Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to join in this debate on the motion before us today. I am especially grateful for the chance to speak on behalf of tens of thousands of law-abiding constituents in my riding who have already made their views known on Bill C-391, as well as millions of law-abiding Canadians in ridings across the country who have done the same. They have told us loud and clear that they are in favour of effective gun control, which is why they are opposed to the long gun registry. They have told us that the long gun registry does nothing to prevent crime and that even worse, it forces law enforcement officials to focus on the wrong people when trying to fight crime.
It criminalizes law-abiding farmers, duck hunters, and sport shooters, rather than ensuring that guns do not fall into the hands of criminals. It creates the illusion that something is being done to crack down on gun crime, when in fact the resources used to run it could be better spent on measures that are really effective.
Most of all, what Canadians across this country have told us is that we should work together to make sure that Bill C-391 is passed into law, so that law-abiding citizens are no longer penalized according to where they live or how they make a living. I am confident that hon. members will do that and vote to defeat the motion before us today, which clearly ignores the will of a majority of voters, as expressed in this place last fall.
The motion before us today suggests the Standing Committee on Public Safety and Security has heard “sufficient testimony that Bill C-391 will dismantle a tool that promotes and enhances public security and the safety of Canadian police officers”.
What it fails to point out, however, is that the standing committee heard from scores of witnesses who testified that Bill C-391 should be passed in the interests of doing away with the long gun registry, which does nothing to prevent gun crimes, nothing to promote and enhance public safety, unnecessarily targets law-abiding citizens, and is a waste of money.
The committee heard from front-line officers that the long gun registry is at best an ineffective and at worst a dangerous tool to use, since the data contained are not accurate. Relying on the data, in other words, could in fact put the lives of inexperienced front-line officers at risk, should they choose to base their decisions on the registry alone. As a former police chief, I know that the long gun registry is ineffective and that front-line police officers do not rely on this information.
In my very riding, these concerns have been raised. Listen to what the president of the Woodstock Police Association had to say. He said, “The inconsistencies, inaccuracies and obscene expense of the registry make it a farce. To say an officer is safer for it is unrealistic at best. Any street officer who would rely on the registry as a safety umbrella is only fooling himself into a false sense of security. Officer safety, safe and responsible firearm ownership, has absolutely nothing to do with this registration”.
The opposition continues to push the misleading headline that all police are united in supporting the long-gun registry. This is simply not true. The statement I just read could not be clearer. The testimony we heard at committee could not be clearer.
The committee heard from Chief Constable Bob Rich from the Abbotsford Police Department, who testified that it was his firm belief that the registry is horrifically inaccurate. Chief Constable Rich testified that in conversations with his investigators and gun experts, and in story after story, whenever anyone has tried to use the registry, the information they received was wrong. His conclusion was that a flawed system such as the one currently in place is in fact worse than no system at all.
The committee also heard from Detective Sergeant Murray Grismer of the Saskatoon Police Service. Detective Sergeant Grismer was a team leader at the Olympic security force and had the opportunity during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games to speak with police officers from across Canada. His testimony during committee hearings was that the vast majority of officers he spoke with did not support the continuation of the registry. Why? It was because, in his words, they did not trust the information it contains and they see it as a waste of money. Detective Sergeant Grismer added that police across Canada, in his words, cannot and must not place their trust and risk their lives on the inaccurate, unverified information contained in the registry, and that if doing away with the long-gun registry saves even one life of Canada's front line officers, then it is worth it.
With that in mind, I have to wonder how the motion before us today can even suggest that the existing, ineffective registry promotes the safety of Canadian police officers. The testimony of front-line officers, as heard by the committee, in fact suggests otherwise. It suggests that the existing registry actually puts front-line officers in harm's way. Why then do some hon. members wish to keep it?
Here again the motion before us suggested that the registry promotes and enhances public safety. What the committee heard, however, is that the existing wasteful and ineffective long gun registry does no such thing.
Chief Rick Hanson of the Calgary Police Service testified at committee hearings that in his opinion the registry only marginally addresses the broader issue of gun crime and violence in Canada. The real need, he said, was for governments to deal with the criminal activity of individuals who possess and use guns in the commission of offences. Our government agrees, which is why we have introduced and passed measures to crack down on crime, violent gun crimes in particular.
The committee also heard from Dave Shipman, who served for 25 years with the Winnipeg Police Service and spent nearly 19 of those years investigating violent crimes in the homicide robbery division. He asked the same question that many law-abiding Canadians are asking: How does the gun registry assist the police in preventing gun crime? His answer was that it does not. In fact, he said that it offers nothing to protect our citizenry from being victims of gun crimes perpetrated by well-armed criminals.
Those were his words, and they are words all of us heard time and time again at committee hearings and words all of us have heard from our law-abiding constituents with regard to the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. They are also the words all of us have heard from the Auditor General. In the Auditor General's report from both 2002 and 2006, she noted that the Canadian Firearm Centre was unable or unwilling to provide information to substantiate the need for a long-gun registry as a public safety tool. She stated, “The centre does not show how these activities help minimize the risk to public safety with evidence based on outcomes such as reduced deaths, injuries and threats from firearms”.
The bottom line is that if the long gun registry fails to do what it intends to do, then any amount of money spent on it is a waste. As the Yukon minister of justice wrote, “Canadians would be better served if the funds invested in this program had been spent on increased funding for violence prevention initiatives or more enforcement personnel. Yukon's position is that the registry does not deliver positive results at a realistic cost to taxpayers”.
The government could not agree more. We can and should put those resources to better use in funding programs and initiatives that actually have an impact in targeting gun crimes. Our focus should be on getting tough with gangs and crime guns, not on turning goose hunters into criminals.
I must say that I am often saddened and even shocked by what is happening in some of our communities. Blatant acts of violence committed by gun-toting criminals all too often make the headlines. There are many perpetrators and too many victims. We hear of gang members gunning down their rivals on the sidewalks or in parking lots, or even in local parks where children play. Don Morgan, Saskatchewan's justice minister has noted that Saskatchewan is investing in programs to combat gang activities, assist victims of crime, and put more police officers on the street.