Madam Speaker, I wish everyone a happy new year. It is very good to be here in the House again virtually, and I certainly hope that 2021 will be much better than 2020.
Today I am here to speak about Bill C-238, a bill that talks about the possession of unlawfully imported firearms.
I represent a rural riding. I grew up in a household where several of my family members were legal gun owners. They followed the rules, and I was taught gun safety as a matter of respect. I grew up eating wild meat, and hunting was a significant part of my family life.
I have met with many legal gun owners in my riding who have talked about the frustration they feel about the rules always focusing on them rather than addressing their legitimate concerns about illegal guns and how they get into our communities. This is such an important subject.
I have also heard from constituents across Canada who are very concerned about gun violence in their communities. We heard a couple of examples earlier today. We look at the realities of domestic violence when guns are used and the awful violence we have seen across Canada, and I believe that all Canadians really want to see this addressed.
Today I am here to specifically discuss the bill before us, which would amend section 96 of the Criminal Code to impose a mandatory sentence of three years for possession of a firearm known to be illegally imported to Canada, increase the maximum sentence from 10 to 14 years and a few others things. This is an offence that I agree should be taken very seriously. In fact, an amendment like this to the Criminal Code would be something I could discuss and agree to. However, this bill is written in a way that will lead it to follow the same path a similar bill did in 2013, and the Supreme Court of Canada ruled it unconstitutional.
I have worked with the House of Commons legislative team to write several pieces of legislation. This is a lot of hard work, and I know that the amazing folks here provide feedback about what will work and what may have some potential challenges for the legal system in Canada. I am very curious about why the member has brought forward legislation that is unconstitutional, when the need to bring forward laws to improve this gap is so very important. I am not interested in supporting legislation that will be defeated in the Supreme Court of Canada, cost a lot of taxpayer dollars and not support the safety of communities.
Not too long ago, I met with a group of gun owners in my riding. It was a very informative meeting, and what I heard repeatedly were two main points: One, when we look at gun policy in Canada, we must have a renewed focus on keeping illegal guns out of our country; and two, we need more education in Canada about the strong rules we have around guns, which would allow people to better understand the rules and hopefully create a sense of increased safety. I will address both of these points today.
I agree that keeping illegal guns out of Canada must be something we see an increased investment in. Between 2011 and 2015, we saw the Canada Border Services Agency, the CBSA, under the previous Conservative government, cut over 1,000 positions. This is important because it has left a significant gap in the capacity of CBSA to do the work to reduce the number of guns being smuggled into Canada illegally. This concerns me greatly.
About two years ago, a constituent invited me to come to the shooting range with him in the riding. He wanted to showcase the rules and how he followed them. I agreed so that I could learn the realities of these folks in my region.
The first thing he told me was that I would have to come to his house to ride with him, as he could not stop his vehicle to pick me up with a gun in his vehicle. The rules in Canada meant that he had to go straight to the range. At his home, he showed me the way he stored his guns, separate from ammunition and with everything locked away. He also showed me how guns were safely transported. I learned a lot that day, and I really appreciate the time he took with me.
He also shared that he felt very concerned about gun violence in Canada. He knew that the things that had happened across our country, that had seen people killed and had brought fear to our communities, were very concerning and needed to be addressed in a meaningful way. He also felt that the majority of gun owners follow the rules very carefully. Figuring out how to identify the ones that did not and stopping the movement of illegal guns were his main priorities.
In 2018, our leader wrote a letter to the Prime Minister challenging the government to address the root causes of gun violence in our communities, the key things that really should be addressed in a meaningful way, such as poverty, substantive housing, and addressing people before they get to a place where violence has become an everyday reality. He also asked the PM to increase supports to the CBSA to give it the capacity to stem the illegal flow of guns from the United States into our country. What have Canadians seen? At this point, the Liberals have only returned 200 positions of the 1,000 the Conservatives cut. That is simply not enough.
I also want to say that I agree with my constituents and the idea that Canadians need to better understand the rules legal gun owners follow in this country. A few years back, I took a course required for Canadians to receive their possession and acquisition licence. Sid Nielsen, a constituent of mine, has been teaching this course for many years and has done a fantastic job.
My classmates were a wide variety of people. I remember one in particular was a woman who had no plan to ever use a gun, but her husband owned several, and they wanted to make sure that, if anything happened to him, she could follow the rules of keeping the guns safe. I think this speaks to a really important point, which is that there are many important stories of how people are trying to be safe in Canada.
It is time to take a stand that is meaningful. I hope this member takes the intent that I believe he meant and creates legislation that is actually constitutional, so we can start to address in a meaningful way how to stop illegal guns from coming into our country.
I also hope to continue to push the Prime Minister to make sure that our communities are safer and provide more resources where they are needed in the front lines to stop gun violence and also to make sure that we have more CBSA agents to stem the flow of illegal guns into Canada. Gun violence is very scary. I think when Canadians across this country look at some of the terrible realities we have faced, we want to make sure that the laws are there to protect us all. Let us work on that together.