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.


Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Candice Bergen 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 Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Maria Mourani 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 Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker 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 Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker 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 Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

An hon. member

It is her photo album.

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Maria Mourani 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 Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

7 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

7 p.m.


Joe Comartin 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 Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Marlene Jennings 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.

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

7:20 p.m.



Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

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.

Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 7:30 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Wednesday, September 22, 2010 immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

September 21st, 2010 / 7:30 p.m.


Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, better product safety legislation is needed in the country. It seems like every few weeks there is a new report about some dangerous or faulty product. Many of these products are products for children. In 2010 we saw children's toys, cribs and medications all being subject to safety concerns.

Unfortunately Health Canada does not have the tools it needs to ensure the safety of the public. For example, it cannot issue mandatory recalls. In 2009 Health Canada posted more than 300 voluntary recall notices, a third of them for children's products. Lots of these products were not made in Canada, but still the government did not have the power to make the recalls mandatory.

The Hazardous Products Act of 1969 has not been effective in identifying or removing dangerous products. This has meant in the majority of cases Canadians have been dependent on the product alerts and recalls issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission instead of Health Canada. In 2005 and 2006 more than 40% of product recalls were ordered as a direct result of U.S. initiated action.

Successive Canadian governments, this one included, have been happy to promote and applaud corporate trade over the last few decades but not to police it. This is unacceptable. It is putting people at risk.

We need Health Canada to be taking the lead in these instances, identifying and removing dangerous products in a timely fashion. This is why I have asked this several times in the House since becoming health critic for the NDP, just as my colleague Judy Wasylycia-Leis asked before me. When will the government get serious about product safety legislation?

We have been asking and asking and finally the government did introduce Bill C-36 last spring. What an amazingly drawn out process. Delays have been due in part to the government's habit of proroguing when it suits its needs. It has been repeatedly terminating legislation designed to keep Canadians safe.

Here is a summary of what we have gone through. The first attempt was Bill C-51 in 2008. The NDP opposed Bill C-51 because instead of strengthening safety, it was a continuation of the previous Liberal government's interests and permissive attitudes toward big pharma. Fortunately Bill C-51 did not become law, but this was not due to political courage or insight from the government but because of Conservative prorogation after the federal election of 2008.

The next attempt to respond to the needs and requests of Canadians came when the government introduced Bill C-6, the Canada consumer product safety act in February 2009. Again, Bill C-6 did not survive because of prorogation in December 2009.

We have this current legislation, but we have seen more delays. The House convened on March 3 and Bill C-36 did not have its first reading until June 9, three months later, despite the government's repeated statement that the legislation was as important to it as it was to Canadians. Bill C-36 does not seem to be on the House's legislative agenda for the next few weeks.

My question to the government is this. When will the government continue the legislative process for a bill for which so many Canadians have been asking? Will there be more delays?

7:30 p.m.



Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the member on her return to the Health committee and I am looking forward to working with her over the next few months.

I am pleased to rise this evening to discuss the government's commitment to consumer safety and specifically to address Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products.

On June 9, as the member said, the Minister of Health introduced Bill C-36 and, as members opposite know, it now awaits second reading. The government has made important improvements to what was previous Bill C-6 and we are looking forward to support from our colleagues when the bill begins its progression through Parliament.

Bill C-36 fulfils a promise made by the government in our 2010 throne speech. Many Canadians believe that the consumer products they purchase every day are safe when used as directed. We know that businesses in Canada want to ensure the products they sell are safe. It has been estimated that up to one-third of Canadians have at least once bought products that were later found to be unsafe.

Each year, millions of Canadian consumers are affected by recalls. In 2009 alone, Health Canada posted over 300 recall notices. One-third of these recalls were for children's products. This statistic alone underlines the importance of the work the department has done to regulate products for vulnerable populations.

However, the regulation of consumer products has been done in the context of the Hazardous Products Act legislation which is now over 40 years old. While that legislation may have served Canadians well in the past, it is now out of step with market globalization and out of step with the legislation of our major trading partners. Clearly, it is time update and modernize our consumer safety regime. Bill C-36, the proposed Canada consumer products safety act, would modernize and strengthen Canada's product safety legislation.

What is our goal with the bill? Bill C-36 is part of the government's comprehensive food and consumer safety action plan and targets three areas for improvement. The first area is active prevention. We want to prevent problems with consumer products before they occur. The second area is targeted oversight. By having better information, such as through mandatory incident reporting, the government will be able to better target products with the highest risk. The third area is rapid response. The legislation would give us the tools we need to act swiftly when we required

Right now our legislation supports only a reactive approach. The vast majority of consumer products are unregulated by the Hazardous Products Act. This essentially means that for the vast majority of consumer products we are very limited in the actions that we can take when a consumer safety issue is identified. Even for regulated products, like toys, children's jewellery and cribs, we are limited in the actions we can take when a safety issue is identified.

Arguably, the most significant gap in our ability to respond to safety issues is the absence of any authority to issue mandatory recalls for consumer products. This means that when a safety issue is identified with a consumer product we have very little options other than to ask the industry to recall its product voluntarily.

We will always favour a voluntary approach with industry and we believe industry will usually respond favourably. However, Canadian consumers should not have a lower standard of protection than consumers in both the United States and Europe. The need for government to have new authorities has grown in concert with the dramatic changes we have seen in the global marketplace.

The marketplace of 40 years ago when the Hazardous Products Act was introduced was very different from that of today. Products sold in Canada now come from all over the world and there are new materials, new substances and new technologies. There are new products and more products from a multiplicity of sources all around the globe.

In Canada, these are found in post-market regulatory regimes. That means that, despite what many Canadians might think, producers, importers, distributors and retailers are not required to certify or otherwise verify the safety of their products with government before they are offered for sale in this country.

Bill C-36 would not change the fundamental nature of a regulatory regime--