House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was code.


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right. She has well expressed what the bill is. Members and the public should know that this particular bill occupies about 10 sentences in total, as an amendment to the Criminal Code. Bills S-205, S-206, S-210, and S-215 were iterations of this same bill, the same debate that has come time and again. It is as a result of things like prorogation. The member knows that the last time we did this, we all agreed that this was an important bill. The senator was sitting in the gallery. He was retiring and we wanted to get it through the House so that it could get royal assent and be proclaimed.

If the member is so consistently supportive, and the House is so consistently supportive, why is it that we have continued to have these delays and frustrations, and have not had the necessary co-operation? I am going to ask the member directly. Will she seek the support of other parties to be able to allow this bill to pass this time, so that we are not here again in another Parliament debating the same 12 sentences?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reflect upon an experience that I had this past summer, when I had an opportunity to visit two sites that were devastated by suicide bombings: ground zero, and the Dolphin disco in Tel Aviv. At the Dolphin disco, 21 people were killed and 120 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up while standing in line. The explosive charge contained a large number of metal objects, including balls and screws specifically designed to increase the extent of injuries.

While we are familiar with the events, one cannot begin to explain the effects of standing at those sites, seeing the devastation, hearing the stories, and coming to understand the impact that these and many other tragic events have had on their communities, their cities, and their countries.

This is why I am here today introducing this debate for a second time; I am committed to doing whatever I can to ensure that this bill passes.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know of no other Parliament or government that has passed this type of legislation. I heard some rumours that other governments were considering doing it, rumours of pending legislation. I just wonder if my colleague from the Conservative Party would be able to indicate whether she is aware of any others that are pending at this point.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of any other country that has put forward any kind of amendment or plan to address suicide bombing in its legislation. That is why it is really important for us as a nation to seek to include this clarification as the first nation to designate suicide bombing as a terrorist act. It will demonstrate that Canada is a leader in condemning suicide attacks.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from the Conservative Party and I would like to repeat the question asked by my colleague from my own party.

When the member says that she will do whatever she can to see that this bill is passed, will she actively seek the consent of all of the parties to see this bill adopted at all stages by unanimous consent?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I believe I answered the question already. I will do everything I can to ensure that this bill is passed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill S-215, introduced by Senator Grafstein, who has since retired from the Senate. The bill would add suicide bombing as an offence in the Criminal Code.

Like my colleague who just spoke on behalf of the Conservative government, all Canadians have been witness to numerous suicide bombings that have been committed in many places around the world.

I would like to give some examples. In May of 2010, Colonel Geoff Parker was killed in a suicide car-bomb attack, which also killed 18 other people in Kabul. He was the highest ranking Canadian to be killed in Afghanistan since the mission began in 2001.

Furthermore, also in May of 2010, another suicide bombing was attempted near a Canadian military base, but the attempt failed. Last week, a suicide bomber killed 16 innocent civilians and injured about a hundred others in southern Russia. Suicide bomb attacks are becoming increasingly common as a terrorist act.

A study completed in 2005 by Scott Atran in the United States declared, “Suicide attack is the most virulent and horrifying form of terrorism in the world today. The mere rumour of an impending suicide attack can throw thousands of people into panic”.

His study also noted the massive rate in which suicide bombing worldwide has taken place. During the 1980s, there were five suicide attacks each year. In the 1990s, there were on average 16 attacks a year. Then, in the five-year period between 2000 and 2005, there were an average of 180 suicide bombing attacks in each of those years. Clearly, this is a global problem that keeps on growing.

Bill S-215 would add to the Criminal Code the act of suicide bombing as a type of terrorist activity. I will not go through the relevant clause in the Criminal Code, because this has already been done by my colleague on the Conservative side.

Although the current definition of “terrorist activity” does catch the act of a suicide bombing, it does not explicitly list “suicide bombing” within the definition of a terrorist activity.

As the justice critic for the official opposition, I am pleased to say that I support this bill and I recommend that my colleagues also support it. It is a Senate private member's bill, and now a House private member's bill, unlike another bill which was supposedly sponsored by an MP even though we know very well that it was really an official government policy. But I will not say anything more about that.

The bill further clarifies the Criminal Code. As the Liberal justice critic, I support it wholeheartedly.

It does not create new legislative provisions. It only reinforces the basic principle that Canadians abhor these types of acts.

Some would argue that a suicide bombing is an act that is already covered by the current definition of terrorism in the Criminal Code. That is true. However, we must not forget that one function of criminal law is also to represent Canadian society and values.

Including suicide bombing in the list of terrorist activities would clearly indicate to everyone that Canada is irrevocably opposed to this type of violence. It would let Canadians know that our country does not tolerate this type of violent behaviour and would unequivocally convey our position on this matter to the world.

The former Senator Grafstein championed this bill after much input from former Justice Reuben Bromstein, who is now the head of the organization called Canadians Against Suicide Bombing.

Justice Bromstein said that the bill, if passed into law, would:

—help build and strengthen the consensus in Canadian society on this issue; it will serve as a clear deterrent for those among us who might not be committed to this consensus; and it offers an opportunity for Canada to take the further international commitment [to outlaw suicide bombing].

As the colleague across the way mentioned, Canada would be the first country to include a specific reference to suicide bombing in its criminal law if the legislation is adopted, and I hope it will be.

Some have expressed concern that by including the words “suicide bombing” in the Criminal Code that would lead to absurd consequences. I can give an example. Some feel that the words “suicide bombing” are open to interpretation, which would make cases difficult for prosecutors.

However, today, we use many common definitions to describe acts. We use the words “hijacking” and “street racing” in some of our laws. If I refer back to Justice Bromstein who stated:

—the term “suicide bombing” is in common parlance....The term triggers an instantaneous response in your head. You do not have to describe it. People know what it means.

He also went on to say:

Passing the legislation would send a signal about our values domestically, that we are a mixed society and we cannot justify martyrdom to legitimize it.

The concern has been raised that including this expression in the Criminal Code will mean that acts not usually considered to be terrorist acts will fall into that category in future. For example, a suicide bomber who detonates an explosive in a vacant field will be labelled a terrorist.

When drafting the bill, care was taken to avoid expanding the definition of what constitutes a terrorist attack; the current definition was fine-tuned. Thus, someone who commits suicide by detonating a bomb on vacant land will not be covered by the definition of suicide bombing. His action shows that he did not intend to create other victims and it does not correspond to the original definition of what constitutes a terrorist activity.

Let us look at some stakeholder reaction.

The bill has the unwavering support of the RCMP, which believes that it will not hinder its investigations. The RCMP believes that the bill will be very useful.

Patrick Monahan, the dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, is also supportive of the legislation and has made a number of arguments on this. I will not be able to elucidate all of them, but let me cite one of them. He said:

First, Parliament, in my view, should adopt Bill S-210 because it would signal Canada's unequivocal condemnation of suicide bombing as the most virulent and horrifying form of terrorism in the world today.

Dean Monahan has made a number of other points, but I will stop here because it has been pointed out to me that my time is virtually up.

I strongly support the bill and I advocate for it. I call on each and every member of the House to support the bill. I call on my colleague opposite to seek the unanimous consent of all members of the House to see the bill adopted unanimously at all stages.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Serge Ménard Bloc Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, this could be the shortest speech I have ever made.

It seems clear to me that this bill should be passed quickly. It should have been passed in 2005. There is one restriction that we should examine, and that is the opinion of the Barreau du Québec, which has already written to the Senate, although the Senate did not feel the need to consider this opinion.

The Barreau du Québec pointed out that the French version of the bill uses the term “attentat suicide”, while the English version uses the term “suicide bombing”. There is a difference. Generally, when legislation has different effects on the guilt of someone accused of a crime, jurisprudence dictates that the less serious provision applies, the provision that would have fewer consequences for the accused.

We should perhaps look into this. I will admit that “attentat suicide” and “suicide bombing” can have different meanings, but I would not be able to say which one is less serious. I think that really depends on the circumstances. It would be a good thing if the committee could study this issue that the Senate seemed to want to avoid.

All members of my party, the Bloc Québécois, will vote in favour of this bill. This is one of many bills that we have supported for a long time, but for various reasons, the government has seen fit not to introduce them, and has then accused the opposition of delaying passage of its bills.

That tactic is well known to those on the other side of the House. The Conservatives' main concern when introducing Criminal Code amendments is not whether the amendments can have a positive impact on legislation as a whole, but whether the party can benefit politically by passing itself off as the only party that is tough on crime and wants to do something about it.

We often hear Conservative ministers say that while they are in favour of punishing criminals, the opposition is defending criminals' interests. That is not even an exaggeration; it is simply not true. They need to understand that in a democracy there are people who stand up for individual rights and who feel it is important to follow correct procedures in criminal law. It is not about defending the rights of the accused or of criminals. Quite the opposite. It is about defending the rights of any citizen who might one day face criminal charges.

Let us look at the bill itself. Like many others, I think that if there were suicide bombings in Canada, there would need to be proof that someone helped plan them. If a suicide bombing is successful, then the outcome for the person who committed it is clear. Here we do not convict people post mortem, as was previously the case in other jurisdictions. However, here, the definition is important when it comes to punishing those who prepare or contribute to the plot, who threaten to commit suicide bombing, who are accomplices after the fact and who encourage the perpetration of suicide bombing. These are punishable acts. It has to be clear in the legislation that these offences have to be prosecuted.

This is an improvement to the legislation. I wonder why, for something so simple that was first presented in 2005, we are discussing this issue here five years later? How is it that a government that has been in power all this time still has not introduced a bill that all members unanimously agree should be adopted?

This same government keeps blaming the opposition for holding up the government's legislative agenda and for defending the rights of criminals. The government claims to be defending the rights of honest people, as we often hear in their propaganda, but people will see that the government is responsible for slowing down anti-terrorist provisions so they can take up to five years to reach Parliament.

What more can I say? Obviously the Bloc Québécois agrees with these provisions. However, I do think there needs to be some thought given to reconciling the French and English wording.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the bill, as does my entire caucus support the bill.

We have heard arguments and I want to address those. We have heard that the bill is not necessary in that there are a number of other sections in the Criminal Code that would prohibit suicide bombings and that that should be sufficient. We do not need to address it. I think that is part of the reason that we have not seen legislation in other jurisdictions of similar backgrounds as Canada's.

However, that argument misses an essential point of why we should pass the bill. The use of criminal law is not just for the purposes of creating a crime and providing a penalty for breach if conduct amounts to that crime. Criminal law generally also has a role to play in expressing society's condemnation and denunciation of that particular conduct. That is why the bill is so important that in fact suicide bombing be included in the Criminal Code as a specific offence.

As a lawyer who has practised law for a long time and as the justice critic for a number of years, one of the reasons I would like to see the bill go to committee is to see if there are some additional provisions in terms of giving our prosecutors in particular tools that would help them in prosecuting should they be confronted with this kind of criminal conduct. I must say that I am skeptical that in fact that is the case but I would like to hear that at committee.

The other reason I would like this matter to go to committee is that there is an educational value in debating this legislation. Our committee structure within our parliamentary system is certainly one of the ways of doing that.

Part of what might come out at that point would, which I did not see come out in the Senate hearings, is that we need to look at the history of this kind of criminal conduct. It is not new to the 1980s, 1990s and 2000 period. It was quite a common criminal conduct device used by the anarchists, as they were described at that time, starting in the early 1900s right through until the 1930s. In fact, during that period of time we had various pieces of legislation passed in response to that conduct. However, bombings, including suicide bombings, not exclusively but including suicide bombings, were quite common. They were very common in Russia prior to the revolution in 1917. They were fairly common throughout western Europe during that same period of time with democratically elected governments being oftentimes the targets and royal families more commonly being the targets by anarchists.

They were fairly regular in the United States at that time. I am not aware of any in Canada but they were fairly common in the United States, but less so than what we saw in Europe. There was a response by our legislatures at that time. The historical material that I have read suggests that the response was not very effective but that eventually they stopped into the 1930s.

We now see them coming back. It is interesting because most people think of the suicide bombers in the Middle East, whether it be in Palestine, in Iraq, in some of the Middle Eastern countries. The reality is that they started back in Sri Lanka. The Tamil Tigers and the leader of the Tamil Tigers initiated the use of suicide bombings in the modern era, if I can put it that way. They were used very commonly. Then we saw them spread, particularly into the Middle East, but, again, they are quite common in a number of countries in Asia. However, they have generally been restricted to that area of the world. We can think of some notable exceptions but they have generally been restricted to that area of the world.

Part of the reason I support this legislation is that whether it was the anarchist who justified the use of suicide bombings on an ideological philosophical basis as a way of undermining the capitalist societies and the democracies as they saw it at that time or whether it is, as is more common today, being based on religious arguments, we as a legislature must say that whatever the argument is and whatever the fanaticism is that the argument is based on, we condemn that. There is no justification, philosophically, religiously or on any other basis, for this type of criminal conduct. The results have been seen in so many horrendous scenarios with huge losses of life.

I believe that kind of information needs to come out in more detail than I have been able to give today. It is important for us to hear that this legislation will be useful but, more important, we need to understand those people who counsel and advocate suicide bombings. I think that may be one of the advantages that we will get out of this. These people, interestingly, never perform the bombings themselves. Those who do that kind of work are basically cowards. Oftentimes they will find people who are of limited intelligence, have mental health problems or who are so fanatical, whether it be on an ideological basis or a religious basis, that they do not think clearly and can be manipulated into sacrificing themselves.

I can remember being at events where people have talked about this conduct as being a form of martyrdom. We have to condemn that. It is not that. This is purely a criminal act resulting in injury and so often in death. That is the way it has to be portrayed.

I am quite satisfied to support this bill, even though I recognize that it may not in any way increase our ability to fight this kind of conduct in the courts, and I am leaning toward believing that, but in the court of public opinion, it will be the first time a government and a legislature has done this. It will provide leadership, hopefully, for other democratic governments to follow suit. Perhaps there are ways of strengthening this bill.

I am quite supportive of the bill going to the justice committee to be dealt with as expeditiously as possible. If there are amendments that will improve it, I am assuming everybody in the House and everybody on that committee would support those amendments and would get it back here quickly to get it passed, have it completed and on our books both for the message that it sends to the perpetrators of these types of crimes and to the rest of the world. This will say that this is leadership, that this is a way of denouncing this type of conduct and that everyone should be looking at doing the same.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add my voice to the debate on Bill S-215. We have had the bill for some time, as was articulated earlier. In fact, the bill has had four other bill numbers in previous sessions and previous Parliaments even though it is a very short bill.

The bill is an amendment to the Criminal Code and it seeks to clarify that suicide bombings fall within the definition of a terrorist activity. That is ostensibly what it says. The bill itself is only a few lines long and it has been through the Senate process a number of times already. The last time it came out of the Senate was on May 11. It now has made its way to the House and we are starting again at second reading.

I must admit, in listening to the debate, that some interesting points have been raised. One point raised by the member from the Bloc was with regard to the French translation. He said that “attentats suicides” was not the literal interpretation for suicide bombing, that it was suicide attack. The question is whether in law that may have some impact on the application of the law depending on the jurisdiction that might be.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh also had some interesting points about the possibilities that, as time goes on and the bill does not pass, it gets to the point where we need to ask the same questions again to find out whether there have been any developments or whether the bill can be enhanced even further to take into account the importance of the objectives of the bill in terms of its being passed into law in Canada and to take this lead role.

It is a bill that has received the support of, I believe, every speaker who has spoken to this, all six versions of the same bill. I believe that even now it is still uncertain whether everyone understands why the bill is happening. I looked back at some of the speeches that have been given. At least a dozen speeches have been given on this and a couple of the speeches raised some points that, were they to be on the record, would probably get carried forward.

The former member for Winnipeg North addressed the House on this. She first wanted to acknowledge and thank former Senator Grafstein who promoted and initiated the bill many years ago. I, too, would like to express my sincere thanks to the former senator. He brought a lot of wisdom to Parliament over the years and took great pride in his work.

After looking at the definition, the member said that suicide bombing was already there and wanted to know why we were putting it in. The member noted that if someone were to commit a suicide bombing how would we prosecute them. However, that is not the point. The point is worth repeating and it comes from Senator Grafstein in a speech he gave in February 2009. The way the senator articulated in his speech, he said:

Suicide bombing has become an all too frequent practice in many countries throughout the world. Thousands of civilians are killed and maimed to advance a cause based on falsely implanted expectations of glory and martyrdom. We say no cause can justify suicide bombing.

The senator went on to say that Bill S-215, which was formerly Bill S-206, “aims beyond those who strap explosive to their bodies”. This is not talking about the suicide bombers, but rather “where they can cause maximum pain, suffering, death and dismemberment”. This is the important aspect of it. He said:

It will help focus on those who promote terrorism by teaching, organizing and financing the killers in the name of ill-conceived ideology, distorted belief or abhorrent political conviction. The amendment will assist law enforcement agencies to pursue the individuals promoting this heinous act.

That is the essence and the substance. Bills have words and those words have to have meanings. It is not simply an amendment to the Criminal Code to make suicide bombing an element in the definition of a terrorist act. The process and the mechanics are one thing, but the objective of the bill is to have us represent our concern and abhorrence to that act. In fact enshrining it in our legislation is to secure its place so that if those matters should ever occur, no matter whether they are within Canada or around the world, others can draw upon the values that have been placed in our society for the protection of the public and the abhorrence of heinous tactics.

I spoke briefly on this bill about a year ago. One of the points I raised, and I made it in good faith, is that the bill has had at least five iterations. It has gone through the Senate five times. It has gone through this House to various extents. It is not being very helpful to the House, I would suggest, to have us continue to go through an extensive process.

A member had suggested previously that when the House has a strong consensus on a matter, it is not necessary to go through the full legislative process. There are tools and mechanisms to deal with this bill. There was an urging, and it is an urging that I made the last time I spoke to this legislation and it is being made again this time, for those who are interested in this bill and the representatives of each party to come together and say that they are comfortable at this point and that they want to accelerate the process.

It is appropriate when all parties agree. It is not something that has to be done during the debate on the bill. It can be done virtually any day we sit in the House, to fast-track the legislation and pass it at all stages. I would like simply to be on record as supporting the call that this bill not die yet again on prorogation, or dissolution of Parliament and an election, only to have this legislation come up again for a sixth time and go through both Houses. It does not make a lot of sense. Members know it is a distinct possibility; it has happened before and there is some concern about that.

I appreciate the member taking on the responsibility of sponsoring this bill, which was Senator Grafstein's. When he left, another senator picked it up and the member, for the second time, has sponsored it in this chamber. It is important. I think members will agree that we may miss the opportunity to have this bill actually come into law and be able to reap the benefits of playing a lead role in it. I am concerned about that as, I think, are most members.

I hope that we will take the necessary steps to ensure that Bill S-215 does become law this time around.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-215. It is an amendment to the Criminal Code and a very important one.

The brevity of the bill is a reflection of its accuracy in addressing a particularly critical situation which is relatively new to us but of which we are painfully aware. The bill would amend the Criminal Code to clarify that suicide bombings fall within the definition of terrorist activity.

Not very many years ago suicide bombings were not something we would contemplate or even consider on North American soil, or in any first world democracy. Of course, they are very real and they are ever present as a threat against us.

Suicide bombings are a new tactic. They are a very real tactic and a very dangerous one. Not too long ago it would never have been considered that someone would cause self harm in inflicting a criminal activity to endanger or to harm others. In fact, our whole civil society is predicated on a belief of effective policing and effective enforcement, which is centred around the assumption that those who would commit a crime would take whatever steps are necessary not to impose harm upon themselves, just on others. However, suicide bombings have changed the rules on that. Because of the fanaticism which is implied by a suicide bomber, reasonable thought gets thrown out the window.

Now we have circumstances in which our safety and security and the very stability of the institutions around us are indeed threatened by this very, very real act that has been imposed and has caused such harm to others. Our objective is to prevent that, to minimize it and to take specific proactive actions to allow our justice system to deal with it in an effective way.

In essence, the bill reflects the growing need by law enforcement agencies and by the justice system to accurately target, label and prosecute what exactly is a suicide bomber. In so doing, by this legal change in terms of definition, inclusion of the term and supplied definitions, it would allow authorities to take certain actions based on statutes that are already in place.

Our terrorism provisions are very strong and robust, but they are very specific. This particular legislation allows for certain courses of action to be taken, by labelling, by actually targeting, by describing what this Parliament will not tolerate. We will actually enact legislation, amend legislation, to provide definition and accountability for suicide bombing and those who would perform that act, as has been pointed out by other members, to include in that set of legal mechanisms, provisions to actually stop the propagation through coaching, counselling and other measures. That seems to be a worthwhile activity for this Parliament to pursue.

I cannot begin to describe how victims of this horrendous tactic feel about this. Obviously they are very encouraged by the fact that Parliament is debating this legislation with the intention of adopting it, I assume, and that we recognize not only their pain and suffering, but as well that this Parliament needs to take specific action to deal with the issue in a proactive fashion.

I believe the crafters of this legislation from the other place did their job and did it well. The bill itself is extremely brief, but its brevity reflects its accuracy in dealing with the issue at hand. I think we can take full charge of the fact that as we debate this it would be very helpful to continue the debate around it. However, we have to be resolved in the notion that by defining this horrendous, almost insatiable, act of terror, we help to defeat it. By describing it within the confines of the Criminal Code, we do not allow any language to be used that glorifies it, that allows it to be portrayed in any other manner. It is a criminal act. That is an important step forward in providing some definition and context to this act.

As I said earlier, it was almost unheard of that someone would actually cause self-harm in order to impose harm upon others. If we look at all the systems of our society, we make general, broad assumptions that the car going down the highway in the other lane is not going to purposely and wilfully move into our lane as we move down that same highway, and cause harm to themselves in order to cause harm to us.

The rules have changed and that is a reality in terms of the enforcement. The vigilance of our safety and security is a reality that we face. There are those who are motivated for various reasons and feel as though they are accomplishing something, however horrific or morose, by harming themselves in the effort to harm others. That has to be dealt with in the context of the Criminal Code.

I support this legislation because it does, indeed, empower law enforcement agencies and our judicial system to deal with it effectively. Where it was not dealt with before because it was a vague issue which we had not encountered in many respects very often, the threat is ever present around us. It behooves us to deal with it and there have been pleas for us to deal with it in that kind of proactive fashion. I cannot see why any member would have an issue with this particular legislation on the basis that it seems to resolve a long-standing issue, a vacancy within the act that now is being filled.

I applaud the representatives in the other place in their efforts to bring forward this legislation after significant study in their own respects as to what exactly is required. Their accuracy in dealing with the matter is reflected in the bill because it does not touch on other areas. It deals strictly and solely with the issue at hand. That is very appropriate. It allows our discussions in this House to be very focused and concentrated on the issue at hand. The issue at hand is to provide proper definition and labelling to a very serious criminal activity, which is the act of suicide bombing.

We are blessed in this country that we do not face the actual manifestation of these circumstances, but it is ever present in our society. We are under constant vigilance and threat, but we do not buckle under that threat. We do not change our ways because of our need for vigilance. We encounter it. We take it head on and deal with it in a straightforward manner. I believe that is exactly what is required of us now. Failure to do so would be an admission that we have not done our work.

I applaud the drafters of the bill and hope the House passes it forthwith.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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.

On the Order: Concurrence in Committee Report:

June 9, 2010--That the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-391, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (repeal of long-gun registry), presented on Wednesday, June 9, 2010, be concurred in--Mr. Holland.

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to Standing Order 97.1(2) the motion to concur in the second report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (recommendation not to proceed further with Bill C-391, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (repeal of long-gun registry) presented on Wednesday, June 9, 2010 is deemed to be proposed.

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to rise on this motion. This matter has been dealt with for some time by the House. Tomorrow it will come to a vote, and it is going to be a very tight vote.

I had an opportunity recently to travel with women's caucus across the country. We talked with groups representing women, police and emergency physicians. We heard from them just how essential the registry is, both as a tool for police and for saving lives.

It is worth mentioning just some of the many organizations that have come out and said that the registry is essential: the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which has more than 430 chiefs of police across the country and of them only three chiefs oppose the registry; the Canadian Police Association, which represents police across this country with more than 160 police associations and of those, only six are opposed and many are reconsidering based on the facts that have been presented over the last number of months; the Canadian Association of Police Boards; Fédération des policiers et policières municipaux du Québec; the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians; the Canadian Association for Adolescent Health; the Canadian Paediatric Society; the Canadian Public Health Association; the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions; the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research; Association Quebecoise pour le prevention du suicide. The list goes on. I am just giving highlights.

Other groups include the YWCA of Canada; the Canadian Federation of University Women; the National Council of Women of Canada; the National Association of Women and the Law; the Coalition of Provincial and Territorial Advisory Councils on the Status of Women; the Canadian Council of Muslim Women; Jewish Women International of Canada; Fédération des femmes du Québec; Alberta Council of Women's Shelters; Manitoba Association of Women's Shelters; Regroupement de maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale.

There are also many governments, the governments of Quebec and Ontario among others; family members of victims or the countless victims who survived the events at l'École Polytechnique and Dawson College; the Canadian Labour Congress; Canadian Auto Workers; the Public Service Alliance of Canada; le Barreau du Québec; the Coalition for Gun Control; Amnesty International. I could spend the full 10 minutes just reading the names that are on this list.

These groups have said clearly that the gun registry is needed and they are asking members of Parliament to save it. The reasons are clear.

I was talking to an inspector in Mississauga who told me a story of being called into a domestic violence situation. He knew that approximately nine guns were registered in that home. The situation was broken up and the man was removed. When he returned to the home the police were assured those guns had been removed, that he was not going back to guns. In the minds of that officer, in that situation the registry saved lives. If that individual had gone back into that home and guns had been there, the officer feared death would have ensued, either for the woman or for the man himself.

In countless other situations, as we travelled across the country we heard individual stories just like that one. We heard of an instance where somebody was suicidal. A family member called in and said the situation had become unstable. The individual called police and said the guns that were in that home needed to be removed. In the minds of the officers we spoke to there was not a doubt that lives were saved by removing those guns from the home and making sure the person did not commit suicide. They would have had no idea of how many weapons were there. Because of the spontaneous nature of crime, because it is in the heat of the moment, because of the fact that suicide often can come out of nowhere, they would have had absolutely no idea that guns were in that home or that something could have been done.

Clearly in these examples the registry saved lives.

When we were in Halifax, an officer spoke to me about how much the registry did to promote accountability in ownership. Just in the same way when we register our car, it gives us a sense of responsibility for owning that car. If something goes wrong, we know instantly that the police would be able to find out exactly what went wrong and who was responsible. Gun ownership is no different. Registration of guns promotes accountability back to the owner of the guns.

We also heard from officers about when weapons are stolen, taken from a home. The registry makes it easy to return those weapons to the rightful owner. In a criminal investigation it can be very useful to know from where the gun was taken, and what time it was taken. It helps to establish where that individual was and at what time the gun was taken.

We also know that, aside from knowing exactly where the weapons are in those situations for crime, it also is a vital tool in solving crime. When we were in Toronto with the women's caucus, we heard from somebody who talked about an inquiry in Collingwood. The inquiry clearly said, if it had not been for the gun registry, they would not have been able to solve that homicide, period. So people can look at this, and I encourage them to look at that inquiry and others. The one in Collingwood could be no more clear that the registry in that example led directly to a conviction.

Here is a reality. In the vast majority of crimes, because they are spontaneous in nature, that means that registered weapons do get used and it does give us an opportunity to trace back ownership and help get convictions.

As well, we know that in situations that are heated, such as in domestic violence, when somebody knows their gun is registered it perhaps gives them pause for thought to know it is going to be a lot harder to get away with a violent act.

All of this, all of this value and so much more, enforcing prohibition orders and others, costs us about $4 million a year, the RCMP says. So, to delete all of that, it would cost about $4 million a year. To put that in context, a complex murder investigation undertaken by the police costs $2 million. If we want to consider some of the spending the current government has undertaken, the fake lake and accessories cost $2 million. So $4 million dollars for that? Come on.

We hear the government say about prison spending, the $10 billion or more, that there is no price too high for public safety. Yet apparently when it comes to protecting women and dealing with things that prevent suicide and something that helps get convictions, $4 million is just too high a price.

I had the opportunity to sit through committee with other members and listen to the families of victims from École Polytechnique. It was painful to watch as they came and fought this battle yet again. They thought they had won. They thought they had gotten through this. For them to come back before committee and be dragged through this process yet again was extraordinarily painful and unnecessary.

However, if there is a silver lining in this debate, I hope, and in fact polls showing increasing support for the registry actually illustrate, that this is a chance once and for all to explain to Canadians why we need the registry, a chance once and for all to put this debate to rest so we can say to the families who suffer because of what happened at École Polytechnique, “Not again; you are not going to be dragged through this a third time”. This debate will be done, here, now. All these national associations that have stood up and said this registry saves lives, all the facts and information that have come out of the RCMP internal report and from others, will end this debate.

The RCMP report, as I said, that just came out stated:

81% of trained police officers supported the statement, “In my experience, [the registry] query results have proven beneficial during major operations.”

When I get the opportunity to look at how our caucus has handled this issue, I am profoundly proud.

About a year ago, we got together and said, “How can we get on one page? There are some concerns about the registry. How we can make it stronger?” With our colleagues, we were able to make a number of suggestions and get to a unified position.

However, I will tell the House that, as I have travelled the country, when I am in places such as Quebec and I talk to the citizens there about their members of Parliament who are voting the other way, against their constituents' wishes; or Kitchener—Waterloo, when the region passes a nearly unanimous motion with constituents pleading with their MPs to support a registry to save lives and their MPs say no, they won't listen to their community; or Mississauga, or out in Vancouver and Richmond, when I hear their constituents overwhelmingly say, “Please support the registry,” and they turn their backs, they got nothing for their constituents.

Instead, we stood together. We got a unified position. We are here in the House to say we are going to make sure that this registry is saved.

Now it comes down to the NDP. A year ago, I wish that party's members had done the same. I wish they had worked with their caucus to get a united position. Right now, this vote is on the razor's edge. NDP votes will determine whether or not it goes through. This is a matter of principle.

It is imperative that all NDP members stand up and vote for something they know as clear as day works.

Therefore, we are calling upon the NDP members to do exactly what we did and get that consensus, not try to have it both ways, not have some of their MPs vote for and some against.

When the time of decision comes tomorrow, they should do the right thing.

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against the motion that is before us today. It is not a complicated motion, but it certainly is a misleading motion. It really runs counter to the testimony that we heard before the Standing Committee on Public Safety with regard to Bill C-391.

There are a number of reasons that I believe this motion needs to be defeated. The primary reason I am going to begin with is the need for my bill and this issue to come before members of Parliament, who represent Canadians.

This is an issue that Canadians have been watching for the last 15 years and we know that even over the last several months and weeks Canadians have been, on both sides of this issue, looking to see what the arguments are for registry and against registry. However, it is time for members of Parliament to stand in their place and to vote either to scrap the long gun registry or to keep it.

What this motion does is actually stop debate on the long gun registry. Therefore, the first reason that the motion needs to be defeated is so that we can proceed with the bill and it can be voted on by all the members of Parliament and they can represent their constituents' wishes.

As I have been travelling around the ridings throughout northwestern Ontario, throughout the Yukon, and throughout Canada, and as I listened to testimony at the standing committee, there are a number of myths that have been perpetuated in regard to the long gun registry. Those myths thankfully are being dispelled and have been dispelled through testimony we heard.

One of the first myths is that police officers check the long gun registry 11,000 times a day. There are the facts, but sometimes the facts do not actually tell the truth of the story. The fact is that the registry, the entire Canadian firearms database, is checked probably between 8,000 and 11,000 times a day, but that does not constitute police officers purposely going in to directly check the long gun registry.

What that means is that police database systems are set up to automatically check the registry any time they even pull someone over to check a licence plate. If someone is speeding, if a tail light is broken, if they have to pull someone over, across this country what happens when they put in the vehicle licence plate is that it automatically hits the firearms registry.

If there is any kind of activity going on, if someone purchases and registers a firearm, if staff go into the registry, it registers a hit.

So the truth is not that police officers are looking at the registry and making tactical decisions based on the information, because it is happening automatically.

I am going to quote the chief of the Ottawa Police Service, Vern White. He said about the automatic checks:

To me, that's not an actual check of the system.

I think it is important that police realize that. Why do we not actually speak truthfully about what police are doing and if they are using the registry?

One of the reasons they told us that they do not use it is because they actually cannot depend on the information in the registry. According to the RCMP evaluation that has been quoted and discussed, of all the firearms that are acquired and confiscated in the commission of a crime, only 46% of those long guns are actually registered.

We know there are about 6.5 million long guns registered right now in the database. There are probably twice that amount of long guns in Canada. Therefore, we know and police officers have told us that when they go on a call they do not believe the information in the registry.

They believe the information in the licensing part of the database. If they see that someone has a possession and acquisition licence, or a possession-only licence, it gives them an indication if there possibly could be firearms.

One of the important things to note is that if a person has a licence to possess a firearm and they have registered long guns, they do not have to store them at their house. They can legally store them somewhere else.

Police know that. Perhaps some members of Parliament do not know that, but police know that. Therefore, when they go on a call, they are not looking at the registry and believing that if the registry says there are two firearms, then there are two firearms and if they find those two, they are safe. Absolutely not.

I will quote Chief Constable Bob Rich, of the Abbotsford Police Department:

[I]t's my firm belief that the registry is horrifically inaccurate. I talk to my investigators and I talk to my gun expert, and in story after story, whenever they've tried to use it, the information in it is wrong. [...] So I find my investigators actually don't rely on the registry. [...] I think a flawed system is worse than any system.

Sergeant Duane Rutledge who is head of emergency response in Nova Scotia said:

It's an unreliable system....In other words, I have no hesitation in saying that in my opinion, the long-gun registry does not help police stop violence or make these communities safer from violence. And there's no evidence that it has ever saved a single life on its own merits.

We heard from the chief of police in the Calgary Police Department. Calgary is one of the major cities in Canada. It has a lot of challenges in the things its deals with in gun crime. The chief of the Calgary Police Department, Rick Hanson, said unequivocally that he did not support the long-gun registry.

Again, police officers cannot count on the information. It is a partial database and it is an unreliable one. What they are looking at is the licensing information. Does somebody have the potential to own a firearm?

That myth has been dispelled. We know front line officers do not use the registry. They have overwhelmingly flooded all of us with emails and phone calls. Some of the strongest supporters of my bill, I am proud to say, are front line police officers.

Another myth is the cost of the long gun registry. We know the Auditor General told us that it cost almost $1 billion to set up. Some of the estimates are upwards of $2 billion. Let us just look at the current costs.

We know that right now the cost to implement the registry is about $68 million and that only takes into account the federal portion of the costs. One of the things nobody talks about is the cost to provincial and municipal governments. Now provinces are the ones left administering police services, unless it is the RCMP.

Police officers in provinces and municipalities are the ones who have to go out and ensure that the registry is actually complied with. They are the ones who are using their resources to compile the information such as who has a licence, who has a registration, cross-reference, did someone miss filling out a paper somewhere. Then they have to go, knock on people's doors and tell them that they have broken a paper law.

What they are not finding are drug dealers, gangsters or people who are committing crimes with firearms. They are spending their precious time and resources tracking down people who are using their firearms for legitimate purposes.

What is the cost to those police officers, municipalities and provinces? The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says that just to maintain the registry is approximately $106 million.

If we look at what it would cost to register the 7 million-plus long guns that are still out there, I am worried that if it cost $2 billion to register 6.5 million long guns, what is it going to cost to register another 7 million long guns?

Back 15 years ago we heard that the long gun registry would only cost $2 million, and it cost $2 billion. Now we are hearing only $4 million. Does that mean it might cost $4 billion to actually carry it out and make it accurate? I think Canadians overwhelmingly want to see the money go towards fighting crime, criminal activity and putting criminals in jail.

The other myth is that the long gun registry protects women and it stops domestic violence and suicide. That is one of the most misleading and inaccurate statements that has been used in this argument. Emergency doctors are dealing with suicide and they are dealing with people who are coming to the hospitals wounded, sometimes by accident. Police officers are dealing with issues of domestic violence.

Where we can actually have an impact to ensure that people who should not have guns do not get guns is in the licensing process. That is where they are screened and are stopped from getting a gun. They go through a background check.

This is an important process and we need to ensure it is strong, but once people have a gun, spending between $106 million and $2 billion to count their guns does nothing to stop violence. We need programs in place to help families. We need programs in place to help men and women who are dealing with depression, with family crisis, with young people who are at risk for drug and gang activity.

I ask all members of the House to vote against this motion. I ask members from the NDP to stand on principle, to stand on what they have said to their constituents time after time again. I ask that the member for Yukon stand up for his constituency.

I ask members to vote against this motion and let Bill C-391 go through. Let us kill this long gun registry.

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are here today to discuss the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security's motion that recommends not proceeding further with the study of Bill C-391.

I would like to begin by saying that we heard from over 30 witnesses between May 4 and May 27. In a way, all of the angles in this debate have been covered. We heard from victims' groups. We heard from women's groups. We heard from as many supporters of the bill as detractors. We heard from spokespeople, such as chiefs of police. We even heard from the gun lobby. We heard from a lot of people. Of course we also heard from the Fédération des femmes du Québec, Quebec's public safety minister, and many others. More than 30 people came to share their opinions with us.

I will try to share some of the committee's more interesting moments with the House, the moments I found to be most extraordinary. One such moment occurred when the bill sponsor came to testify. In a nutshell, she said that stoves are as dangerous as firearms. Everyone knows that stoves are meant for cooking food and that guns are meant for killing living things during a hunt or under other circumstances that can prove tragic.

So she said that a stove is as dangerous as a gun and gave us some interesting statistics from a report written by a professor who appears to be the Conservatives' expert and that of the member introducing the bill. According to this professor, people who have firearms permits are two times less likely to commit a gun crime than those who do not. I asked her where that statistic came from, and she told me that it came from a report by the great professor, Gary Mauser. This gun-toting gentleman is the Conservatives' expert.

So this gentleman—

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member should know that she is not permitted to use such things in the House.

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I do not know what the photo shows, but I would ask the member to please refrain from doing that.

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

An hon. member

It is her photo album.

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I met this Conservative expert in committee and I asked him whether the handgun he was carrying in the photo was his. I showed this photo because the discussion revolved around it. He answered yes. I asked what kind of gun it was, and he said that it was a Smith & Wesson revolver. I asked whether it was registered, and he replied that it was, of course. I asked him how many weapons he owned, and he said that he was not sure, that it varied.

So I repeated that he did not remember how many weapons he owned and asked if he had any long guns. He said that he was not sure; it varied. I repeated that he did not remember. He said that he was getting old. Fortunately we have a firearms registry for those who are getting old and who have forgotten how many guns they have in their home. I mentioned this only to show the absurdity.

Another thing I found extremely striking was when Mr. Cheliak, the former director of the Canadian Firearms Program, appeared before the committee. I say former director because unfortunately, he has been sent to complete other tasks, namely to learn French. After nearly a year, people suddenly realize this man is not fully bilingual and he is removed, in a matter of speaking, a few weeks before the major debate we are having here.

What he said that was so disturbing is that in 2009 alone, 7,000 registration certificates were revoked for public safety reasons. I asked him whether the certificates were for handguns. He told me that registration certificates for 7,000 long guns were revoked for public safety problems. This might come from judges, spousal violence complaints, or simply a school reporting a slightly disturbed young person in order to have the police check whether the parents own a firearm. This can save lives.

We have clear evidence that 7,000 firearm registrations were revoked in 2009 alone for mental health reasons or reasons directly related to public safety.

The registry clearly saves lives.

I would like to talk about something that came to light on September 15, 2010. Heather Imming said that the gun registry saved her life. The registry helped in removing guns belonging to her violent ex-husband. She survived a final savage beating. She truly felt that the only reason she was at the conference was because the registry made it possible to remove the guns belonging to her ex-husband. Otherwise she would not have been there to talk to us.

As for Mr. Vallee, author of Life with Billy, he said that according to research, a gun in a house increases the risk of women being killed. He has travelled across the country and has heard horror stories from women in rural areas who have been terrorized and mistreated by men with permits to own rifles and shotguns.

He is talking about a gun in a house and not an oven in a house. Having a gun in the house is not the same thing as an oven.

These are established facts. We are not inventing or massaging the numbers, as the government seems to think, as it does any time something does not go its way. There is no conspiracy.

These are the facts. In 2009, the registry cost $4.1 million to administer, a little more than 12¢ per citizen. That is $4.1 million, not billion. They need to stop lying to the public.

A long gun can be registered or the possession transferred by phone or online in a couple of minutes. It is free to register or transfer a long gun. In addition, there is another important statistic related to preventing crime and protecting police officers: of the 16 officers killed by guns in Canada since 1998, 14 were killed with long guns. Police across Canada consult the registry 11,067 times a day. Of those requests, 2,842 are linked to public safety.

I could also talk about suicide. There is very relevant information that shows the usefulness of the registry. The public health department stated the following:

...suicide is by far the leading cause of death by firearms in Canada and, in the majority of cases, the gun used is a non-restricted one such as a hunting rifle...Members of a household with a firearm are approximately fives times more at risk of committing suicide...

It is a firearm, not an oven. And while you can attempt to commit suicide with an oven, there are more risks with a firearm.

I could continue, but the important part of this debate is tomorrow's vote. I wholeheartedly hope that all of my colleagues from the Liberal Party will be here—

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are here this evening, in larger numbers than we usually have at this time of the evening, to debate this procedural motion, the effect of which, if it passes tomorrow evening, will terminate Bill C-391, which deals with provisions to terminate the long gun registry.

It is quite obvious to most of us now that, in fact, this motion is going to be successful tomorrow. Therefore, this issue with regard to terminating the long gun registry will end tomorrow, at least for this session of Parliament, because it cannot be brought back in this session as a private member's bill.

There is certainly a valid debate, from a democracy standpoint, as to whether we should be dealing with this issue as a procedural motion or whether we should be dealing with the merits of the bill. I have to say that overall, in terms of my love of democracy, I would prefer to be dealing with the merits of the bill and to defeat it on its merits. It does not have many.

The reality is that the government, through a private member, chose to go the private member's bill route. The way to deal with a private member's bill is to, in fact, defeat it tomorrow through this procedural motion.

We had nowhere near enough time to deal with this issue because of the constraints the private member's bill procedure imposed on us. We had eight days of hearings, two hours each time. We had from the opposition parties something like 275 to 300 witnesses, either groups or individuals, who wanted to testify, and we were able to hear about 30 to 35 of them in total. We have not had anywhere near the information or education that would have come out had we had a government bill to deal with fully over a much more extended period of time. Therefore, it is appropriate that this bill be killed tomorrow by way of this procedural motion.

The other reason we are going to see it killed tomorrow is the way the government has conducted itself. For example, it hid until the last minute reports that showed the viability and validity of the long gun registry. There was the dismissal of Chief Superintendent Cheliak, who did a great deal to improve the usefulness of the long gun registry while he was superintendent and was responsible specifically for the administration of the Firearms Act.

We have repeatedly heard attacks on our police chiefs and police forces by members of the Conservative Party. At times they were almost saying that they were liars because they stood up and said that this is a viable investigative tool for them and that they use it. They use it extensively, and they use it to protect their members and communities. Because of that, they have been castigated repeatedly by the Conservatives to, I think, their eternal shame.

An interesting thing did come out of those hearings. We saw it sometimes juxtaposed very clearly. On one occasion, the chief of police from Calgary, one of the few chiefs of police in the country who is opposed to continuing the long gun registry, was confronted by the chief of police and the officer in charge of the firearms division of the Toronto police force. The question was put to him: “You don't have anywhere near the investigative tools used by the Toronto police when you take into account the difference in population between those two cities”. Ultimately, Chief Hanson of Calgary had to admit that they basically were not trying to use it.

This is where I would be critical of the former Liberal government when it instituted this. There were all sorts of problems with the system. What happened, in particular, when the RCMP took it over, but it had started to happen even before that, was that the administration had begun to clean it up.

What happened was that a number of police forces were so jaded about the system, they stopped using it. As we moved into the period from 2005 to 2009 and the system became much more efficient, they did not follow it. One of the shames of losing Superintendent Cheliak was that one of the things he did quite successfully was go across the country to educate individual police forces, one at a time in some cases, about how to use it and how to use it effectively.

After he did that, they responded affirmatively, and the usage of it went up dramatically. The use of it as an investigative tool went up dramatically. It is to the shame of police officers like Chief Hanson that he did not learn that lesson. He was given the opportunity. His force was given the opportunity, and he did not take advantage of it. Yes, there are a lot of “ifs” about the role the police have to play in this, but the reality is that police officers who have used the system and know how to use it know that, in fact, it is a tool they have to have.

The other point I want to make is that tomorrow, when this motion is passed and Bill C-391 is defeated as a result, we cannot let that be the end of it. This government, since it has been in power, has had the opportunity in a number of ways to improve the system. They have had recommendations from officers within the system to improve the system in a number of ways and to get rid of some of the irritants. The most dramatic one is the one we are proposing. The Liberals support us. We propose to decriminalize the first offence in this regard, to take away the stigma that has been attached to honest gun owners, legal gun owners. It would take that away from them.

There are a number of other amendments and changes to the system, both at the regulation level and at the policy level, that would improve our firearms controls in this country. A great deal of the opposition from individual gun owners would be taken away if we proceeded. The government has intentionally avoided doing those things it could do without legislation so that the irritants would remain and it could then continue to try to justify getting rid of the long gun registry.

We, as a party, have proposed a number of amendments. Decriminalization I have already mentioned. We have proposed annual audits by the Auditor General to make sure that the cost controls are still in place; ensuring that aboriginal rights are guaranteed, as protected under the charter and the Constitution; protecting the information within the registry from being released at all, ever, where individuals could be identified; toughening up the screening process, and on and on. The bill is going to be fairly lengthy, because there are reforms and fixes that need to be made to the system. We are going to need to continue to do that, and I am asking all parties, including the government side, to support that private member's bill when it comes forward.

I want to make one more point before I conclude. The point I heard from the member for Portage—Lisgar was about how much it costs. Talk about another myth. The vast majority of the costs in the present system for licensing, for registering restricted weapons, including handguns, and for registering in the long gun registry, a significant portion of that budget, of the expenditures every year, are on the licensing side.

When I listen to the member's argument, one of the fears I have is that if the long gun registry goes down, what is going to go down next? Will it be the registration of restricted weapons? Then are we going to move to the U.S. style of minimal licensing? The only way we are going to save any money is to get rid of licensing to any reasonable degree. That is very much the intention of some of the really fanatical gun owners in this country.

We are faced with this decision as parliamentarians. Our responsibility is to protect our citizens, our societies. If we are right, the position of those of us who support the registry is that we are going to save lives and we are going to give our police officers an investigative tool that is useful. If they are right, and those of us who support the registry are wrong, the worst is that we have inconvenienced gun owners, and we have cost Canadians somewhere between 10¢ and 12¢ a day. As parliamentarians, are we prepared to take that risk? I do not think so.

Public Safety and National SecurityCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of our responsibilities as members is to debate bills whose objectives we either support or oppose. I already spoke to this bill at another stage, at second reading, I believe. I very clearly expressed my support for maintaining the firearms registry.

I will not repeat the reasons I support it. Anyone interested can simply consult Hansard and read my speech, or visit my website, where my speech is posted.

This evening I would like to talk about the cynicism of one political party and one member in particular. I am referring to the member who sponsored the bill, trying to pass the bill off as a private member's bill, although everyone knows that this is a government bill. The government has deployed all its weapons, political as well as financial, to defend this bill. This government is not at all interested in the facts, the science or the empirical data, which all show that the firearms registry saves lives and that the majority of Canadians want the registry to be maintained.

I will list a few organizations that support the firearms registry, starting with our national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. There is also the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association, and the Canadian Association of Police Boards. All of these associations are strongly urging us to keep the registry. The Ombudsman for Victims of Crime has just announced that she has recommended that the government maintain the firearms registry for long guns.

A number of stakeholders have submitted a lot of data on the frequency with which the police query the firearms registry database and it turns out that they do so several thousand times a day.

In April, 28 medical organizations, including nurses, paramedics and suicide prevention agencies, as well as 33 professionals working in those fields sent an open letter to members stressing the importance of the firearms registry in preventing domestic murders, accidents and suicides.

In 2006, 774 Canadians were killed by firearms and 70% of these cases were suicides. And yet, all the data and studies show that the number of suicides using a firearm has dropped substantially since the Firearms Act came into force. We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the majority of wives and women who are murdered are killed by long guns.

Emergency doctors have confirmed that 26% of all murders in 2008 involving a firearm were committed using rifles and shotguns, whereas long guns were used in 72% of domestic murders where a firearm was involved.

I listened to the member for Portage—Lisgar make several observations and assertions, many of which were dubious. I simply want to point out to her that she and her colleagues, and even the Prime Minister, clamour to have members listen to their fellow citizens and to listen to the constituents in their ridings. I would like to ask her why she does not listen to the women who reside in her riding of Portage Lisgar.

When you look at the number of incidents across Canada involving a firearm, most of which involved the use of a long gun, the data are very interesting—and I have not fabricated the data. The statistics are sourced directly from Statistics Canada.

In Toronto, there were 95 incidents involving firearms resulting in deaths, attempted murders and suicides.

In the riding of Portage—Lisgar, there were 115 incidents involving firearms. This riding has the highest rate of incidents that involve firearms, including long guns, and endanger lives. The member for Portage—Lisgar does not seem to be aware of this fact. Why is she not listening to her own voters, the women who live in her riding and whose lives have been threatened by people armed with long guns?

In the past four years, the number of on-line queries of the Canadian firearms registry by police officers from the Portage—Lisgar riding has doubled. These were not automatic queries. The Conservatives keep saying that when a police officer checks a vehicle's licence plate, the query is automatically linked to the firearms registry.

The number of queries by Portage—Lisgar police doubled when deliberate queries of the registry were tallied. However, the member is not listening. She even denies the fact that the police in her riding of Portage—Lisgar is responsible for the majority—two thirds—of all registry queries from Manitoba for the purpose of obtaining court affidavits.

The registry has made it possible, for police working in the Portage—Lisgar riding, to track 70% of the firearms that are confiscated for reasons of public safety.

I am asking the member to stop spouting purely ideological arguments, to look at the statistics for once in her life, and to listen to the women who live in her riding of Portage—Lisgar. From the number of crimes committed with firearms in this riding, it would seem that the women living there are in more danger than women living in Toronto and Montreal.