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House of Commons Hansard #166 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firearms.

Topics

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to eight petitions

International Criminal CourtRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, it is my honour to inform the House this morning that at a special ceremony held at the United Nations headquarters in New York earlier this morning the Rome statute of the international criminal court received its 60th ratification. This means that the Rome statute will proceed to enter into force and the international criminal court will become a reality.

Today's number of ratifications demonstrates the overwhelming international public and political support for the international criminal court as a means of ending impunity for the most horrific of crimes. Today's achievement of the required 60th ratification represents the culmination of more than half a century of efforts towards the realization of a permanent International Criminal Court.

Having been signed by 139 countries and now ratified by more than 60, the international criminal court will be a truly international court. The ICC will have jurisdiction to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in instances where countries are unable or unwilling to prosecute.

The Rome statute also contains significant developments in international law for the victims of violence in times of conflict.

The Rome statute will now enter into force on July 1, 2002, notably Canada Day. I think this is most appropriate as Canada is recognized as a world leader in the creation of the international criminal court having been involved in the process from the very beginning.

Canada ratified the ICC in July 2000 and became the first country in the world to pass comprehensive legislation implementing it in the form of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

Canadians have served in key positions during the negotiations and preparation of the ICC and, through our ICC campaign, Canada has provided assistance to countries to ratify and implement their obligations under the statute.

In informing the House of this landmark event, I would like also to reaffirm Canada's continued support of the establishment of the international criminal court. Canada will continue its involvement in creating the court and providing assistance to countries to promote the widespread ratification and implementation of the Rome statute.

Today is truly a milestone for international justice. I invite all members of the House and all Canadians to join me in congratulating all those, particularly my predecessor, Lloyd Axworthy, and members of the House, like the member for Mount Royal, who have worked so hard for the international court, and to celebrate with us this historic day.

International Criminal CourtRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, we have no doubt that the ICC is well-intentioned by many and the establishment of specific tribunals to pursue and prosecute in the area of specific war crimes is also something that we know takes place in history and which we support.

However, a permanent court to try war criminals, though it sounds great, does present serious problems. Adequate accountability has not been identified. Mary Robinson, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has already accused NATO of acting illegally in the air campaign related to Kosovo. Many others share that view. Here we have a situation where Canadian soldiers should not have to fear international prosecution when they make decisions to defend Canadian national interests.

We also have comments from Philippe Kirsch, the Canadian chairman of the court's preparatory commission. Yesterday, at a briefing in New York, he admitted and agreed that after the court is established on July 1 states or political activist groups could demand prosecutions of world leaders or other individuals who they oppose politically. We have some concerns from that point of view.

The concept of war crimes against peace and even a specific quote “waging aggressive war”, these remain undefined. How can Canada agree to a treaty when these concepts are undefined?

The United States also is not part of the ICC. The U.S. did sign the treaty under the former Clinton administration but he Bush administration does not support it and the United States senate will not ratify it. That has to throw into question this whole concept.

While we agree with some of the specifics, we are very concerned about the lack of defined terms. We are concerned about the possibility, as we see in some countries, including ours from time to time, a notion that citizens have some concern with judicial activism without properly defined terms of limits. We would hate to see that develop on a global scale.

The consequential bureaucracy that would have to accompany the ICC could have a ballooning effect on a monetary basis and that could create problems as we have seen in some areas of UN administration.

For those reasons and others we share our grave concerns with the permanency of this establishment and the announcement today.

International Criminal CourtRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, in opening the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, held in Rome, Italy, from June 15 to July 17, 1998, at which the Rome statute was adopted, Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize winner, said the following:

In the prospect of an international criminal court lies the promise of universal justice...We ask you to do your part in our struggle to ensure that no ruler, no state, no junta and no army anywhere can abuse human rights with impunity. Only then will the innocents of distant wars and conflicts know that they, too, may sleep under the cover of justice; that they, too, have rights, and that those who violate those rights will be punished.

This morning, some four years later, the Rome statute criminal court received its 60th ratification, despite the opposition of a number of countries, which have concerns about their military officials.

On July 1 of this year, the international criminal court will see the light of day. It will sit at the Hague and will have jurisdiction over the worst crimes, that is war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide committed after its creation. Some see this as a weakness in the court, but we must agree that its creation is a great victory.

The independent nature of this court will put an end to the criticisms by some that the existing international courts responsible for judging those responsible for these atrocities apply the justice of the winning side. The fact that the statute calls for the national courts, with their newly acquired universal jurisdiction, to have primary responsibility for judging the authors of these crimes and for the court in the Hague to intervene only in the event of a refusal to apply the law should allay concerns that the creation of the ICC will constitute interference in our justice system.

The Bloc Quebecois enthusiastically supported Bill C-19, which implemented the Rome statute. I recall the work that was done in committee, when the bill was examined, by my colleague representing Beauharnois--Salaberry, who is no longer in the House, Daniel Turp.

We are equally enthusiastic today in greeting the news of its 60th ratification, which sets off the process for its implementation.

The United Nations was created “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. With the creation of the international criminal court, we can perhaps hope to save them from the most terrible scourges that war brings.

International Criminal CourtRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a great privilege and a great honour to take part in this debate highlighting the historic importance of the creation, at last, of the international criminal court.

It is an honour for me to participate on this historic day as the 60th country has now officially ratified the statute that would bring the international criminal court into force.

I want to pay tribute today to those many individuals and groups who have made this possible. I think it was an outstanding partnership between civil society and many NGOs, both here in Canada and internationally, including the dedicated officials in Canada's foreign affairs department who worked long and hard to make this statute a reality.

I would also like to particularly underline the contribution of ambassador Philippe Kirsch who did such an outstanding job, particularly in Rome in 1998 at the key conference at which the statute was adopted.

Finally, I would like to commend parliamentarians as well.

My colleague, the member for Mercier, mentioned the contribution of parliamentarians from all parties. I share her thoughts on the contributions of Daniel Turp, who is no longer here, of our colleague from the riding of Mount Royal, who has worked very hard on this, and of his predecessor, Sheila Finestone, who also did so much to ensure that this court would become a reality.

I also want to commend the work of the former minister, Lloyd Axworthy, and the current minister in his capacity as chair of the foreign affairs committee who worked very hard to make this day possible.

We are sending out a very important message as a community of nations that there will be no impunity and no safe hiding place for those who are accused of war crimes, of genocide or crimes against humanity. They must now know that they can no longer hide behind the concept of state sovereignty. We saw an early signal that the world is changing with respect to Augusto Pinochet's responsibility. If I have any regrets about this, it is that this court will not have jurisdiction over the war crimes committed by Augusto Pinochet. That is a tragedy which we cannot deal with at this point but I hope the Chilean courts will deal with that.

In conclusion, I want to voice my sadness and regret that the United States has not yet signed this landmark treaty and is threatening to withdraw its signature to the treaty. Even worse than that, the republican administration, under president George Bush, is supporting legislation that would threaten to cut off American aid to those countries which have not yet ratified the international criminal court if they ratify. I would hope that members in this House would vigorously and strongly reject this kind of blackmail.

The fact that this court will be in place will give us an opportunity to provide for an alternative to war. I had deeply hoped this court would have been in effect to ensure that instead of going to war in Afghanistan, we would have been able to try as crimes against humanity the perpetrators of those terrible crimes that took place on September 11.

Other crimes are unfolding before our eyes, war crimes in the occupied territories and elsewhere, but certainly today is a day that we celebrate this historic accomplishment. We encourage all other countries to join in signing and ratifying this important and much needed statute for an international criminal court.

International Criminal CourtRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, on behalf of my colleagues in the Progressive Conservative Party, I want to express our tremendous support and our accolades for the many individuals, countries and organizations that have helped bring this very significant day about.

The international criminal court is something that has been contemplated now for many years and Canada has played a significant role. I personally had the opportunity to attend the UN conference and meet a number of Canadians who had worked extremely hard to establish this court. Individuals, like Madam Justice Louise Arbour, have continually made a mark internationally as Canadian judiciary and Canadian individuals. In the case of Justice Arbour, she has worked as a prosecutor of war crimes and of crimes against humanity,

Canada has had its say and continues to have its oars in the water on such issues. We are uniquely positioned. We have an opportunity to assert ourselves as a nation internationally to bring about the type of world that we all envision.

This is certainly a day of pride and a day of accomplishment. As was previously mentioned, this has great support internationally. There is hope that member countries will expand and that other countries will embrace this initiative.

Members of the House of Commons should applaud and laud the individuals who were able to bring this about. Countries like Rwanda, Bosnia and, sadly, the wartorn Middle East, continue to shock the world with horrible images of crimes against humanity.

Today in the House we should show solidarity. This is certainly a day of non-partisanship, a day in which there has been a huge accomplishment and a huge step forward to a world in which individuals can live free of oppression. When horrific things occur there is now a forum, a place in which individuals can go to seek justice to see that those who refuse to abide by the laws of humanity which bind us all are brought to some form of justice.

This day should not be the end or the fruition of a simple accomplishment. It should be the beginning of a process that will continue to expand and embrace other countries in this regard.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 11th, 2002 / 10:20 a.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition which was signed by hundreds of residents of British Columbia, including many constituents from my constituency of Burnaby--Douglas, on the subject of the proposed free trade area of the Americas.

The petitioners voice their concern about the secret negotiations that have been conducted on the proposed FTAA. They note that the FTAA would expand the NAFTA to the entire hemisphere, and they raise concerns about that. They point out that the proposed FTAA would block the ability of governments to create and maintain laws, standards and regulations to provide universal public education and health care, to protect the safety and well-being of their citizens and the environment, and they raise other concerns as well.

They therefore request that parliament, among other things, reject any trade deals including the proposed FTAA that would propose NAFTA-style provisions which would put the rights of corporations and investors ahead of the rights of citizens and governments.

Finally, they urge that we adopt a new approach to globalization that places social, economic and ecological justice above the profits of multinational corporations and establish an alternative rules-based system that promotes and protects the rights of workers and the environment, respects cultural diversity and ensures the ability of governments to act in the public interest.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, Question No. 122 will be answered today.

Question No. 122—Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Can the Department of Natural Resources provide: ( a ) the number of commercial woodlot owners by province; ( b ) the number of private woodlot owners by province; ( c ) the total acreage owned by each group; and ( d ) the amount of revenue the federal government receives from capital gains taxation of commercial woodlot owners?

Question No. 122—Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Vancouver South—Burnaby B.C.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

(a) Whether a woodlot owner is considered commercial or non-commercial is determined by the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency, CCRA, on a continuing basis. To help in its determination the CCRA uses the interpretation bulletin IT373R2.

While Natural Resources Canada, through the state of the forest report, does report on the amount of private forest land in each province, it does not distinguish between commercial and non-commercial woodlot owners. However, data is available for the estimated number of woodlot owners by province

b)

1

The number of owners for most provinces are estimates based on estimates by provincial forestry agencies, the Canadian Federation of Woodlot Owners as well as management plan figures and past surveys.

2

One hectare equals 10,000 square metres, or 2.471 acres.

(c) See table above.

(d) That amount is not available. However, as indicated in the 2001 federal budget, facilitating the inter-generational rollovers of commercial woodlot operations that are farming businesses will reduce federal revenues by an estimated $10 million annually.

NOTE: While the questions posed relate to woodlots per se, the questions deal with tax law, policy and revenue, and would be more appropriately addressed by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and the Department of Finance.

Question No. 122—Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 122—Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Question No. 122—Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 122—Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I wish to inform the House that, because of the ministerial statement, government orders will be extended by 14 minutes.

The House resumed from April 10 consideration of the motion that Bill C-15B, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, we have before us today Bill C-15B which has been divided into two parts. As a former member of the justice committee Madam Speaker, you would know that this bill has been a long time coming to fruition.

This is a piece of legislation dealing with a section of the criminal code going back over 100 years. I am quick to add that the legislation is very much needed. It deals with a very serious issue that horrifies Canadians. They recoil in horror at some of the images they have seen of the abuse of animals. In the criminal courts and through the media we have seen cases that involve horrific cruelty toward all types of animals.

The sad reality is that psychologists and those who have studied human behaviour have come to the real conclusion that individuals, particularly young people who engage in the abuse of animals, very often go on to display a similar type of violence and aggression toward human beings. There is a real connection to that type of disturbed anti-social behaviour. There is a need to recognize the significance and the motivation of that and the importance of having stricter guidelines that curtail and hopefully dissuade individuals from engaging in activity and aggression toward animals.

A number of cases have been brought to people's attention concerning the consequences of abusive acts toward animals. Yet it is fair to say that we have seen a rather lacklustre response on the part of the courts for any number of reasons. The punishment does not seem to fit the crime, and that has been the trend. Many have pointed to the need to amend the criminal code and that is very much in part what we have before us today. The bill is a legislative attempt to address the inadequacies of the current law as it pertains to animals.

The Progressive Conservative Party wholeheartedly embraces the spirit and intent of the bill. Its intent is clear. It is meant to up the ante. It is meant to bring about the ability of judges and the judiciary to expand the range of sentences meted out by them as a result of an individual being convicted of cruelty toward animals. Along with that, coupled within sections in Bill C-15B, is the ability for a judge to prohibit an individual from owning animals for up to a lifetime when that individual has been convicted of serious violence toward animals.

By violence, we have to refer to the definition. It speaks of: wilfully or recklessly or without regard for the consequences of their act; committing an act of violence which causes unnecessary pain or suffering or injury; kills an animal brutally or viciously without unlawful excuse; poisons or allows an animal to be poisoned; engages in the fighting or harassing of animals for money or trains an animal to fight other animals; takes part in cock fights; takes part in any manner in an exhibition in which captive animals are liberated for the purpose of being shot at the moment they are liberated; and is the owner of any premise and permits the premises to be used in the course of one of the above activities.

It is necessary to spell out some of these activities because we know there have been numerous examples, as I mentioned earlier, of mistreatment of animals. Some of that mistreatment is merely in the neglect and the conditions under which those animals may be kept.

The duty of care that should be imposed and the expectation and the position of trust that animal owners find themselves is not unlike that of the expectation that people should have for the standard of care for children. Animals are unable in many instances to fend for themselves and are reliant upon their owners or keepers. For example, an animal in a game sanctuary needs care, attention and relies on individuals for food.

One case is near and dear to my heart and that involves Sable Island ponies that are fed hay by the government. Circus animals is another example where many individuals have expressed taking animals out of the wild and bringing them into captivity. That is not to say that many organizations and many circuses do not treat their animals very well.

However then there is also the argument about the psychological ills that may come to animals that are taken out of the wild and brought into captivity. For example, we have seen cases involving whales in Vancouver that have captured the attention of many.

There are numerous examples and numerous organizations, most obviously the SPCA, that go to great lengths to ensure that animals are treated with kindness, care, love and affection. We certainly count ourselves in the Progressive Conservative Party with those who want to protect animals and want to ensure that we have strict guidelines as to how animals are treated and how animals are cared for; on the flip side of that equation how those who transgress against the rules of fair treatment are responded to in a fair and firm way.

Yet we in the Progressive Conservative Party have real concerns about the wording. As is very often the case, the devil is in the detail. The legislation accomplishes those laudable goals of permitting the courts to respond in a more heavy-handed way in meting out punishment that embraces those long standing principles of general and specific deterrents. General deterrents for the public often involves making an example of an individual who chooses to display aggression and cruelty toward animals.

However this legislation takes the issue of animals, which have been defined as property in the criminal code, and creates an entirely new section which opens up a huge chasm for abuse of prosecution of individuals who engage in what I would consider very legitimate acts toward animals in the use of animals in a business sense, whether it be in farming, animal husbandry of any sort, fishing and furriers who very often keep animals for that purpose. Although many might find that offensive, what I fear is, as we have seen in many issues that come before the House, there is a real division in the way Canadians view this in rural and urban Canada.

We cannot deny the fact that we have a frontier pioneer background in this country. There are many individuals who grew up on farms in a rural setting and relied on animals for food, for transportation and for their very existence. To that end however, there is a sad reality that that use in the eyes of those who may be sheltered, who may live in a more urban setting and do not believe that animals should be consumed for any purpose or used in any way that might be deemed as different than the way we would treat another human being is not the case.

I fear that this proposed law brings into question some of those practices that have long been exercised in this country and from which some people shy away. They may not like to talk about it, but I am speaking about castration of animals, dehorning animals, butchering of animals and the way some animals are kept. There is a very subjective line that exists in the way in which those exercises are practised. Surely there is a standard of care that has to be applied but by removing animals from the property section there is a real potential for danger in opening up prosecutions which are unfair, unwieldy, will result in lengthy court cases and will result, in a business sense, in putting individuals who rely upon animals for their very existence at risk.

We can all agree that the litigation route when it is chosen, whether it be in a criminal sense or civil litigation or a family matter, results in lengthy and costly delay. It is the exception sadly, not the rule, where a case proceeds quickly through the courts and is settled in a fashion that is advantageous and acceptable to any party. When people come into conflict and it gets to the point where it goes to court, there is a cost to be paid regardless of the outcome.

Many who rely on animals in this day and age, particularly in the agriculture sector, do not have the time nor the money to engage in the protracted legal hearings that would be encouraged as a result of the changes envisioned in the act.

As we have seen time and again when legislation is presented before the House, the government chooses to bring forward cumbersome bills called omnibus bills which mix issues. Bill C-15B in its present form has been separated from a larger bill that contained no less than seven subject matters. However much to our dismay it still contains changes to the firearms regulation.

I will speak only momentarily to the Firearms Act because it is clear and on the record where the Progressive Conservative Party stands. The Firearms Act was sold to the Canadian people as a way to help enhance policing and public safety. That is nonsense. The act was supposed to cost $85 million. It has ballooned to almost $800 million. The money should be spent on frontline policing on a priority basis where it could be utilized in a significant way to protect the public.

The cumbersome, unenforceable, protracted legislation involving firearms will not work because it is based on the premise of voluntary participation. I will say it again: The Hells Angels are not lining up kiosks at the mall to register their illegal guns. It will not happen.

All the effort, public spin and costs associated with publicizing the government's effort have been a complete and utter sham. My hon. friend from Yorkton--Melville has put great efforts into educating the public about the other side of the coin, which I would call the truth, about the real effects of long gun registry.

No one is against gun control. There is not one member of parliament or law-abiding Canadian who is against gun control. Gun control means safe storage, locks, and knowing that individuals who handle guns are trained and competent to do so.

Those who use guns for criminal purposes will not voluntarily provide information about their weapons of choice. It is like suggesting criminals will voluntarily give fingerprints and DNA samples before they go out and commit crimes. They will not do it. It is a completely false premise upon which gun registry has been sold and presented by the Liberal government to the Canadian public.

These two incongruous pieces of legislation have been presented to the House of Commons with one purpose in mind: to force parties like the Progressive Conservative Party and others to vote against bills they support in part because they strongly oppose other elements of them. That is sad. It is playing politics at its worst. It divides intelligent and informed debate. It puts individuals in an uncomfortable position.

The previous bill had elements of protection for children that would help police track those who present pornography on the Internet. Luckily, and to everyone's benefit, the bill was divided. It will be back before the House potentially this week. We will be speaking in support of the bill which also includes stronger penalties for those who stalk and criminally harass individuals. Senator Oliver in the other place did tremendous work in bringing that issue to the floor of the House and to the other place.

We in our party support Bill C-15B in its spirit and intent. Yet while legislation is necessary to prevent needless cruelty toward animals the traditional practices of hunting, fishing and farming do not fit into the category of intentional and mean-spirited violence.

There is a blurring of lines when legislation takes animals out of the property section. This may seem somewhat harsh to some Canadians but I believe animals benefit by being seen as property. Regarding animals as the property of either individuals or the state benefits the animals by enabling and obliging someone or some entity, be it the government or an organization, to care for them when needed.

It is important that animal cruelty legislation clearly define and target those who engage in brutal actions against animals, just as it is important for gun control legislation to target individuals who cause harm by perpetrating crimes against animals or society involving firearms. Let us make that the focal point. Let us bring about legislation that will bring in harsher penalties, greater lengths of probation, and treatment to deter individuals. That is where our efforts should be expended.

When one considers the genuine need for clear and progressive legislation in the area it is the government that is being negligent by bringing forward Bill C-15B and stubbornly refusing to listen to stakeholders. It is one thing to have a committee that gives stakeholders such as farmers, fishermen and individuals who work daily with animals a hearing and an opportunity to come forward and speak. It is another thing altogether to listen to them and produce legislation that encapsulates and speaks to their concerns. It is obvious Bill C-15B has not given proper consideration to those who would be most affected by it: the law-abiding individuals who care for animals and do their utmost to ensure they are protected.

In the final analysis Bill C-15B would give judges the ability to mete out greater sentences and come down hard on those who are convicted. Many will argue that taking animals out of the property section would allow for more private prosecutions and allow prosecutions to proceed without the animals' owners. However that can already happen.

The shortcomings of the current legislation are reflected in the fact that there are scarce resources for police today. This can be tied back into the priority spending of firearms registration. Some $800 million is going into a registration scheme that is doomed to fail and will collapse under its own cumbersome and unenforceable weight.

Prosecutors and police officers must make priority decisions every day. They currently have the ability to proceed in cases where dogs are dragged behind cars. Puppy mills are still operating in Canada. I brought forward a private member's bill I hope will bring attention to the issue and result in legislation.

It is imperative that we bring in laws that focus the efforts of prosecutors, police and the courts on the perpetrators who cause the harm, not on innocent bystanders in whose interest it is to protect animals and see to their health, safety and well-being.

I am left with a great deal of frustration when I see the bill proceeding in its current form. It would be reckless to pass it in its current form. Sadly, even though we support the elements that would increase fines, periods of incarceration and bans on ownership of animals we cannot stand in support of Bill C-15. Although its intentions are noble and it contains elements we support, too much harm could result in the community, in rural Canada and in industries that rely on interaction with animals for their livelihoods.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I have four issues I would like my hon. colleague to comment on in relation to the amendments to the firearms section.

Most people looking at Bill C-15B have been debating the cruelty to animals section. However the public and many people who have not read the bill do not realize that the great bulk of it consists of amendments to the Firearms Act. I will raise four concerns. First, Bill C-15B would give the minister the power to exempt non-residents from the Firearms Act. The regulations and 14 sections of the Criminal Code of Canada would be involved.

Why does the justice minister trust foreigners with firearms more than he does Canadian citizens? Does section 15 of the charter not guarantee everyone the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law? I have raised the issue before and not once has the government given me an answer.

Second, the bill would remove all the RCMP's authority for the firearms registration system it has been responsible for since 1934. While the bill would assure the current RCMP registrar continued in his current position he would do so only until a new registrar was appointed. All the authority previously granted under the law to the RCMP would be transferred to a new government agency under the control of a new bureaucrat called the Canadian firearms commissioner.

If the RCMP bureaucracy cannot make the gun registry work after 68 years of experience how would a new bureaucracy do it any better? Removing the RCMP from the administration would likely further erode public and police confidence in the gun registry. As I explained yesterday during the late show, the system is so riddled with errors it is of absolutely no value to police officers in their day to day law enforcement functions.

Third, for years judges have complained that the firearms legislation is so poorly drafted it is unenforceable. As a former crown prosecutor I am sure my hon. colleague has concerns in this area. Many of the amendments would make it more confusing. I will give the House an example that would challenge any police officer, chief firearms officer or provincial attorney general. The government should have used plain English rather than this legal gobbledegook. This section of the bill illustrates what I am talking about. It states:

Section 2 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (2):

(2.1) Sections 5, 9, 54 to 58, 67, 68 and 70 to 72 apply in respect of a carrier as if each reference in those sections to a chief firearms officer were a reference to the Registrar and for the purposes of applying section 6 in respect of a carrier, paragraph 113(3)(b) of the Criminal Code applies as if the reference in that section to a chief firearms officer were a reference to the Registrar.

I am raising this quickly because I do not have much time. People who studied and pored over that paragraph for two hours have said they cannot figure it out. How is a police officer supposed to charge anyone under such legislation?

Fourth, the amendments would transfer to provincial ministers the power to exempt employees and businesses from the Firearms Act and Part III of the criminal code. This would have the effect of creating 10 different ways of implementing the legislation. We need one law to apply equally to everyone. This section would completely undermine that.

Could my hon. colleague to comment on this? Section 15 of the charter guarantees everyone will be treated equally. How would that be possible with legislation that is applied 10 different ways?

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, that was quite a speech. I thank my colleague for his questions and I would say that four relates to one and two relates to three in the way he has poised them.

The issue of the complexity of the bill is undeniable. It is reminiscent of the new Youth Criminal Justice Act. It is also reminiscent of the Income Tax Act. Judges and others working in the courts, including crown, defence and police, will have an incredible challenge before them in trying to sort it out.

I think that in drafting legislation one of the guiding principles of the Department of Justice, which was called the world's worst law firm by the previous minister, really should be try to strip away some of the complexity and make law that is based more on common sense and is more understandable for the general public.

The bill, as the hon. member knows, was the brain eruption of the justice minister of two terms ago, who has the reverse Midas touch. Everything he seems to touch turns to something other than gold. I know that my friends from Manitoba, from Dauphin--Swan River, Brandon and rural parts of their province of Manitoba, understand that Canadians want enforceable legislation, bills that work to protect the public, not to target law-abiding citizens, which is what the Firearms Act does.

In the Progressive Conservative Party, we cannot support any legislation brought forward to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic of a bill that will crash, that will ultimately falter and sink. We need a bill that targets criminal activity. This legislation is not a bill that I could describe in that fashion. Sadly, it is legislation that does not accomplish its goals. It is legislation that creates problems rather than addresses problems.

My friend spoke of the removal of the RCMP element, in essence, the privatization of the legislation, which endangers Canadians' private information. If the information fell into the wrong hands, it would tell persons who wished to access illegal guns where to find them or it would tell individuals who rely on a weapon for protection that the person may or may not have a gun.

The other part he touched on, which is very relevant, is that the frontline police officers will not trust the accuracy of the information. They cannot rely on it. If they receive a call to go to a domestic or other incident, they cannot trust that the information contained in the computer is accurate. Therefore they have to attend every call assuming that there might be a weapon in play, not assuming that there is not because the person has not registered.

To suggest that in regard to having a laser sticker or some instrument of a number recorded and placed into a computer data system, it will save lives, prevent crimes or even improve tracking if the information is not 100% accurate is a fallacy. It is a complete falling down, a complete abdication, on the part of the government in presenting a bill that is so costly. I am privileged to be surrounded by individuals from Manitoba and St. John's, Newfoundland who I think share that same sentiment. This is a bill that will not work. Any effort in Bill C-15B to improve the legislation is similarly doomed.

I hope I have addressed the questions that my friend raised. I agree with him. We in the Progressive Conservative Party do not support the registry system, which has been presented, I would suggest, in a very misleading way. The traducers who came up with the bill clearly did so for reasons that were best described as political rather than practical. The only way that this firearms legislation will ever disappear from the landscape in the country is when the government is voted out of office. That is the sad reality.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address some of the issues I raised in the question to my hon. colleague.

We have here in Bill C-15B more than 20 pages and more than 60 clauses of firearms amendments. That to me is a clear admission by the government that Bill C-68, the original bill, was a complete failure. In fact, most of the debate on this bill has been focused on the cruelty to animals section, yet the bulk of the bill is amendments to the Firearms Act.

On September 22, 1998, while tens of thousands of responsible firearms owners rallied peacefully on Parliament Hill to express their outrage over Bill C-68, the justice minister told a news conference that the debate was over. If the debate was over as she claimed in 1998, why did the minister bring in pages and pages of amendments to the legislation in 2001? If the debate was over back then, why is parliament now debating the son of Bill C-68? After six years, the waste of more than $700 million, and massive non-compliance, the government has admitted that at least 320,000 gun owners failed to apply for a firearms licence. The government has finally admitted that it made at least 24 pages of mistakes by using closure on two occasions to ram Bill C-68 through the House in 1995.

The insurmountable problems with the gun registry will not be solved by the band-aid amendments proposed here. The only cost effective solution is to scrap the gun registry altogether and replace it with something that will work, and when we form the government that is what we will do. We need to replace this law with a law that has the full support of the ten provinces and the three territories, the full support of the firearms community and the full support of the aboriginal community.

Six provinces and two territories opposed Bill C-68 in a constitutional challenge that went all the way to the supreme court. Now eight provinces and territories have opted out of all or part of the administration of the Firearms Act. This is criminal code enforcement, which they do not want to have anything to do with. The territory of Nunavut launched its own constitutional challenge in the summer of 2000. Now we have the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations launching a constitutional challenge. The Assembly of First Nations is so frustrated with the broken promises of the justice minister it is now considering joining the FSIN court challenge.

Some of the amendments are an improvement, but are too little, too late, to win the support of our party or the firearms community. In the next election we will be calling for the repeal and replacement of Bill C-68.

Before getting into any comments on the proposed amendments to Bill C-15B, I need to correct the misleading statistics presented in the House yesterday by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. He claimed that the gun registry is somehow going to improve the fact that women are being killed with rifles and shotguns. The parliamentary secretary failed to explain how registering rifles and shotguns is going to stop these firearms from being used for criminal purposes. We have never received an answer to that although we have been asking for six years.

An article in the Toronto Sun on Tuesday of this week proves just how useless the 68 year old handgun registry has been in preventing the criminal use of handguns. It states:

Police found an arsenal and a stash of drugs after raiding the home of a man captured breaking into his former common-law wife's house with a loaded gun. The man faces more than three dozen charges after he was arrested with a .380 calibre handgun at his estranged spouse's Bathurst St. and Eglinton Ave. home late Saturday night. Police said he subjected the woman to 11 years of terror. She and the couple's two children are now in hiding. In a search of the man's Brampton home Sunday, police seized five loaded firearms, including a Tec-9 machine pistol. He was under a life-time ban preventing him from owning firearms.

Obviously the Minister of Justice and his parliamentary secretary should be more interested in directing the scarce police resources that are in place to make sure that firearms are removed from the hands of the 70,000 people who have been prohibited from owning guns.

What are we doing instead? We are shuffling paper in the back room somewhere. What a waste of resources.

The Minister of Justice claimed that the registry was working well because the department had refused and revoked more than 4,000 firearms licences, making a huge leap of logic that revoking a firearms licence somehow prevents people from acquiring guns. It does not. As the Toronto Sun article that I just quoted proves, this type of Liberal thinking is fatal, flawed, because when it comes to protecting lives gun registration is useless.

If the Liberals are really serious about protecting the lives of women living in violent domestic situations, we need more police to vigorously enforce restraining orders and prohibition orders. The fact is that while the justice minister and his minions are droning on about the 4,000 firearms licences they have refused and revoked, the truth is they did not even follow up on these licence revocations to ensure that the guns were removed from people they determined to be potentially dangerous. All of a sudden we do not have enough resources to enforce that part of the law. How did revoking these firearm licences help if they did not direct the police to these very people to take away their firearms? How did revoking these firearms licences help? If there are not enough police checking to see if these people have acquired firearms legally, it is a waste of our resources.

The fact is that the totally useless, fatally flawed gun registry is burning up more than $100 million a year, which the police really need in their fight against violent crime, including removing firearms from really dangerous people, from criminals. Every year Statistics Canada publishes homicide and robbery statistics that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that as a policy gun registration does not work.

Here are some of the more revealing facts from Statistics Canada in its report, Homicide In Canada, 2000 . I will quote from page 7 of the report:

Of the 542 homicides in Canada in 2000, stabbing, beating and strangulation accounted for 58% and firearms for 34%.

Obviously violent individuals are the problem and registering a person's firearms does not prevent someone from killing another person.

Second, I would like to draw out of that report this statement, and I will remind members that the law has required all handguns to be registered since 1934:

Of the 183 firearms homicides in 2000, 58% were committed with handguns, 8% were committed with firearms that are completely prohibited, [such as sawed off rifles or shotguns and fully automatic weapons] and 31% were committed with a rifle or shotgun.

Obviously 67 years of registering handguns demonstrates that registration is fatally flawed as a way of preventing the criminal use of firearms.

The statistical evidence also indicates that the total banning of guns does not work any better if the government does not allocate police resources to enforce the firearms prohibitions.

The third thing I would like to draw out of the Statistics Canada report is this:

Despite 67 years of mandatory handgun registration, the use of handguns in firearms homicides has been steadily increasing since 1974, from 26.9% to 58.5% in 2000. Conversely, firearms homicides with rifles and shotguns that weren't registered dropped steadily over the same 27-year period, from 63.6% to 30.6%.

Without registration they dropped from 63.6% to 30.6%. It makes a sane person wonder why the Liberals would employ 1,800 staff and waste more than $680 million trying to register millions of rifles and shotguns when it will do nothing to make our lives safer.

The fourth thing I would like to draw from the government's own statistics is this:

Of 110 handgun homicides committed between 1997 and 2000, 69% of the handguns were not registered.

We have had the law since 1934 and yet people have not complied with it. Does the failure of the gun registry as an effective government policy get any more obvious than that? That one statistic alone should make us scrap the entire registry.

The report also stated:

In 2000, 67% of persons accused of homicide had a Canadian criminal record, and 69% of these had previously been convicted of violent crimes. At the same time, 52% of homicide victims also had a criminal record.

Obviously the Liberals hit the wrong target by requiring completely innocent farmers, hunters and recreational shooters to register their firearms. Obviously criminals are the real targets not duck hunters. The government had a choice six years ago and it made the wrong one. On September 21, 1995, Ontario Solicitor General Bob Runciman told the Senate standing committee:

In national terms, $85 million would put another 1,000 customs agents on the border; $500 million would put an extra 5,900 police officers on the street. The federal alternative is to use the money to register every shotgun and bolt-action .22 in Canada. No great brilliance is required to figure out which would have a greater impact on crime.

The September 11 terrorist attacks have shown us what a real security threat is. With few exceptions everyone in Canada knows that the threat is not 3 million completely innocent firearms owners.

I have a lot more material I could present but I would also like to talk a little about the cruelty to animals amendments in the criminal code because there are a lot of people in my province who are very concerned about this.

I come from a riding that is heavily involved in agriculture. Bill C-15B is a threat to that very industry. The amendments made after report stage have not addressed the fears and worries of farmers and ranchers across Canada. Instead of working toward the original goal of increasing penalties to those who abuse animals the government has put the livelihood of thousands of agriculture producers in danger.

Currently animals are classified as property under the criminal code. This designation is the fundamental principle of Canada's agriculture industry. The ownership of animals and the farmer's legal right to use animals to produce food comes from his or her right to own animals. Moving animals from the property area of the criminal code and creating their own area would cause farmers and ranchers to be under an unfair risk of prosecution.

This would be to the great joy of animal rights activists who want to test this law in the courts, and we have quotations to that, because it would have to make the farmer reconcile his or her right to own animals under the new status of animals under the criminal code.

I have spoken about the right to own animals as property. There is a good reason for that. Under our current constitution Canadians do not have the entrenched right to own property. Our democracy and economic system are based on the fundamental right that each person has the right to own and enjoy his or her own property. It seems that the government has forgotten the connection between property rights and economic freedom, between property rights and prosperity.

In communist Russia property rights were under the control of the state which led to no economic freedom for the individual. We cannot function in a market economy without the right for each individual to own property.

Animal rights activists who have hijacked the agenda of the bill want to use the bill's provision to violate the rights of a farmer to earn a living and to own property.

Farmers and ranchers would not be afraid of the bill if they knew that they had some recourse to defend themselves against malicious prosecution. If our charter of rights were to say that every Canadian had the right to own and enjoy property most farmers, and that would include myself, would not be worried about the implication of the bill.

The government and the former justice minister were confused on the aspect of animal welfare and animal rights. Instead of working toward tougher penalties for those who abuse and neglect animals and working toward the better treatment of animals the minister has worded a bill that would give more rights to animals in Canadian law than it does an unborn child.

The government has created a definition of an animal that is so broad that any living creature that has a backbone would be subject to this law. Yet at the same time the Government of Canada does not recognize the rights of an unborn child. What a twisted and demented conscience we have on the other side of the House.

There are other concerns that I have with the bill. Since it was introduced the Canadian Alliance has asked that the government put in a clause that would protect the traditional farming practices that are done on farms and ranches. People who care and are genuinely concerned in the welfare of their animals do these practices. They have been passed down from generations of ranchers and farmers. Why should we let someone who does not understand this practice deem it to be illegal?

I am not against handing out stiffer penalties to those who abuse and neglect animals. I am against creating a piece of legislation to appease a small group of people. The legislation does that. It appeases the animal rights groups by giving them a law that they can test in the courts and push the boundaries of what can and cannot be done to animals. That should not be decided in the court of law. It should be decided here in the House of Commons.

Our job is to create clear, concise legislation that leaves no room for interpretation. Bill C-15B would do the exact opposite. It would allow animal rights groups to use it as part of a hidden agenda to eliminate the fur trade, ranching and hunting. That is a huge concern.

A letter from Liz White, director of the Animal Alliance of Canada, best illustrates this hidden agenda. She writes:

My worry is that people think this is the means to the end, but this is just the beginning. It doesn’t matter what the legislation says if no one uses it, if no one takes it to court, if nobody tests it. The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and the conviction to lay charges. That’s what this is all about. Make no mistake about it.

Do we need any other evidence that they will use the vagueness of this law? They will use the provisions in this law to go after farmers, ranchers and those who use animals in a legitimate fashion.

We in the House have allowed a piece of legislation that has a blatant hidden agenda to make its way to third reading. I am sickened to see that the government did not consider our amendments in report stage. The bill would only punish those who need animals to earn a living. It would strip farmers and ranchers of a fundamental civil liberty, the right to own property. The government would do all this just to satisfy the animal rights groups while not addressing the issue of animal welfare.

We had an opportunity to create a piece of legislation that would punish those who abuse and neglect animals. We could have had the means to shut down the puppy mill owners and punish those who knowingly neglect their animals. Animal rights groups have used this legislation to turn the sights on the very people who care about their animals.

Farmers and ranchers do not trust the legislation. They do not trust the former justice minister and they do not trust the current justice minister. If the bill were to pass I fear that honest hard-working Canadians would be charged and put in jail for the simple act of trying to make a living. The government has created a monster and in the future we would see that most clearly.

I would like to make a few comments about the firearms section of the act. I have already mentioned some of the problems in my previous question to my hon. Conservative colleague.

The bill would give any designated firearms officer any of the duties and functions of a chief firearms officer. In other words the Firearms Act would give the CFO a considerable amount of power, even some of the powers of the provincial minister. The CFO in New Brunswick has designated a private eye as a firearms officer. Do Canadians really want private eyes running around with all the power of a CFO to investigate and harass law-abiding citizens? How will we know if the private eyes are using their powers as firearms officers to investigate people for their other clients and their own personal gain?

The bill would amend the definition of a firearm in an attempt to ensure that millions of air guns or pellet rifles would no longer be considered firearms under the law. The wording is confusing and the new definition may not have achieved that objective. Some legal interpretations say paintball markers would now become firearms if the amendment is passed into law. Is that not unbelievable? A number of lawyers, including some who work for parliament, have already offered different legal opinions on changes needed to make this section consistent with the government's stated intentions.

The standing committee needs to receive the testimony from firearms experts, forensic scientists and legislative drafting experts to determine what this new definition really means before it becomes the law of the land.

In 1995 the justice minister ignored the 250 amendments proposed by the Reform Party and it ignored many of the substantive amendments proposed by the Liberal dominated committee. Why after five years and $700 million does the government not admit its mistakes?

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, does the hon. member support the amendments addressing subsection 12(6) dealing with handguns?

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I have not argued that some of these amendments are an improvement to the original bill. I have argued that because of the complexity of the legislation and the way it is so poorly drafted it would do nothing to remove firearms from those who really should be targeted. We are diverting resources, through the subsection that was just referred to, from police into a bureaucracy that would do nothing to control the illegal use of firearms.

The onus is on the government to demonstrate that this subsection, and any of the other 20 pages of amendments, in some way would improve public safety and the quality of life in Canada. I maintain that it would do the opposite. It has created a huge bureaucracy which now employs 1,800 people. That bureaucracy is taking resources away from where it would do the most good, that is, to put police on the street.

We could put 7,000 or 8,000 more police on the street to go after the real criminal element in this country. We could have our spy agencies trying to find the real terrorists in this world rather than sitting behind desks shuffling pieces of paper and laying a piece of paper beside every gun in this country.

There has never been one demonstration of how laying a piece of paper beside a gun in any way affects how that gun is being used. We have had safe storage laws for years. We have had the requirement to take safety courses and all kinds of courses on the proper use of a firearm for 20 some years.

It is obvious to Canadians that if we were to enforce the law that we already have, do the proper background checks and make sure that only those people who should have firearms have them in this country, we would be much better off than trying to create a huge registry which has no measurable benefit. In fact, it has the opposite effect because it diverts resources from the police to other areas.

In answer to my colleague's question the amendments given here may in some small way improve the original errors in Bill C-68. We proposed many amendments previously, but it in no way addresses the fundamental flaw with Bill C-68. That fundamental flaw is that it does not improve public safety. It does not put resources where they are best spent in this country; that is, to put more police on the street, to secure our borders and ensure that firearms are used in the proper way.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, it is not my nature to be a madman. I do not think I have ever demonstrated in the House that I was mad, but I want to say that I am thoroughly disappointed and disillusioned. The piece of legislation before us is totally disgusting, particularly for the people it will affect the most. Is it not strange that in drafting the legislation, the people all across Canada who should have been contacted were not contacted.

We have heard ministers of the crown and other members say that nothing will change, that the legislation will not change anything being practised now. I wish they had said “Read my lips”. There was another statement that everything that is legal now will be legal after the bill passes. Again, they should have said “Read my lips”.

Canadians affected do not believe the government for one minute. I am challenging the government to put those two statements in proper words in the bill. Do government members have the courage to put in the bill what they said on the floor of the House? That is the question. When they do, they should write letters explaining what they have done to Canadians for Medical Progress, Inc. Write a letter to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, because it does not believe them. Write a letter to Keystone Agricultural Producers of Manitoba, because it does not believe the government. Write a letter to the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association. They do not believe the government. Write a letter to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture because those statements are not sufficient for it either. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association does not trust the government. The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Inc. also does not believe the words that were spoken.

The Liberals should have the courage to put into the bill the very same sentiments that were stated earlier in the House. “Read my lips” is not good enough on the bill. People do not trust the government's word on the bill at this time. I challenge the government, before it calls a vote on the bill, to contact the people that it affects the most and get a ruling.

Another thing related to the bill has come up. The biggest pest I can remember when I was growing up was the gopher. We did all kinds of strange things. We poured water down the gopher hole and as the gophers came up we whopped them. Then we cut off their tails and took the tails to the municipal office where we were paid one cent apiece.

This varmint has been a problem from the Red River to the Rockies ever since there was a Red River and Rockies. However, people from the Red River to the Rockies have never been contacted in relation to the bill with regard to how they treat that varmint.

My youngest daughter was driving a truck long before she was supposed to. I would fill the tank and take her to the spot where the farmer wanted her to go. She had a bat and a dog and away we would go. She went around and she would put the water down the hole and if the dog missed it, she got it. The farmers did not want poison used where the calves were being born. According to the bill and how it would be interpreted, she was a mean, cruel, young girl.

I submitted to the House a petition with I am sure 60,000 names on it to put the poison up to a rate where it would kill the gophers. I received a phone call one night. The person asked why the people from the west, and I am assuming he meant between the Red River and the Rockies, wanted to get rid of the gophers. He asked, “Do they not know they are good?” I thought it was a joke. I asked how they were good for us and he said that they aerate the soil. I could not believe it.

We should capture some gophers and put them on the lawn of the Hill and soon there would be piles of earth all over. The grass would not be able to be cut. Kids could not play out there because they would break their legs.

Why is it that the people most interested in what we try to do in controlling the number of gophers are all from areas where there are no gophers?

A chap phoned me the other day and said he had a measure by which we could get this matter settled. This all started with one of the finest organizations in the west, the wildlife federation. The wildlife federation teaches young people the proper use of guns, the proper use of the environment and so on. This group should probably have never mentioned it because it obviously caught the news of the government. They said they would organize a shoot where young people could practise knocking down these varmints.

Another gentleman in the west invented a gophinator. It is a small, high pressure gun that uses ammonium hydroxide, the same thing farmers put into the ground when they fertilize. One shot down the hole and the gopher is dead, that is it. However, because of forces unbeknown to us that instrument could not be patented.

I picked up the farm paper and on the front page it says that is now a toxic substance. For years we would put it in huge tanks on rubber wheels and pull it while seeding. Now it is a toxic substance. I cannot believe that would happen.

My friend who called me should not be surprised if we put 1,000 gophers here. We would also like to put 1,000 gophers at Queen's Park. Let them deal with them.

Where I live, when people who run the golf courses, provincial parks and roadways are driving down a country road and we see the car swerve, does anyone want to guess what they are trying to do? They are trying to get a gopher. They are trying to get rid of them. Hon. members who have wives should let them twist their ears when they see their gardens after the gophers have moved in.

Gophers have been elevated to the same position as humans. We must handle them properly.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

An hon. member

We should elect some.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Yes, we should elect some gophers.

The only gopher in Saskatchewan is Gainer the Gopher at the Roughriders games and we will protect him. That is the only gopher that needs protection.

I challenge the government to find anyone who lives on a farm or lives in an area were the majority of land is cultivated. Find one farmer, one rancher, one golf course operator, one gardener, find anybody who controls gophers to say the bill is a good thing. They will guffaw at this stupid piece of legislation. We have to watch out. I am sure there will be civil disobedience.

What is it with the bill if it does not mean what it says? We have heard from members and ministers that the bill will have nothing to do with currently existing practices, but nobody believes them. The government only has one option. It must put it in writing in the bill. That is the only way it can be done.

I have had a few experiences with gophers. Rather than let an animal suffer because its leg was fractured beyond anything possible and I could not get it to the vet, I had to kill that animal with a .303. Under the bill that would be illegal.

I would venture to say that in my province alone, up to $1 million worth of cattle have to be destroyed every year because of fractures. Some horseback riders have broken their legs, arms, shoulders and have had serious health problems because they were thrown when the horse's legs went down a gopher hole.

We should applaud the man who invented the gophinator. The people who run the golf courses like him.

Why did the government do this? It seems the Liberals listen to lobby groups from the city, but they will not listen to people directly impacted by the passage of the bill. I cannot get mad about this. I am more distraught about it. We cannot trust the word of the government.

I urge the government to put into the bill what its members said in the House in order to protect our agriculture industry and to take away the fear that there will be interference. We in the opposition would look at the bill very differently if the government were to do that.

I am going home this weekend. I know I will receive numerous phone calls and letters on the bill. I live right on the edge of ranching country. My whole area is farming country. My constituents are deeply afraid with some of the laws that now apply with regard to putting animals down in the pet centres. If the law says no animal can be put down except for medical reasons, boy will the taxpayers pay when big buildings are built. Let us come back to some common sense.

Lobby groups are saying that the people who have been working the soil and raising herds of cattle, who have been contending with these varmints all these years are mean and cruel and will have to change their way of doing business. I do not think so. I beg the government members to think seriously before they stand to support the bill.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and the Firearms ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, the speech just given by my colleague reminds me of a previous minister of the Liberal government, Francis Fox, who many years ago banned satellite dishes. We know how effective that was during a time of civil disobedience. People as a whole knew it was a ridiculous thing to do. When Mr. Fox saw satellite dishes in the cities he tried to prosecute a few people but our rural colleagues prevented that law from ever being successful.

That case reminds me of what we are dealing with today. We have all these do-gooders and one of the things they have achieved in some places is to get rid of cosmetic pesticides and herbicides. Our playing fields are now full of dandelions and weeds and mosquitoes are everywhere. Through their naiveté, they have managed to get these left wing councils to ban the cosmetic products that used to keep these places nice to visit.

However, by banning these cosmetic products, they have created a sudden growth in the number of pests, weeds and herbs which are now spreading to people's gardens and probably out into the countryside. These do-gooders are actually indirectly threatening our food supply through their ridiculous approach in the cities.

As someone who represents a city riding, the letters I receive on this bill urge me to pass it quickly because they are oriented toward cruelty to pets. We do not want little Moggie to be attacked by somebody, hung up by his hind quarters or whatever.

Would my colleague perhaps explain to city dwellers why it is important that this bill not go through in relation to the disadvantages or benefits for city dwellers?