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House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offences.

Topics

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Question Period

Noon

Brampton Centre Ontario

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I will take this question under advisement and will get back to the member as soon as I can. However, we have an agreement with the United States, which we are ready to implement, but the U.S. asked us to delay it until mid-June.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

Noon

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. During question period the government House leader stood in the House and accused me of divulging embargoed information from the Minister of Justice. That is categorically untrue. If he would care to check the record, the press release first ran at 10:36 Ottawa time and it was on the CP wire at 11:07 Ottawa time.

It is exactly those types of actions and shenanigans that give this place and individual members of Parliament a bad reputation. I demand an apology and I want it right now.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

Noon

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will check into what the hon. member has just stated and act accordingly at the appropriate time.

The fact still remains that earlier this morning at approximately 10 a.m., coordinated by my office, a copy of an embargoed statement, which will be made in a few minutes from now, was distributed to all political parties, the subject of which was the question posed by the hon. member only a few moments ago.

If the content of the minister's statement had been released to the media before, and perhaps that is what the hon. member is saying now, I will check into that. As far as I knew the only thing that had been circulated to the media was notification that there would be a press conference after the minister's statement was made in the House of Commons. However, I will verify that.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

Noon

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Canadian Alliance Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to question period as well and the point that was raised was that there would be a news conference held by the minister at 1:30. That was something that was brought up in an interview that the House leader and I attended this morning at 10 o'clock, so I do not think there was any breach whatsoever.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

Respectfully, to the three members who rose on this point of order, it is not a point of order. I would submit to the House that there is a difference of opinion. Given the undertaking from the minister I will leave that matter to be resolved among the parties. However, at this point in time it is not a point of order.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Bras D'Or—Cape Breton Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 25 petitions.

Firearms RegistryRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to report to you and the House on the positive steps that I am taking concerning the Canadian firearms program.

On December 3, the Auditor General of Canada tabled her report on the Canadian Firearms Program. I have accepted her recommendations and I am therefore announcing today additional improvements to the program.

Let me be clear, the Auditor General did not question the policy behind this program. Indeed, the government has never wavered from its commitment to public safety through gun control. The program is producing results such as encouraging the safe use of firearms, supplying vital information to police, and helping keep guns out of the wrong hands.

Today, more than 1.9 million firearm owners have obtained licences and have registered more than 6 million guns. The measures that I am announcing today focus on improving the administration of the program.

The plan is based on the work done by independent consultants. Based on their advice, one of our aims is to reduce the annual gross cost of the program to approximately $67 million by 2008-09. The forecasted savings are based on a number of important milestones, one of which is the passage of Bill C-10A and the adoption of the necessary regulations.

As forecasted by our independent consultants, expenditures will increase slightly in 2003-04 and 2004-05. In these transition years, the gun control program will require changes to its infrastructure and business processes. This investment will result in faster and more significant savings in all subsequent years.

I am also announcing that we will be moving the national weapons enforcement support team to the national police services administered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This will help align enforcement operations.

Further to another recommendation contained in the Hession report I will be working with the Solicitor General to develop a plan for the transfer of the Canadian firearms centre to his portfolio with a target date of April 1, 2003. We will ensure that the fundamentals are in place to ensure an orderly transition so that Canadians can soon experience further service improvements to this essential public safety program.

Our work these past weeks has resulted in the development of specific actions to achieve our objectives. The government's plan includes the four following actions, to be implemented in the next 12 months.

First, reducing costs and improving management, by streamlining headquarter functions, consolidating processing sites, establishing national work performance measurements, and limiting computer system changes to projects that do improve the efficiency of the program.

Second, improving service to the public, by extending free Internet registration and making it more easily accessible and reliable; ensuring clients can easily access 1-800 telephone information services; processing properly completed registration applications within 30 days of receipt; and implementing a targeted outreach program to help firearm owners fulfill licensing and registration requirements.

Third, holding consultations in spring 2003 to seek input from stakeholders, including parliamentarians and the public, on how to improve the design and delivery of the gun control program, and creating a program advisory committee.

Fourth, strengthening accountability and transparency, by reporting to Parliament full program costs across government, and tabling an annual report to Parliament that provides full financial and performance information on the gun control program.

In December I committed to keep the House informed on the developments in the gun control program. Today, I am fulfilling my commitment.

Firearms RegistryRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the justice minister's announcement today of an action plan to fix the gun registry is very much like sending the deckhands of the Titanic out with rolls of duct tape to fix the gaping gash in the side of the ship, except the duct tape is made of gold.

The minister's action plan means that in a very few years, Parliament would be debating a $2 billion boondoggle. This is because he failed to address the real problems in the legislation and in the registry itself.

The minister proudly proclaims that even with everything he announced today, the gun registry will still cost $67 million a year. The minister's admission means that his great action plan will save $5 million a year from the $72 million a year that Mr. Hession's report estimated the gun registry would cost without streamlining. But does anyone believe the justice minister's estimates?

Let us take any one year and look at how much he forecasted to spend in the main estimates, and then look at how much he actually spent. The Auditor General uncovered the fact that the justice minister made inappropriate use of the supplementary estimates. The Auditor General said:

Between 1995-96 and 2001-02, the Department obtained only about 30% of $750 million in funds for the Program through the main appropriations method; in comparison, it obtained 90% of funding for all of its other programs through the main appropriations.

This means that the justice department's estimates were consequently wrong and understated by 70%. This would be a good rule of thumb for Parliament and the pubic to use when they are trying to figure out how much the gun registry would really cost to fully implement and how much it would cost to maintain each and every year after that.

How can the justice minister claim that he is being transparent when he has been keeping Parliament in the dark for the last 11 weeks? He was more open with the media this week when he admitted his cash management program consisted of not paying his bills. His action plan and cost estimates are fatally flawed because he refuses to acknowledge that he has to correct eight years of operational mistakes by his bureaucrats.

I have made a list of the most critical mistakes that he has failed to correct.

More than five million firearms are registered in the system but still must be verified by the RCMP. Up to four million records in the RCMP's firearms interest police (FIP) database must be corrected. Some 78% of the registration certificates have entries that have been left blank or marked unknown and they must be corrected. Hundreds of thousands of gun owners still do not have a firearms licence and they cannot register their firearms without a licence. None of these issues have been addressed.

More than 300,000 owners of registered handguns do not have a firearms licence authorizing them to own one, and they cannot re-register their guns without a licence. Up to 10 million guns still have to be registered or re-registered in the system, and six million guns are registered without the names and addresses of the owners on them. The provinces have registered 18.6 million cars and they have the names and addresses of the owners on them. Police will not even be able to tell where the registered guns are stored.

These are just a few of the problems that the minister does not address. The justice minister thinks that moving the gun registry bureaucrats to the Solicitor General's department, as he announced this morning, would improve things. He should give his head a shake and fire a few bureaucrats instead of promoting them.

Does anyone know what they are doing over there? For example, on Monday of this week, if the government had its way, it would have used closure to ram Bill C-10A through the House.

The bill would have created a commissioner of firearms reporting to the justice minister and move the RCMP registry of firearms under the direct control of the minister.

Four days later he is now proposing to move all of these positions to another department, four days after we were going to pass the legislation. This means that in a very short order Parliament will be debating another gun registry bill. This was not one of Mr. Hession's 16 recommendations, by the way.

Still we are left not knowing how much it really will cost to fully implement and how much it will cost to maintain the program year after year. The minister will not even tell Parliament or the public what it cost to run the program for the last 11 weeks. Does he even know? I do not know. And for what benefit?

The minister tells us that it will improve public safety while in the meantime police chiefs tell the Canadian people the truth. In December, Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino was asked about the escalation of firearms crime in the city. He said, “A law registering firearms has neither deterred these crimes nor helped solve any of them”.

In January, the president of the 66 member Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police said the gun registry laws are, “unenforceable until the mess is sorted out”.

It is clear that the unenforceable mess, to which Chief Thomas Kaye was referring, will not be fixed by the amendments in Bill C-10A.

Firearms RegistryRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, after eight years the justice minister is still trying to convince the public and the provinces that the gun registry is gun control and that this is a wise way to spend public and police funds. It is neither, and only the Liberals do not seem to get it. The government is out of control and we should be putting more police on the street.

Firearms RegistryRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, the statement by the Minister of Justice has left us somewhat puzzled about the government's leadership in what has come to be known as the gun control boondoggle.

The minister made three statements in as many months on the same issue. Each one contained nothing but platitudes, without ever condemning the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars have disappeared into this black hole. This speaks volumes about the Liberal government's incompetence and lack of transparency.

Worse still, the Minister of Justice is now basing his actions on the recommendations contained in the report commissioned by a former deputy minister. It is as though he were trying to duck the issue, to distract our attention from the fact that he is the one who is responsible for this waste of almost $1 billion.

The Liberal government, and the Minister of Justice in particular, are abdicating their responsibilities. Their strategy is based on passing Bill C-10A, which has been amended in the Senate, and has yet to be adopted by the House, which in itself negates the powers and privileges of our House. The whole situation is a hypothetical one.

Furthermore, the minister, who had to quickly backtrack on pouring a further $72 million into this infamous program to prevent his majority government from being brought down, today announced that he was planning on asking for additional funds yet again.

He justifies this by citing major changes to the management of Canada's firearms registration program, by moving it under the responsibility of the Solicitor General. This is an undeniable admission of his department's incompetence, and the incompetence of his predecessor in particular, who is now the Minister of Industry.

The real problem, the one that affects the crux of this government initiative, lies in the Liberals' lack of vision and especially in their chronic and typical lack of transparency. A program that was supposed to have been carefully thought out was totally out of control for years before anyone learned about the scope of the disaster.

This veritable boondoggle has given gun control opponents plenty of ammunition. They are now basing their reasoning to abolish the program on the need to stop the waste of tax dollars.

Those opposed to gun control are trying to influence public opinion with arguments that do not take into consideration the positive results of the program, in terms of preventing and solving serious crimes.

For the Bloc Quebecois, the need for such a program remains critical. We believe that it would be quite inappropriate and irresponsible to eliminate it. The Bloc Quebecois will ensure that all aspects of the program currently managed by Quebec will continue to be so managed.

However, this argument for the Canadian Firearms Centre should not be interpreted as support for the Liberal government, but rather as an appeal for the accountability of managers and, above all, the protection of society as a whole.

The Bloc Quebecois has always been very open and accountable in the debate on protecting society and the maturity with which major social issues are addressed.

The minister is talking about accountability, a term the Liberals have bandied about for several weeks now. This process should start at the highest levels of government, beginning with the Ministers of Industry and Health, both of whom also held the Justice portfolio.

In closing, remember that it is not only the administrative ability of the ministers, who have both been Minister of Justice at one time, that must be called into question. Beyond that, we must identify those responsible for this sad situation, starting with the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, who kept the purse strings closed when he was Minister of Finance and who did not have the courage to sound the alarm.

The Minister of Justice's intentions, stated without the slightest regret, justify our mistrust. More than ever, the Bloc Quebecois will keep a watchful eye on this arrogant and incompetent government.

Firearms RegistryRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it interesting to see that the minister has appeared in the House I think on three occasion on the firearm program. It is a clear indication that the government is struggling to put a brave new face on this program. We listened with interest today about yet another plan which tries to convince Canadians that everything is fine with this program, that it will work and that there will be no problems.

The government likes to refer to this program as the gun control program. It does not like to use registry. Maybe we should rename it the damage control program because clearly that is what it has now become.

Clearly questions arise from the minister's statement, where we now have a whole new action plan and a transfer to the Solicitor General's office. By shuffling the deck or shuffling the responsibility to a new department, what assurance do we have that the fundamental concerns and recommendations of the Auditor General will be met?

There are two issues here. One is that the government has not yet been able to demonstrate clearly the link between the registry, the administration and the management of that registry to its overall objective of gun control and, as it says, that is public safety, which is an honourable goal and is something we all support. At the very best, there is scepticism about whether it has been able to demonstrate that link. Of course the worst case scenario is that there is outright opposition to the registry on whether it fulfils those objectives of public safety and gun control.

While there are those who clearly oppose the registry, as long as it exists, there is a second issue. How is it being managed, how is it being administered and how is it being accounted for? That is at the very heart of the Auditor General's recommendations.

One of the basic problems that got us into this terrible mess in the first place is the complete lack of absence of controls, through the House, to review all estimates. In the past a department would be grilled. At committee, members of the House could go through line by line for more than just a couple of hours and bring the government to account on any particular item. That has now all been lost. If that were in place, I do not think we would be in this situation today.

The government has made the decision over the years to basically bypass Parliament, to bypass the mechanisms of checks and balances that allow us to do our job in holding the government to account.

We have this action plan that talks about accountability and transparency, improving service and reducing costs. We need to have the mechanisms in place, mechanisms that are more than a program advisory committee or an annual report to Parliament. We need a full accounting of those estimates. That is what it will take for this place to determine whether the objectives of this program are being met. The onus is on the government to do that. It has not yet demonstrated that nor has it made the clear link between the benefits of this registry and what it will accomplish or has accomplished, and the overall objective of public safety.

Firearms RegistryRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, the minister started off by talking about positive steps and additional improvements when he should have been talking about further regression and additional costs.

I want every member to remember this day. I want every member to pay close attention to what the government is about to do. I want Canadians to remember that their member of Parliament had the choice.

The blatant disregard for public opinion on this file goes against everything the government has stood for in the past 10 years. For a government that prides itself in following public opinion polls, it has really missed the mark on this one. How many times can we stand in the House and explain to the minister that this registry--and I say registry, it is not gun control, it is a gun registry that we are speaking about--is not about gun safety.

What will it take to get the Liberals to understand that forcing legitimate gun owners to register their long guns, guns used for hunting and shooting, has nothing to do with gun safety? Even Toronto police chief Julian Santino recognized that fact when he said, “The registry is ineffective and a misdirection of public money”.

Once again we call on the minister or anyone on that side of the House to stand up and tell Canadians how the program saves lives. They cannot because it does not.

Why does the government not do a value for dollar audit? The results would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the registry does not work. The government cannot even get the administration of it right.

I will concede the fact that 1.9 million firearm owners have obtained licences and have registered their guns, if the minister will concede that 1.9 million Canadians have registered their cars but that will not stop accidents either. They do it because they are law-abiding citizens and there is a law which says they have to. I fail to see how registration by law-abiding citizens prevents crime.

The Auditor General said that the government intentionally misled Parliament by funnelling money for the failed project through the backdoor in the supplementary estimates. The government continues to whitewash this project in the hopes that its backbenchers will come around and vote in favour of more government waste.

Not one person I have spoken to is against gun safety. Not one person I have spoken to is against preventing criminals from obtaining firearms. Not one person I have spoken to is opposed to gun control. We originally voted for gun control; in fact, we were the first to introduce the idea. Not one person I have spoken to believes that the registry works.

Just over an hour ago the government House leader stood in the foyer along with us and told Canadians that the implementation of Bill C-10A will save taxpayers money. The first thing the government is looking for is an extra $15 to buy off the shelf software to correct the old software which is so complicated nobody thinks it can work anyway.

We talk about saving money. This program was supposed to cost $2 million. It is over $1 billion and we have been told that five or six years down the road it will only cost $67 million a year to maintain. We are talking about the administration. We are not talking about the enforcement or other costs. We are again deceiving the Canadian public.

The only smart thing the justice minister did today is what Liberals always do when they run into trouble. He sloughed it off on somebody else. The young innocent Solicitor General now has the problem on his hands.

We have a bill coming to the House. We will see how many Liberals will have the intestinal fortitude to stand and defeat it as they have been asked to do and how many will stay at home as most of them do when we get into a crunch on a situation like this one.

National Sex Offender Registry ActRoutine Proceedings

February 21st, 2003 / 12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-399, An Act to establish a national registry of sex offenders and to amend the Criminal Code (sex offences against persons under the age of fourteen years).

Mr. Speaker, following the tabling of petitions signed by 40,000 residents of Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, I am introducing this bill, which deals with pedophilia and provides much harsher sentencing for sex offenders, psychological support for victims and their families, as well as creating a sex offender registry to facilitate police supervision of such offenders.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-400, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (public transportation costs).

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to introduce my bill to allow individuals who use public transportation to deduct from their taxes some of the costs of travelling by bus, subway or commuter train.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-401, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to establish a Board of Management to oversee operations of the Correctional Service of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill which is designed to reform our corrections system. The bill would enhance the accountability of Correctional Service of Canada. The legislation establishes a seven member board of management which would be responsible for the operations of the corrections system. Two members of the board would represent the interests of victims.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-402, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to establish an Office of Victims Ombudsman of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill which would create an office of victims ombudsman. This independent body would investigate victims' complaints on the conduct and policies of Correctional Service of Canada and the National Parole Board. In other words, the bill is about victims' rights and how to guarantee they are respected.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-403, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide for judicial discretion to assign a security classification of maximum to high-risk violent offenders.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill. The intent of the bill is to enhance public safety. The bill would give a sentencing judge the authority to assign a binding security classification of maximum to high-risk violent offenders.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-404, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide for the disclosure of certain information about offenders.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill. The legislation is about transparency and about providing information to victims and the public on how justice is implemented in Canada. The legislation would make the security classification of offenders public information and would also greatly enhance the access of victims to information about offenders, such as advance notice of prisoner transfers.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois has been calling for a public inquiry into the sponsorship program but so far, the government has refused this request and ordered a few internal investigations and minor changes to the program rather than be transparent and do what Canadians are asking for.

More than 300 people in Quebec signed a petition calling for a public inquiry in order to shed light on the allegations of wrongdoing that weigh on the government and its leaders.

The Bloc Quebecois has taken the initiative of this petition to obtain explanations for the close ties between the Liberal Party, its ministers and some ad agencies.

We hope that the political financing bill will prevent these things from happening again in the future.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke who live in Arnprior, Braeside, Pakenham, Renfrew and Burnstown, I am presenting a petition requesting that Parliament recognize that the Canadian Emergency Preparedness College is essential to Canadians for training in emergency situations. They point out that the facility should stay in Arnprior and that the government should upgrade the facility in order to provide the necessary training to Canadians.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith Canadian Alliance South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from 130 constituents who are concerned about human rights in China. They are calling upon Parliament to initiate a resolution to condemn China's persecution of Falun Gong at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and request China to do three things: one, to immediately stop the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners; two, to unconditionally release all Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned for their religious beliefs, including 15 family members of Canadians currently detained; and three, to allow unrestricted access into China to the United Nations rapporteur on torture to carry out independent third party investigations on the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from my constituents calling upon Parliament to protect the rights of Canadians to be free to share their religious beliefs without fear of persecution. The petitioners feel that the addition of sexual orientation as an explicitly protected category under sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code of Canada could lead to individuals being unable to exercise their religious freedom as protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by 30 individuals from my riding. The petitioners are asking Parliament to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to protect their children from any material promoting child pornography and to make it clear that any such exploitation of children will be met with swift punishment.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, this petition is signed by approximately 40 individuals from my riding. They are asking Parliament to repeal section 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act which prohibits rural route mail couriers from having collective bargaining rights.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Bras D'Or—Cape Breton Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.