Evidence of meeting #12 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 firearm.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Robert Dutil  Minister of Public Security, Government of Quebec
Mario Harel  Vice-President, Chief of Police, Gatineau Police Service, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police
Matthew Torigian  Chief of Police, Waterloo Regional Police Service, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police
Hélène Larente  Volunteer, Coordinator, Women's Hunting Program, Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs
Diana Cabrera  Administration Manager, Canadian Shooting Sports Association
Tony Bernardo  Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association
Wendy Cukier  President, Coalition for Gun Control
Barbara Kane  Psychiatrist, Coalition for Gun Control
Audrey Deveault  Chairperson, Dawson Student Union
Mathieu Murphy-Perron  Executive Director, Dawson Student Union
Randall Kuntz  As an Individual
Donald Weltz  As an Individual

11 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Good morning, everyone, and welcome.

I'm encouraged to see the amount of interest there is in our meeting here today, as is evident by the good attendance and also by the cameras and the media.

This is meeting number 12 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, on Thursday, November 17, 2011. Today we are continuing our study of the consideration of Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act.

In our first panel today, we will hear from Robert Dutil, Minister of Public Security, from the Government of Quebec.

Welcome to Ottawa and to our committee.

Also, from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, we have Mario Harel, vice-president and chief of police, Gatineau Police Service; and Matthew Torigian, chief of police, Waterloo Regional Police Service. From the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, we have Tony Bernardo, executive director, and Diana Cabrera, administration manager. Also, from the Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs, we have Hélène Laurente, volunteer coordinator of the women's hunting program.

Our committee wants to thank all of you for appearing before us today. I understand that each one of the groups or organizations you represent will have a member who will make the presentation to our committee, so we thank you for that. We're going to try to keep these to about seven or eight minutes. I'll let you know when we're at about that seven-and-a-half-minute mark so that we can get as many questions in as possible.

I would like to begin with the Minister of Public Security from the Government of Quebec.

Monsieur Dutil, please.

11 a.m.

Robert Dutil Minister of Public Security, Government of Quebec

Thank you, sir.

I am very pleased to be here today for this presentation. Good morning to all the committee members.

I am going to go over the various positions on the firearms registry. We know that, since 2006, the Conservative government's position on the firearms registry has been very clear. It has presented several bills to abolish the non-restricted firearms registry many times. But it is important to understand that in Quebec, our position is also clear. We believe in a universal firearms registration system, which is very useful for crime prevention and police work. This position is also unanimously shared by all parliamentarians from Quebec, Quebec police organizations, organizations that work in public safety and security and the families of victims of tragedies in Quebec.

In addition to the Conservative government's firm position on abolishing the registry, the federal government has had an amnesty on the registry of long guns, which has been renewed every year since 2006 and has contributed to weakening the application of the Firearms Act.

Bill C-19, as presented and studied, is aimed not only at abolishing the firearm registry, but also at destroying all the data related to the registration of non-restricted firearms entered in the registry since it was created, something we deplore.

Bill C-19 is even a step back in terms of the rules that existed before the Firearms Act came into effect in 1998. Actually, before that time, there was an obligation for the merchant to keep a registry of their firearm inventory and information about the firearm sales transactions, including information on the purchaser. Bill C-19 does not provide for keeping this obligation in place. According to Bill C-19, when someone who wants to purchase a weapon enters the merchant's store, the merchant will no longer have to verify whether the purchaser has a firearm possession and acquisition licence, which we think is a major step backwards.

If I may, I would like to give you some historical background on the events. Since 1984, several Quebec families have experienced tragedies involving firearms. There was the attack in the National Assembly on May 8, 1984; the killing at the École Polytechnique in Montreal on December 6, 1989; the shooting at Concordia University on August 24, 1992; and the tragedy at Dawson College on September 13, 2006.

Since these tragedies, we have strengthened our measures to exercise better control over firearms in Quebec and participated actively in drafting the Firearms Act, which came into effect on December 1, 1998, as you know. After the shooting at Dawson College in Montreal, Quebec also adopted the Act to protect persons with regard to activities involving firearms and modifying the Act respecting safety in sports, an act that was called “Anastasia's Law”, in memory of Anastasia De Sousa, a student who died during that incident.

Quebec has also put in place operational measures, which has included strengthening the Sûreté du Québec's cybersurveillance and monitoring unit. It implemented a joint unit against firearms smuggling. But it wasn't enough. The firearm registry is an essential tool for police investigations and interventions. According to the latest statistics from 2011, the registry is queried over 700 times a day by police officers in Quebec, not just automatically—I'd like to clarify—but through a voluntary query by police officers who need this tool.

Consulting the registry helps the police make informed decisions during their operations, particularly by making it possible for police to establish the number and type of weapons that the targets of interventions have, and to subsequently intervene.

Querying the registry may also be the starting point for an investigation, when a firearm has been found at the crime scene, and helps to establish the chain of possession. So far, 1,560,359 non-restricted firearms have been registered by individuals in Quebec, or 91.2% of all firearms. Abolishing the registry means that we would lose track of these weapons.

Spousal abuse is a phenomenon in our society, and the registry also contributes to preventing tragedies and crimes against the person. In Quebec, between 2006 and 2010, we counted 264 incidents of spousal abuse involving rifles or shotguns. The statistics show that hunting weapons are used more often than handguns when it comes to spousal abuse. When the police enter these types of situation, consulting the registry lets them know quickly whether a violent spouse is in possession of any firearms.

As a result, the police can tailor their interventions or even remove them for preventive purposes.

As for suicides, statistics from the Institut national de santé publique du Québec show that, of the 650 suicides committed using a firearm reported in Quebec over a four-year period, 565 of them involved a non-restricted firearm, so close to 9 out of 10 suicides.

So the firearm registry is a very important tool for suicide prevention. Registering non-restricted firearms makes them less accessible to people who are likely to misuse them, individuals suffering from depression, for example.

It also contributes to protecting individuals with mental health problems and their loved ones. Universal registration enables the chief firearms officer of Quebec to determine whether the weapons are in the possession of people under an application for an order to confine them to an institution, or calling for a psychiatric assessment.

Under Anastasia's Law, the chief firearms officer is systematically informed of these applications. Between January 1, 2008 and November 1, 2011, 18,661 applications for orders were reported to him, and consultation of the registry made it possible to conduct more than 1,000 interventions to ensure the safety of persons. I am convinced that many lives were saved because of this. Abolishing the registry will limit the application of Anastasia's Law.

For all these reasons and many others that I do not have time to list, I would like to repeat that the government is against the abolition of the firearm registry.

We are in no way questioning the legitimacy of activities such as hunting or target shooting, when practised in compliance with the law. Rather, we aim to raise citizen awareness of the need and importance of registering their firearms, as they agree to register their other personal belongings.

I would also like to mention that, in most cases, it takes only three minutes to complete the registration.

To conclude, the Canadian firearm registry is of considerable importance for Quebec. All Canadians, including Quebeckers, have participated financially in the program.

For all the reasons mentioned, I am reiterating the Government of Quebec's position and am requesting that the firearms registry be maintained in its entirety and that failure to register non-restricted firearms be decriminalized.

Failing that, I ask that you amend Bill C-19 by removing the provisions relating to the destruction of information and begin discussions as soon as possible to transfer the information to Quebec, information that the citizens of Quebec have paid for.

If the registration of non-restricted firearms were to save just one life, from a moral standpoint, we would be justified in continuing our efforts to keep it. But we already know that the firearms registry has saved more than one life. It has saved many.

Thank you.

11:10 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Dutil.

Now we will move to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, please.

11:10 a.m.

Mario Harel Vice-President, Chief of Police, Gatineau Police Service, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police

Good morning. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has stated its support for the long-gun registry from the beginning. Let me briefly reiterate our reasons why.

First, we view this as a public safety issue based on our ongoing responsibility to ensure the safety of our communities, our officers and the most vulnerable among us.

Second, it provides preventative and investigational value to law enforcement and the communities we serve.

Third, notwithstanding the initial set-up costs, today, it operates in a very cost-effective and efficient manner as detailed in an internal audit of the RCMP.

Fourth, we believe it promotes further responsibility and accountability by firearm owners.

Finally, it provides a reasonable balance between the exercise of an individual privilege and the broader right of society to be safe.

Only a year ago, the RCMP's Canadian Firearms Program reported that law enforcement officials make 11,000 queries per day into the registry. Today, this number has climbed to 17,000. There is truth to the fact that a number of these are what has been referred to as “auto-queries”. However these cases are rare, which we believe is an endorsement of the fact that law enforcement views this information as a valuable tool, a bit of information that, when combined with other information, assists in assessing a situation an officer may face.

We are concerned that with the dismantling of the long gun registry, we can ask ourselves what controls there are to prevent individuals from stockpiling firearms or access by criminal organizations when we don't have the information.

We are concerned that there will be no record-keeping during transfers of long guns. And we note that between 2006 and 2009, 1.85 million long guns changed hands.

We are concerned that it inhibits our ability to enforce prohibition orders. It will add significant costs to our investigations, costs which will be downloaded to police services and lead to crucial delays in gaining investigative information.

And those are just some of our concerns. There will no longer be a required record to indicate what firearms were sold to whom or how many. Many ask the question, has the long-gun registry saved lives? Like our drunk driving laws or even our Criminal Code, the impacts will never be known with qualified numbers, but we know that the registry saves lives.

The fact is that homicide rates by long guns have come down significantly. Statistics Canada confirms firearm suicides have dropped 48% since the act became law in 1995. We can only hope that this continues. Prior to the implementation of the long-gun registry, there was a formal requirement for firearms vendors to record sales. Now, they will not even have to register their sales. Imagine the extraordinary and costly efforts which will be required to trace a firearm for investigative purposes. Our passion on this issue runs deep.

November 17th, 2011 / 11:10 a.m.

Chief Matthew Torigian Chief of Police, Waterloo Regional Police Service, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police


We know that nothing we say here today will change the fact that this bill will move forward and be passed by this government. We also acknowledge that on the issue of repealing the long-gun registry this government has been very transparent with Canadians in stating their intention to introduce this legislation.

In our parliamentary system, in our great democracy, we must and we do respect the desires of Canadians who elected this government and their stated objectives.

We, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, have supported many of the approaches of this government on crime. In fact, just last month, four CACP representatives were called upon to support the government's Safe Streets and Communities Act. In providing overall endorsement of the bill, Chief Dale McFee, president of the Canadian Association of Chief of Police, stated, “The CACP continues to support legislative amendments which assist in making Canada's communities safe...”. The difference here is that the long-gun registry, we believe, provides preventative value, not just a focus on toughening penalties.

But throughout the debate on the long-gun registry, there has been a disturbing attempt to discredit the view of law enforcement and chiefs of police and an attempt to create divisions. One MP issued a press release referencing a very non-scientific poll and stating that “the vast majority of police are calling for the end of the long-gun registry” and making this statement regarding the CACP: “It begs the question, exactly who are they speaking for?”

You cannot accept our opinion when it serves your purposes and then dismiss it when it does not. We ask that you respect our opinion or, at the very least, respectfully disagree. Especially when it comes to this issue, the latter has not occurred. Please know that this is not a message targeted just to this government; it is a message to all elected members of Parliament, whether it be on this issue or other issues affecting law enforcement.

In respect of our desire to maintain the long-gun registry, police leaders from across this country--federal, provincial, and municipal--have shown unprecedented support. CACP positions are adopted based on a majority of our membership's views. Individual positions are respected, and members are free to speak. In fact, at our 2010 annual general meeting, we had unanimous support to maintain this very effective tool. A few within this government would rather give voice to the exceptions and claim that they are actually the real voice of policing.

Almost unbelievably when it comes to the issue of the long-gun registry, there has been no consultation with law enforcement and the chiefs of police. In May, the CACP national firearms committee provided this government a letter recognizing the government's intention to dismantle the long-gun registry. We offered to be a part of the solution going forward and provided suggestions as to how to mitigate the impact on law enforcement and public safety. Despite numerous attempts to follow up, we were not provided a single opportunity to discuss this with them.

In that letter, the CACP proposed options related to maintaining the existing data; records of sales by firearm business vendors; the transfer of weapons between individuals; and including the law enforcement representatives on the government's firearms advisory committee.

11:15 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Can you wrap it up in about 30 seconds?

11:15 a.m.

Chief of Police, Waterloo Regional Police Service, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police

Chief Matthew Torigian


In conclusion, we wish to be respectful of the concerns of responsible gun owners and respect their rights. We know that both sides want safe communities; therefore, we must all learn from our polarized positions going forward.

The public, the citizens we serve, expect the government and police to provide leadership when it comes to public safety. When our views are different, it should suggest that we need to sit down together to find some commonality moving forward.

We are allowed to disagree, but we should always be respectful in doing so. We are hopeful that this will become the preferred way of doing business by all parties moving forward. We can all do better. Canadians deserve better.

11:15 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much.

Now we'll move to Madam Larente, please, who is appearing as an individual.


11:15 a.m.

Hélène Larente Volunteer, Coordinator, Women's Hunting Program, Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs

Good morning. My name is Hélène Larente. I am from Rapides-des-Joachims, Quebec. I am a female hunter very involved in the Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs in Quebec. I am an instructor for the Programme d'éducation en sécurité et en conservation de la faune. I am also an instructor for the Canadian Firearms Safety Course, and I am the founder and coordinator of the Women's Hunting Program. For over 25 years, I have been involved in hunting and fishing organizations and in the Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et des pêcheurs, which represents hunters and anglers in Quebec.

I am here today as a Quebecker and as a Canadian and I join the federation in saying that I am in favour of scrapping the long-gun registry as per Bill C-19. I feel that keeping a registry like that is pointless for a number of reasons. I don't believe it protects women or society. It gives a false sense of safety, since, just because a gun is registered, it does not mean that it cannot be used to commit an irreversible act. To think along those lines is to bury your head in the sand. Peace officers have to assume—and always must—that there are weapons in the places where they intervene because there are—and always will be— unregistered guns, even with a registry. The long-gun registry has not been effective at all in achieving the main objective of reducing crime. Unfortunately, the infamous registry has not prevented other appalling acts from being committed, similar to the one that led to the tragedy at the École polytechnique de Montréal.

As a hunter, I don't think it is fair that we are being treated like criminals and that we are being penalized in their place, since the real criminals circumvent the law and don't register their guns. I would even argue that the registry encourages smuggling. In addition, the debate around this registry we hear so much about casts a negative light on hunters. It is not the gun itself that's dangerous, but the person using it. The fact that the gun is registered changes nothing.

So far, billions of dollars have been wasted, and the wrong people have been targeted. Maintaining this registry will cost taxpayers some additional millions of dollars. But it is never too late to make positive corrections. I am sure that this money needs to be used somewhere else, where it can really protect or help Canadians. In order to make public safety a priority, the money should go to: measures that have a real impact in controlling crime; increasing the police presence in our streets; being better equipped to monitor offenders; supporting social programs and the fight against crime; developing education, awareness and accountability programs.

Education and awareness are key factors in encouraging people to report acts of violence before tragedies happen. It is also important to consider and develop tools and ways to combat violence, which is still far too present in families, in schoolyards and especially in disadvantaged areas. People have to feel that they are being heard and that they have the support they need to report those acts. If needed, additional resources must be provided to help people in distress, who are often left to fend for themselves. People have to be urged to safely store their firearms at all times. In desperate or similar situations, the reaction time and the obstacles that make it more difficult to get hold of a gun can actually change the course of events. A few minutes, even a few seconds, can make all the difference in the world and can help to avoid a tragedy. All this is simply to say that storing guns properly can save lives.

It is important to remember that firearm suicide rate has declined over the past few years. That is a result of legal obligations to store firearms and of education campaigns. Professor Jean Caron's studies at the UQAT have showed that storing firearms has a direct impact on the suicide rate. I would also like to point out that we are already subject to screening in terms of gun ownership in the form of the mandatory firearms possession and acquisition licence. The RCMP automatically does an investigation on each person who applies for a licence. Just like the federation, I believe that the mandatory qualification process for gun owners has to be maintained.

While I sympathize with the families affected by the events at the École polytechnique, I feel that we have to open our eyes and stop making decisions solely based on compassion for people in a certain category. There is much more to it than that. Like those families, I also feel that we have to find real solutions to fight against crime and gratuitous violence. We need to invest in the right things to further protect Canadians and to help people in distress, as well as those with illnesses.

Thank you for listening.

11:20 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, madam.

Now we will move to the Canadian Shooting Sports Association. They have two representatives here today: Tony Bernardo and Diana Cabrera.

Please provide your information for us.

11:20 a.m.

Diana Cabrera Administration Manager, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to thank you and the members of this committee for inviting my colleague and me to present our members' point of view on Bill C-391 and to answer any questions you may have in this regard.

My name is Diana Cabrera. I'm an international competitor shooter. Although I'm Canadian, I currently compete for the Uruguay national team, as Canada refuses to pay my training expenses.

I would like to say that we fully support the purpose changes in this bill. These changes also aid the pledged goal of a system that is effective in concentrating precious resources where they belong and is focused on the criminal misuse of firearms, not on responsible licensed firearm owners.

The challenge of obtaining the public safety goals of the firearms legislation depends largely on a number of firearms issues and the cooperation of those most affected by the legislation. These issues are major concerns: the fear of confiscation, the perceived social stigma of firearm ownership and its demonization, and the many costs and burdensome processes involved.

The bill will greatly aid in rebuilding the bond of trust that existed before its erosion by overzealous legislators aiming at the wrong target. Maximum compliance for firearms legislation is dependent on addressing these concerns.

At this point, I would like to focus on the effect of long-gun registration on sport competitors and other legitimate users. There is no question that the long-gun registry has deterred individuals from entering the shooting sports. Many believe that this was one of its original intentions. The inclusion of specialized air target and muzzle-loading firearms in the registry seems predetermined to achieve those goals. These firearms are virtually never used in crime by the nature of their physical makeup and cost, yet they are treated with the same legislative zeal as more common firearms.

Across the world, exemptions have been made in law for these types of firearms. In Britain and the United States, the ownership and use of these firearms is much less regulated than in Canada. Many are not even considered to be firearms and are subject to almost no regulation, as misuse is very rare, yet in Canada these firearms must be registered and are subject to the same regulatory restrictions as other firearms.

These regulations entail long and confusing paperwork for international competitors and also present huge challenges to our junior shooters, who are not permitted to own airguns producing a velocity of more than 152.4 metres per second. This situation often leads to an adult or coach having to go through all the steps to purchase a junior competitor's competition firearm. They cannot leave the junior competitor in sole possession of the firearm; therefore, coaches and junior competitors must take responsibility for the regulatory care of these firearms while they are in use by the junior competitor.

Around the world, living history events such as re-enacting and cowboy action shootings are fast-growing activities. Re-enactors participate using authentic period costumes in re-enacting famous battles and other events, using period firearms, from muzzle-loaders to the World War II period. Cowboy action shooting is similar, but also involves shooting skill with an historical western bent.

The main issue for competitive participants is the fear of imminent criminality. They may easily find themselves afoul of uninformed law enforcement or CBSA officers, even if all paperwork is in order. Any paperwork error may lead to temporary detention, missed flights, missed shooting matches, and confiscation of property. I experience a primal cringe every time I am asked for my papers, as I fear what might happen when officers apply personal interpretation to our confusing laws.

Law enforcement and media coverage of firearm issues have made the situation even worse. Firearm owners are subjected to spectacular press coverage in which reporters tirelessly describe small and very ordinary collections of firearms as an “arsenal”. During the recent blitz in Toronto, police used old computer records to track down ordinary people who had simply failed to renew their paperwork. They described the operation as “getting guns off the street” and a triumph for the long-gun registry, as if they were preventing a crime.

If ever there was a case for destroying the old records, this is it. How do you think this makes a legal firearms owner feel? Am I next? Did I forget some nuance of my paperwork that will bring police to my door? Will my face wind up on the 6 o'clock news vilifying me to my friends, family, and co-workers? Will I be shunned if anyone finds out I own firearms? Will I be targeted at a traffic checkpoint if a CPIC verification says I possess firearms? Firearm owners live with these fears every day, all to justify a failed system that never prevented a crime.

In conclusion, let's please restart this from a clean slate, concentrate on more productive public safety areas of the legislation, and redirect funding to more beneficial areas to help make Canada a safer place for all.

Thank you. I will now pass on this presentation to my colleague.

11:25 a.m.

Tony Bernardo Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the standing committee. Thank you for allowing Canadian Shooting Sports to address this committee.

My name is Tony Bernardo. You've heard a lot about the good aspects that are alleged to come from the gun registry. I'd like to talk to you about a few of the bad ones.

First, I need to give you a little bit of a historical perspective. Based upon the Canada Firearms Centre's polling figures, in 1998 there were 3.3 million firearms owners in Canada. On January 1, 2001, 40% of Canadian gun owners--over 1 million people--became instant criminals.

Anticipating these statistics, the Canada Firearms Centre acted quickly to calculate consent for the legislation, with the results of a fall 2000 survey indicating that gun ownership in Canada had declined substantially since 1998, and that there were only 2.3 million firearm owners in only 17% of Canadian households. This was done by asking this question: does anyone in your household own a functioning firearm? This was done in a telephone survey. For those of you who are not familiar with the social stigma around firearms, you don't talk on the phone to anybody about your firearms, because you have no idea who is on the other end.

To accept the reduced number, you must also accept, without any evidence whatsoever, that firearm owners declined by one million people in two years. Previous surveys reported that the average firearm owner possessed 2.87 firearms, low by current CFC statistics, which now show an average of four guns per owner. A million people divesting themselves of 2.87 million firearms would have been noticed either by police or certainly by the gun stores in Canada, which would have gotten an awful lot of guns turned in. At the time, we did a little bit of mathematical calculation and we determined that was a sufficient number of guns to bury every single police station in Canada to a depth of 33 feet. That's a lot of guns.

In 1976, Liberal justice minister Ron Basford tabled a document in Parliament detailing the number of firearms in Canada, based on Canadian import and export documents and domestic production figures. Minister Basford told the House there were 11,186,148 firearms in Canada. By adding the number of imports since that time to the indigenous production, subtracting all exports and destroyed and stolen firearms, we can make a reasonable estimate for the number of firearms currently in Canada, allowing for a generous error rate of 15% for lost, destroyed, and misreported firearms--

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Mr. Bernardo, can I give you about another 40 seconds...?

11:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Tony Bernardo

Sure. Okay.

Why is this important? Fewer than half the guns in Canada are actually in the registry. There are whole piles of them out there.

There's another very important thing I wanted to touch on. We need to talk about the impact this legislation has had on the relationship between firearms owners and police.

Last year we did a survey of 2018 firearms owners at random and asked legal gun owners who they were more afraid of, the police or criminals. Of those surveyed, 63.93% said the police. That's 64%.

They were asked, “Since the implementation of the Firearms Act, do you trust Canada's police?” Seventy-five per cent said no. They were asked, “Do you believe police associations represent their members' views?” To that question, 94% said no. They were asked, “Does Canada's long-gun registry actually reduce crime?” Ninety-six per cent said no.

They were asked, “Do you believe police target firearms owners?” To that question, 83% said yes. When asked if they personally knew--that's personally--someone who had been unjustly charged with a firearms offences, 46% knew someone. That's half the people.

At this point I guess I'm going to have to not present the rest of this--

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Yes, I'm going to have to cut you off. As much as I was enjoying those statistics, I'll have to cut them off there.

We'll move into our first round of questioning.

Right off the bat we'll go to the government side with Ms. Hoeppner, please.

11:30 a.m.


Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to all the witnesses for appearing today.

I want to begin by saying thank you to you, Chief Harel, for finally acknowledging after almost three years of your organization's saying that police are checking the registry 11,000 times a day, and now it's apparently up to 17,000....you are finally acknowledging today that those are automatic hits. The majority of those are generated by automatic hits across the country. As well, any time the firearms database is queried, even if an individual calls the firearms centre, a hit is documented. So I want to thank you for acknowledging that today.

One of the problems, Chief Torigian, is that during this argument, your organization, which deserves tremendous respect.... You do a great service to our country and to the cities you represent. You're in a uniform, and Canadians, when they see you on television, believe what you say. So when you stand in front of a television camera and say that police are checking the registry 17,000 times a day, when in fact that is not the telling the truth of how police are using and not using the registry, you do this whole discussion a great disservice. When you talk about the fact that you believe the chiefs of police unanimously supported the gun registry in Edmonton, again, the question posed to your chiefs of police was, do you support the national firearms program? This question was never posed to your chiefs of police: do you support the long-gun registry?

So again, to both of you gentlemen, we do have very different views on this issue. There is a gap and a wedge between your position and our government's position, and sadly that gap has not been closed.

I just want to direct my question to Mr. Bernardo. There has been some misinformation today as well in regard to individuals selling or transferring firearms to people who are not qualified to purchase those firearms. I know that you're very familiar with the bill. Can you please talk about the legal requirements? Just inform everyone listening--inform the people on the rest of the panel--of the legal requirements in regard to transferring firearms. Can a store owner sell a gun to somebody who doesn't have a licence?

11:35 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Tony Bernardo

No, of course not.

11:35 a.m.


Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Can you please expand on that?

11:35 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Tony Bernardo

Yes. I'll describe the whole process.

First of all, when any firearm comes into Canada, right out of the gate it has to be registered with the chief registrar of firearms. All imports and all newly manufactured firearms in Canada still need to be registered.

11:35 a.m.


Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

I'm sorry, but can you please expand on that? What do you mean by that?

11:35 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Tony Bernardo

Yes. Section 60 of the act says that any firearm coming into Canada must be recorded with the chief registrar as to the firearm, the type, the serial number, the date it entered the country, and its legal status as it comes into the country. That firearm then goes to a dealer's inventory; they are obligated to keep an inventory book. It's colloquially known as “the green book”. Every single merchant in firearms has to have that green book, and every firearm coming in or going out has to be recorded in that green book.

11:35 a.m.


Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Would that relate to income tax purposes as well or just inventory...?

11:35 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Tony Bernardo

I don't think so. I think it's an inventory control.

11:35 a.m.


Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

All right.

11:35 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Tony Bernardo

That green book has been the status quo for at least 30 years; I mean, it's a long time that the green book has been there. It's still there now, to this day. Even with the registration, merchants still have to do that; they have to maintain that book. Now, they also have to, by law, see the person's firearms licence and see that it's a valid licence. So you can't sell a firearm to somebody who doesn't have a licence.