I'll be speaking on behalf of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation.
Mr. Chairman, honourable committee members, and fellow witnesses, it is an honour and a privilege to speak to you today.
Our time is valuable, so let me get to the point: the thousands of people I represent support the permanent elimination of the registry.
This is a vital first step in fulfilling this government's long-standing commitment to replace the current law with one that preserves the right to our traditional lifestyle. I have a passion for hunting and the shooting sports that I share with three daughters: two are avid hunters and the third one raids my deep-freeze.
Hunting is a widespread family tradition in Saskatchewan. I am a former RCMP officer as well as a past provincial president of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, one of the largest wildlife organizations of its kind in the world. Since 1995, I have been the chair of the Saskatchewan Recreational Firearms Committee, which works with firearm groups, local governments, and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. These organizations comprise everyday people interested in the outdoors and the use of firearms. We, along with other Canadians, took great offence to the creation of the Firearms Act, still commonly referred to 16 years later as Bill C-68.
What is so offensive about this legislation?
Former Auditor General Sheila Fraser summed it up best when she stated that the initial focus was to use the registry information to target high-risk cases, but this was expanded to regard all gun owners in the same way, as the use of firearms is a “questionable activity” that requires strong controls. This law targets law-abiding citizens, but does little to stop the criminal use of firearms. That approach is fundamentally wrong. Look at the example of the handgun registry: in place for decades, yet we see increasing use of handguns by criminals today. Registries do not work to stop crime. Check the record in New Zealand.
You may be aware that Allan Rock, former Justice Minister, once said, “I came to Ottawa...with the firm belief that only the police and the military should have firearms”. This plan to rid Canada of private firearms was strategically planned and made possible by the Liberal Party through the creation of Bill C-68. The tools were carefully crafted into law, where they exist to this day, waiting to be used. Here's some quick background on the Firearms Act today.
First of all, it is a criminal offence for anyone other than a soldier or a police officer to possess a firearm. The current licence is a temporary permit that prevents the police from charging you for the crime you are committing. At the whim of government, it can be revoked or made difficult to obtain or keep. Without it, you cannot possess a firearm.
Many Saskatchewan residents have been charged with a criminal offence simply because they forgot to renew their licence. As a former police officer, I cannot support convicting farmers who need to use a firearm for pest control, and I submit to you that some of these same people were veterans, who should not have their freedom, paid for in blood, vanish with the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen. A firearms licence must be made valid for life unless the individual has lost that right through a criminal act.
Second, it is a criminal offence to possess an unregistered firearm. Some would suggest that this is the same as registering a dog or a vehicle. Dog and vehicle owners do not receive a criminal record for failing to comply. Using criminal law to enforce gun control is not acceptable yet, sadly, we have spent two billion dollars tracking honest citizens. Please kill the registry and use the money to deal with real criminals.
Third, the government can change any regulation through order in council, including firearms classification. This means that any firearm that is currently legal can be re-classed and confiscated as the result of a closed-door cabinet meeting. Confiscations have and will continue to happen as long as this insidious legislation exists in its current form.
Fourth, government inspectors--not police services-can enter your home without a warrant based on the suspicion that there is a firearm, ammunition, or documentation of a firearm. Am I painting you a clear picture? It sure doesn't seem like firearms owners are treated the same as other Canadians.
Fifth, the Firearms Act removes your right to remain silent. Inspectors can demand that you tell them where your firearms are--or any other related evidence--and if you do not assist them you can be charged and put in jail. You do not have the right to remain silent. This is not because you are a drug dealer, a sex offender, or a murderer. It is because the law identifies you as a legal firearms owner. Criminals enjoy more rights than firearm owners.
Is there a long history of legal gun owners using them for illegal purposes? The answer is no. The entire regime was built for a potential risk that I can tell you today does not exist. The previous Liberal government deliberately drafted these tools and others so that over time they could bring an end to all private ownership of firearms in Canada. Leave the current act as it is, and it's only a matter of time before government will use those tools to end a time-honoured and legitimate way of life in Canada.
Ending the registry is an excellent first step towards replacing the Firearms Act. I challenge the government to continue to lead by integrity.
Keep your promise to develop a law that all Canadians can support.