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.


Firearms ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.


Lucien Bouchard Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

I know that opponents have their arguments, I have heard them many a time. All members of this House have been submitted to intense discussions with the lobbyists, but I do not think a bill has ever been better scrutinized, analyzed in such depth.

I know the arguments, for example those of the lobbyists. The arguments of those who oppose this bill are not all ridiculous, but I believe they can be refuted. For example, there are those who say that it makes no difference whether firearms are registered or not because criminals are not forced to use a registered gun to commit their crime. But there are criminals who can use registered guns too. A sawed off twelve-gauge shotgun becomes an extraordinary assault weapon. If the weapon is registered, it is that much easier for the police to conduct their investigation.

Do not tell me that police will not be helped by the fact that weapons are registered, that the owner can be identified, that his name can be instantly retrieved in the central registry, in the computer. This will obviously be a powerful tool in the hands of the police when investigating crimes committed with registered weapons.

Unregistered weapons are already banned. It is just a matter of putting in place the means of stopping the illegal importation and sale of prohibited weapons in Canada. To the extent that there are millions of legal firearms, let them be registered. And if, as happens so often, they are used to commit crimes, their registration will greatly increase the effectiveness of police investigations. That argument does not hold water.

All the more so since habitual criminals are not the only ones who commit violent crimes with firearms. We all know that in the case of family violence, acts of desperation, etc., legal weapons are used most often, weapons that are found in the house. Some will say that it makes no difference whether they are registered or not.

I believe that registration will have an extremely important educational value. If, after this great public debate, the bill is passed, there will be an immediate result in that people will no longer be able to take firearms for granted, to treat them as if they were commonplace objects like a slingshot. The attitudes toward weapons will not be the same, the perceptions will be quite different. People will know that the State treats weapons as dangerous instruments.

Indeed, contrary to cars and bicycles, for example, weapons are made to kill. Except for the few of us who practise shooting as a sport, a firearm, if we keep one at home, is used essentially to go hunting, to kill and it is very efficient at that. It is practically the most efficient way to kill.

One must realize that a firearm-and people will become more conscious of this fact, especially if they have to register it-is not an ordinary household object but a dangerous weapon which can easily be used to commit a crime or a violent act.

It is therefore false to say that ragistration will accomplish nothing. Indeed, if such was the case, then why did the powerful lobbies make so much noise? We also heard about costs which would be too high. We have here estimates provided by the minister. There is no reason to question them or to doubt that the minister and his department did their job carefully. The numbers

might vary slightly, since mistakes are always possible. But we are talking here of an average of $24 million a year over five years, for a five-year total of about $119-120 million. Once the registration system is in place and rolling, it will obviously cost less to manage.

Yes, it will cost, but its price does not seem disproportionate to its significance for society, compared to other initiatives which cost much more and amount to very little. Moreover, I was always a bit surprised by the intense opposition, given the benefits for individuals. Let us think about what this act means to an individual, a citizen, for someone who, for instance, goes hunting once a year or keeps three or four firearms at home, maybe a .12, .22 or .20 caliber shotgun. This worried citizen, perhaps made anxious by all the commotion raised by the lobbies, should know what will happen, what this act means.

If the act were passed tonight, what changes does it entail for this person who keeps three firearms at home? There will be absolutely no changes for three years, nothing in 1995, 1996 or 1997, right up to 1998. Then, starting in 1998, that person will have five years to register up to 10 arms all at once, for $10. Now tell me, is it worth putting a country to fire and the sword? There has been much exaggeration. Canadian citizens are used to dealing with much bigger complexities and to co-operate much more with government. This is not a case of undue harassment. This is within reasonable limits, in my estimation.

This debate has pitted people against each other in good faith. Without that, very important principles were at stake, collective principles: the need to address the issue of violence in Canada and in Quebec and, on the other hand, the propensity to protect individual rights. Those are very legitimate questions. All those people are very honourable people and they defend and protect quite legitimate values.

We have to make a judgment, an assessment of those values. In last resort when we think it over calmly and quietly as good citizens, we will have to conclude that it is the right law, the right move to make. It is not the best law. Many things could have been done to improve it. We tried. We succeeded in certain cases; we did not succeed all the time. On the whole there is a balance. If we want to protect our society against the rise in violence we have to do something like that.

For private citizens the negative effects will not be very great. It means that an individual who has three, four, five or ten hunting rifles at home will have nothing to do for the next three years. Starting in 1998 he will have to think about the fact that he will have to register his arms. He will have five years to do it from 1998. Once it is done it will be for life and it will cost $10.

I do not think there is a need for the kind of debate that we have on many other issues in Canada. There will be a much harsher debate this fall. It would be good practice now to accept this as a reasonable question to settle before addressing much more important questions.

The Bloc Quebecois is not entirely satisfied with the act, but its members believe that respect is a matter of striking the right social balance and that, in the common interest, they must vote in favour of the act. This is what we intend to do tonight.

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11:10 a.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, we sat here until eleven o'clock last night and voted on the final amendments to Bill C-68. In less than 24 hours we are into our final debate, third reading of the bill. It did not really give us much time to assess the consequences of the amendments which are now part of the bill. It reminds me a little of what happened in the clause by clause amendments that were hurried upon us with such short notice after the final witnesses before the committee had concluded.

I begin my address by telling the House and the justice minister of a firearms court case that was heard in Alberta. The judge was a man by the name of Judge Demetrick. In his decision he said that the definition of a firearm as contained presently in the Criminal Code was so convoluted as to be legal fiction and twice removed from reality. When I read that I was absolutely amazed that the Parliament of Canada was producing legislation that our courts are now declaring to be twice removed from reality. I am satisfied that we cannot have legislation that is twice removed from reality unless we have thinking behind the legislation that is twice removed from reality as well.

The present gun control bill is really not a gun control bill at all. It is not going to control guns; it is simply going to register them. When I looked at the bill I realized that it was not an aberration from the good sound thinking that has run the country for the last 25 years. It is not unlike Judge Demetrick pointed out. What has been guiding the country for the last 25 years? When we examine the debt, the Young Offenders Act, the parole system or the judicial system, and some of the disparities in those systems we wonder whether or not the thinking behind them is twice removed from reality.

How can we be in a situation where we are $600 billion in debt if the thinking behind our fiscal and monetary policy is not twice removed from reality? How can we have a Young Offenders Act when the justice system cannot deal with young offenders under the age of 12 for their criminal misconduct? How can we have

that unless the thinking of the creators of the legislation is completely removed from reality and the people it will impact?

Let us look at the parole system, the latest victim of which is Melanie Carpenter. The prime suspect in her murder, Mr. Auger, was paroled, was released, by way of statutory requirement after serving only two-thirds of his sentence, even though the officials felt that it would be a danger to release the individual into society. We have to ask what kind of thinking has produced that kind of legislation. Judge Demetrick told me a bit about that kind of thinking when he suggested that it was twice removed from reality.

This bill is not an aberration from the reasoning that has guided Parliament over the last 20 or 25 years. It is simply a continuation of thinking that is far removed from the impact it will have on the people. I often think the justice minister and his officials do not know what they are doing.

It is an attempt by the government to create the impression it is getting tough on crime and criminals. Yet when the justice minister had an opportunity to vote either for a safer society or against first degree murderers when a private member's bill came up to eliminate section 745 from the Criminal Code, everyone knows he voted in favour of the first degree murderer and against a safer society, in favour of the first degree murderer and against the Melanie Carpenters of this country. We should study carefully the motivation behind this legislation.

We have heard the minister speak today of things such as trafficking in fiction. I have the talking points sent from the Prime Minister's office to members of the Liberal Party on Bill C-68. The first item reads: "The government has reached an agreement with the official opposition to allocate time for debate on Bill C-68, gun control, and Bill C-41, sentencing". Is that not nice? They got together and decided to terminate any lengthy debate that would give an opportunity to all members to express the concerns of their constituents on these two very contentious bills.

The second item says: "Any reasonable person would have to agree that there has been extensive consultation and debate on this legislation". Let us examine this whole business of consultation for a moment and see who is trafficking in fiction.

In response to questions in the House the justice minister stated that he had been in continuous consultation with the attorneys general of the provinces. That has been directly refuted by the testimony of the attorneys general who appeared before the standing committee. In particular, I refer to the Attorney General of Manitoba. When we asked her, she commented that there was extremely little consultation with the justice minister and officials on the gun control legislation.

We heard from the Attorney General of Alberta. The Attorney General of Saskatchewan led a delegation made up of the Liberal leader, Lynda Haverstock, as well as the Conservative leader. They also refuted the whole concept of consultation. The Attorney General of Alberta indicated exactly the same thing.

We heard from the justice ministers of the Northwest Territories and Yukon. They refuted the whole idea that they were involved in any significant way in consultation with the justice minister in the development and creation of this legislation.

People like the president of the Olympic handgun competitors claimed there was no consultation whatsoever. This statement is supported by the fact that when the justice minister brought in his proposals before Christmas of last year he had such little knowledge of handguns that he was banning those used in world cup competitions. When we asked him if he would consider exempting the .32 calibre handgun, which is one of the handguns used in world cup competition, the record tells how much consultation really went on between himself and those groups of people.

He stated he would certainly not consider exempting the .32 calibre. Why? The barrel length was under 105 millimetres and those short barrel firearms are inaccurate and are made only for killing. That is basically the reason to justify the banning of 58 per cent of the legally held and purchased handguns.

When we talk about trafficking in fiction, who is trafficking in fiction? I ask the justice minister who really is trafficking in fiction? To carry on with this whole idea that the justice minister has consulted broadly, widely and in depth with people, groups and organizations involved with firearms is a little ridiculous. These consultations did not take place with the justice ministers of the territories or at least with the attorneys general of the provinces.

Several groups of native peoples also appeared before the committee. The James Bay Cree were represented. Representatives from the Yukon Indians appeared before the committee. Ovide Mercredi and a delegation from the Assembly of First Nations appeared. A group represented by Mr. Borin appeared. They all deny that there was any in depth consultation.

I have a copy of a letter which was tabled with the committee from Mr. Ovide Mercredi to the justice minister dated February 17. I will just quote from this. It states:

Once again your government has acted in a manner that shows a complete disregard for the rights and interests of the people I represent. Your introduction of the gun control legislation without prior consultation with First Nations is a violation of your responsibility as Minister of Justice to uphold the fiduciary trust obligations of your government for all First Nations.

In imposing your plan for firearms registration and regulation, you are breaching our treaties with the crown. You promised a consultation process with First Nations in our meeting on November 14, 1994. Where is that consultation process?

He ends by saying:

For God's sake, respect our rights.

That is what the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations wrote the minister.

During the committee meetings I asked if there had been consultations in the prescribed manner according to what amounts to the appendages to the Constitution with regard to the agreement that was made with the James Bay Cree. It was called the James Bay Cree and Northern Quebec Agreement. I also asked if there were consultations with the Yukon Indians who recently signed an agreement for self-government. The ink is hardly dry on that agreement. The officials of the department assured me and the committee that consultations had taken place in accordance with the constitutional requirement.

When I asked Mr. Mosley, the assistant deputy minister, to table with the committee evidence of such consultations, he agreed to do so but did not. When he next appeared before the committee I asked him about the agreement and the undertaking he had accepted to table documents from the department that would substantiate the claim that substantial consultations, in the prescribed manner, had been undertaken with the James Bay and Yukon Indians, he said that the minister would be tabling those documents when he appeared on the last day that witnesses were to appear before the committee on May 19.

When the justice minister appeared he tabled a half inch stack of documents. That did not give us a chance to examine them so we could prepare questions for the justice minister.

When I did have a chance to examine the documents they did not show evidence of consultation at all. It was evidence, at best, of letters of notification to the 630 bands that these proposals had been presented before Christmas. There was no evidence of consultation.

When the justice minister talks about broad consultations throughout the country with the various groups of people and organizations on which the legislation will impact, I ask, who is trafficking in fiction? There is no doubt in my mind who is trafficking in fiction. It is certainly no one from this caucus when it comes to these kinds of issues.

How in the world was it possible for the justice minister to overlook the requirement to consult with the aboriginal peoples of the country? How could he do that? He understands the law as well as any of us. As stated in the letter by Mr. Mercredi to him, he understands the constitutional requirements to abide by the consultative requirement when legislation is going to impact on the treaties or constitutional rights of aboriginal people or any other Canadian.

I am satisfied that the reason the justice minister and his officials did not first consult with the aboriginal people is because the aboriginal people would have told him exactly what they told the committee with regard to the gun control bill. They would reject the vast majority of it, particularly the licensing and the registration requirements.

Had he gone to them first they would have set the standard for all Canadians. That would not go far enough for the minister because he wanted to impose the restrictions and licensing requirements on law-abiding gun owners. He knew if he went to the aboriginal people first, as he ought to have done, he could not have refuted them and come forward with the kind of legislation he has brought forward today.

Had he gone to the aboriginal people first, they would have set the standard, the benchmark for all Canadians with regard to the manner in which their rights would be interfered with by legislation. He did not want to do that because he knew the aboriginal people would not accept it, as Ovide Mercredi said in his letter.

I refer again to his letter where he said when talking about his own people: "I know that they will not comply with any legislation that violates their treaty and aboriginal rights and I will encourage this non-compliance". That is the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations telling the justice minister that they will not comply with these kinds of regulations.

The justice minister of the Northwest Territories told us as well that many gun owners in the Northwest Territories today are not complying with the firearms acquisition certificate requirements. He and his delegation explained in very straightforward and understandable terms why they are not. It is so impractical for them. He talked about isolated communities where there is no facility to obtain the passport photograph required to obtain an FAC.

Therefore, the present laws are not being abided by in those isolated communities. We heard the Grand Chief of the First Nations say that he will encourage his people not to comply.

There was no in depth consultation before this bill was tabled, because he would have heard the same thing. He did not want to deal with them before the fact; he wanted to deal with them after the fact. How is he going to do it?

Last night the justice minister put forward an amendment in Motion No. 5. That amendment states: "For greater certainty, nothing in this act shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982".

What does that mean? It means that through section 110(t) he is going to be able to go back to the aboriginal people by way of regulations and orders in council and provide whatever exemption he wishes to provide. It is going to result in not all Canadians standing equal before this law. I heard the official opposition leader address this as well. It appears that we may have a two-tier system where there is one set of laws for the aboriginal people and a different set for the non-aboriginal people.

I submit that had he gone forward and obtained the consultation and the input from the aboriginal people first, then based upon those considerations we would all be happy and we could all support that legislation. But it would not have gone far enough for the minister, because he does want to register, he does want to license, he does want to impose those restrictions and those interventions upon the people of Canada.

He has put the cart before the horse and he is trying to finesse this whole thing by going back and saying that through the power of the regulations he has in this act he will be able to consult with aboriginal peoples and address their concerns on their treaty rights and their constitutional rights when it comes to hunting, trapping, and food gathering.

What is emerging here-and I hope I am wrong-is evidence that we are moving toward a two-tier system as far as gun legislation is concerned in this country. I regret that very much. If the minister had consulted with the aboriginal peoples in depth according to what I believe are their constitutional rights, this would not have happened. Now we are going to find ourselves perhaps in a situation where there are going to be constitutional challenges on the basis of discrimination. That is unfortunate. It ought not to be.

My own personal point of view is that in this case the aboriginal people are on the right track when it comes to the control of firearms. They are on the right track. The standard they are saying they want for the use, ownership, and the giving and lending of their firearms ought to be applicable for all Canadians. If that were the case a vast majority of Canadians would agree with it and support it. We should have started with the aboriginal people, used their needs and their requirements as the benchmark for all of our legislation in this bill. I submit that respectfully.

I want to touch on a couple of other points. I want to deal with this whole area of smuggling. I sat in the justice committee when the Canadian Police Association delegates were there. I listened to them carefully. They had basic support for a majority of the contents of the bill, but I remember very clearly what the president of the Canadian Police Association, Mr. Neal Jessop, said. He pointed out that the strength of this bill will be based upon the ability of the government to stop smuggling in Canada.

I have a document here that was produced by the MacKenzie Institute called "Misfire: The Black Market and Gun Control". They did an eight-month survey into firearms smuggling in Canada. They talked to police officers, aboriginal peoples, smugglers, taxi drivers, the whole host of people involved in the milieu of gun smuggling and illicit firearms trafficking. They concluded that if Bill C-68 goes through there is going to be an explosion of smuggling in Canada.

When I compare this to the report submitted from the justice department on smuggling, their report is a hollow whitewash compared to the information contained in this document. I will not take time to go through it, but it is here. It is here for anyone who wants to look at it.

We have real problems, not with the law-abiding gun owner but with the extent of gun smuggling and the smuggling of illicit firearms, prohibited firearms, these so-called assault weapons into Canada. We have a real problem. The authors of the MacKenzie report are saying that it is going to explode if this bill goes through. I just mention that.

I want to touch on the polls and the support. I do not place much support in polls because they go up and they go down, particularly on a bill like this, where the people who are being contacted really do not know the extent to which the guns are controlled now by way of legislation.

We have over 60 pages in the Criminal Code dealing with the ownership, acquisition and use of firearms. The legislation dealing with firearms in this country is very extensive. So when we have a 124-page document adding to that and we ask people on the phone what they think about gun control, adding more laws to the gun control bill, I am not sure how well informed they are when they respond to that.

I do know that if I received a phone call and someone was telling me the government was moving in a direction to extend greater control over guns, I would say that sounds to me like a good thing to do, because it is going to make the homes and streets and communities safer in Canada. If that were my belief, if I were led to believe that from the question asked, Mr. Speaker, you bet I would support it. I would support it today if I could see it in the bill, but I cannot see it. I can understand why the polls vary, depending on the questions and depending upon the extent of information they have at their disposal about the bill.

We can see very clearly that as more and more information gets to the people, not just about the gun registration but what appears to be the possible violation of civil rights, the extension of police powers in order to inspect or search and to seize and so

on, we see a broadening concern over this legislation and a drop in the support for the bill.

I might add that the clearest indication in terms of polling has to be the result of an election where gun control is an issue. We have had two provincial elections recently. I would like to mention at least the one in Manitoba, where the government headed by Premier Filmon publicly rejected the gun registration portion of this bill, as did the NDP in that province. The Liberal Party embraced it. It is interesting to note that a few weeks before the writ came down in that province for the election call the Liberals were very, very close in the polls to the Tories, the government, and it looked like they could form the government. We saw what happened. They lost over 50 per cent of their seats and the Liberal leader lost his seat.

I have an item in the paper here that quotes one of the Liberal candidates. He states that the Liberal campaign was badly damaged by unpopular federal decisions like gun control and budget cuts. He went on to say that it infuriated him to hear the justice minister say after the election that gun control had nothing to do with the Manitoba Liberals' poor showing. "He has his head in the sand" is what this defeated Liberal candidate from Manitoba said.

When we hear the justice minister talk about support and trafficking in fiction, we should examine it carefully. I wish the debate would be made on facts. We can look at the polls, but let us be honest about it and look at the real polls. In this country we now have at least five provinces whose premiers have concerns about this bill. We have the Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba premiers who are concerned about this bill. We have had the Liberal premier from New Brunswick express concern as well about the registration system. Now we have the new premier of Ontario, and I would like to hear further from him. I would like him to have a good look at this bill so that we hear from the premier of the most populated province in Canada. I would like to hear what he has to say now about this bill and whether there will be support from the province of Ontario for the registration system.

I want to end by discussing the cost. Members were accused on this side of trafficking in fiction when it comes to the cost. Let us look at the cost for a moment. The justice minister is indicating $85 million to set up the registration system. That is just to set up the registration system. We first have to register the three million gun owners. We have to license them before we can register a single gun they own. If they are not eligible to hold a licence, what is the point of registering their firearms? They will have to give up their firearms if they are not able to be licensed. What will it cost to license an individual?

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

Ten bucks for ten guns.

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11:40 a.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Ten bucks for ten guns, if we talk about trafficking in fiction. I am talking about licensing the owner, not about registering the firearm. If we look at the cost to license three million gun owners, we can estimate the cost per individual by looking at what the cost is now to process an FAC, a firearms acquisition certificate, because the requirements are similar.

Under clause 5 of this bill, the chief provincial firearms officer is going to have to conduct a review of the criminal record of the individual, a mental health record, and perhaps a neighbourhood background check to see if there is any history of violence. That is not unlike the requirement for an FAC. They go through a similar background check.

The Metro Toronto Police Board analysed the cost to process a single FAC in 1994, and it was $185. That might be high, because it is in Toronto, where the costs are high. But if we take that figure and multiply it by three million gun owners who have to be licensed, what do we get? We certainly do not get $85 million. We get about $550 million. If there are six million gun owners, as some estimate, then it will be well over $1 billion using those figures.

If the Metro Toronto Police Board cost for the application of an FAC is the highest in the country, and we level it out to $100 per FAC across the country and take that as an average-I do not think we can label that as trafficking in fiction-we can get an idea of what the enormous cost is going to be to someone in this country, whether it is the gun owner, the taxpayer, or whoever. That is before a single gun is registered and we come in with the $10 cost to register 10 firearms. What can we register today for $10? It may cost me $10, but what does it cost the taxpayer? What does it cost the organization? What does it cost for the manpower?

I do not know what it will cost, but I am convinced it will not be $10. I do not know what can be processed today in that form for $10. My licence costs me more than that. The registration for my car costs me more than that. It cost me $5 to register my children's bicycles and I did all the work. I took it down to the police station where it was filed. That is what it cost me. I do not know what it cost the police to file it, process it and record it.

When it comes to the cost, $85 million may be a fair representation of what it will cost to set up the registration system, but it is not anywhere near the overall cost to set up a full-fledged universal registration system where individual gun owners will have to be licensed and have to bring in their firearms to have them registered. There is absolutely no way. When we talk about trafficking in fiction, who is trafficking in fiction?

The government has not provided a common sense justification for the registration of rifles and shotguns. I asked witness after witness who appeared before the committee how the registration of rifles and shotguns would reduce the criminal use of those firearms, and they were not able to answer. I have never heard a straightforward answer from the justice minister although I have asked him that question.

We have a handgun registration system that has been around for 60 years. We know it has not reduced the criminal use of handguns, because the handgun is the weapon of choice for the vast majority of street criminals. We see that it has been ineffective in this area and we ask why the justice minister would want to expand a failed system to include rifles and shotguns.

We have spent considerable time on the bill, but is it enough time? I say absolutely not. There was not enough time. When members are denied the right to express the concerns of their constituents in the House, those who want to express them, there is something wrong with the system.

I do not think we have had enough time either at the committee stage or at second reading stage. Time allocation was utilized. A deadline was placed on the number of days to hear witnesses. We went immediately from there into clause by clause study. We did not even have time to examine the testimony of witnesses on a day to day basis, because the time lag from the time they testified to the time we received the written testimony was four days. We did not even have time to fully draft our amendments, go over them with legal counsel and present them in proper form. The bill has been rushed and I ask why. If it is not to become mandatory for eight years, what is the big rush?

I make reference to a wonderful set of speaking points. At the bottom the Prime Minister said to his Liberal colleagues:

The Reform Party says it needs more time to debate gun control, but cops on the beat say they need gun control now.

It is very disturbing that Reformers are prepared to put the safety of police at risk in order to satisfy the gun lobby.

Talk about trafficking in fiction. I have not talked to a street police officer who has supported the bill although their political masters do. I have talked with colleagues all across western Canada. I have been all across the country from Kamloops in the west to St. John's, Newfoundland, in the east. I have talked with people who say that the bill is nonsense anyway.

My point is that if the cops on the beat need the bill now, why are we waiting eight years before bringing it in? It is not the Reform Party that is saying we should wait eight years; it is the government that is saying eight years.

As I said the other night, if guns are really dangerous and if this is not a hysterical response from people who do not know anything about guns and fear them, why are we leaving 58 per cent of the handguns that are supposed to be dangerous in the hands of the people? Why are we leaving them where they are?

In conclusion I would like to move the following motion:

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

"Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons, be not now read a third time but that it be read a third time this day six months hence".

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11:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The amendment is in order. We will resume debate on the amendment and go to the next stage of debate where members will have an entitlement of 20 minutes and 10 minutes for questions and comments.

I ask members to indicate to the Chair if they will be splitting their time.

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11:50 a.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, Liberal speakers will be splitting their time.

I am proud to rise in the House today in support of the bill. I believe gun control legislation will make our communities safer and will preserve and help Canada to evolve as a civilized nation where we can walk the streets and drive our cars with greater safety. It says a great deal about the kind of society we want to create for the future. Quite simply the bill seeks to prevent the killing of human beings.

There has been a great deal said about values in the debate. I have been concerned and have expressed my concern about the rhetoric of American values that seems to have permeated the debate. Let me give an example. Recently a survey was done in the United States among school children. When asked how they should respond if somebody tried to take something that belonged to them, the majority of American children said: "Kill them". When asked how they should respond to an insult, the majority said: "Shoot them".

An American senator on national television not too long ago suggested his mother should take out her gun and shoot if an intruder broke into her home, obviously not aware that in the majority of cases where that is the response to an intruder breaking into a home the home owner and not the perpetrator ends up dead.

As I said, the bill is about preventing death. Reformers have provided the strongest opposition to the bill yet their response is contradictory. They also say they are in favour of greater crime controls and greater punishment for criminals. Those are in the bill as well.

Let me just tell the party that says it is so concerned about the victims of crime what Steve Sullivan, a spokesperson for the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, says. He believes better gun control laws would prevent similar accidents, for example the deaths of two young children from

shotgun wounds which took place in his community not too long ago. Mr. Sullivan said that many of the cases his organization heard about were crimes committed by ordinary people in nice communities rather than by criminals.

That is one main thought I want to leave with people this morning. While the bill is about crime control, it also deals with the fact that the vast majority of deaths by guns do not occur during the commission of a crime. They do not occur because a criminal, a stranger, shoots and tries to take something from someone or tries to perpetrate some other crime. The majority of gun related deaths and injuries happen in the home and are by someone known to the victim. That is the side of the legislation I want to address.

Let me give some facts. In this community in the last six months seven people have died at the hands of a family member: five of the deaths were caused by guns and two were school aged children. Five of the seven deaths were gun related yet probably less than 20 per cent of homes in this urban area have guns. That tells me a great deal. Of the 1,400 deaths in the last year caused by guns, 1,100 were suicides. That reflects in large part the accessibility of a gun to commit suicide.

Over 200 of the 1,400 deaths were homicides and the remainder were accidents. The majority of homicides, 86 per cent, are committed by family members, friends or acquaintances. Guns are a particularly serious threat to women. Almost half the women were killed by spouses or ex-spouses and almost half the women killed by their partners are shot even though half the homes in the country do not have guns. Also 78 per cent of the guns used in these killings are legally owned. The problem is not only illegally owned guns. The problem is legally owned guns, which is what the legislation tries to address in part.

Domestic and other intimate assaults are 12 times more likely to result in death if a gun is involved. I was serious when I said the bill is about preventing the deaths of human beings. We have significant evidence that a large number of offenders act impulsively, suggesting that the simple availability of a gun determines whether a homicide will or will not occur.

We cannot forget our children. Since 1970, 470 children have died in accidents involving firearms. If we truly believe in the value of our children we should do all we can to protect them, and this is one measure to do so.

The most contentious issue in the legislation is the registration of guns. Seven million firearms are held by approximately three million Canadians. We have no way of knowing how many guns are in the country at any one time, who the owners are, and whether or not the guns were legally or illegally acquired. Registration is designed to change that.

I realize I have very little time in the debate this morning. Crime control is important and the bill addresses that. It is also important to control legally owned guns in the hands of their owners, because those are the guns that are responsible for the majority of gun related homicides and deaths in the country.

A constituent who wrote to me said quite simply that she believed we should go ahead with the legislation and that it was important for people who owned guns to be accountable and held responsible for the use of those guns. Is that not what good citizenship is all about, accountability and responsibility as well as rights and privileges?

I urge all members of this House to consider the large number of deaths that occur in this country every year. Consider the role that legally owned guns play in those homicides. I urge members to consider whether they do not want to be part of making this a safer society.

The justice minister referred earlier to how important he feels this legislation is for his children. I want to make the same personal comment. Later this afternoon I am going to the airport to pick up my daughter and my six-week old grandson but I am not going home to have dinner with them. I am coming back here to vote for this legislation. I am doing it for my daughter and I am doing it for my grandson. I am doing it for the kind of society I want him to be able to grow up in.

In Canada, we have never believed either as a nation or as individuals that settling our problems by violence and by power is the way we develop. That is why Canada has become a nation that symbolizes around the world a peaceful resolution of problems. It is why we have evolved a reputation that has made our flag, which we will celebrate again in just a few weeks, a symbol to the world of how people can live in harmony.

It is because we have had a different sense of values than those more American values I have heard expressed in this debate. We have not felt we have to rely on weapons to evolve a civilized society. By peaceful means, by peaceful resolution, by collectively agreeing on control of the criminal elements in our society and by creating a safer environment we will have the kind of country we want to live in and that we want to leave to the next generation.

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Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member for Ottawa West why her party decided to change the status quo, stipulating that, in the future, the restricted firearms safety courses mentioned in subclause 7(2) of the bill on firearms will have to be approved

by the federal minister? The way things are now, the attorney general of each province approves the courses. That is how things currently work in Quebec, for example, and I suppose that that is the way things must be working in other provinces. Since latitude was given to one province, it must have also been given to the others.

What I would like to point out to you is that, in Quebec, these courses are very well structured. Of course, I am still talking about restricted firearms safety courses. Our courses in this area are extremely focused. Some are specifically for target shooters. Others are specifically for security guards. The first course is 3.5 hours long; the second, 6 hours. They are really quite specific and have been very successful, up to now.

Therefore, we wonder why the government would not accept the amendment we proposed to have the attorney general of each province continue to approve these courses on the handling of restricted firearms.

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Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know the bill inside and out. I did not have the privilege of discussing the issue for several weeks in committee, as did the hon. member opposite.

It is very important, in my opinion, that this act contain provisions which apply uniformly across the country. For this reason, I feel that it is acceptable and important for the federal government to set the regulations, so that we know that they will be the same everywhere in Canada.

I hope that another hon. member from our party will be able to give a more detailed answer to the hon. member's question.

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12:05 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, as many other members on that side of the House have stated a number of times, the member stated she surely did not want to be like the Americans south of the border.

Many of my relatives live in various parts of the United States. Some live in areas where guns are completely prohibited and some live in areas where the only gun law is simply that no guns are allowed in school or in court. The variance in violence does not seem to make much difference across the country where these relatives of mine live. The violence is there regardless of what the gun situation is.

I would like to know where you get the information that would enable you to stand in this House and say-

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12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Order. I would remind all hon. members to please address the Chair rather than each other directly. Could the hon. member rephrase his question.

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12:05 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

I apologize for that, Mr. Speaker.

Where does the member receive her news about the violence that occurs in the states? Where does she get her information that things are so terrible throughout the U.S. when I know for a fact that in many places they are not?

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12:05 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is perfectly true that many places in the United States are not the same. However, for anyone who has spent any substantial amount of time in an American city, I know people who have come from the United States to live in Canada who are thrilled by the fact they can walk around a city at night. It was something they had never done before in their entire lifetime. Guns were an important part of that. The fact is that the rate of deaths by guns in the United States is 10 times what it is in Canada. In general, the right to own guns is sacred in the United States and is reflected in the laws.

There has also been substantial international research by the International Association of Police Officers. It shows quite clearly that the more stringent the gun control, the much lower the death rate from homicide and the much lower the rate of violent crime. I will be happy to provide the member with that research.

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12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. parliamentary secretary to the minister of Indian affairs is going to address the House next.

I wish to inform the House that the hon. parliamentary secretary is going to address the House in his language. I was apprised of this and there is no impediment to using a language other than the two official languages in the House. The hon. member has taken care in this sense and has provided the interpreters with a complete translation of what he is going to be saying to the House. The hon. member has informed me that he will be strictly adhering to the text.

Therefore, I see no impediment to this, providing that all the steps have been taken so that all of us will know in either of the two official languages what is being said to the House.

With that I recognize the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

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12:10 p.m.

Nunatsiaq Northwest Territories


Jack Iyerak Anawak LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on third reading of Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons.

The proposals contained in this bill have generated a lot of discussion throughout the country. A lot of misinformation is out there. I will use my time to dispel some of that misinforma-

tion, particularly as it affects my constituency and the people I represent. I will tell this House what I have been telling the Inuit hunters in my constituency.

No hunter is going to kill one less caribou or one less seal on account of this bill. I know that. The ability and right of the Inuit to hunt will still be there under the provisions of this bill. It will always be there.

No piece of legislation can take away the Inuit way of life. This bill does not take away the Inuit way of life, nor can anything else unless the Inuit themselves choose to let it go. That way of life is protected in the Nunavut land claims agreement and in the Constitution of Canada.

The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of the land and all the other laws of Canada have to be consistent with the Constitution. Section 35 of the Constitution states:

  1. (1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

(2) In this act, "aboriginal peoples of Canada" includes the Indian, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada.

(3) For greater certainty, in subsection (1), "treaty rights" includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.

(4) Notwithstanding any other provision of this act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (1) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

Article 2 of the Nunavut land claims agreement is clear on the constitutional status of the agreement. It states: "The agreement shall be a land claims agreement within the meaning of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982".

Mr. Speaker, the most basic aboriginal and treaty rights are the rights to hunt, trap and fish for sustenance. While there are many disagreements between aboriginal peoples and government on the exact scope and content of all aboriginal and treaty rights, there is at least agreement on harvesting rights. There is no question that aboriginal and treaty rights include hunting, fishing and trapping rights. Even the courts have said so.

Harvesting is central to the aboriginal way of life. It is at the heart of our being, who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be. We do not want to lose our connection with the land. It has sustained us for thousands of years. It has kept us alive. It sustains us still.

Most Inuit and most other aboriginal people who live in remote communities still make a living from the land. It is a proud thing and an honourable thing for us to go out on the land and come home with food for our families and neighbours. That is why there is such worry in aboriginal communities about this bill. There is a deep fear that the bill is affecting our core identity and will take away our ability to buy, possess and use firearms. Some people have been exploiting that fear. I want to address this issue now.

The government is well aware that aboriginal and treaty hunting and trapping rights exist. Some very specific provisions exist in these agreements concerning these rights.

For example, the Nunavut land claim agreement has a whole chapter on wildlife. That chapter recognizes that Inuit are traditional and current users of wildlife and that the legal rights of Inuit to harvest wildlife flow from their traditional and current use.

Under the Nunavut land claim agreement a wildlife management system has been created that reflects the traditional and current levels, patterns and character of Inuit harvesting and avoids unnecessary interference in the exercise of the rights, priorities and privileges to harvest. Subject to the terms of the chapter, an Inuk with proper identification may harvest up to his or her adjusted basic needs level without any form of licence or permit and without imposition of any form of tax or fee.

In addition, the agreement states that where there is any inconsistency or conflict between any federal, territorial and local government laws and the agreement, the agreement shall prevail.

Those provisions in the Nunavut land claim agreement offer protection. Other land claim agreements offer similar protection.

It will be necessary for the government to work out with aboriginal peoples an accommodation between existing aboriginal and treaty harvesting rights and the provisions of Bill C-68. There must be discussions, there must be consultations. There must be a dialogue so the various provisions can be reconciled and integrated. The government knows this and intends to carry out these essential discussions.

For this reason, the government put section 110(t) into Bill C-68. Section 110(t) says the governor in council, or cabinet, can make regulations, and I quote:

Respecting the manner in which any provision of this Act or the regulations applies to any of the aboriginal peoples of Canada, and adapting any such provision for the purposes of that application.

This section recognizes that the government and aboriginal peoples have to work together to implement this bill in ways that are respectful of and sensitive to aboriginal and treaty rights. These discussions will occur. There will be opportunities for aboriginal peoples to have a say in implementation.

By the way, aboriginal peoples should know that both the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois tried to remove this clause from the bill during the committee hearings.

During the committee hearings on this bill, aboriginal representatives asked for something more than section 110(t). Some groups, like the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada and the Grand Council

of the Crees of Quebec, specifically requested the inclusion of a non-derogation clause.

I am very pleased to say that the minister and the government responded positively to this request. The minister has brought in an amendment to Bill C-68 that adds a non-derogation clause to the bill. It reads like this:

For greater certainty, nothing in this act shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

While the government's position is that the bill does not abrogate aboriginal and treaty rights, this non-derogation clause has been included in the bill to provide greater reassurance. I pushed for this amendment and I thank the Minister of Justice for responding.

The minister and the government have also made another very important change to Bill C-68. It is a change that I also pushed for and it affects the lending provisions of the bill.

When the bill was drafted initially, it stated that when someone loaned a firearm to another person the registration certificate for the firearm had to be loaned along with the firearm. I expressed my concerns to the minister about this provision. Both aboriginal and non-aboriginal groups who appeared before the justice committee also raised the lending provision as an issue. They talked about the impracticality of lending a registration certificate along with a firearm when someone is out on the land hunting for food.

Again, the minister and the government responded to the concern. The amendment made to the bill by the minister removes the requirement to transfer the registration certificate along with the firearm when the firearm is being loaned to someone who will be hunting for sustenance purposes.

This is a practical change. The government is acknowledging a way of life in rural and remote communities. Lending firearms is a common occurrence in the north, where I come from. Lending your firearm in the north is as common as lending a lawnmower to your neighbour or borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbour in the southern parts of Canada. In northern communities, when your neighbour needs something you have in order to put food on the table, you help out in whatever way you can. Sometimes you lend your skidoo, sometimes gas, and sometimes your gun.

The change the minister has made to the lending provisions of the bill responds to the very real circumstances of all sustenance hunters, aboriginal and non-aboriginal. It is a positive change and I welcome it and I thank the minister for his consideration.

There are some other issues related to the bill that will need to be addressed and worked out between the federal government, the government of the Northwest Territories and aboriginal peoples.

The firearms safety training course has to recognize northern circumstances. In the north it must reflect and be adapted to the northern reality. Accommodation should be made for the aboriginal languages. I encourage both the federal and territorial governments to continue working on this matter.

The issue of traditional gun giving is also one I am sure will be addressed in discussions between government and aboriginal representatives.

I am confident these issues can be worked out satisfactorily. Reasonable people working together in a spirit of good will can sort these things out.

I support this bill. It is better now following the committee hearings and report stage. Many changes have been made to the bill to improve it.

I had some concerns, which the minister has gone a long way to address. Protections for the Inuit way of life are contained in the Nunavut land claims agreement and the Constitution of Canada. The bill contains a clause that says the government will discuss with Inuit how the bill is to be implemented in Inuit communities. Our communities will be able to have their own firearms officers. Sustenance hunting is recognized in the bill and we are doubly protected now with the addition of the clause that says that nothing in the bill can take away or limit aboriginal and treaty hunting rights.

I have never had any problem with the principles of this bill. I have no problem with gun registration. I am a hunter. I am an aboriginal hunter. I am not afraid of registering my firearms. I may experience some inconvenience with registration, but I support the principles underlying it.

The overriding objective of gun registration is public safety. I am prepared to do my part.

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12:20 p.m.

The Speaker

During the question and comment period I would ask if the hon. member would consider that in whatever official language the question is asked, he would consider answering in one of the official languages.

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12:20 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Nunatsiaq for his comments.

I notice that he spent his time reassuring his constituents that the bill would not be too harsh on them. I know that even the use of his language was an effort to better communicate that to his constituents.

I also have made an effort to consult and to try to get the feelings from my constituents as well. I had a town hall meeting to discuss this bill in an open forum. I could not get a representative from the justice department to present the government side. No one would come. I could not get anyone from the police chiefs to come to put their spin on it. I just could not get them. I could not get a representative from Wendy Cukier and her gun control group. They would not come. Frankly, I could not get anyone to come to defend the bill in a public forum.

A dentist got up at this public meeting and said that he wanted to shoot recreationally. He said that he wanted to shoot a handgun. He was pretty nervous. He said: "This is my first ever public presentation, but this is what I have to go through already. I decide that I want to take the course and it takes me a year to get a handgun. I have to get an FAC. I have to go through the course. I have to spend money. I have to have a background check. I have to allow them to question my neighbours. They do a criminal check on me. When I finally get a firearm, I can only transport it in the trunk of my car. Any other guns I might have are locked up; they have a trigger lock and the ammunition is separate."

This is already the case in Canada. In Canada we do not allow sawed off shotguns; we do not allow automatic weapons; we do not allow machine guns. This just is not allowed. People watching should know these things are already not allowed. The gun owners by and large say they are willing to go through the hoops, that it is a pain and they question its effectiveness, but they are willing to do it because they are law-abiding citizens. But they also say that there comes a time when they do not know what they are going to do any more: "I can't do more than I'm doing. I am not the problem".

The constituents of the member for Nunatsiaq are not the problem. The problem is the criminal element. This bill does very little to clamp down on the criminal misuse of firearms. This dentist who gave a speech and the other gun owners I have talked to say that when we find a criminal misusing a firearm, using it in the commission of a crime, we should throw them away for the rest of their lives: "I don't care, because they're not part of us. They're not law-abiding citizens, so throw the book at them". The problem is this bill is primarily concerned with the law-abiding citizens.

My question to the member is how will the universal registration portion of this bill make my constituent, this dentist, feel any safer? He has already jumped through a full year's worth of regulations trying to be a totally law-abiding citizen. Now he finds out that is not enough. He is exasperated, and I share his exasperation.

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12:25 p.m.


Jack Iyerak Anawak Liberal Nunatsiaq, NT

Mr. Speaker, do you know what the problem is? The problem is we are too much of a me, me, me society, rather than we, we, we. We should be looking after the interests of Canadian people as a whole. Instead, what is happening with the gun control lobby is "You're going to take away my right to have a firearm". This is not a right; it is a privilege to have a firearm.

A little bit of inconvenience in registering a rifle should be no big deal. I really do not have a problem with the registration.

By the way, I should also thank the House for its indulgence in allowing me to speak Inuktitut earlier.

It is too much of a me, me, me society, rather than one that considers what is good for the country. I would like the members from Reform to support us on the issue of a non-derogation clause. Yesterday they did not support us after the hon. member for Crowfoot said: "I find it unacceptable that the government will make agreements with our aboriginal people and then violate those agreements. This is unacceptable. What's the purpose of the agreement and where is the honour in the agreement if it's simply going to be violated? No wonder the aboriginal people come forward. I admire your patience. I can't get over your patience in the face of this kind of treatment". This was from the member for Crowfoot. Then last night he voted against a non-derogation clause, which recognizes our rights under section 35 of the Constitution.

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12:25 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, everyone has an opinion on Bill C-68. From Lutselk'e in the Northwest Territories to Blanc-Sablon, the bill has been discussed in our homes, in our communities and especially in this House. The debate continues down into the last stretch. Yesterday again we talked about it for hours in this House.

The main source of controversy in Bill C-68 is undoubtedly the proposal for a national registration system.

This universal registration system will consist of a computerized registry listing the names and addresses of firearms owners and a description of the firearms in their possession. The system will be operated by the RCMP.

Firearm owners have to apply for the new ownership licence starting in January 1996 and will have until 2001 to register. Firearms will have to be registered starting in January 1998, and owners will have until 2003 to do so.

Reform Party members, the pro-gun lobby and several Liberal colleagues of the Minister of Justice are pleased about the fact that the minimum sentence for using a firearm in the commission of an offence has been increased and that existing owners of

firearms have a grace period of nearly eight years to comply with the national registration system proposed by the minister in Bill C-68.

I am convinced that registration of firearms plus ownership licences will have a positive impact on homicide and suicide rates and on controlling the number of firearms in circulation.

We cannot ignore the statistics on deaths caused by the use of firearms. Guns are used in more than one third of homicides in Canada. In the past ten years, the majority of homicides were committed using shotguns or hunting rifles.

In their presentation to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, the Conférence des régies régionales de la santé et des services sociaux du Québec gave a telling summary of the situation in Quebec, and I quote: "In Quebec, firearms claim at least one victim per day or 420 deaths annually, of which 7 out of 10 are suicides. During the same twelve-month period, 400 people in Quebec died of AIDS, 400 died due to accidental falls, 900 in car accidents, 100 by drowning and 80 of accidental poisoning. The number of deaths caused by firearms is comparable to many other health problems that have raised the concerns of the public, the media and government. The annual economic cost of the wrongful use of firearms has been estimated, in 1993 Canadian dollars, at $6.595 billion in Canada and $1.659 billion in Quebec alone. The vast majority of deaths caused by gunshots occur in the home, with legally acquired rifles".

These are the depressing facts, and we cannot ignore them. Gun control is necessary in a society that wants to curb violence and enhance public safety.

The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of gun control that does not however, discriminate against those who use guns responsibly. The Bloc Quebecois and 90 per cent of the people of Quebec support firearms registration. That is the kind of society we want.

The bill is well received by Quebecers who are looking for ways to keep our society peaceful and secure and to combat smuggling more effectively. Like women across the country, women in Quebec support stricter gun controls. This is not surprising since they also have the highest rate of deaths due to gunshot wounds.

In all opinion polls, women and the more highly educated were 88 per cent in favour of a registration system for all firearms. On the other hand, men in general were only 78 per cent in favour of gun registration.

I have upset some people by saying that gender had a lot to do with this debate on the future of our society. The statistics show I was right, for the following reasons: The first is obvious; the statistics speak for themselves as regards women's support for gun registration. The second is that men are generally the aggressors, while women are more often than not at the other end of the barrel.

Even the Minister of Justice agreed with me, when he cited disturbing statistics. On the average, a woman dies through the discharge of a firearm every six days in Canada. Three times out of four, the murdered wife was shot with a rifle or a shotgun. Firearms control, whether we want to admit it or not, is a matter of gender: that of the victims and that of the women who support Bill C-68 by an overwhelming majority.

For reasons I set out earlier, I believe the establishment of a national registration system is a positive step. I must repeat, however, my considerable regret that the Minister of Justice yielded to the gun lobby.

By spreading the registration of owners and their weapons over eight years, the minister is making it clear that he does not want the system implemented while he is around. He should have shortened the registration period for firearms by two years. The system would have been in place next year.

There is no justification, either logistic or political, for firearms registration not to begin at the same time as licensing for ownership. Registration could have begun on January 1 next year and ended December 31, 2000.

We must remember that firearms are registered only once in the owner's lifetime. The certificate need not be renewed. The operation is a very simple one, requiring little of owners.

Lives could be saved if all firearms were registered quickly. What are we waiting for? I have chosen to live in a responsible society, and I hope my colleagues will make the same choice.

Allow my to express my delight at the end of fruitless debates and of the ineptitudes of the Reform Party. Bill C-68 will soon become a law that all Quebecers and Canadians will have to observe.

The Minister of Justice received a passing grade, barely, in this examination. His marketing operation proved a complete failure.

I have been interested in the matter of firearms since 1989 and I have never looked back. From the first, I fought for tightened gun control. As early as 1989, I asked that firearms sold in Canada be equipped with a safety locking device. I participated in the debate on Bill C-17 until it was passed in 1991.

Thank God, Reform members did not take part, and the pro-gun lobby had to find other allies in this House.

I am happy that the firearms bill will be adopted today. Although flawed, it represents a kind of social reform toward the safe and peaceful society I want.

Whatever Reform members may say, legislation on gun registration is not limited to New Zealand and Australia. If the Reform Party likes to use these examples, it is because the experience was a difficult one for these two countries. New Zealand had an obsolete, manual system that had been introduced after the first world war.

Like Canada, Australia is a federal state, but gun regulations come under the jurisdiction of the states and territories. It seems difficult to standardize a national registration system, when it comes under the jurisdiction of states with different sets of laws.

In any event, for the information of my Reform colleagues, I would like to talk briefly about other countries in the world that have introduced gun control measures. I welcome the idea that we will soon be part of this responsible community.

In China, a non-professional hunter can obtain a licence allowing him to own a weapon, but he cannot own more than two.

In the Czech Republic, an applicant must specify the reasons why he wants a licence and attach recommendation letters as well as a medical certificate vouching for his physical and mental health. The licence is valid for a three month period only. After obtaining his licence, the potential gun buyer must receive authorization from the district police. He must then, in the following days, take the gun he bought to the district police for registration.

In France, the registration data includes the buyer's name, place of residence and birthplace. Firearms must be registered with the gendarmerie. In France also, certain individuals are not allowed to purchase firearms, for instance those convicted of a crime or sentenced to prison for more than three months; those who are mentally disabled; those on probation; and finally, violent alcoholics.

In Germany, manufacturers and gunsmiths are required by law to apply various procedures, such as record keeping, labelling and notifying. These procedures are designed to help the authorities keep accurate records on firearms and ammunition belonging to private or business interests.

In Great Britain, anyone who has a firearm, whether they own it or not, must register it and get a licence.

In Greece, to be eligible to hold a licence, applicants must be 21 years of age and substantiate their need to have a firearm for personal safety, guarding a public building or target shooting. Firearms registration is mandatory and the licence to possess firearms must be renewed every three months.

These are a few countries around the world where firearms control was a societal choice. India, Israel, Sweden, South Africa, Poland, the Netherlands, Mexico, Malaysia, Japan and others also have similar legislation.

As you can see, contrary to what the third party would have us believe, responsible governments are not only found in Western Canada.

In addition, Bill C-68 as amended by the Standing Committee on Justice recognizes, in clause 7, long gun safety courses approved by the provinces. In Quebec, safety courses were approved by the Minister of Public Security in 1969 and have been offered ever since.

Quebecers who have undergone training in firearms handling in recent years should not have to take the course again to comply with the new legislation. Therefore, the Bloc Quebecois supports clause 7, as poorly worded as it is, since people who have already taken the safety course will not be compelled to take it again.

In closing, I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Justice and the 70 organizations and individuals who have travelled to Ottawa to express their views on Bill C-68 at the committee hearings.

Let us bear in mind that every major social project has raised controversy. Bill C-68 is one of those. Our efforts will not have been in vain.

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12:40 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to ask a couple of questions and make a couple of comments on the member's statement.

I am not sure what suppositions she starts from but I would like to comment on two or three. She mentioned that if we register weapons we must register guns because often rifles are used in suicides, murders, domestic disputes or whatever. I do not see how registering them makes any difference. If a person is crazy and is going to shoot somebody, does it matter if it is a registered weapon or an unregistered weapon hanging on the wall? I do not see how it really makes any difference. If someone is crazy enough to shoot somebody, he or she will do it anyway.

I want to show it is not the registry that controls crime but other factors that can help to control crime. For example, Florida relaxed its gun laws in 1987. The murder rate has fallen

20 per cent and is now lower than the American national average.

Great Britain introduced tougher, more restrictive laws in 1988 which lowered the number of guns by 22 per cent and its violent crime rate has doubled.

The hon. member mentioned, for example, Israel, Switzerland and Sweden, that have firearm registration. I am not that familiar with them except to say that in Israel every able-bodied male of military age has an assault rifle in his house, not just a shotgun. He has a weapon with which to go to war.

For my relatives in Sweden every single man must go through military training and keeps the gat right in the House. Registering them is not a factor. It is other things and what we do to prosecute and persecute those who are involved in the criminal use of firearms.

Concerning the suicide argument, in Japan for example virtually no guns are allowed. They are banned in Japan. The suicide rate is much higher than Canada's. Just banning guns will not necessarily do away with suicides or domestic violence.

It is a horrible thing but men, not that we take any comfort in it, are assaulted at probably 10 times the rate of women by other men. Men glory in shooting other men too. Some people are crazy and we cannot legislate against that. Registering weapons will not do away with those people. We need an absolute clampdown on the criminal misuse of firearms.

I had a case in my riding. A guy sneaked across the American border in Columbia valley. He had with him a totally unregistered firearm, a .357 magnum, shoved in his jacket. He was stopped by a police officer. He knocked the police officer down. He stuck the muzzle of the gun in the female officer's mouth and said: "I'm going to kill you". He had plastic bullets which are only used for destroying people.

Thankfully someone intervened and was able to talk him out of this incident, although he threatened to kill two people. He had two firearms because he stole the police officer's firearm as well. He stole the police vehicle, took it up into the mountains nearby and torched, to the tune of about $40,000.

He had committed illegal entry. He had an unregistered illegal firearm. He had assaulted a police officer. He had threatened to murder two people. He had some drugs on him. On and on it went. Finally they tracked the guy down and caught him. What did he get? They dropped the firearms offences and for all of the incidents he got 15 months in jail.

That guy should have been thrown in jail for 25 years. That is how we should handle misuse of firearms. That guy will be on the streets by June, I suppose with a totally unregistered illegal firearm waiting to threaten to kill the next person.

My question for the member is this. Is it not true that what we need in Canada is not more control of law-abiding citizens but stricter control and stricter sentences against those who misuse firearms?

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc 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.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Len Taylor NDP 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?

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12:55 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc 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.

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12:55 p.m.

Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine Québec


Patrick Gagnon LiberalParliamentary 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.

Firearms ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform 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.