Mr. Speaker, my constituents are honest country people who work hard and play by the rules. That is why we find the long gun registry so egregious and so offensive. When gun crimes are committed in far-off big cities, who gets punished? We do.
Parties opposite make a great show of their support for the working people and the “common man”. I am particularly reminded of the old NDP versus the new NDP. The old NDP had a modicum of respect for the people who live on the land, work hard and play by the rules. I am thinking of that party's former leader, Audrey McLaughlin, who, as I discovered after reading some Hansards from years back, had some serious doubts about the long gun registry. All parties opposite have evolved into parties of the big-government elites and union bosses, who strive to expand government control over the lives of these same working people that those members purport to support.
I am especially puzzled at the support for the long gun registry by Liberal and NDP members from Newfoundland and Labrador in the Maritimes, where they have such grand hunting traditions, such as the seal hunt in Newfoundland, moose hunting, bird hunting and all of that. I have even travelled to Newfoundland myself and have enjoyed the particular local delicacy called bottled moose. Those from Newfoundland know exactly what I am talking about.
For those of us who represent rural constituencies, and for my constituents in particular, I would say that our innate country common sense tells us that punishing law-abiding gun owners is simply not right.
To the people in my constituency a firearm is a tool, like a chainsaw or a tractor, that obviously must be used with care, but as freedom-loving Canadians, people in my constituency view firearms ownership as a symbol of their Canadian citizenship or a symbol of the trust that should exist between the people and their government.
I am reminded of what George Orwell said many years ago when he was commenting on firearms ownership by ordinary British citizens. It perhaps does not quite apply to us here, but it does have some wisdom. He said:
That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.
Most firearms in Canada are owned for the purpose of hunting. For many of us who grew up hunting, it is a sacred activity that is often difficult to describe, so I will quote the eminent evolutionary psychologist Randall Eaton, who said of boys in particular in his book From Boys to Men of Heart: Hunting as Rite of Passage:
The instinct to hunt awakens spontaneously in boys, but the taking of a life opens the heart and tempers that instinct with compassion. If we want to transform boys into men who respect life and are responsible to society and the environment then we need to mentor them in hunting as a rite of passage.
He further notes:
The hunt is the ideal way to teach universal virtues, including generosity, patience, courage, fortitude and humility.
Others may not agree with that, but I am describing a true, honest and active culture in this country that is very important. Members opposite may laugh, but to many of us, and to me in particular, it is important.
I used to be the hunting columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press, and I remember interviewing a young man who had just taken his very first deer. In his own words to me, he said:
Even though it was just a doe, that deer was better than any fantasy I ever had, and it was even better because my dad was there with me every second and I could share my excitement with him...I could no longer understand how people could be against hunting since it was now something that was so dear to me and it is a passion that I can share with my dad and will share with my children when the time comes.
What happens as well is that people who hunt and have a relationship with wildlife and the land often take up careers in conservation, myself included. I caught my first fish when I was 4 and I got my first ruffed grouse when I was 14. I have had a wonderful 35-year career in conservation, and it started there. These experiences with my dad affected me profoundly.
There is a vast array of grassroots conservation activities in my own constituency. I went on at some length about hunting because without firearms we cannot have hunting, and the long gun registry is actually an attack on a culture and on an innocent, productive and wonderful way of life.
Bill C-19, the bill to get rid of the long gun registry, represents a real and tangible victory for those who cherish the particular way of life that I have described. It is a way of life that understands where our food comes from, reveres nature and values hard work and family traditions. Quite simply, this culture makes our country what it is.
Over and over again in the campaigns I have been in over the last year, my constituents have told me about how important the issue of the long gun registry is. In my constituency we have many issues that deal with agriculture, health care, rail service, and so on; however, the long gun registry came up as a particularly egregious affront to the innate country common sense that is represented by my constituents. The communities in my constituency have a very deep and profound relationship with the land. They are confident people who work hard and, as I said, value the fact that they play by the rules. Those are the people in this country whom we should be rewarding, people who work hard and play by the rules.
For me as an MP, those people are my top priority. Many of them are employed in the natural resources industries of farming, ranching, mining, energy production and so on. We know the importance of the natural resource industries and of our rural communities, and it can almost be said that the people who work and thrive in our natural resource industries are carrying the country. They, in effect, make our country what it is.