House of Commons Hansard #165 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was guns.


The House resumed from Friday, November 25, consideration of the motion that Bill C-232, an act to amend the Divorce Act (granting of access to, or custody of, a child to a grandparent), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Divorce ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

When the matter was previously before the House, the hon. member for Elk Island had the floor. He has seven minutes left in his intervention.

Divorce ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to continue my speech. It is the first time that I have had 108 days to contemplate the next sentence in the middle of a speech. I shall carry on. I am not going to waste my time.

We are dealing with a very important matter. It is very important to recognize we are dealing with the lives of real people. Quite often in this place we can sink into a way of thinking and we forget the people behind the rules and laws we are passing.

It is the same when we deal with a budget. The budget affects real people. This is another bill that does the same. It is a bill that deeply affects the lives of people, grandparents in particular but also grandchildren. It also affects the parents.

When I was contemplating what to say next, I decided I would try to put a human face on my remarks. I want to share the importance of the legislation before us concerning the rights of grandparents to have input into the lives of their children's children. Nothing is more precious than this.

I would like to share correspondence I received on this subject. I received a very moving letter after I had participated in the debate last November 25. This letter came from people in Ontario who told a story of how they have been separated from their grandchildren. They simply asked for a measure that will safeguard the vital connection and relationship between grandchildren and grandparents.

We live in a age in which many people are disconnected. Many young people, many children have had their roots ripped away from them for one reason or another. The connection to grandparents is a very important connective root for these people.

This lady said: "For us it is over three years since we have heard from our only grandchildren". I read this letter several days after receiving it. Just as many MPs do, I work on correspondence in the evening and I answered this letter quite late at night. This is what I said: "I am sitting here at 10.25 p.m. miles away from my wife and son in Alberta, my daughter, son-in-law and only grandson in Saskatchewan and half way around the world from another son and daughter-in-law in Rwanda. When I read your letter I detected the pain you must feel. I cannot imagine the hurt you feel when you cannot talk to, cannot touch, cannot hug and spoil your own grandchildren. My family is so precious to me and I am sure that you feel the same about yours". I really felt the pain that evening because the story so touched my heart.

When we contemplate legislation that will grant grandparents reasonable and fair access to their grandchildren, there can be no reasonable doubt in the minds of parents or of the courts, if they are involved, that there is anything detrimental to the children, but only favourable to the children, we then proceed to provide this.

Many people across the country are watching this on television right now. Certainly here in the House we have observers that have been touched by this issue. It is incumbent on us as legislators to do all we can.

I received another letter from this lady after Christmas. She said: "Nothing new has happened regarding news from or about our grandchildren. It was our fourth Christmas of not hearing, despite our sending cards and letters, even by registered mail. We feel so helpless in all this". This is the crux of the matter. There is a helplessness and nowhere to turn for assistance.

We are not asking for anything in this legislation that will be a great hardship on anyone. We are asking for legislation that will grant a point of connection between children and grandparents.

I cannot help but relate this to my own situation. I really cannot tell members how much I really love my little grandson. I might as well tell the whole world that he will soon be having a little brother or sister. It is such a tremendously touching experience for us. We are so privileged to have a wonderful, loving relationship between our children, our son-in-law and our grandchild.

I cannot, for the life of me, see why anyone would put a barrier between children and their grandparents. Therefore we are not dealing here with people who have a normal relationship. That is true for probably 95 per cent of people whose relationships are not torn. As in almost all legislation, we are trying to introduce measures that will accommodate those people where a relationship is broken and there has to be some kind of intervention.

We are asking all members of the House to support the bill. In this way people who cannot reach out and touch and hug their grandchildren will be given at least occasionally the privilege of doing so. We are asking that those parents who would stand between their children and the grandparents to carefully think about what they are doing when they introduce these barriers.

Barring a response from parents we need legislation that would require them to give to some disinterested party, like a court if necessary, their reasons. If there is a valid reason for maintaining the barrier I am sure that the courts would understand. If there is not a valid reason then we believe it is in the best interests of children and grandparents to be able to see each other, to talk to each other, to send and receive letters, to send and receive phone calls in order for them to be able to communicate and to build on their relationship.

In conclusion, we have so many young people in our society who are anchorless. They have had so many disruptions in their lives. Nothing is more solid than a familial relationship between children and parents, between children and grandparents that will give them, on an ongoing basis, a sense of security and belonging.

I urge all members to support the bill. Let us do what is right for the children of our country.

Divorce ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Beth Phinney Liberal Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, 1994 was declared the International Year of the Family. The theme as defined by the United Nations is Family, Resources and Responsibilities in a Changing World.

In making this proclamation, the United Nations outlined some basic principles. The first of these principles is that the family is the basic unit of society and therefore deserves special attention.

The widest possible protection and assistance should be given to families so that they can assume their responsibilities in the community. Another principle is that families take different forms and serve different functions from one country to another and within each country.

This is very important. Changing social and economic conditions are bringing to the fore new issues affecting families, particularly children. One of the realities that cannot be ignored is that many marriages in Canada now end in divorce. A related fact is that many children are directly affected by these divorces although it is difficult to determine the exact number because there is no official information about out of court custody decisions. We know, for example, that in 1990 approximately 34,000 children were involved in divorce cases in which the courts made custody decisions.

From a social policy perspective, this means that Canada's laws, policies and programs should take into account the many diverse needs of families today. More specifically, our laws restricting divorce should reflect our society's changing needs and continue to ensure that the best interests of the children are met. That is why I am pleased to be given the opportunity to comment on Bill C-232 which proposes amending the Divorce Act to promote grandparent access.

I want to start off by saying very clearly that I believe the relationship between grandparent and grandchild is something very special, especially after the parents divorce. Grandparents can be an important resource to children. They can offer care and support and buffer children from the many changes and stresses associated with family breakdown. I therefore agree wholeheartedly with the basic principle that a child's continued contact with grandparents, indeed with all members of the child's extended family, is something that very often is in the best interests of the child.

I emphasize that the best interests of the child test is a standard that has come to be accepted both in Canada and internationally as the appropriate standard to apply with respect to matters relating to children. It means that laws directly affecting children should focus on the needs and best interests of the child rather than on the rights of adults.

In applying this standard it is important to acknowledge the writings of sociologists and psychiatrists on the subject of the effect of divorce on children. Researchers generally agree that the breakdown of the parents' marriage brings about a major crisis in the lives of most children and adolescents. It is an acutely stressful event for a child. Equally important is the fact that researchers also highlight the detrimental effects on children of ongoing conflict and litigation.

There is widespread agreement that the most tragic and clinically vulnerable children are those who become the object of continued acrimonious custody or access battles. It is not difficult to imagine how upsetting such a court battle would be to a child with the stress, uncertainty and loyalty conflicts that

would accompany the litigation and with the child right in the centre. I bring this up because Bill C-232 seeks amendments to the Divorce Act which effectively would provide grandparents with independent standing to apply to the court for access to, or custody of their grandchildren at the same time the grandchildren's parents are getting a divorce.

This bill proposes that grandparents be allowed to make a custody and/or access application under the Divorce Act without being required to obtain leave of the court. Currently under the Divorce Act third parties, including grandparents, must have leave of the court to make an application for custody of or access to any or all children of the marriage. The requirement that grandparents obtain leave of the court to make application ensures that only where the truly serious disputes exist will recourse be made to the courts. In other words, it discourages the use of litigation.

I am concerned that despite its good intentions this bill, which would allow grandparents to make a custody or access application under the Divorce Act as a right, could have the effect of encouraging grandparents to formally apply for court imposed access orders. I realize this is not its primary goal; rather it is an attempt to formally recognize a grandparent's legal right to access. It may however have the unintentional effect of increasing custody and access disputes and promoting litigation. I do not believe that would be in the best interests of children because, as I mentioned earlier, the best interests standard means focusing on the needs of children rather than on the rights of adults.

I want to emphasize that I do appreciate the grandparents' overwhelming desire to ensure that they continue to see their grandchildren. We have to remember however that formal court intervention is not always required and should not be encouraged.

Surely it is preferable to encourage that arrangements for grandparent access be worked out on the basis of trust and co-operation. I believe that in many cases, indeed in the overwhelming majority of cases, regular contact between grandparents and children of a broken marriage can continue without the need for court intervention.

In my view, marriage breakdown is a traumatic personal experience for the parents and children. Children who are already experiencing the distress of a parental divorce do not need to be additionally upset by a courtroom dispute between the parents and grandparents concerning grandparent access rights.

Another important point which should be made is that it should be recognized there are limitations as to what a court order can accomplish and what the law can do to enforce it. It would be ideal if a court order awarding grandparent access could ensure that meaningful access would occur without further problems. Unfortunately this is not the case.

A court cannot order people to change their attitudes, feelings or manner of relating to one another. In reality, attempts to enforce an access order often lead to more conflict and often even more litigation.

As I said earlier, I support wholeheartedly the idea that children should have continued and ongoing contact with their grandparents. However, I fear that Bill C-232 could have the effect of encouraging grandparents to formally apply for court imposed access orders. I do not think that would be in the best interests of a child. I truly believe there are more efficient and less stressful ways to work out post-divorce access arrangements without the need for court intervention.

The law is a blunt instrument. A court imposed judicially enforced order for grandparent access cannot take the place of a relationship that is allowed to occur and develop naturally.

Divorce ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, here we are in the second hour of debate on the bill tabled by my colleague from the Reform Party. The aim of this bill is to amend the Divorce Act, by simplifying the procedure for grandparents to obtain legal custody of their grandchildren.

At the moment, grandparents wishing to obtain custody of their grandchildren must submit an initial application to the courts for leave to debate the legal custody of their grandchildren.

Grandparents are currently treated like any other interested person. All persons other than a spouse must first obtain leave from the court to apply for a custody order. Grandparents have no special status in divorce proceedings, and the aim of a preliminary application is to verify the claims by the grandparents and to decide if it is in the best interest of the child for them to intervene.

Bill C-232 would eliminate the need for grandparents to make this preliminary application and would enable them to become a party to the dispute in the same way as the spouse.

I would first like to say to this House that I am deeply saddened by the number of cases in which grandchildren lose contact with their grandparents following a divorce. Divorce proceedings are extremely stressful, and the break up of the nuclear family is traumatic for children. It can have the effect of altering their personality or behaviour. Children losing contact with their grandparents, in addition, face further hardships.

Children kept from their grandparents by mean parents, who use them to take revenge on one another, become the innocent victims in a form of hostage taking. They become the bargaining

chip of parents whose meanness is matched only by their self-centredness. Nobody wins in this sort of game.

In this light it is therefore easy to understand why my colleague's bill elicits such sympathy. At first glance, it seems to resolve the problem of the additional trauma children must face when their parents divorce. However, despite appearances and its commendable objectives, it creates more problems than it solves.

Let us take a good look at Bill C-232. The proposed amendments aim to make it simpler for grandparents to request custody when parents divorce. In fact, grandparents would no longer be required to obtain leave of the court to present a request for custody of their grandchildren. Bill C-232 amends section 16 of the Divorce Act and places parents and grandparents on the same footing when it comes to custody requests. Six people will be involved from the outset instead of two.

This six-way struggle could become an eight-way or sixteen-way struggle, since the Divorce Act does not define "grandparents".

What about de jure grandparents? Does the term "grandparents" include both biological grandparents and grandparents by right? What about a single mother who marries the father of a child, which she later adopts, and therefore gains a share of parental control? Can the single mother's parents be considered the child's grandparents under the Divorce Act? What about remarriage after a divorce where custody is shared?

Take the example of the parents of Julien and Laurence. These children have four biological grandparents. Their parents divorce. The two parents remarry spouses who each have a child, Isabelle and Christine respectively. Isabelle and Christine each have four biological grandparents. If joint legal custody is given to Julien and Laurence's parents, these children will become part of two reconstituted families.

If one of the new couples divorced, no less than eight grandparents would be able to obtain custody of the children. If both couples divorced, twelve grandparents could be involved, I kid you not. Julien and Laurence's four grandparents could each demand custody of their grandchildren by way of two distinct divorce proceedings. Just imagine the legal wrangling.

If its main goal is to foster relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren, Bill C-232 is ineffective. It simplifies the procedure for grandparents but complicates the issue when both parents retain custody and there is no reason to take it away from them. In fact, with respect to their access to information regarding the education and welfare of the child, grandparents are given more rights at the time of the divorce than during the marriage. It is as though they have acquired parental authority, without the spouses being deprived of it.

The children will be subjected to a more complex dispute involving a greater number of parties. Everyone will make their pitch, claiming to act in the best interests of the child, but it is still the child who suffers.

With respect to parental authority, this is an exclusive power of the provinces under section 92 (13) of the Constitution Act of 1867. This concept of civil law is the prerogative of Quebec.

In granting more rights to grandparents, in interfering with the concept of parental authority at the time of a divorce proceeding, this bill represents an out and out encroachment on the jurisdiction of the provinces. It looks like Bill C-232 is trying to accomplish indirectly what direct action has failed to accomplish.

The common law provinces have no legislation explicitly protecting personal relations between grandchildren and their grandparents. The other provinces have been concerned with protecting the relations between a child and his parents. This is a laudable goal, but it is not enough.

Quebec, on the other hand, has enacted legislation promoting harmonious relations between grandparents and grandchildren. Article 611 of the Civil Code of Quebec allows grandparents who are denied such relations to make an application to the court for a decision on the terms and conditions of their relations with their grandchildren. Such an application can be made at any time. The spouses can be engaged in divorce proceedings or not. The application can be made even if the parents have never been married.

Article 611 of the Civil Code is the real solution to the problems created when there is interference in the personal relations between grandchildren and their grandparents. In Quebec, the recourse of grandparents is clear if the dispute is about a deterioration in harmonious relations attributable to the parents. Notwithstanding its honourable intentions, Bill C-232 is no more than a stopgap solution to the failure of certain provinces to bring in legislation in the area of civil law.

There is another aspect of Bill C-232 that concerns me. Clause 1(2) gives grandparents the right to make inquiries, and to be given information, as to the health, education and welfare of the child.

If this amendment was made to the Divorce Act, the grandparents of children of divorced parents would have the right to be given information that the grandparents of children of non-divorced parents cannot obtain.

Furthermore-and we think this is very serious-section 1(2) of the bill directly encroaches on Quebec's jurisdiction over the protection of medical and school information. Quebec already has its own Act Respecting Access to Documents Held by Public Bodies and the Protection of Personal Information.

Following her consultations with legal experts, my Reform colleague admitted in this House on November 25, 1994 that this provision of the bill, and I quote: "-may also contravene privacy acts or rights of the child-"

She went on to say: "Therefore while procedurally it cannot be removed at this time, I trust when the bill gets to committee this clause can be deleted".

I must congratulate my colleague on her honesty. She admits she was wrong about the impact of her bill and tries to compensate by hoping that the Standing Committee on Justice can improve it. Unfortunately, it is not Bill C-232's only shortcoming. I cannot support a flawed bill.

In closing, I wish to reiterate my position on the fate of children whose parents are divorcing. I find it appalling to see some parents relentlessly prolonging the suffering of the young victims of such circumstances.

The governments of common law provinces should make laws facilitating relations between grandchildren and their grandparents, as was done in Quebec, which is a pioneer in family rights.

Divorce ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address this bill today. I would first like to acknowledge the presence in the gallery of many grandparents. I welcome them here. These are people interested in this issue and I encourage them to listen and to work with us as we look to this legislation.

I also recognize their contribution, especially as seniors or grandparents in our society, to the past, the present and hopefully the future of this country.

Bill C-232 addresses the issue of granting access and custody to grandparents. This is a very real issue in our society. There are a growing number of grandparents and a growing complexity of marriage breakdowns and blended families within society.

As chair of the family task force of our party, we have done a fair amount of work looking at families and the importance of families in society. In that process we have determined a definition of family that we are using as a benchmark, those individuals related by ties of blood, marriage or adoption, where marriage is the union of a man and a woman as recognised by the state. It very much includes relations of blood, which means that grandparents are an important part of family and should remain so.

I will illustrate something that happened this week within my riding. We have a unique French community, one of the original French communities in British Columbia. It was established with the logging industry on the banks of the Fraser River at the turn of the century.

It was a thriving community, a mill town, called Maillardville. Every year we have the festival du bois which recognizes the importance of that in our community. This year there was a rededication of the original Millside school. It has been renovated and changed with the changing neighbourhood.

I talked with seniors, many of them watching with pride as being part of this community. In that crowd there were also second and third generation people, seniors who had attended that school in the 1920s. It was a French community of people who had shared in that community throughout their lives and watched their children and grandchildren raised there.

Through them and through their activity within their families, they have managed to maintain the language, the culture, the knowledge and the pride of their heritage, the sense of belonging in and around their community, the sense of history, the values they share and a sense of permanence within their families in this changing world.

There was an understanding between those generations. It was not an externally imposed understanding but an internally shared understanding between the members of families.

Is that typical in our society? Unfortunately it probably is not. We have had changes because of the tremendous new pressures in this society. Seventy-five per cent of mothers of school aged children now have full or part time work which keeps them out of the home. The average number of working hours in the 1950s was 48 in order to earn an average family income.

Today an average family income requires two people on average working 65 to 75 hours every week. The stress on families is tremendous. Therefore, as we have heard today, there is a high incidence of divorce and separation within families. With that comes the stress, the uncertainty, the conflicting loyalties, et cetera, that we have heard.

It is interesting that we have the same number of husband-wife households now as we had in the 1940s. Eighty-seven per cent of households are husband, wife and children. However, many of those households are second and third marriages or blended family units.

We do have single parent families in our communities which are very much a reality. The term single parent family denies that a family had two parents at one point and four parents at some point related by blood. Single parents should not be deemed as alone and isolated in our society. There are relations and support within society for them.

There are the factors of immigration and the mobility of families across the country. These put further stresses on ties of

blood but these separations are not as complicated by the tensions that we find in family break-up situations.

Death, separation and divorce are three real factors of our society and they all lead very much to the breakdown of fundamental family ties. What we are asking today is what we can do about it.

In this Chamber we should be asking about the government's role in doing something about this very real problem in our society. This Chamber recognizes in many ways that one of its primary responsibilities in society is to recognize the importance of heritage.

We hear in eloquent speeches the importance of heritage for our native peoples. We hear the importance of heritage for our visible minorities and our many cultures. However, I would like to see what the importance of heritage is in our laws for Canadians generally.

In family law there is an overlap between provincial and federal jurisdictions. Provincial law dictates what happens within relationships when a parent dies or when there is abuse within the family or when parents separate.

In B.C. when those situations come into the legal process, grandparents may be granted access by application to the courts on the same basis as anyone else. Within that province, as in most provinces, there is no recognition or privilege of any kind by the state given to a blood relationship outside of parenthood. There is a presumption that perhaps the court will make this decision but in law there is no recognition of that blood tie.

What we are looking at today is part of the Divorce Act. Forty per cent of grandparents who have access problems fall under the Divorce Act legislation. Anyone, blood or otherwise, can apply for access, and all non-parents must be given permission by the court to have that access. A parent comes into that situation with same status or same right of access as a bus driver or a neighbour. Their status in law is the same.

We have just come through the International Year of the Family. There are a couple of publications from that period, "A Focus on Canada: Families in Canada" and a look at the statistics in our society, "The State of the Family in Canada". These were extensive studies that looked at Canadian families. They made reference to care of the elderly, reference to relative care, divorces and marriage. There was no mention made of grandparents in Canadian families.

This is in contrast to the fact that within those studies it was pointed out that the most common choice of child care in Canadian homes was by a relative in the relative's home or a relative in the child's home. Grandparents probably made up a large proportion of that. They are a very important part of what is happening in our society and yet they are not recognized as such.

In aboriginal communities blood ties are recognized for many generations, not only one or two. It is only within the last few years that our immigration laws have been changed to not include grandparents.

As a legislative body we have recognized the importance of blood connections through multigenerations in other cultures. What have we done in the Canadian population? We have recognized child care by grandparents in unspecified statistics. They are disguised in a general statistic.

The recognition of rights of access in the laws both federally and provincially is no different than those for any non-parent or any person in society other than the parents.

I have discovered that within tax laws and support in foster care in the provincial jurisdiction, strangers have more support than grandparents when the state mandates the care of a child. Grandparents have been marginalized in our society.

This morning I heard about the rights of the child and the rights of the parent and even the rights the grandparent. What do we do when these things conflict? It is time the government recognizes the importance of family, not multiculturalism or state run day care or even government programs, but looking at what creates a strong society. Strong families create a strong society. Strong families create strong cultural ties. Strong families create a just society. Strong families create a strong economy. A child's best interests are society's best interests because that child is going to grow up in that society.

One step is to recognize the rights of access by grandparents in law and the right of inquiry as to the well-being of their grandchildren and their right to know about their health, education and general welfare. Bill C-232 is the right step in the direction to empower families and underline their importance in our challenging and increasingly difficult role.

Divorce ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to address this House regarding Bill C-232, an act to amend the Divorce Act proposed by the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam.

This bill attempts to address the needs of many concerned, frustrated and in many cases emotionally distraught grandparents who wish to have, according to their perceptions, a more sustainable and meaningful relationship with their grandchildren.

This bill contains two main amendments to the Divorce Act of 1986. The first aim is to eliminate the need for grandparents to obtain leave of the court when making a formal application for access or custody of their grandchildren. The second area of emphasis is within the granting of rights to grandparents to

make inquiries and to be given information on the health, education and welfare of the child or children.

Many people feel that these two amendments to the Divorce Act are long overdue and that many problems would be resolved. The problems to which I refer are those created by divorces, separations, the early death of one of the spouses or any other cause that results in grandparents being denied access to their grandchildren. In any one of these stressful situations the suffering of the child may be more devastating over a lengthy period of time than that endured by any given adult involved.

In many cases the grandparents, provided they are loving, nurturing types, can provide a sense of stability, security and comfort for the bewildered children. This is exactly what happens in many cases.

However, as the number of failed marriages increases, so do the number of court custody cases. My colleague from Hamilton Mountain has already informed us that in 1990 approximately 34,000 children were involved in divorce cases in which the courts made custody decisions. Many more go through varying degrees of distress as custodial care is decided mutually outside the courts.

In my community I have anxious grandparents who have no confirmed knowledge of the whereabouts of their grandchildren. This happens when a spouse passes away and the remaining nurturing parent moves to another community. It is also a common occurrence in separation cases in which the custodial parent moves away from grandparents. Such situations should not exist.

In most cases the court may order the custodial person to notify any person granted access to the child of a change of address at least 30 days before the change. There may be many reasons for strained relationships between parent and grandparent that are child centred. Often a dominant grandparent may incessantly try to impose his or her value system, customs, behavioural codes, et cetera, on the grandchild. This results in a pattern of ongoing confrontation between the adults with the suffering child squeezed between them.

In all such cases the child is the victim no matter how honourable the adult intentions may be. Although there are many factors causing the aforementioned disturbing situation, and even though we are aware of the potential harm to the children concerned, we must not endorse knee-jerk legislation that fails to address the issue in a rational and thoughtful manner.

It is important to note that presently grandparents are not by any means prevented from obtaining court orders that give them access to their grandchildren. Existing legislation pertaining to the access of grandparents contained in the Divorce Act, 1986, states in subsection 16(1):

A court of competent jurisdiction may on application by either or both spouses or by any other person make an order respecting the custody of or the access to any or all children of the marriage.

Subsection (3) states:

A person other than a spouse may not make an application under section 1 or 2 without leave of the court.

The intention of the amendments is an attempt to formally recognize a grandparent's legal right to access. Such a right without some screening process would result in a flood of custody and access disputes and wealthier lawyers.

Supporters of the amendments should be aware of the limitations on what a court order can accomplish and what the law can do to enforce it. It has already been stated that a court order cannot order people to change their attitudes, feelings, or how they relate to one another. Certain personality types will always be in conflict with each other because of certain personality traits and characteristics. In reality attempts to enforce an access order often lead to more conflict and litigation.

It is paramount to keep in mind that all legitimate and credible claims for access or custody have and will continue to have access to the courts, providing they are credible in nature. In this context a credible or legitimate case refers to claims wherein a close relationship between the kids and the grandparents existed for a significant period of time and a truly serious dispute exists between the grandparents and the spouse in custody of the children.

Presently every claim must undergo a screening process to ensure its legitimacy prior to gaining admission to the courts. The provision ensures that unnecessary and unwarranted litigation is avoided, thus saving Canadians vast amounts of money.

We also need the check to ensure that grandparents who are overly intrusive and controlling do not interfere unduly with the parental responsibility of the parents in question. Opening the door for harassment of parents will not benefit children in any way, shape or form.

Another important caveat pertains to the second major proposal in Bill C-232 whereby private information regarding the children is granted to those who have been awarded access. If it becomes a reality, we would have created a very unfair scenario, one in which grandparents from within divorced families would have access to confidential information while grandparents of intact families would not be granted the privilege.

When grandparents strongly believe the child is being neglected or abused there are other avenues of proper and acceptable action available in Canada. For example, family service centres, the Children Aid Society or the police can be asked to assist in a process of protecting the child's welfare.

As a grandparent I am truly blessed for my wife and I have unconditional access to the loving relationship of four wonderful grandchildren. We can only imagine the pain that some grandparents must endure who have been denied access to their grandchildren.

In our case our oldest daughter is divorced. With open arms, we welcomed her and her three children to live with us. The joy of witnessing each unfolding stage of development is indescribable. The meaning of family continually evolves as three generations share the solving of problems, resources and time and do our best in respecting and honouring each other's needs.

The amendments presented in Bill C-232 are directionally correct. I bring to the attention of colleagues the case of the death of a parent or parents, parental abuses, and even personality conflict between parents and grandparents. The rights of grandparents are governed by provincial laws that can vary widely.

In British Columbia grandparents can apply for access under the family relations act. Alberta has no legal recourse for excluded grandparents. Quebec and only Quebec has enshrined the rights of grandparents in family law since 1981.

The use of courts is a lengthy and very costly process. It is obvious that provincial and federal governments must co-operatively harmonize family laws and the Divorce Act to bring grandparents into a loving relationship with their grandchildren.

For the sake of all those concerned, may co-operative effort result in positive directives as quickly as possible thus avoiding unnecessary costly litigation and unwarranted intrusion into the lives of parents, grandparents and grandchildren.

Divorce ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is a piece of legislation that I look upon as an opportunity for the House of Commons to co-operate.

I listened to members opposite say that the bill is directionally correct. I have also listened to the bill being called knee-jerk legislation. Somehow, when I heard that term, my heart fell a little because it did not sound to me like a bill that was likely to get a co-operative view from all parties.

I would like to talk about the family in a general sense. Is the family in Canada under siege? We are treating families poorly.

There are popular myths about Canada and the family today. Popular myths say that most people prefer looser family arrangements than the old-time family ones. There are popular myths that say divorce does not really have that big an effect on children and that alternative lifestyles compete very nicely with the traditional family.

Another myth is that the one parent working and one parent at home model of family is old fashioned, out of date and somewhat demeaning to the partner who is left at home. Another says that day care is a really good or almost better substitute than care in the home.

I would like to explore the myths in very straightforward terms. First, 70 per cent of Canadians feel the traditional family is the best way to raise children. A very recent poll says that the popular myth that other forms of family recognition are as good is just not true.

The second myth is that divorce has minimal effect on children. As a counsellor I have seen the effect divorce has on children. Children are far more likely to blame themselves in the event of divorce. There is almost universally increased poverty after a family splits up. Interestingly enough children from divorced families are more commonly involved in divorce when they become adults.

Are alternate lifestyles as good as the traditional family? Alternate lifestyles are neither happy nor healthy. They often recruit youth to that end. Who could possibly recruit youth to an unhappy, unhealthy lifestyle? I could not. The traditional family produces the most stable, well adjusted, law-abiding citizens from all socioeconomic groups.

On the myth that day care is as good as normal family care, a meta-analysis of the issue was done. How does day care fare under the age of five? This meta-analysis compared different areas of childhood development: cognitive or in other words how smart kids were, social, emotional, behavioural and attachment to other individuals. This is summation of the results. It found that infants and young children who received substantial non-maternal care, that is care greater than 25 hours per week, were affected socially, emotionally, behaviourally and in terms of attachment to the mom. On all four counts the children were affected negatively.

New data coming to light indicates that day care outside the home is not as good as care in the home. The data is not coming from wackos. It is coming from individuals looking at data from the U.S., Canada, Sweden; all over the world.

As legislators how do we treat the family? As I sit in the Chamber a novice politician I try to look at how we treat the family. Divorce is pretty easy in Canada. We have poor maintenance agreements so a dad can disappear and not look after children he has sired.

We make welfare very easy for single moms to access. Our attitude as legislators seems to be that the state can provide whatever might be missing if the family breaks down. However, if the extended family is willing, able and capable to take up the slack, if grandparents are available, willing and able to take up the slack, we say line up. Line up behind whom? Line up behind social workers, line up behind family counsellors, line up

behind lawyers and line up behind judges. The significant bond that exists must line up. As a legislator I think that is wrong.

I looked at the bill and said that it could well push a veritable army of bureaucrats and people who are not concerned about the child into the background and bring grandparents to where they rightfully belong in the foreground for the best wishes of the child.

This is the opportunity in my view. A non-partisan private member's bill is available for an open, free vote in the House of Commons. It is not a good enough bill, I have heard a couple of people say it could be improved. Let us go to committee with this bill. Let us improve it, let us pass it and let us bring the grandparents to where they belong, in line with their grandchildren.

Divorce ActPrivate Members' Business


The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Macleod will have three minutes if he wishes the next time the matter comes up for debate.

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 96, the item is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House resumed from February 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders


The Deputy Speaker

Colleagues, on February 27 the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville sought to move an amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons.

A question was raised regarding the procedural acceptability of the proposed amendment. The Chair heard arguments from the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, who is the government whip, and the hon. House leader for the Reform Party before reserving his decision. The Chair wishes to thank those hon. members for their helpful comments.

The proposed amendment, is asking the House not to proceed with the second reading of Bill C-68 on the grounds that its provisions link the licensing and registration of firearms with the creation of offences relating to firearms. This kind of amendment is known as a reasoned amendment.

The honourable Chief Government Whip argued that this motion was out of order as a reasoned amendment because it was not opposed to the principles of the Bill. However, Speaker Lamoureux, in a ruling on August 30, 1966, noted that opposition to the principles of a bill is, and I quote:

only one of the several possible forms of a reasoned amendment.

Speaker Lamoureux pointed out that several forms of reasoned amendment were listed in May's Parliamentary Practice , 17th edition, at page 527 and that May indicated only that a reasoned amendment ``may be declaratory of some principle adverse to, or differing from, the principles, policy or provisions of a bill''.

Indeed, one of the other forms of reasoned amendment listed is that it "may express opinions as to any circumstances connected with the introduction or prosecution of the bill, or otherwise opposed to its progress".

Finally, Speaker Lamoureux cited Abraham and Hawtrey's Parliamentary Dictionary , which states in very clear terms what a reasoned amendment is. It reads at page 162 as follows:

This form of amendment seeks-either to give reasons why the house declines to give a second or third reading to the bill, or to express an opinion with regard to its subject matter or to the policy which the bill is intended to fulfil.

The Chair finds, after careful consideration, that the proposed amendment respects the definition offered in Abraham and Hawtrey and one of the forms listed in May, and further that it follows a long line of similar amendments presented in this House which have expressed an opinion regarding the policy or the provisions contained in a bill. Consequently, the Chair rules the amendment in order.

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Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK


That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "that" and substituting the following therefor:

This House declines to give second reading to Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons, because the principle of establishing a system for licensing and registration of all firearms and the principle of creating a variety of offences are two unrelated issues that should be addressed separately.

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

When Bill C-68 was last before the House the hon. member for Jonquière had 17 minutes remaining.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders



André Caron Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to continue my remarks on Bill C-68.

When I spoke on this bill previously, I said straight away that I agree with the principle of gun control and that, on the whole, I support the justice minister's bill. Later, I will raise specific

concerns I feel my party should address in a parliamentary committee.

I was somewhat surprised with the type of debate that took place in this House around the gun control issue. I heard some speakers mention individual freedoms. Some spoke of the right for every Canadian citizen to own firearms. Others perceived the proposed measures as unjustified government interference in people's private lives.

To some extent, we are having a societal debate here. Many representations were made and many letters were sent to my office by Canadian citizens who oppose this legislation. I read almost all of them to have a good idea of what the problem is.

I think that this debate is about looking at society differently. It is a matter of individual freedom against public interest. No one in Canada, I think, opposes the right of the government to control firearms, to ensure that anyone who owns weapons, handguns in particular, be identified and be required to justify requesting permission to own such weapons. The problem right now is with the registration of firearms which are hunting weapons.

Some say: "I am an honest citizen and I am not going to cause problems for others with my firearms. Consequently, I do not see why the government wants to know if I own such firearms and determine whether I am allowed to do so". Those who use that argument forget something important, namely that our society-we are not talking here about American society in the 19th century, but about society in Canada and Quebec in 1995-has changed. Customs have changed, as well as the concept of community life, and I believe that one of the main thrusts right now is that society is opposed to violence.

Society is opposed to violence against women and children. Actions which were condoned 25 or 30 years ago are now being denounced and can trigger criminal proceedings. Society tells us, legislators, to control violence. If violence can sometimes show itself in such brutal and damaging ways, it is because some people are armed. It goes without saying that the vast majority, maybe 99 per cent, of those who own firearms will not commit violent crimes. This control which we want to implement over firearms may deter only a small number of people from misusing their firearms, or from using them with bad intentions.

But I want to make it clear that, in my opinion, this bill is a message. It is a message which society is sending to itself. It is society which no longer wants to live in a climate of violence, which wants peace and safe streets, and which wants to make sure that, if a neighbour, a person across the street or those people whom one meets in one's daily activities are armed, they will have had to state that they own firearms.

Owning a gun does not necessarily mean a person is violent, but society tells us that it wants to know who has guns, so that the message is clear. To own a gun is, in a way, a right, but there is also a duty involved. Guns must be used carefully, so that no one is ever at risk.

That being said, I think it is important to adopt the kind of bill before us today, even if it means curtailing certain individual freedoms. I think that, to a certain extent, society is ready for this bill.

Some aspects of the bill are not entirely satisfactory, however. Before my time expires, I would like to comment on these aspects. There is the matter of prison sentences. The bill provides for a minimum prison sentence of four years for serious crimes committed with firearms. The bill also contains several provisions that would increase prison sentences for individuals convicted of contravening this legislation, once it is passed.

I question the use of prison sentences and their effectiveness. The other day, I read in the paper that Canada ranks third among a number of western countries for the number of persons incarcerated per population of 100,000. Countries like Germany, France or the Netherlands have incarceration rates that are lower than Canada's. There is no indication, however, in the newspapers or in reports on the subject, that in these countries violence has greater impact or that people are not as safe as in other countries where incarceration is the measure of choice to control crime.

Incidentally, the two countries where incarceration is used most often are Russia and the United States. The United States has opted for incarceration as a way of exercising social control, as a way of controlling crime. If we look at what is happening in the United States, we do not get the impression that American society is less violent or less dangerous than German or French society.

I think that incarceration is not the right way to deal with the crime rate, and that is why I question some provisions of the bill that seem to reflect this emphasis on the deterrent effect of more severe prison sentences. There may be other ways to approach this problem. This is a very complex issue, and I think my party should raise it in committee.

There is also the matter of sentencing. It is said that judges do not have enough leeway. The minimum sentence is too high to allow sufficiently for the circumstances involved. I think judges should be allowed greater flexibility in setting the minimum sentence. Obviously, when a crime is committed with a firearm, this is an aggravating circumstance. However, there are situations where a judge may have to penalize individuals because under the law, he must determine a minimum period of incarceration. This does not mean justice will necessarily be served in every case.

There is also the time frame. This is important in connection with the requirement to register a weapon and license it. If we add up all the possible time periods, and take into account the number of people currently owning firearms, we are talking about a period of almost seven years.

Obviously, enough time must be allowed for the appropriate administrative measures to be taken to ensure an effective registration and licensing system is in place. However, I think seven years is a lot. This is a very long time, in view of the urgency of the situation and the value of the firearms control measure of registration. It would be preferable to shorten the time period so that people with firearms could take note of their responsibilities and register their weapons as quickly as possible.

There is also the whole matter of costs. There are fairly low fees for registration and there are fees for licensing, which is renewable every five years. I think many people who opposed mandatory registration of firearms mentioned that significant amounts would be involved. Of course, if we add everything up, we arrive at a figure of perhaps several tens of millions of dollars. Not a mind boggling figure, but a reasonable amount, to some extent.

Clearly, if we could lower the administrative costs of licensing and registration, it would be easier on people who have to keep an eye on their spending. But I do not think that the $50 or $60 fee currently provided for under the proposed regulation is high enough to prevent people who would like to own guns from assuming their responsibilities and from registering them, a measure designed to let society know who is armed.

There is another aspect. Some categories of guns-for example the infamous AK-47-will remain in the hands of their present owners. In my opinion, these kinds of weapons have no place in a democratic and free country. They have a history in several countries. They have served all sorts of purposes, not always noble. I think it would have been appropriate for the minister to immediately recall these weapons.

Those are the main points I wanted to make about this bill, which is legitimate in a free and democratic society. In a society favouring non-violent values, it is important to know who owns firearms, because they increase carnage when violence breaks out. As well they are a symbol of violence.

These days, no one can walk the streets with a gun without alarming citizens. This was not the case 30 years ago. In my own town, which was closer to a medium size town than a small town, I recall that, at 17 or 18 years of age, we went through town carrying our .22 calibre rifles to go target shooting in the fields. People did not make a fuss because most of them knew each other and knew who was who. They did not think we were violent. Nobody worried about it. But now, no one can walk the streets of my town, Jonquière, with a .22 rifle without the police hearing about it.

In my opinion, this indicates a shift in society's values and I believe that the time has come for us in Quebec and in Canada to know who is armed, who owns guns, and why, so that people become fully aware of their responsibilities as gun owners.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague's speech on Bill C-68 with great interest, recognizing that the great thing about this Chamber is that we hold a wide divergence of opinion on controversial subjects such as gun control. I do respect his opinions.

However, I want to raise a couple of issues brought out in his presentation. He said we will not solve the problems of crime through imprisonment and that he is therefore opposed or has some difficulty with the more stringent and tougher measures in Bill C-68 on the criminal misuse and abuse of firearms.

He is opposed to deterrence through longer prison sentences. He mentioned there are better ways to deal with this than prison sentences. As is so typical when we debate bills, the Bloc fails to mention better ways. It consistently criticizes but does not bring forward any constructive criticism in the form of viable options.

For years we have tried to rehabilitate some of these violent offenders but basically there are those in society for which rehabilitation simply does not work. That is proven time and time again by the high incidence of repeat offenders. Some of our most violent and horrendous crimes are committed by people who have already served prison sentences and have been let out on early parole only to recommit.

Since the member raised the issue that there are better ways than longer prison sentences to combat crime and the criminal misuse of firearms, what are those better ways?

We are now debating the motion put forward by my hon. colleague from the Reform Party to split the bill in two. It was unclear from the member's presentation whether he is in favour of splitting the bill in two.

Reform feels there are two separate issues in the bill. One is more restrictions on law-abiding gun owners with the minister's firearms act and the second is more amendments to section 3 of the Criminal Code which deals with the criminal misuse of firearms which we feel are two separate issues.

I wonder if the member could enlighten the Chamber as to what his feelings are on splitting the bill.

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12:20 p.m.


André Caron Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. With respect to the matter of imprisonment, I, of course, am not advocating that prisons be abolished or shut down. I do think, however, that the bill puts a little too much emphasis on imprisonment as a solution.

We may, for example, wonder why there are 49 inmates per 100,000 people in the Netherlands, compared to 116 in Canada and 519 in the U.S. I do not think that violence is commonplace in the Netherlands. I think that some societies do not see jail terms as a deterrent in the same way as we do in Canada and the U.S.

The question I ask myself about this bill is whether the proposed solution of systematically increasing jail terms for crimes committed with firearms is effective.

My colleague's second question deals with Reform's amendment to split the bill in two and make a distinction between hunting rifles owned by ordinary, law-abiding citizens, as my colleague would say, and handguns more often used in committing crimes.

I think there is no reason to make such a distinction because, in my opinion, a firearm is a firearm. A misused firearm can cause definite, serious harm to people. It does not matter whether one gets shot with a 12 gauge shotgun, a hunting rifle or a pistol. I think that, in our society, it is important that all those who have the power to harm others with their firearms be aware of this responsibility and let society know that they have this potential power.

Although these people will not, of course, misuse their firearms, that is still a possibility. There is no reason to make a distinction between presumably law-abiding citizens-and I agree that they are-and less respectable people who own handguns or other types of firearms. I do not think that a distinction should be made.

In my opinion, some handguns should be completely banned or recalled, even if they are collector's items, because they are potentially dangerous.

I do not see how it would be prejudicial to a citizen to register his hunting rifles. Many things are registered. Many of our possessions are registered and I do not think this violates anyone's rights.

I will not vote for the amendment put forward by my Reform colleague because I do not think it should be adopted. In my opinion, all weapons are potentially dangerous and their owners should be aware of this. One way to make them aware of this is to require them to let society know that they own firearms and will live up to their responsibility to use them properly.

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12:25 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, there are laws that presently exist for people who are negligent in the use of firearms. There are laws on the books that should be enforced and in some cases are.

After 61 years of registration of handguns, today one can get a handgun in the right bars across the whole country; there are even rent-a-guns. It is running rampant and the registration has failed to do anything.

Can the member please explain to me how spending another million or billion dollars, whatever it takes to register shotguns and rifles, is going to make one iota of difference when it has not made any difference in the past.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


André Caron Bloc Jonquière, QC

Let there be no misunderstanding, Madam Speaker. I believe that this bill is a message that society is sending to itself. It is citizens saying to each other that they want to live in a non-violent environment, in a less violent environment. They are saying that it is not good, that it is not acceptable in our society to possess firearms, to be able, as my colleague pointed out, to go to a bar and buy a handgun, something that I personally have never done, but that it seems is possible.

In addition to its practical effectiveness in controlling firearms, the bill that we are examining is symbolic, it is a message that society is sending to itself. It is not insignificant that hundreds of thousands of people have signed petitions calling for better control of firearms in Canada. There is a problem, contrary to what my colleague is implying in his question.

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12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

We will resume debate. We are now at 10-minute speeches only, no questions and comments.

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12:30 p.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak at second reading of Bill C-68, the Firearms Act.

My preparations for this began earlier last year but most seriously last fall with the tabling of the initial proposals in late November. Quite frankly I was really surprised at the degree and depth of response from my constituency. I represent the riding of Algoma in northern Ontario where we have a long tradition of hunting, target shooting, recreational uses of firearms and other reasons for having firearms.

I was surprised at how deep and emotional the response was to the issue. I have had a chance to meet with over 1,000 legitimate gun owners over the last few months and have received letters and phone calls from over 1,000 gun owners and have met many

of them in groups and in private. I must emphasize that legitimate owners and users of firearms are law-abiding citizens who respect the law, who want the same kind of country that people in the cities want, a country that is safe for everybody.

I have to admit they make a good point when they say to me: "How do these new laws help the country become safer? How do these new laws not become a punishment for us?" We owe it to the legitimate gun-owning community to explain to them clearly, to provide them with details which indicate that they are not the victims in the situation but are partners with all Canadians in trying to make our country safer.

We have a way to go yet in providing full explanations. I am very hopeful that through the committee process, through this debate and future debates that many of these concerns will be addressed.

I have told the gun-owning community over and over again that I believe in parliamentary process. I believe that appropriate measures with respect to firearms control can be taken that respect the needs of rural and urban Canadians.

The balance between rural and urban Canada is difficult to find at the best of times but this is an instance where we must work together to find the balance. The primary purpose of my job with respect to Bill C-68 is to help my urban colleagues, urban members to understand better the needs of rural Canadians with respect to firearms legislation.

The issue is not really a partisan issue because it seems to cut urban-rural in all parties. At the same time, I do not want it to become a split between urban and rural Canada. It is an opportunity through the parliamentary process for both rural and urban Canadians to understand better the needs of the other.

It is incumbent on us to listen carefully to rural Canadians, those who legitimately use firearms, that they not become the target of this legislation. They must become partners. I look forward through this process to bringing forward ideas, amendments, proposals that will hopefully address these concerns. I will be seeking the co-operation of urban members in this regard.

I believe deeply that the minister has been listening to rural members, as he listens today. I believe we can, with good judgment, find solutions to this matter that will be helpful to all, including myself, a member representing a rural area. That is not to say all of my constituents are in favour of not doing something about gun control. I have constituents that are in favour of these measures. It cuts both ways. In my efforts to represent my constituents, I must remember that both sides are represented in my communities.

I have some serious concerns with Bill C-68 that I will raise through the committee process and at third reading. I have invited my constituents, to the extent that they can, to participate in the process with me. I have guaranteed them my commitment to carry forward their concerns.

To start with, I would like to specifically talk about gun registration. My constituents have many concerns and worries when they have before them a plan to register their firearms. They worry that this will lead to the eventual confiscation of their firearms, particularly their long guns. They worry that the registration system will be an insecure information system to which criminals and others will have access, information concerning the firearms they possess.

They worry about the cost, to themselves as individuals and the cost to the country. They worry that the system will be cumbersome and that they will have to jump through hoops. They worry about privacy. The fact that they own firearms is a matter private to them and their families.

They wonder what impact registration will have on family violence and what impact it will have on the criminal element in our society.

We owe it to the legal gun-owning community to explain their concerns item by item. I do not believe we have adequately done that. We have an opportunity in the weeks and months ahead to do it. As I have in the past I will call on my colleague, the Attorney General, to help with those explanations.

Rather than go into the details of some of the things that I would like to see changed here, I will communicate with my constituents item by item as these matters come up. In view of the limitation of time, I wish to say that I have faith in the parliamentary process. I owe it to my constituents, not only on this issue but all issues to bring forward a balanced point of view.

I have tried to convince my constituents, the gun-owning community in my riding, that we have an opportunity with Bill C-68. I know many of them are upset. Much misinformation is out there but we have an opportunity here to correct some of the problems with existing legislation and to develop a system that hopefully will mean this is the last time we have to debate gun control in Parliament.

If we do a good job now as parliamentarians, if we do a good job listening to our constituents, and if the committee is prepared to listen and respond, as I am sure it will, then we can finally put this to rest.

As we have seen with the leadership in our budget, by the leadership of the government on the east coast and in many others areas, including measures that the Attorney General is

dealing with in terms of high risk offenders, we too can respond to Canadians and come up with a solution that will be satisfactory. It may not be to everybody but it will to most.

In conclusion, I would like to acknowledge that at this very moment one of my constituents, John Rochon from Elliot Lake, is now in Argentina at the Pan American games. He is one of our shooters. He is a past medalist for our country and I wish him well. His wife, Donna, is at home waiting for news of progress in Argentina. It is people like John Rochon that are exemplary.

Lionel Houle is an elderly gentleman in Massey, Ontario who came to me with concerns about passing on his guns to his children. It is people like that who have convinced me that the gun-owning community in Canada deserves our respect, deserves to know that we care about their point of view. They are prepared to partner with urban Canadians to put this issue to rest once and for all and to obtain a solution that is effective for the entire country.

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12:40 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, it my pleasure to speak on the motion my colleague for Yorkton-Melville has put forward.

The motion recognizes the problems with Bill C-68 and the fact that the bill deals with two distinct areas: crime control, which everyone supports; and a repressive gun control scheme which will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, will not reduce crime and will turn thousands of Canadians into criminals for simply not registering their guns properly.

It is vitally important that the House legislates clearly and supports only those bills which deal effectively and efficiently with the problems of the country. The justice minister could have brought forward this kind of bill, but he put the two issues together. He knew that Canadians were sick and tired of violent criminals who use firearms. Therefore, Bill C-68 has tougher penalties, including minimum sentences of four years for certain crimes.

The bill also penalizes gun smugglers and provides a deterrent against smuggling crimes. Under the proposed legislation profits from smuggling and smugglers' vehicles can be seized. In addition gun smugglers can expect tough jail sentences when they are convicted. These are the types of measures that Canadians are calling for and I fully support those elements of the bill. In fact, I would like to see many of these penalties extended even further.

Unfortunately the legitimate desire of Canadians for crime control are exploited by Bill C-68 in order to forward the personal agenda of the justice minister. He has stated very clearly that he believes the army and police are the only ones in Canada that should be able to own guns. It is on the public record. Obviously the minister is using Bill C-68 to promote his own wish list and crack down on legitimate gun owners.

When the justice minister speaks about Bill C-68 he suggests there is wide support in the Canadian public for all elements of the bill. He cites polls and claims they support his views. What questions were asked? If you ask Canadians if they support legislation to reduce crime, of course they will say they support it. What are the facts?

This weekend I listened to a presentation by Brian Evans in Alberta and he made it very clear how the questions that are asked can determine the answers. He was quite open about showing the fallacies of the polling system. Again I remind the minister that John Diefenbaker probably stated best what polls are for.

What would Canadians say if we asked some of the following questions: First, do you believe that Canadians who do not register their guns should be subject to up to 10 years in prison, according to section 92 of the legislation? This means that a hunter who does not register his guns could be locked away for as long as multiple murderer, Denis Lortie, 10 years. How can this sort of extreme be justified?

Second, do you believe it is fair that under new rules allowing police to search for unregistered guns, all persons who do not "give the police officer all reasonable assistance" can be found guilty of an indictable offence and liable for a prison term of up to two years? This means that a farmer's wife who does not help the police to convict her husband by co-operating in a search for unregistered guns could be locked away for two years. Again this absolutely unbelievable.

Third, do you believe that the government should spend at least $85 million to institute universal firearms registration? Of course the estimates go up into the hundreds of millions, depending on who you talk to. There is no evidence that this will reduce crime. When similar systems were tried in other countries they failed miserably.

The devil is in the details. When Bill C-68 is viewed in the light of these types of questions, we see how flawed this legislation is. In the justice minister's attempt to crack down on legitimate gun owners he is doing a fundamental disservice to all Canadians. Parliament cannot allow this to happen.

The motion proposed by the member for Yorkton-Melville gives us an invaluable opportunity to get back on the right track and refocus our efforts on crime control which is the real issue in the eyes of Canadians. If we do this, then I am certain we will have all-party support for those measures that increase penalties for criminals. On the other hand, when it comes to universal firearms registration, splitting the bill will allow us to approach this debate in a direct way. If members of the House support the proposed motion, then maybe we will really see what the level of support for the minister's universal firearms registration plan is.

In my own riding of Red Deer, the minister has told me by letter that 67 per cent of constituents support his universal gun registration program. Unfortunately though, when I invited the minister to test his theory by participating in an open town hall meeting in Red Deer, he would not come to my riding. Why not? If the minister believes his own claims then he should receive overwhelming support. I will tell you why not. The minister will not come to Red Deer because he knows my constituents do not support his registration process. He will not come because he knows his claims are ridiculous.

How do I know my constituents do not support universal registration? I have had over 5,461 constituents sign petitions against this legislation; I have had over 1,200 letters in the last two months; I have had hundreds of phone calls and contacts out on the street; all of this against universal firearms registration.

Some might ask whether I have had any from the other side. Yes, I have. My office has received fewer than 20 letters and I have received fewer than 10 phone calls supporting this bill. That is over 230 constituents to one against this bill. I ask: What clearer indication can I have as an MP? It seems astonishing to me that the justice minister could make such an outlandish claim that the people of Red Deer support this legislation by a margin of 2:1.

I travelled my entire constituency this past 10 days from early morning until late at night. I had six town hall meetings and many other meetings. I met many people. All of them are opposed to this legislation. Not one person has told me he is in favour of it.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bill C-68 will cause many problems if passed in its current form. Even with major amendments in committee this bill will still turn thousands of Canadians into criminals.

It has been made very clear that a number of justice ministers, including those from Alberta and Saskatchewan, will oppose this legislation and the enforcement of it. It will cost hundreds of millions of dollars if we count the enforcement costs. It will impose a tax on legal gun owners through registration fees and will threaten the private property of approximately seven million Canadians.

This legislation is unacceptable. Therefore I urge the House to act responsibly and adopt the motion of the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville. Let us split the bill into two portions.

The first part will contain those parts of the bill dealing with crime control. We will send out a tough and unified message that violent criminals and smugglers will be punished severely for their crimes. That is what the Canadian people are saying. I have heard that message in Montreal and Toronto, and I have certainly heard it in the west. It is the same message. They are against crime and are demanding crime control.

The second part of the bill will deal with the government's very unfair universal firearms registration system. In the interests of Canadians we will strike down that proposed legislation. I believe that will be right across the board as well.

We have an opportunity to clarify what the minister has mixed up. It is our responsibility as members of Parliament to do this. I request the support of all members for the proposed motion.

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12:45 p.m.


Roseanne Skoke Liberal Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise today to debate at second reading Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons. Bill C-68 is 124 pages long and contains 186 legislative provisions which include amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada and creates a new separate statute, the firearms act.

Moreover this bill would completely reorganize the gun control system putting provisions of a regulatory type in the proposed new firearms act while leaving the Criminal Code penalties in part III of the Criminal Code. It would also reorganize the classification of firearms and other weapons and the means by which controls are imposed on their acquisition, possession, use and transportation.

The three pillars of the existing system, controls on access, controls on particular kinds of firearms, and criminal penalties, would continue to exist but their forms would change. In particular much of the balance of the system would shift to controls focusing directly on persons rather than on kinds of firearms.

The Minister of Justice in opening the debate at second reading stage urged this hon. House to adopt the legislation in principle before sending it to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs for detailed consideration clause by clause. The justice minister outlined three principles that motivated this government to introduce Bill C-68.

The first principle is that Canadians do not want to live in a country wherein the people feel they want or need to possess a firearm for protection.

The second principle is that if we are to retain our safe and peaceful character as a country, those who use a firearm in the commission of a crime will be severely punished. For example, those who smuggle illegal firearms, those who traffic in illegal firearms and those who profit by putting guns into the hands of criminals must know that penalties for such conduct must be certain and significant.

The third principle is that as a government we must acknowledge and respect the legitimate use of firearms by law-abiding Canadian citizens.

It would include but would not be limited to the respect for our Canadian heritage and culture regarding the traditions of hunting not only as a favourite pastime but as a very important economic activity contributing directly to the prosperity of many regions in Canada, and those whose livelihoods are solely

dependent upon firearms. Government must acknowledge and respect the use of firearms for farming, ranching and hunting. We must not interfere with this. Also to be acknowledged are those who collect firearms and those who enjoy shooting sports and so on.

The third principle in summary recognizes and respects the rights and interests of law-abiding Canadian citizens. However while these legitimate interests are acknowledged and respected, Bill C-68 requires that they be carried on in a context that is consistent with public safety.

The three principles as outlined by the justice minister are fundamentally sound. They are consistent with the objectives of good government, a peaceful and safe society and an effective response to the criminal misuse of firearms and enhanced public safety.

It must be understood that the universal registration of firearms is a fundamental strategy, a fundamental support system that the government intends to use to achieve the principles and objectives previously outlined. It is at this point that controversy and a divergence of opinion ensue in debate.

There is popular public opinion calling for more stringent gun control measures principally in reaction to recent violent crimes. On the other hand, there is also public opinion that certain restrictive gun control measures are inappropriate and will not adequately solve the problems of violent crimes.

Specifically my constituents of Central Nova have expressed to me concerns and interests regarding the effect and impact Bill C-68 and universal registration will have upon them as law-abiding gun owners. By letters, by petitions and by 800 constituents attending two separate public forums they expressed their concerns, fears and apprehensions regarding the federal government's firearms control program which was announced on November 30, 1994.

Constituents of Central Nova raised issues regarding the fundamental strategy of the universal firearms registration. The concerns raised were: first, that registration would potentially lead to confiscation of their guns; second, that registration would interfere with the property rights and charter of rights, specifically to the right to security of person and property; third, that the ownership of a gun is a right and not a privilege; fourth, they failed to see the positive effects of gun registration in deterring and reducing crime in Canada.

I trust that to satisfy my constituents' concerns the constitutional validity of universal firearms registration and prohibition will be examined and considered in the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.

Some Central Nova constituents also raised a concern regarding the cost of registration both to taxpayers and gun owners. There appears to be much public misinformation in this regard. The Minister of Justice was quite clear on debate that the cost to gun owners in the first year of the five-year implementation period is expected to be zero. If for some reason it is not zero, it will be a nominal amount in the range of $10. The estimated cost of implementing the universal registration system over the next five years will be $85 million. This estimated cost will be reviewed in detail by the standing committee.

Potential non-compliance with Bill C-68 has been raised as an issue and how such non-compliance will be enforced. In my riding in discussing the issue of future non-compliance reference was made to past non-compliance. Reference was specifically made to the failure of police and crown prosecutors to enforce existing provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada regarding the usage of a weapon in the commission of an offence. Concern was expressed that crown prosecutors were irresponsible and failed to uphold public trust by plea bargaining and failing to enforce the existing provisions.

It should be noted that this concern is addressed by Bill C-68. Bill C-68 will toughen the penalties of the criminal misuse of firearms. With the restructuring of the Criminal Code there will no longer be plea bargaining of charges relating to the use of firearms because the penalties will be woven directly into the sections which provide for the offences themselves.

The firearms owners of Central Nova raised the concern that they were offended by having to consult the Criminal Code to determine the manner in which their private ownership of firearms was to be regulated. This concern has been addressed by Bill C-68 by the government changing the Criminal Code to toughen sanctions and by contemplating a separate statute, the firearms act, to deal with the regulatory aspects in relation to firearms acquisition, use and ownership.

Further concerns were raised in my constituency from the gun clubs and target shooters. These are highly skilled people, very law abiding and conscientious in their sport. These Canadians want to continue in those sports.

The justice minister has assured this honourable House that when Bill C-68 goes to the justice committee following second reading debate he will ask the committee to look at specific changes in the law. This is unprecedented and should be commended for being open to change and scrutiny of a government bill. The Minister of Justice stated in Hansard :

First of all, to ensure that we are accommodating all of those sporting competitions with handguns, we have already made it clear that the .22-.32 calibre Walther used by Linda Thom at the 1984 Olympics will not be covered by the ban.

We want the committee to take the advice of the International Shooting Union to determine whether there are other handguns that should be exempted so that legitimate sporting activities will not be threatened.

Second, I will ask the committee to examine the question of whether there are black powder shooting events that might be affected by this legislation. It is not our intention in any way to limit historical re-enactments with the use of reproductions. We do not believe we have done that but we will ask the committee to look specifically at that question and to let us know whether additional technical amendments are required to make the meaning clear.

Third, we will ask the committee to look at the question of relics and heirlooms, recognizing that there are families and individuals who want to pass on to the next generation firearms that they have acquired and that have a specific sentimental or historical value to the family. That should be respected. We will ask the committee to fashion a way to allow it to happen consistently with the imperatives of public safety.

These three items were of concern to my constituents of Central Nova. I am satisfied that the justice minister will see that they are properly addressed.

The Minister of Justice stressed that Canadians will have the opportunity to make their views known when the legislation is reviewed by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs. I trust that the concerns of my constituents will be addressed. I urge all my constituents to partake in the legislative process by making their views known to the House of Commons committee.

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1 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Madam Speaker, on February 14, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada tabled in this House his firearms bill to strengthen control over such weapons. It was high time. I support this bill, although my feeling is that it does not go far enough. I consider it is about time a country such as ours enacts legislation to protect all citizens.

We all know that gun-related crime has increased dramatically. We all remember the tragedy that occurred in the Quebec National Assembly, ten years or so ago, and the dreadful massacre at l'École Polytechnique, just a few years ago. Every day that goes by we hear about firearms being used to assault, threaten, intimidate and kill. Possessing a firearm gives criminals a great illusion of power, authority and strength.

In November, the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police commented that the issue of legal possession of firearms was not a game. The public, including hunters, competitive shooters, collectors and shooters, all people for whom I have great respect and law-abiding citizens, should consider these controls as reaffirming their rights and responsibilities. It is up to them to act on reaffirming their rights and responsibilities.

There is no doubt that a more structured control system, providing among other things for the registration of all firearms, will help make this country a safer and more peaceful place to be for all of us. Indeed, weapons are dangerous and there is a need to legislate in this respect. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is on the right track with Bill C-68. However, I firmly believe, as stated previously, that this bill does not go far enough and that the minister should use coroner Anne-Marie David's report, released on January 26, as a model.

As Ms. David suggested, has the time not come to revise the wording of regulations concerning the safe storage, display and transportation of firearms so as to make it more easily accessible to all? While ignorance of the law is no excuse, is it not the justice minister's role to make it easier to understand? Time has come to review regulations and require businesses to lock up, and even render inoperative, any firearm for sale.

Also, restricted firearms should only be stored in a vault. These regulations should not authorize weapons without a safety locking mechanism to be delivered to anyone. I would even add that the Minister of Justice should amend the Criminal Code to provide that firearms will systematically be confiscated if regulations are not complied with.

Instead of spending millions of dollars on useless bodies such as the one on Canadian unity, should the government not invest these moneys in education and information programs for the public at large and for specific groups such as hunters, gun collectors, members of shooting clubs and others?

Several provisions in this bill need to be clarified. By spreading over an eight-year period the registration process for gun owners and firearms, did the Minister of Justice simply give in to the gun lobby, or did he want to please some members of his caucus? I am sceptical as to the deterring effect of such a reform.

The gun lobby encourages people to buy arms to protect themselves. Yet, it is proven that people are safer when they are not armed. A firearm kept in a house is 43 times more likely to kill a member of that household than an intruder. Why wait eight years, considering that a homicide is three times more likely to be committed in a home where a firearm is kept, while a suicide is five times more likely to occur?

Canadians, health specialists and particularly crime prevention experts all ask, and rightly so, for greater control over firearms. In Canada, 42 per cent of women killed by their spouse are shot, four times out of five with a gun or a rifle. Moreover, 78 per cent of these firearms are legally owned. Again, I ask the

question: Why spread the whole registration process over an eight-year period? I am convinced that, as elected representatives of the public, we could help save human lives simply by reducing as much as possible that registration period.

Is it really reasonable to allow 13,000 military-type automatic weapons in the country, considering that such firearms are designed for rapid fire in a combat situation?

More than 560,000 Quebecers and Canadians signed a petition asking that military-type weapons be banned. Yet, the new legislation allows gun collectors to own such firearms. Why? Why this fixation about firearms?

According to a recent survey, 84 per cent of Canadians, including 71 per cent of gun owners, support a ban on military weapons. Again, I find it unacceptable to make it perfectly legal for the owners of these 13,000 firearms to keep such weapons.

We need a more rigid form of gun control.

In my opinion, current legislation is inadequate, and Bill C-68 still does not go far enough, both in terms of its restrictions, as well as its deterring and punitive effects. It is our role to protect members of the public, often against their wishes.

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1:10 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.


Hedy Fry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, not only is it an honour for me to speak to the bill, I am enthusiastic and I would like to applaud something that is long overdue. The bill addresses the health and safety of Canadians. As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, health and safety are extremely important to me.

Guns threaten, guns injure, and guns kill. I understand that guns are an important component of life in many parts of Canada: for hunters who live in isolated parts of the country and for people who play some competitive sports. Guns are also very important to the tourism industry.

The bill is not intended to harm that group of people or to stop any sport or tourism or person who wants to hunt in any sporting way. The bill is something most responsible gun owners would support. The firearms act seeks to bring into line those people who by their irresponsible use of firearms create a bad name for law-abiding gun owners, which is why the bill is supported by 68 per cent of gun owners. Those who operate within the law and act responsibly in storing and using their guns see nothing to fear in the bill.

The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics and the Department of Justice have compiled a lot of startling data on the issue of guns. I bring them to the attention of the House today because they are what frightens me about the whole issue. Firearms cause suicide. Some 1,100 suicides a year are committed with guns, which means that 78 per cent of firearm deaths are suicides. In 1990, 300 of the suicides were committed by 15 to 25-year-old youths. People who commit suicide with a gun have a 92 per cent success rate, compared with only 35 per cent if other means are used.

As a physician and a mother this is totally unacceptable to me. It is alarming and it is sad. I know as many health and social workers know that suicide attempts by young people are often only a cry for help by very desperate and frightened youth. As a physician I have treated many of those desperate and frightened youth who would not be alive today if they had access to guns.

Firearms not only decimate our youth but firearms create other household tragedies. Firearms victimize women. Over 40 per cent of women killed by their husbands each year are shot. Every six days a woman is shot to death in Canada in her own home by a legally owned gun.

In March 1992 the Department of Justice showed that 78.3 per cent of domestic homicides in Canada involving the use of firearms were by legally owned guns. I stress that they were legally owned guns. We know that domestic violence is endemic in society but firearms transform violence into murder. One fit of anger, one violent rage combined with access to a gun, can result in a dead woman.

These are not the only disturbing statistics about violence with firearms against women. In 1993, 75 per cent of female victims were killed in a private residence; 85 per cent of the guns used to kill women were specifically rifles and shotguns; and 82 per cent of the rifles and shotguns were legally owned at the time of the shooting.

Is this the type of society we want to maintain, where women and children are not safe in their own homes? Is this the freedom espoused by those who oppose the bill? Is there any freedom at the end of a gun? I would argue that there is not.

Deaths by firearms are preventable deaths. Injuries by firearms cost our public health care system millions of dollars a year. Over 1,000 firearm related deaths and injuries are treated in Canadian hospitals each year. The cost of this is estimated between $15 million to $30 million per year. Therefore in my book firearms present a major health hazard; in the book of anyone interested in public health and safety. Even if the value of human life lost is not very important to the members of the third party, I am sure that the cost to the health care system might make them think twice because it is enormous. I believe $30 million a year is enormous. They did not factor into their recent budget the cost of firearms related injuries to the health care system.

One of the things that alarms me about firearms is that at the moment we do not have any data on the number of firearms in this country. Anyone who knows anything about public health will know data gathering is extremely important in preventive measures in health. The epidemiology of any disease or any health hazard, whether it be a virus, a bacteria, a poor sewage system or a gun depends on the amount of data we have.

There are very limited data right now on guns. We do not know exactly how many guns are in Canada. The gun lobby says there are 22 million. The Department of Justices says there are six million. It profoundly disturbs me that we have no real figures to answer this question. We know how many bicycles, how many cars and how many dogs there are but we do not know how many firearms there are. This is completely unacceptable.

This act will give us the database we need to take the preventive health measures we need to make this a safe and healthy society. By mandatory registration we will take the guns out of the closets and put them where we can find out exactly how many there are.

When police are called to an incident in a home they will know if they are walking into a risk or not. When police try to go to homes where there is domestic violence they will know whether they have to remove a gun because the woman in that house is in danger. Guns are lethal weapons and so it makes sense to have them registered, traceable and retrievable by our police forces in the case of use or abuse.

Some of my constituents have questioned the potential costs of this registration. I can understand that in a time of fiscal control we do not want to incur costs to the government. However, the justice minister tells us it will cost $85 million over seven years to register these guns.

To the members of the third party, I do not believe $85 million over seven years is too much money to spend on saving lives and decreasing disability, especially when balanced against the savings to the health care system. I hope even the members of the third party can figure out the mathematics of that simple equation.

Another concern raised by my constituents was they would be restricted from using firearms in the film industry, a major industry in British Columbia. I am pleased to say they can rest assured this new bill will not prohibit that.

Some other members of my community are concerned because they will not be able to export their replica firearms or that the investment value of their antique firearms will be decreased. Article 22 of this bill provides for the transfer, that is the sale, barter or donation of firearms, to persons who hold licences to acquire and possess that particular class of firearm. Their collections will not be devalued or frozen because they can continue to trade and sell their firearms with people who have the same type of firearms.

More important, in a democracy we must follow the will of the people. The majority of Canadians, 86 per cent of all respondents to a recent Angus Reid poll, said they support strong gun control measures, 68 per cent of whom are firearm owners. Eighty-four per cent of respondents support a total ban on military weapons, 71 per cent of whom are gun owners. Seventy-one per cent of Canadians support a ban on handguns, 54 per cent of whom are gun owners. It is clear Canadians everywhere think gun control is very important.

People talk a lot about the right to bear firearms. Nowhere is this in the Canadian Constitution. The responsibility to store, register and use firearms reasonably and safely is incumbent upon anyone who feels it is their right to own a gun.

Peace, order and good government are what the Canadian Constitution is all about and what Canada stands for. With this bill we will ensure that we continue to have peace, order and good government and that a cause of death and disability will be removed.

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1:20 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his amendment to this bill. It is too bad the other members of the House are not knowledgeable enough about what we are talking about to address the splitting of this bill. I have not heard anything in that direction since it was announced over an hour ago that this is what we were supposed to be speaking about.

There comes a time during every government when those creating the legislation must face up to the reality of an issue and not the politics of an issue. This is one of those times.

The justice minister has tabled what he terms a firearm control measure, Bill C-68. Unfortunately this bill goes far beyond control and borders on the unreal. Realism in any bill means that the goals and the attentions of the proposed legislation are within guidelines established by and for the people governed by democratic values.

This bill allows neither governing by nor for the people. It certainly is not democratic in values or purpose. This bill seeks to be all things desired by a select group of individuals and special interests and removes democratic choice and ultimately democracy from law-abiding citizens who choose to hold private property deemed by the few and select to be tainted goods.

Instead of attacking the problems of criminal intent, this bill attacks the rights of peace loving and law-abiding citizens who safely use and own property without concern for due process and democratic values.

That is why this bill must be split. There are two paths in this bill. One addresses the need for safety and security of the person. It binds the law-abiding people of this land together, a path that mandates the state to protect its citizens from the

ravages of those who believe power is purchased with violent, threatening and immoral means. No Canadian will have a problem travelling this roadway.

However, this bill also has another path, one of control demanded by the anointed few who have hoodwinked this government. They have blinded it with dreams of power by demanding it place them above the freedom of Canadians to choose.

This second path gives the power of right and wrong, good and evil to the few who believe those not accepting their mandate or their way are the criminals. To the select few, those who are law-abiding, hard working, family oriented, loving and caring but who choose to purchase and own a rifle or shotgun cannot be trusted, say the few, and will turn into immoral and radical outlaws.

This bill offers strict, swift and sure punishment for those who break our laws or who threaten to intimidate our citizens. This bill also offers dictatorial powers to the few individuals who believe theirs is the only understanding and the only truth.

This bill must be split along those thoughts so that Canadians can decide whether criminals must pay for their crimes and whether Canadians will allow the decree of the few to dictate to the many.

This can be easily done. All that is required is for this government to stand up for the principles of democracy cherished by the citizens of this land and make the decision to put the wishes of the many ahead of the demands of the few elites and special interests.

Perhaps this decision may not be as easy as stated, for all Canadians know this government only listens to the chosen social engineers and elites who continually confirm they know best.

Perhaps this government was controlled and dominated for so long by the politically correct who live and breathe and function in their ivory towers and have no inkling what really exists below their utopian vision of never-never land that it cannot choose of its own free will to place the people of Canada ahead of its favourite few chosen friends.

In either case, whether the government has the political will to really consult Canadians or not, Canadians will know of the lack of vision and understanding the government possesses. The justice minister saw nothing wrong with the extraordinary order in council powers this bill would give his cronies.

The members of this party are so blinded by false polls and false idols of power promised by special interests that they are overlooking the clauses and language in this bill that create an all powerful super structure of select dictatorship within their own government.

The members of this government who publicly state they support this bill are telling their constituents in private they will not vote for this bill. That is another reason why this bill must be split.

This bill is causing constituents to lose faith in politicians. Canadians want accountability from their members and this bill will only weaken further the faith of constituents. Constituents have had enough the two tailed explanations offered by Liberal members.

Splitting this bill will allow those deserving the wrath of taxpaying Canadians-criminals who believe power does come from the barrel of a gun-to be quickly shown that power comes from the will of the people.

At the same time it will give those members opposite the opportunity to fully explain the other portions of this bill which the members opposite have no doubt been instructed not to mention to voters.

Why is it every time we on this side of the House mention rifles and shotguns those on that side of the House speak of handguns? My guess is that many voters do not know that Canada currently has the toughest regulations regarding registration, ownership and purchase of handguns of any country.

The government knows many Canadians accept the ponderings that handguns are on the same scale as rifles and shotguns from their members when those same Liberals know that current regulations concerning handguns require police investigation, mental fitness exams and questioning associates in the community to determine whether an applicant deserves handgun ownership.

These same members opposite do not state the current requirements in this House for fear Canadians will fully understand that handgun ownership is already extremely difficult. Instead they say handgun ownership in the same breath with rifles and shotguns to further dilute the truth.

Splitting this bill will allow law enforcement agencies to immediately demonstrate to violent criminals that society will not and cannot tolerate crime. Splitting this bill will allow immediate passage of the crime control clauses.

Splitting this bill will allow the removal of those sections that declare law-abiding, chosen private property owning Canadians villains. It will allow Canadians to no longer fear being classified as criminals because social engineering elites have decided that law-abiding Canadians cannot choose what is right and decent and honourable for them.

We will no doubt continue to hear words such as murder, abuse and mayhem from the members opposite in the same breath as crime control. That is acceptable as long as those words are aimed at the proper target, those who truly are

criminals, those who believe that power and control from the barrel of an illegally obtained handgun is the end all and be all to their existence.

Members opposite will try to convince Canadians that family oriented, loving and caring Canadians who choose target shooting, hunting or competitive shooting as a sport are the same as hardened criminals who place Canadians in grave or mortal danger.

We all know those words are further attempts at giving the elite the means to control our society through the portions of Bill C-68 never mentioned by members of this government

We all know those members opposite are being extorted to hide the true facts about the order in council clauses of this bill. They give absolute authority to the few elite and the few among the Liberals who still believe that total control from the top is the end all and be all of their mandate and that true democracy by way of frank and open debate with those who have opposing views is and must be opposed at all costs. That might convince Canadians they have a choice, intelligence and an opinion.

In conclusion, there has been a wake-up call to politicians from all Canadians indicating to each and every one of us that they will have a voice from this day forward in what comes out of the House, and so they should. I encourage them to continue to be involved in this very contentious issue.