Evidence of meeting #78 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was att.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Greg Farrant  Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
Steve Torino  President, Canadian Shooting Sports Association
Martin Butcher  Policy Advisor on Arms and Conflict, Oxfam
Cesar Jaramillo  Executive Director, Project Ploughshares

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Nault

Mr. O'Toole, please.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

We've focused on some of your concerns about article 12 and how we could alleviate those reasonable concerns with a specific exclusion in the bill. That will be coming forward, and all members will be able to address your concern, which I think is reasonable.

Let's talk about the wider issue, because the government has talked about some of the horrible situations around the world, where rape is being used as a weapon of war, where there's civil strife, and crimes against humanity. We hear from the government—from Ms. Gilmour, who runs the department—that since 1986 there have been policies in place to restrict the export of Canadian arms to countries where any of those crimes or activities are taking place.

Is it fair to say your members agree with those controls?

11:45 a.m.

President, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Steve Torino

Yes, definitely. There is also, Mr. O'Toole, an automatic firearms country control list, which is even more specific as to which countries are considered acceptable and which countries are not considered acceptable. It definitely goes along with that. Thank you.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

You predicted my next question, Mr. Torino. Thank you very much. I assume, Mr. Farrant, your members are of the same view with respect to that.

Finally, we heard that for decades we've already had the ability to exclude all exports to countries on Canada's area control list. North Korea is on that now. I'm assuming your members are in full agreement with all of these regulations that have existed to keep arms out of the hands of despotic regimes, and these sorts of things.

Is that true as well?

11:45 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

11:45 a.m.

President, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Really, then, there's virtual agreement in Canada on all aspects of this bill, with some uncertainty with respect to the fact that specific exclusions were not provided for recreational and legal use of firearms.

We've heard from Mr. Saini, Mr. DeCourcey who is the parliamentary secretary, Mr. Sidhu, and Mr. Wrzesnewskyj. They seem to agree that supporting recreational use of firearms is legitimate within the context of Bill C-47, and that the best way to do it is with a specific exclusion.

If an exclusion is inserted into Bill C-47, would your organizations be prepared to support the full bill?

11:45 a.m.

President, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Steve Torino

It would depend on the wording of the exclusion and the final version. I'm sure this is going through clause-by-clause consideration, third reading, and so forth, so there are going to be other changes. I think we'd wait and see, but anything that would support what we've presented so far would be very acceptable.

11:45 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

I'll give a conditional yes on that, simply because the regulatory regime that's attached to the bill is unknown at this time.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Yes, fair enough—a caveat.

11:50 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

A caveat, but the bill itself, with that exclusion in it, I see no reason why not to.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

This is wonderful, because this is a committee doing what it should be doing. We remember when Prime Minister Trudeau said he wanted committees to be more effective, to take in reasonable concerns. He took parliamentary secretaries off committees so they could be truly independent and bring forth reasonable concerns.

Therefore, a reasonable and modest exclusion to address concerns that even government members are trying to address in their questions would solve all concerns.

Let me pose it the other way. If the government were to oppose such a specific clause being inserted into Bill C-47, would your members take that as your concerns being ignored? Further, would your members take that as a sign that their concerns are valid, because there was no exclusion in the arms trade treaty, only mention in the preamble?

Would voting down such a reasonable clause be taken as ignoring their concerns and really fuelling the uncertainty on this area?

11:50 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

I'm going to choose my words very carefully because the parliamentary secretary is present in the room. Given the assurances that the parliamentary secretary gave repeatedly during debate, and given assurances that I personally have received in meeting with government members—including PMO staff—in the past, we think the request we're making is a reasonable one. If something similar to that was not able to be incorporated in the bill, we would question why, and we would see it as an indication of some—I hate this expression, but I'll use it because I can't think of anything else—degree of bad faith on the part of the government.

11:50 a.m.

President, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Steve Torino

It would depend on the wording of whatever's being included. If the concerns are not addressed, our members would feel a bit let down, to put it very mildly. They would raise their concerns with the minister's office and with the committee. Other than that, it would depend on what's in there.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

It would be a demonstration that committees can work in the way they're intended, which is to take reasonable concerns from broad or vague language in a specific piece of legislation and clarify them to address those concerns. That's why we've asked both of your organizations to be part of that.

You wanted to add something, Mr. Farrant?

November 2nd, 2017 / 11:50 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

Yes. I don't think requesting that—quote, unquote—“exemption” or language that clarifies that situation within the legislation is unreasonable given the assurances we've had from the government side of the House. If it's not acceptable, you have to question why the language used in the House is not able to be translated into the legislation, just to give a level of comfort.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

That's a great point. Thank you.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Nault

Thank you, Mr. O'Toole.

Mr. DeCourcey, please.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to both witnesses for being here today.

Mr. Farrant, when I came in, you were quoting me. I believe I was quoted three times exhaustively, and quite accurately, if my memory serves me correctly. I truly appreciate that, because my good friends on the other side of the floor have the tendency from time to time to misquote me in the House of Commons. I certainly appreciate the diligence with which you undertook to ensure that I was properly quoted.

I've heard the concerns addressed here today around some of the language in article 12. I believe, and it's the firm view of the government, that there is no cause for concern around issues related to article 12, which requires each state party to maintain national records of exports, because this is not a new obligation for Canada. Mr. O'Toole has referenced the fact that it's a matter of compliance with our Export and Import Permits Act, that we've been doing so for decades, and that the obligations for exporters will not change.

I also note that the language inserted into the preamble of this convention was done so at the suggestion of Canada. Mr. Torino, maybe you can clarify for sure that was the case in 2012, which would have been under the guidance of the former government. They voted for this treaty at the time and then, for unknown reasons, chose not to come home and do the necessary things to ensure that Canada was in full compliance with the Arms Trade Treaty.

I think we all agree we are a leader when it comes to arms trade regulation in the world, and there are two simple matters that we need to undertake to be in full compliance with the Arms Trade Treaty. We have a significant leadership role to play in ensuring that for other countries in the world affected by conflict, coming out of conflict, or subject to occasions where women and girls are subjugated to horrific forms of violence, we have an important role to play in strengthening their arms control regimes.

Mr. Farrant, I heard you say, after quoting me extensively three times, that you take us at face value, and I appreciate hearing that.

Maybe I'll frame my question this way. Given that what's to come in regulation is effectively codifying the assessment criteria that Canada already undertakes to ensure the proper issuing of permits for the export of conventional arms, and does not in any way purport to change any of the elements of article 12, which we are already fully complying with and have been undertaking to comply with for decades, where is the concern here for gun owners?

11:55 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

I'll try to very quickly address two or three things.

Number one, the fact that we're already adhering to article 12 does not make it any less disconcerting, given that there's no reassurance within Bill C-47 or in the words that have been spoken in Parliament by the government and the assurances we have been given in other places by members of the government, including in the Prime Minister's words about not bringing back a firearms registry.

In terms of the concern over article 12, albeit the fact that we may already be complying with it, it does not remove the concern going forward. We think Bill C-47 would have the ability to rectify those concerns quite simply with the insertion of one or two very simple sentences, which would override a lot of concern that the recreational and hunting community would have with regard to Canada signing on to the ATT.

In fact, I might suggest—and this is really stepping outside the purview of my organization's mandate—that one of the things I've heard through debate around this particular bill, and which we very strongly agree with, is the fact that there need to be controls over exportation of munitions, of weapons, whatever you want to call them, to certain parties and certain nation-states around this globe. That's very clear. Any reasonable person is going to support that. I'm not sure how this particular piece of legislation addresses the fact that exports from this country to another member state that is party to the agreement and can then turn around and send them somewhere else is—

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

There are clear provisions about diversions in this treaty as well.

11:55 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

Okay. The other—

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

That's part of the assessment process that the minister undertakes and that would be codified to regulation with the passing of this bill and our accession to the ATT. I think that's an important thing for people to understand.

11:55 a.m.

Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Greg Farrant

The last point I would want to raise is that proposed subsection 10.2(1) talks about inspections and uses the language, “An inspector may, at all reasonable times”. Any time you see language that says “at all reasonable times”, it sets off a bit of a red flag, because what's reasonable to one person is not reasonable to another.

I'll give you an example. My organization has a firearms business licence. Once every two years, the Chief Firearms Office of Ontario comes in and inspects our records, our firearms and how they're stored, and sees that the records are being kept appropriately, etc. To the best of my knowledge, we've had that licence for over 20 years. We've kept every record since the day we were granted that licence. We can go back to an inventory 20 years ago. I think there needs to be some care taken in terms of defining “at all reasonable times”, simply so fishing expeditions don't happen.

I know there have been some discussions with the government. I personally have had some with the government regarding another issue that will be coming back onto the table, and that is the UN marking system, which has been deferred by the minister to December 1, 2018. The talk there about how often things need to be inspected and how often things need to be followed up on and stuff like that is part of the marking system, too, and there are going to be some more discussions around that, so just—

Noon

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

I think that ongoing consultation with government is tremendously important too.