from Manitoba.

We have to get away from this whole issue of talking about attacking one group of people versus another. The emphasis has to be on public safety. The emphasis has to be on finding a way to ensure that we have the broadest public support possible for the legislation, by focusing specifically on the assault-style rifles and trying to do something about handguns, which are predominantly a city problem, by giving the authority to the municipalities to have some control over that. It may not be perfect, but it is better than what is there now, which is nothing that is actually controlling this.

Yes, there has to be more enforcement. Yes, there has to be a crackdown by the police on activities in cities. We have already heard from some municipalities, like Vancouver and Surrey, that are interested in this. Toronto has spoken favourably about it. These are areas where handguns are a particular problem and a danger to public safety. If this will help, then we should provide the mechanism so that it can be put in place.

Having said all that, I will be interested in comments or questions from my colleagues. I think this legislation is in the right direction, but it needs to be looked at very carefully. We need to make sure that it is actually going to be effective and that it is not going to be an overreach in an area like the airsoft industry, for example, which might be able to be more properly regulated.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 23rd, 2021 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise to speak on behalf of my constituents in Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia and on behalf of the Bloc Québécois as the public safety critic.

Gun control is not a simple subject. People cannot seem to agree on it. It evokes strong emotional reactions from some people and brings up extremely bad memories for others. It is a sensitive subject that deserves proper consideration. Although gun control does not please everyone and there are different ways of going about it, we have a social responsibility to control firearms in order to keep people safe. That is our duty as elected officials.

I have to say that we have been waiting for this gun bill. We have been waiting for it because the Liberals clearly and unequivocally promised to improve gun control during the 2019 election campaign. It was a firm commitment that gave many people a glimmer of hope.

My thoughts go out to the survivors of the shootings our country has seen in the past few years. My thoughts are with the lives lost to handguns or military-style assault weapons. My thoughts are with the loved ones and families of these victims. We are fighting for them, but also to ensure that tragedies such as the ones at the Quebec City mosque, Polytechnique and in Nova Scotia never happen again. There are others, but I will leave it at that. In fact, over the years, there have been far too many lives lost to firearms that have no place in our streets, our homes or in the hands of violent and unstable people.

We were expecting this bill, but we were certainly not expecting it to be so flawed. It seems the Liberal Party did not consult anyone in drafting this bill, because nobody is happy. Not the gun lobby, not friends and family of victims of mass shootings and not law-abiding gun owners who feel their rights are being violated.

Unfortunately, this bill is nowhere near good enough. It just passes the buck to others, such as municipalities across Quebec and Canada. This bill does not fix a thing. The most it does is make a few improvements to existing laws. It has a number of flaws that I will get into, but before I go there, I want to say that the Bloc Québécois agrees with the principle of the bill even though it is so deeply flawed for the reasons I mentioned.

I want to reiterate the importance of legislating gun control. Voting against the principle of this bill would mean tossing it in the trash without even giving it a chance to be improved and amended. The Bloc Québécois is willing to work and collaborate with the Liberal Party to make the bill more restrictive on some points and more logical on others. Despite our differences of opinion on how to get there, I think it is important that we come together and work together to ensure a safe environment for all Quebeckers and Canadians.

I truly believe in collaborative work. Perhaps it is my naivete, as I am still in my early days in politics, but I believe in it and I hope to never stop believing in it. I hope I never become a cynic, because the ultimate goal—I hope and believe—is the same for all parliamentarians in the House: to keep our people safe. We debate with one another through our ideologies, our politics and our turf wars, but what we ultimately want is for our constituents to be safe. However, as long as weapons that were designed specifically for the battlefield are in the hands of civilians on our streets and in our homes, no one is safe, unfortunately.

I want to thank the members of Poly Remembers. I communicate regularly with them, and I want to thank them for their long struggle. I want to speak on their behalf and say that they are so exhausted by this 30-year struggle. They feel betrayed by the Prime Minister of Canada, who obviously did not keep his word. On many occasions, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada looked the victims and their families in the eye and promised to prohibit military-style assault rifles.

Unfortunately, that is not what he is doing with this bill. Unfortunately, assault rifles are not banned, contrary to what the Liberal Party is saying. Only some popular models are banned. Most of these models will no longer be in circulation, but the current owners of these weapons will be able to keep them at home. The bill will not prevent someone who already owns one of these newly banned weapons from committing a crime. It is a half measure which, in my opinion, comes after another half-measure announced last May, prohibiting about 1,500 models of military-style assault rifles, while hundreds of models are still in circulation.

I should point out that there is no official definition of “assault weapon” in the Criminal Code, which makes banning them more complicated.

For examples, should all semi-automatic long guns be considered assault rifles, or only semi-automatic long guns with detachable magazines? This is a valid question and it should be clarified.

The government may have created its list based on the weapons used in mass murders in recent years, hoping to grab some headlines. However, based on the reaction from various groups advocating for controls on assault weapons, the government's announcement was clearly not a success.

When the government issued the ban last May, it committed to creating a buyback program. We figured that a federal government buyback program for military-style assault weapons would be mandatory for legal owners. We expected something similar to what was done in New Zealand.

In response to the Christchurch massacre in 2019, the government of New Zealand, a country of 4.8 million people, launched a buyback program that apparently brought in more than 61,000 firearms and more than 188,000 parts. Before the initiative, police had estimated that there were between 55,000 and 240,000 of the newly prohibited firearms in the country.

These newly banned weapons belonged to some 32,000 gun owners who received a total of $100 million New Zealand, or approximately $87 million Canadian, in compensation for complying with the legislation, so we see that the program was relatively successful. It is certainly better than a voluntary buyback program.

What guarantee is there that the owners will sell their weapons back to the government in good faith? The people who acquired these types of weapons completely illegally are certainly not the kind of people who are going to raise their hands and politely hand their guns over to the government in exchange for a few hundred dollars.

That is what I do not understand about the government's measure. By not making the buyback program mandatory, the government has made it completely voluntary.

Philip Alpers is an associate professor at the Sydney School of Public Health in Australia and a gun control expert who has studied buyback initiatives. In a recent Canadian Press article, he said that optional programs, as opposed to compulsory ones, have a greater chance of missing the mark of making communities safer. In fact, many studies show that a voluntary buyback is the most likely to fail.

He talked about how arms buyback programs in Australia and New Zealand, for example, not only prohibited certain firearms but also included stiff penalties for those who did not turn in their weapons. The fact that these programs included penalties for those who did not turn in their weapons made all the difference in those two countries. Right now, as written, Bill C-21 would allow owners to keep their weapons under certain conditions, including safe storage. This clearly shows how important it is to make the buyback program mandatory.

During a press conference, the Minister of Public Safety said that the Canadian government did not know how many military-style weapons were in circulation in Canada, which is why it did not make buyback mandatory. That makes absolutely no sense because, if he is not sure those people will turn in their weapons, then what makes him think they would even register them?

PolySeSouvient called for a mandatory program last May when the new order in council was announced because, it held, “each weapon that remains in private hands constitutes a risk”. It is important to note that most of the mass shootings in Canada were committed by legal gun owners. That is important to keep in mind when deciding whether to make a buyback program mandatory or not.

Last March, exhausted by the struggle it had been waging for so many years, the group PolySeSouvient said that if the Prime Minister did not significantly amend his bill, he would no longer be welcome at the Polytechnique memorial ceremonies. PolySeSouvient sees the bill as a “smokescreen” that would place an additional burden on individuals, in other words, legislation that unfairly targets responsible gun owners but not criminals. I could not agree with them more.

Introducing Bill C-21 was nevertheless a great way to bring the ban full circle and move forward with a legislative ban on military-style assault weapons, as promised by the Liberal Party during the 2019 election campaign.

I will not mince my words. Not only does this show how untrustworthy the Liberals are on this issue, it proves that they are not taking it seriously. First, the Liberals are not keeping their word. Second, they continue to pretend that a voluntary buyback program will actually curb the gun problem in this country. We must not kid ourselves.

The fact that weapons do not need to be rendered inoperable for storage when people choose to keep them in their homes is also enormously problematic. At the very least, weapons should have to be disassembled before being stored, which would make their immediate use much more difficult.

Even if regulations prevent people from using their newly banned weapon, if they have it within reach when a conflict occurs, nothing would prevent them from causing irreparable harm.

That is not the only thing in this bill that does not make sense.

Members will recall the 2019 election campaign, during which the leader of the Liberal Party would tell anyone who would listen that he was the candidate who would bring in stricter gun control measures in Canada, unlike his Conservative opponent, who would eliminate these measures. That was an election promise, made to distinguish his party from the other major party.

Once the Liberal Party came to power, it started looking into how it could keep its promise and satisfy one side without losing too much support from the other. The Liberals then had a genius idea. Since they had committed to introducing gun control measures, they could simply delegate that task to municipalities. If that plan worked, all the better, because the Liberals would have kept their promise. If the plan did not work, it would be the municipalities' problem, not the Liberals'.

In Bill C-21, the federal government is asking some 5,600 Canadian municipalities to implement their own handgun storage measures in their jurisdictions, whether it be storage at home or within municipal borders. The ban could go so far as to prohibit the transportation of weapons within the municipality. This means that the 5,600 or so Canadian municipalities could decide to implement completely different measures.

There are about 1,400 municipalities in Quebec. In my riding of Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia alone, there are 56 municipalities and two indigenous territories. You will travel 15 kilometres if you start at Sainte-Angèle-de-Mérici in the interior and travel to Sainte-Flavie, which is on the river, going through the village of Saint-Joseph-de-Lepage and downtown Mont-Joli, which is one of the four largest cities in my riding. In those 15 kilometres, there could be four different handgun regulations.

It would seem that the government floated this idea without thinking it through. Also, I have to say that municipal budgets are quite tight. The government is ready to throw this whole thing in their court without telling them when, how or why. It would leave to others the task of passing thousands of totally disparate and inconsistent regulations. That would be a real fiasco.

The Liberal government is completely shirking its responsibilities. It is clear that it has no intention of banning handguns.

Right away, the City of Montreal criticized the fact that the government was missing a golden opportunity to enact legislation that would establish clear, consistent, effective rules for the country as a whole. Montreal mayor Valérie Plante reiterated her demand and called on the federal government to help implement better gun control measures just days after a 15-year-old girl was killed in a shooting in Saint-Léonard. That was Montreal's fifth homicide of the year. She was an innocent bystander who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, according to media reports. The City of Toronto had more than 462 shootings in 2020. The problem of illegal weapons changing hands and often ending up in the hands of young people is now back on the agenda. This is a scourge, especially in Canada's big cities.

Bill C-21 does not resolve that problem. The government is promising to combat gun smuggling and trafficking, but it is not necessarily putting more resources at the border. Obviously, we know that guns do not magically find their way into the hands of young people. Nearly 250 prohibited weapons were seized in Dundee in March, and a 24-year-old man was arrested. He owns a house that straddles the U.S. border in an area that is historically known for smuggling because of its geographic location. Heaven knows what other young people could have ended up with those weapons. This shows just how real smuggling and trafficking are, and not just in the big cities. It is also happening in our regions, like in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield.

To come back to handguns, we see that, once again, the government did not consult anyone before introducing the bill, certainly not the cities. The Union des municipalités du Québec, or UMQ, also spoke out against some provisions of the bill, including the fact that the government is attempting to transfer responsibility for handgun control to the cities when that does not fall under their jurisdiction. The cities obviously do not want to take on that responsibility. The UMQ joined its voice to that of the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, which has also spoken out against this tactic. Others quickly joined them, including the mayor of Quebec City, Régis Labeaume, and the mayor of Gatineau, Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, who said they were disappointed with Ottawa's plans. That says a lot.

Then the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously approved a motion calling for this power to be delegated to Quebec City rather than to the municipalities. The idea of implementing a single regulation that would apply to Quebec as a whole, rather than thousands of different ones, has been relatively well received. That would obviously suit the federal government, which would get to offload its responsibility either way, so that seems to be the ideal situation.

There is a problem though. The Government of Quebec appears to have agreed to the motion too hastily and may not be too keen to re-engage in this kind of debate after the intense negotiations over the gun registry a few years back.

Furthermore, the Quebec government, like that of any other province, can already pass legislation or regulate handguns within its borders if it wanted to. The federal government would not necessarily have to delegate that power. It should be noted that this is not on the Quebec government's political agenda either.

As a member of the Bloc Québécois, I would normally be in favour of delegating more powers to Quebec. This time, however, this really bugs me. I get the impression that the federal government wants to cut and run. The government was the one that committed to controlling handguns, so it should be the one taking action, instead of punting responsibility to whoever will take it. It should just keep its promises.

I want to come back to the problem of illegal guns. Most of the handguns used by gangs and criminal groups are illegal, whether they have been stolen from citizens or not. We need to make these weapons harder to access here, while also stopping imports of illegal firearms at the U.S. border.

Leaving it up to municipalities or provinces to ban guns within their borders does not solve the problem. Ottawa would have to ban handguns nationwide to have any effect. However, Ottawa does not have the political courage and prefers to delegate.

I just want to clarify that since the beginning of my speech, I have been talking about handguns and military-style assault weapons. Twelve-gauge and 10-gauge hunting rifles are not covered by last May's ban or this bill. Hunters can continue to hunt without fear. Killing an animal for food is not the same as using a weapon that is capable of firing off dozens of bullets within seconds and that is explicitly designed to kill a lot of people in a short amount of time.

We are also talking about guns that can easily be modified to make them even deadlier. Those are the guns we want banned, and I completely agree with the government on that score.

However, the bill sidesteps the problem. The point is to ban assault weapons, not for the purpose of preventing sport shooters from using them at shooting ranges, but for the purpose of preventing people from being killed. Unfortunately, we see that this bill only prevents sport shooters from safely using their guns and does not prevent massacres.

I also want to touch on another problem created by this bill. We were shocked to see that the government was trying to restrict paintball and airsoft activities through a provision that considered certain replica guns used in these activities as prohibited weapons.

Once again, the government made things up as it went along and did not consult stakeholders, which is what I heard from the Fédération Sportive d'Airsoft du Québec. Gun shop owners were not consulted either. They often sell their products to police forces, but overnight, they found themselves saddled with hundreds of newly prohibited weapons, with no instructions from the government on what to do with them. The bill was introduced quite some time after last May's ban. It has been a few months since the bill was introduced, and gun shop owners still do not know what to do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of stock gathering dust on their shelves.

Coming back to replica assault-style weapons, there is some basis for the government's desire to ban them. Police officers could resort to lethal force if they are called to a scene where they believe a real weapon is being used, which means there is also the risk of collateral damage to innocent people. We owe our police forces our unwavering support.

The government could have looked at what is being done elsewhere. For instance, in the United States, air guns must have an orange tip on the barrel, which helps identify them as imitation firearms. Requiring clear markings on replica guns would be an adequate compromise, and at committee, we will definitely ask the government to look at this possibility rather than abruptly banning an activity enjoyed by hundreds of Quebeckers. I agree that the government must provide greater oversight over the sale of paintball and airsoft guns, but it could do that while respecting those who practise these activities safely.

After consultations with Quebeckers from across the province, gun control advocacy groups, gun rights groups, gun shop owners, hunters, sport shooters, paintball and airsoft enthusiasts, and firing range owners, it is clear that this bill is definitely flawed.

To reiterate what I said at the beginning of my speech, even though we would like to throw this bill in the trash and start over, time is running out and we should at least give it a chance. That is what we will do in committee. However, I want to be transparent. If significant changes are not made to the bill, or the bill is not changed at all, and the buyback program for military-style assault weapons is not made mandatory, we will simply vote against the bill.

I would like to remind members that the Liberal Party promised many times to ban assault weapons and restrict handguns. It is not keeping either of those promises with this bill as it now stands. The Bloc Québécois is prepared to work with the government to keep our fellow citizens safe.

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April 23rd, 2021 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with my colleague from Provencher.

At about this time last year, the Liberal government announced at the start of the COVID health crisis, when Parliament was shuttered, that by using its vast regulatory powers it was banning the use, sale and importation of more than 1,500 makes and models of legally purchased firearms. This was done without Parliament's authority and without a vote or even a debate among MPs. It was, in my opinion, undemocratic, and in the eyes of many it was an illegitimate order.

Law-abiding firearm owners follow it, as they must and always do, but many feel their democratic rights have been stripped away. The Liberals turned hundreds and maybe thousands of my constituents, and many tens of thousands of responsible law-abiding firearm owners across Canada, into criminals overnight with the signing of this regulatory order.

Today we debate Bill C-21, which builds on the government's regulatory order and will continue to target and harass Canadian hunters, farmers and recreational firearm users. What Bill C-21 will not do is improve public safety. Worse, the federal government is using Bill C-21 to resurrect the failed Liberal long-gun registry.

The Minister of Public Safety will deny it. He will get angry too, along with many Liberal MPs—

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April 23rd, 2021 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Madam Speaker, as I was saying, the Minister of Public Safety will deny it. He will get angry too, along with many Liberal MPs. They will do that instead of replying to the substance of their policy, their own legislation.

Listen to the minister's response this week when answering my Conservative colleague from Red Deer—Lacombe during question period. He said:

There is no gun registry in the country. It is one of the reasons in the legislation we have brought forward that we will require people who are in possession of these now prohibited weapons to register them properly, so we can have a precise calculation of where these guns are.

By the minister's own description of the legislation, the Liberals intend to resurrect a long-gun registry.

That is not all. The bill misses its mark elsewhere and will waste resources in other ways as well.

Bill C-21 hopes to set up a voluntary purchase program, what Liberals call a “buyback” of the firearms the government made illegal last year. What is Ottawa proposing to purchase? It is lawfully obtained firearms as well as heirlooms and tools. Many are worth thousands of dollars because of their rarity, age and calibre.

The Minister of Public Safety recently said that the government did not know how many firearms would fall under its confiscation program, yet he also claimed elsewhere that in the range of 200,000 firearms, at an average cost of $1,300 per firearm, would be covered. At the low end of estimates, this will cost taxpayers somewhere in the range of $250 million, but other experts have said that the Liberals' voluntary confiscation program could cost the treasury billions of dollars.

As many members know, under the current Liberal government, our country's national debt surpasses the debt of every other government before it since Confederation. To the Liberals, a few more billion dollars wasted is not something to worry about. That is because they believe the budget will balance itself.

For some reason, the Liberals believe that creating more red tape for law-abiding firearms owners in confiscating their property will somehow stop gang and gun violence in Toronto. They are so confident this is a proven solution that they have even introduced another terribly flawed piece of legislation, Bill C-22, which doles out softer sentences for criminals who commit offences with a firearm. The Liberals are soft on crime. They are more concerned about standing up for the so-called rights of criminals than defending our communities.

We on this side of the House believe that victims of crime should have the first claim on our compassion. We also believe laws should achieve results, which Bill C-21 would not do. Indeed, Bill C-22 would even make communities less safe.

Unlike the Liberals, the Conservatives know our justice system must put more emphasis on responding to victims than catering to criminals.

The crimes the Liberals hope to prevent are committed by criminals who will never follow the laws and regulations of legal firearm ownership in Canada. Despite the Liberal order in council firearm ban last May, there were 462 Toronto shootings in 2020, an increase over 2018. After the Liberals brought in their firearms ban last year, the precursor to Bill C-21, the rate of shootings in Toronto did not go down but up. Why? Because law-abiding gun owners are not the source of gun crime in Toronto.

As a Conservative MP in 2012, I was proud to vote to abolish the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry. It cost taxpayers almost $2 billion, yet it did not protect the public from gun crime. Instead, it needlessly targeted law-abiding Canadians and tied up police resources.

The Conservatives went further than simply abolishing it. We also enacted tougher legislation on the illegal use of firearms, something I know we tried to pass in this Parliament as well, but was voted down by opposition parties.

As well, the Conservatives also made changes when they were in government, but the data collected on firearm owners from the long-gun registry was destroyed, so the future federal government could not resurrect it after promising not to do so. One could say that the Conservative government passed measures 10 years ago to stop Liberal tricks. I say tricks, because in the last election, we saw Liberals across the country, especially in rural ridings, promise that a re-elected Liberal government would not bring back the long-gun registry. However, the Minister of Public Safety's answer in question period shows otherwise; that Bill C-21 would create a new registry.

As the member of Parliament for New Brunswick Southwest, I represent thousands of law-abiding firearms owners. Each was schooled on how to use firearms responsibly, how to care for them and how to store long guns. Each was approved by the RCMP to purchase, own and use his or her firearms legally.

These law-abiding citizens already follow some of the world's strictest laws pertaining to firearm ownership. They are moms and fathers, grandparents, sisters, brothers and, in some cases, kids. They are friends and they are neighbours. They pay their taxes and follow the rules. They enjoy spending their leisure time at a range or hunting deer, birds and moose in the woods.

These law-abiding firearm owners strive to follow all the rules and regulations on firearm ownership as outlined by the RCMP. Safety for them is not an afterthought but the chief objective whenever they use a firearm. I have seen this first-hand, as I have gone shooting with them on many occasions.

People should not take my word for it. They should go to the range themselves and watch. For every person, it is safety first. It is always about safety first. Why? Because they are responsible Canadians.

As well, many of them are legally allowed to possess restricted firearms. Under the Firearms Act, the RCMP scans their names through the Canadian Police Information Centre every single day. I did not misspeak. Every single day, checks are made.

Unfortunately, to the Liberals, these men and women are threats. They are practically criminals in their eyes. The act of them legally purchasing a firearm is seen as dangerous. The Minister of Public Safety has taken it upon himself to overreach into provincial authority and attempt to confiscate legally purchased property at taxpayer expense.

Bill C-21 as well as Bill C-22 are flawed bills that are poorly thought out and make our communities unsafe.

After the tragic killings in Nova Scotia last year, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety shared a briefing with parliamentarians. Those who joined the government's technical call on the Liberal order in council firearm ban last year will recall the exchange. When asked, “Would anything announced today in this prohibition have changed what occurred in Nova Scotia and how he accessed those illegal firearms?”, the parliamentary secretary for Public Safety replied, “C'est pas l'objectif”. That is not the bill's objective.

Other than using a national tragedy to vilify and harass law-abiding firearm owners, what would Bill C-21 achieve?

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April 23rd, 2021 / 1:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I would first like to tell you that I am a granddaughter and a cousin in a family of hunters and fishers. In my view, Bill C-21 is not an attack on responsible gun owners and hunters. My colleague also mentioned this in her speech.

The bill deals with two different issues; one is firearms trafficking, and the other is possession of firearms by criminal groups. It is possible to reduce crimes committed with illegal weapons and to counter the proliferation of legal weapons at the same time.

With respect to criminal groups, I would like to hear more from my colleague about the importance of ensuring better control of firearms trafficking at the border.

This is something several groups have called for to ensure that we are protected against criminal organizations.

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April 23rd, 2021 / 1:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Madam Speaker, the member touched on a theme, and I want to ask him a question on it.

The focus of the legislation, I know for my rural constituents, seems to be targeting exactly the wrong people. I note that right after this bill was brought in, the government brought in Bill C-22, which would lessen the sentencing for robbery with a firearm, extortion with a firearm, weapons trafficking, using a firearm in the commission of an offence and possession of a weapon obtained by the commission of an offence. The government is lowering the sentences for those offences committed by actual criminals, while Bill C-21 seems to be targeting the wrong people entirely, the non-criminals.

Could the hon. member please comment on that?