Thank you very much.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you on a matter of such great concern for over two million Canadians.
My name is Tony Bernardo. I'm the acting executive director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association. I've been an executive member of the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities since 1997 and have been attending and working at the United Nations since 1998 regarding civilian firearms issues. I've addressed the United Nations assembly four times.
As an association, the CSSA has no objection to the concept of a treaty on conventional weapons. Our concerns relate to the firearms that ordinary Canadians use every day. It's no secret that Canada has one of the most stringent sets of controls in the world on the ownership and use of firearms. Bluntly put, we don't need any more. Neither does the United Nations, not if they're actually trying to accomplish something.
The civilian firearms issue is a very important topic to many nations. Moreover, some nations have constitutional protection regarding civilian firearms ownership, protections that prohibit their involvement in any initiative that might undermine those constitutional protections. The issue of civilian firearms is, truthfully, a no-win situation that should be avoided at all costs if there's to be any hope of a functional treaty.
However, in my conversations with members of delegations from countries less developed than Canada, I'm told repeatedly that civilian firearms are almost never a problem. Most people understand that the real issue is the proliferation of exclusively military weapons being illegally sold by countries with less than scrupulous motives.
Have there been any deaths? Well, yes, of course—but not as you might think: 56 million people have died in genocides in the last 100 years, almost all of them murdered by their own governments.
The inclusion of civilian firearms, also called “small arms” at the United Nations, in the former firearms protocol virtually caused the collapse of the entire UN process and left that project in a state of utter failure. In fact, one of the few things that ever came from the firearms protocol was the Canadian firearms-marking regulation—an unmitigated disaster, at best.
For those who are unfamiliar with the marking regulation, permit me a brief explanation.
The UN marking regulations were passed into Canadian law in 2004. As is typical of those days, firearms importers were never consulted prior to the regulations being introduced. The Chrétien, Martin, and Harper governments have successively delayed the implementation since then. The obvious question is “Why?”
Members of the Canadian firearms industry conducted an exhaustive study and concluded the marking requirement was impossible to comply with. An international study reached the same conclusion. Participants in this represented Browning, Remington, Beretta, Sako, Savage, Tikka, Uberti, NORINCO, Ruger, Glock, Smith & Wesson, Heckler & Koch, and several others. These respectable and reputable companies flatly stated that if this were implemented in Canada, they would simply close their Canadian operations, devastating a legitimate billion-dollar industry and putting thousands of Canadians on the unemployment rolls.
These are the consequences of domestic legislation being developed by international forums with little or no understanding of the ramifications of their undertakings. An initiative, started to theoretically ease violence in the world's desperate regions, instead causes unemployment and financial hardship to peace-loving Canada.
We've been assured that the position of the Canadian government is that civilian firearms must not be included within the scope of an arms trade treaty. Indeed, the language of the preamble makes clear the Government of Canada's intention to have civilian firearms regulated domestically, not internationally.
Our support for the treaty process and the Government of Canada's participation in this process remains contingent upon the stated intention being upheld at all levels.
Civilian firearms must be regulated domestically, taking into consideration political, constitutional, and social factors inherent in each nation's makeup. In this instance, the one-size approach does not fit all.
In other words, members of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association are saying there is no good use for overriding one nation's rules based on the demands and needs of another UN state's requirements being applied to all other states without regard for each party's national jurisdiction and legislation. Again, national discretion and jurisdiction should and must prevail. The rules for civilian possession of small arms in one country do not necessarily make sense, nor are they useful, in another country.
It must also be said that we have seen no evidence that this position has changed in any way. We strongly encourage the government to stay the course and protect the rights of Canadian citizens first, before attempting to agree with having an international body regulate what is completely within the purview of Canadian national discretion and jurisdiction.
Article 2 of the UN charter specifically states that there is nothing in the charter authorizing:
...the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state....
Having one set of rules for the use of such items in all countries would be, at most, counterproductive and presumably unacceptable to the UN principle of national discretion and jurisdiction.
Lastly, to conclude, I'd like to say to Mr. LeBlanc that I wrote that, and I am not a member of the Canadian delegation, nor did I violate any confidentiality agreement.
I thank you very much for your time and attention to this, and I appreciate it. Thanks.