Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague, the member for Crowfoot, has pointed out, the premise on which these regulations are based is false. They are before this House on false pretences.
Only recently we find out that the members of this House were presented with false and misleading firearms statistics during the debate of Bill C-68, the Firearms Act, by the Minister of Justice and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
It is not the Reformers or the gun lobby saying this. It is the commissioner of the RCMP saying this in a letter he wrote to the Department of Justice on July 21, 1997.
So Members of Parliament know exactly what the facts are and so there is no confusion from this day forward about firearms and violent crime, I want to read the entire text of RCMP Commissioner Murray's letter to the deputy minister of justice, Mr. George Thomson:
Dear Mr. Thomson:
I am writing to request that the Department of Justice correct its representation of the 1993 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) statistics on firearms involved in crime.
Around June 1994, the Firearms Control Task Group requested information on all files investigated by the RCMP during 1993 where there was a firearm associated with it. Since the RCMP does not collect statistics on firearms in this format, a special software application was written to extract the data for the Department of Justice. The data was provided in electronic format with the coding information necessary to interpret the date. The Firearms Control Task Group tabulated the data and produced reports without consulting the RCMP staff on the accuracy of their interpretation of our data.
The RCMP became aware that there was a problem with the representation of the 1993 RCMP statistics on firearms involved in crimes in February 1997, as a result of the correspondence from Ms. Wendy Cukier of the Coalition for Gun Control, in which she requested an affidavit as to the accuracy of the data in Appendix “A”, titled “RCMP (PIRS) Table 2. Firearms Involved In Crime: Type of Firearm Recovered According to Offence”. Ms. Cukier required the affidavit for use in the province of Alberta's constitutional challenge respecting the Firearms Act. The Firearms Control Task Group created Appendix “A” from the statistics obtained from the RCMP in 1994.
Since the RCMP had not created Appendix “A”, we extracted the 1993 data again and tabulated the number of firearms involved in a crime under the category of violent offences. We believe that most people would interpret the Appendix “A” caption: “Firearms involved in Crime: Type of Firearm Recovered According to Offence” to mean a firearm used in the commission of an offence. In some cases, without completing a more detailed review of the file, it was impossible to make a definite determination; therefore, we resolved some of the questionable decisions in favour of the Department of Justice findings. We determined that our statistics showed that there were 73 firearms involved in a violent crime compared to the Department of Justice findings of 623 firearms involved in a violent crime. A further analysis of the Department of Justice statistics had not been done due to the volume of work involved. However, a cursory review of the remaining 909 cases revealed that only a very small percentage of these would meet the definition of a firearm involved in a crime.
In order to mitigate damages, the Firearms Research Unit, the Department of Justice, and Ms. Cukier were notified that the RCMP could not provide a affidavit on the accuracy of the 1993 firearms statistics presented by the Department of Justice.
At a subsequent meeting with the Firearms Research Unit staff to discuss the release of similar 1995 RCMP statistics, they presented a report entitled, “The Illegal Movement of Firearms in Canada”. This report contains the same statistics as those in Appendix “A”, however, the RCMP statistics are combined with those of other major Canadian police forces. The Firearms Research Unit representatives believed that the firearms identified in Appendix “A” had actually been used in committing a crime.
It is of particular concern that the Minister of Justice and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police relied on these statistics while Bill C-68 was being processed in Parliament as evidenced by statements in the report “Illegal Firearm Use in Canada”.
A quotation from page 2 of the report states that: “It can also been seen that rifles and shotguns were involved in 51% of violent firearm crimes, airguns were involved in 19%, and handguns were involved in 17% of violent crimes. The Firearms Smuggling Working Group was concerned with a significant number of long guns involved in crime.” This statement is not significant when we consider that in 1993, the RCMP investigated 333 actual homicide offences, including attempts, but only 6 of these offences involved the use of firearms according to the statistics provided to the Firearms Control Task Group. Furthermore, the RCMP investigated 88,162 actual violent crimes during 1993, where only 73 of these offences, or 0.08%, involved the use of firearms. If we display the RCMP 73 offences in the same manner as the Firearms Control Task Group, we would say that rifles and shotguns were involved in 79.5% of violent firearm crimes investigated by the RCMP. This is not surprising when we recognize that rifles and shotguns represent 84.4% of all firearms in Canada. The difference between 623 violent firearm crimes credited to the RCMP, compared to the actual number of 73 is significant.
The Canadian Firearms Centre (CFC) staff were unwilling to meet to confirm where the problem occurred with the interpretation of the 1993 RCMP data. Their efforts were focused on producing a report on the 1995 firearms data. The CFC offered to make comparisons between the results of their current research project and other similar research conducted in the past. This proposal was not acceptable since there was no means to validate the 1993 data, only a possibility of some comments on differences between the findings of the two years. This would leave the 1993 data in circulation. The incorrect reporting of the RCMP statistics could cause the wrong public policy or laws to be developed and cause researchers to draw erroneous conclusions. Considering that the data is clearly marked as belonging to the RCMP, we must accept ownership and responsibility for the harm the data may cause. For these reasons, something must be done to correct the data or remove it from circulation.
Since the data in our Police Information Retrieval System (PIRS) and Operational Statistics Reporting (OSR) special reports is open to interpretation, it was necessary to suspend further release of similar firearms data pending an agreement on regulating this problem.
I am, therefore, requesting your assistance to resolve this issue. In addition, you may wish to inform the Minister of Justice about this issue to ensure that she does not refer to the RCMP statistics quoted in the Department of Justice report.
In light of that letter and the seriousness of it, and since the RCMP commissioner's letter was released to us in an access to information request, we have been made aware of the fact that these misleading statistics were also introduced six times in the Alberta Court of Appeal in affidavits filed by the federal Department of Justice and interveners supporting the government's position in the provincial court challenge of Bill C-68.
Mr. Speaker, do you realize the seriousness of what is transpiring here? The RCMP's analysis of its own firearms data was never introduced in the court by the federal government. I urge you to ask them to correct this oversight before alternative legal measures are considered.
It is clear that the standing committee on justice should have the opportunity to reconsider the regulations in light of this new evidence and in the light of a letter written by a senior research officer from the Canadian Firearms Centre. It is in the Ottawa Citizen today. In this article he says the RCMP is wrong.
We need to move the following motion and the hon. member from Cypress Hills—Grasslands will be seconding this motion. The motion reads:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor: the fourth report be not now concurred in but that it be recommitted to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with instruction that they amend the same so as to recommend the deletion of the Firearms Registration Certificate Regulations.