Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-484, an act to amend the Criminal Code so that any individual who uses a firearm in the commission of certain criminal offences will receive an additional sentence of incarceration.
What is behind this legislation? The member for Saskatoon—Humboldt who introduced the bill made reference to old Bill C-68 with which there is a lot of concern particularly in the regions of Canada that a lot of innocent people who use firearms are being asked to jump through a lot of hoops unnecessarily and the criminal element is in a sense overlooked.
As we speak today thousands and thousands of people who perhaps would seldom use firearms for anything other than the occasional hunting trip or the occasional trip out to the shooting gallery or the gun club are being asked to go through a process in an effort to make our country a safer place.
I suppose one could make the argument that another way to approach it would be to say to people who use firearms to participate in some kind of criminal activity that we will come down extremely heavy on them. The misuse of a firearm is something we simply do not want to tolerate. We are not particularly concerned about people who use firearms for recreational purposes, for international competitions and so on. We are concerned about the people who misuse firearms.
My friend has introduced a private member's bill as a way to say to individuals that if they use firearms to participate in a crime the penalties, if found guilty, will be much more severe. That is how we could summarize this legislation.
It also suggests the whole issue of consecutive sentencing of 10, 20 or in some cases 25 years. If individuals are found guilty of committing a crime while carrying a firearm, whether it is a pistol, rifle, shotgun or whatever, 10 years would be added to their sentence.
This sends a signal to people that as a society we will not tolerate this behaviour. If individuals participate in criminal activity while carrying a firearm and the firearm is discharged not necessarily causing any harm but to shoot at a person or shoot to frighten or whatever, their sentence will be increased to 20 years after the time for the original offence has been served. If they happen to actually cause bodily harm the sentence will be increased by 25 years.
We could argue about whether these terms of 10, 20 or 25 years are appropriate. We are trying to send a very clear message to people that we do not appreciate their participating in criminal activities, but if they use a firearm to assist in carrying out a dastardly deed we will be particularly hard on them.
What are these offences? For greater certainty the sponsor of the bill has included a number of offences. I will name them because I think it is important. Murder is included as are manslaughter, attempted murder, assault causing bodily harm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery and extortion. All these are dastardly crimes.
As a society we have clearly said we do not tolerate robbery or kidnapping. For various reasons people participate in these activities. A whole other element is added when a firearm is carried while the crime is being conducted. This tells individuals being kidnapped or robbed that if they do not behave as the criminal wants them to, their lives will be taken. They will be maimed. They will be shot. Very serious bodily harmed will be caused. It adds another dimension to the process. It is one thing to rob a person but it is another to hold up a person with a firearm.
I like the legislation. I do not know if these are the appropriate terms. I do not know if there should be other additions to the member's list. The purpose of this debate is to move the legislation forward. If it were to move forward we would go into committee where we would hear witnesses and perhaps fine-tune the legislation. This is sort of a first draft or a first run through. For that reason I am generally in favour of the legislation.
I have tried to come to grips with the whole issue of firearm control in Canada. I know we have all been lobbied hard by representatives on both sides of the issue. I am convinced that the legislation we used to refer to as Bill C-68, the firearms control act, will not have any appreciable effect on reducing the amount of violent crime in society. It will not have much of an impact on reducing the misuse of firearms.
When we look at the deaths caused each year by firearms, very few are the result of a person actually shooting somebody. It is the result of somebody's gun going off. It is the result of a domestic dispute. It is the result of a hunting accident. We have to ask ourselves if that firearm were registered would there not still be that homicide. If you are in a domestic dispute and your firearm is registered, are you going to say that you probably should not kill that person because it is registered? You have lost control and you are probably going to misuse that firearm.
We are not talking about whether firearms should exist or not. We are talking about the whole process of Bill C-68 and the registration of firearms. Having looked at that carefully, I do not think it will be very effective.
However, will this be effective? What if we were to tell people that if they misuse a firearm while participating in a crime the penalties will be significantly increased? We would all agree that 10, 20 or 25 years in jail is a very serious penalty. I might add that is a consecutive penalty. It is added on after the first penalty. I would question whether it would act as a deterrent. I suspect it probably would. I would like to hear evidence on whether it would or would not, but I guess we will have a chance to debate that in the future.
In 1995 Statistics Canada indicated that 33% of violent crimes committed with a firearm resulted in the victim being injured. In cases involving assault and sexual assault that number rises to over 50%. We are talking about this legislation having very serious implications.
When people participate in or are involved with extortion, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and so on, it often results in bodily harm and often leads to death. It is something we have to take a lot more seriously. I would like to seek unanimous consent to have a vote on this bill.