Evidence of meeting #65 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was licence.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Leif-Erik Aune
Wendy Cukier  President, Coalition for Gun Control
Greg Illerbrun  Firearms Chairman, Past-President, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation
Tony Rodgers  Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters
Benoît Laganière  Spokesperson, PolySeSouvient
Heidi Rathjen  Spokesperson, PolySeSouvient
Pierre Latraverse  President, Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs

April 28th, 2015 / 8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Good morning, colleagues, and welcome to meeting number 65 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

We are discussing Bill C-42, an act to amend the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code and to make a related amendment and a consequential amendment to other acts. We have two hours of witness testimony and Q and A.

For the first hour, we have with us from the Coalition for Gun Control, Wendy Cukier, president. We are also expecting from the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Tony Rodgers, executive director. We also have with us by way of teleconference from Swift Current, Saskatchewan, from the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, Greg Illerbrun, firearms chairman.

I would just like to see that we have a connection with Mr. Illerbrun and then we will proceed.

8:45 a.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. Leif-Erik Aune

He's on teleconference, so it will be voice only.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Mr. Illerbrun is on teleconference, so it will be voice only. We have no visual with Mr. Illerbrun, but we do have voice. That is what the chair has been advised, given the facilities that were available at that point.

We will start as usual with opening statements. To all of our witnesses, you have up to 10 minutes to make a statement. The chair would respectfully request that if it's possible to reduce it a little bit. That certainly gives the committee an opportunity for the more personal dialogue that I know everyone looks forward to.

We will start off with an opening statement from Ms. Wendy Cukier.

8:45 a.m.

Wendy Cukier President, Coalition for Gun Control

Thanks very much. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the committee on behalf of the Coalition for Gun Control, which is an alliance of approximately 300 organizations from across the country that have been working on this issue now for about 25 years.

I apologize, as a professor I'm used to talking in three-hour blocks, so I will need help with my time, Mr. Chairman.

I just wanted to start by reminding the committee members, some of whom did not live through the development of the Firearms Act, of the purposes of the firearms legislation and the key elements. The intent of firearms regulation is to reduce the risk that firearms will be misused, while allowing the legitimate purposes of law-abiding gun owners.

The key elements of the legislation, and in fact any regulatory system in most parts of the world, are aimed at reducing the chances that firearms will be misused by their owners on the one hand, and on the other hand will be diverted, stolen, or misused by others. The key elements of that are: screening all firearm owners; licensing all firearm owners so we know who the lawful owners are, as distinct from those who have not gone through the screening process; holding firearm owners accountable for their firearms, and in Canada now that includes the registration of restricted and prohibited weapons; and reducing access to firearms where it is viewed that the risk outweighs the utility. In Canada since the 1930s, there have been higher levels of control over handguns, for example, because the view is that unlike rifles and shotguns, they serve more specified purposes, and because of their concealability, represent a higher risk to public safety.

I think the evidence is strong that suggests that as Canada has increased and strengthened its controls over firearms, we have seen a reduction in firearm death and injury. Remember that the risks of firearms are not just associated with what we normally define as crime, but also suicide and increasing political violence, which we have seen, for example, targeting police officers and members of the House of Commons.

When the legislation was introduced, the licensing provisions were intended to provide rigorous screening, and to take into account not just criminal acts or criminal records but also to require additional information, for example, from references, ensuring that spouses, for instance, were notified in the event that they had concerns. At the same time that the legislation was introduced, it was recognized that many existing firearm owners would be inconvenienced if they had to go through the same level of screening as individuals who wanted to acquire new firearms. That was why the distinction was made between possession-only licences, which allowed the owner to retain the firearms they previously had, versus possession and acquisition licences. There were about a million possession-only firearm owners at the time.

Because of time constraints I won't go into this in great detail, but I also want to refer the committee to the program evaluation of the firearms legislation that was done for the RCMP, because it reiterated both the value of the legislation and also identified a number of gaps in areas where the legislation needed to be strengthened. Most of those areas had to do with screening of licensing, with keeping licensing records up to date, and so on.

I think it's critically important to point out that were we concerned primarily with public safety, we would be looking at ways to strengthen the licensing provisions in this legislation, not to weaken them. One of the key messages in this document is that enhanced screening is important. The information required to ensure public safety does not reside just in police databases. There's more outreach required, for example, to public health professionals because of the risks associated not only with violence but also suicide.

We also know that recent explorations of risks associated with political violence or terrorism have also indicated that there are risks in Canada, not perhaps where the media focuses our attention, but among groups, for example, who oppose government intervention and involvement in their business. We've seen a number of cases, for instance, where police officers have been targeted by individuals who hold those beliefs. There is also evidence that stockpiling of firearms has been a problem with some groups over a long period of time.

With that in mind, I just want to walk through—in the few minutes I have remaining—the key elements that we are concerned with.

One is the proposed relaxation of the authorizations to transport, to make them less specific and more generic. While on the surface this may seem simply technical, as I mentioned at the outset, one of the reasons that Canada has far lower handgun violence rates than the United States is because we have been very strict in terms of controlling access, to the point where the current Prime Minister, for example, once stated that handguns are virtually banned in Canada.

We believe that relaxing the controls over the authorizations to transport will increase the risk that these firearms will be misused. If you can transport your firearm to any gun club in the province, it means you can be virtually anywhere with it.

The second area of concern is the automatic renewal of licences. As I said, the RCMP were very clear that the renewal process for licensing is an important complement to continuous eligibility checking. It allows information to be collected about aspects of an individual who may present risks to themselves or others, and also ensures that the information about who has guns and where they live is kept up to date. In the absence of firearms registration, this too is important.

I mentioned previously that the possession-only licences were designed to provide lighter screening than possession and acquisition licences because it was viewed that people acquiring more firearms present a bigger risk than people who already have them. We think that merging those is an error.

As well, when we look at other forms of regulation, there is normally an effort to rely on expert opinion. We have real concerns about changes that suggest that the minister has the power to reverse decisions by the RCMP with respect to the classification of weapons. This is something that has been an area of concern by police for at least 15 years. While there may be ways to strengthen transparency and rigour in the process, we would oppose shifting that to allow more political interference.

Finally, we believe that the roles and the powers of the chief firearms officers are critically important.

That of course is reinforced again in this evaluation report for the RCMP. Allowing the firearms officers to take into account a wide range of concerns in issuing authorizations to carry, as well as the transfers of firearms, is a critical piece of public safety and also allows more discretion around responding to local needs.

I will leave it at that point. I think I'm at 10 minutes.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

You're a tad over, but the bell did not ring on the class and you did have the attention of the class, so we will certainly carry on. Thank you very much, Ms. Cukier, for your presentation.

We will now go to Mr. Illerbrun, the firearms chairman from the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation.

You have the floor, sir.

8:55 a.m.

Greg Illerbrun Firearms Chairman, Past-President, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation

Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, honourable committee members, and fellow witnesses, it's an honour to speak to you today.

I'm 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. I'm also a family man, and I share the shooting and hunting sports with my wife, daughters, and grandchildren.

I've been the chair of the Saskatchewan recreational firearms committee for over 20 years and continue to work with firearms groups, local government, and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. These organizations comprise everyday people interested in the outdoors and the legitimate use of firearms.

The thousands of people I represent support the total repeal and replacement of the Firearms Act with a new act. We want a new act that provides a common-sense approach to firearms ownership in Canada. Therefore, we do support the measures being brought forward here today, but please understand this: respectfully, there's much more work to be done.

Let us look at the Firearms Act of today.

First of all, under this legislation and even with all the amendments proposed today, all firearms owners are deemed criminals if they posses a firearm. Your licence is nothing more than a five-year permit that prevents you from being charged with the criminal offence you're committing. At the whim of government, it can be and will be revoked, and it can be made very difficult to obtain or renew it. Without a firearms licence, owners have no defence for the crime they are committing. Firearms licences must be made valid for life unless the individual has lost that right through a criminal act.

Secondly, the Firearms Act continues to use the Criminal Code in the wrong manner. The government keeps trying to address the criminal use of firearms through licensing provisions. Everyone is in favour of new laws to stop domestic and gang-related violence, but we must not do so at the expense of hundreds of thousands of legitimate firearms users in Canada. Criminal activity should be dealt with by severe penalties under existing Criminal Code provisions. Legitimate firearms owners are not the problem. Firearms licensing should not be in the Criminal Code.

As I speak to fellow Canadians today, I understand that there are serious disconnects between the legitimate firearms users and those for whom the very mention of the word “gun” strikes unwarranted fear into their hearts. Sadly, this is the reality, which is continuously fuelled by a politically motivated and sensationalist media agenda. Tabloid journalism is the order of the day—grab a headline by using the word “gun”. I challenge any and all of you to recall one media broadcast of a positive story concerning firearms use. What should be regulated through the rational application of facts is too often driven by fear and emotion. We are continually reminded that it is impossible to legislate against insanity.

The firearms community has a long tradition of responsible firearms use in Canada, not crime, and the Dominion of Canada owes its very roots to a rich and diverse cultural history built upon the hunting and trapping traditions of over 300 years. That is why legitimate firearms users will never compromise or agree to give up their basic right to own and use firearms. Legitimate firearms users are not the source of firearms crime in Canada. This is a statistical fact.

Today's measures do represent common-sense improvements, and for that I thank you. Legitimate firearms users are ready to get to work. We will help you foster the discussion and assist in creating a common-sense act that stops criminalizing the traditional lifestyle of legitimate firearms users in Canada.

Thank you for my time.

9 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much, Mr. Illerbrun.

We now welcome Mr. Rodgers, from the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

Should you wish, you have up to 10 minutes for a presentation, sir. You now have the floor.

9 a.m.

Tony Rodgers Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Thank you very much.

First of all, I'd like to thank the taxpayers of Canada for financially helping me attend this meeting today. My federation isn't in a position to pay for that.

Secondly, on behalf of the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters, I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for the opportunity to make this presentation in support of Bill C-42.

It was just over 20 years ago that former minister Allan Rock began to make statements in the media stating that he was pushing for more gun control in Canada. At that time, statements were attributed to him that the police and military should be the only people to possess guns in Canada, and that firearms should be removed from all cities and stored in armouries.

Although those statements have been withdrawn, they alerted the law-abiding firearms owners of Canada that more trouble was on the way. However, we must thank Mr. Rock for his wake-up call. Many of us believe that the existing legislation, Bill C-17, as bad as it was, was grudgingly accepted by the shooting community and would remain around for a while.

We did not expect for any interference of our legal firearms activities, especially after Bill C-17 was only in existence for a year and a half. What that wake-up call produced was a strong, united voice within the firearms community of Nova Scotia. We also learned later that in the whole of Canada a firearms community will never be reactive again, but rather a proactive group with strong communications across the country.

The responsible firearms owners of Nova Scotia organization represents 100,000 hunters in the province, as well as gun collectors, target shooters, and farmers. It is also supported by 32 hunting and fishing clubs, and 60 shooting clubs.

Over the past year, these people have demonstrated the resolve to fight any bad firearms legislation to the end, using whatever legal means available to them. The cancellation of the long-gun registry by Prime Minister Harper's government was a very good beginning, bringing back some respect to the firearms community.

For the past 20 years, we've been living under a dark cloud that shadowed us as criminals because of our hobbies. We strongly support the passage of Bill C-42, the common-sense firearms licensing act, and look forward to its implementation.

I would like to address a few specific amendments that change the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code.

The streamlining of the licensing system by eliminating the possession-only licence and converting all existing POLs to possession and acquisition licences will have a very positive effect on hunting in Canada. It will allow many hunters that held the old POL to purchase new firearms. They have not been able to purchase new firearms unless they took the training course. It always appeared silly to me that a person who was safe enough with using firearms and legally allowed to own them was not permitted to buy new firearms. Changes to the act will now allow them to purchase these new ones.

Hopefully, this change will also attract some of the people who left hunting to come back and once again contribute to the conservation of the country's wildlife by purchasing licences and giving back to their hunting heritage.

One of the main problems with the legislation, as it is today, is that it created many paper criminals, people who did not have the right pieces of paper for the right firearm under the old registration system, or who forgot to send in the licence renewal. Creating a six-month grace period at the end of the five-year licensing period to stop people from immediately becoming criminalized for paperwork delays around licence renewal is a very positive move and will be welcomed by the firearms community.

Safety has always been the hallmark of the Federation of Anglers and Hunters, and making classroom participation and firearm safety training mandatory for first-time licence applicants really is a no-brainer.

I can appreciate that not all areas of Canada, especially in the north, will have the ability to provide this service, but I believe that this will pay dividends to the rest of the country by having everyone from this point on classroom trained.

I have not been a person to support registries when it comes to firearms owned by law-abiding people, but a registry of people who are not allowed to possess firearms is fine with me. The amended Criminal Code to strengthen the provision relating to orders prohibiting possession of firearms where a person is convicted of an offence involving domestic violence is a step in the right direction. It would also be extended to list all people who are banned by the courts from the possession of firearms. I think that would have been an improvement.

Transporting a firearm to the shooting range or to a gunsmith would not require a separate piece of paper in my view. Ending this needless paperwork around authorization transportation by making them a condition of licence for certain routine and lawful activities is positive and will have the side effect of reducing costs within the firearms office.

I've heard stories from many of my colleagues from across the country of the abuse of power by some Canadian chief firearms officers who use their own interpretation of the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code to fit their personal likes and dislikes with respect to firearms and firearms owners. Therefore, changes to provide for the discretionary authority of the chief firearms officers to be subject and limited to regulation works for me from coast to coast to coast. All CFOs will administer the act as it's written, no individual interpretations.

It is important to both Canada Border Services and the RCMP to share information on newly imported restricted and non-restricted firearms into Canada. So the change to authorize firearms importation information sharing when restricted and prohibited firearms are imported into Canada by Canadian businesses is good.

This last amendment was prompted by a reclassification of a firearm by the RCMP that made hundreds of Canadians criminals overnight. The Swiss Army green rifle had its status changed from restricted firearm to prohibited with a stroke of a pen. This decision was made after the importers had worked with the RCMP on the original classification. The change will allow government to have a final say on classification decisions following the receiving of independent expert advice.

Long gone are the days of boys playing cops and robbers, shooting pretend guns at each other. The likelihood nowadays is that a SWAT team will be bearing down on them. Our society has become paranoid about firearms because they have been led to believe that guns are in themselves evil, and people who want to use them are evil as well. I don't know if we will ever get around to a time when we can trust our neighbours. The good news is that these changes will go a long way in fostering a positive relationship among the firearms community, government, and police.

Thank you very much for your attention.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much, Mr. Rodgers, and I thank all our witnesses for their respectful comments.

We will now go to our rounds of questioning. The first round is seven minutes, and we will start with Mr. Leef, please.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all our witnesses.

I think for the benefit of Mr. Illerbrun who is on the phone right now I'll introduce myself. I'm Ryan Leef, member of Parliament for the Yukon. I'm going to ask each one of you one question because I don't want to be presumptuous. I'll just see where everybody's at and that might direct my continued line of questioning. I'll start with Ms. Cukier and then move to Mr. Rodgers and then finally to Mr. Illerbrun. Ms. Cukier, do you own a gun, or have you ever taken the Canadian firearms safety course or the hunter education and ethics development program?

9:10 a.m.

President, Coalition for Gun Control

Wendy Cukier

I don't, but members of my family do, and I've lived with guns in my home for a number of years.

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Tony Rodgers

Yes, I have everything that's associated with it.

9:10 a.m.

Firearms Chairman, Past-President, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation

Greg Illerbrun

Yes, I've taken the course a couple of times because I've taken my kids to it.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Thank you.

I've done the same thing, taken the course a couple of times and taken my son through it. The point of the question is, I think for the benefit of the Canadian public, we've heard from all witnesses about a law-abiding, safe, ethical, and I would argue, self-regulating firearms community. I think many of the course descriptions and the rules and regulations around firearms ownership and firearms safety training have come directly from the firearms community. They're not things that have been legislated upon us, but are driven by the firearms community to make sure the group maintains its high standards.

Maybe I'll start with you, Mr. Rodgers, and then over to you, Mr. Illerbrun. I'm just wondering for the benefit of the committee if you can describe in a tight package what the Canadian firearms safety course looks like, additionally—and what we call it in the Yukon may be a different name but the same principle—what the hunter education and ethics development program looks like, which is ancillary to the CFS course if you want to have a hunting licence. Then maybe quickly could you describe what sorts of ethics, rules, and standards are set by the firearms and sports shooting community at a range itself?

In other words what are range rules that would identify and secure Canadian firearms owners, not only as law abiding but as a highly safe and ethical group of individuals?

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Mr. Rodgers, it will take you about 20 minutes to go through that. Perhaps you could give us an abbreviated response, if you would.

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Tony Rodgers

As you say, this could take a little while.

In Nova Scotia, to take the training required to hunt, a person has to take the registered Canadian firearms training course as well as a hunter education course. They're both separate components. In some provinces they're joined together.

The training required in the Canadian firearms training course takes a person through all of the needed material with respect to the ethics surrounding firearms and the proper handling of firearms. When you go through that process you'll learn the different types of actions, the different types of ammunition, what's prohibited, what's not prohibited, what we're allowed to use in Canada, what we're not allowed to use in Canada. Those are the main components and are built for understanding.

At that particular point, though, it only makes you safe to use the firearm itself. In order to get the licence you have to go through another chapter, and that is to apply to the RCMP, basically, for permission to get the Canadian firearms card so that you can buy guns and buy ammunition. That is a little bit more onerous in that the information, the questions, are about your mental health, your marital status, things of that nature. All the questions that are there must be answered properly or you'll get your application back pretty darned quick. We have to have a picture of ourselves sent along with that application. That, in turn, is placed on the card, if the card is granted to that particular person.

The hunter education portion in Nova Scotia is about a seven-hour course, and most of it surrounds ethics and safe hunting. There are some components of field stuff like map and compass, identifying animals and traps, and things of that nature. A lot of it is circled around the relationship between the hunter and the farmer, the landowner, the ethics surrounding it, the ethics surrounding your hunting partner, the ethics surrounding responsible taking of an animal in a fair chase, so yes, those components are looked into.

With respect to the range, I'm not much of a range shooter myself, but the basic guidelines will be seen, probably in every club, up on the wall as you walk through the door, such as no shooting unless there's a range officer around. There's ongoing training within an organization, a shooting club for different types of calibres to ensure that a person who buys a new firearm becomes familiar with it before they actually get a chance to start shooting it. In most clubs, their regulations are over and above anything that would be required by the chief firearms officer. Most of them are pretty stringent. That's why one of the safest places to be is at a gun range, because their safety record is impeccable.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Thank you.

Mr. Illerbrun, without repeating anything, is there anything you would add to those remarks?

9:15 a.m.

Firearms Chairman, Past-President, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation

Greg Illerbrun

I think Mr. Rodgers did a very good job of covering most of it. I'll only add a couple of things.

We also have two courses here, one for hunting, and the Canadian firearms course, of course, is the same across Canada. Our hunter course, I think Tony led to that, but there's a respect for landowners, the game, the hunters, other hunters, and generally the use of firearms that's really pounded into the people who take that course.

There's also practical firearms handling, where they actually have deactivated firearms that you must go through and demonstrate your ability to handle those firearms, and prove it in tests and go through all of the procedures to do that—how to load it and unload it, and keeping the firearm pointed in a safe direction at all times when you do that.

Both courses have an 8.5 by 11 inch book, about a half inch thick, so it's not something you do on a whim. When I went and took my kids, we did it for six to eight weeks for one night a week, plus the practical test at the end.

Going to the range issue, Mr. Rodgers is right, there's a range officer who's always appointed when you get to the range. He has total control of the range. He calls when you can shoot and when you must stop shooting. If he thinks something's going to go wrong, he can call a stop to the shooting immediately, and everybody has to follow those rules. All clubs are very stringent about that. If you don't follow the rules you will lose your club membership.

Other than that, I think Mr. Rodgers pretty well covered everything very well.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Fine. Thank you very much, gentlemen.

We will now go to Madam Doré Lefebvre for seven minutes.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Illerbrun, Ms. Cukier and Mr. Rodgers, thank you very much for participating in today's meeting. It is always interesting to meet hunters from other provinces and learn about their point of view.

I am a Quebecker, and I come from a long line of hunters. I got my hunting licence and then I was hooked. I went hunting with my cousins and my father. The next year, I decided to follow a gun safety course. That made my parents very proud. In my corner of the world, we are part of this community. It is a long-standing tradition and I am very proud of it. What we are hearing today is very interesting.

To start, I will address my questions to Ms. Cukier.

I have a few questions about your presentation and different aspects of Bill C-42. The first point that you mentioned was the transportation of firearms, which I discussed with various police services in Quebec.

Bill C-42 includes a relatively important measure dealing with restricted and prohibited firearms. I've spoken a great deal with police officers in Quebec about provisions in the bill on the transportation of these weapons and the impact that they will have on police services. They told me that they have no idea how they are actually going to be able to apply these provisions in reality and how difficult it is going to be for them at work on a day-to-day basis.

I would like to hear your point of view, as well as that of the 300 organizations that you represent, with regard to these provisions in Bill C-42.

9:15 a.m.

President, Coalition for Gun Control

Wendy Cukier

Thanks very much for the question.

I think it's fairly simple. The existing authorizations to transport regulations and the power in the legislation are aimed at restricting where restricted weapons can be possessed, and these regulations have been in place now for over 50 years. The intent is to say that handguns represent a threat to public safety because they can be misused by their owners and they can be stolen. In fact, about a third of the handguns recovered in crime in Canada are guns that were at one time legally owned and have been sold illegally or stolen. Therefore, while we are prepared to allow individuals to use handguns for target shooting, and in some cases to have them as part of their collections, we want to be very cautious about where and under what circumstances they can have these guns.

The argument is that as you expand the authorizations to transport to basically say that you can be transporting your handgun from your home to any gun club in the province—which from my perspective could mean anywhere in the province—it's going to be near impossible to establish that someone was not going from their home to the gun club where they are a member and have a legitimate reason to be. They could be travelling virtually anywhere and saying they're on route to a gun club.

It's a technical change that could have unintended consequences. We've seen enough cases where restricted and prohibited weapons have been stolen from locked vehicles and then misused in crime, for example, to be concerned about this. I think the enforceability also becomes an issue. If you're basically saying that an authorization to transport allows you to take your handgun virtually anywhere in the province, then what exactly is the purpose of the authorization to transport?

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

That leads me to raise the issue of firearms classification. Currently, the Canadian Firearms Program is administered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The classification is then approved by the Minister of Public Safety.

What is being proposed to us within the framework of Bill C-42 is an update of firearms classification. However, in reality, this is about playing politics with the debate on firearms classification by directly granting a new power to cabinet, which is to nullify firearms classification definitions.

I find that interesting, but I get the impression that the classification system is being weakened.

I would like to hear your point of view about this. You mentioned that the debate was being politicized, but could you explain to us why, in your opinion, Bill C-42 will likely politicize firearms classification?

9:20 a.m.

President, Coalition for Gun Control

Wendy Cukier

If we look at the regulation of potentially dangerous substances or objects, normally there is a reliance on expert opinion. The classification of prohibited weapons, and indeed, restricted weapons, is certainly the subject of much debate. Different countries have different approaches. The police have said repeatedly that since the initial list of prohibited weapons was set with Bill C-68, manufacturers have been skirting those prohibitions by changing some features or changing the name of the firearms.

Basically, industry will find its way around the regulations, so I would add that some countries have a permissive approach, which means that instead of saying, “These guns are prohibited”, they say, “These guns are allowed.” This is much more the approach that we have, for example, with the regulation of pharmaceuticals. If you want to bring a new drug into Canada and administer it, you have to demonstrate that it's not a risk to health or safety.

There are some fundamental challenges with the way the legislation is currently crafted, because it allows these loopholes for new guns coming in that would otherwise be prohibited. Our view is that if your intent is public safety you should look at the process and at ways to tighten the process. As unfortunate as the retroactive classification of the Swiss Arms firearm was, if that's the thing you're concerned about, you don't make a massive change to the system in order to address what is a relatively small issue. Perhaps you have one process that addresses the importation of new kinds of firearms, and in the event that the RCMP wants to retroactively change the classification of a gun, a different process kicks in. But—

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much, Ms. Cukier. We're well over the time. I'm very sorry about that.

We will now go to Mr. Breitkreuz, please, for seven minutes.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Thank you very much.

I would first of all like to address my questions to you, Mr. Illerbrun. Thank you very much for being with us. Your experience as a police officer is always very helpful, as it is in the debate we're having here today.

I have questions in two areas.

The first area, Mr. Illerbrun, is to have you comment on the authorization to transport regulations that are contained in this bill. As you may be aware, there was a great variety in applications of this from province to province. Some provinces would allow you to have an authorization to transport for three years. Other provinces, such as Ontario, would require an ATT every time you decided to go to the range. I would like you to comment on how you see this requirement playing itself out in regard to whether it's going to change safety in the various provinces. You might want to include some of the indications that police officers weren't even aware when an ATT was given out for a certain transport of a firearm.

That's my first question. The second will be on the classification of firearms.