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Although those statements have been withdrawn, they alerted the law-abiding firearms owners of Canada that more trouble was on the way.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.