Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this House to speak on behalf of the constituents of the great Kenora riding, particularly with respect to Bill C-391.
Outside of the serious impact of the global recession and the work that we needed to do, I do not think there is a single bigger issue than dismantling the long gun registry. I have heard it at the doorsteps of thousands of constituents throughout my riding as I have canvassed and campaigned. I am here today to take my 10 minutes to speak on behalf of the majority of constituents in my riding who want to see the long gun registry dismantled.
I applaud my colleague, and neighbour, so to speak, out there in Ontario for the work that she has done and the work of a couple of key MPs in this regard.
Today I want to talk about the whole idea of gun-related crime. This is something that this government has taken very seriously. Our government has been committed to making our streets and communities safer for all Canadians since we were first elected in 2006. In fact, since we have taken office, we have followed up on a real commitment to reduce gun-related crimes with concrete and tangible initiatives to get tough with criminals.
Our government has stood up for average Canadians time and time again in the face of never-ending opposition to our tough on crime legislative agenda by the obstructionist Liberal-dominated Senate. Despite the opposition in the Senate, this government introduced and passed the Tackling Violent Crime Act. It contains tough measures to battle gun-related crime.
There are now mandatory prison sentences for criminals who commit crimes with guns, tougher bail rules to make it easier to keep people accused of serious gun crimes off our streets, and provisions that make it easier to keep the country's most dangerous, violent repeat offenders behind bars where they belong.
Our government is committed to continuing this work to get tough on crime. We have before this House many other pieces of legislation to keep law-abiding Canadians safe from those who choose not to live within the bounds of the law in our civil society. One of them is a bill that would change the so-called faint hope clause which gives some people convicted of serious crimes a chance at early parole. If passed, that legislation would close the revolving door that allows convicted criminals back out on our streets after serving as little as a Liberal one-sixth, as we call it over here.
We will continue bringing legislation forward that focuses on the protection of honest, hard-working Canadians. As our Prime Minister has stated, our government's approach to criminal justice is fundamentally different from our predecessor's. We believe that the central purpose of the criminal justice system is not the welfare of the criminal; it is the protection of law-abiding citizens and their families.
Canadians across this country hear media reports on a crime that is committed with guns on an almost daily basis. This concerns not just Canadians who live in large urban centres. We do, from time to time, see gun violence in smaller towns and cities as well. The fact is that almost all of these acts of violence were committed with handguns.
Our government has always contended that the long gun registry could be misused and that information contained in it could be compromised to the detriment of law-abiding gun owners across this country. As the member for Timmins—James Bay has said:
I would say that the people in my riding are very responsible gun owners. They have had a lot of resentment about how the registry was implemented, and a lot of that resentment has been well founded.
The constituents of the great Kenora riding share those concerns.
We saw the extent to which the long gun registry could be misused a couple of weeks ago when it was widely reported that the information contained in the registry was handed over to a private polling company. Constituents in my riding were called without any consultation or any regard to the privacy concerns or interests of the information contained in the registry records.
I can think of no greater example to point to for the justification of abolishing the unfair, burdensome, unnecessary and costly long gun registry.
That is really what the bill before us today is all about. It is about making sure that we continue to preserve and enhance those measures which do work to reduce crime and protect Canadians. It is also about making sure that we do not unnecessarily penalize hard-working, honest, law-abiding citizens with rules that have little effect on crime prevention or reducing gun crime.
What, then, does Bill C-391 do? Let me be clear, first and foremost, that the legislation before us today removes the need to register non-restricted firearms, such as rifles and shotguns that are not otherwise prohibited.
Today, such non-restricted firearms are primarily used by our first nations communities, in my riding of more than 320,000 sparkling square kilometres of great hunting terrain, for tradition and recreation; by some farmers, not so many in my riding; by sports hunters and people who enjoy rifling, such as myself; by folks who want to protect their livestock or hunt wild game. They are rarely used to commit crimes. We know that is the case, thanks to a recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice which noted that most of the guns that are used to commit crimes in Canada are handguns smuggled in from the United States.
That said, Bill C-391 does not do away with the need to properly license non-restricted firearm owners, nor does it do away with the need for the owners of other types of weapons to obtain a registration certificate as well as a licence.
Registration of restricted and prohibited firearms, including all hand guns and automatic firearms, would continue to be maintained by the RCMP's Canadian firearms programs.
I can assure my colleagues and all Canadians that farmers, duck hunters, target shooters and other law-abiding citizens, under Bill C-391, will still need to go through a licensing procedure. To obtain a licence, they must be able to pass the required Canadian firearms safety course. It is a rigorous course. I have taken it. It is an important reminder to me of the concerns we have to have for the safe handling and storage of firearms.
They will also need to pass a background check, performed by the chief firearms officer or representatives who employ law enforcement systems and resources to ensure that the individuals in question have not committed serious criminal offences in the recent past, are not under a court-sanctioned prohibition order for firearms, and do not pose a threat to public safety.
Bill C-391 retains licensing requirements for all gun owners while doing away with the need for honest and law-abiding citizens to undergo the burden of registering their non-restricted rifles or shotguns, a burden which has no impact on reducing gun crimes in Canada.
Over the last three years the Government of Canada has passed legislation to tackle violent crime and violent gun crime, as I alluded to earlier, by introducing mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes, as well as reverse bail provisions for serious offences. These changes were long overdue.
We have provided more money to the provinces and territories so that they could hire additional police officers. The government has committed to helping the RCMP recruit and train more personnel. Our government has taken action to help young people make smart choices and avoid becoming involved in gang activities through programs funded through the National Crime Prevention Centre.
We need to ensure that we have a system to screen prospective gun owners that is effective and efficient. That is why this government has invested $7 million annually to strengthen the front-end screening of first-time firearm licence applicants, with a view to keeping firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them.
We have to ensure that we have a mechanism in place to keep firearms out of the hands of those who threaten our community, our safety and our lives.
As I wind up this speech, I just want to urge all hon. members to review the real facts, to listen to Canadians from the great Kenora riding and many other ridings that are large in size and have predominantly remote and isolated rural communities, and to respect our way of life. I urge them to support the vast majority of people who believe that the long gun registry unfairly penalizes law-abiding citizens who live in our ridings.
Therefore, I am confident that members will approach today's debate with an open mind and, when the time comes, will vote accordingly.