House of Commons Hansard #174 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firearms.


Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I thoroughly enjoyed that. It was as arduous as the process of getting the bill to this point in the legislature. I would check one thing with you. There was some debate as to allotment of time for speaking and then for questions afterwards. Could there be some clarification?

Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

My understanding is the hon. member has 15 minutes and then a five minute question and comment period, to be followed by speeches after that.

Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, for members who are following the process of the bill, many, unlike you, will get dismayed by the language and terminology used and contained within it. The chemicals that are addressed within the bill, while complicated in their nature and obvious pronunciation, which again you had no problem with and it was quite remarkable, many parliamentarians will say that this is awfully specific and they may ask why this has been raised at this time.

A number of principles are contained within the bill, which we fought for rigorously and had considered for a long time. This is one of the few and rare exceptions that we will be bringing something as important, as specific, to the protection of Canadians and their health, particularly to the health of our children.

The concept around the family of chemicals known as phthalates has been raised by New Democratic members in this place for 12 years now. Various members from different parts of the country have raised the issues of what is contained in our consumer products in particular, how that will eventually affect the health of Canadians and the way the government is ill-equipped to deal with it on a day to day basis.

Many Canadians, when considering the role of governments or the role of private industry, assume that governments will take on the capacity of protecting the overall health and well-being of Canadians, by not allowing products and chemicals that harm us to enter our bloodstream, our health and our environment. They would never knowingly do this.

The challenge facing government is the enormous number of chemicals that are introduced each and every year by various industries, both domestically and internationally, and how to contain them and have some sort of understanding of what effect those chemicals have on human health.

This particular group of chemicals known as phthalates are used predominantly in the softening of plastics. Various members in the House will know that even the cords we use in our microphones allow this plastic flexibility. They are often use in children's toys, rubber duckies, teethers, et cetera to soften the plastics. Oftentimes they contain serious quantities of phthalates in them. This would not be a problem, except for the fact that government health agencies around the world have identified certain parts of these chemicals to be developmental and reproductive toxins.

For a number of people watching, they might wonder why these chemicals, which are known to have such harmful effects, have been used for so long. In various lab testings they have been found to cause tumours. They are endocrine disrupters. That means they go to the genetic reproductive level of humans and cause disruptions. In particular, they get concentrated in small children and affect their developmental growth.

How could we have allowed these chemicals to go through our manufacturing process and be used for so long? Clearly, there must be some reasons. For a number of years, industry has presented various reasons.

Recently the government was engaged in the review of the Canadian Environment Protection Act, known as CEPA for short, which was designed some years ago. It was up for review for a number of years and, finally, after haranguing, we were able to get it through the committee and present a number of important recommendations. I suggest those recommendations dovetail in with the recommendations proposed in Bill C-307.

Government is oftentimes catching up to the developments that go on within the chemical and manufacturing industries. The innovation and consumer demand for new and innovative products is so high that the manufacturers are seeking new ways to present their products.

Unfortunately, when dealing with these three phthalates, BBP, DBP and DEHP, they are often presented in such a way where the proper rigorous testing is never brought. Government does not have the resources at capacity, and we have heard this from testimony in front of us and also when we reviewed CEPA, to do the proper testing.

It seems that in government there is a certain amount of aversion to raising any alarm bell. These very chemicals were reviewed in 1994 and 2004. They were found to be what is called not CEPA toxic. Unfortunately, the nature and design of the tests can often predetermine the results. When the government, particularly in 1994 but also 2004, went through the testing, it eliminated things like consumer products.

I have already listed some of the products that contain these chemicals, but there are others such as cosmetics, nail polish, blush and mascara. All these are also known to contain these chemicals.

When the government went through the review on the exposure of Canadians to chemicals and whether that exposure would be harmful, it excluded all consumer products. It seems a bit dastardly and at the very least shortsighted. One tries to take some measure of faith within the hard-working civil servants, but that oversight needs to be corrected.

The bill seeks to correct that. There would be another review process for these chemicals. We would include consumer products. We would also include up to date information, not information that was known 13 or 15 years ago.

The bill seeks to do a number of other important things, but it is important at this time to recognize the validators that have come on board such as the Canadian Cancer Society and a whole swath of environmental and health groups that have seen their way to support the merits of the bill, as well as other jurisdictions, in particular Europe, which has been conducting a process called REACH. It is a new vision of looking at chemicals, trying to instill principles such as substitution. It is also the review of chemicals in such a way that we avoid unnecessary risk and harm. It is the precautionary principle, which is written into Canadian law but is almost never practised.

Let me deal with each of them separately.

The precautionary principle says that even in the absence of 100% certainty, we take a cautious route and try not to expose Canadians to something we suspect might be harmful, but still requires further study. We do this all the time and every day in our lives. We know there is not a 100% certainty of falling off a bicycle and getting a head injury, but we put on a helmet anyway. The precautionary principle says that there is some chance this could happen, and we all recommend that for our children. We say in this cautious way that we will recommend this thing. That principle is built into the bill, and we believe for the first time in Canadian legislation. It says we must take a precautionary approach.

The second principle is one around substitution. Oftentimes when legislators of all levels of government seek to ban a dangerous chemical, unfortunately the industry will come forward and raise the economic spectre. It will say not to do it, that it will be too expensive and it will cost Canadians jobs. We have to weigh out that fear. Is it true or is the industry avoiding change?

What the substitution principle says is that the government, when a known dangerous chemical is being introduced into a product, must first seek and demand of the manufacturer, not of citizens or government, to look for alternatives. Is there an alternative available to soften plastics or to apply cosmetics that will function in the same way the manufacturer seeks, but will not harm Canadians?

That substitution principle is one of the recommendations the environment committee, I believe unanimously, suggested in its review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and it is one of the essential things within this bill.

I want to point out a number of other things that are required under the bill.

It requires that regulations respecting cosmetics that contain DEHP, one of these chemicals, under the Food and Drugs Act. It requires products such as toys that contain DEHP and that may come in contact with the mouth of a child less than three years to be prohibited.

An important side note is a certain amount of leaching goes on in a plastic water bottles over time. One of the quickest ways to have these chemicals enter into the greater environment is to chew it, to masticate it.

The sad irony is we were finding products and toys that were designed to be chewed also containing these harmful chemicals. That is the absolute principle of unintended consequences. I believe no manufacturer in the world would put these chemicals in toys, knowingly realizing that children would be releasing these chemicals into their mouths. This bill would prevent that.

There is also a whole sector around medical devices. Here is another system of unintended consequences. There are medical devices that are plastic but they are softened. We know through studies that these chemicals will leach out of the plastics and into whatever is being used. We have blood transfusions and transfusions of many kinds and other testing. This is the absolute last moment, with the vulnerable population of children and now the vulnerable population of those seeking medical attention. They are in hospital for an obvious reason and now, lo and behold, while they are there receiving things like transfusions, they may be receiving a known reproductive toxin.

There are a number of things that did not happen in this bill. I suppose in a minority Parliament, as in many places in life, that concessions have to be made. We wanted to go a step further than the bill describes. There should be an outright ban on all these chemicals in cosmetics and toys. We also asked for a phase-in period for medical devices.

There is still reluctance on the government's part. We appreciate that there have been some concessions by the government and those within the bureaucracy, but we still believe, in principle, that there is much further to go. We still believe that when the government goes through its testing and retesting, with the proper parameters, and with a good look at these chemicals, it will realize there are substitutes available. We had witnesses come before us to talk about medical devices. They said that they had held these medical devices in their hands and they did not contain any of these chemicals. They can be made and at a cost benefit.

Hospitals in this country and across the United States have labelled themselves phthalate free. When people enter those hospital, there is no chance of contact because they have self-initiated. When they looked at the studies and did the research, they encouraged the manufacturers. The manufacturers have stepped to the plate because, lo and behold, there is a market. They have made the products that then go to the hospitals where there is no potential for contamination.

We think some Canadian hospitals have moved this way, and there will be growing numbers. We would recommend that the government get ahead of these health and hospital groups and look at making these things come true.

Another essential principle is identifying vulnerable populations in the bill. When we deal with the notion of toxins in our environment, oftentimes in past legislation and with previous governments adults have been the test group. Many would argue that it makes sense.

However, when we look at the conditions and the nature of children, they have a higher absorption rate of many of these toxins because of their body mass to skin ratio. These are used by the medical and health communities to determine someone's vulnerability to a toxin. Children are almost in all cases more vulnerable than an adult.

Recently one of the environment groups in Canada did toxicology of our blood. It tested famous Canadians. The former minister of the environment and the leader of the NDP found they were exhibiting levels of mercury, PCBs and other things in their blood, some that have been banned for a number of years. They are bio-accumulative. They come through our bloodstream.

One of the results of this testing showed that even in families that had made a concerted effort to live well had toxic levels as high as other Canadians in some cases. They do not live in a particularly toxic air shed or environment, they try to eat well and do all the things we tell Canadians to do. In fact, their children's toxicity was higher than the adults.

One of the first nations' elders in my community commented to me the other day, while we were talking about another issue, that “we must become good ancestors”. I thought this was a powerful way for us to think about it as the leadership in our country. We must conduct ourselves in a way that future generations will look back and thank us for the work that we did and honour our memory, not in a way that we have seen our generation conduct itself by leaving behind problems and not solutions. We are leaving behind a more toxic world, not a cleaner one.

In a small way, but an important way, we believe the bill pushes us in the right direction: substitution, precautionary principle and looking at vulnerable populations. I think Canadians when given the measure will find important, will find meritorious. We look for support for this bill from all sides.

Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his very good work on this initiative and also on the environment. He has been a very good spokesperson for important issues facing the country. I appreciated his comments around our responsibilities to the future generations, which leads to my question.

In part the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley spoke about the vulnerable population. I have two questions in that perspective. First, was the impact on women and seniors considered when the committee was reviewing this legislation? Second, was there any discussion around mandatory labelling? If there is not a complete ban on this product, I would argue that particularly vulnerable populations need to be aware of the potential side effects of using such a product.

Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, when we looked at vulnerable populations oftentimes women were brought up as one group, particularly in regard to the transference of these toxins to their newborns. I did not go through the list of what these chemicals actually manifest themselves as in the human system. The reason I resist is only for the sake of civility. This starts in the womb. The way that these chemicals exhibit themselves, particularly in young children, can affect the growth and the actual physical nature of children from that point on.

The notion of looking at groups such as seniors and women in particular goes on an issue by issue basis. Oftentimes when we are talking about air quality, we definitely look at seniors to identify if they are more vulnerable to smog or one pollutant or another. That is one sure category that we look at.

With respect to women, a whole range of studies has been done on breast milk and toxicity. Women in northern populations in Canada were suddenly showing up with levels of mercury in their breast milk that in effect were making their children toxic. The breast milk could become so toxic in nature that health officials were recommending that women did not breastfeed.

If there is any indication for us as leaders in this country that things are not right, it clearly must be these indicators. When health officials are advising women in this country not to breastfeed their children because they themselves are toxic and that in doing so they will be causing harm to their children, that has to be an indication.

Clearly there is the science. There is the testing. There is the proper rigour. There is also the intuitive understanding, because the anecdotal information that we know about and see before us says that we are not doing it right.

I will turn to the member's second question about mandatory labelling. Boy, is there a lot of fear within industry about doing this. It is the same question we had when automakers were asked to put labels on their vehicles as to fuel efficiency. They said they could not do that because it would destroy them and consumers did not want to know that. Lo and behold, they did it, and now consumers use it as one of the choices they make when deciding things.

It is very difficult to say that labelling will answer this problem entirely, because who knows what a phthalate is? When someone is entering hospital or putting their child in hospital, the education level of the average Canadian makes it difficult to ask the hospital to check for phthalates.

We really believe that while labelling can be important, the onus rests within government to protect the overall and general health of Canadians, particularly when we have the information at hand, particularly when we know that substitutes are available, and when the precautionary principle tells us to just not introduce this to people, to not expose people to this.

Labelling can play a role, but we should not be overly reliant on it, because it then means that the education level is high enough that it will mean something.

Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, it was very interesting to listen to the member's dialogue tonight. I would like to commend him for his concern for children and for people in terms of attitudes and this particular chemical. I am curious about what got the member interested in this. This is a relatively unknown chemical. Our family is very careful about the things that we eat and the chemicals that are added to food. I wonder if he would be so kind as to share that with the House.

Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are different choices that members of Parliament can make when it comes to private members' legislation. Certain bills grab a lot of attention and seek the headlines. Others go to a specific case involving a constituent. With respect to this bill, we wanted to combine the issue of environment and health. We wanted a bill that would eventually have results. We did not want a token bill. We wanted a bill that would make a difference and change the way things are produced. We wanted a bill that would protect the health of Canadians.

We looked at the various predominant chemicals such as mercury and a number of the PCBs, the toxic chemicals of note and repute. We looked at the chemicals that most Canadians could identify as being bad. A lot of work had been done on them, but the fight was very clear on this one. These phthalates, while not well known, are instructive for legislators as an example of how to deal with other toxins, those that are involved in our manufacturing process, those that do not have 100% certainty. The case has not been closed with respect to these chemicals, but it has been very strongly presented that there are problems with phthalates.

This is a good example of how current legislation has been failing us. If the rule and the letter of the law of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act had been applied, the changes in this bill would have been made already. I feel absolutely certain of that. A number of health groups also feel that way.

While the obscurity of the actual chemicals was a threat to getting proper attention from Canadian families, we realized that in changing Canadian practice this was the best way to go.

Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Langley B.C.


Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-307, the phthalate control act.

The bill seeks to regulate the use of certain phthalates in specific consumer products and cosmetics that Canadians may be exposed to. I am pleased to say that after a lot of hard work by all the members in the environment committee to fix some of the major errors of the bill, we think we have found a way to move forward with the bill. It was good to focus on solutions. Solutions are very important for our environment.

As previously mentioned, phthalates make up a group of chemicals that are used to make certain types of plastic softer and malleable. These plastics may be used in a variety of consumer products, such as shower curtains and blood bags, including small toys or other children's products.

Bill C-307 deals with three of these, which I will refer to by their common substance names: BBP, DBP and DEHP.

The government recognizes that the current state of scientific knowledge and evidence for one of these phthalates, DEHP, warrants more aggressive measures to help reduce Canadians' exposure to it. These additional measures will complement and strengthen the existing voluntary actions taken since 1998.

Briefly, I would like to outline the existing activity related to DEHP in consumer products and cosmetics, the only phthalate so far that has been declared toxic under CEPA 1999.

Toys, equipment and other products for use by a child in learning or play are covered under the Hazardous Products Act. There currently exists guidance to industry on the requirements for plastic used in toys designed for children under the age of three. In 1999, Health Canada requested Canadian industry to discontinue the use of phthalates in the manufacture of soft vinyl teethers and baby products that could be mouthed by young children.

Based on Health Canada's retail market reviews and intelligence gathered from various levels of trade, including importers, exporters, distributors and retailers, the evidence shows very little Canadian manufacturing of children's plastic toys, rattles and teethers. The vast majority if not all of this activity takes place offshore, predominantly in Asia.

As a continued precautionary measure and to ensure a level playing field for all industry, the government will implement within 12 months of the coming into force of the act a prohibition of DEHP in products intended or likely to be used for sucking, chewing, feeding or mouthing by a child under the age of three. This prohibition will be accomplished by using the authorities of the Hazardous Products Act. The prohibition will allow for continued use of existing compliance and enforcement strategies to monitor the marketplace and will ensure that established mechanisms for communicating consistent messaging and directives are used to inform industry and the general public.

The government's actions also will bring Canada more in line with the European Union's actions for similar types of children's products. Having similar requirements may foster opportunities to share compliance information, leading to opportunities to help limit the numbers of non-compliant products entering our country.

Our government takes pride in the fact that the best suitable risk management options are discussed and selected based on sound science. As hon. members of Parliament, it is our duty to ensure that risk is taken into consideration when weighing control measures for chemical substances used in consumer products.

The mere presence of a chemical substance does not necessarily mean that the public is at risk when using those products. The bill's approach for phthalates achieves this goal by focusing our actions where the greatest risk exists for the consumer products: those intended or likely to be used for sucking, chewing, feeding or mouthing by a child under the age of three.

In addition to actions proposed for the specified consumer products, DEHP in cosmetics will also be addressed by Health Canada through the authorities provided in the Food and Drugs Act under cosmetic regulations.

While the phthalate DEHP has not been reported in any cosmetics notified with Health Canada, it is used in other countries as a cosmetic ingredient. By controlling DEHP, it will make it clear to cosmetic manufacturers that they cannot use DEHP in new formulations and it will allow Health Canada to quickly identify and take action on any cosmetic product sold with DEHP in the formulation.

The government would like to note that the estimated risks from other phthalates in cosmetics such as nail polish are negligible, based on several scientific expert panels in Europe and the United States.

New regulations that came into force for the Canadian cosmetic industry in November 2006 require manufacturers to label product ingredients. This means that if a phthalate is used in cosmetic preparation, it would be identified on the product label, allowing customers to make an informed choice about which brand to use.

As a result of this bill, the Government of Canada is committed to reviewing the available science on phthalates. Pending the results of those assessments, the government will have the opportunity to further control specific phthalates in consumer products and cosmetics, based on sound science and potential risk to users.

The government is supportive of Bill C-307 as it shows Parliament's commitment to improving the health and safety of vulnerable populations, our children.

Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2007 / 6 p.m.


Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support this bill and congratulate my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley on the really excellent voice he has had for a variety of environmental issues this session.

This is something that we are going to begin to hear more and more about, and that is the relationship between the environment and health. We all sort of know it is there, but we will be able to see more specific linkages to what is in our environment, the health of our bodies and the relationship between them.

We all stand in the House to speak wearing a variety of hats as the people elected in our ridings. I am the health critic for the federal NDP as well as a former nurse who worked in hospitals, and I will speak of medical devices in a moment. I am also a mother and a grandmother.

What do Canadians expect? We expect, as we have heard other people say, that somebody, and I do not think people could identify who but perhaps Health Canada or whoever, has used the highest level of safety consciousness possible before any product is put on the market that someone in their family might use, their child, an adult or anyone else.

When we become parents and sometimes even grandparents, although some of us try, we are not as successful at holding advice back as others, I am sure. My daughter would say I was probably less successful. As parents and grandparents we read books, Internet sites and anything else to find out everything we can possibly know to keep our children safe. We work very hard at that.

We check what is in food and in formula if women are not breastfeeding. We ensure children lie in the correct body position when they sleep, but we expect if a neighbour or grandma buys a toy that it is safe.

We know that there are phthalates in toys. It is of course much more pleasant for babies and small children if the toy is soft. I have picked up toys and squeezed them and thought that one felt better for my granddaughter than the other and that is the one I would buy. It never occurred to me that I should be looking for other things as well that I would not have known to look for before.

We know that children, some more than others but every child to some degree, puts things in their mouths whether it is due to teething or it is one of the ways of exploration. It is one of the ways children learn. If it exists, their instinct is to put it in their mouths. If someone hands a child a toy, the child puts it in his or her mouth.

At the same time, we know that particularly smaller bodies have very different levels of absorption. Their levels of absorption are higher but among adults as well the levels of absorption will vary. If a child is particularly prone to mouthing a toy and has a high absorption level, that child will therefore be exposed to more phthalates than perhaps other children.

We all imagine this lovely picture of moms who are breastfeeding their children because they have been told that is the best thing to do, that is the way babies maintain their immunity and all kinds of wonderful things for moms who are able to breastfeed. It would not occur to us to think that because of mom's exposure to a particular product, a cosmetic or perfume, depending on how much a woman uses a certain product, it gets absorbed into her body and might be transferred through milk to her infant.

As careful as parents want to be, these are things that we have not known about before and why the European Union has banned this completely in toys, as has Argentina, Fiji, Finland, Japan and Mexico. In the United States there are a number of states that are moving to do exactly the same thing. I am quite sure that here in Canada we could do that. We will not be breaking any new ground to do this and we should be moving as quickly as possible to ban phthalates.

The other people we have to be concerned about are other vulnerable people, like folks who are immunosuppressed because they have had chemotherapy for cancer. Their bodies are particularly vulnerable.

Many phthalates are found in medical devices which I certainly did not know about before I read this. Going into the hospital to have surgery people are already worrying enough, at least if they are like me, they are. So do I think about whether the IV line they are using is safe? Or the catheter that someone is inserting is safe? I would not have time to even begin to read the entire list of medical devices, such as the aprons used during radiation therapy, feeding tubes, IV equipment and catheters. The list is enormous.

I have enough things to worry about if I am having surgery other than whether that equipment, which we now know has phthalates in it, is safe, but we also know that there are alternatives. We know if manufacturers are told that it is a banned substance they will very quickly find another substance to use. Indeed, with medical devices a variety of companies have found other substances to use so they can remove phthalates and still have the same effect in the product that they are producing.

This is a superb opportunity to move forward with this. I am disappointed that it is not a complete ban because the precautionary principle says we should probably ban them all. Nevertheless we are still faced with the challenges around leaching, absorption, mouthing, et cetera. We are going to spend 24 months reviewing something that was reviewed in 1994 and 2000 by CEPA and found at that stage to be acceptable.

Our tests are more sophisticated now and I think we will find a very different outcome. However, I would like to believe we could do that in a much faster period of time because I do not like thinking that in the next 24 months people will be going to hospitals or children will be mouthing toys. It is not the toys that will be banned, but with the medical devices people may still be at some risk.

We have had some health crises in this country that we were not able to get ahead of. We could not see them coming and we could not get ahead. Tainted blood is a good example. We do not see health crises coming. We cannot see ahead. This is an opportunity to be ahead of something, not chasing it. No one wants to chase a health crisis.

Given that the European Union and all the countries I mentioned have already taken action on this, the faster we act on this bill, the better off Canadians will be. It does give legislators an opportunity to say that we do believe in the precautionary principle. If there is any risk to Canadians we will do everything we can either to reduce or eliminate the risk until we know that the products on the market are as safe as they can possibly be.

This is not world shaking. Many other countries have done this and we know that manufacturers will be able to change because with any other product that we have said is dangerous and told them they could not put this in it, a week or two later the product is back on the market, the dangerous substance is out, and another one is back in that enables the product to be sold safely. We are more than able to do this.

I would be happier if we could have moved more quickly. I would be happier if this were a ban, although it is a ban on the toys, but I am worried about the 24 months before the act comes into force and the total reassessment of all of the medical devices. We will have a lot of people standing beside us, hurrying us to do it, including consumer groups, health groups, patient groups, parents, all those people I mentioned where products could bring their child or family member into some risk or maybe some significant risk.

Illnesses from cumulative diseases are very hard to assess because it not like one exposure to tainted blood or something. Cumulative is very hard to assess and therefore we should not take any risks around cumulation of a product. We should move very quickly to ban these and to move forward to assess the others as quickly as possible.

Again, I thank my colleague for his very hard work on this and I thank the House for the time to speak.

Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba


Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I speak to Bill C-307, the phthalate control act. The bill seeks to regulate the use of certain phthalates in products that Canadians may be exposed to.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development for their hard work in reviewing this bill.

BillC-307, as amended by the committee, will ensure that the government takes the appropriate evidenced based approach to protect Canadians from exposures to levels of phthalates that can cause them harm.

The amended bill restricts the use of DEHP in children's toys, cosmetics and medical devices using the appropriate existing federal statutes and regulations.

Under the current regulatory regimes and in keeping with the federal constitutional jurisdiction, Health Canada has legislative authorities in place to regulate the safety and effectiveness of medical devices and their manufacturers under the Food and Drugs Act and the medical devices regulations.

One phthalate known as DEHP is used as a softening agent for many medical grade plastic materials made from polyvinylchloride, PVC.

Without a softening agent life saving medical devices such as medical tubing and blood bags would be brittle and crack during use, or could not be sterilized as effectively.

Alternative materials have been developed for use in some medical devices for certain medical applications. In other cases non-DEHP containing devices are not available or do not perform as well as devices made with DEHP.

In these cases an individual risk evaluation must be undertaken to fully understand the implications of alternate treatments or no treatment compared with the use of a medical device containing small quantities of DEHP.

Only a physician in consultation with the patient can make the final decision as to what is an appropriate medical treatment. No medical device or drug is 100% safe and effective. This is an important consideration in any decision when seeking medical treatment.

It follows then that the government's response to the phthalates in medical devices must differ from its approach taken with other consumer products.

Concerns have been raised about the safety of DEHP in medical devices since the 1980s. These concerns are based on studies showing that DEHP administered at high doses to rodents caused certain adverse effects, particularly effects on the developing reproductive system in young males.

There is concern that DEHP has the potential to produce similar adverse reproductive effects on humans, although there are no reliable data demonstrating that it does.

Health Canada has extensively studied the safety of DEHP in medical devices. In 2001 Health Canada completed a review of the scientific and medical literature and in the fall of 2001 convened an expert advisory panel to review the report and provide specific advice on managing the risk associated with the use of DEHP in medical devices. The recommendations of the advisory panel were made public in January 2002 and implemented.

In 2003 Health Canada published a draft position paper regarding the use of DEHP in medical devices. Health Canada has committed to finalize this position paper within the next few months.

Bill C-307, as amended in committee, recognizes that it is not in the best interests of Canadians to ban all medical devices containing DEHP in Canada at this time because alternate treatment options may not exist; and secondly, alternate treatment options may present higher risks to the patients.

Bill C-307 will aim to provide Canadians with continued access to needed medical devices, such as blood bags and intravenous tubing, when DEHP-free devices are not available or appropriate.

Under this bill the Government of Canada will work with the health care community, hospital associations, industry and other stakeholders to facilitate the development and promotion of clinical practice guidelines for the use of DEHP-containing medical devices. It will finalize and release a position paper on the use of medical devices containing DEHP and develop a guidance document on labelling requirements for these products.

The government will also give priority to the review of phthalate-free medical devices intended to be used on vulnerable patient groups. These actions will lead to a phase-out of the use of DEHP in medical devices starting with those used on vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women and newborns.

This approach will aim to provide Canadians with continued access to the best available medical devices and treatment options. Health Canada continues to monitor and review the approaches of other global regulatory agencies with regard to the potential risks associated with DEHP and other phthalates used in medical devices.

Since the 1980s' Canada's risk management approach to this subject has been evidence based, recognizing the balance between potential exposure to DEHP with the need for medically necessary treatments.

I can assure members that Canada's approach to minimize the risk associated with medical devices containing DEHP is one of the most stringent in the world. I would also urge members to support Bill C-307 as amended by the committee and proposed actions by Health Canada and Environment Canada aimed to ensure the health and well-being of Canadians.

I would like to take a moment to reflect on the hard work of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, the member for Langley, and his lead at the environment committee. We all know that can be a very challenging position. The member for Langley has demonstrated that the committee process is active and well through the cooperation of the mover of the bill and others to demonstrate that this Parliament is in fact working.

As I mentioned previously, Bill C-307 was amended at committee to make sure that we clearly reflect the realities in the medical community. Medical devices are very important. On one hand we want them to be available; however, as I said, there are always risks with some devices. I think the committee has struck a balance. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment should be congratulated for navigating this bill through the committee.

I think Canadians, in particular vulnerable Canadians such as children, pregnant women and newborns, will be better off for the hard work of the committee, and particularly the member for Langley, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment.

Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-307, the phthalate control act, introduced by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who takes the environment very seriously.

I have followed the progress of my colleague's work on this bill, in the drafting process and in getting ideas together. This bill should be supported by all parliamentarians and all Canadians because it will reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases in a vulnerable part of our population. There is no appreciable downside to the bill. It is all good. It meets all the tests for developing environmental legislation in this country. As such, I hope that the bill can receive reasonably speedy passage.

As soon as things like this bill are put in place, the cumulative impact of the products on people's lives will be taken away. As soon as we start to reduce that cumulative effect there will be a reduction in the serious and debilitating illnesses and diseases that are a real plague in modern society.

Some of the statistics that come out about the rate of cancer in our society are truly frightening. We need to confront things as soon as possible. We need to take action. We need to take away the risks of living as much as possible. Preventing disease is much more practical and reasonable than trying to deal with it once it has happened.

When we understand that a substance can be harmful to humans, then surely we should follow the precautionary principle and take it out of manufactured products. There are substitutions. There are other products that are just as good. These are the things that drive the bill forward.

I congratulate my hon. colleague for putting forward this bill. It is not something that will catch the headlines, but it will help Canadians in the future. It is something we can all support to make a difference in the lives of Canadians.

If the principles that my colleague has put forward in this private member's bill are carried forward with many other substances, we would be much better off. We all make compromises in what we do in this society. If we understand that products that we are using are harmful to people's health sometimes we make compromises and allow it to continue which is a real detriment to our society.

Before I was elected to Parliament, there was a Conservative member who put forward a private member's bill regarding taking the compound out of cigarettes that allowed them to stay lit when they were not being smoked. I was impressed that a private member's bill could make such a dramatic change to people's health in terms of things that some people were ingesting through their use of tobacco. Cigarettes play a major role in people's lives. We know of people who have died in bed because of smouldering cigarettes.

That private member's bill from the last Parliament will have a major impact on people's health. I see Bill C-307 in the same light. It is something we should all be behind. It is something that means something to Canadians in a very positive and progressive fashion. The bill can set a pattern for how we deal with similar substances in the future.

We all care about children who are at risk. Canadians care about children, how they are treated, how they grow up and how they are socialized. We should be involved with doing what we can to prevent contact with substances that can lead to cancer and debilitating disease.

I trust that Parliament will push this bill forward and that we will see it in place as soon as possible. It will make a difference for Canadians forever more.

I thank my hon. colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley who has worked so hard to bring this bill forward and to put it in a form that everyone can support.

Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will start by speaking about the work the committee has done. It is very important to recognize the committee's work. I have the privilege to chair a committee. In a minority government chairing a committee is sometimes quite difficult. My colleague sitting beside me also chairs a committee and he does an extremely good job.

In a committee in a minority Parliament all members have to sit down and work together to try to make things happen. This piece of legislation that came out of the committee is indeed quite a bit different than when it first went to committee. It is important to recognize that the committee members actually looked at it in a non-partisan way and tried to decide what was in the best interests of Canada and the Canadian population. They agreed to have the bill come out of committee in a way that all parties can and will support it.

We need to recognize the good work that the committee has done. We can point to other examples where the committee has not worked in that way. There are other committees in this House, particularly in the last month or so, that have become quite dysfunctional.

When we come back in the fall and get into the committee work in aggressive ways again it is important that we recognize the importance of the people we are here to serve and they would be the people of Canada. We should work in as much of a non-partisan way as we possibly can on all pieces of legislation and lower the temperature in order to get things done. I want to compliment the committee for a job well done.

When it comes to this piece of legislation, it really is about balancing the environment with risk. Although phthalates are used now in Canada and we recognize them as being safe, it is probably a good thing to be able to take a serious look at whether that continues to be the case. What this piece of legislation really allows for is the government to take a more in-depth study, to examine whether these phthalates are indeed causing perhaps some of the problems, which could be some of the cancers and some of the unknown diseases that occur at the present time in this country.

It is important that we do examine this and take a look at some of the blood studies. When we start looking at some of the blood studies of the population I think we will find some surprises. A perfect example occurred in Swan Hills where there is a toxic chemical plant. When some of the deer population was examined at a spill that occurred it was found that some of the deer in the general population much further from the plant had more toxic chemicals than those that were exposed to the chemicals close to the plant. That adds to the question of what is actually happening in our environment and what we need to look at.

Motions in AmendmentPhthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I am sorry but we will need to leave it there with the hon. member for Yellowhead.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (non-registration of firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I believe the hon. member for Windsor--Tecumseh has 14 minutes left in his speech to Bill C-21.

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6:30 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, we were joking a little as I finished that I was just getting wound up, and I was getting wound up around being critical of the government.

I want to go back to how I started my comments this afternoon, which was about trying to reduce the passion around this issue. Although I am being critical of the government because I think it has gone down the wrong road on this, I want it to be seen as constructive criticism rather than a diatribe against it.

However, I am concerned and I actually was angry at the government because of the process it embarked upon with regard to Bill C-21.

We know that the Conservatives sought legal opinions shortly after they were elected. They were told by legal counsel at that time that they had to bring in a bill. They looked at various ways, through regulation or other methodologies, that would have avoided a vote in this House. Ultimately, they determined that they did not have a choice, that the democratic process had put the long gun registry in place and only the democratic process in the form of a bill and a vote in this House could do away with it.

As I had said earlier, the Conservatives introduced the bill into the House exactly a year ago today and have not done anything since then to bring it forward, which is anti-democratic. I am bothered that they took that approach. However, they compounded their inaction with regard to Bill C-21, in the sense of bringing it forward, having a debate and having a vote twice, by publishing and putting into place amnesties for individuals who had long guns who would no longer be required to register them. If they came up for re-registration, they would not need to do that.

There are a couple of things with that. The amnesty provisions within the Criminal Code, in my opinion, were never designed for that purpose and it is really abusive to use them in that way. Amnesty is to be used in very limited ways, mostly for individual crimes rather than in these circumstances where a whole group of people were exempted from the application of this legislation as it existed and as it continues to exist today.

They granted that amnesty and at the same time made the decision not to collect fees. That has cost the Canadian taxpayers now over $20 million per year. We are into the second year and we are approaching the $40 million mark that it has cost the Canadian taxpayers.

The obvious question is why the government would have taken this approach, given the Conservative Party's long antipathy toward the long gun registry. Why would it sit on this? The very simple answer is that it knows it does not have the votes in this House to support this piece of legislation, even at second reading and to send it to committee.

Instead of that, it has engaged in a campaign to avoid its democratic responsibility to bring this matter to this House in a timely fashion and to let this House decide, to let the elected officials in this country decide whether in fact we were going to have a long gun registry. It has avoided doing that and I am highly critical of it for doing that.

Even though we are having this debate tonight until 10 p.m., I do not see it going any further than that. We will not have a vote on it this week and the House is scheduled to end on the 22nd, this Friday. The House will return in the fall and I have no sense that this bill will be brought back in the fall. To some significant degree, the government is avoiding the issue.

The essential point I want to make is that we need to lower the passion around this issue in this country and this does not do it. In fact, it is just the opposite. It feeds it, both for those of us who are opposed to the gun registry and those of us who support it.

In the remaining time I would like to briefly address the bill. The bill is pretty straightforward. Although it is some 10 or 12 pages long, it is very basic. It would amend the Firearms Act. It is legislation that refers to long guns and in effect it would systematically dismantle the long gun registry in this country if this bill were to go ahead and become law at some point in the future.That is all it would do. I suppose I should not say that because it would do a bit more, but that is essentially what the bill would do, which why those of us who feel the long gun registry performs a function are opposed to it.

In that regard, there is no question that the debate around whether this has reduced violent crime in this country is a debate. There is not sufficient evidence on either side to absolutely control that question. There are strong arguments that I voice on a regular basis that have convinced me that the long gun registry has had a substantial impact in reducing violence in this country.

The evidence, I believe, is incontrovertible that the suicide rate has been reduced substantially since 1996 when the long gun registry began to have an impact. Certainly in the period of time from 2001 to 2003 when it really began to have an impact, the suicide rate went down.

The accidental death rate dropped dramatically, in the 20 percentile range, as a result of the controls that the long gun registry imposes upon the storage, transportation, et cetera, of long guns.

It is interesting as well to look at what happened. It was one of those unintended consequences. I certainly did not hear anyone during those debates on the long gun registry legislation speak to this. One of the unintended consequences of the legislation, because it costs money to register, or at least it did before the Conservative government got hold of it, was that it dissuaded people from keeping their long guns when they had to register them. It also had the effect of dissuading people from buying long guns knowing that they would have the ongoing cost of registration.

In that regard, there was a pretty extensive survey done at one point that showed that in the previous year of the survey being conducted slightly more than half of the people who owned long guns in this country did not use them. We have this image portrayed of us making it difficult for hunters to use their long guns for hunting and other recreational purposes, including target practice. The reality is, from what we have been able to ascertain, that continues to be the case. A large number of long guns, slightly more than 50%, in any given year, are not used at all by the owners of those guns,.

To go back to the point of that unintended consequence, when the legislation came into play, people who had to begin to pay fees gave up their long guns rather than pay the fees because they were not using them and had no use for them.

One of the fears, of course, if the long gun registry is done away with and the requirements for storage and the sequence that we follow in terms of enforcing and patrolling that legislation, is that we will see an increase in mishaps, at least in accidental deaths. Suicide is another issue but the fear is that accidental deaths will go up because casual owners, not the hunter who is devoted to a recreational pastime, but the casual owners, who on a whim in many cases buy long guns, will not be careful in how they store the guns and, in effect, protect their families, friends and the environment from the accidental use of the guns. We will see an increase in accidental deaths and for that reason alone it is well worthwhile to keep the registration in place.

One of the other statistics that is very clear, which my colleague from the Bloc mentioned in his address, is that the number of violent crimes within domestic settings between partners, almost all of it males serviced on females, has dropped dramatically as we got rid of that many guns. We got them out of the households where they should not have been. We restricted the use by other people who should not have been owning them.

Some of that will continue. I do not want to mislead the public in that regard. This legislation would continue to require people who own guns to be registered and screened.

What should we be doing to improve the registry of both handguns and long guns? I believe the government has gone wrong by spending so much energy, including the amnesty and including forgiving the fees. Rather than doing that, if it had been spending time and effort and doing analyses of what we should be doing, we probably would have had some significant impact.

I want to talk about the Dawson situation. The long gun that was used, which looked like an assault rifle, at one point could have been banned as an assault rifle because there are provisions within the legislation now that say this type of a gun, if it looks this way, which is the kind of wording and essence of the legislation and the regulations, is banned. That was during the Liberal government administration. There were a number of opportunities but because of the opposition that was coming from those people who opposed the long guns, the Liberals were not prepared to take those administrative decisions to get guns like that out of the hands of people who, as my colleague from the Bloc said, have this fascination with guns.

I do not want to taint all owners of guns that way but it was one of the places where we could have done better as a government. We did not do that because of the opposition to the long gun registry. We should be doing that. There are other assault rifles appearing in this country that should be on our prohibited list and no one should be allowed to own them, rifles similar to the one used in the Dawson killings.

We should be tightening up quite dramatically the screening of everyone, whether they own a handgun or a long gun. There are simply too many other possibilities. I want to point to one of the suggestions that has been made, which has come out of the province of Quebec, around screening people by getting the gun clubs more on side, requiring them to provide information and, in particular, concerns, if they have them, over individuals who have gone through the training process that they needed to go through in order to get themselves and their weapons registered in this country, requiring them to do more in that regard.

The financial reason that they should be required to do that is because they benefit from the use of guns in this country at the clubs they run, whether they are private or non-profit. They have an additional responsibility and I believe it is one that we should be imposing upon them and should be enforced. That would have some significant difference. Again, in the Dawson situation we should have done additional screening with regard to military records. It is quite clear in that case that it would have brought forward to the registrar that this individual had a problem and that may very well have prevented that.

We can go down the list. There are a number of other areas where we could be doing much better. The concentration that we have done on simply getting rid of the long gun registry is a major error. We should be doing much more work in these other areas of screening and getting other guns out of circulation that really have no purpose in a society such as Canada.

I urge all members of this House in the debate that will be taking place through the rest of this evening to try to limit the passion, look at the facts and to argue from whichever side, because there are facts on both sides of this, but to reduce the passion and hopefully that will spill out into the rest of the country.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.


Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe that if you were to check with members you would find unanimous consent for me to be allowed to enter into the speaking order at this time. I had to attend to a security matter previously and I believe you would find that to be true.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The hon. Minister of Public Safety is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to speak. As the mover of the motion he is deemed to have already spoken but he was not able to speak. Is there unanimous consent?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.


Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for that demonstration of collegiality from the members.

My friend who just completed speaking had talked about a lowering of the emotions and I think that is important. I think the debate tonight has been civil although people feel strongly about it. Previously there have been unfortunate references, which I have not heard tonight, to almost a questioning of whether one really loves one's loved ones if one is supporting getting rid of the long gun registry.

I am glad that has not entered into the debate. Most of us here have children. Some have grandchildren. We all have loved ones. We all want to see crime with firearms reduced. We all believe there is a way to do that. It is not a question of how much we love our loved ones. I am glad that has not entered into the debate.

As a matter of fact, in two cases I have talked to parents, each of whom lost a son who was tragically slain by a firearm. In each case, those parents said to me, “Don't fix the problem by trying to keep the long gun registry”. They said that it is a waste of money and a waste of police time and resources. Both sets of parents had sons who were police officers and who were slain by long guns.

I share that with members and will share just as emphatically that I have talked with parents who have lost loved ones because of a handgun and want to see the long gun registry maintained. I say this to show that even among parents whose children have been slain there is a difference of opinion on this.

I want to emphasize some things that we are not changing as we look at Bill C-21.

We are not changing the requirement to have a licence if a person wants to own or acquire a firearm of any type. A person still must have a licence. That does not change. A person still must have the training that is involved in the handling of a firearm. The storage laws remain in place. We are still maintaining those.

The handgun prohibitions still remain. We do not endorse a ban on handguns because effectively there is one now. A person can own a handgun only under very strict conditions. A person can transport it only under very strict conditions.

I notice with interest some new legislation being proposed by one of the provinces. I am glad to see provinces engage in this discussion. That province is saying that it should be illegal to carry a handgun on a bus or to take it to school, for instance, but it already is illegal to do that.

A point should be noted about virtually any country where we look at a handgun prohibition, where handguns were banned and ordered to be removed from the hands of all citizens, such as Ireland, the United Kingdom and Jamaica. We watched this debate play out in our newspapers about two weeks ago. In all countries, everybody was agreed that over the period of time in the last 10 years or so where these handgun eradications took place, firearm use, death by firearms and the use of firearms in crimes all went up and went up substantially. I agree with my colleague who just shared his comments. It is difficult to try to endorse what we are doing here with actual statistics.

There are some things that we are changing and that we have changed.

Last year, recognizing that thousands of people were out of compliance because of the fees that were involved in being registered themselves, we waived those fees to encourage people to come into compliance so we would know who is out there with a licence to own handguns. Literally thousands of people came back into compliance, back into the system that tells us who has a firearm licence. We changed that and it proved to be a positive thing.

We also are proposing, with an allotment from our budget this year, that $14.2 million go into screening people who want any type of firearm. It would be screening at a much higher level than before. A person is going to need to have an interview with a firearms officer or his or her designate. Also, the person's two references will have to be interviewed. It is going to be tougher from the screening point of view to get a firearm licence than it is to get a passport. We are going to be checking into that more thoroughly.

Again, I have heard colleagues on all sides of the House recommend other things that can be done to alert those in the health care professions, and in other ways, to the possibility that they are dealing with a person who possibly should not have any type of firearm. Those are things that we need to continue to look at.

We also have put the funding in place because we believe that we fight crime by having more police officers on our streets and in our communities. We have put in the funding for a thousand more RCMP officers from coast to coast. I am engaged right now in discussions with provincial ministers and territorial ministers for a cost sharing formula to have 2,500 more municipal officers on the street.

We are proceeding with arming our border officers so that no longer when there is a concern about someone who is armed and dangerous coming to the border do they vacate their posts and shut down the border. That is going to assist them and it sends a message to people south of the border who may be carrying firearms that they will be greeted by people who are equipped to handle that eventuality.

We are giving extra funding to the teams that work together across the border on the whole area of smuggling. Police officers and police associations talk about the huge percentage of firearms smuggled into the country. We are being very aggressive on increased resources to deal with that.

We are putting literally millions of dollars into the whole area of gang activity and it is especially directed toward youth who would be prone to being drawn into gang activity. We want to show them that there are other choices. Millions of dollars will be and are in the process of going to local jurisdictions and local organizations that can be effective in reaching out and providing prevention programs.

Everything I have just mentioned in terms of more police, going after smuggling and a more aggressive police presence on the street also has to be accompanied by legislation. As members know, we now have legislation dealing with the mandatory requirement for somebody to spend jail time if they commit a crime with a firearm. We think it is right that a multiple offender with a firearm should go to jail for at least seven years.

I was disappointed that most of the Liberals did not agree with that. They voted against that. I have never fully understood it. The Liberals want a long gun registry for farmers and duck hunters, but they do not want people who have committed more than one offence with a firearm to have to go to jail. I have not fully comprehended that and I will be listening to hear an explanation.

This type of aggressive action of going after the criminals and going after the problems is something that the city of Toronto police have done over the last year following the tragedies in that city. Crime with firearms has been drastically reduced, notwithstanding two very tragic incidents that have happened recently. The Toronto police are putting into practice what we endorse. We think that we will continue to see crime with firearms go down.

Bill C-21 talks about three basic things. It is mentioning and making it a matter of law that to acquire any type of firearm an individual is going to have to be licensed. For any type of firearm, that individual will have to be licensed.

The bill also lays out rules for how businesses are going to have to record and maintain the records of any firearm transactions.

Then, getting to the contentious point, the area of long guns themselves, we are proposing that the long gun registry of non-prohibited weapons be dismissed, be removed.

There are reasons for that. There are millions upon millions of long guns out there, primarily used by duck hunters and other types of hunters and sports shooters. There are literally millions of long guns. Rightly or not, and I will always assume good intentions on the part of members of Parliament, in the last decade the Liberals thought they could embark upon a journey to see every single one of those long guns all across the country registered, the long guns themselves, millions and millions of them.

It proved to be a disaster. I will quote the Auditor General herself. She said that the long gun registry was “significantly over budget” and that her office had evidence that they were looking for an accounting solution. She also said, “The quality of the information is doubtful”, in reference to the long gun registry, “and they don't have the mechanisms to verify it”.

She went on to say, “If a police officer is consulting it, he cannot be certain that the information is complete and exact”. That is quite an indictment, with $946 million spent up to that point to support a long gun registry that the Auditor General herself said simply did not give accurate data. It may have been well intended, but it was an impossible task.

That leads us to the question that often comes up about something called the CPIC system. It is a police information system. I consistently hear that it is used 5,000 times a day to check for firearm occupation or firearm possession. It is not.

That CPIC system is available to police officers all across the country. If they pull somebody over for speeding or they catch someone for jaywalking, whatever the serious or less serious nature of an event may be, they plug into the system. They have a person's car licence there. They want to see who it is they are dealing with.

Coincidental to that, there are also links, as those who are familiar with websites know, to a number of different sites from the CPIC system. One of those sites is linked to the firearms registry. If they want to hit the link button and go into that particular registry, they can, but this is predominantly used by police officers who want to check that system daily for any person they stop.

There are 5,000 police officers in Toronto alone and 6,500 in British Columbia. In a day, they use the CPIC system thousands of times, but in the vast majority of those times they are not checking whether or not a person has firearms. It is some other related activity on which they are checking.

I wish people would exercise caution when they use that number.

In terms of the facts of the matter related to the firearm registry, in 1998 there were 51 deaths as a result of long guns. In the year 2003, just before the long gun registry was fully implemented, finally, after the Liberals had tried for many years to do so, the number dropped. The number of long gun deaths dropped from 51 to 32 without the long gun registry. Two years after the long gun registry was in place, the numbers went up to 55.

I will not use a specious argument and say that the long gun registry caused more deaths, because I do not think it did, but it certainly did not reduce any. What it did do was take away millions upon millions of dollars of resources and time that police officers could have been more effectively using in all of their efforts to reduce crime with firearms.

There is no evidential coincidence at all that over the period it has been place the long gun registry has reduced crime with firearms in any way, shape or form. The only thing that reduces it is aggressive activity, with more police officers on the street and some of the other items I mentioned.

We often hear quotes from those who want to substantiate the reason why there should be a long gun registry of sports shooters, duck hunters and farmers. Often we hear that this is one group of elected people who endorsed this particular bill and this path that we are embarking on.

Let me quote some other people whom we never hear quoted. Samara McPhedran is the chairwoman of the International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting and she says, “The ideologically driven registry has not reduced rates of violence crime”. That is a fact. She says that it “has not improved public safety”. That is a fact. She says that it “has not prevented criminals from illegally obtaining firearms”.

She goes on to say:

Massive ongoing expenditure of public funds upon an ineffective system achieves nothing more than the misdirection of resources away from where they are urgently needed--social services, education, health care and policing.

We endorse what she says there 100%.

This is something that is not partisan or politically driven. I remember that the member of Parliament for Yukon, the Liberal member, talked about being very passionately against the long gun registry. He said, “One thing that upset Canadians, even those that support the registry, was the administrative mismanagement”. He said, “That made people think it was a gross waste of money”.

The Liberal member for Kings—Hants, who was also a federal Liberal leadership candidate, said,“We should be getting rid of the long-gun registry”. He said, “A billion dollars would have been better spent on health care or education or, for instance, in strengthening the RCMP”. That is from a Liberal member who was running for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

The Liberal member for Newmarket—Aurora was previously a Conservative, and I respect that. She ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party and now is a Liberal and I understand she is stepping down. That is certainly her choice and I respect that, but she said something interesting. She said, “As a mother, I am scared by gun violence”.

She said, “I believe we must protect law-abiding citizens from criminals, which is why we should increase the minimum sentence for violent crimes involving guns”. She is one of the few Liberals who think repeat firearm offenders should actually go to jail. She went on to say, “I believe it is not a crime for law-abiding farmers, ranchers and hunters who use firearms a as tool”. She said, “It is wrong the federal government has penalized them”.

Those are good quotes.

The Liberal member for Huron—Bruce is on record as showing once again that the gun registry does not work and makes that point very clearly.

Many in the NDP share the government's view on this. The member for Winnipeg Centre said that he and likely half of the NDP caucus would back a Conservative bill to scrap the registry.

The MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has said that he will keep his promise to abolish the gun registry. He is a man of his word and I believe he will. He says that there is no uncertainty about that. Politically, this view is shared by many.

We often hear the term “the police” want the long gun registry maintained. A few senior officers in a few associations, for a variety of reasons not totally understood, have said that they want to see the long gun registry maintained, but people should be honest. When they say that the police want the long gun registry maintained, at the very least they should say a few police officers are on record as wanting the long gun registry maintained.

For instance, the president of the Winnipeg Police Association said, “the Winnipeg Police Association has never supported the long gun registry”.

The Manitoba Police Association passed a motion saying that Ottawa should scrap the long gun registry.

The executive officer of the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers, about the long gun registry, said:

We've been against it right from the beginning...That's been our position since 1994 and it hasn't changed—we've been in opposition to our brothers at the Canadian Professional Police Association (on the registry).

The president of the Calgary Police Association is also opposed to the long gun registry, but he is proposing mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes. That is what we are proposing.

An officer from the Fredericton police said that officers responding to a potentially dangerous situation always assumed there was a firearm involved. He said that they always took the corrective practices approaching a domicile that there could be a firearm involved. He went on to say, “We don't check with the registry during a gun-related incident”. They have been trained to always assume that possibility is there.

It is not just western police, if somebody is reflecting on that. I have talked about some in Fredericton. The deputy chief of the Toronto police said that the money spent on registering shotguns should be used instead on stricter law enforcement and social programs to keep kids out of gangs. He said, “The $1 billion could be better spent elsewhere. It really has done nothing to solve the crime problem. The gun registry registers legal guns. Gangsters do not register their guns”.

Brian Ford, former Ottawa police chief, supported the registry at one point but makes an interesting statement. He says he supported it because he did not know the Liberals were lying to him. He stated, “I was assured by government—it's on budget”. He said, “They were lying. It bothers me. I was telling people what I believed to be the truth”. That is a dramatic statement from the former police chief in Ottawa.

Former Toronto police Chief Julian Fantino, now head of the Ontario Police, supported scrapping the long gun registry. He recognized that forcing law-abiding Canadians to register their rifles did nothing to reduce gun crimes and the money would be better spent on front line police resources.

Chief Bill Blair has done much to reduce crime with firearms in Toronto. He is not taking the position precisely on the long gun registry, but says this:

—we know the gun problem in Toronto is overwhelmingly a problem of illegal handguns....Gangsters who carry guns in the city of Toronto do not register those guns so any changes in the gun registry are not going to have a significant impact on our efforts to control the operation and use of illegal handguns on our streets.

I have one more quote. I have quoted moms who have lost sons, parliamentarians and police. We should listen to the words of a former gang member. Former Toronto founder of Vice Lords and gang member said, “The gun registry has not had any impact on the availability of guns to gangs. If you want a gun, you can get one in a day, a couple of hours maybe”.

Across the board there is a consensus that we need to do all the things we are going to do to reduce crime with firearms, and I have gone through them. However, we also need to eliminate the long gun registry and let those precious resources get into the hands of our police officers.

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7:05 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, after listening to the Minister of Public Safety and his selective quotations, I had to rise.

First, the minister knows that the members on this side in the official opposition support mandatory minimums for gun related crimes because the research shows they work. That is why, before Parliament dissolved in the last session, our Liberal government introduced legislation to increase the mandatory minimums for gun related crimes.

When the minister speaks of the 5,000 hits to the gun registry per day and argues that it is all tied in with CPIC, he knows full well that if law enforcement officers are accessing the CPIC, they have an option of whether to go into the gun registry database. If they go into the gun registry database 5,000 times a day, they should know whether it is useful information or not. If they sit in their cars, investigate crimes and take the time to access the gun registry, the police officers know their business and have taken the time to do that. Although it is tied in with CPIC, the 5,000 hits are on the gun registry per day.

Second, the minister quoted a selection of police officers who do not support the gun registry. How about the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Professional Police Association? Those are rank and file police officers. They support it.

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7:05 p.m.


Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was trying to note everything the member was saying.

He quite rightly said that when police officers consult the CPIC system, they are not doing that primarily to consult the gun registry. They are using it for other reasons. All I am saying is that it is really not a totally truthful argument to say that 5,000 times a day police officers consult the CPIC system to get into the gun registry. They do not. The vast majority of the hits on the CPIC system are for other things. It just shows there is a link into the long gun registry.

It may be a minor point, but people strike fear in the hearts of Canadians by saying that 5,000 times a day police officers are looking at the gun registry. They are not. It is possibly a handful of times a day, but not 5,000 times a day, so it is a correction.

To say I selectively quoted police officers, I quoted representatives of vast associations. I would suggest for the member, if he did a poll of the associations that he quoted, he would find that the head of those associations had a certain point of view and the rank and file might see that drastically differently.

All I am saying is there is a vast difference of opinion among police officers on this point and they should not quote one or two officers as that being the monolithic position of all police officers. Most rank and file police officers do not support the hundreds of millions of dollars going into the long gun registry.

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7:10 p.m.


Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, first, I thank the minister for tabling Bill C-21 in this House and keeping another Conservative platform commitment to eliminate the long gun registry.

I also thank the minister for implementing the amnesties. I know my constituents are very appreciative of that. I know a lot of them received some of the money they had used on their application forms back, and I have received some positive feedback on that.

I also thank the minister for the tremendous work he has done to ensure there are enough RCMP officers on the streets. I have met with my constituents in Breton and Hobbema and there is a lack of RCMP and resources on the ground to do the police work that needs to be done.

However, the question I have for the minister is on something he brought up during his speech. I would like to bring some clarification to the House.

In a former life I was a database administrator. I am fairly conversant in how databases work and how queries work between databases. One of the things I used to do, when I was a faculty member teaching databases, was talk about the importance of processes in place to ensure the information that went into a system was good. We used to call it garbage in equals garbage out.

Could the minister clarify and give us more information about whether the information in the database is good, whether the police officers can use, through CPIC, the licence database, as there is obviously a repository of information there, and whether that information is useful to police officers in lieu of the fact that the registry information is obviously flawed?

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7:10 p.m.


Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, the fact is it was an impossible task to register the millions upon millions of long guns in the hands of farmers, hunters and sport shooters. Guns have been passed on from generation to generation. Some do not even have the serial numbers on them.

Because the member has asked, it is only fair that I use the quote from the Auditor General when she looked at that. She said, “The quality of the information is doubtful”. This is not very reassuring to a police officer pulling up to a home and thinking that he or she is going to be able to get exact, precise information about a certain type of long gun or not. However, what a police officer can know is that an individual has a licence to possess firearms. We can have this information without spending $1 billion trying to register every type of firearm. That is the disconcerting part.

I have quoted a police officer who says that the officers cannot trust the data. What they trust is their training and they approach every situation as if there is a firearm present.