Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville for the opportunity to again remind parliament and indeed all Canadians about the public safety benefits of the Canadian firearms program.
I am pleased to report that our practical approach to gun safety is already helping to cut down on firearm related crime in the country. The program does this by keeping firearms from people who should not have them and by encouraging legitimate owners to handle their firearms safely and responsibly. These important goals are being achieved in part through the licensing of firearms owners and the registration of their firearms.
The first phase of the program was the licensing of the firearm owners. As members know, they had to apply for a firearms licence by January 1, 2001. We are currently wrapping up the second phase of the registration of firearms. An overwhelming majority of Canadian firearms owners will have a licence and will have their guns registered well before the December 31 deadline.
This is the result of the approach that the Canadian Firearms Centre has taken. We applied the lessons we learned in the licensing phase of the program to registration. We have focused on making registration as simple as possible.
For example, the Canadian Firearms Centre sent personalized registration forms to every licensed firearms owner in Canada. Every owner had an opportunity to register his or her firearms free of charge. We also made it possible for them to register online. More than 100,000 Canadian firearms owners have done just that.
Regarding the hon. member's question on the errors in the system, I want to emphasize that the errors reported to the Canadian Firearms Centre to date represent a tiny fraction of the firearms documents that have been issued. As recently as April 27, 2002, 99% of the firearms in the Canadian firearms registry system were correctly registered according to identification and classification, as required under the law. Also, 99% of the licences were correctly issued to the right person, living at the address stated, with the appropriate privilege and safety training.
There may also be a small number of entry errors for which we have no statistics, but when these are reported they are dealt with promptly in co-ordination with the client. Firearms owners should verify the information on the firearms documents and contact us immediately at 1-800-731-4000 to report any anomalies and have the situation rectified.
There are currently 2.1 million individuals in the firearms database and firearms owners have been sending in their registration applications in unprecedented numbers. As with any other high volume operation, it is only natural to expect a small degree of entry error. That is why we remain vigilant and have recently made some improvements to further minimize the potential for error.
Over the past few months, the Canadian firearms program has completely restructured the registration process and implemented rigorous measures to ensure the integrity of the information. When the personalized registration application is returned for processing, the form is scanned, including the bar code that identifies the licensee. Manual data entry is eliminated, which minimizes the potential for error.
At the request of the firearms community, and I want to emphasize that, the firearms registration certificate does not carry the licensee's name to ensure privacy and public safety. The number on the registration certificate provides, when required, an electronic link to the owner of the firearm. This avoids disclosing the location of firearms should anyone other than the legitimate owner come into possession of the registration certificate.