Allow me to introduce myself briefly. I am Alexandra Laberge and I am an elementary and high school teacher. I am a volunteer member and activist with the Fédération des femmes du Québec, the Quebec women's federation or FFQ, and co-chair of the working committee on feminism, the body, sexuality, image, gender, and violence.
I would like to use the privilege of officially representing the FFQ here today, and the voices of the women and girls of Quebec—and the voices of the women and girls of Canada as well, I hope—to remind the government that firearms issues are women's issues.
Women's struggle against firearms is historical, global, and legitimate since firearms are primarily owned by men who victimize and make women vulnerable by how they use them. Our struggle dates back long before 2012, when the previous government passed Bill C-19.
In the years since then, we have suffered another affront as a result of Bill C-42, in 2015. Women mobilized and the public statements, briefs and actions, as well as the heartfelt cries of women who have suffered as a result of these bills have finally been heard by a Liberal government that has promised reform to the women of this country. We are confident that this government has heard us since we represent half of Canada's population and are the targets of the bullets fired predominantly by men.
Unfortunately, we do not think Bill C-71 will adequately protect Canadian women and girls. In our opinion, the government could do better than this bill to improve the safety of women and girls in Canada. We would like to take this time today to remind you of what these women and girls have concluded and what has been shown by various authorities and women's groups. We would like to give you recommendations that are the result of these women's reflections, which we consider legitimate and feasible, in order to help preserve the safety of women and girls in Canada.
As a volunteer, and at the same time as my work as a teacher, I have studied more than a dozen briefs, reports, and written demands by women, yet I have looked only at what has been produced since 2012, and in French only. Supported by reliable sources and recognized bodies such as Statistics Canada and the RCMP, these women have done an outstanding job in order to be recognized once again in the government's decisions on firearms. I hope that these documents, which have been reported in the media and are readily accessible, have been read and studied, but I have not been able to look at everything that has been done elsewhere in Canada. We could rely on the data from Statistics Canada, which are quite telling, or other government platforms, but women always have to work extra hard to assert their rights and, nowadays, their safety. That is why the Quebec women's federation insists on honouring this work by raising the main points that these women have taken the time to identify and that we officially support.
All the written briefs point out that firearms are a women's issue. Let us not forget that firearms are primarily owned by men and that, although they make up the majority of victims of homicide statistically speaking, women should not suffer as a result of firearms or laws that make it easier for men to harm them.
The Coalition for Gun Control, reports, for instance, that although men are more frequently the victims of homicide, women are about three times more likely to be killed by their spouse.
Let us recall the discussion in 2015 surrounding Bill C-32. More than 30 women's groups in Canada spoke out about the impact of Bill C-42 on the safety of women. Eighty-eight per cent of Canadian women were killed by a bullet that was fired by legally owned shotguns or rifles, the same weapons that some people do not consider to be the cause of gun violence.
Guns are fifth among the 18 main causes of death in domestic homicides.
Investigations of family violence, such as in the case of the children of Kasonde and Arlene May and the Vernon massacre, have shown the weaknesses of the old act. Changes to the current act have been recommended. Risk detection needs to be improved for gun licence applicants by using detailed questionnaires and requiring two references from the applicant, along with notification of the spouse. A gun registry should also be created because important information is missing from police databases.
Fifty per cent of domestic homicides end with the killer committing suicide, which shows that the key to protecting women and children is to thoroughly review gun licences and gun licence renewals. Eighty per cent of gun deaths in Canada are suicides which, for the most part, are committed by a rifle or hunting rifle that can be easily obtained.
In rural communities in western Canada, in particular, people are less in favour of gun control and the percentage of people with firearms licences is higher.
Women and children are especially vulnerable when there is a gun in the home. In Ontario, 55% of killers in cases of domestic violence had access to a firearm. The recent Small Arms Survey of 2013 studied the relationship between guns and domestic violence. It states among other things that while men account for the majority of victims and of those committing homicide using guns, the number of women killed, injured, and intimidated by guns in situations of spousal violence is significantly higher. Appendix D of the RCMP report states that some of those deaths could be prevented through stricter laws that prohibit persons found guilty of spousal violence from carrying a gun. Further, the report entitled “Homicide in Canada, 2011” shows that stricter firearms laws have protected women and children.
We agreed to appear today because we think the current government, through its actions and decisions, which support feminist policies, will finally consider the safety of women a top priority. We have chosen to take on this responsibility because what we are proposing will be analyzed by competent people and adopted for the safety of women in Canada.
We have two recommendations, which we are making jointly with “PolySeSouvient”.
The first is to prohibit anyone subject to a protection order from carrying a gun.
The second is to clearly prohibit anyone found guilty of spousal violence, rape or other sex crime from carrying a gun.
These recommendations would not eliminate gun violence against women, but our objective is more realistic. We are calling on the government to impose stricter regulations in order to reduce the number of women killed.
Carrying a gun is not a right; it is a privilege. It is logical and legitimate that people who are found guilty of a crime, especially crimes against women, should lose that privilege.
We want the government to take a clear stance on these two issues and show its support for the safety of women in Canada by adopting these two realistic and necessary recommendations.
In closing, we would like to mention the forgotten women and girls who suffer because of the right to carry a weapon, people who are not mentioned often enough and are never given the opportunity to be heard. According to Statistics Canada, indigenous women and girls have been forgotten for too long and suffer the consequences of guns more than non-indigenous members of both sexes combined.
The report entitled “Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile” shows that older women are also the victims of gun violence and are more likely than older men to be killed by a family member.
Finally, we must not forget transgender women, for whom no statistics are available as of yet.
In conclusion, I will draw a brief parallel with what is happening to women in the United States. Since the start of the year, there have been 22 school killings in the U.S. In Canada, we have also had our share of tragedies at educational institutions in which women were targeted in particular. Teachers, who are still part of a traditionally and primarily female profession, are offering an interesting perspective on women and men beyond the intimate sphere, the family, the public sphere or the workplace. Women are not safe because of the laws that allow people to own guns.