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House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firearms.

Topics

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, what the government is doing is clearly inexcusable. It is not just all the money that it is spending on the military but also what it is doing with our prisons. Putting people in prison is not going to help us prevent crime. The Conservatives—it is not us—are prepared to spend billions of dollars on prisons but that does not really do anything to protect people and society.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2011 / 3:25 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Yukon.

I, like many of my colleagues before me, am very pleased to rise in this House this afternoon to support Bill C-19, a bill to abolish, to completely do away with the long gun registry, just as we promised in the election campaign. This is very important to me because I am a politician who keeps his word, and I am glad that my government is also keeping its word.

As you are aware, this registry is useless and costly. The reason so many Conservative members are so adamant about dismantling the registry is because they have listened to years of consultations with our constituents about the registry. A number of my colleagues, including the member for Yorkton—Melville, have held countless meetings throughout the country. They have listened to Canadians tell them what they think about the registry. We have heard from honest firearm owners, including hunters, farmers and sport shooters, and we have also heard from people who believe that the way to fight crime is to have tougher laws.

We have also listened to the victims of tragedies such as the ones at the École Polytechnique and Dawson College. I would like the victims and their families to know that we share the same goal, the same objective in the fight against crime, and that is to ensure that these heinous crimes do not reoccur.

It is a shame that these crimes were committed with registered firearms. Registering a weapon—and by that I mean hunting weapons, rifles and shotguns—does not help to combat crime. I have a strong conviction that together we can convince our opposition colleagues to support this bill.

I have heard many of my colleagues talk about the cost. Yes, it was disastrous. The cost of setting up this registry in the late 1980s and early 1990s was astronomical. Why was it astronomical? You will recall that it was the first Liberal scandal. Some say that the registry cost over $1 billion, others that it cost up to $2 billion. Those are the figures the CBC came up with following a number of investigations that were conducted at the time under the Access to Information Act. So we all agree that it was a waste of taxpayers' money. We are still trying to determine where this money went.

Then there was a second Liberal scandal, the sponsorship scandal, mainly in my own province. More billions of dollars were spent, and they were spent to keep a party in power that was corrupt at that time. This was an intolerable waste. I agree with the opposition. At the time, they should have invested that money in crime prevention. How many crimes could have been prevented with rehabilitation programs for criminals, with tougher laws to make sure that criminals are not tempted to commit these crimes?

The truth is simple and clear, and people do not want to hear that truth. There is no proof that the long gun registry helps to prevent crime. It must be pointed out that the bill covers only the long gun registry. This is one section of the registry, which has four sections. One section relates to handguns, and that will be retained in full; another section relates to prohibited weapons, and that will be retained in full; and a third section relates to licences for individuals. That registry has the name, address and contact information for individuals who want to obtain a firearms possession and acquisition licence.

In this registry we have the names of honest citizens: farmers, hunters, people who use their rifles for sporting purposes. These data are going to stay in the registry. It is important to point that out. What is going to be done is very precise: the registry that relates to long guns is going to be destroyed. The registry is made up of data. The registry is composed of information about those weapons. The data are part of the registry and the data will be destroyed. That is very clear in the bill.

Some people say that statistics show there has been a decline in homicides and suicides in Canada. I agree with the people who talk about those statistics. That is the statistical reality. However, what they are not telling us is that this is nothing new. The decline in homicides and suicides in Canada does not date from the creation of this registry in the mid-1990s. It is a trend that goes back a long time, to 1979 to be precise. There is a perfect declining curve for suicides and homicides. It has been declining since 1979. That is what has to be pointed out. The statistics cannot be interpreted to our own advantage. We have to look at the statistics overall and see what they tell us.

What strikes me most about this registry is how it treats honest citizens as potential criminals, forcing them to register their guns. These people abide by Canadian laws, and this registry was introduced under the Criminal Code. That needs to be said. Firearms need to be registered every year; it is a tax grab. Each year, you have to pay to register your firearm. Yet if ever an honest citizen, an honest farmer or hunter, forgot to register his gun, it would be a criminal offence. He would become a criminal. We do not want to treat these honest people like criminals.

This registry has affected rural areas in Canada and aboriginals as well. Their culture and way of life have been changed by the requirement to register their guns. They are simply asked to take a firearms safety course. And they are asked to take a test. Then, the RCMP does a criminal background check and, if necessary, a background check for violent offences. The RCMP does detailed checks on people who apply for a gun permit. That will stay; it will always be there. The RCMP will continue to investigate these people. And people will agree to those investigations because they know that they are honest and have done nothing wrong. They are prepared to do that. The RCMP does it because they want to protect the public and ensure that a person who has the right to a permit has been investigated.

It should also be said that this permit is good for five years. If something happens during that time, the permit can be taken away. That needs to be said. These measures are in place to protect society and prevent crime. We are taking other measures in this Parliament, such as Bill C-10 to implement tougher sentences. And I think that is the direction we need to be moving in. We drafted a bill that ensures that a Canadian who commits a gun-related crime will be given a minimum sentence. It is important for Canadians to know that.

I am extremely disappointed to hear that kind of demagogy concerning the registry. Some people are suggesting that we want to destroy all of the information in the registry, which is completely false, because the registry has four sections, as I said earlier. We want to destroy only the section that has to do with the registration of long guns, because that information is not in line with this government's priorities.

Any government policy must always be examined based on its effects, not its intentions, and in this case, the registry has had no effect on crime prevention.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, police forces across the country are saying that they need this registry. It strikes me as very odd that a law and order party would do something that is clearly not requested by the police forces.

When in the future, after the long gun registry has been scrapped, a police officer enters a situation, in which he would have known there were long guns, and is subsequently killed, what will the government say to the family of that slain police officer?

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad someone asked that question. We are told that police officers consult the registry several times a day, which is true. When a Canadian is stopped for speeding or something like that and the police officer enters the licence plate number into the system, the computer links automatically to the registry. That is why it is used so often. In their daily activities, when police officers are looking for information on someone's licence, the registry automatically opens. Yes, this information is very useful to police officers. What is important for police officers to know is whether an individual has a possession and acquisition licence. As I said earlier, police officers responding to an emergency call will still have access to that information, namely, whether a Canadian has a possession and acquisition licence. If that is the case, the police officer can take the necessary precautions when responding.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I have a question that has been bothering me because, quite frankly, it is quite a conundrum. I just cannot quite wrap my head around it.

The New Democratic Party was all over the map on the gun registry prior to our forming government. A large group of its members, who represent rural ridings, voted in favour of the gun registry. Then when the votes really mattered, when we had an opportunity when we first formed government, NDP members turned their backs on that previous vote and voted against the gun registry.

Now that we have a majority government, their votes still matter in the House, but they will not matter when they are tallied up on this bill. I wonder how many New Democratic members will now change their mind again and vote against the gun registry.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the same question.

We are here to listen to the public and make decisions in order to protect the public, and that is what we are doing. It concerns me a bit to see the opposition parties, the NDP and the Liberals, take an ideological position. Why is it an ideological position? It is simple. They are not looking at the facts. This registry has not prevented heinous crimes from being committed in my own province.

They are taking an ideological position and misinforming the public when they say that registering a shotgun will reduce crime. Canadians have common sense and they know that registering a gun does not reduce crime. The members opposite are taking an ideological position and misinforming the public. I am a little disappointed to see that the NDP is unable to face the facts.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I, too, have a question that is troubling me, a conundrum as the hon. member across termed it.

Accepting that the federal government does not want a long gun registry, what I fail to understand is why the government will not respect the wishes of democratically elected governments at different levels, such as at the provincial level, that act on the advice of the police and respect the decisions of the voters of that jurisdiction?

Why will the government not provide the data that already exists to those jurisdictions?

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is simple: the data and the section of the registry on long guns do not reduce crime in Canada. That is the first reason.

The second reason is that the data are inaccurate. We cannot deny it. In 2002, the Auditor General said that the data were inaccurate. They are inaccurate because at the time, hunters said they were frustrated at being treated like potential criminals and having to register their firearms in addition to having their possession and acquisition licence. They agree with taking the necessary tests to get their licence and they comply with that. They understand the reasoning behind such a measure. However, a number of them have not gone so far as to register their firearm. This registry is inaccurate and is not a suitable tool to give to the provinces.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to tell Yukon citizens, trappers, hunters, athletes, sport shooters, collectors and first nations who rely on long guns to protect their heritage, culture and traditional way of life that the bill has, as promised by our government, been introduced into the House.

Long guns have been a staple tool in Yukon since its beginning, before it was designated as its own territory. It is indeed true of Canada itself. We have a long and proud history founded on a trapping culture, a fur-trading culture, a first nation and aboriginal culture and on a farming culture in which the long gun has played a vital role in basic survival.

Today, in many parts of our nation, long guns are essential tools of basic and day-to-day routines of life. They represent tools that allow aboriginal and first nation communities to hunt, harvest and teach. Long guns raise Canadians to the top of podiums in Olympic and international competitions in trap shooting and biathlons. Long guns put food on the tables of Canadians. Fundamentally, the long gun registry has unfairly and without reason targeted the wrong people.

When we talk about the long gun registry we are not talking about criminals, we are not even talking about the sorts of guns that criminals are likely to use. More than $2 billion has been wasted and it is not coming back no matter how long we continue throwing good money after bad. That is $2 billion wasted on a program that was supposed to cost about $2 million, which is a staggering difference.

Our government has invested in prevention programs such as youth gang prevention funds because they are tangible, effective measures to help reduce crime.

The long gun registry placed unnecessary and costly barriers in front of law-abiding Canadians. It generates more paperwork, which is not something that is in generally short supply nowadays. Canadians spoke loud and clear in their objections to this.

I have outlined for my riding that I aim to learn from our past, guard it from neglect, improve the present and perfect our future. Reducing the barriers and red tape will ensure that innocent Canadians are not punished and that they are supported in the activities that define a Canadian lifestyle enjoyed by rural and urban citizens.

I have a couple of examples. I also want to quickly touch on something I heard that was a bit disturbing to me.

As a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and belonging to a government party that has 11 former members or retired members of police forces across the country, we have the strongest voice of front-line police services representation in our government today. Therefore, to hear the member for Windsor—Tecumseh bring up the Mayerthorpe incident and then blame the RCMP for not enforcing the act as a direct result of that tragic event is absolutely astounding. I find that shocking and very disturbing.

The member then questioned the value of building prisons. He stood in the House and voted against legislation that would increase sentences and sanctions to make it tougher on criminals who were involved in those kinds of grow-ops, an operation in that case that pre-empted the entire event itself.

To suggest that had the RCMP enforced the long gun law that Mr. Roszko would not have committed that crime is erroneous and insulting to the members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. If we follow the line of thinking that the NDP positions day in and day out in the House, Mr. Roszko may have been captured with an illegal firearm, but he certainly would not have gone to prison if the NDP had anything to say about it. He would have gone to a daycare, which is not where that gentleman belonged.

I will leave that topic and speak to another experience I have had as a member of the law enforcement community. As a former conservation officer in the Yukon territory, I and my colleagues worked every day in remote and isolated regions of our territory and we did so having hundreds of interactions with law-abiding hunters.

Conservation officers across Canada deal with people carrying firearms every day, numerous times, and have absolutely no access to a registry. This does not put them in any greater danger than the law enforcement community because what they have found, as I have found, is that firearm owners are trained. They are safe, responsible, ethical and socially and environmentally conscience individuals. They are not criminals.

As a father, I have taught my son responsible and safe use of firearms. It provides us an opportunity at different times in our lives during busy schedules, both his and mine, to get out on the land and enjoy quality time. Firearms are not about getting out and killing things. They are about time in the wilderness, time in our great environment and teaching, learning and growing together. I would hate to teach my son that that activity is something we should worry about being criminalized because of the ineffective and irresponsible use of legislation introduced by the Liberal Party.

As the Yukon MP, I committed to taking action and voting to get rid of the registry. I campaigned on this, I was supported on this, and our government is delivering on its commitment. The issue then is a little bigger than the abolishment of the registry itself. It is about restoring the faith of our constituents that we will do as we promised, that we listened to the common person and that we remember who put us here and why they put us here. I have no doubt at all about the mandate I have from the Yukon people in respect to abolishing the long gun registry.

We also look forward to moving along from a 15-year long debate and progressing with more effective programs and government business. By scrapping the registry and the data, we can put this unfortunate part of the Liberal legacy behind us and move forward.

I am looking forward to seeing the results of the vote. I am very curious to see how the member for Western Arctic casts his vote when he understands the importance of this for the heritage, culture, history and day-to-day life of aboriginal people, first nations communities, the lives and activities of all northerners, the people of the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut and, indeed, across all rural and even urban regions of our country.

The introduction of the bill represents a promise made and a promise kept. Our government, as did many individual members in the opposition, assured the citizens of our ridings that we would vote in favour of getting rid of this wasteful and ineffective registry.

As Robert Service wrote in The Cremation of Sam McGee, “a promise made is a debt unpaid”.

We are making good on this and all other commitments we made in a well led plan for Canada's near future during the May election.

I urge members of all parties to support this legislation and make good on the promises they made to their constituents in their ridings when they were seeking election to the House.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is nice to hear the comments from the member for Yukon, a place where I lived and still have fond regard for.

The government is fond of talking about how it stands up for victims but, frankly, what we need is a government that stands up to prevent victims of crime, to prevent victims of illegal use of long guns. It is fond of saying that people who carry long guns, the farmers and fishermen, do not cause harm, that it is the criminals, and yet we have this record of many people killed by long guns.

The biggest concern the emergency doctors have expressed is the numbers of suicides by long guns. They have been one of the greatest proponents of this registry.

The government also talks about waste and yet it sat on its haunches for six years. When a backbench member tabled a similar law, it never stepped up to the plate, as the government, to table the same law. The government allowed moneys to be expended over six years on a registry that it is now saying was a waste of money.

Could the member address the fact that my police chief, who very strongly supports this registry, is on my side? We want to prevent the victims of crime, not worry about them after the fact.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, our government is very concerned about the victims of crime. We present that every day in legislation in the House and the opposition continues to vote against those initiatives.

I can say this about having people in our corner. I travelled from community to community while I campaigned and during the summer and I spoke with front-line police officers in my territory. Having been one and having 10 other colleagues in the government caucus who were front-line law enforcement officers and having a police chief in our corner, this is not the reality of constituents and it is not the reality of what is going on, and the needs, wishes and desires of front-line police. I can speak to this issue, as can my law enforcement colleagues in our caucus, because we have talked to front-line police officers. We have been front-line police officers. We know what they want and what they need and we will deliver on that. They support the bills that get tough on crime. They support our safe streets and communities act.

I would ask that member to support that kind of legislation if she and her party are that concerned about victims of crime.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, common sense needs to be applied to this full discussion.

Whether one is for or against gun registration, most people will look at it from a province of Quebec perspective. It will cost Quebec tens of millions of dollars to recreate the same data bank that the Conservative government is going to delete. Rather than spending money on the re-creation of this data bank, it could be spending that money on community policing, policing initiatives and health care needs. Instead, the government is mandating the provinces to create their own data bank because it will hit the delete button on the information in the registry.

From a common sense perspective, does that make any sense to the member?

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, just a point of clarification. Our government is not mandating any province to re-create the registry.

From my constituents' perspective, and I think it would be safe to say it would be the same for people across the western part of our country, they would not be in favour of having information, which they have provided to a federal body under federal legislation, turned over to the province of Quebec. If I tried to tell my constituents in Yukon territory that their information would be housed on a data base for the province of Quebec to use at will, that would not fly. That would not fly in any other part of the country. Quebec is more than welcome to start its own registry at its own cost for its own purpose, but that will not work with our constituents.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have three stories to tell you today, but I will warn you, they are not very happy stories.

The first story took place on December 6, 1989, in Montreal. At 4 p.m., a young man, 25-year-old Marc Lépine, arrived at the École Polytechnique, which is part of the Université de Montréal. He walked around the school for about an hour. People saw him all over, in offices and so on. At about 5:10, a little more than an hour later, he went into a mechanical engineering class where there were about 60 people. He then took out a .22 calibre semi-automatic rifle and told the women that because they wanted to become engineers, they were feminists, and he hated feminists. He then told the men to go to one side and the women to the other. People thought it was a joke, so they did not do it. That was when he fired a shot in the air. People started to take him seriously then, so the men lined up on one side and the women on the other. He then told the men to leave the classroom. So the men did. And what happened next was that he fired on the nine women who stayed in the classroom. Six of them died.

It went on like that for 20 minutes. Twenty minutes can be a very long time in circumstances like that. He continued to walk around the school, shooting at women and men, because the men were helping some of the women. In all, 14 women died, and 10 women and four men were injured—men who were helping the women, of course. Most of these people were in their early twenties. They were university students, and there was also a female university employee.

Marc Lépine killed himself. So that makes 15 deaths. After talking to the journalists outside, Pierre Leclair, who was the public relations director for the Montreal police, went into the building and, sadly, found the body of his own daughter, Maryse Leclair, one of the students who died that day. She had been killed by a firearm, and also stabbed, even though she had begged the murderer not to do it.

Obviously the police investigated, and during the investigation a letter written by the murderer was found. In the letter, the murderer repeated that he hated feminists, and there was even a list of 19 feminist women he said he wanted to kill. They included a journalist, a television personality, a politician and six police officers.

The consequences of Mr. Lépine's act do not stop there. After that event, several students at the École Polytechnique committed suicide, and at least two of them left letters saying it was the anguish caused by the killings at the Polytechnique, the Montreal massacre, that prompted them to kill themselves. So the connection here is obvious. There is no doubt about the connection. That is my first story.

My second story took place on September 13, 2006. It was 12:42 p.m., and another young man, 25-year-old Kimveer Gill, arrived at Dawson College. So again this is in Montreal. He had with him three firearms, one of which was a semi-automatic. He started shooting outside. Then he went into the cafeteria. Remember that it was 12:42, which is lunchtime, so there were a lot of people in the cafeteria. Twenty-eight minutes later, a young woman, 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa, was dead.

There were also 16 people injured, including a young man who will have to spend the rest of his life with one bullet in his head and another in his neck, because it is too dangerous to remove them. Kimveer Gill, the murderer also died.

My two sons, Alec and Nicholas, could have been there. They went to that school; they were students at Dawson. Several people that I know were there and could have been victims. I am not talking about a cops and robbers movie. I am talking about my life, and what happened to my friends and me.

I have a third story that is even closer to home. I warned my colleagues that these would not be happy stories. This time it was in my riding, Hochelaga, and a member of my family was involved. It occurred on July 14, 2009, in Montreal, at the Jardins de l'Aubade, an independent and assisted living residence for seniors. Marlena Cardoso was a 33-year-old nurse and the mother of two young children. Everybody describes her as jovial, dedicated and likable. She was well liked and nobody, of course, wished her any harm. She was at work that day and at about 2:30 p.m. had a conversation with Celso Gentili. He was an 84-year-old man in a wheelchair. She thought he looked sick and wanted him to go to the hospital, and she told him so. Mr. Gentili misinterpreted her remarks, became angry and went back to his apartment. The apartments are for people who are losing their mobility or live alone. Nobody had searched his apartment, just as no one searches our apartments when we move in. Once in his apartment, Mr. Gentili retrieved his 12-gauge shotgun and, without warning, shot Ms. Cardoso.

My younger brother, Guy, who had been working there for a few weeks, arrived on the scene and saw Ms. Cardoso on the ground in a pool of blood; there was blood everywhere. The owner's son was trying to overpower Mr. Gentili and disarm him, while Mr. Gentili was attempting to reload his rifle so he could continue to shoot. My younger brother had both hands on Marlena's gaping wound in an attempt to stop the blood and save her life. He was talking to her all the while, telling her to stay with them. He saved her life. I am very proud of him. He was trying to keep her alive, but while he was doing that, he too could have died because Mr. Gentili was attempting to reload his rifle. If no one had stopped him, he could have shot my brother. Once again, it was not a movie; it happened in my riding, to my family.

Marlena Cardoso was fortunate enough to survive in the end. But she and some other employees were so traumatized that two and a half years later they still have not returned to work. My brother is strong, but he still cries today when anyone talks about the incident. Mr. Gentili, the 84-year-old man, is facing seven charges. It is all very sad.

The Conservatives say that the long gun registry targets law-abiding citizens rather than criminals. In the three cases I referred to, none of the people involved were hardened criminals.

The aggressors did not have a criminal record, and the crimes were not committed by criminals. The registry identifies firearm owners and assists in keeping track of the circulation of weapons, which may be sold. Abolishing the registry would therefore make it easier for potentially dangerous people to get a hold of weapons, whether or not they have previously committed a crime. That makes the lives of police officers harder and puts them in harm's way. The Conservatives say that the registry is a waste of taxpayers’ money. Have the Conservatives ever calculated the cost of violence due to long guns? One single investigation—

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. I made a small mistake. You have 10 more minutes.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Right, I will slow down.

A single murder investigation costs about a half-million dollars. In addition to that there are the costs of hospitalization, long-term care and imprisonment, which could continue to grow, so we are talking about millions and even billions of dollars, and of course that is not counting another very significant cost, the psychological cost to the families of the victims and the victims themselves.

The Conservatives also want to destroy all of the information accumulated for the long gun registry. Police associations, which query the registry an average of 17,000 times a day, are completely against it, as is my province, Quebec. If the registry were unfortunately to disappear, at least the provinces could use the information, not information from all the provinces, but from their own, to protect the people there, because the federal government seems to be refusing to do it.

The murders at the École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989 that I referred to earlier prompted a lot of people to think about ways to at least try to prevent that kind of tragedy, as much as possible. Out of that came the firearms registry. Do we really want to move backward? Do we want to tell the families of Anastasia De Sousa, Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz—pardon me, Barbara—and all the other victims that their deaths were ultimately for nothing? Do we want to take risks with people’s lives? My answer is clear: no. The way we can really protect lives is by strengthening gun control. In my opinion, even one life is worth it.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, a short time ago in the House, the member for Yukon spoke, and he quoted Robert Service. I am sure the member opposite is familiar with Robert Service, a bard of northern Canada. However, he did not quote from another poem of Robert Service:

When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear.

The reason I quote that is because here is someone who was out in the cold and the dark, and came into the warmth and the light.

I appreciate the hon. member's passion for this subject, but I do not understand how everything that says registration is good, when in reality we are registering licensed gun owners.

As a hunter and a gun owner, if I get stopped for running a red light, the RCMP would put my name through the database. They would get the same results today as they would have gotten prior to the elimination of the registry because I am still a licensed, registered gun owner, so the safety aspect that we talk about is still there. To say it is not is just contrary to logic.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I know that the law is not perfect and that there are ways to change it. Before we can change it, however, we have to keep it. We must not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Suppose there are changes that could be made when it comes to the north, for example. In order to be able to make those changes, we have to have this law on the books. If we vote with the Conservatives and abolish it, there is no way to improve it.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention that one of the names that was not mentioned by my hon. colleague was that of Heidi Rathjen, who was one of the lucky ones who was not killed that terrible night. The hon. member mentioned stories close to her home. Heidi Rathjen was a woman who grew up in my home town. I went to elementary school with her sister Claudia. I know the family very well and I know how that act of violence deeply touched that family in particular.

Ms. Rathjen has been very vocal over the years about the preservation of the gun registry. I am wondering if my hon. colleague could elaborate on the consequences if the registry is scrapped and Ms. Rathjen's fear that gun-related tragedies will increase as a result.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. There are a lot of crimes committed with shotguns, long guns. There is talk of removing these weapons from the firearms registry. Imagine a police officer who responds to a call from a family—a husband and wife—and he has information from the registry. Neither party is a criminal. And yet, if the police officer knows, based on information from the registry, that there are firearms in the house, long guns, he can respond differently and protect the lives of the people in the house as well as his own life.

Moreover, many people have said that having a registry really improved things. For example, I would like to quote Pamela Harrison, provincial coordinator for the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia, an organization that provides emergency services to women who are victims of violence and abuse:

The long-gun registry has made a significant difference in the safety of women in Canada since its inception in 1995. The rate of spousal homicide by gun has gone down 69 per cent and we attribute most of that to the impact of the gun registry.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her very heartfelt presentation and for sharing her direct experience with the need to have a registry to track the illegal use of long guns.

This matter has been reviewed in previous Parliaments and presentations have been put forward by a vast array of people. The Canadian Association of Police Boards, the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, the Ontario Public Health Association, the Medical Officer of Health of Toronto, the Canadian Federation of University Women, and the National Council of Women of Canada all support retaining the gun registry.

I am told that the officers were able to locate and try to convict the two people involved in the Mayerthorpe, Alberta killing of the RCMP officers because of the gun registry. That is only one of many examples given to me by the police and the police chief in the city I come from. I am told that yes, there is a handful of police officers who have private collections and do not like having to register, but generally speaking, the police of Canada support the use of this tool.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is quite accurate.

Moreover, in Canada, only three police chiefs disapprove of the registry. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is totally in favour of the registry and does not want to see it scrapped. So what my colleague said, and what my other colleagues also intimated, is exactly what we just heard: police officers are against the abolition of the long gun registry. That says a great deal.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech that was given by my colleague across the way. These stories are very heart wrenching and our hearts go out to the victims of these tragedies. To link the registry with these, however, is disingenuous. Experts who examined what happened at École Polytechnique admitted that the registry probably would have had no effect on what happened. The member cited the Dawson College tragedy. In fact, the gun was registered.

It does not make any difference to have a registry. It would be much better to take the billions of dollars that were spent and target the root causes of these things and try to find these individuals in society and deal with them. We will not solve these types of problems with a gun registry.

I wonder if the member has any comments about that.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that having a registry will not completely wipe out crime. I am very aware of that.

Moreover, the crimes were committed with weapons that were registered. I know that. However, do we really know how many crimes were prevented as a result of the registry? We know which crimes were committed with registered firearms, but what we do not know is how many were prevented as a result of the firearms being registered.

I am now going to read out another quote. Sue O'Sullivan, the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime stated that the majority of groups representing victims want to keep the registry. That is also telling. She said:

Our position on this matter is clear—Canada must do all it can to prevent further tragedies from happening, including using the tools we have to help keep communities safe, like the long-gun registry.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Fundy Royal.

I congratulate the Minister of Public Safety, the member of Parliament for Provencher, for bringing forward Bill C-19. This is an incredible day. Finally, there is a government bill before the House for debate. After all the long years that I have been advocating against the long gun registry, finally we have this opportunity not only to debate the bill, but to vote on it and successfully remove the long gun registry.

I also want to thank the member for Portage—Lisgar, who is also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, for all the work she has done on the gun registry and for bringing forward Bill C-391 in the last Parliament which we had hoped to get through the House until it ripped my heart out to see it defeated by one vote. However, I know that she has continued to fight for the removal of this wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. She has travelled across the country to hear from Canadians from coast to coast to coast about the horrors of having to deal with such a bureaucratic process, one that made criminals out of law-abiding citizens.

Finally, I have to thank my friend, the member for Yorkton—Melville, for all of the work he has done right back to 1993-94 when this registry was first floated by Allan Rock, the minister at that time, and the Liberal government. The member for Yorkton--Melville has been one of the stalwarts. He has fought against this ineffective and wasteful use of taxpayer money and has ensured that we do the right things in fighting crime rather than penalize citizens who happen to own long guns, whether they are farmers, hunters, or sportsmen.

I was fighting Bill C-68 going back to 1995. The Senate committee was travelling across the country taking testimony on Bill C-68. I appeared before that committee when it was in Manitoba, in Interlake in my riding.

People in my riding of Selkirk—Interlake have long opposed this gun registry. It created a huge stir. There were public protests. Organizations were set up. I joined the Manitoba Firearms Coalition. People wanted to fight this huge impediment to their freedoms and their rights as citizens. Unfortunately, Bill C-68 has pitted rural Canadians against urban Canadians.

Maybe it is not fair for me to say that urban Canadians all support the gun registry, because there are plenty of hunters and sports enthusiasts who live in urban centres who also oppose this long gun registry. Over the last few years as we have been out campaigning, we have been hearing from Canadians in urban centres. They know it is not working. They know the registry has not reduced crime. They have seen gun violence and gang violence in the streets rise. They know the registry is a waste of money. They want more resources put into policing services. They want more money put into gang prevention. They want more money put into youth at risk. They know those will be the right investments, rather than wasting money on a bureaucracy, on a registry that has no impact whatsoever in reducing crime in this country.

I am a licensed firearms owner. I acquired a PAL, a possession and acquisition licence. I took my hunter safety course in 1976 when I was about 14 years old. The hunter safety course is what actually prepared me to get my PAL. I am a licensed firearms owner; however, I have never registered a firearm. I do have a firearm, but it is not registered. I have made that statement before in the House because, as a matter of civil disobedience, I have always said this is a wrong thing. That firearm does not have any impact on the safety of people. It is the people who handle the firearm that are the issue.

If we want to look at reducing crime or reducing accidents that happen from handling firearms, we need to do more in the areas of safe storage, safe handling, in training the people who are going to be using firearms. That is where we would get the biggest bang for our buck.

We know from the statistics that since the late 1980s we have seen a reduction in accidental shootings. We have seen a reduction in misfired guns. We have seen a reduction in suicides that have been caused from long guns.

We have seen reductions in those events because people are practising safe storage. Those firearms are under lock and key. Ammunition is stored separately under lock and key. It is more difficult for children to access those firearms. It allows time for cooling off in instances of heated debates between friends or family members. It allows people to think about what they are doing as they are reaching for a firearm they may want to use in an illegal way.

Much misinformation has been propagated by opposition members and we really need to set things straight. They talk about policing services accessing the gun registry thousands of times a day. They are not actually accessing the registry. They may be checking an address or licence plate and that automatically goes into the firearms registry. If they are looking at a serial number of a gun, it accesses the licensed firearm owner. That is not going to change. There still will be a complete list of everyone who has a licence to possess a firearm in this country. That will not change. We know that police officers on the front line can still enter an address or licence plate number into a computer and they will be told whether an individual is a licensed firearms owner.

Police officers will have to deal with every individual as if he or she owned a firearm. We do not want to give them a false sense of security. They have to assume in every situation they go into that there are firearms present. We know that criminals do not register firearms. We know that criminals do not get licences under the current legislation. Criminals do not have possession and acquisition licences for firearms. We know that to be a fact. In every situation for their own self-interests, police officers have to enter a premise or approach a vehicle as if the individual had a gun.

There is all this talk about homicide rates dropping because of the gun registry. We know that homicide rates have been on the decline since the early 1970s. Since the registry came into being in Canada, the rate has stabilized at just under 1.9 murders per 100,000 people. There will not be a huge impact, because homicides have been stable on a percentage basis for the last dozen years or so since the registry has been in place.

If we look at the population of licensed firearm owners, the murder rate is only .38 per 100,000 owners of firearms. These are the most law-abiding citizens in the country. These are individuals who have gone out of their way to become licensed firearms owners and to get the training they need to own firearms. They are the ones who respect the laws of the land. Why are we targeting these individuals when there are so many other people who are involved in gangs, drugs and illicit crimes? Those are the individuals we need to invest in finding, tracking and getting off our streets to make our neighbourhoods safer.

Professor Gary Mauser has said that of all the murders that have been committed since 1997, less than 2% of them have been committed by licensed firearm owners and the guns that were registered to those individuals only represented 1.2% of homicides. The question then becomes, was that a good use of taxpayer dollars? Over $2 billion was spent to track 1.25% of those who committed homicides in this country and owned long guns. That is ridiculous.

In Vancouver in 2003, of all the guns that were taken off the street, 97% of them were illegal handguns that were smuggled in. We have to start looking at the big issue. Let us quit focusing on one group in society that we, unfortunately, made into criminals because they did not register their firearms. Half the guns on the streets today are still not registered. Let us do the right thing and get rid of the long gun registry and invest in front-line policing.