Evidence of meeting #115 for Public Safety and National Security in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was number.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Rod Giltaca  Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights
Tracey Wilson  Vice-President, Public Relations, Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights
Steve Torino  President, Canadian Shooting Sports Association
Tony Bernardo  Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association
Wendy Cukier  President, Coalition for Gun Control

11:05 a.m.

Rod Giltaca Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the committee for inviting us to contribute to the discussion around Bill C-71.

As the committee is aware, we represent the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights. What is significant about that is that the CCFR is primarily a public relations organization. We represent thousands of highly compliant, continuously vetted individual Canadians who are frustrated with being continually punished for no valid reason.

We are being punished by pointless and ineffective regulations, nonsensical and arbitrary requirements, and vilification by the government and media without end.

Consider this: what force would drive your neighbours, your friends, the mechanic who works on your car, an MP, to support, fund, and maybe even volunteer in an organization like ours? The answer to that is the government irresponsibly using its power to implement irrational and political solutions to very complex societal problems and alleged solutions like Bill C-71.

The bill itself we consider to be a disaster. It breaks the Liberal's promise of no new long-gun registry. In response they intend to build an entirely new long-gun registry, up to but excluding the serial number and the description of the firearm that's being transferred. The last time they went down this road it cost the taxpayer over $2 billion. Here we go again.

The private transfer of a firearm post Bill C-71 would consist of a process that records everything about the transfer, including a mandatory approval by the firearms program to transfer that firearm, and the issuance of a reference number. The reference number is essentially a database record number. Although it would be missing from this registry, two additional fields are in the registry, the serial number and the description of the firearm, as I mentioned. I would be completely confident that a few extra fields would be built in for future expansion should the political climate become more permissive later.

Regardless, it's a registry and it has everything to do with firearms.

I'll mention one more thing on this topic. This entire structure and the obligations that it foists upon million of gun owners who haven't done anything wrong to deserve this extra regulation has been billed simply as verifying a licence before a transfer. It certainly sounds reasonable and inexpensive but it's neither. It is grossly misleading; that statement in particular.

Another bizarre measure in Bill C-71 is the revocation of the long-term authorization to transport, the ATT, needed for a licensed gun owner to take their handgun to a gunsmith to have it serviced, for example. It's not that this activity is no longer acceptable, it absolutely is, but under this bill, the owner would need a short-term ATT, which requires a request to the Firearms Centre, processing, a bureaucratic approval, and mailing a piece of paper, which is physically carried by the owner to the gunsmith. This needs to be done every time.

Now remember, this is a licensed gun owner, whom the government has vetted and checks for criminal activity every day. This is a gun owner about whom the government says, that's okay, they can possess unlimited handguns and unlimited ammunition. They can drive to and from the range and wherever else is approved. But unless they had this special permission slip they can't go to the gunsmith because I guess the implication is they'll probably engage in some kind of gang activity or sell their firearm to a criminal.

I wonder what gang member or domestic abuser calls the Firearms Centre for an ATT before transporting their firearm to a crime scene. I'm sure we don't have any numbers on that.

This measure is ridiculously wasteful and is completely ineffective in changing the behaviour of criminals. I was under the impression that this bill was to reduce the criminal use of firearms.

One of the worst provisions in this bill is giving unalterable authority to the RCMP to classify firearms. As it is now, the RCMP is doing this work. If a mistake or an abuse of that authority is committed then elected representatives can overrule them and correct the situation. The difference post Bill C-71 is that should this situation occur no procedural recourse can be taken, none at all.

The minister has rejected this uncomplicated and completely valid criticism by claiming that definitions are defined in legislation, and that the RCMP are merely following instructions. The reality is very different. It's putting the RCMP in a situation where they can determine what possessions are illegal or legal. That same group will enforce their decisions. That in itself is antithetical to how our entire system works and for good reason.

The existing criteria is so horribly written that almost anything could be classified prohibited. We have seen that several times already.

Without very careful consideration of all aspects of this part of the bill, this could be a real problem for everyone.

I'd like to turn the rest of our time over to Ms. Wilson.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

You have a little less than five minutes.

11:10 a.m.

Tracey Wilson Vice-President, Public Relations, Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights

Good morning, Mr. Chair and committee members. My name is Tracey Wilson and I am an avid hunter, sport shooter, mother, and grandmother.

I've been monitoring the committee hearings for Bill C-71 so far, and there seems to be a significant emphasis on domestic violence and the safety of women. Something I've heard repeatedly or in different variations are statements like “based on my research” or “in my experience”, and then a percentage figure, like 26% or 32% or 66%, is thrown out.

The CCFR is a group that uses fact in its arguments. That's one of the reasons we enjoy so much support. We don't exaggerate data or fill the room with people holding signs to fool or guilt people into agreeing with our opinions. We don't think that is a responsible way to contribute to policy development.

The first thing I want to establish is that gun owners are, overwhelmingly, great people. We are highly vetted. We are monitored daily for criminal behaviour. We are also people who want Canadians to be safe, and we want women to be safe. This idea that if we don't agree with someone's bad policy suggestions somehow we don't want women to be safe needs to stop. It's divisive and it leads to bad policies.

The CCFR uses the Canadian government's own numbers to support virtually all of its positions. To cut straight to it, StatsCan reports consistently that less than 1% of all police-reported incidents of domestic violence have a firearm present. As I've said before on this topic, the StatsCan definition of firearm present could be a firearm in a safe or in another room or simply at the address of the incident. So what is the real number? How many licensed gun owners are threatening their partners with guns? Is it one-tenth of one-tenth of one per cent? Ninety-nine point nine nine per cent of gun owners are not involved in this type of behaviour, and our position is that they need not to be punished for the acts of a handful of people who are already breaking the existing law. No group of Canadians other than the millions of gun owners in this country is forced to wear the collective guilt for crimes committed by the very few.

Right now, if a woman feels threatened, she can call in a safety concern to the Canadian firearms program. There's a 1-800 number for that, and action is taken. Call your local RCMP detachment and tell them that your partner is threatening you with a firearm and see what kind of follow-up happens.

By the way, if the existing system is not working, then the answer isn't to create more regulations to not be implemented. If you truly want to make women safer, have resources to support women who are in abusive relationships. It's as simple as that. That is where resources need to be allocated. Bill C-71 doesn't make women safer, and if the government had a bill that did, we would be happy to support it.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you.

Mr. Bernardo or Mr. Torino.

11:15 a.m.

Steve Torino President, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

I'll start first.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, for inviting us to appear before you today.

My name is Steve Torino. I'm president of Canadian Shooting Sports Association. From 1996 to 2006 I chaired the national advisory committee on firearms to the ministers of justice for the Liberal government. From 2006 to 2014 I chaired the committee for the Conservative government.

I'd like to start with some comments, please.

On the subject of lifetime background checks, as far as our members are concerned, it seems unnecessary and counterproductive to mandate verifications going back to an applicant's distant past, covering past job changes, relationship changes, long-past health issues, even school issues, etc., to determine an applicant's fitness to possess a licence. In 2016 there were over 406,000 licences issued, new and renewal, and 771 were refused, representing 0.018%. Most of these were court-ordered. A grand total of 36 were due to domestic violence. It seems clear that the five-year investigation framework in the current law is producing the desired results of screening out who should not have a licence. We believe that an investigation based on lifetime events will not produce additional tangible benefits. Licence revocations appear to follow the same trend.

Our concerns with the section dealing with lifetime background checks involve the criteria for the information being checked and the training of those who will check it. Are we being screened for any violence issues only? Do we have to divulge any time in our lives when we lost a job? The current questions ask for this for only the last five years. Does the information being collected actually matter, and when can we expect to see changes? What's the training for those people who will evaluate the information? Who actually evaluates the information? What training do they have to make judgment calls regarding an individual's suitability to own firearms? There's the lack of an appeal process. There's no answer to that, at this point. The additional time and costs associated with such investigations will be prohibitive. Such resources, in our opinion, would be much better utilized in other more needy areas, such as the pursuit of those criminals discussed in the minister's recent guns and gangs symposium.

On the subject of licence verification, the Bill C-71 requirement, minus the requirement for a reference number, is merely codifying existing practice. Firearms owners have been verifying licences before doing a transfer, without question. We have never heard of a case where that has not happened. However, the reference number requirement can and will pose some significant issues for compliance. Gun shows, estate sales where the executor does not possess a firearms licence, private sales in remote areas and at odd times without access to 24-7 services, and verification for any loaned firearm at any time come to mind. When current verification methods, diligently adhered to, have had positive results, the necessity of this new requirement seems another restriction on lawful firearms owners. This will have no effect on the criminal possession and illicit movement of firearms.

The licence verification process is basically a registry—not of guns, but of the activity of firearms owners. The proof of this is the multiple verifications done at the same time if more than one firearm is being transferred. If the purpose of this is to check and verify the firearms licence, why do both the seller and buyer have to enter their licences?

With regard to business records, as far as we're concerned, the requirement for detailed recording of all firearms transactions appears to be a return to the registry that was cancelled in 2012. When this is combined with the information required for a licence verification for individuals, it is remarkably close to the cancelled long-gun registry. That is something this government has steadfastly claimed will not happen, yet it appears to be returning to that.

On the subject of new classification categories, all existing classifications have a reason for being. For example, subsection 12(3) is the category for converted fully automatic firearms. This is similar to all existing categories, from subsections 12(2) to (7).

What makes proposed subsections 12(11) and (14) so unique is that both categories prohibit currently legal firearms for no reason. Has the application of Canadian law gotten to this level that property can be confiscated without even the courtesy of a valid reason? Confiscation, in our opinion, is really what this is. At the time a person dies, if there's no one left to acquire this firearm, the government has to pick it up. There is no real means to give any compensation to the estate, to the widow, or whoever it happens to be.

I'll turn over the rest of this presentation to my colleague, Mr. Bernardo.

Thank you.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

You have a little more than five minutes.

11:20 a.m.

Tony Bernardo Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Thank you.

I'm Tony Bernardo. I'm the executive director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association. I'm a member of the Canadian firearms advisory committee, from Anne McLellan to Steven Blaney continuously and a member of Anne McLellan's firearms experts technical committee.

I'd like to speak about the removal of the Governor in Council ability to declare a firearm to be non-restricted. The removal of the RCMP mistake eraser, the section of the Firearms Act that currently allows the minister to override a bad classification decision, implies that the RCMP has never made a mistake. It also implies the Government of Canada has never made a mistake. Our community wishes this were indeed true, but the RCMP has a long history of making mistakes regarding classifications.

One of the firearms currently being prohibited in Bill C-71 is the subject of a long history of mistakes made by the experts in firearms classifications. The CZ 858 rifle was initially brought into Canada in 2004. The RCMP experts gave it a classification of non-restricted. In 2014, after almost 10,000 rifles had been sold as non-restricted firearms, the RCMP changed their mind. They reclassified all the rifles sold between 2007 and 2014 as prohibited 12-3 converted fully automatic rifles, despite the rifles being absolutely mechanically identical to the 2004 to 2007 examples.

After the public safety minister of the previous administration corrected this regrettable action by the RCMP using the mistake eraser, Bill C-71 seeks to eliminate that they did not relent to the will of their political masters, but incorrectly interpreted an import identical to the models reclassified as non-restricted to be a new model because it had an image of a Greek warrior engraved on the receiver cover, a non-restricted part, similar to putting a racing stripe on a car. Mechanically, they were identical.

Not once, not twice, but three times the RCMP classified the same gun three different ways. When you thought it couldn't get worse, we now have the same firearm being classified as 12-11. According to the news release by Public Safety Canada, the new legislation proposes to “Ensure the impartial, professional, accurate and consistent classification of firearms as either 'non-restricted' 'restricted' or 'prohibited' - by restoring a system in which Parliament defines the classes but entrusts experts in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to classify firearms, without political influence”.

The RCMP experts said they were 12-3 prohibited, but now they aren't. Now they're 12-11. Since the guns didn't change, we have to wonder what the new classification is about. The answer to this is self-evident. To retain the firearms as 12-3 would mean they would have to be confiscated immediately, and it's politically unpopular to confiscate lawfully owned property. To confiscate lawfully owned property would require compensation be paid to the tune of $14.6 million. To grandfather existing owners into 12-3 would then mean that the new additions would be able to buy other 12-3s, and that wasn't popular either.

If the firearms were grandfathered in 12-3, existing owners would not be permitted to shoot them. That would also be politically unpopular, so the question is answered. Every single one of these points is based upon its politics. The CZ 858 is no longer a 12-3 like the RCMP experts claimed, nor the non-restricted firearm that the RCMP experts claimed before, but it's now a 12-11, as proclaimed by the current government. Since the guns didn't change, and the RCMP didn't change, it seems obvious the changes to 12-11 are solely politically based, the very issue Public Safety Canada claims Bill C-71 is intended to prevent.

If these firearms are as dangerous as is claimed, how come people have been allowed to keep them for decades? There are somewhere around 10,000 firearms. If they're that dangerous, why are the owners being allowed to grandfather them?

To close on this subject, why was the ability to restrict or prohibit firearms not removed? The minister could wield the power, but only in one direction, only to make it more restrictive, not to make it less so.

“Government should base their policies on facts, not make up facts based on policy. Without evidence, government makes arbitrary decisions that have the potential to negatively affect the daily lives of Canadians.” That's a quote from the Liberal Party policy document used in the last election.

There is no proof that anything is wrong with authorizations to transport. There have been no incidents. Why are we now seeing these particular authorizations to transport hatcheted like they are?

Why can't people take the firearm to a gun store to sell it? They can bring one home from the gun store, so it's not the distance that's the problem. They can go from Cornwall to Kenora with 24 hours of non-stop driving, shoot in a match for a week, and then drive back. That's legal, but they can't take it across the road to the gunsmith.

In closing, I'd like to invite all of you to the parliamentary day at the range on June 5. It is a non-partisan event. There are no politics. There are no cameras. There's just a whole lot of information, and you get to try these firearms that you are currently prohibiting and compare them to other ones that are out there. We'd love to have you come. We have lots of one-on-one coaches. It's a very safe event. This is our seventh year, and it's open to all parties.

Thank you.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Mr. Bernardo.

Now we go to our round of questioning.

Mr. Picard, you have the floor for seven minutes.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

I want to welcome the witnesses and thank them for their testimony.

First I'd like to speak to the representatives of the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights.

You criticize the government's approach in putting forward a certain number of regulations and legislative provisions. You understand that this is a political process that responds to demands that also come from the population, and we understand that some people will not be in agreement with certain points. Several elements put forward in the bill were requested by citizens who are in fact demanding even more restrictive measures. At this stage, our challenge is to find a happy medium between those who want extreme controls and those who want a much less restrictive approach.

11:25 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights

Rod Giltaca

If we could find something that enhanced public safety and wasn't just purely punitive or purely political, then we'd be glad to talk about it. Your assumption is that a great number of Canadians want more restrictive control, and I'm just not sure. Right now there is a petition to scrap the entire bill as punitive, and it's the second most signed petition in Canadian history. It's E-1608, and it has 75,000 signatures. If you had something else to show that there are really that many people who want restrictive gun control, we'd love to see it and have that debate.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

I am not making assumptions. I receive letters and emails on my computer, and people also come to speak to me in person. I don't think these are assumptions. We all have to acknowledge that there is a democratic process that allows people to express themselves, on both sides of the issue, including those who are on the side of your organization. There are people who are asking for measures that are diametrically opposed to the ones you are asking for.

May 24th, 2018 / 11:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights

Rod Giltaca

They certainly are asking for diametrically opposed measures. I would invite the Minister of Public Safety to come before the committee at some point and talk about all of the messages that he's received from gun owners and even people who aren't gun owners who just don't think that this bill is fair. I'm sure it would be in the thousands. I'm not sure if you've received thousands of messages asking for restrictive gun control.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

It may be more.

On your website, policy 15-4 on firearms registration says: “Rather than registering firearms, public safety is better served by regulating the people who seek to use them [...]”

Is that not one of the objectives of the provision requiring that transactions between purchasers and retailers be duly registered, so that we can identify the people involved in those transactions? Is that not one way of regulating the people who carry out such transactions, as you propose in your policy?

11:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights

Rod Giltaca

Are we controlling the people involved in these transactions purely by the fact that they have a PAL, they have a licence. These are transactions among licensed individuals and these individuals are the most highly scrutinized people in our country. The police and the commissioner of the RCMP do not get a CPIC check every day. If the committee is not familiar with what constitutes a CPIC check, that is if the police pulled you over to the side of the road because you were suspected of committing a criminal offence, your name would be run through CPIC. That's what happens to us every single day. We are very highly regulated as it is. Now you want a registry of the transactions between these highly regulated people.

I think we all agree that the problem is gang shootings, and the problem is bad behaviour, maybe, in domestic situations. The gangs obviously are completely outside of this entire bill, they're not touched by any of this, but we all care about the domestic situations. If that's the situation and that person has a PAL, I assure you, that PAL is going to be gone in a heartbeat. I work with the police constantly and I work with the Firearm Centre, I'm an instructor in good standing. I assure you, if you called the Firearm Centre and said I'm being threatened with a firearm by my spouse, immediate action would be taken. If there weren't, then that's another problem. It's not legislation.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

I don't have much time left.

We are all aware of the violence perpetrated by gangs, and also of the devastating effects of family violence when firearms are used, which does not involve the members of armed gangs. We are all aware of the 56% increase in the number of break-ins for the purpose of stealing firearms, which may or may not involve gangs. I think that the issue of violence goes beyond the violence of gangs.

My next question is for Ms. Wilson.

Welcome. You proudly introduced yourself as a mother and grandmother. Congratulations. That is a beautiful achievement. Your groceries must cost more now that you have children in the family.

11:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Public Relations, Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights

Tracey Wilson

I have two daughters and one grandson.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

They eat quite a bit.

Do you feel that your life is in danger or threatened when you go to the grocery store?

11:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Public Relations, Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights

Tracey Wilson

I don't know when my life would be threatened, no.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Is that why, in policy 15-10, you would allow anyone to carry concealed weapons in a public place, including supermarkets and malls?

You are more aware than I am of the lethal impact this type of device could have if it happened to be stolen by ill-intentioned individuals who could turn it against themselves or use it against the public in general.

11:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Public Relations, Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights

Tracey Wilson

If you read the policy, there are provisions within it. We do believe when somebody has been licensed, vetted, and properly trained to carry, they should have that right. We're not talking about everybody, everywhere. Yes, there are people who are hurt at grocery stores and all kinds of places. Is it something we actively lobby for? No. It's our official stance on an issue regarding the firearms file.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you.

Mr. Motz, you have seven minutes please.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Thank you, Chair, and thank you witnesses for being here today.

I'll start with the CCFR first. Ms. Wilson, you indicated that domestic violence is an issue, and as a woman before us, can you tell us whether this legislation actually provides protection to women in abusive relationships?

11:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Public Relations, Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights

Tracey Wilson

There's nothing in this legislation that even touches on that. In fact, under the current system, we've got a very robust plan for women who could be feeling threatened by a partner who owns a firearm. There are already programs in place. Nothing in Bill C-71has anything to do with the protection of women.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Right, and if you recall, under the previous government there was legislation in place that revoked the licences for those individuals and prohibited them from obtaining firearms if they were ever convicted of domestic violence.

11:35 a.m.

Vice-President, Public Relations, Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights

Tracey Wilson

That's correct.