Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Sherbrooke.
Today I am going to talk about a subject that is perhaps not immeasurably important, but that is still very important, since it concerns the government’s intention, as expressed in the Speech from the Throne, to abolish the firearms registry, at least for long guns.
This intention on the part of the government has mobilized a lot of people in my constituency. I have met with several crime prevention organizations, since this is one prevention tool that fits perfectly with Quebec’s philosophy on crime. The Conservative philosophy revolves exclusively around enforcement and punishment.
I have also met with women’s organizations. This is a question of very particular concern to them, because unfortunately, most victims of spousal violence are women.
I have met with the mayors and police chiefs in my riding. Everyone agreed that something had to be done to block the government’s intention of abolishing a tool that is widely used by police.
Then I went out to see the people in my riding. I spent time at a lot of metro stations. My urban constituency has eight metro stations, and you can meet a lot of people there. A petition was circulated that I have tabled in the House; 1,500 names were collected in a few days.
That figure has to be put in perspective: those names were collected in my riding alone, in a few days. That is huge; there was enormous enthusiasm. It was unbelievable; people were lining up in the metro stations to sign the petition. They clearly care about the firearms registry. This is a visceral issue in Quebec, because it came out of the terrible tragedy at the École Polytechnique.
I tabled the petition in the House on March 8, International Women’s Day. This is very much a question that concerns and affects women in particular. The firearms registry has been particularly useful in relation to spousal tragedies and murders committed with long guns, a factor that the Conservative government wants to dissociate itself from.
The other reason why women in Quebec, and feminist Quebeckers, are greatly concerned about preserving the firearms registry is of course the event that led to the registry: the terrible tragedy at the École Polytechnique de Montréal. That tragedy was the height of misogyny and cowardice; an individual who held women responsible for all his misfortunes and probably for his own mediocrity took the cowardly step of murdering 14 young women with a firearm.
Those women, in the flower of their youth, were murdered with a weapon that the Conservatives want to remove from the firearms registry: a Ruger Mini-14. This is adding insult to injury for all the women who made this the fight of their lives and who decided to take this tragic event and create something out of it.
The firearms registry is the legacy of the victims, the survivors and the families of the victims, who did battle to ensure that Canada, like most countries in the world, would have a firearms registry. We have to be honest when we come to this debate, and talk about the real numbers.
I am often surprised to see the adversaries—and the Conservatives in particular—send the debate right off the rails. It is sort of like a pirate hijacking a vessel. The Conservatives are acting like pirates by taking the debate hostage and saying any old thing and its opposite.
I offer as evidence the response we often hear from the Conservatives. They say that, in any case, most crimes, murders and homicides are not committed with long guns, but with handguns.
From a statistics standpoint, they are not entirely wrong. In 2007, 67% of homicides were committed with handguns as opposed to 17% with shotguns or hunting rifles. What they failed to say, however, was that in 1997, in the early days of the gun registry, the proportion was significantly different. Handguns were involved in 50% of murders, while shotguns or hunting rifles were involved in 39.9%—over twice as many.
Where the gun registry was most useful and had the greatest impact was in the case of shotguns and hunting rifles The figures show that it was with these weapons that the registry had the greatest impact. It had less impact in the case of handguns.
The government is proposing to eliminate the most useful and effective part of the registry, the one that has had the greatest effect in statistical terms.
They are constantly giving out false information and fear-mongering. This is like Halloween, but without the pumpkin. There is nothing funny about this. They are frightening hunters by telling them that they will be treated like criminals if they are caught in the woods without a registration certificate, will have a criminal record and will no longer be able to travel. That is totally ridiculous.
This is not at all the case. An individual carrying an unregistered weapon will have it confiscated and have a few days to get it back it by submitting a registration certificate. It is a little embarrassing, but there have to be consequences when people fail to respect the law. In any case, it is far less serious than when people forget their vehicle registration, which leads to a hefty fine.
We must cut the Conservatives off at the pass. They will not change their mind, because they are short-sighted on this matter. Two men can block their path and we must convince them to do so. They are the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the NDP.
And when I say Leader of the Opposition, I mean the leader of the Liberal Party. The Bloc Québécois voted unanimously against this bill. Last week, my colleague from Ahuntsic asked the leader of the NDP a question. He tried to shake off the question like one would try to shake a dog off one's leg. That impresses no one. I am not comparing my colleague to a dog, of course. I am using that analogy to explain what the NDP and the Liberals think of this issue. I am sure that my colleagues understand.
These two leaders have to stop with their doublespeak, have the courage of their convictions and take measures to stop the Conservatives in their tracks.
I will finish by speaking about the importance of the gun registry. During my 10-minute speech, the registry was consulted by police nearly 70 times. They did not consult the registry because they had nothing better to do. They took the time to consult it nearly 70 times since my speech began because it is useful to them.
As parliamentarians, we have to trust the police, respect the memory of the victims at the École Polytechnique and all of those who have been abused since then, and establish a gun registry. We have to show political courage and vote against the government bill and the Speech from the Throne, which would get rid of the gun registry.