Debates of June 13th, 1995
House of Commons Hansard #217 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was guns.
- Access To Information
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Pierrette Venne Saint-Hubert, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to give an answer to the member who asked why firearms should be registered, since it will not serve any purpose, etc. We heard his speech. I want to tell him that the purpose of registration is, first and foremost, to make people realize that a firearm is something designed to kill. It is not a toy.
Some may claim that westerners are born with a gun in each hand, the fact remains that these guns were made to kill. This is the message being sent to the public right now. People must be aware that a firearm is dangerous. Once they realize that, they will give more thought to registering their guns, since the registration process requires that some steps be taken, through the mail or otherwise. People will ask themselves: Should I keep that firearm in the house? Is it necessary? Do I really need it, or am I just keeping it in some corner without taking real care of it, without being concerned about it and about the fact that anybody could use it to commit an offence?
So, people will ask themselves if they need a firearm. I personally have firearms in my house. I am a hunter, but I have not gone hunting since 1992. As you know, the hunting season is in the fall. In 1992, we had the referendum on the Charlottetown Accord. In 1993, the federal election took place. In 1994, a provincial election was held in Quebec. And in 1995, we will have a referendum in our province. I had to give up hunting over the past few years, and I now wonder if I should keep my guns.
I discussed the issue with my spouse and he agreed that, indeed, if we do not go hunting any more, then we should consider getting rid of these guns. I should add that, this year, my name was randomly selected to go goose hunting in Cap-Tourmente. This is an exceptional opportunity but, of course, I will not be able to make it because something more important will take place in Quebec, that is the referendum, and I will have to be there of course.
So, we have to consider whether we want to keep our firearms at home, since we no longer use them. Do we really want to keep hunting? Can we still go hunting? Do we still have time for that activity? The fact that we need a license to own a gun, and that we have to register guns, makes us think about the whole issue and, as far I am concerned, promoting this kind of awareness is the purpose of that legislation. The other goal is of course to make our society safer, but the primary purpose is to make people aware of the fact that a gun is something that kills.
Len Taylor The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK
Mr. Speaker, although there is so much to add to what has been said already, I will keep my remarks very specific and short.
The hon. member talks about awareness. I would like to bring to the attention of the House some other information and ask for her support at the same time.
The hon. member was here earlier in the day when the member for Ottawa West commented that later today she was going to drive to the airport to pick up her daughter and grandson and return to the House to vote.
If we can believe the statistics that have been collected, if the hon. member for Ottawa West or any other member were to drive to the airport in Saskatchewan, the chances of being injured or killed on the way to or from the airport or on the way to or from any community in the province would be much higher than being injured or killed by a firearm.
According to statistics collected regarding the Trans-Canada and Yellowhead highway in Saskatchewan, let me briefly put three statistics on record. The number of accidents, injuries and fatalities over five years in the province of Saskatchewan, average per year accidents are 1,026 injured; 389 fatalities; 24 on the highway.
Firearm statistics: the five-year average in the province of Saskatchewan gives number of accidents with firearms, 18; number of injuries, 16; number killed, 2.6.
The third statistic, five-year average, the total number of homicides in the province of Saskatchewan are 28.2. The five-year average, number of homicides involving guns, 5.4. The average number of people killed on the highways in Saskatchewan average 24 a year. The average number of people killed in gun related homicides, 5 per year.
This year the federal government has withdrawn all support for the national highways program. There is no commitment of federal funds to support the upgrading of highways in the province of Saskatchewan yet it is imposing increase costs on the people of Saskatchewan for safety reasons, to register firearms.
I wonder if the representative of Canada's official opposition can tell us in the interests of safety whether she is as committed to national highways funding as she is committed to the national gun registry?
Pierrette Venne Saint-Hubert, QC
Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief. The member wonders what difference there is between a car and a firearm. It is very simple: A car is used for transportation purposes, while a firearm is used to kill.
Patrick Gagnon Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with another government member.
Bill C-68, as drafted, has certainly raised a great deal of interest throughout Canada, particularly in the western provinces. One thing we can say is that this bill does in fact have the approval and support of a large number of Canadians.
First of all, let us be clear that almost 80 per cent of Canadians are in favour of this bill, including 90 per cent of Quebecers, and I have also learned that 68 per cent to close to 80 per cent of Albertans back the government's gun control bill.
Throughout this debate, we have listened to the opposition describe for us their vision of Canadian society. It is not a vision I share, particularly the vision of the members of the third party, who accuse us of daring to compare Canada and the United States. They would have us believe that the Canadian government wants to limit the rights of its citizens. Their allegation that the Canadian government, and especially the justice department, is violating the most fundamental rights of Canadians, is simply not true.
I would also like to tell you that I come from a small community where rifles and hunting are part of everyday life. My grandfather was and my own father to this day is an avid hunter. With him, I explored the forests of this country, especially those in the Gaspé area. My father also taught me how to handle a firearm and I can only say I am most grateful. He did, however, instill in me a certain respect for firearms and the danger they can represent for society and for the individual.
It is important to make the statement that never did the government ever intend to withdraw the right to hunt. That is a fundamental right we all share. However, it is the view of the government to make sure that people understand that owning a gun is a privilege. It is an item, a tool which we use that requires a lot of respect, requires some amount of control.
I will not on any further about my personal experiences. A number of people testified in committee over the course of the past few months and without any doubt there is a definite need for gun control.
There are all kinds of reasons; social reasons such as health and safety which require some kind of control in order to maintain the Canada we know, the kind of society that regrettably some of us might take for granted.
We were also told through allegations made by the opposition that the registration of guns would cost approximately $300 million. That is absolutely false. We have to make it very clear to all Canadians that the registration of guns will basically cost $10 up to a maximum of 10 firearms.
We are not confiscating weapons. We are asking Canadians to register their guns. We register dogs and automobiles and all kinds of things. It is very important to underline the cost and not to pursue the exaggerations put forward by the third party.
The Minister of Justice said the cost of this program will be approximately an $85 million disbursement over the next five years. However, having listened to the testimonials from various health groups we were also told we would probably save $100 million a year in various incarceration costs because there would be fewer Canadians either murdered or facing justice, fewer Canadians in the courts. The cost savings are quite incredible.
Health officials from Quebec and other provinces estimated that in terms of lost productivity, economics, trauma care, the general cost to society once one has been either a victim of crime or a family member of a victim, close to $6 billion a year is lost in total Canadian productivity. Six billion dollars is an incredible amount of money. These stats which were brought to our attention we must use in order to demonstrate to the opposition and to the Canadian population that in the end with the registration of guns we are actually saving Canadians money and we are also obviously saving lives.
Other aspects of the bill I find most interesting. Violence seems to be more and more of a preoccupation of the general public, and with reason especially in terms of guns. It was well explained to us by the opposition this morning, by the hon. member from Saint Hubert, but I think it is worth repeating. A statistic provided to us by a number of our witnesses states one stands twice the chance of being injured or killed by a firearm in rural Canada compared with any other urban area. One stands twice the chance because of the prevalence, the existence of firearms in these communities.
We are also told according to the New England Journal of Medicine that with the presence of a gun in a home there is five times the chance of someone committing suicide. With the presence of a gun in a home there is three times the chance of a homicide.
We also know guns are often the weapon of choice in domestic violence. Let us discuss domestic violence. I think it is a preoccupation shared by all parliamentarians regardless of their political stripe. We are told 87 per cent of victims of violence know their aggressors. We also learned 84 per cent of victims are women. Sixty-one per cent of the weapons used were long guns legally acquired. There is obviously a certain correlation with a weapon in a home and violence in the family. We must address that.
I could go on and speak more about the police who would like to know when they go to a home following a call on conjugal violence what they will face. Does a police officer not have the right to know what is in the home, 12 gauge, a .22, whether there is a history of conjugal violence? Is the person in possession of a gun at a certain address posing a problem to his family and does he have a history of causing problems to society? Those are legitimate questions which police officers must ask every day. We are not only doing it for them, we are doing it for the families. We are doing it for the victims, for society as a whole. These are the questions we must ask.
I would like to conclude on a positive note but regrettably I cannot. I am thinking of my brother who was at l'École polytechnique in December of 1989 and tells me the story of a young women he knew very well. She was in her late twenties. She had the courage to return to school and was on her way to write her final examination. My brother had bade her farewell, wishing her the best of luck in her work, in her new career. On that dreadful day in December of 1989 he was to learn a few hours later that she was the victim of one of the most cruel crimes ever committed in Canada.
The passage of this bill will keep in mind the victims and will keep in mind those who regrettably could have been protected had such a law existed. I am hoping to pass this law for the victims of l'École polytechnique and above all to make sure fewer crimes and fewer deaths will result in the years to come.
Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC
Mr. Speaker, all of Canada heard it from this hon. member and the hon. member for Nunatsiaq who preceded him. Let it be known the Liberal government has made a statement today on two occasions that it is not a right to own a firearm but rather a privilege. Liberal members have made the judgment that a citizen is privileged to own property. Will they extend that philosophy to the right or privilege of Canadians to own cars, houses, boats, to go on a vacation, to vote freely? Is it a right or a privilege?
I would like the hon. member to stand in the House, look right into the television camera and tell every aboriginal person it is not a right for them to own a gun but a privilege.
The member said that in rural Canada a person has twice the chance of being injured by a firearm, that where firearms are present there is five times the chance of suicide and that where firearms are present there is three times the chance of homicide. We have asked the government time and time again during this debate and I ask this member now to give us one substantive, specific piece of evidence that if a firearm were registered these statistics would be different.
We have asked the government on many occasions and it has not supplied to the House one substantive piece of evidence to support its claim that registration of firearms will cut down on accidents, crime or suicides. Registration will not affect this.
I have talked to many law enforcement officers across the country specifically about officers attending the scene of a domestic disturbance. They have told me to the number that any police officer who attempts to enter a residence where there is a reported domestic disturbance and who does not first and foremost assume automatically there could be a firearm in there will not be on that beat tomorrow.
The member told about this grand plan that the police officers would know in advance whether there is a firearm there. Now they automatically assume there is a firearm and have been doing that for many years. Many of police officers have told me the reason they are staying alive today is they assume and take precautions which is part of their training.
I ask the member to stand up, face the cameras and tell all of Canada including aboriginal peoples that owning a firearm is a privilege extended to them by the Liberal Government of Canada.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)
I caution the hon. parliamentary secretary that he has only one minute remaining to respond. I ask members to be aware that when members are speaking for only 10 minutes there are only five minutes of questions and comments. Accordingly, if a member uses the entire five minutes there will be virtually no time to respond.
Patrick Gagnon Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine, QC
Mr. Speaker, in the United States one has the right to bear arms. In Canada it is peace, order and good government. This is what we are attempting to do.
We will defend the right to hunt but like anything else sometimes there are privileges and owning a gun is one of them. This is not the United States. This is Canada. We are Canadians. We have lived and abided by this philosophy. One thing the bill will certainly prove is that the rule of law will prevail.
Cape Breton—The Sydneys
Russell MacLellan Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, it is not a right to own a firearm in the United States either. The Supreme Court of the United States stated the second amendment to the U.S. constitution giving the right to bear arms applies to state militias in their wish to defend against an arbitrary national government. That was the point of view of the amendment, not to give individuals the right to bear arms. This is a misunderstanding many Americans and certainly a great many Canadians have. However, the subject is not the United States.
Bill C-68 is at third reading now. We wanted to create a bill which will be fairer to lawful gun owners and which will offer additional protection to Canadian citizens and reduce crime.
Members opposite ask how we will reduce crime and how many lives will we save. I have to agree there is no common denominator that is going to give us that figure. Certainly with the information available from witnesses who appeared before the committee we have every reason to believe a good many lives will be saved.
I want to talk about what we are going to require from a firearms owner who has 10 or fewer long guns. We are going to ask that person to register his or her firearms. The registration will take place between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2003. The cost for registering the firearms will probably be nothing to begin with or for the most part will be $10. One will also be able to register 10 firearms for the amount of $10. Toward the end of the five year period that figure may go from $10 to as high as $18 for the registration of 10 firearms.
For someone who has 10 long guns there will not be an inspection of that person's home. If there are 10 or fewer firearms there is no inspection whatsoever for safe storage. If in any case an inspector requires verification of a serial number or other information, that verification would take place outside the home or perhaps the owner could be requested to bring his or her firearm to the inspector's office.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Or they might come to the home.
Russell MacLellan Cape Breton—The Sydneys, NS
They do not go inside the home. If it is more beneficial for the individual to have the inspector come to the home, the inspector could wait outside the door while the individual brings the firearm for verification. There is no right of that inspector to go into the home.
We are saying it will cost a maximum of $18 but more likely $10 for the registration of 10 firearms for life. Those firearms do not need to be registered again unless they are sold to someone else. That is the situation.
If an individual wants to gain a possession licence then that registration will take place beginning January 1, 1996 and will continue for five years until December 31, 2001. The cost of the possession licence will not be anything to begin with. There will be a fee after the system has been in operation for a while during the five year period. For those who want to renew their firearms acquisition certificate and gain a possession licence toward the end of the five year period, it could be as much as $60. That would give the person a possession licence for five years.
There is going to be a training course for those who want to purchase a new firearm. This requirement is in place at the present time. However, if someone wants a possession licence,
already has firearms and has no intention of buying new firearms, then the training course will not be required.
There is nothing here that is going to dreadfully harm the lawful gun owner. Sure there is going to be an inconvenience and there are going to be other things in the regulations which may be an inconvenience.
The member for Saint-Hubert talked about trigger locks. The regulations are going to require that new firearms purchased at retail dealers have a trigger lock on purchase.
That is not going to be a major inconvenience. It is going to be a safety factor. What we want to do is to create safety in the homes, to ask for and require safe storage, not to unduly interfere with the rights of the individual. By registration and requiring safe storage, we hope people will realize what a firearm can mean in the hands of someone who would use it improperly, whether that is someone who steals the firearm from the home or someone who is intending to commit suicide.
We have heard time and again in this House and in committee that in Canada on average there are 1,400 people killed by firearms every year. Approximately 1,100 of those are suicides. If the gun is not readily available, the chance of that suicide taking place has diminished. If there is a locked door, even if it is a glass door, and the key is somewhere else, it is going to be somewhat of an effort to find that key. If the ammunition is somewhere else, it is going to be a deterrent.
Many people have told us that some people fail to plan a suicide well in advance. Sometimes it is an instant decision. Some people decide they want to use firearms. If they do not use a firearm, they will not use anything else. Psychiatrists have told us that in committee.
We made very important amendments to this bill in committee. I think personally it is a much better bill now than it was before it went to committee.
We have taken the first offence for the non-registration of long guns out of the Criminal Code and put it in the firearms act. We have changed the inspection provisions, an example of which I gave earlier.
For those who are veterans, those who have heirlooms and relics, handguns which would otherwise be prohibited and only sold to those who have similar firearms, they can pass them along to members of their family. These handguns are mementoes of a very important time in some people's lives, perhaps when they served overseas. This is extremely important and is the sort of thing we want to do. We did it because we heard witnesses and because the members of the committee worked together.
This bill is going to be a good act. It is not going to be a perfect one but it is going to be a good one. Along with the other things this government hopes to do, it will reduce crime in Canada.
Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK
Mr. Speaker, I am very interested to hear the hon. parliamentary secretary is already changing the bill. It has not even been passed yet. I wonder if this comes under section 110.
Bring the guns to the door indeed. We know better than that. It is not in the bill and the hon. member should not say things like that.
He talks about the right and privilege question again. I wonder, when did the common law die in North America if what the hon. member says is true. I believe the hon. member is a lawyer. I hope he has read his Blackstone. If he has not, I might refresh his memory.
Blackstone's chronicles state that any Englishman has the right to possess personal weapons. Without those personal weapons, no other rights of Englishmen are effective. They are void. That is very clearly spelled out. It is a long and ancient tradition in the English speaking world.
Now that it has been declared by the Liberal government that firearms, a piece of property, are something we are privileged to own, what other types of property does this government intend to declare a privilege, seditious literature perhaps? Where do we go from here?
The hon. member mentioned the question of veterans and their heirlooms. I do not know how many letters I and other members have received that begin with words: "I carried a gun for my country for three years and now my country does not trust me with a gun. What is happening to my country?" I would like to hear the hon. parliamentary secretary's comments on that. That is a very common observation I have run into. In fact the most vociferous opponents to this legislation or gun control legislation in general actually are the veterans.
Russell MacLellan Cape Breton—The Sydneys, NS
Mr. Speaker, I will deal with the last point first with respect to the veterans who have a lot of firearms. In Atlantic Canada a great many of the veterans have Enfields. That is a long gun which is neither prohibited nor restricted now, nor will it be after this bill is passed. It will not be restricted in any way. It will have to be registered but it can be utilized as it was before. It can be passed on by the owner to anyone he or she wishes. Other than registration there is no further change in the ownership for that individual. The firearm will have to be licensed.
Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK
That is the point.
Jim Gouk Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC
What about the 600,000 you are taking away?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)
Order. Clearly this is a serious matter the House is deliberating. All interventions must be made through the Chair. We are certainly feeding on each other's time. With the little time left for the hon. parliamentary secretary I would ask him to be succinct.