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Evidence of meeting #11 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was owners.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Barbara Byers  Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress
Greg Farrant  Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
Solomon Friedman  Criminal Defence Lawyer, As an Individual
Sgt Murray Grismer  Sergeant, As an Individual

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Harris also talked about the police association's support for the registry—or which we anticipate, based on the experience with Ms. Hoeppner's bill and other attempts to get rid of this boondoggle.

I'm always perplexed by the following. When we talk to front-line officers—and as you know, I sat on this committee when Bill C-391 was here just over a year ago—they tell us that they cannot rely on the registry. It doesn't matter what situation they go into, they always have to assume the worst; they have to assume that there are firearms in a residence or a vehicle, and they have to be prepared. If they're not prepared for the existence of firearms, they do so at their own peril.

Why do you think the police association takes a contrary view when front-line officers invariably tell us that they cannot and will not rely on the accuracy of the long-gun registry?

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Your experience is the same as mine.

I've never met a police officer who has seen registry data come up in his patrol car indicating that no firearm is associated with an individual in a stopped car, such that he would then approach the car as if there were no firearm in that car. It's simply foolish. No one would put their own life at risk by relying on the registry—or in fact put the life of their partner or a civilian at risk by doing that. It's simply foolish. In the same way, you don't go into a domestic disturbance and say, “Well, we're pretty safe here because there's no firearm licence or registry here”. Whether there's a licence or a registry is quite irrelevant. You go into a home expecting a firearm. That's the prudent and the proper thing for any officer to do.

I have met with officers on a daily basis who have talked to me about the issue. One thing they point out to me is that long-gun registry has created a division between law officers on the one side and ordinary law-abiding Canadian citizens who may own firearms on the other side. There's a mistrust of police officers because somehow people feel that the police are out to get their guns. It's really unfortunate because most of these people are exactly the kind of people who should be assisting the police in investigations of crime and yet now this long-gun registry has created a barrier between police and law-abiding citizens. That should never be the intent or result of the law.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, minister.

We'll now move to Mr. Scarpaleggia.

Mr. Scarpaleggia, you have seven minutes, please.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Thank you, Chair.

A few weeks ago, the RCMP recalled 50 long guns it had allowed into Canada as non-restricted weapons, only to change its mind after the fact, reclassify them as restricted, and then send letters to the 50 people who bought those guns that were later reclassified. Without the registry, how would the police know where to address those letters? Are you saying that from this point on it is absolutely impossible that the RCMP could make an error or decide after the fact to change the classification of a long gun—in other words, to second-guess its original decision? Are you saying that is impossible from now on?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

No.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

So how would the RCMP contact people who bought guns into the country as non-restricted weapons but then became restricted because the RCMP realized the guns could be converted into more dangerous weapons and wanted those guns back? How could it do that without the addresses of the gun owners who are in the gun registry?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

They can still do that through the records of the shop that sold the firearms, the importer to whom that gun was sent. In the case you're mentioning, most of those guns would probably never even have been sold in that brief period of time.

Gun shops, in fact, keep records of their sales and those records can be accessed through a warrant or other appropriate provisions. You don't need the registry for that.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

You're saying that the shop owners are now the ones keeping the gun registry?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

No. They keep records on their own. They do that for various purposes, including the Income Tax Act, but the access to that is through an appropriate legal search warrant.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

After the Dawson shooting, the police seized a weapon from someone they thought could be a copycat killer and commit the same horrible crime. They seized the weapon, which means there was a possibility that the person could have killed someone with it. It's not a certainty, but a possibility.

How can you make the categorical statement, the sweeping statement, that the registry could not possibly have saved even one life over the course of 10 years, when the police went and got a gun from a possible copycat? How can you make such a sweeping statement? I know it's very hard to come up with anecdotal, 100% certain evidence that a life has been saved. I could say I'm not here today because of the 100-kilometre-an-hour speed limit. I could say there's no proof that the 100 kilometre-an-hour-speed limit has saved my life, but we know that in the aggregate, the speed limit does save lives.

How can you make such categorical sweeping statements?

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

I'm not familiar with the case you mention. I don't see how the police were alerted through the registry that this individual would be a dangerous person. That doesn't even make any sense.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Let me ask you another question. How many firearms licences have been repealed in the last five or ten years? Is it thousands? Is it hundreds?

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

I could get those figures for you through official—

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

You came to committee without those figures? That's a very important piece of information. The question becomes, if you're repealing licences—

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

No. We're not repealing—

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

—it means that you think that person is dangerous with a gun.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

We're not repealing licences. I don't know why you get that idea. We're not repealing licences.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

The government has never repealed a gun owner's licence?

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Nothing in this legislation affects the process of repealing licences.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

But have you ever repealed a gun licence because you feel that someone is no longer fit to own a gun?

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

I have never.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

If your department has ever done that, wouldn't it want to get its hands on the guns owned by the person whose license was repealed? And how could it do that without the gun registry?

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

They were doing that long before the gun registry.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

It seems to me, Mr. Chair, that without a registry, we have no idea how many guns that person owns.

Even if you were doing it before, the registry gives you some added information about what you're looking for.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

How many guns are there in Canada, now that we have the registry? How many guns are there?