Mr. Speaker, I have quite a bit to say and I will go through my points quite quickly.
I would like to compliment the hon. member for Fundy Royal for bringing the bill forward. While it does not meet our party's policy to repeal and replace Bill C-68, it is a step in the right direction. Consequently, our party supports the hon. member's bill.
If even one argument given by the Liberals in the speech that was just delivered before mine were true we might support it, but not one of those arguments is valid or working.
While the gun registry is likely the most costly and useless part of Bill C-68, it is hardly the most objectionable. Bill C-68 trampled fundamental property rights. Bill C-68 breached the privacy rights of at least 3.5 million Canadians without their knowledge. Bill C-68 placed in jeopardy our charter rights to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure. Bill C-68 eliminated our right to remain silent. Bill C-68 reversed the onus of proof, thereby eliminating our rights to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. It infringes on the treaty rights of aboriginal people. It intrudes unnecessarily into the exclusive constitutional jurisdiction of the provinces over property and civil rights, health, safety and education.
Those are just a few of the more objectionable contents of Bill C-68 and the reasons why the whole thing should be scrapped and why we need to sit down with the provinces and responsible firearms' owners and design a system of gun control that will be effective.
On August 29 the privacy commissioner reported a fact that should have embarrassed the government. The media should have jumped on it but they did not. Most provinces and territories have opted out of the administration of the firearms program than have opted in.
On page 11 of his report the privacy commissioner stated, and I quote:
There are 6 opt-in provinces that administer the Firearms Program themselves and 7 opt-out provinces and territories where the Federal Government administers the Program.
So much for the idea of co-operative federalism under this government.
The new B.C. government has expressed its distaste for the gun registry and just last week I heard rumours that it will seriously consider opting out of the administration of the gun registry component of Bill C-68.
If B.C. goes there would be eight provinces and territories that already have opted out. They are trying to send a message to the federal government. Here is quote to show why it must be replaced and repealed in its entirety.
On June 13, 1995, the then leader of the Reform Party stated, and I quote:
I therefore submit in conclusion that Bill C-68, if passed into law, will not be a good law. It will be a bad law, a blight on the legislative record of the government, a law that fails the three great tests of constitutionality, of effectiveness and of democratic consent of the governed. What should be the fate of a bad law? It should be repealed, which is precisely what a Reform government will do when it eventually replaces this government.
Six years later, with more than half a billion dollars wasted and a bloated bureaucracy of 1,800 people, I can say that Bill C-68 still fails the three tests of constitutionality, of effectiveness and of democratic consent of the government. I would like to give, as quickly as possible, 10 reasons why we should repeal it right now.
First, it has already cost at least one life. The Liberals defend their soon to be billion dollar boondoggle by saying that if the gun registry saves one life it will be worth it.
On March 15, 2000, a man in Nain, Newfoundland, who was prohibited from owning a firearm, went to the RCMP, picked up the rifle they had been storing for him and has been charged with killing a 15 year old boy. The aboriginal exemptions and adaptations in Bill C-68 likely forced the RCMP to give the man his murder weapon.
Second, Bill C-68 costs are at least six times higher than promised. According to access to information requests, Bill C-68 has cost more than $500 million and is not even fully implemented yet.
In 1995 the justice minister promised it would only cost $85 million. The Liberals have resorted to using cabinet secrecy to hide the gun registry budgets and economic impact reports from the public, and I still cannot get that information.
Third, Bill C-68 is opposed by the majority of provinces and territories. In 1995 the Liberals rammed Bill C-68 through parliament and down the throats of the provinces. In February 2000 six provinces and two territories challenged the constitutionality of the legislation in the supreme court.
Fourth, Bill C-68 has increased black market gun sales. The justice minister's own group on firearms warned her that Bill C-68 created so much red tape trying to regulate legal gun sales that black market gun sales were on the increase.
Fifth, Bill C-68 is opposed by frontline police officers. Every survey ever taken by the police shows that between 76% and 91% of frontline police officers oppose Bill C-68. According to police sources Bill C-68 alienates honest citizens and diminishes respect for the law. In March the president of the Canadian Police Association stated:
It bothers me that the public would not support me in my line of duty. We've never been at odds with the public before. This issue has done this.
Constable John Gayder wrote:
In fact, the Firearms Act violates every one of Peel's Principles of policing
Sixth, the gun registry is riddled with errors. The Liberals have so badly bungled the implementation of the bill that registration, licensing errors and non-compliance by millions of responsible firearms owners render the data in the gun registry unreliable and useless to police. Aboriginal people are publicly defying the licensing and registration system. The government admits that 320,000 gun owners failed to apply for a firearms licence.
RCMP Superintendent Mike Buisson, director of firearms, advised his staff that 90% of registration applications have errors. Despite this fact daily production quotas have been tripled. Verifiers have been laid off and staff directed to ignore the errors on registration applications. The firearms registry is the biggest garbage collection system in the country.
Seventh, Bill C-68 has taken police off the street. In April a briefing note to the Minister of Justice reported that there were over 1,800 employees associated with the firearms program. This included about 400 employees in RCMP operations in Ottawa.
The report to the minister did not include the hundreds of firearms officers working for provincial, regional and municipal police forces. On September 21, 1995, Ontario Solicitor General Bob Runciman told the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs:
In national terms, $85 million would put another 1,000 customs agents on the border; 500 million dollars would put an extra 5,900 police officers on the street.
After September 11, should we not be paying attention to where we should be putting our public safety law enforcement officers?
Eighth, Bill C-68 has diverted resources from real policing priorities. More than half a billion dollars wasted so far on this fatally flawed gun registry scheme could have been used for more important police priorities. The police wanted a sex offender registry or a DNA databank for all criminals. One of the Canadian police association's slogans was “Register criminals before firearms”. Is the government listening? No, it is not.
Ninth, Bill C-68 proved that registration does lead to confiscation. I will not go into the details, but it has happened. On November 15, 1997, the Montreal Gazette quoted the Deputy Prime Minister as saying:
This could be the start of a global movement that would spur development of an instrument to ban firearms worldwide similar to our land mines initiative.
In drafting a new law to replace Bill C-68 the Liberal government must understand that it is impossible to make anyone safer by laying a piece of paper beside a gun. What should we do? We should be positive and replace Bill C-68 with legislation based on fundamental principles.
It should crack down on criminals who use weapons, not responsible firearms owners. It should be easy to understand, administer and enforce the system. It should be cost effective and reduce the criminal use of firearms.
It should curtail smuggling and black market sales, not increase them like it has. It should convince the vast majority of gun owners to help the government and the police implement it. It should convince all taxpayers to share the cost because everyone benefits from improved public safety. It should be able to pass a public safety test administered by the Auditor General of Canada. It should respect the exclusive constitutional jurisdiction of the provinces and have their full support. It should respect the fundamental rights of all individuals, especially property rights.