House of Commons Hansard #216 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was page.


Firearms ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity today to express my support for the amendments proposed by the Bloc Quebecois and put them into the context of this debate.

In this instance the emphasis is mainly on decriminalization, and that is entirely in line with the position taken by the Bloc Quebecois which is to make this a balanced piece of legislation. This seems to have been a rather difficult debate, with some very active lobbies on both sides, and I must say that in my case, I got some firsthand experience of this in my riding, and with citizens who want to make sure that this process produces some effective results.

So with this in mind, the Bloc worked on this bill and tried to come up with some satisfactory results.

What is the primary objective? Basically, to improve gun control. Prevention is the main thing, in other words, we want to ensure that now and in the near and not so near future, we can improve the situation. Through better control, we also want to reduce the number of guns that are out there but are not being used, and a number of examples come to mind. Everyone knows people who, somewhere in a closet, have a gun they inherited and which they still have but do not use. They still own it but hardly ever use it. There are a lot of guns around.

This bill is rather well received by the general public, especially in Quebec. However, the groups that are directly affected are more sceptical. They have expressed certain reservations and, in some cases, out and out dissent. Generally speaking, the people most likely to be affected-and I am thinking of hunters, of whom I represent a certain number in my riding-are wondering what will happen. There are a lot of rumours about what it might actually cost them. They have sometimes felt that the government was out to get them.

Many people who use guns, either hunting rifles or revolvers, use them responsibly. So we do not really want to brand them as criminals, and that is why we would like to see some flexibility with respect to criminalization. We are suggesting ways to make this position more flexible.

In the case of Quebec, the registration of firearms, including hunting rifles, has been in effect for a number of years. The problem is how the process is used. Now the government wants to create a national registry. I realize some people are going to say that it is like starting all over again. They say: when I bought my gun at the store, they took down the serial number and all that. Now, when they want to set up a national registry, for Canada, in this case, we have to more or less repeat the same process. I agree there are some costs involved in implementing the system. The bulk of the cost would be during the start up phase, but subsequently, we can assume that the system would become much simpler and far more flexible. Nevertheless, there are some questions about these new measures.

I want to make it clear that we in the Bloc Quebecois support the principle of improving gun control. However, we want to minimize the impact on the individual, and in this case, the user. Since this bill is intended to benefit the general public, it would perhaps make sense for everyone to contribute to the start up costs. I do not own any firearms and it would not bother me to contribute as a citizen, as a taxpayer, to this system's start up or to pay for a firearm's registration, if one day I decide to purchase one, on the condition, of course, that the fees are reasonable.

Throughout the process, we have maintained pressure on the government to banish the rumours regarding figures and to reassure people that the cost would be reasonable. Because a bill is just a bill, its effectiveness relies on the decision of individuals to respect the system and the law. It is they who ultimately determine how effective a law is going to be. When the majority of people respect it, it becomes a standard for society. At that point, it becomes easier to enforce. The best way to have people respect a law is peer pressure.

Therefore, I agree with the statement that we all have to contribute and that users also have to do their part. Under the current proposal, a $10 fee will be imposed for the registration of the first 10 firearms. Most Canadians do not own more than 10 firearms. These fees seem reasonable. Some people do have more than 10, for example collectors, but there are special provisions for them. Now, an ownership certificate is also involved. To be able to own a firearm, people will have to purchase a certificate at a cost of approximately $10 per year, payable for a period of five years. It is important to note that this

ownership certificate replaces a certificate that already exists, the firearms acquisition certificate.

For a good many people, the only fee involved will be the initial cost of registering their firearms, $10. I think that this is reasonable and so do a good number of my constituents. The fear they have is that an amendment will be introduced later which will raise costs exponentially. They want reassurances, like the one discussed in committee, that the government will not pull a fast one on them.

In this regard, we suggested indexing it to the cost of living, which would appear to be one of the most reasonable proposals made. We cannot, however, use the same formula, because of the way the House works. So, I now propose, instead, that these fees be frozen for 20 years, although I still think our first position was better and more acceptable to the government.

However, we make the point again to the government that this would be one way it could ensure the greatest support and the least resistance for its bill. I think the people in my region and in other regions will accept this system, so long as it means the least possible inconvenience for them, including any financial inconvenience that may be involved. The registration fee must not be seen as a disguised tax on firearms.

The other point is to ensure as well that an inefficient bureaucracy is not created with the legislation. As members of the opposition, we must ensure over time that the system exists without accompanying machinery of no practical value and that the people working in the system do what they are supposed to be do, that is, control weapons, so that we do not end up with a system costing more than it should.

If these points can be assured, I think the bill will be more saleable. Of course, there has been considerable debate about the effectiveness of registration. Will it really meet the prevention goals? This is, I admit, where debate was perhaps the most difficult. People, experts from both sides testified for and against registration. We as legislators must make up our minds after listening to experts who disagree on this subject and to people from both sides who lobby hard to get their message across. Some of them even resort to threats, linking this to election and political issues, which I find somewhat regrettable because there are other, more important matters.

That said, we must make up our minds, and I am now one of those who have come to support this bill, because I think that we must take this step in our social development. Although we may have some doubts, are these doubts enough to abstain, in my case, or dissent? I think not, and that is why we must support this bill.

But-and I will conclude on this-we are asking the minister to be a little more flexible to ensure that people will rally behind this bill, and that any negative impact on those affected will be minimal. In this regard, I think that their only concern at the present time is the matter of costs. I feel that going along the lines of the amendments that follow would allow us to take a very important step while being a little more flexible on decriminalization.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Madam Speaker, I heard earlier in a speech by one of the government members that the objective of the legislation was to improve public safety on the streets and in our homes. Every single Reform member in the House is out for exactly the same objective, to improve public safety on the streets and in our homes. Unfortunately the bill has very little to do with that.

I have asked a number of people, including members of the House, to explain what they think the bill is all about. One member suggested that it was the warm fuzzies, the warm fuzzies simply being that it makes us feel good, that it makes us feel better.

The justice minister has been very interesting in coming forward with a figure of $85 million to make his creation work, $85 million to register seven million guns. We are taking at look at the imposition of registration and we are taking a look at the expenditure of $85 million. It reminds me an awful lot of the idea of what it would cost for transportation of a particular entity.

If we take into account only the capital cost of the car and not any of the actual running expenses, we might get a rather distorted picture.

I do not buy the justice minister's estimate of $85 million by a long shot. I do not think it is anywhere even remotely close. At best, even if that was the federal cost, what about the provincial cost?

I asked the justice minister about a situation where environmental activist Paul Watson talked about the fact that he had used a stun gun in either New Brunswick or the province of Quebec, I cannot recall. He rose in the House and made the very clear point that the administration of justice was a provincial issue, a provincial responsibility.

Even if the $85 million figure were believable, which I do not think it is, the real cost of administering this useless program will fall to the provinces.

I also cite from page 13480 of Hansard , June 8, wherein the Speaker of the House made a ruling on a point of order raised by the House leader for the Reform Party. I recognize that clause 98 was dealt with in Motion No. 3. Nonetheless this is germane to my argument. He said:

Clause 98 as introduced in the House had the concept of "police officer" for which the concept of "inspector" has been substituted by the committee. It still remains a provincial ministerial responsibility as to which class of individuals shall be so designated. It may well be that a provincial minister decides to recruit an entirely new class of individuals for the purpose of clause 98, but it clearly remains the decision of the provincial authority to do so. Whether the class of individuals are called inspectors or police officers has no direct impact on the royal recommendation attached to the bill.

He was ruling on the fact, in the judgment of the Speaker, that the costs of the program were actually going to be borne by the provinces in the same way as the cost of driving the automobile once it is purchased are borne by the owner. In actual fact the cost to the Canadian taxpayer, even if we could believe the $85 million as a starting point, is $85 million to buy into the initial registration of the program. The enforcement of the program will be something quite different.

Let us deal with the $85 million figure. I want to restate for the third or fourth time that I do not buy the $85 million figure even at the federal level. What could we do with money equivalent to that?

I read in the June 10 Gazette :

The RCMP will spend $68 million over the next few years in an attempt to curb smuggling along the 700-kilometre border between Quebec and the U.S.

The largest number of new officers will go to the Valleyfield detachment, near the Akwasasne Mohawk reserve.

Akwasasne, which straddles the Canada-U.S. border and incorporates parts of Quebec and Ontario, is considered a key crossing point for contraband.

If we are to spend $68 million in that case or if we are to spend, as the justice minister has suggested, this impossible figure of $85 million, would it not be good if we could actually spend it on something that would accomplish that for which it is being spent?

It seems rather illogical when one refers to the polls that the justice minister and parliamentary secretary keep referring to. They say that 60 per cent, 68 per cent or 75 per cent of people are in favour of registration. That is terrific, except invariably-and I will make up a figure-68 per cent of people are in favour of registration but 72 per cent of people do not think it will do anything. What is the point of the registration program if in the belief of Canadians it will not do anything? Why are we getting into it in the first place? Why are we harassing ordinary law-abiding Canadians?

With respect to the source of weapons coming into Canada, I will read a small part of a very profound report by the MacKenzie Institute. It is rather detailed but is also quite enlightening.

By the time of writing, 102 weapons which have been sold to the four Mohawks were recovered by Canadian police forces. Details on these firearms include the following: 65 light semi-automatic pistols; 32 semi-automatic pistols; four revolvers; one submachine gun; at least another 21 light semi-automatic pistols, 39 semi-automatic pistols and four Cobray submachine guns pass through this connection into Canada.

What possible effect did or would the registration program have on the passage of this arsenal?

Other weapons that were not traced to Vermont but were seized along with those 102 weapons included five assault rifles, two submachine guns, a sawed off shotgun, 14 other pistols and 23 unspecified weapons. At least five of these were also smuggled in from the United States. Of the 102 weapons, various Canadian police forces have provided information on the crimes the firearms were associated with, and/or the history of the suspects who had been in possession of the firearms.

The arms provided by the four Mohawks were linked to the following crimes and criminals. Again, I am only going to read a small part of the list. "Thirty-five were associates and/or members of the Russian Mafiya, Armenian thieves", and it goes on and on.

The connections are amazing. The point I am trying to make is that our border at this point is no bar to guns. A registration program is going to have no effect in changing that situation. This is underscored and underlined even by the Canadian Police Association.

My point is why are we going after targeting law-abiding Canadian citizens when the surveys themselves which supposedly support registration say that people recognize registration will make no difference. We are going after the wrong people.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Madam Speaker, I am far from happy with Bill C-68 in its present form. As usual, I think the government has turned a deaf ear to the various motions in amendment put forward by the Bloc Quebecois. Once again, the government has missed a wonderful opportunity to improve its bill by incorporating the findings of the various committees, the conclusions reached at public hearings or quite simply the views contained in letters sent in by our constituents throughout this country.

One thing is for sure: for or against, this bill leaves no one indifferent. I have said it before, and I will say it again, although this is a very controversial bill, it is, in my view, essential and in the interests of all Quebecers and Canadians that the govern-

ment pass it so that citizens are better protected against the upsurge in crime and violence that can strike anyone at any time.

I cannot, at this time, go into all the details of this bill, but it is clear from the controversy surrounding it that it has some major flaws. I will mention just two in particular. First, in a move designed to impress the public, the Minister of Justice included in his bill a minimum sentence of four years, in lieu of the provisions of section 85 of the Criminal Code. In its present form, section 85 provides that a criminal who uses a firearm while committing an offence will have to serve an additional consecutive sentence of one year. In the case of a second or subsequent offence, the additional sentence is three years.

Surely the Minister of Justice cannot seriously think that a minimum sentence of four years on top of the original sentence will have a dissuasive effect. It will not. It will merely serve to worsen the already serious problem of overcrowding in Canada's prison system.

Furthermore, I would remind you that members of the Quebec bar told the committee that a minimum sentence of four years for use of a firearm in committing an offence could result in something like an additional 250 people a year joining the prison population. When you think about how much it costs taxpayers to keep one offender in jail, I do not know whether this country, which is bankrupt, currently has the means to support another 250 people in jail. The auditor general also spoke of this subject.

My colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Hubert, the Bloc Quebecois justice critic, is proposing to simply drop clauses 135 to 144, which merely list ten crimes with a minimum sentence of four years. I think that we should stick to the current rules established in the Criminal Code. It should be up to judges to set the sentences for the various crimes committed by offenders.

Would it not be wiser to follow Quebec's example in justice matters, and to channel our efforts towards better understanding, by putting emphasis on prevention and bringing in measures which promote rehabilitation, instead of giving in, like this government has, to repressive movements from all over the country, which are expounded mostly by the Reform Party.

Another point that is of particular concern to me is that section 106 of the current Criminal Code stipulates that people who make a living from hunting do not have to pay the licencing fees related to firearm ownership.

I know very well that we have grown accustomed to the government's double standards over the past two years, but this bill is too serious and important for that kind of game. Clause 110 of the bill would effectively allow the governor in council to introduce discriminatory regulations uniquely for the benefit of aboriginal peoples. I fail to see why belonging to a certain class of persons changes the application of the legislation.

It is therefore imperative that any person who owns a firearm be obliged to pay registration fees, whether that person lives off the proceeds of the hunt or is a native. This government must not allow the creation of different classes of citizens. It is not helpful at all and merely creates conflicts within our society.

Guns must be controlled and regulated by laws that are logical, sensible and apply to all citizens of this country, irrespective of their age, sex, occupation or cultural heritage.

I know this bill does not enjoy unanimous support, but we must remember that as elected representatives, it is our duty to protect our constituents, often from themselves.

This bill should respond to the main concerns which have been raised constantly in the past five to ten years with respect to gun control.

We know this bill is not a panacea for the crime and violence that exist in our society. However, it is time to acquire the additional tools we need to deal with these problems. I think this bill is a tool that will help society evolve, and that a few years from now, it will be too late.

Finally, I may recall that at the present rate, there will be about four million guns of all kinds in less than ten years. We cannot afford to leave this legacy to future generations. It is time to act now. This has gone on long enough.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Hugh Hanrahan Reform Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to discuss report stage of Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons. This is perhaps the most controversial piece of legislation the House has seen since the implementation of the GST. It is also a piece of legislation which has caused a great deal of debate and at times heated discussion since this issue was first raised in the House.

I have learned there is little or no middle ground on the issue of gun control. It is an issue that Canadians either do or do not support. I surveyed my constituents of Edmonton-Strathcona twice to gauge their feelings on this issue. I did this through household surveys and received conflicting results. Some individuals suggested the first question was too broad and all encompassing and others felt the second question was too narrow. This is a problem in which each side is divided into black and white; there does not seem to be any shade of grey.

How do we resolve this conflict in order to vote according to the wishes of the majority of our constituents? I felt the best way to resolve the problem was to bring in an independent third party. In this case it was an independent pollster. This polling

firm's objective was to find out how my constituents truly felt on the issue of gun control. The results were as follows.

Just under 50 per cent of the respondents said they believed the government's proposed gun control legislation should not be passed without modification or amendment, while only 28 per cent said it should be passed. Over 55 per cent believed that the potential benefits of the proposed legislation would not justify the cost of the bureaucracy required to enforce it compared with 30 per cent on the yes side. An astonishing 70 per cent believed that the authorities would be granted too many powers concerning the issues of search, seizure and compensation, while less than 25 per cent felt that the new powers would be justified. Finally, almost 80 per cent of the constituents from Edmonton-Strathcona believed that criminals would not comply with the justice minister's proposed gun control legislation compared with only 11 per cent who said that criminals would.

It is also interesting that this government seems to be travelling down the same road as the previous Conservative government. There was an outcry of self-righteousness from the Liberals while they were in opposition over the Conservatives' use of time allocation to ram through legislation.

The Liberals had managed to make the most faithful individuals of our democratic process turn into pessimists. This Liberal government is trampling on Canadians' democratic rights by limiting the time in which we as parliamentarians can debate legislation put forward in this House.

The Mulroney government used time allocation 35 times to pass 200 bills. That is 17 per cent of the Mulroney government's bills, which is shamefully unacceptable, as was indicated by the other side.

Now let us look at the government's record, in which time allocation has been used an unprecedented 14 times on only 59 bills, including this one, Bill C-68. On this bill time allocation has been used not once, not twice, but three times. In other words, the government has used time allocation 24 per cent of the time, 7 per cent more than the Mulroney government. That is totally unacceptable to me and to the constituents of Edmonton-Strathcona and I believe to all Canadians.

The government must start to listen to the people and not the spin doctors, or else it as well will be able to hold its caucus meetings in a phone booth.

The people of Edmonton-Strathcona have spoken out on this issue, and the majority concur with the Reform Party's position that registration is not the means to an end in which the end is a decrease in crime. It is for this reason that the Reform Party has brought forward amendments to split the bill during second reading. We would have passed the crime control measures immediately, which would have allowed us more time to spend debating the merits and pitfalls of a full scale registration plan.

We as a caucus applaud the justice minister's endeavour to curtail the deliberate criminal misuse of firearms. He has done this through increased penalties for criminal misuse of firearms and through an increased effort to further enhance controls on illegal border crossings.

Unfortunately certain aspects of Bill C-68 will have a detrimental impact on the competitive sports shooting group. If we are to believe the majority of shooting organizations, they feel there is a real possibility of the loss of Canada's sports shooting structure. Prohibiting or restricting firearms that are commonly used in legal, legitimate, recreational circumstances such as casual target shooting or in formally organized competition does not prevent criminal acts. It only further restricts the rights and freedoms of law-abiding citizens.

As the Reform Party's critic for amateur sports, I feel obligated to speak directly to the specific sections of the bill that have the most direct effect on sports shooting organizations across Canada. We proposed amendments in committee that would have allowed those individuals who are members of the registered recognized shooting associations to be exempt from Bill C-68, and this was defeated. Our position is that we do not want to prohibit guns that are used specifically for competition and thereby prohibit those at the entry level from entering the sport.

Our reasoning is that you do not come into the world of competitive shooting with a $5,000 or $6,000 target pistol. You start off at the entry level with a very inexpensive firearm. You join a club and you take up shooting. Invariably these firearms tend to have barrel lengths of four inches or so and to be .32 calibre, which is what the Olympic shooters use.

It is a concern for me that the proud tradition that Canada has in competitive shooting may be lost. A perfect example was during the Commonwealth Games last year, an event that resulted in 43 medals for Canada. Twenty-two were shooting medals. That is over 50 per cent of Canada's total medals awarded. Under this bill, that number will decline dramatically.

Bill C-68 prohibits two-thirds of the pistols owned by law-abiding citizens. Many of these are collectors' items or are target pistols in current use in competitions such as the Olympics and Commonwealth Games. Some of these firearms may be grandfathered, but that is simply a delay.

The majority of my constituents feel that Bill C-68 is an ineffective and intrusive piece of legislation. What Canadians, both rural and urban, want is crime control, plain and simple.

Until these types of problems which I, the rest of the Reform caucus, the people of my constituency and the people of Canada have raised are dealt with, we as a party and I as an individual cannot support this bill.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I wanted to rise and speak on these amendments to Bill C-68, first because we supported the bill at first and second reading. We supported the principle, because we believe virtue is unassailable.

Surveys reveal that 79 per cent of Canadians and Quebecers agree with the adoption of measures making it more difficult to obtain firearms. We see this as a modern measure with an eye to the future. We want to take steps to limit violence, and this is why we approved the bill at first and second reading.

We also want to continue to support this bill. However, some amendments seem reasonable, and the government should permit some changes to the bill. In some cases, the changes sought are even more stringent than what was proposed. We want legislation that is more balanced and fairer for people.

It must be credible. The people governed by it must believe that it will improve things. If people do not believe in it, it becomes like other oppressive legislation, like burdensome taxes, which we already know about. When taxes become burdensome, what do people do? They start smuggling and black marketeering. They find a way to get around the law.

If people see this legislation, which is so important, as exploiting them, if some people, such as hunters, feel they have to pay a hidden tax, they, and there are more of them than any other group covered by the legislation, will probably be less likely to comply with it, because they find it oppressive.

We therefore proposed certain amendments, on decriminalization among other things, because someone who forgets to register a weapon is not a criminal. This person presents no danger to society. This person does not deserve to go to prison, as someone said before me, at a cost of $50,000, $60,000 or $78,000 a year in a federal penitentiary. This is what it costs to keep a person in prison.

It seems to us that certain sentences are not consistent with their intent or with the offence committed. We understand that a punishable offence must be tied to a reasonable sanction. The proposals we are making, however, seem more reasonable than what the bill currently provides.

We do not think that, if these amendments are voted down tomorrow morning,-or tonight, because we will probably vote tonight-that we will vote against the whole bill. No, that will not be the case. We want to play fair. We therefore propose to the government that it accept some of the amendments that will make it easier for people to accept the bill without putting their peace and security at risk and that will enable it to co-operate, to accept some help from the opposition so that this legislation may be civilized, modern and fair to everyone.

Other inexpensive measures could be implemented. Hunters have never been opposed to safety measures. Quebec already has a law requiring people to store firearms in a separate, locked cabinet, and to keep bullets in another room of the house. We proposed in amendment an inexpensive locking device that can be obtained for $10 or $15.

If the manufacturer were required to supply this device with the firearm, it would cost even less. The purchaser of a firearm would automatically have the locking device and citizens would be safer. This is a small, one time outlay, but the continuing costs of licences or registration certificates are much less acceptable to hunters. If, however, sportsmen in Quebec and in the rest of Canada were certain that, despite the cost to them, the bill would save lives, I think that they would throw their support behind it tomorrow morning. While there is still time, let us take the action that will make it easier for people to comply.

I hope that the government will see the validity of the amendments put forward by the official opposition and that it will vote in favour of these amendments this evening.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Cliff Breitkreuz Reform Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, it is quite clear that the Liberal government has bitten off a lot more than it bargained for as it proceeds to ram Bill C-68 through the House.

The government contends its gun control bill will do wonders to prevent gun related crimes. The government contends that Canadians from coast to coast want Bill C-68. The government contends that the cost for tighter gun control is minimal. While the government contends, Canadians are learning the facts about gun control and the facts about gun related crimes.

Let us start with the government's premise that gun control will reduce violent crime. Statistics Canada reported in 1991 that a total of 753 homicides were committed. Two-thirds of the murderers had prior criminal records. Almost half, 46 per cent, of those homicides were committed during the perpetration of another criminal offence, and only 36 per cent of these homicides were committed with firearms, half of which were committed with handguns, which are already required to be registered. If we look further into the statistics we see that 71 per

cent of these homicides were committed by individuals who could not even legally obtain a firearm.

Despite the fact that Canadians have been required to register their handguns since 1934, gun related crime has remained relatively constant over the years. That is because those restrictions have not prevented criminals from getting handguns. Tougher gun control will merely drive up the street value of weapons, making gun smuggling more lucrative than ever.

Bill C-68 in all likelihood will actually increase the criminal element in our society instead of reducing it.

It is worth mentioning that New Zealand abandoned firearms registration in 1983 after the police there said that registration diverts police away from more important duties. In Australia more than 40 per cent of firearms have not been registered, even after decades of requirements that they do so. The justice minister would do well to look at the experiences with gun registration in other countries.

The Liberals also contend that Canadians from coast to coast want Bill C-68. The Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Bar Association, and a host of provincial governments are not in favour of the very contentious provisions of Bill C-68.

Polls show that as more people learn about Bill C-68 the support drops. That is why the government is ramming Bill C-68 through the House by invoking closure.

There is the cost of universal registration of guns. The Liberals will have Canadians believe that registration will only cost $85 million. That is totally and completely erroneous and the justice minister knows it. The government bases its cost on the premise that there are only about 6.5 million firearms which would need to be registered at a cost of $85 million. The facts speak for themselves. Why does it currently cost $82 to register a handgun and why would it be only $13 to register long guns?

In 1976 the Solicitor General of Canada estimated Canadians owned ten million firearms. Each year approximately 200,000 additional firearms are legally imported into Canada, suggesting there should now be at least 14 million guns.

A 1992 United Nations survey found that over seven million Canadians, 26 per cent, own firearms. At the same time a justice department study showed that each owner had an average of 2.7 firearms for a total of 19 million. In April 1995 the deputy commissioner of the RCMP stated that there could be as many as 25 million firearms in Canada, two and a half times the 1976 figure.

If high firearm numbers equate with high crime then the crime rate should be two and a half times higher than it was in 1976. In fact, justice department statistics show that the crime rate in all categories has been stable with only minor fluctuations over the same period. Despite the claim that gun control impacts directly on crime, neither Bill C-51, the Trudeau bill nor Campbell's Bill C-17 have had any observable affect on this trend. What is the justification for more gun laws?

The people of Yellowhead want a criminal justice system which works for them. They want tough laws to deal with young offenders and they want tough laws to deal with the criminal element. They want their property and their rights protected. They will not be punished for not registering their firearms. They want the bad guys punished.

Under this terribly misguided gun control bill those who inadvertently fail to register their firearm face a summary conviction offence which would result in, at the very least, a criminal record, and at the most it could end up in a five year jail sentence. If a person knowingly fails to register their firearm they could face a maximum of 10 years in jail. That is for law-abiding citizens, but the thugs who steal firearms face a maximum of two years in jail. What kind of country are the Liberals building for the future?

Section 99 of this ill conceived Bill C-68 puts at risk fundamental liberties handed down from the Magna Carta, going all the way back to 1215. Section 99 allows for warrantless searches to be conducted. Section 107 criminalizes non-co-operation with police. Sections 91 and 92 enforce harsh penalties for non-compliance with gun registration. All of these single out law-abiding citizens. So much for almost 800 years of judges and scholars; 800 years of jurisprudence. This firearm legislation has the potential to abrogate and trample Canadians' liberties and freedoms, not only for gun owners but non-owners as well.

I speak on behalf of the majority of my constituents when I say that the bill will do little to protect them from the criminal use of firearms. I have stacks of anti-gun control letters and scores of petitions signed by thousands of constituents who want the government to reconsider the legislation. I will quote from a couple of these. Mrs. Dorothy Harrison of Barrhead, Alberta writes: "The criminals will not register their guns and law-abiding citizens will be penalized. The present justice industry is a gold mine for lawyers and totally inadequate".

Mr. John Rae of Whitecourt, Alberta writes: "As a concerned citizen of the Yellowhead riding, I am alarmed at the number of

flaws in the gun control legislation that will turn law-abiding citizens of this country into law breakers".

This bill is more than just about firearms legislation. It is really about raw political power exercised by the state over its citizens.

If the government was really serious about reducing crime it would look at the causes of crime and the causes of urban violence. But to do so, the government would have to tackle some very holy sacred cows, sacred cows that this government along with previous governments helped to build.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 1995 / 5:50 p.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, this will be the only opportunity I have to address Bill C-68 in the Chamber. I was not able to speak to the bill at second reading because there was time allocation then. Now there is time allocation at report stage and time allocation again at third reading. There has been time allocation at every stage of the bill. It is unfortunate that in the end most members will be lucky to have 10 minutes to speak to this bill.

It is my intention to oppose the bill at report stage and at final reading unless substantive amendments are made. I have mentioned before that in the last election I made certain commitments to represent Calgary West in the House of Commons and to do so on the basis of Reform principles and policies. All Reformers ran on those principles.

Among those principles and policies is a commitment to ascertain the views of our constituents and to vote those views where they can be ascertained. Specifically, on moral issues and on the issue of gun control, I have made a particular commitment to discover and to vote the wishes of my constituents. I have followed a process in attempting to do that.

Through my householder I surveyed the general opinions of my constituents on gun control prior to the tabling of Bill C-68. That survey covered three general areas that are included in the bill. It covered the area of registration of all weapons, tougher penalties on gun crime and also the area of further restrictions and prohibitions on various classes of weapons. All of those things were supported in principle by a large majority of those who responded to the survey. That was prior to the tabling of Bill C-68. Consistent with that I supported Bill C-68 at second reading despite my own misgivings about some elements of it.

At that time I sent out a second survey to my constituents giving a little more information on the bill and asking very specific questions about the contents of Bill C-68 as well as giving my own views on it. Those questions, which were much more complex, asked about elements of the bill. As well they asked for their overall feeling on the bill. It came back with a somewhat different result that I think reflects not only greater knowledge of the bill but a change in public opinion that has occurred in Calgary in the past few weeks.

While some elements of the bill remain strongly supported by the population I should say that both my householder survey and the scientific survey I have conducted have indicated that there is still broad support for the general principles of the bill. However there are some very severe concerns about specific matters, about some of the penalties for non-registration, the confiscatory elements of the legislation and the cost concerns.

Some areas are supported and some are not. In the end the households that replied indicated about 60 per cent overall disapproval of the bill. I will reflect that in my vote.

From my own personal standpoint I believe there are elements of gun control and specifically of this bill that could be helpful. The government has over reached in a number of areas of the bill and it is unfortunate that we cannot get a more modest package.

Let me make some comments from my perspective as intergovernmental affairs critic of the Reform caucus because there are several areas of the gun control package that deserve some comment. We know that the Department of Justice retains overall responsibility for gun control but the program is predominantly administered by provincial and territorial governments, through chief firearms officers and local police agencies.

In 1993, the auditor general concluded that delays in reaching financial agreement with the provinces and territories under the authority of section 111 of the Criminal Code could well weaken the gun control program. Financial agreements had been initiated in 1979 and extended several times. The agreements expired on March 31, 1993 and now new agreements have been signed only with the maritime provinces.

I have been told the funds that the provinces received are not adequate to cover their costs. For example, in the case of Saskatchewan, it has not received payment for its administration of existing gun control programs since April 1, 1993 and it appears that little progress toward resolving this conflict has been made.

The federal government's latest offer amounts to only about two-thirds of the actual cost incurred for these programs. Agreements with the provinces are also mandated under section 108 of the Criminal Code to ensure maximum co-ordination with regard to administration of gun control.

We know that several of the provincial and territorial governments, and I include here Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon territory, the Northwest Territories and now Ontario are not supportive of the bill. Clearly a high degree of provincial support is needed if this program is to be implemented with any degree of success.

Many amendments have been suggested to the bill, including the creation of a new level of bureaucracy, gun control inspectors, for which no cost estimates are available and about which all provinces are very concerned.

It would seem to me that a government that wanted to have its provincial counterparts on side would slow down and consult with them more on the bill, on the amendments and on its implementation. Instead we have a situation where at least two provincial governments, Saskatchewan and Alberta, are considering constitutional challenges or perhaps even refusing to administer gun control programs. That is unfortunate but it is part of what I talked about earlier in my speech where we have a situation where in many areas the government has over reached itself. In some cases it raised some very legitimate areas of concern and in other areas raised concerns where concerns were not necessary.

My own feeling, having talked to many people in my riding about this, people who own guns and do not own guns, people who are for the bill and who are against the bill, gun owners who are for and gun owners who are against, non-gun owners who are for the bill and non-gun owners who are against it, is that there is a fairly broad consensus on the kind of gun and crime control that is needed.

Many citizens would be more than willing to register their weapons and co-operate with police if they felt that in so doing this would affirm the legitimacy and respect for their responsibly used property rights and for responsible gun ownership.

Unfortunately there has been a pattern of legislation in the past decade where registration has been followed by increased regulation, ultimately by restriction, prohibition and then by confiscation, often without compensation. This has led to fears that some may say are unfounded but which do have their grounding in people's experience with gun laws.

These are people who have tried consistently to obey the law. That is unfortunate. Government has reinforced that impression by concentrating on the issue of gun control. Most people see a role for gun control but we have a government that refused to move in most areas of criminal justice reform.

The Young Offenders Act remains unreformed. Sentencing remains not reformed satisfactorily. We have ongoing debates about capital punishment and other areas of the criminal justice system which the government has not touched at all.

All in all, the government's fairly one dimensional determined agenda in this area has probably cost it the support of many Canadians who might otherwise support this legislation.

I will be the first to admit that it is very difficult to measure public opinion on this bill. Certainly when this bill was originally brought before the House my constituents were overwhelmingly in favour of its general direction. There has been a shift in public opinion. That shift has been away. The fact of the matter is that no clear consensus now exists for many of the measures in this bill. For that reason, I will be supporting a wide range of the amendments to the bill, and if those amendments are not adopted I will oppose the bill on the final vote.

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6 p.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to participate in today's debate at report stage of Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons. I already had an opportunity to speak on February 16, during the second reading debate on this bill. I then supported this bill and I-like my party, the Bloc Quebecois-continue to do so. I would, however, like the House to adopt the amendments proposed by my Bloc colleagues, the hon. members for Saint-Hubert and for Berthier-Montcalm.

These amendments would decriminalize the failure to register a firearm, impose a 20 year freeze on licensing and registration fees, ensure that all parties are treated fairly in this matter, and eliminate the minimum four year sentence for some criminal offences involving a firearm.

I generally agree with the institution of a national system to register all firearms and the inclusion of new offences in the Criminal Code, except for the amendments proposed by my Bloc colleagues. I think that we must staunch the illegal flow of firearms into and within Canada and tighten border controls. We all know that enormous quantities of firearms are imported into Canada every year.

The debate on Bill C-68 has been and still is too emotional, in my opinion. The discussions so far have been very heated. I have received hundreds of letters, protesting this bill I must admit, most of which are from English Canadians. I think that the campaign against this bill was mostly orchestrated by the firearms industry. I also believe that the Reform members gave in too easily to the lobbying of firearms manufacturers.

I consulted my constituents in the riding of Bourassa. An overwhelming majority recognizes the need to bring in stricter gun control laws. Over the past year, firearms were used in some crimes in my riding, which has swayed public opinion towards better protection of the public. Of course, stricter firearm controls cannot in themselves resolve the problem or all of the problems associated with criminal activity. We must admit however, that they will, however, be of great help.

The registration of all firearms is a positive move. Gunowners will also have to find ways of storing them safely. I support Motions Nos. 84 and 135 in particular, which were proposed by the hon. member for Saint-Hubert, and which would oblige the manufacturer, importer or exporter of firearms to equip them with a safety lock.

I think that these amendments markedly improve this bill and would be relatively inexpensive to enforce. After consulting with the citizens of my riding, I can state that they support the main points in this bill. I think that this piece of legislation is a step in the right direction, despite its omissions and shortcomings.

The number of deaths caused by firearms is unfortunately still too high. In Quebec alone, between 400 and 450 deaths are caused by firearms per year. Firearms are the weapons used in most homicides and in three out of four suicides in Quebec, which total approximately 300 per year.

Therefore, we must combat the criminal use of firearms more effectively. According to the polls, Quebec shows the strongest support for gun control. This is particularly true within the labour movement where I come from. Quebec's three labour congresses support the broad principle of this bill, as do the municipalities, the Quebec Bar Association and public health experts.

However, I have serious reservations about several provisions in Bill C-68, especially those dealing with procedures and registration costs. The government claims it will cost $85 million, spread over seven years, to set up this system. However, the Government of Quebec has already indicated that in Quebec alone, it will cost more than $300 million.

Why does the Minister of Justice refuse to give us the figures for the real cost of registration? The minister said that on average, a woman dies of gunshot wounds every six days in this country. Guns are used in most domestic murders.

The government has a right and a duty to protect citizens against the unlawful use of firearms. Public safety must be better protected. I will therefore vote in favour of the amendments presented by my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois.

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6:05 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Madam Speaker, I want to make a few remarks with regard to Bill C-68 and the amendments put forward by my colleagues.

On time allocation, we must understand in this assembly that there are many Canadians interested in this subject, and to set a time limit on the amount of debate when we have such an important bill before us is not the act of a responsible government.

Look at the number of amendments that have been placed before this Parliament. There are 267 different motions before us right now. What does that say about the bill? In a very clear way, this to me says that the bill is inadequate. It says that the bill does not meet the needs of Canadians. From those 267 amendments that are before us, there are all kinds of ideas that are expressed by Canadians as to ways and means by which the bill could be adjusted to better meet the objectives, whatever they are.

However, the government has not listened to the 267 motions that are here. We have had very little debate today by the Liberals. They have made up their minds. They are determined to ram this thing through and put closure on it. Tomorrow we will have third reading. The bill will then go on to the Senate, and supposedly the government has done its job. It has not. That is one of the things I have concern about.

The second thing is who really asked for this legislation? What were Canadians asking for? They were asking during the last campaign for legislation that would be tougher on the criminals. That was their major objective.

If we listen to all the debate that is going on in this House, what are we talking about? We are talking about the registration of guns, which is a major concern supposedly, but it is not the first priority. It has been the focus of the discussion. We have set aside a major, thorough, knowledgeable, good discussion on the first priority of Canadians, and that is legislation and laws in the country and actions of the court that will punish the criminal and protect the responsible citizens of this country.

We have mixed up the priorities. We have before us poor legislation, which is not doing the job. We have a government that is focused on registration, which is unacceptable to the Canadian public and is not meeting the needs.

There are three areas I will concentrate on. First, we have to look at the question, which has been raised in the House a number of times, of whether it will prevent crime. Will this legislation prevent any harmful act occurring to another citizen? Second, what about the cost of this legislation? Will this registration be worth the cost to the Canadian taxpayer? Whether they pay it because of their licence fee, whether they have to pay money for registering their gun, it is still a tax. It is still a cost to the Canadian taxpayer. Is that cost going to be worth while and bring about the benefits we want? Third, what about the freedom of responsible individuals in Canada? Does this legislation infringe on their rights and their freedoms to act as responsible citizens? I would like to address those three items

with regard to this legislation and also relative to the amendments that are before us today.

First, will registration of long guns really fight crime and prevent crime? The answer is clearly no. That has been reinforced by the minister, not only in this House. It has been reinforced by the Minister of Justice making comments on radio, television, and through the written media that he can produce no evidence that registration will prevent crime and stop any harmful act in the streets of Canada, no evidence at all. So why are we doing it? There has not been any justification.

Second, has registration in the past of handguns prevented crime from happening in the streets? Has it controlled the use of these weapons in an offence? We had very strict comprehensive gun control legislation brought into this assembly in 1977 and again in 1991. We have found that legislation has had no effect, that the rate of crime has gone up. It has had no impact on the incidence of homicides, on suicides, on violent crime or crimes committed with firearms. It has had no effect at all.

Today we are trying to put another layer of legislation in that requires registration and licensing of Canadians who have guns, and no one has answered that basic question: will it help to fight crime and to reduce the amount of crime or the harm that occurs to individuals? Nobody can answer that. I am sure at the moment there is no answer.

We have been convinced as the Reform Party that registration is not the answer to crime control at all. I know many Canadians tell us that in a very clear way.

I wish to cover a second point with regard to cost. The conclusion is very clear. The registration of guns will be a huge waste of taxpayers' money. Whether taxpayers pay $85 million directly, whether taxpayers have to pay a licensing fee or a registration fee for one gun or a number of guns, it will be a huge cost to Canadians.

Estimates are $500 million. Others estimate it to be even more. It will be an unnecessary huge cost at a point in time when Canadians have a limited amount of money to spend on the extra things government would demand of them. It seems to be a very useless exercise to spend money on something that does not have results.

One of the authorities of the country who has been mentioned a number of times in this assembly, the auditor general, has said very clearly that before we pass new legislation we should look at past legislation to see whether it has met its objectives and has been cost effective in any way.

I have already cited the 1977 legislation and the 1991 legislation passed by the House. From all estimates or judgments the expenditure of money out of the public purse to put that legislation in place has not brought about the results Canadians want. It has not lowered the rate of crime or reduced it or stopped the number of killings that have been going on. It has done nothing.

Again Canadians are being asked to spend millions and millions of dollars, over half a billion dollars most likely when the bill is tallied, to try to register them and then supposedly reduce the amount of crime. It has not happened in the past and it will not happen in the future.

I asked my constituents, like everybody else has, what they thought of registering guns. Thirty-one per cent said that stiffer gun control would be effective, in other words registration, in reducing crime or crime related activities. Sixty-nine per cent said that it would not. Thirty-six per cent agreed with registration.

That was a reflection of southern Alberta attitude that was very accurate. When I walked around my constituency and went door to door, business to business, I found that 99 per cent of my constituents-and I talked to at least 200 or 300 of them on the street-came to me on a volunteer basis to say clearly that registration was not the way to go and that I should vote against it in Parliament.

With the government invoking closure, a government that has not allowed us to discuss it fully, how else can we vote?

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6:15 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to make a couple of brief comments that I think are relevant to the debate as many Canadians are watching the deliberations of the House on Bill C-68.

The previous speaker mentioned that some 267 amendments would be considered at report stage. I took out the Order Paper and Notice Paper for today to find out the exact source of all the amendments. I found, even when reviewing the last 60, that some 45 of them were put before the House at report stage by two members of the Reform Party who were also members of the justice committee that dealt with the bill.

Motions at report stage are admissible if the committee has not dealt with the matter. I think there is another condition. However it raises an interesting question.

The previous speaker tended to indicate that all these items had to raised. If many of the amendments that have been raised before the House at report stage are still to be addressed by the House, it begs the question why members of the committee who were there to discuss the bill did not raise these questions and motions at the justice committee. Why are they now tying up the time of the House?

As I stated earlier, if all 267 motions were to be debated in the House with all the time members would want, we would be here until next Christmas. Frankly I think Canadians are saying that we have consulted more than enough on the gun control legislation.

The member also referred to the government ramming legislation through. It has been almost a year since the discussion documents were tabled by the justice minister. He has travelled from coast to coast. He has talked to Canadians about the issues. As a result of the committee work the justice minister has brought forward many extremely important amendments that respond to the concerns of Canadians. One example would be with regard to first time offenders and the non-registration of weapons. Those were positive and constructive changes with regard to the messages the justice minister heard.

Throughout the day I have seen the justice minister in the House and in the lobby. He has followed the debate very closely. He has listened to all hon. members whether it was in committee or in the House. He has certainly listened to Canadians.

I had an opportunity to be with the minister in Toronto. We went to Regent Park, a subsidized housing development, where there were ordinary people from a number of walks of life, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, who all had an opportunity to speak. It was a very interesting meeting. We heard from the people in that community that it was commonplace for them to hear a gunshot at night when their children were playing in the streets. They were very scared and concerned about what was happening to safety in our communities.

Considering the priorities of Canadians, community safety is certainly an important issue. One issue I keep hearing about from members of the Reform Party is the issue of registration. They proposed initially that registration and addressing the crime element should be separated, but the minister has explained clearly that there is an important and integral relationship between registration and crime control. One example concerns the importation of firearms.

Recently in Toronto there was a case where a gun dealer legally imported firearms but subsequently marketed them on the black market. Registration under the legislation, for instance, would require that on importation the weapons would be registered by the importer. There would be a clear trail of the weapons from the time they enter the country.

Another aspect concerns the importance of the relationship between Canada and the United States. Many members have suggested that we have to go after the criminals and those who are smuggling in firearms from the United States. Members know well that some 1,400 guns are reported lost, missing or stolen each year by Canadians. We can imagine how many weapons are actually lost, missing or stolen. Clearly those weapons are in the hands of the criminal element.

Therefore it is important to ensure that all Canadians who have firearms and register them are well aware of their responsibilities. In talking with gun clubs and other large gun owners I have found that the educational aspect of the consultative process has been extremely valuable to the Canadian public. Only about 10 per cent of Canadians actually own firearms. The other 90 per cent are probably not very familiar with the rules regarding firearms.

The comfort level of Canadians at large has been improved substantially because of education, knowing that there is licensing, knowing that there are courses, knowing that there are restrictions on transportation and ammunition sales, and knowing that registration will ensure gun owners have an opportunity to show they support law, order and safety in communities.

The whole issue of crime control comes down to whether we wait until we have a problem in Canada with regard to safety and crime in our communities or whether we respond proactively. If we took into account that for every one incident of a firearms related crime in Canada there are 100 incidents in the United States, and if we took into account the population differential of ten to one, for every incident in Canada there are ten in the U.S. on a per capita basis.

Could we imagine what the reaction of the Canadian public would be if the crime rate due to guns in Canada were to double? That would mean there would be only one incident for every five in the U.S. I dare say that most certainly the Canadian public would be extremely upset about the decay within society.

We have something in Canada of which we are very proud and must protect, that is safety in our communities. As we all know, the Prime Minister has boasted about safety in Canada. We can safely walk in our parks. As a result of initiatives such as this one we will ensure that Canada remains a safe country in which to live and a safe country for our children.

I do not think the honest hunter, gun collector or target shooter will be impacted in any material way by the legislation. The cost is not an issue. Ten dollars for 10 guns for five years is not an issue.

People in my own riding have come to see me and I have asked them how it would affect them. After we got over the cost issue it got down to the issue of confiscation. There are questions about confiscation. My constituents continue to raise the spectre that the government wants to register guns because it wants to take their guns away.

The justice minister has made it very clear that confiscation is absolutely not an objective of the government. Canada has a very vibrant economy in hunting, target shooting and collecting that will remain. When it gets down to paramilitary weapons, automatic weapons and guns that have absolutely no purpose except to hurt people, they are the ones Canadians say should be off the streets and out of the hands of those most likely to cause harm to our community.

It is clear the amendments brought forward by the committee are constructive. The vast majority of the 267 amendments presented by the Reform Party at report stage are nothing more than a disruption of the House of Commons.

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6:25 p.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Madam Speaker, in the words of my colleague, I should like to straighten out the previous speaker from the Liberal Party on a couple of issues.

He suggested that we were tying up the time of the House on the bill. He more or less said that it was terrible for us to do so and that it was not all that important. In my community and in communities across the country it is important to people. If the hon. member wants to look back at the number of petitions presented in Hansard , he would see that the numbers of names on them are extensive. If he says it is not important he is missing the boat.

He also said that we have been debating the issue for over a year. It is my understanding that the bill was introduced on February 14. It must be another short year for the Liberals.

There were amendments to the gun laws in 1977 and 1991. Many people ignored those changes. I have evidence from several studies which indicate that is exactly what will happen next. As much as these folks are insisting on putting these things in, a lot of people are saying it is hogwash and will not work.

There is something about the costs they say are small but I wonder about the costs of all the policing, of this whole exercise, of making sure all the law-abiding citizens remain law-abiding citizens or perhaps trying to find them as being criminals.

The cost of their time spent enforcing gun laws as opposed to time looking at the more severe problems of drugs and so on is extra ordinary cost. For a member of the other party to put that swing on it is absurd.

I recently competed in a politically correct competition with the Ridgedale Rod and Gun Club in my riding. If I could not use a prop-

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6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I am very sorry to interrupt the member. Pursuant to Standing Order 45(6), the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred division on the motion of Mr. Gray under government business No. 25.

The House resumed from June 9 consideration of the motion of Mr. Gray.

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6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

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6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons, as reported (with amendment) from the committee; and of the motions in Group No. 4.

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6:55 p.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Madam Speaker, before the vote I talked about the closure issue. Closure was forced upon the democratic principles of the House by the Liberal government before debate really took place on the Bill C-68 gun issue. Although the justice committee talked about the gun control legislation, there is more to it than that. The public has a right to hear from all members, all of its representatives from across the country on this issue. I do not think what the Liberals have done is in the least bit democratic. Back in my riding people are asking why such an imposition has occurred on this particular bill.

In fact, the Reform Party introduced 138 amendments to Bill C-68. I would like to ask the government, with closure limiting debate to six hours at report stage and another six hours at third reading, how on earth is it possible to debate 138 amendments? It surely does not allow the members of the Reform Party to accurately describe what is wrong with Bill C-68. This is forcing an anti-democratic bill through the House and it is wrong.

That is in part what is wrong with a majority government. This government has not taken the hint from the last government that was in majority in this House of Commons. It got arrogant. It got overconfident. In the early stages, those are the signs we are seeing from this Liberal government. That is unfortunate, but fortunate for the rest of the land because we only have about two years to put up with this nonsense.

There are two other bills of particular note going through here on the basis of closure, and they are Bill C-41 and Bill C-85, the criminal justice system and MPs' pensions. Again, this government invoked closure on perhaps the most important legislation they could dream up since Parliament opened. They forced closure on it. It is absolutely unbelievable.

I can tell members that there are many people across this land who do not understand why, including myself. They make jokes about it here as I talk. We will see where the jokes go two years from now when we hit the election.

Before the votes started I was about to talk a little about the Ridgedale Rod and Gun Club, one of many rod and gun clubs in

this country. I had the privilege of participating in a shoot in that club about three weeks ago. I won one of the competitions. It was on a politically correct gun competition with pistols and politically incorrect guns. I had never really shot these pistols before, although I am a gun owner myself; I have three rifles. What surprised me in particular about this competition was the level of pride and satisfaction these members had. There was an extreme level of competence these people had.

One of the members who spoke here previously from the Liberal Party said that these people do not mind Bill C-68. Every person at the Ridgedale Rod and Gun Club was extremely upset at it.

I do not understand how a government that invokes closure on this bill, says it is not costly, and whose members say that people agree with what they are doing could be so wrong. I guess what we are going to see is a lot of this Liberal arrogance for the next two years. It is going to catch them and it is going to catch them hard.

These people at the Ridgedale Rod and Gun Club, I have admiration for people who have collections of any sort. There were several people there. One fellow had one of the better collections of Enfield rifles in Canada. He was asking: "Why are they doing this? What is this for? Come and look at my collection. I will show you what safety is all about". I did not get to see the collection, but as far as safety goes with these folks, they are probably number one in the country. They know what gun safety is all about.

I do not understand what the direction is here. I thought we were after crime and criminals. These people are not criminals. These are not crime makers unless a government chooses to head them in that direction by way of calling them criminals by virtue of non-compliance with Bill C-68.

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7 p.m.

An hon. member

It is not going to happen.

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7 p.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

I hear over here that it is not going to happen. If not, why does the government not allow us to debate this issue instead of calling closure on it? The government is saying it can read the Canadian people so well, but it is absolutely wrong. It is wrong on Bill C-68, on Bill C-41, and on those preposterous MP pensions on Bill C-85, which it is insisting on bringing in.

The Ontario Handgun Association I believe wrote all MPs letters. I will give members information it provided to us.

Recent survey data indicate that a minimum of one-third of Canadian gun owners will refuse to comply with the proposal by the Minister of Justice to register all firearms. In the 1995 gun control survey organized by Professor Gary Mauser of Simon Fraser University, Canadian firearm owners were asked the following question: "If the government's proposal to register all firearms becomes law, do you plan on registering all, some or none of your firearms?" The response to this question is in the final analysis nearly one-third of all Canadian firearm owners candidly admitted to a stranger over the telephone that they would not register their firearms.

What is wrong with a government that puts through closure on such an important issue when Canadians will tell it to stick it in its ear?

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7:05 p.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to on Bill C-68 under protest to the closure limiting the members in this House to a six-hour debate on report stage.

The constituents in Mission-Coquitlam want crime control, not gun control. We have gun registration now and we have laws now that would help control crime in our country. However, the courts do not enforce many of our laws and often our police are frustrated at the lack of substance in sentencing.

Bill C-68 as it now stands will not prevent abuse with a firearm. It will, however, punish many good, law-abiding Canadians who are gun collectors, hunters, and gun club members. To force a national registration on these law-abiding citizens I believe is a waste of time and money and a waste of the necessary manpower we will need to put this registration into permanent record.

The justice minister tells us that there are pretty scary statistics out there dealing with the use of guns. Every six days a woman is murdered by a gun. Over 1,000 suicides per year are the result of gun usage. After reciting these statistics, we are also told that these are the reasons we need gun control. We are never told two things: first, how will the registration of rifles and shotguns reduce these numbers; second, what percentage of these acts takes place with guns that would would be required to be registered under this legislation?

The Reform Party's position is crystal clear on law and order. The party stands for tougher laws to deal with criminals and more protection for potential victims of crime. The party has stated on many occasions that Canadian laws need to be tougher on criminals.

The gun registration system proposed by Bill C-68 will do nothing to prevent the use of handguns and rifles in the commission of crimes.

When analysing the part of the bill dealing with gun registration one has to go back to first principles of what problem this legislation is trying to address. The problem is a proliferation of firearms, both handguns and rifles, and their use in criminal activities. This being the problem, it is difficult to see how a system of national gun registration would be of any benefit.

All can appreciate that criminals are not going to register illegal weapons or weapons acquired illegally. The registration of a weapon will not stop its use in a domestic quarrel. Recently here in Ottawa we had the tragedy of the shooting of a young boy and a young girl. Registration of that firearm would not have prevented that tragedy.

Some of the problems can be addressed through action taken at the United States border, allowing customs officials to stop the importation of guns, and stiffer penalties for those who commit crimes with guns. The bill addresses both of these issues, although not in sufficient depth to suit the Reform caucus. Customs officials should be empowered to prohibit the importation of firearms, and any crime committed with a gun should result in an increased sentence, which is mandatory and cannot be plea bargained away.

I also am in support of those parts of the bill that would attack the problem of gun smuggling in Canada. It is vitally important that those who patrol our borders be given real powers to deal with those who would import guns illegally into Canada. Again, I think this is something the justice committee should look at in detail. Should the people who patrol our borders be given powers to be more than revenue collectors? Should the provincial police or RCMP in particular provinces be required to maintain a presence at the borders? A true police presence at our borders would, to my way of thinking, reduce smuggling. I am not saying we should arm our customs agents, but they should be backed up with trained police.

I am also concerned because the registration system will be computerized. We all know that sophisticated criminals can break into virtually any computer system constructed, especially with the availability of Internet and World Wide Web. There is the distinct possibility that criminals will be able to break into the computer code and the registration system to determine where the guns are. It will be like shopping at home for criminals. It will mean that those who register guns will not be safe and will be under the constant threat of being broken into by criminals to steal their guns. Gun registration will not save lives, but tougher laws to deal with criminals will.

To reiterate, here are ten points I feel we have to address regarding the registration system.

The registration section does not stand up to a cost-benefit analysis. That is, the lowest cost estimate is now at $85 million, without any indication from the government as to its beneficial effects on crime. Legislation should not be passed when the government cannot tell taxpayers how much it will cost to implement.

The analysis of the cost and effectiveness of gun control legislation already in place has not been completed, as requested by the auditor general in 1993.

It is argued we must have registration because the chiefs of police support it. The chiefs also support capital punishment and repealing the section of the Criminal Code that grants murderers the opportunity for early parole. The Liberals do not support these positions. Either the chiefs are right or wrong. Liberals cannot cherry pick to suit their purposes.

Proposed clause 112 of the bill states that regulations made pursuant to the bill will not have to come before Parliament for scrutiny. This is objectionable. What is the government trying to hide?

Proposed clause 117 allows police to search your car, house, et cetera, without a warrant if they believe you have a weapon that was used in a crime. However, if during the search they find an unregistered gun, it may be seized.

With reference to the arguments raised regarding the number of suicides in Canada and domestic violence, this bill does nothing to address the root causes of either of those problems. These are social problems, which will not be resolved through a registration procedure.

In the polling results showing public support recited by advocates of this bill the questions regarding support for gun control usually link it with a question: "Are you in favour of legislation to reduce crime?" That also affects the response one gets to that question.

The car licensing analogy is used to justify registration: if we register cars then we can register guns. If the analogy is to be complete then legislation should be changed to require safe storage of cars, and any accidents caused by stolen cars should be the responsibility of the owner. Alternatively, has vehicle registration done anything to prevent drunk driving or the prevention of accidents?

There has been no answer from the government to those who argue that a computer registry of guns could be accessed by a computer hacker. This would give potential thieves the location of virtually every gun in Canada.

Handguns have been subject to registration since 1934. There is no evidence and it is the government's argument that this has had no effect on reducing the criminal use of handguns.

The justice minister knows very well that a registration system will not reduce the number of murders or suicides by firearms one bit. He should know that Canada is a large and diverse country, which in many ways starts at the borders of metropolitan Toronto. This country is not metropolitan Toronto.

The justice minister should read the legislation that is presently in place in relation to gun control. He will find the present laws in Canada are among the toughest in the world with respect

to firearms. Therefore I urge members opposite, members from outside of metropolitan Toronto, to look at Canada and see it for what it is: a vast country where hunting and outdoor activities are a way of life to some and a recreation to others.

The registration system proposed in this bill will not accomplish the goals set forth. Therefore, when it comes time to vote for the bill, vote it down until the necessary amendments are a part of the bill.

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7:10 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Madam Speaker, I will talk for a minute about why I joined the Reform Party. Obviously my colleagues and I supported other political parties in the past. What caused us to join the Reform Party?

We recognized a long time ago that we needed to change the system. I do not think Prime Minister Trudeau ever made a more accurate and truthful statement than when he said that MPs are nobodies. I think no MPs in this House should know that and feel that more than the backbench MPs on the opposite bench. They are nobodies. When they stand up to speak out and vote against the government on a bill, they are chastised, reprimanded and punished for representing their constituents. That is what we are here for; we are here to change the system.

The Conservatives under Prime Minister Mulroney wanted to get the GST through this House. What did they do? They cracked the whip and got their backbench MPs, even though their constituents solidly told them they did not support the GST, to vote in favour of it. Where are the Conservatives now? I do not see them around this House. That is where these people are going to be after the next election as a result of the kind of activities they have engaged in over the last few days. There is no change in sight.

I would like at this juncture to take a minute and commend those Liberal MPs who had the courage, the fortitude and the tenacity to stand up and vote against this bill even though they knew they were going to be punished for doing so. They were being true to their constituents. They were representing their constituents which is what they were elected to do. In the face of adversity they were prepared to do it and I commend them for it. We may have differing views and different philosophies but by and large I can admire people who are prepared to stand up for their constituents.

Reformers will be in every Liberal riding at the next election. We will remind the constituents how the Liberals treated parliamentary democracy in this session, what they did to ram through these government bills and how they abused their power and position.

It has been said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This goes back to the heart of why we need to change the system. We need to take some of the power away from cabinet and away from the Prime Minister and distribute it among the MPs. We would then have the opportunity to see real democracy in action and not the executive kind of authoritarian democracy we have had in Canada, these democratic dictatorships we have had over the last 30 or 40 years.

In speaking to the bill itself, it is an established rule that justice should not only be done but should be seen to have been done. In other words the law must not only be just but it must be seen to be just. Can this be said about Bill C-68 and the agenda behind it? I do not think so.

Gun control is a controversial subject. It is clear that real and serious disagreements exist in Canada over it. I am aware and I acknowledge that the opinion polls show a majority of Canadians tentatively support the government's position at the present time. I would caution my colleagues opposite that the more and more people find out about it, the less supportive they are.

I also caution that in the words of Thomas Jefferson, great initiatives should not rest on slender majorities. If a majority supports something but does not feel very strongly about it and a minority opposes it very strongly, it undermines the rule of law to ram it through.

There is something else that undermines the rule of law even more directly and that is when governments say one thing and do another. It erodes the very foundation of our society if governments misrepresent. That is why I want to ask my colleagues opposite to do a little soul searching on this bill. I want them to look at themselves in the mirror and ask this question: Is this legislation a prelude to confiscating citizens' firearms entirely? I do not expect them to concede that in this House.

Let me point out a couple of quotations that worry me. First, when this whole business began the Minister of Justice said openly that in his view only agents of the state, police and soldiers, should have weapons. He has since stopped saying it, but has he stopped believing it? His assistant, Darryl Davies, recently said that hunting is a barbaric and murderous activity and should be banned in Canada. He also said nobody in a civilized country needs a gun. This is a high level official working in the minister's office.

The minister has not to my knowledge repudiated either of these remarks. Can we believe the assurances that hunters and hunting are not targeted by this bill with these kinds of statements made by such senior people in the minister's office?

Other prominent gun control advocates including former Metropolitan Toronto Police Services Board chair Susan Eng have made it quite clear: "Gun registration will start the process of stigmatizing gun use, just like drinking and driving. In their hearts, gun owners know this and this is what makes them so mad". We know what Ms. Eng is up to here and we know what

the real agenda is behind the legislation when we hear these kinds of statements.

Manitoba Liberal leader Lynda Haverstock said in May 1994: "I think what we should be doing is ensuring there is less and less and less availability to having guns", which she justified on the grounds that "sometimes our overall responsibilities have to override individual rights".

I know my colleagues opposite and my colleagues on this side of the Chamber have very serious differences about the bill as it now stands. The sweeping powers it gives the police worry us. The security of the universal system of registration worries us. The severe penalties for infringing this law in a society where murderers are free to go out on the street a short time after they are convicted strike us as unbalanced. The implied assault on the way of life of millions of Canadians troubles us.

What worries me most at this moment is that this entire bill is a massive fraud. I am concerned that all the pious assurances that confiscation is not contemplated are just a smokescreen behind which the legislation permitting confiscation can be put in place. Then the very people who say no private citizen should own guns will act on that belief.

Perhaps my colleagues opposite have not given this much thought. Perhaps they have accepted the smooth assurances of the Minister of Justice. I hope they will take the time to consider before voting on this whether the real agenda is outright confiscation at some time in the future. If it is, then I challenge them to either put it on the table openly right now and let us debate it, or put it aside and put the legislation aside that will make it possible.

This bill is bad enough as it is. What we really wonder is why the Minister of Justice is so determined to pass it when it is well established that there is no correlation between rates of violence and gun crime and laws respecting firearms ownership.

What is the real purpose of the bill? If it is a prelude to confiscation then it is extremely dangerous to the credibility of our government and to the notion of the rule of law in Canada if the government does not come forward and is clean with people right now telling them that is what is on its mind.

I hope my colleagues opposite will not vote to pass such a bill. I can assure them if they do, we will be there at the next election to remind their constituents how they voted today on closure, how they voted last Thursday morning on closure and how they voted on this very, very important piece of legislation, Bill C-68.

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7:20 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to address the House on Bill C-68 this evening. I say it is a pleasure because I am one of only three Reform MPs who has had the opportunity to address the House on this very important piece of legislation three times in the past. The first time was at second reading, the second time was on the Reform amendment to split the bill which was also at second reading before the government enacted time allocation and the third time is tonight.

As has already been said by many of my colleagues, we find it absolutely deplorable that on such a crucial piece of legislation which has elicited such high emotions across the land, we find the government has yet again enacted time allocation at report stage and at third reading.

The government limited the debate at second reading and forced the bill to the committee. It gave assurances that all of the pertinent facts, data and arguments could be brought forward at committee. Today in arguments put forward by Liberal members we were questioned why we were bringing forward these amendments at report stage. We were asked why we wanted, in their words, to tie up the House debating this legislation when we could have done it at committee stage. Those of us who participated at committee stage know that the exact opposite happened. There simply was not time to adequately address all of the concerns.

The Liberals limited the number of witnesses who could appear before the committee. Today I heard that while all MPs had the opportunity to appear before the committee they were limited to five minutes to make their points. As anyone who has ever made a public address knows, five minutes goes very quickly, especially when one is trying to make points on as many issues as are encompassed by this comprehensive piece of legislation known as Bill C-68.

Bill C-68 is a very detailed, lengthy and intricate piece of legislation with some 132 clauses in the firearms act and amendments to another 100 sections in part III of the Criminal Code. For the government to suggest we can get through that and bring forward all the pertinent points by concerned constituents and concerned Canadians across this land in a few hours of debate is absolutely ludicrous.

I find it deplorable that the government would enact time allocation and ram this through the House. That is exactly what is happening tonight. It is exactly what will be happening in a day or two when we are limited to six hours of debate at third reading as well.

I would like to speak about our amendment at second reading stage to split the bill. The Reform Party feels very strongly that we are dealing with two completely separate issues in Bill C-68. One issue is further regulation and restrictions on law-abiding firearms owners. The second issue is what to do and how to get

tough with criminals who misuse firearms and actually use them as weapons.

It is interesting to note that one of the Liberal members earlier today suggested an amendment to actually change the name of the act to "an act respecting firearms and other related matters" rather than "an act respecting firearms and other weapons" as it is presently named. I would certainly support that amendment.

As I have travelled throughout my riding, a lot of people have expressed concern that people do not differentiate between a firearm and a weapon. It is an important distinction to law-abiding firearm owners that a firearm is only a weapon at such time as it is used in the commission of a criminal offence. Prior to that it is simply viewed to many people as a tool, or something used in a hobby if they are a shooter. It is not considered by them to be a weapon. It is merely private property. It is an important distinction.

Some of my colleagues have talked about the fact that what we are discussing here is the fourth group of amendments. It is interesting to note that we are being asked to debate in a few short hours some 267 amendments to this legislation. How can we do that justice? How can we adequately debate the pros and cons of those individual amendments? We simply cannot. For the purpose of debate some of them have been grouped. Group No. 4, for example, which we are currently debating has 33 individual motions. How can we do them justice and adequately discuss them in that short time frame?

I am very concerned with the erosion of democracy. The Reform Party feels very strongly that the primary purpose of members of Parliament, which I have spoken about before in the House, is to properly and effectively represent the wishes, concerns and views of the majority of their constituents where that view can be ascertained.

How can I do that? I have made that point as well. How can I do that on this piece of legislation when it deals with two distinctly separate issues?

The constituents of Prince George-Peace River have made it very obvious to me that they want to get tough with criminals. They want to bring in tougher sanctions on the criminal elements in the country. Therefore I support the part of the legislation that deals with the amendments to part III of the Criminal Code.

At the same time my constituents are telling me that they want to have no part of registration. Why do they not want to have registration? We hear ludicrous arguments that we register our dogs and our cars so why should we not register our firearms?

They are concerned for three main reasons. One is the cost and we have talked about that before. They are concerned about the paperwork time and the cost to police forces that are already stretched to the limit. Hundreds and thousands of useless hours will be spent compiling the information.

We pointed out in committee as well as in the House that the mailing system proposal of the justice minister will not work. How can a firearm be identified if it is not actually physically seen and inspected? It is interesting to note that Quebec has indicated that it wants $300 million if the government goes ahead to administer the registration program in that province. Yet the justice minister is still clinging to his $85 million total cost, which is obviously far from accurate.

Constituents are concerned and law-abiding gun owners are concerned about the cost recovery that has been bandied about from the other side. What will that mean in the future? What will the costs of paying an annual ownership fee amount to if they want cost recovery?

The second issue in addition to cost is the security of the list that some of my colleagues have addressed. I spoke about it earlier in the House. Will this not provide a shopping list for criminals? We all know that hackers break into computer systems practically on a daily basis across the nation and around the world. If they can break into IBM and can break into the Pentagon, what makes the justice minister think they will not be able to break into this computer system to get a hold of the list? It will provide criminals with a list of where the firearms are and what types of firearms they are so that they can steal the firearms they want to use. It will also by omission provide them with a list of what homes in which communities do not have firearms and therefore the home owners are defenceless.

The third issue on registration is future confiscation with which some of my colleagues have dealt. Above all is the statement that it will not be effective. New Zealand, Australia and other countries have tried it. I note that draconian gun controls brought into effect in the United Kingdom in 1988 were followed by dramatic increases in crimes involving firearms. They were not effective. It has been proven around the world that registration and stiffer gun controls are not effective.

I will make a point, which my constituents make to me on almost a daily basis, to the Liberals opposite because they will know about it pretty soon. There is another election before registration becomes mandatory and the voters will be there to remind them about this legislation.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to take but a few minutes to set a few facts straight in the House and possibly to assist or enlighten some of my colleagues across the way. While we will try to enlighten the people across the way, I recognize it may be a major challenge. Nevertheless let us spare no effort in the noble cause of enlightening the people across the way who say that it is undemocratic to propose this bill.

The bill is supported by the vast majority of Canadians in every province. Furthermore the bill is proposed by a government elected under a program including the bill among others.

According to the opposition we have the following proposition: "The majority of people want it. The majority of Parliament want it. The majority of people have asked the majority of Parliament to enact it but it does not matter. It is undemocratic for us to be voting for that which the people want". However, in the eyes of the Reform Party, it is far more democratic to agree with the leader of the Reform Party because he said so.

There is something wrong with that way of thinking by the people across the way. Then members of the Reform Party say that they have not had enough time to debate the bill and that the use of time allocation is wrong.

I invite colleagues across the way to pay attention because we will be asking questions later. This is the way it works. A few weeks ago we had in the House a bill regarding no less an issue than the rail strike in Canada. At that time two of the three parties in the House proposed time allocation, and the Reform Party was one of the two parties. If the use of time allocation is not proper, why was it proper on an issue the Reform Party liked as opposed to one they disliked?

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

It was a national crisis.

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7:35 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I hear a bit of heckling from across the way. I do not think I am being particularly provocative on the issue. Nevertheless let me submit this to you, being far more objective than I am and seeing it through the neutral eyes of Madam Speaker, that they say they have only had a few short hours of debate. The bill has been debated longer in the House and in committees than the throne speech, budget speech and all the budget bills put together. All that debate combined is not as long as debate on the bill dealing with guns, and for them it is still not long enough.

The last member of the Reform Party who spoke said: "I need much more time to speak on these profound amendments". Most of the so-called profound amendments would delete all the clauses in the bill. How much time does one need for that kind of nonsense?

The Reform Party argues it is more democratic to allow it in the minority more time to remove the clauses supported by the majority of members of Parliament and the majority of Canadians. This is Reform Party logic. It makes sense to a few people but a very small and decreasing number of people. That is what is wrong with that logic.

I do not want to be too provocative about it but members of the Reform Party are trying to prevent the majority of Canadians from having legislation they want. They are against the democratic principles they pretend to espouse.

And this is what is wrong with the Reform Party. I know that the members of the Reform Party tend to kick up a fuss from time to time. We hear their cry from time to time in the House. Nevertheless, the members opposite are not in a bit of a state because the majority of Canadians are supporting them.

One member said a little earlier tonight that gun registration would not have eliminated a particular crime. The member described victims of a particular criminal incident and said that registering the guns would not have had the desired effect in that case. That is about the same as asking-and I have had a few people ask me about it-how many lives the registration of guns would save.