Some people may say that the required debate took place, since previous incarnations of the bill have been before Parliament. However, those incarnations did not contain measures that would eliminate the mandatory licence verification for individuals who buy weapons and the mandatory keeping of firearm sales records by vendors. Those two measures date back to 1977.
They are healthy and rational measures. Doing away with them quickly, in the wake of the debate on the long-arm registry, is very worrisome, especially considering the limited debate the government held on this bill.
We at the Dawson Student Union are used to hearing the tired old argument that the registry did not stop the shooting from taking place at our school. We tell cynics that it's precisely because we were victims of violence caused by firearms that we are deeply interested in working with all levels of government on improving the current system and reducing the risk of future shootings.
Consider the following. In the months preceding the shooting at our school, Kimveer Gill tried to join the Canadian Forces. He was rejected because of mental instability. If licence security control had included the information exchanged between our military forces and the registry, Mr. Gill's file would have been flagged and the events of September 13, 2006, might have never happened.
When our laws let us down, we mustn't just shrug and accept defeat. Our collective responsibility is to find the holes in the system and fill them. Students know that. Students also know that it is better to fix and improve than to forget and set aside. Elected representatives should know that as well. They mustn't let themselves be guided by ideology alone. They have a moral responsibility to strengthen the programs society has paid for.
All Canadians have paid for the registry. Quebec has paid for it. Quebec sees the registry as an integral part of its pacifist values. On three occasions, Quebec's National Assembly voted unanimously to keep the registry data in order to facilitate the creation of its own provincial system. Every elected representative of the Quebec nation voted to keep the long-gun registry.
Why does the federal government seem to think that it has the power to refuse a national assembly the information paid for by its constituents?
Even the handful of Quebec's Conservative MPs have at times spoken out in support of Quebec's right to keep the registry. The federal government has no reason to deny Quebec its portion of the data it has paid for. The cost of maintaining the current registry is less than $4 million dollars a year, or 15¢ per Canadian.
At Dawson College, a survey was conducted 18 months after the September 13 shooting. Almost 1,000 individuals took part in that survey. Fifty percent of the respondents said they had heard gunshots, 54% hid during the shooting, 35% witnessed an injury or murder, 13% saw the shooter and, finally, 24 people helped an injured person.
Eighteen per cent of those asked showed signs of developing psychological problems after the shooting. Those problems ranged from post-traumatic stress disorder to social phobia, from alcohol dependence to suicidal tendencies.
A number of participants also said they had attempted suicide in the 18 months following the shooting. Those people are students, professors, administrators, and cafeteria and maintenance staff. They are all real people who were left with very deep, sometimes permanent, scars after the September 13 events.
We are talking about thousands of adolescents who will forever live with the memory of bullets whistling through their school's hallways. We are talking about hundreds of students with the image of the shooter running through their school etched into their memory. We are talking about dozens of people who helped get their blood-covered schoolmates out on the morning of September 13.
The lives that were lost and scarred by that event need not have been in vain. If the registry can help save one more life or help one less person be affected, is it not worth keeping?
With such a low operating cost, why do anything but try to improve the system?
We have had productive discussions with the members of the NDP, the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal Party. They all have very interesting ideas on how to improve this registry to better serve all Canadians.
We understand that some Canadians have doubts about the program's usefulness. We understand that some of them see registering their firearms as a difficult and complicated task. We extend our hand to you with an open mind, so that we can find common ground.
We were there when the vote was taken to refer Bill C-19 to this committee.