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House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was help.

Topics

Board of Internal Economy

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to inform the House that Mr. Cuzner, member for the electoral district of Cape Breton—Canso, has been appointed member of the Board of Internal Economy in place of Mr. Bélanger, member for the electoral district of Ottawa—Vanier, for the purposes and under the provisions of article 50 of the Parliament of Canada Act.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the House

11 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you sought it, I think you would find unanimous consent of the House for the presentation of the 19th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the House

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London have the unanimous consent of the House to present this report?

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the House

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the House

11 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

That being the case, Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 19th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Pursuant to Standing Order 91.1(2), this report contains the list of items added to the order of precedence as a result of the replenishment that took place on Tuesday, May 26, 2009, under private members' business. That should not be designated non-votable.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the House

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Pursuant to Standing Order 91.1(2) this report is deemed concurred in.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

moved that Bill C-391, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (repeal of long-gun registry), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the House on my private members' bill, Bill C-391, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (repeal of long-gun registry).

Bill C-391 is a clear and straightforward bill that would bring an end to the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry. My bill would bring an end to an era of targeting law-abiding citizens who legally own firearms in Canada, and I believe it would help us to refocus much-needed resources, energy and effort onto tackling crime in Canada.

I know full well that gun-crime prevention is an important issue to all members in this House and to all Canadians. We should never forget the tragedies that have resulted from the commission of gun crimes in Canada, and the pain and the heartache felt by victims of gun crime and their families. Victims are so often forgotten, and none of us in this House would want to do anything that would compromise the safety or the security of Canadians or create even more victims of gun violence.

As a mother and a member of Parliament who represents thousands of families in my riding, I believe that ending gang violence, drug crime and domestic violence in order to see our communities be safer and whole should be a priority. It is something I do not take lightly. That is why if I believed that the long gun registry would help reduce crime or make our streets even a little bit safer, I would be the first one to stand up and support it.

Sadly, the long gun registry is doing nothing to end gun crime. It is doing nothing to protect our communities, and it is doing nothing to help police officers do their job. That is why I cannot support it, and I believe the long gun registry must end. That is why I have introduced Bill C-391.

There are numerous reasons why the long-gun registry needs to end and why members from both sides of this House need to represent their constituents' wishes as well as make use of their own good judgment as members of Parliament to help us end the long gun registry once and for all.

We know that criminals do not register firearms. They do not obey laws. In fact criminals scoff at our laws and at the police officers who enforce them. We know criminals are not registering their firearms before they use them, and to suggest that they do is not only ridiculous but it is reckless and dangerous.

We see proof of this day after day. We see front-line police officers fighting gun crime on the streets, while the criminals they are up against are using handguns, not registered long guns. In some jurisdictions handguns are used in 97% of the crimes, and the majority of those handguns are smuggled across the border into Canada illegally.

In fact 93% of gun crimes in the last eight years have been committed with illegal guns and unregistered guns. That is a staggering statistic and one that flies in the face of any argument supporting the long-gun registry. That is also why so many front-line police officers support ending the long gun registry. They recognize that this registry goes after the wrong group of people.

Police officers would rather see time, money and resources going into apprehending criminals who smuggle handguns and the individuals who use them for committing crimes rather than being spent on registering firearms legally owned and operated by law-abiding citizens.

I want to acknowledge and thank the Saskatoon Police Association and the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers for having the courage and the leadership, for speaking out in support of Bill C-391, and for supporting ending the long-gun registry.

The support of front-line police officers across this country is vital, not only to ending the long-gun registry but also to refocusing our attention on criminals and criminal behaviour. Their support is very important because front-line police officers are not sitting behind a desk trying to score political points or gain favour. They are on the streets dealing with dangerous criminals every hour of every day, and we need to listen to what they are saying about tackling crime in Canada.

When the long gun registry was introduced 14 years ago, Canadians were told the cost would be in the range of $1 million. We now know that the cost has ballooned to almost $2 billion, and we can be certain that costs will continue to grow. As the Auditor General said in 2006, it is impossible to tell where the ceiling of those costs will be because so many of them are hidden.

We can only imagine the ways that $2 billion could have helped to fight crime in Canada and could have helped those who are at risk for getting involved in criminal activity. We can only imagine how many officers could have been trained, equipped and on our streets right now. We can only imagine how many programs could have been developed and how much support could have been provided to both families and kids who are looking to belong and instead find themselves involved in drugs and gangs. We can only imagine how many better uses could have been made of $2 billion, which instead has gone into this useless and dysfunctional registry.

However, there is another cost borne by law-abiding citizens in this country. That cost is not only in dollars and cents but is the high cost borne by farmers, hunters, sport shooters and other firearms owners in being called criminals if they do not comply with this nonsensical regulatory regime. Not only that, but they are treated as suspect, as second-class citizens, their only crime being that they legally own and operate a firearm.

Just last week we heard that the personal and private information of firearms owners across Canada, which came from the registry, was passed on to a polling company without the permission of those individuals and without the authorization of the minister.

This is absolutely wrong and a complete misuse of the national registry information. The release of this private information has undermined and compromised the safety of these law-abiding gun owners, and I believe that it compromises the safety of all Canadians.

Many opponents of the long gun registry have expressed deep concern over the years about information like this getting into the wrong hands and the registry becoming a shopping list for thieves and gangsters instead of a tool to protect Canadians. This recent breach of privacy shows why these fears exist and why they are very real. It is yet another compelling reason to end the long gun registry.

What did Canadians get? What benefit are they receiving from the long gun registry? Nothing, absolutely nothing. We know that Canadians have put their trust in this government in large part because of our commitment to actually get tough on crime and to make our streets and communities safer. We have been doing that, and we continue to do so with legislation that gives police and judges real tools to apprehend criminals and keep them off of our streets.

Tackling the illegal use of firearms is an important mandate of our government's public safety agenda. We recently introduced longer mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes and tough new rules on bail for serious weapon-related crimes. Our government has also put more police on the street to fight crimes.

That is why instead of defending the ineffective long-gun registry, the opposition needs to stop stalling and hindering these important pieces of legislation, which our government has introduced, so that we can pass them and see them become law.

I am proud of what this government is doing, and I know the residents of the riding which I am so honoured to represent, the riding of Portage—Lisgar, support our stand and our action on crime. They want to see us continue as do the vast majority of Canadians. We can no longer settle for the false sense of security that the expensive long-gun registry gives.

As a member of Parliament I will never take lightly our responsibility as the governing body of Canada to approach the problem of gun crime. I believe we need to do so with intelligence, sophistication and the best technology, but we also need to do so with a healthy dose of common sense.

In order to do that, we need to look past that initial assumption that all problems can be solved with more of the same thing: another registry, another bureaucracy and another bundle of red tape, because as we have seen to this point, it is not working.

The Auditor General in her 2002 report condemned the long-gun registry as being inefficient and wasteful and as containing data that is unreliable. The Auditor General also stated that there is no evidence that the registry helps reduce crime.

In 2003 only twice was a registered long gun used in a homicide. From 1997 to 2004 there were nine times in total. In each one of these cases the registry did nothing to stop the crime. Obviously we would like to see that statistic at zero for any homicide, whether the gun used was registered or not.

However, these statistics prove what law enforcement is telling us, what the Auditor General has told us, and what Canadians know to be true. The long gun registry is a waste, it benefits no one, and it needs to end.

My legislation would repeal the requirements for individuals and businesses to register non-restricted long guns. What my bill does not do is change the licence requirements and the process for any individual who wants to own a firearm. Anyone wishing to own a firearm, including long guns, will still be required to complete a full safety course. Individuals will still be required to have a full police background check and any individual with a history of violence, mental illness, domestic violence or any kind of criminal or risky behaviour will be denied a licence and will not be allowed to own a firearm. This is a significant point for Canadians to know. My bill only ends the long gun registry. It will not end the licensing process.

Licensing is very important to Canadians because it provides the necessary steps to ensure that firearms do not get into the hands of the individuals who should never have them and of course, police officers will have immediate access to all of this information so they will be able to tell who has a licence to own a firearm and where they live. Furthermore, a registry will stay in place for prohibited and restricted firearms such as handguns.

I have received thousands of signatures from Canadians across the country. I have received letters, phone calls and emails. I believe many members of Parliament from both sides of the House have also been receiving the same communication proving it is the will of the people to get rid of the long gun registry. It is time that we listened to Canadians.

I want to thank my colleagues from across the floor from Thunder Bay—Superior North and from Thunder Bay—Rainy River for all of their support and their courage in regard to Bill C-391. I also want to thank the member for Yorkton—Melville for his assistance and his hard work on this issue in the past.

Many opposition members have stated publicly they could support legislation that is limited to ending the long gun registry. That is exactly what Bill C-391 does. It ends the long gun registry, nothing more and nothing less. I challenge each one of these opposition members of Parliament to stand up for what their constituents want and what they believe is in the best interests of Canadians, and support this bill.

I also want to challenge and encourage the leader of the Liberal Party and the leader of the NDP to allow their members to vote freely on the bill. We are all being watched and we will all be judged on how we handle the issue of the long gun registry, an issue that affects Canadians from every region of this country. I am asking for the support of all members of Parliament to pass Bill C-391 and to work together to eliminate the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. Let us take this opportunity to refocus on tackling real crime in Canada. We need to do this to improve the lives, the safety and the well-being of Canadians for the benefit of all Canadians.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I noticed that in the member's speech there were a number of things she did not mention. She mentioned the Auditor General's report of 2002, but she did not mention the Auditor General's report of 2006 that indicated substantial progress. She also failed to mention the fact the RCMP said that cancelling the long gun portion of the registry would only save $3 million. She also failed to mention that both the Canadian Police Association and Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have said that the registry, as it pertains to long guns, is an essential part of their ability to keep our communities safe.

I wonder why the member is focusing her attention here on trying to eliminate something that police say is vital for doing their job instead of taking action, as an example, on Michael Jackson's report which is stating that the Conservative policies are following those that failed in the United States by the Republicans, in turning our prisons into crime factories, in failing so miserably in how we deal with our correctional system, and why they are so failing on the issue of crime by actually focusing on something that is a false issue and a false argument.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I stated in my speech, if I thought that the long gun registry would help reduce crime at all, I would be the first one standing up to defend it. None of us in this country wants to see gun crime increase and the stakeholders who are probably the most vocal are the police officers on the streets.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of a disconnect between the leaders of the association and the associations themselves. It would be very interesting if we would ask each one of the associations to individually poll their members and ask them what their opinion is of the long gun registry. They would not support this registry and it is for the reasons we have talked about. It is a huge cost and it has benefited no one, but primarily it is focusing on the wrong people. We need to refocus on the criminals.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the first argument out of the mouths of the Conservatives when they talk about the long gun registry has to do with its cost.

Do they not realize that the money needed to set up the long gun registry has already been spent? To abolish the long gun registry would be a terrible waste of the initial investment, which we thought was quite high and for which we have often criticized the previous government.

Does the hon. member have the same numbers I do? I believe the annual cost of registering long guns is $15 million. Since they want to continue with registering handguns, and they are right to want to do so, the savings will be roughly half that amount.

Every police force in the country, except for Saskatchewan's, believes that this would save lives every year.

Does the hon. member not think that $7.5 million a year is worth it?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the member, unfortunately, when it comes to crime, the members of the Bloc lost of lot of credibility when they voted against minimum sentences for those who traffic in humans and minors.

On the point he brought forward, if it were actually increasing the safety of Canadians, nobody in this House would mind spending the money. We would say, “Yes, let's spend the money; let's protect Canadians; let's make them safer”. However, it is not doing that. Almost 97% of the crime, in many jurisdictions, is committed with illegally smuggled-in handguns, not long guns . I think as a group, as members of Parliament, we have a responsibility to look at legislation. If it is working, we need to support it, and we need to encourage it. If it is not working, we need to end it, and we need to refocus on criminals and criminal activity.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I speak on this matter, as I have in the past, I have to reflect upon the fact that there is really a false argument being made here.

When I was growing up as a child, I had the opportunity to go with my grandfather to his hunting camp, to drive into northern Ontario and to learn from him how important hunting was to his life and what a passion it was, not just for himself but for his friends. I learned to fire a gun from my grandfather. I learned from him what it meant to be a responsible gun owner and how those who own guns and hunt have such a deep passion for the outdoors.

This is something that was confirmed to me again when I had the opportunity in my riding to go to the 50th anniversary of the Pickering Rod and Gun Club.

However, this argument is not about stopping hunting or me trying to destroy the legacy of my grandfather enjoying the outdoors. It is quite the opposite. If we were interested in stopping such things, we would bring motions into the House to make hunting illegal, but no such thing has been done.

When I wanted to have a dog, I had to register my dog. I registered and I got a dog. Similarly, if people wish to get a gun, they have to register their weapons. They are no more blocked from getting a weapon because of that registration than they are blocked from getting a dog because they need to register their pet. They are no more blocked from driving because of the requirement to register the vehicle than they are from owning a gun because they have to register it.

It is a false argument and it is an argument that is used to drive a wedge and create something that is more of a symbol than a reality to say that there are certain individuals who just do not get gun ownership and who are against people owning guns, and to try to create this as some sort of symbol.

If it were not for the fact that is was such a vital tool for community safety, perhaps that symbol would be enough. I understand the member, in speaking, did not respect the opinion of the Canadian Police Association, but they are elected by police officers. She may not respect the position of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, but I will tell members that from meeting with chiefs of police in every different region of the country, they have told me this is a vital tool for their police forces in conducting their jobs. That is something I take to heart.

When I am told by the RCMP that scrapping the program would save a meagre $3 million, I have to ask the question: why is this being done? I have to also ask, if the Conservatives are so bent upon trying to get rid of the registry, why are they leaving it to a private member's bill to get rid of it? Why is this not a government motion?

I think the real reason is that the Conservatives themselves do not want to see this gun registry scrapped. I think that they want to continue to use it as a symbol and a tool, and use it as something to aggravate and to create political noise, as opposed to actually ever changing anything, because I do not believe that they would stand in opposition to the chiefs of police and the Canadian Police Association who say that they want to have this vital tool continue.

If we doubt its use, if we doubt the efficacy of this program, the best way for me to describe its import, instead of giving my own personal opinion, is to read from a letter from the Canadian Police Association dated April 7, where the association talks about why it needs this tool to keep our community safe. The letter states:

In 2008, police services queried the registry on average over 9,400 times a day; over 3.4 million times a year. This includes over 2 million checks of individuals, 900,000 address checks, and 74,000 checks of serial numbers on firearms.

They then go on to talk about the importance of the program and why registration is such a key component.

Licensing firearms owners and registering firearms are important in reducing misuse and illegal trade in firearms, for a number of reasons:

1. Rigorously screening and licensing firearms owners reduces the risk for those who pose a threat to themselves or others. Already there is evidence that the system has been effective in preventing people who should not have guns from getting access.

2. Licensing of firearm owners also discourages casual gun ownership. Owning a firearm is a big responsibility and licensing is a reasonable requirement. While not penalizing responsible firearm owners, licensing and registration encourage people to get rid of unwanted, unused and unnecessary firearms.

3. Registration increases accountability of firearms owners by linking the firearm to the owner. This encourages owners to abide by safe storage laws, and compels owners to report firearm thefts where storage may have been a contributing factor. Safe storage of firearms:

--Reduces firearms on the black market from break-ins;

--Reduces unauthorized use of firearms;

--Reduces heat of moment use of firearms; and,

--Reduces accidents, particularly involving children.

4. Registration provides valuable ownership information to law enforcement in the enforcement of firearm prohibition orders and in support of police investigations. Already we have seen a number of concrete examples of police investigations which have been aided by access to the information contained in the registry.

5. While police will never rely entirely on information contained in the registry, it is helpful to know if guns are likely to be present when approaching a volatile situation, for example, in responding to a domestic violence call. The officer, in assessing threat and risk can weigh this information.

6. Registration facilitates proof of possession of stolen and smuggled firearms and aid in prosecutions. Previously it was very difficult to prove possession of illegal firearms and shotguns.

7. Registration provides better information to assist in investigation of thefts and other firearms occurrences.

8. Recovered firearms can be tracked to the registered owner using firearms registration information.

9. Registration is critical to enforcing licensing. Without registration, there is nothing to prevent a licensed gun owner from selling or giving an unregistered weapon to an unlicensed individual.

10. Illegal guns start off as legal guns. Registration helps to prevent the transition from legal to illegal ownership, and helps to identify where the transition to illegal ownership occurs.

They go on to talk about the need for the registry as it pertains to long guns. They say:

Fifteen police officers have been murdered with firearms in the performance of their duties in the past decade... Only two of these officers were killed with handguns, the thirteen others were all killed with rifles or shotguns. The ability to identify the ownership and source of these firearms can be of critical importance in investigating and prosecuting suspects in these crimes. Evidence leading to the arrest and conviction of two men for manslaughter for their involvement in the 2005 murder of four RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe Alberta, included a registered unrestricted rifle found at the scene of the crime.

There are a couple of other items that I will quickly point to. Spousal homicides involving firearms occur twice as frequently with long guns compared to handguns. Suicides are five times more likely to be committed with long guns rather than handguns. The majority of guns recovered or seized by police are non-registered long guns. Murders with rifles and shotguns have decreased dramatically since 1991, in part because of stronger controls of firearms.

If my colleagues want to dispute this information and these facts, I suggest they talk to the men and women who keep our communities safe: the police officers who are charged with the responsibility of community safety and the chiefs of police who cite this information. I suggest that they weigh that information against the savings of $3 million.

Certainly I think the tool is worth far more than that savings of $3 million per year. I think it is important to recognize that when we think of crime and how it is committed, crimes involving guns are often not committed by people who have committed crimes previously. They are heat of the moment crimes. They are crimes committed by people we never suspected to be criminals in the first place.

When we ask somebody to register their gun, we do not expect them to be committing a crime, no more than when we ask somebody to register their vehicle do we expect they are going to be in an accident. However, we want to make sure wherever possible that those who own those weapons are responsible and that the police have every tool at their disposal to keep our communities safe.

On that basis this bill is both irresponsible and unnecessary, and my submission to the House is that it needs to be defeated.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to explain why registration for all firearms is a good idea, with good results. Gun control is one of the best ways to prevent murder, the most dangerous crime, and the one that has the greatest impact on the victims and their loved ones.

There is a direct link between easy access to firearms and the murder rate. That is why these measures receive nearly unanimous support from police officers and from the public safety agencies that deal with victims of gun crimes. This is true in Canada, where the Association des directeurs de police du Québec and the Canadian Police Association, an association for police officers, have repeatedly spoken in favour of these measures. The United States does not have gun control. The murder rate there is three times higher than in Canada. If we go to the United States, we are three times more likely to be the victim of murder than we are in Canada, and five times more likely than if we are in Quebec.

Opponents of gun control often say that real criminals will always find ways to get guns. They will find ways to get around these measures, which only end up making things more difficult for honest people. Perhaps. But those real criminals are not the ones primarily responsible for the murder rate. Many people who kill with firearms have no criminal past. Fights, altercations and lovers' quarrels could all end in murder if there were easier access to firearms.

Furthermore, one of the greatest current threats to public safety is street gangs. They do not have the money that serious criminals do. In the United States, they have easy access to firearms, but not in Canada. It is more complicated and expensive because guns must be obtained illegally. It also takes much longer. In addition, it is possible that these young thugs would not qualify for a licence.

The system protects us from many of the impulsive crimes that produce the more extreme statistics in the United States. One of the statistics that shows quite clearly that most homicides are not committed by hardened criminals is the number of women shot to death by their spouses. That rate is five times higher in the United States than in Canada, and the rate of firearm homicides is eight times higher.

It is truly scandalous that the program has cost so much money. Unfortunately, the Auditor General is still unable to tell us why. We are therefore calling for an independent inquiry to find out. We have been calling for an inquiry for a long time now, but neither of the two previous governments followed through. It looks like some people might have something to hide.

Some might consider our position to be paradoxical, but it is not contradictory. We deplore the waste of public funds and the mismanagement, but this program is nevertheless necessary and has a positive effect on public safety. Cancelling the program and therefore failing to make the most of the money that has already been invested would be truly wasteful.

I believe that nearly all Quebeckers agree. We feel like a guy who has just realized that he paid way too much for his nice house, but burning it down would not make things better. We might feel the same way about the construction of a new bridge that caused a huge financial scandal, but demolishing the bridge would not fix anything. We have to use what we have and make sure that the cost of building future bridges is reasonable.

People do not mind licensing their snowmobiles, their ATVs, big and small, their sports cars and their collector's cars. In my case, I got a licence not for my dog, like the previous member, but for my cat. The licence cost $10. I do not feel like a criminal just because I own a cat. People also agree to take an exam to obtain the right to operate snowmobiles, sports cars or collector's cars. Certain risks are also associated with firearms.

In a society that cares about the safety of its citizens, potential monitoring measures are proportional to the danger presented by each of these things.

Here are some examples. Why do police officers want the registry and how can it be useful to them? If my memory is correct—I did not have a chance to check this in advance—I think it is under section 118 of the Criminal Code that individuals can have their firearms taken away in certain circumstances. This provision can help families when they see a family member falling into depression and are afraid he or she might commit suicide. It could also apply in other circumstances, such as in an unhappy marriage, when the woman sees her husband's attitude has changed considerably and she is afraid he might use his firearms. In such circumstances, when crimes like that or suicide attempts are a legitimate fear, individuals can turn to a judge. After hearing the evidence, the judge can order that those registered firearms be taken away.

In such cases, the firearms registry is essential to the work of police officers, so they know what firearms to expect when they have to go get them. I would again remind the House that, contrary to the Conservatives' belief, homicide is not usually committed by people who already have a criminal record. Many crimes, even the most horrific, are often committed by people with no prior criminal record. Quebeckers will clearly recall the most abominable such crime committed this year at least. A doctor, a surgeon in fact, killed his children because he could not accept the fact that his wife had left him. It is usually in times of profound emotional distress that people commit such acts.

There was also the case a little over a year ago of a female police officer who was killed in Laval by someone who had just received permission from a judge to take back his firearms for hunting season. The police officer knew this person very well. He was not a gangster. Like many people who commit crimes sometimes, he was not suffering from mental illness that would excuse his actions and perhaps result in an acquittal. He knew the police officer well and often had her come over to deal with all sorts of little problems. This time when he called her, she did not feel threatened and he shot her through the door and killed her. This is not a crime that was committed by a bunch of gangsters.

The suicide rate is another significant aspect of this issue. With the arrival of the firearms registry there has been a significant drop in the suicide rate in Quebec in the past eight years and we are pleased about that. A number of measures have been taken, such as opening hot lines for people in distress and crisis. Suicide prevention organizations are some of the biggest proponents of the current registry.

We have to set aside the emotional reactions that suggest that our freedom is guaranteed because of the right to bear arms. Indeed, we have the right to drive an automobile. An automobile is more dangerous than a firearm and we register it. We agree to register all sorts of dangerous things. The most dangerous among them are firearms.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the almost nine years since I have been elected, I do not know how many times I have spoken in the House and a lot more in committee, both in the justice committee and in the public safety and national security committee, on the issue of the gun registry. What has consistently frustrated me from the very beginning is the lack of willingness of those who are opposed to the gun registry to deal with facts rather than emotion, to deal with the gun registry on a factual basis rather than as some kind of iconic devil out there that has been perpetrated by prior Liberal governments against farmers and people who enjoy hunting. I know I will not make a difference today to those people, but I believe it is absolutely paramount that we deal with the facts.

There is absolutely no question that guns continue to be a problem in our society. No member of the House who has spent any amount of time studying the issue will dispute that fact.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Hand guns, Joe, and you know it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am now hearing from the member for Yorkton—Melville who has been consistently on the side of refusing to deal with the facts.

Let us just deal with one fact regarding police officers. This comes from a letter from Mr. Momy, who is the current president of the Canadian Police Association. From 1999 to 2008 there were 15 police officers killed in this country. Like the member from the Bloc, I was at the funeral of the woman police officer just outside Montreal, Quebec. We took time off from the election in 2006 to go to that funeral. It was a tragedy for her family. She was an exemplary police officer. She was one of those 15 officers that had been killed over a 10 year period. Only two of those officers were killed with handguns. The other 13 were killed with long guns.

We could say that the firearm registry was in effect during that period of time, and ask why it did not stop those killings. There is a simple answer, and if the member for Portage—Lisgar was willing to deal with the facts she might know this. Throughout most of that period of time, the long gun registry was not being enforced. As a result of that lack of enforcement, we had significantly additional deaths, including among our police forces.

Let me state another example of the effectiveness of the long gun registry. Another tragedy in our country was the death of those four RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe. We know from the same letter and from other sources that the key mechanism used in determining that the two men, who were subsequently convicted of aiding and abetting, had been involved in aiding and abetting the perpetrator of that crime was the long gun registry.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

That is absolutely wrong.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am hearing from the member that that is wrong. I heard from her when she stood up to attack the police chiefs and the leadership of the police associations in this country by calling them people who sit behind their desks and do not know what is going on in the street. Every single one of those men and women who lead the chiefs of police and the professional police associations came off the street. There is not one of them who did not come off the street. They know what they are talking about.

The information I just gave the House on the incident in Mayerthorpe came directly from Mr. Momy. I invite the member for Portage—Lisgar to have a meeting with him. Maybe she would find out that in fact they have surveyed their membership on an ongoing basis. The last time there was a survey was in 2004. That survey was based on if we had the gun registry under financial control, which we were beginning to achieve at that time--I think we had finished it around 2005-06--the police officers across the country by an overwhelming majority said to get the costs under the control and if that was the case, and it is now, then they support the long gun registry.

It is impossible to go through this in any kind of detail, but I want to cover one more point on the cost issue.

I have studied this extensively, as I sat on the public safety committee for a number of years. We know that we brought the cost under control. It is irrefutable, and we heard it from the Auditor General, from the RCMP which is administering the registry now, and from some of the other speakers today, that if we get rid of the long gun registry, the savings would be somewhere between a minimum of $2 million and a maximum of $5 million.

Again, we heard from the member for Portage—Lisgar, who has brought forth this bill, that we should be using all that money, and of course the Conservatives think in terms of the $2 billion, which is a totally fabricated figure, mostly coming from the member for Yorkton—Melville. The savings this year, and for the last three to four years, would be in the range of $2 million to $5 million. I will use the example of a police officer on the street. Somewhere between $150,000 to $200,000 a year has to be spent for the officer's wages, benefits and all the required equipment. It costs between $150,000 to $200,000 a year to equip and staff one police officer in this country. If we do the math fairly quickly using the figure of $200,000, we would get 10 more police officers and if it is the higher figure of $5 million--my math is going to fail me here--it would be 25 police officers.

If we do that we are going to see a proliferation of long guns in the country. After we brought the registry in and we were charging people to register their long guns, the number of weapons in this country dropped dramatically, we think by as much as several million and maybe as high as seven million. Corresponding to that drop we saw a drop in the number of suicides and accidental deaths, and that one was very significant. We saw fewer deaths as a result. We can do all sorts of analyses but there is no other explanation for the drop in the suicide rate and the drop in the accidental deaths as a result of the use of long guns than the fact that there were fewer of them in our country.

There is not a Canadian, and I do not think there is a member on the opposite side, as strong as they are against the long gun registry, who would say that spending between $2 million and $5 million on the long gun registry to save 20 or 30 and maybe as many as 100 lives from suicides and accidental deaths is not worth it. Again, if we get rid of the long gun registry, other than some attempt by the member for Yorkton—Melville in a previous incarnation of this bill, that being Bill C-301, there is nobody who wants to either curtail the use of and certainly not get rid of the registry that registers restricted weapons, mostly handguns. That savings is minimal. We need the long gun registry in order to ensure that we do not have a proliferation of guns back in the hands of people who are careless with them. That is really what the number of suicides and accidental deaths mean to us.

Mr. Speaker, I am really sorry that I ran out of time. I think there is work that can be done on the registry, and in fact on the acquisition certificates, that would make it a better and more effective system. That is what we should be driving at, not getting rid of the long gun registry, because getting the long gun registry out of our system is going to save very little money and we are going to have additional deaths in this country.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise today to support private member's Bill C-391, which is groundbreaking legislation to finally bring a conclusion to the wasteful long gun registry.

At the outset, I want to thank Dennis Young, who is now retired but who worked endless hours, days, weeks and years on this file. He sorted through over 550 access to information requests to expose the firearms registry fiasco. That is a lot of work over the 15 years that we have been battling that absurd legislation.

I also want to thank the member for Portage—Lisgar for her work on this file and assisting by bringing forward this private member's bill. She has done a lot of work. It is a huge learning curve to find out all about this firearms registry file. I also thank my staff, Brant and Sandy and all the others who have worked on this issue.

I am standing today filled with hope because so many Canadians are finally demanding a swift finale to a bureaucratic nightmare that has run more than 500 times over budget without saving a single life. That is the bottom line. There has never been a government program that has so spun out of control as this one and continues to waste taxpayers' dollars.

The gun registry is the epitome of political pretense. It pretends to protect us by reducing crime, but in fact, it does just the opposite. Ten years ago we had a government that introduced specious and hollow legislation designed to dupe the Canadian public into believing they would be safer if gun owners were forced to lay a piece of paper beside their long guns. Laying a piece of paper beside their long guns was portrayed as gun control and that it would save lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was empty paternalism in the raw then and it continues to be so now.

It was a government that tried to tell people, “We know what is best for all of us, and just bow down and do what we tell you. It flies in the face of common sense, but do it anyway”. That is what we heard from that government. Unfortunately, the propaganda blitz took hold and many people believed that the gun registry somehow protected their best interests. They concluded that the gun registry would separate criminals from the guns they used to rob, kill and intimidate.

That government did not stop to think that criminals do not register their guns and even if they did register them, as the head of Hells Angels did, it had absolutely no influence on their evil deeds. That government did not stop to think that Canadian hunters, sport shooters and farmers would suddenly be turned into criminals themselves if they did not register their guns, which flies in the face of many of the arguments that are heard from the NDP, Bloc and Liberals in regard to why people should register their guns.

While the gun registry was supposed to target the criminal use of long guns, it actually targeted responsible gun owners who were doing nothing wrong in the first place. It is truly repugnant that the disingenuous Liberal government of the day tried to dupe Canadians into thinking that the registry would reduce crime. The Liberal government was dishonest, pretending to take care of us when the opposite was true. It was there to try to win votes, and it did not matter if it would save lives or not.

This ploy, this deception continues to this day. The gun registry is still portrayed as gun control, which it is not. Latter day registry proponents continue the subterfuge by pretending that the registry is working. They have to cook statistics to prove their point. We have heard many of them today, statistics quoted endlessly, totally irrelevant to the argument. Sometimes the licensing addresses the issues they were trying to portray the gun registry as addressing.

It is not enough that it has cost Canadians billions of dollars which should have been spent to put more police and technology on our streets for the past decade, but what is particularly galling is the fact that the gun registry is actually placing Canadians in harm's way. It is doing the polar opposite of what it pretends to do.

Recent evidence shows that the list of gun owners, their guns, their addresses and phone numbers were placed into the hands of a major Canadian polling company for what is called a customer satisfaction survey. What a joke. The whereabouts of gun owners and their firearms has been made public, which is surely one of the most serious breaches of national security in the history of Canada.

Can anyone imagine the horror of gun owners who have been identified by the Canada Firearms Centre to EKOS Research Associates? I can assure the CFC that the gun owners being called by EKOS are neither satisfied nor are they customers. Calling gun owners customers in the RCMP files is absurd in the extreme. They risk criminal charges if they are not in that file. Are the criminals in our prisons customers as well? This is a misuse of the term.

Members of Parliament have been receiving emails, letters and faxes from licensed gun owners who want something done immediately about the security leak.

Until recently, most Canadians believed that the gun registry was merely a lame and wasteful appendage of the federal government. Now it has evolved into an agency that has leaked encrypted personal information that should never have seen the light of day. This is a sad day for Canada and it is potentially a dangerous day for every Canadian whose name appears in the gun registry.

It is even possible that a crime has been committed by making public this secret government information. Surely this breach of trust, this breach of security, this breach of common sense will be the final nail in the registry's coffin.

I also want to remind people who have not been following this file closely that this is not the first breach of security. Back in 2004, I exposed one of the most serious risks gun owners face when they register their firearms,. I received this information through Access to Information. I received confirmation from the RCMP that there were hundreds of confirmed breaches. I have the list here and members can go to my website. According to the RCMP's own files, there are hundreds of confirmed breaches. That means that the information on the registry was given to those people not authorized to receive it.

I want to give the House an example of why this is very serious. In Edmonton, right after someone registered his valuable firearms, his home was broken into. The thieves did not take all the valuable things that thieves would normally take. They went through that house until they found the very securely locked up firearms and took them. How did they know where those firearms were?

Those breaches of security are serious because it gives criminals a shopping list. They know where to find the tools of the trade. That is one of the main reasons the registry should not exist. That information is falling into the wrong hands. I could go into this a lot more.

There were many instances where the RCMP actually laid charges because of the breaches of information. There were many cases where we do not know where that information went, which criminal group, organization or person received that information.

This inane registry has been kept alive by former governments to deceive the people of Canada, and Bill C-391 is a timely and accurate tool to shut it down.

Many members of the opposition parties still claim to the long disproved notion that Canadian police run thousands of gun registry checks every day. Our party and the firearms experts have explained time and again that every non-gun related check of the Canadian Police Information Centre, CPIC, pings the registry and increases the count clock.

The anti-gun lobby chooses not to hear us even though most would admit nearly all of those so-called registry checks occur when police officers run simple licence plate numbers for minor driving infractions.

It is one thing to support one's personal lead but it is another to intentionally mislead the Canadian public into thinking the gun registry is somehow a valuable tool.

I have many quotations here that I will not be able to read but I would refer members to my website. There are over 30 pages of comments from police officers who say that we should get rid of the gun registry because it is putting their officers in harm's way and that it is hurting them. Police officers in my riding specifically instruct those people under them not to consult the registry.

I wish I had a lot more time to go through this. One can imagine, after 15 years dealing with this file, how much I have accumulated to show this is a complete waste of money. I would like to refer people to my website because it contains a history of what this fiasco has done to our country.

We need to get rid of the registry now. I wish I had more time to explain why.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

Noon

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the bill seeks to eliminate the long arms registry that was set up by Parliament in law.

Back in 1994, when the issue of the registry was first put forward, one of the things the Conservative members failed to mention was that the crime committed using long arms was actually greater than crime by handguns.

How could it have been greater? When we had a system where there was nothing to require the safe storage, training, registration and so on, all kinds of problems were happening. In fact, long arms were being stored by the front door and if there was a problem they would get the gun and go ahead.

If the mover of the bill says that the registry has done nothing to reduce crime, her own facts say that in fact now long arm crime is away down. Therefore, obviously it worked. Then she concludes that it is not helping to alleviate crime so we should get rid of the long arm registry.

If we follow that logic, then she must also say that we need to get rid of the handgun registry because clearly the registry is expensive, wasteful and does not do anything. That is not the truth. When police officers and public safety officers who have access to the CPIC system go into a situation where they are not sure whether there is a risk, that tool is available to them.

I intend to complete my speech the next time we deal with the bill but I do want to say that the member has raised selective facts. If she wants the bill to be passed, she needs to put it all on the table. It needs to be true, full and plain and the member needs to be accountable for her words. We will see.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

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 from September 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and to increase benefits, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity today to take part in this vital debate that concerns so many Canadians. I will begin by saying that I think Canadians are looking to this government to provide meaningful assistance and we are delivering the goods to Canadians.

It is mystifying, however, how the leader of the official opposition and his party are behaving. On the one hand, they apparently care so little about the unemployed that they could not actually be bothered to show up at committee meetings that were held this summer and technical briefings on this particular bill. We had great hopes for these particular meetings and it upset many of us to find that the Liberals were not prepared to work with us.

On the other hand, they say that they want to rush this legislation through so it will not interfere with their scheme to plunge the country into another unnecessary, expensive election. Nobody wants an election because we are currently fighting a global economic downturn and we need to have this government continue to show the stewardship and good management that we are showing.

The Liberals do not care about the nearly $1 billion in assistance for long-tenured workers because they are too interested in spending one-third of a billion dollars to advance their leader's personal ambitions. They should be ashamed.

This Conservative government is focused on fighting the recession. The Leader of the Opposition is focused on fighting the recovery. As part of our efforts to ensure economic recovery, our government has introduced many enhancements to the EI system. The bill before us today continues this process. It continues to help Canadian families. It is a much needed step to meet the needs of long-term workers.

It is no secret that the global economic slowdown has affected the lives of many working Canadians from coast to coast. Through no fault of their own, many workers who have held down jobs for years, often in a single industry, have been laid off, in some cases for the first time ever. With the rapid pace of change, it is not clear that these so-called long-tenured workers will even get those jobs back as a result of changes in the global economy.

Before I address how Bill C-50 would help these workers, I will reflect on the changes that are driving it. I want to focus particularly on the auto industry, which has been such an economic powerhouse for our country over the past years.

For generations, manufacturing was the heart and soul of our country in Montreal, Quebec, Ontario and many other parts of the country and the auto industry was the leader of the pack. Even today, with the global economic recession and what has taken place in Canada, it contributes close to 14% of Canada's gross domestic product. That is right, it employs nearly 1.8 million Canadians and that does not include all Canadians who work in jobs that service the auto industry.

An increasing global economy means more competition from low cost producers and there are more speed bumps slowing down our economic growth. Dramatic fluctuations in energy and commodity prices, as well as the Canadian dollar, for example, make it more difficult for our producers to plan ahead and export at a competitive price not knowing whether they will continue to have workers to build these automobiles and continue the manufacturing process in Canada.

These forces hit the industry hard and continue to hit the industry. The recession has only made conditions more difficult. Nervous investors sit on their capital instead of helping to buy new technology that could make industries more innovative and productive by spending their money. Anxious consumers even sit on their wallets waiting to see if prices will drop even further or whether things will happen differently. Meanwhile, too many new vehicles sit on the lots gathering dust and workers' jobs are in jeopardy.

Through all the shifting fortunes of their industry, Canadian auto workers have rolled with the punches. They have done their jobs and done them extremely well but increasingly they have gone home at the end of each day knowing they might literally be at the end of the line. These dedicated workers have paid their dues. As I mentioned, some have never been laid off before and have had these jobs for 30 years or more. They paid their taxes and have not significantly drawn benefits from employment insurance programs because the jobs have been steady and the manufacturing sector has been strong.

However, many are now laid off and their benefits are fast running out. They deserve more and this Conservative government is delivering more. Through Bill C-50, it is determined to give it to them.

I will now highlight how long-tenured workers would benefit from these proposed changes to the EI system.

The changes before the House today would provide additional EI benefits to long-tenured workers. Specifically, they would provide from five to twenty weeks of additional benefits, depending upon circumstances and individual eligibility. In so doing, this initiative would provide these individuals with extra time to find alternative programs and employment.

For the purpose of this new measure, long-tenured workers include workers from all sectors from coast to coast, and about two-thirds of EI contributors meet the definition of long-tenured workers. Just about a third of those who have lost their jobs since the end of January and have established an EI claim are also long-tenured workers. Bill C-50 would provide valuable extra time for these people.

By definition, long-tenured workers have been busy working for many years, decades in some cases, and it can be a terrible shock for them to be suddenly unemployed. On the government side, our hearts go to them. We will continue to fight for their priorities in Ottawa and ensure they get the retraining and the benefits necessary in order to continue their lives and their quality of life. Our goal is to get these extended weeks of benefits to claimants as soon as possible.

The changes proposed today should be seen in a larger context, however. Through Canada's economic action plan, our Conservative government has introduced measures that support all unemployed Canadians. Specifically, we have improved the EI system by extending the duration of regular benefits, by making it easier to take part in work-sharing agreements and helping long-tenured workers make the transition to new careers.

We are also freezing EI premiums until 2010 at the same rate as this year. We are providing an additional $1.5 billion to the provinces and territories to help support skills training, which is so important for these tenured workers who cannot go back to the same jobs they had before.

I also want to pay particular attention to an initiative that complements the one before the House today.

Of all Canadians who lose their jobs, long-tenured workers may have the biggest struggle to get back in the labour force. Many have a specific expertise, such as the auto sector, honed from years of practice and work, which is not readily transferrable to another job in this new marketplace and new global economy. These individuals may need training to develop new skills that can help them find meaningful work in new industries or new occupations.

The career transition assistance initiative, which is part of Canada's economic action plan and of which I am so proud, was designed to meet the particular needs of long-tenured workers.

The government has taken some very positive steps and this case has two components. The first is provisions for up to 104 weeks of regular EI benefits to long-tenured workers taking part in training that extends more than 20 weeks. The second provides earlier access to benefits for long-tenured workers who invest part or all of their severance packages in training.

Many hard-working Canadians have held down jobs for years and rarely have drawn upon the employment insurance program. Now, when times are tough, they deserve a government that will come to their aid. They deserve every opportunity to sharpen their skills without falling further behind, and we in this Conservative government are doing just that. The career transition assistance initiative gives them that chance.

I have spoken at length about this initiative because it concerns long-tenured workers, the same target group that we are addressing through Bill C-50. Indeed, by extending EI benefits for long-tenured workers, this bill is a natural complement to existing initiatives put in place through Canada's economic action plan. An extra five to twenty weeks of employment insurance benefits could make all the difference to long-tenured workers and their families, workers who have given so much of themselves to their jobs and who are now out of work, often for the first time.

By helping to meet the specific needs of these workers, the bill would ultimately help all of us. It would help all Canadians and our economy. Our country cannot afford to let long-tenured workers stay idle too long. They have too much experience and we need to put that to work for Canada, and they certainly want to get back to work just as soon as they can.

This government is coming to the aid of Canadian workers.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with fascination to my hon. colleague's dissertation. What has concerned New Democrats for some time now, as we have seen this economic crisis roll across manufacturing, particularly in the resource sector, is entire communities have had their economic base wiped out. Simply turning that around is not feasible at this moment. Expecting people to reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs in communities like Red Rock, Smooth Rock Falls and Opasatika is simply not realistic.

The issue for us is if we can get these workers through the winter when we are trying to get smaller value added operations up and off the ground. It is the difference between restoring some fundamental economic viability and seeing entire regions plunged into heavy levels of poverty.

I know my hon. colleague represents a resource-based region. Many workers in my region have gone to his region and we would like to have them back working in our region. However, given the issues before us, how soon can we get this money flowing so we can assure those workers they will make it through the winter and can make their house payments?

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, first, if the Liberals would not have walked out this summer during the EI committee special hearings, maybe we could have already had this in front of the House for a vote, and we look forward to the support of the NDP. However, the government is moving forward. We are trying to get it done as quickly as possible. With those members help maybe, we might be able to get this money flowing as quickly as possible.

I appreciate the member's constituents who come to northern Alberta. Six per cent of the GDP comes from my riding. Right now we need people working there because there are jobs. We expect those people to go back home and take that money with them so they can share it across Canada. We enjoy them being there and very much welcome them.