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

This bill was previously introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Bill Blair  Liberal

Status

In committee (House), as of June 23, 2022

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

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 23, 2022 Passed C-21, 2nd reading and referral to committee - SECU
June 23, 2022 Failed C-21, 2nd reading - amendment
June 23, 2022 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms) (subamendment)
June 21, 2022 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms)

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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

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?

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

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege for me to speak to Bill C-21, and I want to thank my colleague, the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest, for sharing his time with me today.

Keeping our communities safe is one of the primary responsibilities of government. Whenever we find ourselves lying in bed or walking in a park, or are at work or in a classroom, every Canadian should be able to live without the fear of violence. To that end, Canada has some of the strictest laws in the world when it comes to firearms.

Indeed, Canadian firearms owners are among the strongest advocates for firearm safety and common-sense firearms laws. To me, that makes sense, but when left-leaning governments want to be seen as cracking down on gun violence and gang activity, law-abiding firearms owners take the brunt of their focus and become the target.

The problem with that approach, of course, is that registered firearms owners are not typically the ones committing any acts of violence. This means that a credible approach to tackling gun violence needs to focus on the criminals and gangs who have no regard for Canada's firearms laws and who use illegal guns in the commission of violence. Any other focus is simply virtue signalling and window dressing.

The reality is that the vast majority of gun crimes are committed with illegally obtained firearms. At least 80% of the guns used in Canadian gun crimes are illegally smuggled in from the United States. This is not particularly shocking, given that Canada and the United States have the world's longest undefended border. We are also aware that it is considerably easier to purchase firearms in the U.S. This is a reality that we must recognize in any Canadian legislative response.

Bill C-21 does not take these facts into account, which is why I was pleased to support my colleague, the member for Markham—Unionville, who put forward Bill C-238 to amend the Criminal Code to increase penalties for those alleged to be in possession of a firearm unlawfully imported into Canada and to increase the mandatory minimum penalty for the possession of such weapons.

During his speech on his bill, the member shared that he met with community leaders and law enforcement and asked them what steps the federal government ought to take to make the community safer. This was his response:

The thing I heard over and over at these meetings was that organized crime was behind the shootings, and the streets are flooded with guns smuggled from across the border. Mostly they are handguns because they are easy to smuggle, hide and carry. That should not be shocking news to anyone. Our farmers, hunters and sports shooters are not fuelling a crime wave. The shootings are gang-related, with innocent people getting caught in the crossfire.

Bill C-238 was a common-sense bill that would have taken real action to address the serious issue that we are talking about today. However, the Liberals voted against it. They actually helped to defeat it. It was a bill that would have imposed tougher sentences for criminal smuggling and on those who were found in possession of illegal firearms. If the Liberals had wanted to show that they were serious about gun violence, they should have supported Bill C-238.

Then we have Bill C-22 on the heels of Bill C-21. It was introduced by the Liberals only one day after Bill C-21. In Bill C-21, the Liberals claim to be cracking down on gun violence, and in Bill C-22, the Liberals are proposing to repeal minimum penalties for firearms-related crimes such as unauthorized possession of a prohibited firearm or weapon that had been trafficked, discharge with the intent to wound or endanger, and robbery with a firearm. These are all part of what Bill C-22 is proposing to reduce the minimum sentences for.

How disconnected does one have to be to introduce, one day, a bill that would supposedly crack down on gun violence, and the next introduce a bill that would reduce penalties for gun crime?

I speak regularly with local firearms owners. These individuals know and understand the value of well-crafted firearms legislation.

They understand their responsibilities as firearms owners and they respect the rules that are in place, but they do not understand why the Liberal government continues to target them knowing full well that the problem does not lie with them, but with criminals and gangs.

It is not just firearms owners who do not understand this. Law enforcement voices have also raised concerns. The National Police Federation said, “Costly and current legislation, such as the Order in Council prohibiting various firearms and the proposed buyback program by the federal government targeted at legal firearm owners, does not address these current and emerging themes or urgent threats to public safety.”

The head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said, “The firearms laws in Canada are actually very good right now. They're very strict.” He added:

There are lots of law-abiding citizens out there who do possess guns for very legitimate purposes. When you look at the steps you have to go through to possess a firearm in Canada, it's actually quite rigorous. Once you do get a license, the actual purchasing, the transportation, the storage…all of that has very strict laws in Canada.

In my province of Manitoba, Winnipeg Police Service inspector Max Waddell said that while a ban on all guns might seem, and I emphasize the word “seem”, like a common-sense approach, banning guns wouldn't necessarily stop gun violence:

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.

Further, Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Constable Rob Carver did not mince words at all. He said Bill C-21 “won't make any difference whatsoever.”

Despite the unequivocal evidence that gun violence is perpetrated by criminals using illegal guns, perhaps the most bizarre part of Bill C-21 is that it goes after airsoft guns.

In rural Manitoba, chances are that people have used airsoft guns personally or at least have family and friends who have done so, shooting cans from across the yard or strapping on a pair of goggles for a friendly match. As it stands, Bill C-21 will ban all airsoft guns outright, most BB guns and some paintball models in Canada as well. This bill would destroy a pastime enjoyed by over 64,000 players across Canada and risk an industry worth $100 million to the Canadian economy. Half the businesses in Canada tailored to these harmless hobbies expect to close for good, causing some 1,500 Canadians to lose their jobs in the process. This is silly and does absolutely nothing to address real gun violence in Canada.

Earlier this year, 36,600 Canadians signed a petition to stop Bill C-21's attempt to shut down airsoft and paintball. Among other calls, they simply asked the government to recognize that airsoft and paintball do not represent any public risk, and that banning them would not improve public safety. Signatories hailed from every province and territory, with Ontario and Quebec making strong showings alongside western provinces.

Canadians are rightly frustrated with this. Why is the Liberal government's plan to take legal firearms off the ranges and ban toys? We need a bill that addresses gun smuggling. We need a bill that goes after gangs. We need a bill that prevents criminals from getting access to illegal guns, and Bill C-21 is not it. Bill C-21 is a smokescreen. The bill would have no impact on the illicit use of illegal firearms in crime. Criminals do not register their guns. They obtain their guns illegally. Gangs do not register their illegally obtained guns.

The Liberals propose to give municipalities the power to create local firearms bylaws. Why would we expect that this bill would have any impact on public safety?

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April 23rd, 2021 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his passion for safety for children, youth and the citizens in his riding, and indeed right across Canada.

I too want to extend my sympathies to those who have lost loved ones, and I share regrets for folks who have lost their lives due to gun violence.

I appreciate that this member stood with Conservatives to support C-238, because it was a common-sense measure that actually attacked gang violence and gun violence in a meaningful way. Bill C-21 does not do that. If it did, we would be taking a hard look at it. We would be supportive of this bill, but as Bill C-21 stands, it will do absolutely nothing to address the violence he is talking about.

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April 23rd, 2021 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-21, even if just for a couple of minutes today, and I will continue the next time it is before the House.

I am very pleased that this legislation has come forward, and I say this as somebody who has a lot of hunters in his family. My mother comes from a family of seven children, and all three of her brothers are hunters. One owns a hunting lodge property that he hunts on near Westport, Ontario. My father-in-law comes from a hunting and fishing lodge, where he, his father and grandfather, three generations, trained hunters. They brought people from throughout North America to Plevna, Ontario, where they hunted and fished.

I was very pleased to see, and to have heard from my family members, that the bill does not concern them. Because of some of the fearmongering from various organizations and political parties, a lot of concern was raised by them. However, once I was able to sit down with them and explain exactly what the situation was, they did not have an issue with it. Quite frankly, they do not believe in guns that are designed to inflict the maximum possible human damage, and they are not interested in using them when they are hunting at a hunting and fishing lodge or when they are sport shooting.

There is a real complexity to this, and I am trying to understand where the Conservatives are coming from and why they seem to be so opposed to it. I have started to put some of that together in my mind, which I plan to share when the bill next comes back for debate. It is important that we start to look at why the Conservatives are so opposed to this, and look at some of the actions they have taken along the way to get us here. I look forward to doing that the next time the bill is before the House.

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February 26th, 2021 / 10 a.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario

Liberal

Bill Blair LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved that Bill C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am very honoured today to have the opportunity and privilege to take part in this debate and introduce to the House Bill C-21 at second reading. Bill C-21, an act to amend certain acts and to make certain consequential amendments, is a historic and important step forward for Canada in creating a safer country. This legislation proposes to introduce some of the strongest gun control measures in our country's history.

It represents the culmination of many years of work and strong advocacy from the victims of gun crimes in this country. We have listened to those victims. We have listened to police chiefs across the country, who have urged successive governments to bring in stronger measures, recognizing that gun control is a factor of community safety and a necessary legislative requirement for keeping our communities safe. As Dr. Najma Ahmed, co-chair of Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns, has said about the bill, “This is a comprehensive bill that, if enacted, will save lives”.

Canada is generally a very safe country and Canadians take great pride in that, but they are legitimately concerned about the threats posed by firearm-related crime in their communities. It is therefore important to begin with the recognition and acknowledgement that gun ownership in Canada is not a right; it is a privilege. It is a privilege earned by gun owners who obey our laws and who purchase their guns legally, use them responsibly and store them securely. It is through the strict adherence to our laws, regulations and restrictions that Canadians earn the privilege of firearm ownership. I want to acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of those firearm owners are, in fact, responsible and abide by our laws. However, we also know that far too often, firearms can fall into the wrong hands or be present in dangerous circumstances.

As a former police officer and police chief, I have far too many times been required to go to the scene of firearm tragedies where young people and innocent citizens have been gunned down in the streets, and where firearm violence impacts not only the victims, but their families and their communities. Last summer, I went to a community in Toronto that had already experienced 22 violent gun incidents just in the month of July. What that meant in the community is that every child knew someone who had been the victim of a gun crime. That generational trauma demands an appropriate response from all Canadians. I have also had the unfortunate duty to attend funerals for police officers and for citizens who had been killed with these guns. Those are the things that should deepen all of our resolve to take action.

We have listened to the strong advocacy of the victims from École Polytechnique, from Nova Scotia, at the mosque in Quebec and at tragedies throughout the country. We have also witnessed with horror the use of some of these weapons in mass shootings around the world, and we have taken action.

As members will recall, last May 1, our government, by order in council, prohibited over 1,500 weapons. With Bill C-21 introduced today, we are taking actions to complete that prohibition. We have, through the legislation, established the conditions necessary to secure and set controls for the newly prohibited firearms.

Under this legislation, all of those in possession of such newly prohibited firearms will be required to acquire a licence to possess the weapon. The firearm will have to be registered as a prohibited weapon. There will be no grandfathering, as previously done. Rather, we are imposing through this legislation strict prohibitions on the sale, transfer and transport of these weapons, and we are imposing complete prohibitions on their use. The use of these newly prohibited weapons will be a criminal offence. We are also imposing strict conditions on the storage of these weapons, rendering these newly prohibited firearms legally unusable as a firearm.

We have relied on the advice of law enforcement and our various officials across the country to determine the best way to safely manage these weapons, which are prevalent in our society. However, I want to be clear: There is nothing in this legislation that speaks of a buy-back program. We believe that Canadians who legally purchased the guns we want to prohibit need to be treated fairly, and we are imposing appropriate and necessarily prohibitions on their sale and use, and restrictions on their storage. We also intend to offer the people who purchased these guns legally an opportunity to surrender them and be fairly compensated for them.

The bill does much more than just complete the prohibition. We have also looked very carefully in this legislation at all of the ways that criminals gain access to guns. We have seen a very concerning increase in gun violence in cities and communities right across this country. This manifests itself in different ways, but we know that in almost every circumstance criminals get their guns one of three ways: They are smuggled across our borders from the United States, stolen from lawful gun owners or retailers, or criminally diverted from those who purchase them legally and then sell them illegally.

In consultation with law enforcement, we have looked at all of the ways that criminals gain access to guns, and we have taken strong action in Bill C-21 to close off that supply. For example, with respect to concerns over guns coming in from across the border, we have heard many concerns from not only law enforcement but communities across the country about the proliferation of firearms, particularly handguns, that are smuggled in from the United States.

I recently had a conversation with my counterparts in the United States, and we are committed to establishing a bilateral task force on both sides of our countries for law enforcement to work collaboratively together to help prevent the importation of these firearms. In Bill C-21, we are also taking strong action to increase the penalty for gun smuggling and provide law enforcement and our border service officers with the resources and access to the data they need to be effective in identifying the source of these guns, for cutting off that supply and to deal more effectively to deter, detect and prosecute the individuals and organizations responsible for smuggling these guns into our country.

Let us also be clear that smuggling is not the only way. Quite often, we hear from gun retailers and the gun lobby in this country that we should only look at somebody else's guns, not theirs. Unfortunately, the reality is that in many parts of the country, crime guns are not just smuggled across the border.

I think it is important to listen to some of the police chiefs. For example, the chief in Saskatoon has recently said that crime guns in his community are not being smuggled across the border but are being stolen from legal gun owners. We also heard from the chief in Regina, who very clearly said that the guns in his community are not coming across the border but are legally owned, obtained through theft or straw purchase. The chief in Edmonton also opined that only 5% to 10% of the crime guns in his community, in the city of Edmonton, are actually smuggled across the border and the rest come from legal gun owners through theft and straw purchasing.

It is therefore important that in this legislation we address those sources of supply as well. That is why we are introducing in this legislation strict new restrictions on the storage of handguns in this country. They would require all handgun owners to store their weapons more securely, in a safe or vault that will be prescribed and described in the regulations of this legislation. They would also require gun retailers to store their weapons, when on display and in storage, more securely to prevent their theft.

I will highlight an example. A couple of years ago, two young girls and nine Torontonians were injured in a terrible and tragic gun incident. The firearm in that case was stolen some three months before from a gun shop in Saskatoon. Over three months, it made its way into Toronto and was used in a horrific crime. Therefore, keeping those guns out of our communities is an important element of Bill C-21.

Finally, we also deal with the source of supply through criminal diversion. We have seen a number of examples where individuals have purchased a large number of handguns and made an attempt to disguise their origin by filing off the serial numbers and then selling them for an enormous profit to the criminal market and to the gangs that commit violent acts in our communities. For those crimes to be detected and deterred, we need to ensure that law enforcement has access to the resources and data its members need to properly trace those weapons. That is why in this legislation we have provided law enforcement with that access.

We are also making significant investments. Yesterday, I advised the House that through our investments in British Columbia, for example, we just opened up a brand new forensic firearms laboratory. It will assist law enforcement in determining the origin of these weapons so we can hold individuals who purchase them legally and sell them illegally to account.

We also know that, in addition to guns that get into the hands of criminals, there are circumstances when the presence of a firearm that may have been legally obtained can lead to tragedy in certain potentially dangerous situations. We see it in incidents of domestic violence and intimate partner violence, when a legally acquired firearm may be in a home. When the circumstances in that home change so that it becomes a place of violence and threat and coercion, the presence of a firearm in those circumstances can lead to deadly consequences.

Although the police currently have some limited authority to remove firearms in those circumstances, in many cases of domestic and intimate partner violence the police are not aware of the presence of a firearm, even when the crime is reported to them.

Through this legislation, we are empowering others: empowering victims, those who support them, legal aid clinics and other people in our society to take effective action through what are called extreme risk laws to remove firearms from potentially dangerous situations. Similarly, in situations where an individual may become suicidal or is emotionally disturbed, the presence of a firearm could lead to a deadly outcome.

We are empowering doctors, family members, clergy and elders in communities to take effective action to remove firearms by using the provisions of this legislation to remove firearms from those potentially dangerous and deadly situations.

Finally, this legislation also applies to those who engage in acts of hatred and extremism online. We have seen, in a number of tragic incidents in this country, that individuals have given an indication of their deadly intent online. When that information is available, we are now empowering those who become aware of it to take action, to remove firearms from those deadly situations and help keep people safe.

I want to advise the House that in the United States, 19 states have implemented extreme risk laws, also referred to as red flag laws, in every jurisdiction. In those states, we have seen strong evidence that these measures save lives. That is our intent with this legislation.

This legislation is not intended, in any way, to infringe upon the legitimate use of firearms for hunting or sport shooting purposes. It is, first and foremost, a public safety bill. It aims to keep firearms out of the hands of those who would commit violent crimes with them, and to remove firearms from situations that could become dangerous and be made deadly by the presence of a firearm. That is the intent of this legislation.

We are taking some additional measures within this legislation. For example, we have listened to law enforcement, which for over 30 years has been urging the Government of Canada to take action to prohibit what are often referred to as replica firearms. These devices appear absolutely indistinguishable from dangerous firearms. The police have urged governments to take action because these devices are often used in crime. They have been used to hurt people. They present an overwhelming, impossible challenge for law enforcement officers when they are confronted by individuals using these devices. This has, in many circumstances, led to tragic consequences.

After listening to law enforcement, this legislation includes prohibiting those devices. If I may be clear, these are not BB guns, paint guns or pellet guns that people use recreationally. These are devices designed as exact replicas of dangerous firearms. That exact appearance really creates the danger around these devices, so we are taking action.

We are also taking action to strengthen our provisions with respect to large-capacity magazines. I have been to far too many shootings in my city of Toronto. Years ago, when someone discharged a revolver, there would be two or three shots fired. Now, dangerous semi-automatic handguns and large-capacity magazines can lead to literally dozens and dozens of rounds being discharged, putting far more innocent people at risk.

We have seen that those devices are often modified to allow for the higher capacity, and we are taking action to prevent that. We are closing a loophole with respect to the importation of information, and we are making other consequential amendments to this legislation, all intended to keep communities safe.

As a companion to this important legislation, we have also made significant investments, first of all, in law enforcement. Several years ago a previous government cut enormous amounts of funding from the police, eliminating RCMP officers and border services officers, weakening our controls at the border and compromising our ability to deal effectively with organized crime. We have been reinvesting in policing and border services to restore Canada's capacity to secure our borders and keep our communities safe.

For example, we have made over $214 million available to municipal and indigenous police services because we know that they do important work in dealing with guns and gangs in their communities and reducing gun violence. Those investments in policing are important; however, they are not the only investments necessary to keep our communities safe. That is why we are also investing in communities. Through our fall economic statement, over the next five years we are making $250 million available to community organizations that do extraordinary work with young people and help to change the social conditions that give rise to crime and violence.

This is a comprehensive approach to gun safety in this country. It is always extraordinary to me that some people are afraid to talk about guns when we are talking about gun violence, but in my experience, countries with strong and appropriate gun control are safer countries. We have also seen that those countries with weak gun laws, as have been opposed by some in the House, experience the tragedy of gun violence far too often.

If I may repeat, in this country firearm ownership is a privilege, not a right. That makes us fundamentally different from countries like the United States, where the right to bear arms is protected constitutionally. It is not in Canada. Canada, like many other very sensible countries, has taken the appropriate step of banning firearms that have no place in our society. They are not designed for hunting and they are not designed for sport: they are designed for soldiers to hunt other soldiers and kill people, and tragically that is what they have been used for. That is why we have prohibited them and through the actions of this bill, we are taking strong measures to ensure that these firearms cannot ever be legally used in this country.

We believe that these provisions are appropriate, they are necessary, they are effective and they are fair, because we acknowledge as well that those who purchased the now-prohibited firearms did so legally. Now that we have prohibited them, we want to ensure that they can never be used to commit a violent crime at any time in this country.

We have drawn a bright line in this legislation. We are not a country where people arm themselves to defend themselves against each other. We do not carry guns in this country for self-protection. We rely on the rule of law. Peace, order and good government are strongly held Canadian values, and we do not arm our citizens as they do in some other countries for self-defence.

Firearms in this country are only appropriate for hunting and sport shooting purposes, and there is nothing in this legislation that in any way infringes upon those activities. Some will try to make the case notwithstanding, but frankly it is a false case based on the false assumption that all firearms in this country represent a danger. They are offensive weapons by their very definition; therefore, we regulate them very strictly in Canada. Some of those firearms, such as handguns, are very dangerous, so we have appropriately added restrictions on them.

Finally, some weapons frankly have no place in a society for which firearms can only be used for hunting and sport purposes, These are firearms that were designed for combat: tactical weapons, which used to be marketed as assault weapons before those weapons began to be prohibited by countries like New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. These weapons were even prohibited in the United States for a decade.

We are doing the right thing and taking the appropriate action to keep Canadians safe. This bill builds upon the effective measures that we brought forward in Bill C-71, which we are in the process of fully implementing over the next few months. We believe that, coupled with our investments, both pieces of legislation will help fulfill our promise to Canadians to do everything necessary to strengthen gun control in this country and keep Canadians safe.

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February 26th, 2021 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Alex Ruff Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a very simple question for the minister. It is the same question I have been asking the minister for almost a year now, here in the House and in written questions. It is about data and substantiation of how the prohibition of any of these firearms, or the measures taken through Bill C-21, would reduce gun violence in this country. It is a simple question about the data: Where is the evidence?

The minister mentioned he saw 22 tragic gun violence crimes in the Toronto area last year alone. I would like him to provide the statistics. Out of those 22 gun crimes, how many were done with legal firearms?

As well, I would like the minister to clarify and confirm that he just acknowledged he is bringing back a long gun registry for those firearms that the Liberals have now prohibited. He mentioned the Airsoft and replica firearms that he would now prohibit as well. Would he acknowledge that replica firearms have been prohibited in this country for a number of years now?

Finally, the minister again mentioned that the 1,500-plus firearms that were prohibited last year were designed by the military or for military use. I asked him last year to name just one of them that had been prohibited that had ever been, or is still, in use by the Canadian Armed Forces.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2021 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, that is a very important question.

First of all, handguns represent a very significant danger. It is why we restrict them. Just to be very clear, in this legislation we are imposing very strict national restrictions on handguns: on their storage, sale and use. Those restrictions would apply in every place. We have also listened to municipalities where people have said that they would like to do more. We are prepared to work with communities that want to do more to keep their citizens safe. It is a responsibility we all have.

With respect to the Airsoft rifles that the member references, there is no problem with those devices, except when they are designed to exactly replicate dangerous firearms so that they are indistinguishable from those firearms. We have listened to the law enforcement community, which has passed a number of resolutions. By the way, I consulted with the law enforcement community about why it wanted this done, and the representatives said that these devices have been used in crime.

In Winnipeg, for example, Chief Danny Smyth identified that 215 replica firearms were used to commit crimes in his city just last year. In his response to Bill C-21 he said, “We think you're on to something”.

I also spoke to the president of the CACP, who strongly supported it and expressed appreciation that the government finally listened to law enforcement to take effective action to remove devices that exactly replicate dangerous firearms. There really is no place for them in our society. They represent an unacceptable risk.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2021 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, we have had discussions on this. I want to be really clear on a buyback of these weapons.

First, Canadians who bought these weapons did so legally. We have since prohibited them. Therefore, we are taking steps to remove those firearms, but it is not intended as a confiscation program. That would be a very challenging thing to do. We did look very carefully at buyback programs that had been initiated in Australia and the United Kingdom. They were a little more distant. One of the things we learned from all those circumstances was that governments had to do the important work of getting control of all these firearms first. Bill C-21 would do that. It would enable us to impose—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2021 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, the Conservatives have and will always support common-sense firearms regulations that keep Canadians and communities safe and respect their rights.

In Bill C-21, there are some things that the Conservatives have been calling for and can support. However, many things completely target the wrong people and the wrong groups, if the aim really is to improve and protect public safety. Also, crucial areas of concern are not addressed in the bill at all.

The Conservatives have always urged the Liberals to focus on and to target Canada's legislation and enforcement resources toward the primary source of most gun crime in Canada: illegally-smuggled firearms in the hands of gangs and criminals. That is why we support certain measures, like increasing the penalty for gun smuggling, something the Conservatives have advocated for years; authorizing disclosure to Canadian law enforcement agencies when there are reasonable grounds to suspect a firearms licence is used for straw purchasing; improving the ability of the CBSA to manage inadmissibility to Canada when foreign nationals commit offences upon entry into Canada, including firearms-related offences; and transferring the responsibility for transborder criminality from the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

The Conservatives are committed to actually strengthening and securing public safety through real action to tackle gun crime head-on. The Conservatives have always said that we would increase funding and coordination for border security to clamp down on illegal firearms smuggling, restore mandatory minimum sentences to keep violent gang members off the street and focus on gangs and criminals instead of making life more difficult for law-abiding firearms owners and retailers by ending automatic bail, revoking parole for gang members and new and tougher sentences for ordering or involvement in violent gang crime.

The Liberals do the opposite. They are big on rhetoric but short on real action. In fact, the day after the Liberals announced Bill C-21, they announced Bill C-22, which, incredibly, would eliminate mandatory minimums for unauthorized possession of a firearm, possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a weapon obtained by crime, weapons trafficking, reckless discharge of a firearm, discharge of a firearm with intent to wound or endanger a person and robbery with a firearm; so reductions for all of those sentences. Bill C-22 would reduce sentences for a number of other horrible offences, including sexual assault, kidnapping, human trafficking, abduction of people under 14, motor vehicle theft and arson.

The Conservatives focus on outcomes and whether laws will achieve objectives. What Bill C-21 proves is that the Liberals, as always, are more concerned with appearances. They play fast and loose with the facts, make up words to scare and ignore the actual problem. With Bill C-21, they would effectively trade on Canadians' fear and safety for short-term political gain. The reality is that taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens does nothing to stop dangerous criminals and gangs who obtain their guns illegally and already do not follow laws, do not get licences and do not care about firearms classifications. This just continues the Liberal government's ongoing preoccupation with taking firearms off of regulated ranges, while leaving illegal guns on the streets in the hands of those gangs and criminals who will never comply.

In June 2019, the former Toronto police chief was asked about banning handguns in Canada. He said:

I believe that would be potentially a very expensive proposition but just as importantly, it would not in my opinion be perhaps the most effective measure in restricting the access that criminals would have to such weapons, because we’d still have a problem with them being smuggled across the border

Of course, the former Toronto police chief to whom I am referring is the current Minister of Public Safety.

Bill C-21 would create conditions on federal firearms licences to restrict handgun storage or transport within municipalities that have passed such bylaws. Again, the bylaws would be conditions on licences. Therefore, this proposed measure literally, specifically and only targets lawful Canadians who already have the paperwork and comply with the rules. This section would lead to yet another layer of confusing, overlapping regulations and a patchwork of rules for already law-abiding Canadians within and between communities, while violations could result in two years imprisonment or permanent licence revocations and would do nothing to crack down on illegal gun smuggling, trading and gang crimes with guns.

Many law enforcement officials have already said that this measure would not be effective, including the current RCMP commissioner, the former OPP commissioner, the police chief of Vancouver, the former president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, representatives of the Winnipeg and Halifax police services and police chiefs of Regina and Saskatoon. Provinces are already speaking out against Bill C-21: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, whose premier said, “It's just not going to work.”

In 2019, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police did not support calls for a ban on handguns and the former president, Vancouver police chief, Adam Palmer said:

In every single case there are already offences for that. They’re already breaking the law and the criminal law in Canada addresses all of those circumstances...The firearms laws in Canada are actually very good right now. They’re very strict.

Former OPP commissioner Chris Lewis says:

This municipal handgun ban is ridiculous...It would only impact legal owners. The gangbangers are already possessing/carrying them in defiance of the Criminal Code and don’t fear police whose hands are tied and weak judicial systems.

Toronto Police Services president Mike McCormack says:

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...

This is a classic Liberal smokescreen. There is absolutely no impact on the illicit use of illegal firearms in crime. Of course criminals and gangs do not carry licences or register their illegally obtained firearms and will not be deterred by municipal bylaws. They do not even care about the Criminal Code.

The fact that at least 80% of guns used in Canadian gun crimes are illegally smuggled in from the states shows that enabling towns and cities to demand handguns from licenced owners will have little to no impact on actual public safety.

In 2016, a father of four for two years, whose children were only six and five along with one-year-old twins, was enjoying a night out with friends in Toronto when he was shot and killed by a stray bullet. Now a mother of three, carrying the lifetime grief from the loss of her child, his mum, Evelyn Fox, advocates to support at-risk youth and prevent youth involvement in gang activity. She believes that banning handguns in Canada is “nonsense” because “street level wise, they'll get access to the handguns anyways.”. She says, “I also would like to know how it is that penalizing law-abiding gun owners with a gun ban is going to deter gun violence on our streets when 80%, if not more, is coming across the border?” She is right.

In Toronto, despite the new Liberal order in council prohibition of thousands of firearms, there were 462 shootings in 2020, an increase over 2018 when there was no prohibition order. The year 2019 was a record year.

Since 2014, shootings in Toronto have increased 161%. Obviously residents and family are worried about this reality, causing sleepless nights, untold heartbreak and anxiety about security, and whether kids can grow up carefree in peaceful neighbourhoods. How galling that Bill C-21 would do nothing to make it more safe, while the Liberals claim otherwise.

In 2019, Toronto's police chief, Mark Saunders, reported that most guns using crime were illegally smuggled in. He said, “When it comes to the handguns, I believe, 82 per cent...of the ‘crime guns’ in the city are coming from the United States.”

Peel Police Association President Adrian Woolley says, “There are a lot of guns out there and they are not legal ones from target shooters but illegal ones smuggled in from the United States.”

For the 2017-18 year, CBSA seized 751 illegal firearms at the U.S.-Canada border, 696 the next year and 753 for the year after that. The CBSA has already seized 166 firearms for the first quarter of this fiscal year. Canada's border agents should be commended for that good work and lawmakers should support their efforts to improve public safety by getting tougher on gun criminals and gun smugglers when they are caught. That is exactly what our Conservative colleague from Markham—Unionville tried to do when he proposed Bill C-238, which would have cracked down on gun smuggling, knowingly possessing illegally smuggled guns by increasing sentences and making it harder for gun runners to get out on bail. However, the Liberals and the NDP voted against that public safety legislation a week before the announcement of Bill C-21.

When asked why the government is not getting tougher on criminals, the Liberal default is to say that they implemented a prohibition on “military-style” assault rifles. First, the term “military-style” assault rifle is of course invented with no legal definition, but it does sound scary. The reality is that fully automatic fire rifles have been prohibited for use outside of the military since the 1970s. The Prime Minister said that he made a law so people could not purchase firearms without purchasing a licence, but that is false.

Along the spirit of making things up, just last Saturday, the member for York South—Weston told a crowd of gun crime victims and families that his Liberal government's gun grab included “AR-135” submachine guns, except they absolutely do not even exist.

Unfortunately, it is easy to see why lawful, well-intentioned urban and rural firearms owners, collectors, hunters, sport shooters, enthusiasts and retailers, people who enjoy this Canadian heritage, are skeptical of the Liberals, to say nothing of the radical shift in Bill C-21. It would create a one-sided guilty-until-proven innocent-ask questions later regime, focused on Canadians who already did a filing and have the licences under Canada's stringent regulations and vigorous vetting processes for prohibition orders and warrantless search and seizures.

That is ripe for abuse and conflicts while bogging down already backlogged courts and law enforcement resources when right now there are multiple overlapping systems to ensure that law enforcement can respond to urgent situations involving threats to personal and public safety, as they must. The new approach actually may even take longer and could easily have unintended consequences and deliver the opposite outcomes. This pattern of saying one thing and doing another, of literally making things up, of not having the evidence to support the legislation to show it will achieve stated outcomes should make every every single Canadian question and challenge the Liberals to prove that their laws will actually make a difference for public safety, and combat gun crimes, too.

That brings me to the framework for the voluntary confiscation program. A 2018 Public Safety Canada paper entitled “Reducing Violent Crime: A Dialogue on Handguns and Assault Weapons” explained why confiscating firearms from lawful licensed owners would be ineffective at reducing gun crime in Canada. The report states:

The vast majority of owners of handguns and of other firearms in Canada lawfully abide by requirements, and most gun crimes are not committed with legally-owned firearms....

In most cases, individuals own handguns either in the context of sport shooting activities or because those handguns form a part of a collection....

Any ban...would primarily affect legal firearms owners,...

The public safety minister recently said that the government does not know how many firearms will fall under the confiscation program, but claims it is in the range of 200,000 and says that at an average price of $1,300 per firearm, it will cost taxpayers in the range of $250 million to $260 million. Of course, experts say that the Liberals are way off and that this confiscation program could cost as much as $5 billion when all is said and done. The fact is that the Liberals do not have any structure in place because no private sector proponents have agreed to run the program after two public requests for bids. It really does say something when highly reputable major firms look at the government's purported analysis and cost assumptions and decide they will not touch it with a 10-foot pole.

The Liberals still have not been clear on how they will address retailers left holding the bag with inventory they cannot sell or return to manufacturers either. Phil Harnois, the owner of P&d Enterprises in Alberta, says that 40% of his annual sales were of firearms that are now banned and that thousands of dollars of inventory became worthless overnight. The president of the National Police Federation, Brian Sauvé, says that “the evidence is that illegal gun trafficking leads to criminals owning guns, which leads to crimes with firearms.... [W]e need to look at the source of the problem.” The vast majority of gun crime committed in Canada is by gangs and criminals using already illegal guns, most often illegally smuggled in. That needs to be reiterated because Bill C-21 clearly misses the mark.

Sylvia Jones, spokesperson for Ontario's solicitor general, agrees. She says that “As law enforcement experts routinely highlight, it has not been demonstrated that banning legal firearms and targeting law-abiding citizens would meaningfully address the problem of gun violence.” The Liberals have shown, of course, though, that they do not really believe that their list of banned firearms in the hands of licensed law-abiding firearms owners are a real threat either. Otherwise, why is there this confusing step of banning them, but allowing Canadians to keep them in their homes so long as the guns are registered with the government? It is very confounding.

However, what is clear is that Bill C-21 finds a way to create a boondoggle that will result in the creation of another long-gun registry because some of the now-prohibited firearms are long guns and it will cost taxpayers billions of dollars while delivering no concrete results to improve the public safety of Canadians suffering at the hands of gangs and criminals carrying out the vast majority of gun violence and crime in Canada.

Another measure that is glaring in its obvious irrelevance to improving public safety in Canada while also imposing major consequences on everyday people is the prohibition of the importation, exportation and sale of all non-regulated air guns that look like modern firearms. Here is the deal. The Liberals are actually imposing a ban on Airsoft and a partial ban on paintball. Any rational, common sense person can see that toy guns are not responsible for the shootings are causing death in Canadian cities. Criminals and gangs with illegal guns are tragically ending the lives of Canadians. This provision in Bill C-21 would end hundreds of livelihoods, legacies and jobs and outlaw an entirely harmless hobby enjoyed by more than 60,000 Canadians.

Airsoft in Canada says the Canadian Airsoft market is worth $100 million and over 260 businesses in Canada are linked to the paintball or Airsoft community. The Quebec Airsoft Federation estimates that the industry brings in over $10 million per year in Quebec alone. Distributors and retailers are uncertain about what to do with the current stock and stock on order because all of it would be rendered worthless immediately, with no option to offset losses because the bill would prohibit sales. It will not only impact businesses that directly sell hobby and competition practice guns, but also the retailers of protective equipment and accessories, as well as the clubs and owners of sports facilities that have focused their businesses largely or solely around these activities.

This whole industry would be devastated. Matt Wasilewicz, who owns Canadian Airsoft Imports, says that the ban “confirms our worst fears”. Frank Chong, who owns Toronto Airsoft, Canada's largest airsoft retailer, says “It looks like it's doomsday for us at this point". Ziming Wan of BlackBlitz Airsoft in Waterloo says that “We're basically all going to have to shut down.... It's the death of the sport, as we know it”. Joe Kimpson of Flag Raiders in Kitchener says “You'll see the demise of airsoft in Canada”.

Seventy-four per cent of these businesses expect to lose over half their revenue because of Bill C-21 and 47% of them expect to be out of business for good. There are approximately 3,000 employees working in those affected businesses. It is unconscionable that half of them would lose their jobs and not a single life be saved for it.

It is hard to see how the Liberals are materially protecting the well-being and safety of Canadians by banning toy guns, shuttering more businesses and killing 1,500 jobs while Canada's unemployment rate is already the highest in the G7.

Mark from Motium Manufacturing in Lakeland says, “I was given no notice, no warning, no consultation. The hard work I've put in for over 8 years has been erased and my customers wrongfully criminalized. Why aren't criminals being as negatively impacted as my small business?”

A petition called “Stop Bill C-21” is circulating in the hobby community and 30,000 Canadians have already signed it. That is because Canadians know what experts have been saying all along, which is also what the Conservatives have been saying. What is missing from these Liberals is any meaningful emphasis or major legal framework targeting the main source of gun crime in Canada.

It is good to see some measures to help the CBSA and a small increase in penalties for gun smuggling, but those aspects of Bill C-21 appear more like a footnote in what seems to be a broader strategy primarily concerned with targeting already law-abiding members of Canadian society. One would read this bill and assume that the main goal is to be a nuisance to the legal firearms community. It is not at all obvious that the aim of Bill C-21 is to improve public safety.

The tragedy is that for all the big words and tough talk from the Liberals, it is the very real victims of growing gun violence and Canadian citizens and their families who are forced to bear the brunt of these failed Liberal policies and experiments. What is worse is that the evidence is available for all of us to see. Experts, law enforcement and policy-makers all agree that concrete strategies and legislation must be directed at criminals and gangs and supports for at-risk youth.

Conservatives will always support a common-sense approach to firearms legislation with concrete outcomes that protect personal and public safety. Bill C-21 does not get to the bottom of addressing the major cause of gun crime in Canada and all MPs really owe it to the victims of violent crime in Canada, past and future, to get serious about gun smuggling, gangs and criminals.

As Evelyn Fox says, “I see the homicides happen and it’s almost like a retrigger for me to think that another mother has to go through this and another mother has to deal with the fact that they aren’t going to see their children again.” Because Bill C-21 will not actually make any difference to that, Conservatives will strongly oppose it, and if it passes, repeal Bill C-21.