House of Commons Hansard #178 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was guns.


Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 25 petitions.

Canadian Security Intelligence ServiceRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Windsor West Ontario


Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table in both official languages, the 1994 Public Report and Program Outlook of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Public SecurityRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Windsor West Ontario


Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present to Parliament the fourth annual statement on public security. I have just tabled in the House the 1994 Public Report and Program Outlook of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

This year, for the first time, the CSIS public report provides both a review of the current security environment and a projection of CSIS resource requirements in future years.

As well, in the program outlook section of the public report, the service gives detailed breakdowns of both budget and personnel levels in this and future years. This is a continuation of the government's commitment to accountability and openness in the security sector.

1994 was marked by a number of events involving CSIS. The allegations made last summer regarding the service's connection with the Heritage Front were investigated extremely carefully. In spite of the stir caused by all these events, CSIS continued to operate and adapt to a changing world.

1994 also marked the 10th anniversary of the creation of CSIS, our civilian security agency. What a change we now see from those early days of 1984 when the Warsaw Pact alliance, under the leadership of the Soviet Union, was one of the dominant factors in world affairs.

In 1984 we were in the middle of an era of east-west relations where the focus of security services such as ours was aimed at the counterintelligence aspects of protecting national security. It could be said that 10 years ago when CSIS came into being it was a simpler world. We thought we knew where most of the threats came from and therefore targeted our resources accordingly.

Today we face a very different situation from 10 years ago with the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact following the collapse of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the end of the intelligence struggles of the cold war. We know and are very much aware that today's threats come as much from groups and individuals as they do from sovereign states. Today's threats are targeted as much against economic targets as they once were against military objectives. Today's threats involve organizations which do not recognize international boundaries or jurisdictions.

We have also seen the emergence of new national security threats, including weapons proliferation and an increase in transnational organized crime. Along with the evolution of some of the mainstream global linkages such as those in business, information and technology, security issues as well have become truly global in nature. Just last week we were witness to a shocking act of terrorism on the subway lines of Tokyo. These senseless acts have a chilling effect on public confidence. They bring home immediately and graphically the concerns we all have about the continued proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Canadians have had to deal with terrorists and acts of terrorism. We must continue to do our part to monitor and combat international terrorist organizations in order that tragic incidents do not repeat themselves.

CSIS works hard to contribute to the international fight against terrorism through its domestic security investigations as well as through liaison with foreign counterparts, by working closely with domestic police services at all levels and through effective consultation and information sharing with other government departments.

CSIS helps to prevent terrorists from either entering Canada or from using our country as a recruiting or a training ground for illegal activities. Coupled with this international co-operation is a concerted effort, through the CSIS counter-terrorism program, to prevent foreign conflicts from taking root in our communities.

In order to accomplish this CSIS undertakes a broad range of activities such as investigating attempts by terrorist organizations to raise moneys in Canada to support terrorist acts in other lands, to manipulate members of immigrant communities in Canada or establish safe havens for those who have committed acts of terrorism in their homelands.

It is ironic that the very characteristics of this country that give us this quality of life we enjoy in Canada and endear it to honest citizens are also the ones that attract terrorists looking to escape international justice.

International terrorism has become such a serious concern that discussions at the highest level will continue. I expect this is an issue the Prime Minister will raise at the G-7 summit he will be chairing in Halifax in June.

Although serious political violence is most frequently manifested in the international arena, it can also find its roots within our nation's borders. The Heritage Front affair brought home for many Canadians the fact that terrorism has a psychological component as well as a physically violent one. It brought home the fact that extremist organizations such as the Heritage Front operate both in our major cities and in our rural communities.

It gave Canadians a rare glimpse of how our security service investigates the kinds of political extremism that can pose a threat to our national security. The Heritage Front affair also gave Canadians an insight into the checks and balances which were built into the CSIS act.

The allegations surrounding the service's involvement with the Heritage Front triggered an immediate investigation by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, just as the legislation intended. This test of the review mechanisms in the CSIS act reaffirmed the importance of these mechanisms and confirmed that they are generally working well.

SIRC conducted a thorough and timely investigation of the allegations and presented a report which found that the white supremacist movement "was and is a threat to the security of Canada", that CSIS acted properly in its dealings with the Heritage Front, and that the allegations made against CSIS were without foundation.

As members of the House know, the service is expressly prohibited from investigating lawful advocacy, protest or dissent. However, it is mandated to investigate politically motivated acts of violence. I am sure that all members of the House will agree that racism, neo-Nazism and white supremacism have no place in Canadian society and certainly do not belong in Canada.

The accountability cycle does not end with special reports of the Security Intelligence Review Committee. It is important to note that in response to the variety of allegations which accompanied the Heritage Front affair, the inspector general of CSIS prepared a report dealing with the handling of national security documents in the office of my predecessor and is also preparing a report on the handling of human sources by the service. As well, SIRC performs ongoing work in the preparation of its annual report, which I as Solicitor General tabled in both Houses of Parliament in the fall of this year.

Operational accountability is one thing, but in these times of restraint and program review there is a need for fiscal accountability as well. Last year, for the first time, CSIS' actual salary, capital and operating costs were released by me in what I referred to at the time as a three-line budget. I should point out that this is a major departure from the traditional one-line budget that is released by most western intelligence services.

This year, in conformity with the changes this government has implemented in order to provide members with more meaningful financial information, I am pleased to report that the CSIS 1994 public report and program outlook provides more information than ever before about the service's resource and personnel levels. I want to compliment the service on being one of the first government departments or agencies to publicly release their program outlook documents.

Upon examination of the program outlook, and I conclude my statement with some comments about this, members will find that CSIS is being fiscally responsible and is a full partner in the government-wide program review exercise.

It will be noted that the service's resource levels will decrease from $206.8 million in the 1994-95 fiscal year to a projected $159 million in 1997-98. As well, the personnel levels will drop from a peak of 2,760 under the previous government to roughly 2,000 by 1997-98.

This means that the service will have to continue to respond to Canadian security needs in a manner consistent with the government's fiscal targets. I want hon. members to know that I have been assured by the director of CSIS that the situation is

manageable and will not compromise Canada's national security.

I look forward to the comments of opposition colleagues. I hope they will agree that the global security intelligence environment is a volatile and unpredictable one. I trust they will understand that the basic nature of threats to national security have changed with the times and that this government and its security service are adapting to those changes.

I hope members opposite and Canadians as a whole will recognize the need in these rapidly changing times for the continuance of a domestic security service. We must be prepared to deal with threats to our national security. To do otherwise would be irresponsible and could lead to the undermining of our cherished freedoms and values.

By passing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act in 1984, Parliament established an organization responsible for ensuring the security of Canada and its citizens, while at the same time providing mechanisms, in the legislation, to fully protect the rights and freedoms of Canadian citizens.

I believe those goals are being met by CSIS. I am confident they will continue to be met in the future.

Public SecurityRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.


François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to thank the Solicitor General of Canada for sending me the notes for the statement he gave today on national security.

We must keep in mind that, in his 1992 response to the first statement on national security, the Liberal member for Scarborough West pointed out that then Solicitor General Doug Lewis had hardly said anything in his statement, only assuring the Canadian public that CSIS was not doing anything illegal. To support his statement, the former Solicitor General quoted the reports from the Security Intelligence Review Committee or SIRC.

However, we now know that CSIS acted, if not illegally, at least in a highly questionable manner in its dealings with the Heritage Front and the Reform Party while the Solicitor General was preparing his first statement on national security.

As in previous statements, the solicitor general announced today that the review mechanism provided under the law was tested by the Heritage Front affair. The solicitor general proudly said that SIRC concluded that the allegations made against CSIS were without foundation.

In fact, the statements on national security are silent on this and sound pretty much the same year after year. We in the Bloc Quebecois-and probably the members from the Reform Party and even some Liberal members as well-suspect that today's statement by the Solicitor General ignores whole aspects of CSIS activities.

Does CSIS engage in legal or illegal activities? No one knows, not even the Solicitor General. According to the inspector general for CSIS, the annual reports submitted by that service to the Solicitor General do not provide an accurate picture of its activities. Consequently, it is nearly impossible to think that the Solicitor General can hide from us information which may not have been transmitted to him regarding the real activities of CSIS, whether these are successful or not.

Let me remind you, Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member for Berthier-Montcalm pointed out last year, in reply to the third statement on national security, that SIRC members are all supporters of the Conservative, Liberal or New Democrat party. Neither the official opposition, nor the Reform Party is represented on the Security Intelligence Review Committee. The five members of that committee are not ordinary citizens. If you look at the lists of contributors to the federal parties since 1990, you will see that SIRC members contributed a total of about $34,000.

The member associated with the NDP distinguishes himself from the others by contributing an average of less than $200 per year to his party, which may be an indication that the NDP must is in poor shape. The Conservative and Liberal SIRC members contribute an average of over $2,000 per year to their respective political party. The official opposition is asking that current SIRC members be replaced, so that this monitoring committee can better represent the Quebec and Canadian population, and also better reflect the 35th Parliament, as it was shaped by Canadians in the October 1993 federal election.

The Solicitor General's statement on national security is silent on the activities of the Communications Security Establishment. Yet, all those involved feel that the CSE, which receives its instructions directly from Privy Council, in other words the Prime Minister's office, poses a serious threat to the freedom of all Quebecers and Canadians. The CSE can easily intercept any telephone conversation in Canada, whether these communications are transmitted through satellite or the microwave toll network. This means that the CSE can intercept virtually any long distance or international phone call placed in Canada.

I may recall what the Deputy Prime Minister said last year in response to questions from official opposition members about allegations made by a former CSE employee. The former employee accused the CSE of spying on Canadian citizens, and most Canadian espionage experts confirmed this, but the Deputy Prime Minister always gave the same answer, and I quote: "The CSE has no mandate to spy on Canadians".

The Deputy Prime Minister never said that the CSE does not spy on Canadians. She simply said that the CSE had no mandate to do so. The Prime Minister said that the CSE no longer spies on Canadians, which implies that the CSE did at one time. However, the Prime Minister never repeated what he said inadvertently.

What do we know about the apparently unwarranted and perhaps even unlawful activities of the CSE? Almost nothing, except for a few articles by reporters and a book by a former CSE spy. No details in the Estimates. Although the most obscure council subsidized to the tune of one million dollars provides detailed information on its operations, we know nothing about the CSE and its activities. Should we simply forget about the individual rights protected under the Quebec and Canadian charters of human rights, when the CSE is manifestly engaged in electronic eavesdropping?

The annual statement by the Solicitor General does not even mention the CSE.

I hope that the government, considering the adoption of Motion M-38 presented in this House which proposes concerns monitoring the CSE through an outside civilian authority, with the requirement to report to Parliament, will table as soon as possible a bill providing for an external mechanism to monitor the Communications Security Establishment.

Public SecurityRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.


Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to have this opportunity to respond to the Solicitor General's statement on national security.

The minister is quite right when he states that we are facing a very different world than we did 11 years ago when CSIS was created. Although Canada was generally considered to be a peripheral player in the world of espionage, our proximity to the United States made this country a base of operations for hostile intelligence services operating against the Americans.

The traditional targets of the Warsaw pact nations have disappeared and some of our old adversaries are now our friends. At the same time, we see a different relationship with some of our old allies.

Recently the French and Americans quietly expelled some of each other's diplomats for activities that were inconsistent with their duties. I understand this is the diplomatic way of saying these people were kicked out of each other's country for spying.

Imagine if the French and Americans, two countries which have had cordial relationships going back to the American revolution, start spying on each other. Is anyone safe in today's environment? We used to be able to rely on our NATO allies to put up a common front against the communist bloc. How times have changed.

Today, the country that is viewed as the greatest threat to Canadian sovereignty is none other than our NATO ally, Spain. As Canadian and Spanish vessels play out a game of high seas brinkmanship off the Grand Banks, Canada is seeking diplomatic support among other countries, including Russia. I only hope during this confrontation that all Canada's intelligence agencies are providing our government with the best possible information and analysis that is available.

I agree with the minister that there is a need for Canada to have a security intelligence capability. The Reform Party supports the use of such agencies, as long as they are accountable to citizens of Canada.

Canada's intelligence services are faced with a rapidly changing political environment. How well they are able to adapt to it may become evident in the weeks ahead. Let us hope they pass the test.

Turning our attention to the world of counter-terrorism, the minister points to the recent nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway lines as an example. It is interesting that he used this example to justify our continued vigilance against terrorist attacks. Last year it was the bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York. Both these incidents were high profile attacks on innocent civilians and both appeared to have involved intricate conspiracies. Yet these two attacks had two very different groups behind them.

The attack on the World Trade Centre appears to have been the work of a fundamentalist Islamic group carrying on with its traditional battle against what it perceives as American imperialism. This incident can probably be viewed as a traditional terrorist attack.

The nerve gas attack in Tokyo is very different. Here the group that is suspected of being behind the terrorist action is a religious cult. It is not a group previously thought to be a terrorist organization, but rather an eccentric religious cult.

We have several religious cults in Canada. Are they capable of terrorist activities? Who knows? Does CSIS? Would CSIS be monitoring this doomsday cult if it was in Canada? When does an eccentric cult go from being a relatively harmless religious sect to being a threat to the security of the nation?

If an intelligence agency is to be useful, its interest in the group has to occur before the attack, not after. The question remains: Could CSIS have monitored a similar religious cult in Canada and prevented a nerve gas attack in Canada? It likely could have done it if the group was an extreme right wing group like the Heritage Front.

The best known example of Canada's domestic counter-terrorism has received a great deal of attention this past year. Canadians have had a rare glimpse inside a CSIS operation. However a glimpse is all that CSIS, SIRC and the Solicitor General seem prepared to give Canadians. The minister ad-

dressed the Heritage Front affair to some extent in his speech and unfortunately seems convinced that CSIS has acted in an exemplary manner. I will provide the House with a different interpretation.

I have no argument with CSIS monitoring the activities of the Heritage Front or similar groups. The manner in which CSIS used its human source, Grant Bristow, in relation to Heritage Front activities that targeted the Reform Party caused my colleagues and me a great deal of concern.

CSIS appears to have no problem with one of its sources playing an active role in the Heritage Front plan to discredit the Reform Party. SIRC appeared to have no problem with this. From what the minister has stated, he appears to have no problem with this either.

I wonder if the Solicitor General would be so understanding if the CSIS source had been operating within the Liberal Party instead.

As the Solicitor General is aware, the subcommittee has been meeting with SIRC over the past couple of months in camera reviewing its report on the Heritage Front affair. I am confident that when our committee goes public once again a very different picture of CSIS investigations will appear.

One thing the Solicitor General will have to address or perhaps readdress is the issue of CSIS sources involving themselves in legitimate political parties.

The ministerial directives issued in October 1989 by the then Solicitor General, the Hon. Pierre Blais, appeared to have been ignored. Then we have the issue of CSIS providing reports to the government of the day about rival political parties. Is it right that CSIS should be providing information to the party in power about another political party when it refuses to inform that second party? I do not think so.

We must not forget the alleged investigation or, as the government would prefer, the non-investigation of the leader of the Reform Party by CSIS. The SIRC report mentions that in late 1989 and early 1990, CSIS conducted an investigation into completely unsubstantiated accusations about campaign funding. The report says the subject of this investigation was Lnu Fnu, unknown contributors to the leader of the Reform Party's electoral campaign.

After a little prodding SIRC later reported that a mistake had been made, that during the three-month period the investigation actually was on the leader of the Reform Party, but that this was just a clerical error.

The Solicitor General has continued to try to portray this as a clerical error. The cold, hard reality is that on October 17, 1989 CSIS began a TARC level one investigation on the leader of the Reform Party and it ran for three months. Two months after the conclusion of this investigation which CSIS knew it could not possibly justify, it changed the name on the file to this mythical contributor and CSIS, SIRC and the Solicitor General want us to believe there is nothing wrong with this.

If a domestic security intelligence service is to exist in a democracy it must have the support of the people. The Solicitor General asks for the support of the opposition parties in acknowledging the need for a domestic security intelligence service. I ask the minister in return does he expect our party to give him any support when there are so many unanswered questions about the service's conduct in the Heritage Front affair?

The Reform Party is not prepared to give either the minister or CSIS a blank cheque. The Solicitor General will have to provide us with answers to a lot of questions. He should look carefully at the reports issued by the previous inspector general about the completeness of information that directors of CSIS have been providing to the minister.

While I can accept the notion that Canada's security intelligence apparatus must operate behind a veil of secrecy, this does not mean it can hide its mistakes behind this veil as well. All government agencies must be held accountable to the Canadian people. This is especially true for organizations like CSIS and CSE.

If the minister wants our support, it is available. Do not expect us to buy into something sight unseen.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions. One petition is signed by people from Hagensborg, Bella Coola. The second is signed by constituents from Williams Lake and places like Alkali Lake, Soda Creek, 150-Mile House.

In each instance these petitioners are of the opinion that existing controls on law-abiding responsible firearms owners are more than enough to ensure public safety.

They therefore call upon Parliament to support laws that will severely punish all violent criminals who use weapons in the commission of a crime, to support new Criminal Code firearms control provisions that recognize and protect the right of law-abiding citizens to own and use recreational firearms, to support legislation that will repeal or modify existing gun control laws that have not improved public safety, have proven not to be cost effective or have proven to be overly complex so as to be ineffective or unenforceable.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today according to Standing Order 36 to present a petition from 43 petitioners from the town of Hedley in my riding and also from my home town of Summerland, British Columbia.

The petitioners are opposed to further legislation for firearms acquisition and possession. They ask the government to provide strict guidelines and mandatory sentences for the use or possession of a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.

These 43 petitioners add to the some 3,010 petitioners who have also signed this petition in my riding.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased this morning to present a petition in a course of action undertaken on behalf of citizens who wish to halt the early release from prison of Robert Paul Thompson.

The petitioners are concerned about making our streets safer for our citizens. They are opposed to the current practice of early release of violent offenders prior to serving the full extent of their sentences.

The petitioners pray that our streets will be made safer for law-abiding citizens and their families and the families of the victims of convicted murderers.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present the following three petitions from constituents in my riding of Comox-Alberni.

In the first, containing 477 signatures, the petitioners request that Parliament not amend the human rights code, the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in any way which would tend to indicate societal approval of same sex relationships or of homosexuality, including amending the human rights code to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase sexual orientation.

In the second petition, containing 37 signatures, the petitioners request that Parliament not pass Bill C-41 with section 718(2) as presently written and in any event not to include the undefined phrase sexual orientation in the bill.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the third petition, containing 380 signatures, the petitioners request that Parliament revoke the directive of the Minister of Transport to proceed with a program of unmanning all west coast light stations and that Parliament hold a complete and thorough public inquiry in British Columbia into the need for manned light stations on the west coast.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to present a petition signed by 33 of my constituents.

They pray and request that Parliament be fully aware and that we strongly oppose any initiatives to sell or merge CN or CP Rail or dismantle CN Rail by way of disguise of the commercialization of CN Rail.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.


Lyle Vanclief Liberal Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to table from 73 people in the Cobourg, Port Hope area asking Parliament not to amend the human rights code, the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in any way which would tend to indicate societal approval of same sex relations or homosexuality.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.


Jim Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions calling on the government not to amend the human rights code in any way which would tend to indicate societal approval of same sex relationships or homosexuality.

I am pleased to present these two petitions on behalf of my constituents.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.


Guy Arseneault Liberal Restigouche—Chaleur, NB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour to present this petition signed by a number of my constituents.

The petitioners pray that Parliament act immediately to extend protection to the unborn child by amending the Criminal Code to extend the same protection enjoyed by born human beings to unborn human beings.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present this morning pursuant to Standing Order 36.

The first states that managing the family home and caring for pre-school children is an honourable profession which has not been recognized for its value in our society, that the Income Tax Act discriminates against families that make the choice to provide care in the home for pre-school children, and also discriminates against those who provide care in the home for the disabled, chronically ill and the aged.

The petitioners therefore pray that Parliament pursue initiatives to eliminate tax discrimination against families that decide to provide care for pre-school children, the disabled, the chronically ill or the aged.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is very complex, submitted to me by Mr. Cyril Fleming of my riding of Mississauga South. Because of the rules of the House I will not be able to read all of it. I will at least highlight the two most important points.

The petition has to do with the question of the rights of the unborn. The two relevant phrases in the petition are that Parliament recognize the unborn foetus from fertilization onwards as an entity separate from the mother, and that Parliament act to provide a wider interpretation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the interest of obtaining and enhancing human dignity and to cause to cease by the most expedient means available the public funding for and the practice of abortion, thereby honouring Parliament and government's obligation under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members


Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement Government Orders will be extended by 28 minutes pursuant to Standing Order 33.

The House resumed from March 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; and of the amendment.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Rex Crawford Liberal Kent, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-68, a comprehensive package of legislative reforms respecting firearms. It amends the Criminal Code, the Customs Tariff Act, the Import Export Permits Act, the National Defence Act, the Young Offenders Act, related regulations and Lord only knows what else.

I also want to congratulate the whip and the Minister of Justice for enabling me to put my views on the record. It is a good sign that members of the government with a different view can join the debate.

I want to put my perspective, my point of view and my bias on the table. I am a gun owner and have been for over 50 years. I bought my first gun when I was between eight and nine. I am a gun collector and have been for over 30 years.

I have been a hunter most of my life, since the days when my father first taught me to shoot a gun on the farm. I am a past president of the Dover Rod and Gun Club. I have been involved with the local group in the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters for over 35 years. I was raised in rural southwestern Ontario so guns are a part of my background and a part of life for my neighbours and I.

We are the many thousands of legitimate law-abiding safety conscience and honest citizens. I and other gun owners applaud two of the four principal aspects of Bill C-68. I totally support the first one on criminal sanctions. It is well known that Canada already has some of the toughest gun laws in the world. The justice system does not enforce the laws we already have on the books.

In the bill the criminal misuse of firearms will result in mandatory four-year minimum sentences for the following offences committed while in possession of a firearm. They are attempted murder, manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, robbery, kidnapping, hostage taking, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, extortion and discharge of a firearm with intent to cause harm. Upon conviction the offender will be prohibited for life from possessing a restricted or banned firearm. I feel this should go one step further and should include any firearm.

Stronger sentences are something that all Canadians favour. They are something gun groups have been pushing for years. In fact they asked for a minimum of five years. I am pleased the Minister of Justice is tackling that aspect of the issue.

The second principal section of the bill I fully support deals with smuggling and illegal importation. New Criminal Code offences will be added to deal with illegal trafficking in firearms. That could be the reason the government will be laying off 45,000 civil servants, so they will be able to work at the border between Canada and the United States.

Unfortunately I just heard this morning that another 15 per cent of customs officers will be laid off. I am well aware of the offices in Sarnia and in Sombra. They have been cut back. If they were to check every car for guns that came across the border from Michigan, they would have a lineup from Flint, Michigan, to London, Ontario, which is approximately 100 miles.

At the present time we do not have staff and we do not have the money. Yet somehow we will put more people to work. This is great, though, if it is at the border.

The third section of the bill deals with handguns and military assault weapons. Some of these weapons should be banned or restricted unless the collector can prove their merit. Originally in the November 30, 1994 statement in the House by the minister all handguns were to be prohibited. I am glad he has changed his tune on that one.

Bill C-68 now provides that individuals who possessed certain handguns on or before February 14, 1995 will be able to buy and sell among themselves. Owners of the handguns will be able to use them for the purpose for which they were originally obtained, whether for target shooting or collecting.

I was shocked to discover my handguns are registered for protection. There is no classification for protection. Do I now lose my collection of handguns?

Before I deal with the fourth section of the bill, that of national registration, I take the opportunity to outline to hon. members exactly what the process is to acquire a legal handgun for target shooting. I personally taught FAC safety courses so I know how demanding and rigorous they are. Over 16 steps have to be taken before people are able to obtain handguns and have them in their homes. I will not go into the steps as others have covered them.

Some members of the House sincerely believe that guns of any size, shape or form are evil objects that must be banned, thrown away or kept in a museum. Certain tragic incidents serve to remind us of the criminal misuse of guns. The people who commit such crimes should be punished to the full extent of the law; we should throw away the key.

With respect to registration some have made the statement in the House that cars are registered and have asked: Why not guns? We are comparing apples with oranges. It is the same as the lady in California who drove down a sidewalk killing 19 and maiming two dozen people. The car was registered. Should any further models of the car be removed from production?

There will be hundreds of registrations. From where will we get the money? We are over $550 billion in debt. Estimates have been given from a low of $80 million to a high of $350 million. I believe it will cost $350 million. Associates of mine, 10 of them, own over 1,000 guns. If we average them across Canada there must be at least 21 million handguns and long rifles. Registration will not stop anyone from using a gun to kill.

The minister stated that in rural areas there have been quite a few suicides committed with guns. Who is to blame? I blame the government. I know of several suicides which occurred when interest rates rose to over 24 per cent and young families could not compete. They were losing their farms. The government does not mention how many hanged themselves or how many gassed themselves, but we lost many young Canadians during those troubling times of the late seventies and early eighties. I cannot blame guns for that.

There were several polls taken in my riding by myself and others. Most of my constituents know where I stand on matters. When I was campaigning in 1988 I only made two promises: that I work hard for my constituents and that I would bring their views to Ottawa and support them. I am here to represent my riding. If the majority of my constituents were in favour of a national registration system I would act accordingly, but surveys show that they are not in favour. One survey was at 87 per cent, one at 96 per cent, and another at 91 per cent asking that I not support Bill C-68.

Along with my own personal sincerely held views, I will be voting against the piece of legislation. I should like to take a minute to quote a letter:

I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for all your help in the past. Whenever I have come to you with a problem or concern you were always there to offer support and assistance. Although we believe that you have been, and continue to be, the best candidate to represent this area, I can not in all good conscience support your party in the next election.

I have received hundreds of letters.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-68 deals with firearms and certain other weapons. As we all have seen here in the House, support for this bill is not unanimous. And we all know that in our ridings, certain groups have voiced their support for or their dissatisfaction with the bill.

Please allow me to put this debate into the current context as I see it. Two groups are making representations. One of them is in favour of the bill, which aims, among other things, to control firearms; the other is opposed to the bill.

The group in favour of the bill says that it wants to reduce the number of deaths involving firearms. We know that some of these deaths are accidental, some are the result of family disputes, some are suicides or of, course, some occur during the perpetration of other criminal acts.

The supporters of firearm controls also support a public awareness campaign on the use of firearms and are looking to this legislation to provide stricter controls through licences to possess weapons, the registration of weapons, the prohibition of military and paramilitary weapons, the control of ammunition sales and strict restrictions on the use of handguns.

Those who oppose the bill believe that the legislation should above all target criminals. The group claims that the current legislation already sufficiently controls the possession and use of firearms for hunting, target practice and collection purposes and disputes the claim that the current legislation is not being applied. Lastly, this group opposes additional legislative mea-

sures because it claims that they would pointlessly tax honest citizens without actually reducing crime.

The bill before us intends to meet the following needs: clamp down on smuggling, prohibit the possession of certain firearms and restrict the possession of others, institute mandatory registration of all firearms and set a certain number of rules regarding the purchase, possession, storage, sale, exchange, loan, transfer and, naturally, the use of firearms.

Which criteria should we use to evaluate this bill? In my opinion, there are three. The bill's first aim is to reduce the number of lives lost and injuries inflicted because of the use of firearms. I presume that everyone would agree that legitimate, controlled and careful use of weapons would reduce the risk of death or injury. Lastly, I believe that no legislation will ever be able to prevent an act of insanity, but that legislation can and should increase the probability that the consequences of such an act would be less serious.

I am concerned about several aspects of the bill before us.

First of all, I think that the proposed measures against crime and smuggling could be made more effective. I also question the impact on collectors, competitors and hunters, as well as the usability of the registration system. I understand that it involves entering into a computer the specifics of all firearms owned across the country, but does this registry and the information it contains make the system easy to use? Will this registry really produce the promised results and, if so, at what cost and is there an easier way to achieve the same results?

I am not questioning the goals that have been set but the advisability of the means used to reach them. I, however, have serious reservations about the authority to search without a mandate, which is provided under this bill. Sections 98 through 101 create new powers to carry out inspections anywhere, even in residential premises provided that the inspector-not the police officer but the inspector-obtains either the occupant's consent or a warrant.

Under the regulations currently in effect, these powers only apply to businesses. The decision to extend their application to residential premises will arouse-and is already arousing-controversy and may, if this bill becomes law, be challenged under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Clause 101, among others, would require police officers to obtain either the occupant's consent or a mandate before entering a residential premises. As we know, a justice of the peace could sign a warrant for the same purposes and reasons as the cases covered under clause 99 regarding inspections, but only if entry has been refused or if there are reasonable grounds for believing that entry will be refused.

In general, although I agree with the bill's goal of reducing violence, I am not certain that the bill as it now reads adequately serves this goal while respecting the other rights and freedoms of citizens. That is why I encourage the various groups and individuals to make their views known to the Committee on Justice, which will soon hear evidence on this bill. I hope that this evidence will help all members of this House, especially government members, to improve this bill so that it achieves our goals and makes firearms handling safer for people in Quebec and Canada, as we all generally hope for.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is difficult to speak on this matter when you come from Saskatchewan. In that province the provincial government is opposed to the proposed legislation. The opposition parties are opposed to it and there is a vocal element that does not seem to quit in opposition to the legislation. However, it is important to look at and dissect the legislation and examine the different aspects of what is being proposed.

Over the past year the Minister of Justice has travelled the country and talked to different groups and individuals. In effect he has been consulting with people as to the proposals individuals want or do not want in the legislation.

Whenever one comes down with such legislation, few are generally happy even though the legislation is generally good legislation. The problem which arises is that emotions take over. Then neither side wants in any way to give in on any of the aspects, to discuss the matter and to determine whether society as a whole would benefit from such legislation.

The problem the minister has had is to come up with a balanced approach. This approach would help to ensure the safety of Canadians and would crack down on the criminal misuse of firearms. At the same time it would respect the needs of hunters and farmers and would respect the rights of legitimate gun owners.

Quite often one has to be pigeon-holed as to whether one supports the legislation or one is against the legislation. There are good aspects of this legislation. The parts of the legislation calling for increased penalties for use of firearms in the commission of offences obviously is very good. It is long overdue and certainly will now be in effect. Hopefully the provinces will enforce these provisions and not treat them the way they have in the past by dealing these penalties away.

Those aspects are commendable. One then has to look at the other aspects. What about the initiative for controlling the

illegal importation or smuggling of guns into this country? There it appears everyone is in agreement. That aspect is good.

However, one has to look at that aspect practically. How do we control such a provision? Such a provision cannot be effectively dealt with without registration. Without registration such an aspect cannot be dealt with whatsoever. It appears a phobia has taken over with respect to registration, that this is a restriction on legitimate gun owners.

I own a gun. How the filling out of a page, signing it and sending it in to the appropriate authorities is going to restrict me in any way with that gun is a matter I do not understand to this day. There is absolutely no restriction on legitimate gun owners.

We have to deal with the question of registration and what its possible benefits are. Sure, we have many legitimate gun owners. There are people, the criminal element, who use guns and obviously do not register them after they have stolen them or come to have them in some other way.

We have to make sure the legitimate gun owners show some responsibility. Being a legitimate gun owner means storing guns properly, which matter has been often overlooked in this country. Storage is crucial in keeping guns out of the hands of the criminal element which has used this as a source of getting guns. There are break-ins to homes where guns are not properly stored. Guns are stolen from homes of legitimate gun owners who do not properly store them.

They have to pay a price for that. That price is an offence if they do not properly store their guns. If they do not properly store their guns, they will be charged. That matter has been in effect for many years, but has not been properly enforced or the mechanism has not been in place. With registration there will be more responsibility on the part of the gun owners.

As the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police put it, the registration of firearms will help control smuggling, gun theft and the misuse of legal firearms. It continued to explain what is meant by this.

The association indicated that with respect to smuggling, guns do not have to be smuggled into this country; they can be brought in legitimately. Any member in this House who has a proper certificate can bring a dozen guns into the country.

Under the current system, the type of guns, the number of guns, and the serial numbers of the guns are not tracked when they come into Canada. A recent report indicated that customs officers are more focused on the value of the gun shipments than on any other aspect.

Once these guns are in the country, we do not know what happens to them. We lose complete track of them as to whether they get into the hands of illegitimate gun owners, et cetera. That matter will be taken care of if registration comes about.

Registration will leave a paper trail. The guns will be traced back to the source to determine how they got into illegitimate hands, if they have transferred to such hands, once they have come into the country.

Not always but generally, guns that are stolen have not been properly stored. Registration will promote safe storage which will reduce gun theft as well as reduce suicides and accidents.

One may say, how will it reduce suicides? Safe storage generally prevents the gun from getting into the hands of a person who is in a temporary state of depression. Again, as the chiefs of police so eloquently put it in their report on this matter, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

A person with a problem becomes depressed and if there is easy access to a gun, deals with the problem on the spur of the moment. If access to the storage container is just a little more difficult, especially for young people, and if they do not have access to the ammunition, a temporary problem may pass and the permanent solution will not occur.

Certainly that is an important factor. If we can save some lives from suicides, that would be an important factor for us. That aspect and the suicides in this country are matters we have to look at very closely. It is important to prevent the senseless loss of young people's lives, those people who have been unable to deal with temporary situations and have immediately dealt with them by ending their own lives with a gun.

Of course, there is the question of collectors. No one believes that collectors should be disarmed of their gun collections. That matter can be dealt with in committee. No one indicates that firearms safety is not an important factor.

What we have to understand is that registration will in no way whatsoever cause any restrictions on legitimate gun owners. The filing of the certificate once in a lifetime for a gun is not a restriction but it is certainly a help to the authorities in enforcing the laws. It is not a restriction whatsoever on anyone in society. The question really is, what is the problem?

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to address this House and the people of Canada in support of the motion put forth by my hon. colleague from Yorkton-Melville.

This motion suggests that firearms control and crime control be addressed separately by dividing Bill C-68 in two. By making the two issues of lawful possession of firearms and their use for criminal purposes separate, this amendment could help introduce nuance and sophistication in this debate on firearms

use. It seems to me that this would enable us to break the current stalemate over Bill C-68.

Our proposal is to address separately the administrative issues relating to the acquisition, storage and transportation of firearms and those legal issues relating to the Criminal Code and what to do when offences are committed with firearms. This way, the principles of the right to have free disposal of one's private property and the right to public security could be debated and legislated in a more consistent way. It appears that this approach would enable us to deal with the problem of firearms use for criminal purposes without criminalizing at the same time law-abiding owners who only use their firearms for recreational purposes.

As it stands, Bill C-68, if adopted, would be a failure in every regard. Many legal loopholes remaining unplugged, offenders would continue to avoid sentences commensurate with the seriousness of their crimes. The deterrent effect of the sentence must have an impact on individuals. It has no impact on an object such as a firearm.

Among the legal loopholes that remain in Bill C-68 is the provision for lesser charges than those for violent criminal offences. In addition, it would still be possible to plea bargain for lesser charges. Finally, this bill does not address the problem of minimum sentencing even in cases where it is recognized that a violent crime was committed with a firearm. Such inconsistencies in the Criminal Code and its enforcement by the judicial system are not dealt with in Bill C-68.

In other words, this bill would offer no guarantee against an eventual outbreak of sensational crimes such as those committed by Denis Lortie at the Quebec National Assembly in 1984, by Marc Lépine at l'École polytechnique in 1989 and by Valéry Fabrikant at Concordia University in 1992. Of course, you will argue that there really cannot be any guarantee and this is a realistic way of minimizing risks. However, when you consider the fact that this legal system allowed Lortie to serve a minimum sentence and Fabrikant to own handguns in spite of the warnings of Concordia lawyers, you quickly realize that there is something very wrong with the Criminal Code, both in terms of its concepts and its enforcement.

Making the necessary amendments to the Criminal Code, which would include decriminalizing the storage and carrying of firearms, as well as providing strong deterrents and stiff sentences when firearms are used for violent purposes, might help reconcile the various interests expressed by Canadians. The Liberal government could preserve its integrity by fulfilling its promise to improve safety at home and on the street, thus allowing Canadians to heave a sigh of relief. The opposition, at least the Reform Party, would be prepared to co-operate.

I want to correct some outrageous claims made on December 6, regarding the existence of a correlation between domestic violence and the availability of firearms.

I fully agree that violence against women and children has its roots in the existence of a sociological and historical power relationship. However, I totally disagree with claims to the effect that the availability of firearms is a direct and primary cause of that type of violence. Firearms are only used as the ultimate means of violence; in most cases, victims of violence suffer physical or emotional abuse long before their tormentor decides to use a firearm.

I share my party's position as regards extending the monitoring system to include compulsory registration for everyone as well as possible confiscation of firearms. It is obvious to me that the arguments of the Reform Party against such a system are more numerous and better documented than those submitted by the Minister of the Justice to support his proposal.

The minister cannot provide evidence confirming the existence of a link between firearms control and crime control. In fact, buying, carrying and storing firearms are already extensively regulated activities. In spite of the stringent existing legislation on the traffic of legal firearms, criminals manage to obtain such firearms by relying on other sources such as smuggling, the black market, etc.

In the absence of any study on the effectiveness of the present system, we think it appropriate to adopt the recommendation made by the auditor general in 1993 that such a study be carried out before consideration is given to extending the regulation of firearms at an exorbitant cost of several hundreds of millions of dollars. It would make no sense at all to implement other regulations, when we still do not know the merits and shortcomings of our present system.

There is no direct relationship between the control of firearms and the control of criminal activity. When we compare the situation in Washington, D.C. to that in Switzerland, it is difficult to argue otherwise. In Washington, where the possession and sale of firearms is prohibited, the homicide rate is 81.6 per 100,000 inhabitants. Conversely, in Switzerland, where the possession of firearms is almost universal, the homicide rate is 1.1 per 100,000 inhabitants.

An examination of these statistics leads to the inescapable conclusion that a complex assortment of factors-social, economic, cultural, political, psychological, symbolic and so on-is at work in how individuals and societies approach firearms on the one hand and crime on the other. Trying to establish a direct link between the control of firearms and the control of criminal activity is too simplistic.

In proposing that Bill C-68 be split into two separate parts, my colleague for Yorkton-Melville and the Reform Party are making a constructive suggestion that might satisfy all Canadians. Helpful criticism and practical solutions have been offered in the House by a number of Reformers. I hope that this Parliament will have the wisdom and good faith to give serious consideration to this motion and to make a commitment to act accordingly.