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

9:25 a.m.

Firearms Chairman, Past-President, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation

Greg Illerbrun

First of all, everybody needs to understand that in order to buy a restricted firearm, in this case a handgun, you have to have a reason to own it. You have two choices under the act. One, you can be a collector. You deem yourself a collector, and you are subject to home inspections of where you store your firearms. Most people deem themselves to be shooters. If you are going to be a shooter and that is the reason you are buying the gun, you have to be able to take your gun to the range to shoot it because you've said you are a shooter.

The only way you can get the gun to the range is to have an authorization to transport. The law says that now that you've said you are a shooter, you must go shooting. You must use it or lose it. The law says that you have to have an authorization to transport. This act, as I understand it, is not changing the authorization to transport. It is just saying that instead of having to go get one every time you go to the range, or have all these variations across the country, they are going to tie it to the licence.

Now, in order to buy a handgun, you have to have a restricted classification on your licence, so in order to be able to have a handgun, you have already passed all the tests and the screening that has been talked about earlier in this standing committee hearing. Now you need the authorization to transport. Your firearms licence is good for five years. If you buy a gun in the fourth year, you can get an authorization to transport only until your licence expires, so you get it only for one year. The authorization to transport is very specific. It says where you can go and what you can do with it. Mr. Breitkreuz pointed to the fact that there are some variations across the country. Mine says that, right now, today, I can go to any range in Saskatchewan. They are not changing that. They are just tying it to the licence because it will simplify the process and save taxpayers money to do what has to be done legally.

Everybody needs to understand that there is nothing new here. We are just going to put it with the licence. It is a restricted licence, so you have handguns, and the government knows you have handguns. They are registered, and now you've said you are a shooter. When you renew your licence now, you need that authorization to transport to go to the range. They are going to issue the same authorization to transport that they are issuing today, but it is going to be tied to your licence. It will expire when your licence expires, and it will be renewed so that you can follow the law of the land that says you require this authorization to transport in order to go to the range and use your firearm.

I think that should cover that fairly well, unless you have something else you want to ask.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Thank you, Mr. Illerbrun. Does it change how you can transport your firearm?

9:25 a.m.

Firearms Chairman, Past-President, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation

Greg Illerbrun

No, your firearm has to be transported locked twice. If you were going to the range with your car, you would have to have it in a locked case, probably with a trigger lock on it, and put it in the trunk of your car and lock it. You would also have to take the most direct route to and from the range. If you are veering off that, you are not following the rules of the authorization to transport, and you are subject to charges.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Thank you. You have heard some of the other commentary here on the classification of firearms. Would you mind giving us your view of this issue?

9:30 a.m.

Firearms Chairman, Past-President, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation

Greg Illerbrun

As I understand it, what they are proposing is an expert committee to go through and follow up to decide which classification all these new firearms that are coming in are going to go into. Instead of having a hodgepodge of rules across the land and CFOs deciding what the classification of firearms is going to be, there is going to be an expert committee that will do that. They will decide that once and for all, instead of this retroactive stuff.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Thank you very much.

The Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation has a history of promoting the safe use of firearms. When they brought in their safety course many years ago, could you tell me how that affected the problems that may have been experienced with accidental use of firearms?

9:30 a.m.

Firearms Chairman, Past-President, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation

Greg Illerbrun

That is true. The Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation was instrumental in bringing firearms safety courses to the province, probably some 40 or 50 years ago. As a direct result, incidents involving accidents around firearms use went almost to nil from what they used to be. It is through the training process that we started then and that is still going on today.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

I would like to thank you very much for the presentation you have given us this morning and continue to work with you on this issue.

9:30 a.m.

Firearms Chairman, Past-President, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation

Greg Illerbrun

Thank you.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Thank you very much, Mr. Breitkreuz.

We will now go to Mr. Easter, please.

April 28th, 2015 / 9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all the witnesses for appearing.

Mr. Rodgers, in your presentation you said that you were basically in favour—I don't know if you were entirely in favour—of a registry for those who should not be able to attain, use, or own firearms. I don't see that proposal anywhere in the bill. How are you coming at that, or do I see it wrong?

9:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Tony Rodgers

In the bill there's a proposal to strengthen the provisions related to orders prohibiting the possession of firearms when a person is convicted of an offence involving domestic violence.

Maybe I misread that myself. I thought it was going to create a registry of the people....

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

I don't think it is.

I guess it's something we can ask our researchers about later.

9:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Tony Rodgers

That's my error in interpretation.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Well, I could be wrong too, so....

But it is an interesting suggestion. I think you suggested an amendment around that, and that may be a possibility of a way to go.

9:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Tony Rodgers

It's an old idea. We proposed this many years ago when the registry first came up: let's register the people who are not allowed to have firearms so that the police will have definitive information on those people. I still support that. I think that would be a great registry to know exactly who is not allowed to have them.

I'm sorry for the confusion.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Well, no, that's why we have the committee hearings, so that we all—including us, and perhaps especially us—can learn something.

Madam Cukier, you went through a number of areas. What areas in the bill are you suggesting would really open up the possibility of the abuse of firearms? From where I sit, we see some good things in this bill and we see some worrisome things, but you've made a number of points. What areas in the bill do you think would open up the possibility for the misuse of firearms?

9:30 a.m.

President, Coalition for Gun Control

Wendy Cukier

In our reading of the authorizations to transport, they go from saying that they will allow a prohibited or restricted firearm to be moved between two or more specified places for any good reason to saying that the specified places must include all shooting clubs and shooting ranges that are approved under section 29 and that are located in the province. Perhaps it's not the intention, but our reading of this is that the authorization to transport essentially allows you to take your handgun anywhere you like where there is a shooting club.

Similarly, there are concerns about extending the terms of the licence and integrating the PAL and the POL, for the reasons I explained. People who have a possession-only licence were not subject to the same level of screening.

With due respect to the previous speakers, training is very helpful in reducing firearms accidents. Training may be helpful in encouraging firearms owners to store their firearms properly. However, the evidence does not support the idea that training prevents either criminal misuse or suicide. In fact, if you look at many of the high-profile events that have plagued us in recent years, it wasn't that the gun owners did not know how to shoot straight. In a number of cases, members of gun clubs had risk factors that were not noted by their colleagues and went on to kill people. The screening processes extend far beyond training. The screening processes have to include not just criminal records checks but spousal notification and other measures. As I said, I think the program evaluation document that reviewed the RCMP Canadian firearms program has a number of very good proposals in it to strengthen the screening and the licensing.

Finally, under the current legislation, the chief provincial firearms officer can, if in his view there is a risk to an individual or anyone else, prevent the transfer of a firearm, refuse an authorization to transport, and so on. Because we know that police databases are limited, making sure that chief provincial firearms officers have discretion and err on the side of public safety—recognizing that there are appeal processes for licensees—is absolutely fundamental.

I think whatever the intentions of this legislation may have been, there's very little evidence that it's tied to data on what works, what does not work, or even reviews conducted by this very government on what's needed to keep us safer.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Chair, I'll go to the other two witnesses.

One of the things I see as a positive in this legislation is the combining of the two licences. I think the bill goes a step further in that it demands that there be additional training. I think that streamlines the system a fair bit. I believe Mr. Rodgers mentioned that it might bring others into being hunters and shooters, so being well trained would be a good thing.

Mr. Rodgers or Mr. Illerbrun, what's your view on that and the combining of the licence? Do you see any risks there? Do you agree with Madam Cukier?

9:35 a.m.

Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Tony Rodgers

I don't see any risks there at all.

I think it's a great idea to do this combination. It's going to smooth out the system and get rid of the confusion that presently exists between the POL and the PAL owners. I don't see why they would have any difficulty in changing it over and allowing these folks who have been trusted with the firearms to buy ammunition or an additional or new firearm.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Mr. Garrison, you have five minutes.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you to the witnesses for appearing today.

We have limited time to deal with the various parts of this bill. I think some things expressed here were incorrect, and I thank Mr. Easter for clearing up one of those. I think Ms. Cukier has cleared up another with regard to the authorization to transfer.

On the question of classification, I'm tempted to say I wonder whether the members on the opposite side would be as happy making this a political question if they thought that Madam Doré Lefebvre or I might be the minister and that the pressure we would come under might be different from the pressure people on the other side come under.

One of the things I don't see in the bill is a suggestion to have an expert committee. It's a cabinet decision, which makes it a purely political decision. The minister has been reluctant to admit that and has referred to somebody's pen in general when it was actually his pen on the reclassification.

I want to skip over those and go to something that is very important, which I think is in the written submission by the Coalition for Gun Control.

Ms. Cukier, I'd like you to comment a bit more about the gender analysis of the impacts of this bill and the failure to consult with those who deal with family violence in the preparation of this bill. Could you say something more about that? You raised that in your written submission and I think it's very important.

9:40 a.m.

President, Coalition for Gun Control

Wendy Cukier

Thanks very much.

It comes back to what I said previously about the way that this is framed, and indeed the question that was posed. Do you own a firearm, and can you tell us about the training process and screening process? The assumption that gun ownership confers expertise in violence prevention is wrong-headed.

There's been a lot of research by public health experts, domestic violence experts, on the real risk factors associated with domestic violence, with suicide, and indeed with violence more generally. I don't think there's anything in the comments I've heard from my respected colleagues, nor indeed some of the members of this committee, that recognize the importance of evidence in making these decisions. The focus is on training when what we really need is better screening.

Again, the RCMP had signalled this loud and clear. Risks around domestic violence may be a matter of record in terms of the police databases, but they may not be. Issues with respect to mental health challenges, suicide, and so on, most certainly are not likely to be in police databases.

The rigorous screening processes that were applied to the possession and acquisition licences and not the possession-only licences, which included reference checks, spousal notification, and so on, are fundamentally important. If you go back and look at the testimony of those experts in public health, in domestic violence, and indeed police, the importance of the renewal process, and those screening processes as part of renewal, was viewed as absolutely fundamental, as a complement to the continuous eligibility screening.

I don't want to keep harping on it, but I think the so-called objective view of the legislation, which is contained in the government's evaluation of the bill, identified the importance of looking at training issues. It identified the importance of making sure that licence screening is improved, that more information is made available from more agencies in order to specifically address the risks of domestic violence, ensuring that the licensing processes for non-restricted licence applicants be held at a high standard and audits be introduced, and that the police and government work with health care as well as women's organizations and other community organizations to address the risk factors.

Thank you for your question.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

I have one short question.

One thing on which I do agree with some of our other presenters is that perhaps a failure to renew shouldn't result in an immediate criminal charge. However, it seems that the government has gone a long way in removing all penalties for that. Is that what you're referring to with the automatic renewal?

9:40 a.m.

President, Coalition for Gun Control

Wendy Cukier

Absolutely.

We've seen this with amnesty after amnesty after amnesty. There has not been an effort to reach out, to educate people about why having a licence is important, why they must renew. That's another thing that this RCMP report suggests, you need resources to ensure compliance.

Sending the message that it doesn't really matter if you renew your licence is completely the wrong message.