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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

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

This motion is in order.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to speak to a few of the comments made by my friend, the hon. member for St. John's East.

He talks about decriminalizing first offences for non-registered firearm owners. I am one. I own a non-registered firearm. I have said it in the House before. I have been fighting Bill C-68 since 1995, when I appeared at the Senate committee on Bill C-68 when it was in Manitoba.

If the government is going to decriminalize the possession of long guns, then it is no longer the the jurisdiction of the federal government. If there is a non-criminal element in owning unregistered firearms or to have them registered as property, it becomes provincial jurisdiction and no longer falls under the Criminal Code. If NDP members are going to say it is going to be a non-criminal charge, there is no role for the federal government to play, since it will not apply to the Criminal Code.

However, if the member is suggesting that it is only a small window for someone who is a first-time offender, whether or not it is someone like me, who has never registered, or someone who has just come into possession of a firearm through an inheritance, how would the member define what is a second generation?

Members in his caucus have said all along that they support abolishing the long gun registry, so the real question I have for the member is this: how will he allow those caucus members to vote?

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, we are talking about trying to find solutions to strike a balance between individuals who have a particular point of view, such as this member, and the need for public safety.

We are looking at finding a solution. What we are saying is that for the first time, non-registration of a long gun would not be a criminal offence. We are looking at finding a legislative way of doing that through an amendment. It is not for me to answer the details of that right now.

We are dealing with situations in which people feel they cannot come forward to register their guns because they would expose themselves to a criminal offence if they registered for the first time. We are saying that we would not seek to do that. It could be a matter of discretionary use of the charges or the possibility of charges. There are various ways, administrative and otherwise, of doing that. The point is that we would allow people to come forward and have their guns registered.

If people are discovered with unregistered guns, they could be subject to a penalty if they did not register their guns within a certain period of time, but they would not be given a penalty for being discovered with an unregistered gun. That is simply what we are talking about.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I do not understand the Conservatives' position. They are insisting on destroying the information that has been collected over the years. The Conservatives have been opposed to the gun registry for many years now, saying that it was an extremely expensive endeavour. Now that the registry is working well and many hunters have told me that they had no problems complying with the registry, the Conservatives want to destroy it all. They want to take it all away and throw the baby out with the bath water.

How can the member for St. John's East explain the Conservatives' desire to completely destroy the registry, including the data that has already been compiled at great cost to Canadians?

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I find it hard to explain what the government is saying or why it is saying it. The destruction of records was never part of the other bills that were brought before the House. The irresponsible nature of the government's approach to this is a new element and it is one that has invoked an incredible backlash across the country.

The minister went so far as to say this morning that there was no valid public safety reason to have this data. This is in the face of millions of Canadians who support the registry. Also, the police chiefs say that this is important.

We know there are problems. We know they have to be fixed. However, the government opposite has taken the position that there is no public safety interest in having this kind of gun control.

I find it astounding and reprehensible that it would go so far as to not only do that, but to say to a province like Quebec that it will insist that it destroys those records. The Government of Quebec has said that it will not comply. Now we will get into a federal-provincial fight by a failure to respect the wishes of the people of Quebec as described by their government to ensure that they have a greater measure of gun control than the Conservative government is prepared to support.

It is reprehensible and irresponsible. I think there will be a very strong reaction in the country to the government's plans.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a question which was previously posed. Will the NDP allow a free vote on this issue? As we know, many NDP members have stated that they wanted to abolish the registry. It is a simple question. Will the NDP allow a free vote in the House, yes or no?

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, what is clear is that New Democrats want to see an end to the divisiveness that the government has engendered. We want to fix the gun control system and we want to ensure that public safety is foremost. That is where the New Democrats are united on this issue. We are determined to ensure that the government respects the need for public safety.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased that the hon. member mentioned the tragic events at the École Polytechnique. They are etched into the collective memory of Quebeckers and, for many, they are one of the reasons this registry was created in the first place. This registry is extremely important to Quebec and, mere days ago, the Prime Minister stated that his respect for the provinces is one aspect of good governance. In light of that, I wonder if the member could comment on the fact that, despite what the Government of Quebec wants, the Conservatives are going to destroy the data we paid for with our taxes.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, clearly, the destruction of this data is an irresponsible act and contrary to the public safety needs of Canadians. In particular, the province like Quebec is saying that it feels so strongly about this that it is going to refuse to destroy this information because it believes it has been collected by taxpayers, including the taxpayers of Quebec, and that it wants to ensure that it has a higher degree of public safety and that the cost effectiveness of trying to duplicate this is prohibitive.

The Conservatives are showing a great deal of disrespect for the people of Quebec and the Government of Quebec. That is reprehensible and it is contrary to the kind of federal-provincial co-operation in which we expect all governments in Canada to get involved.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

October 27th, 2011 / 11:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles has the floor for a very brief question. Only one minute remains.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me the floor. I would like to make a quick comment. There is a registry that everyone is familiar with—the driver's licence registry. It is not a catastrophe. Everyone is registered and no one makes a fuss about it. It makes sense. When you drive a car, you think about safety and you have to register. The registry allows us to know where people live, where they are. There is nothing catastrophic about it.

This is a fundamental issue. Quebec has spoken with a strong voice. The National Assembly unanimously voted to keep the registry. I would like to ask the hon. member how the government will defend this position.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, the registration of guns in an acceptable legislative framework enhances the accountability of gun owners to take responsibility for what can be in the wrong hands a dangerous and fatal weapon. Responsibility is engendered by the registry and that is why we should improve it and keep it.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, as the member for Mount Royal, I am pleased to take part today in the debate on Bill C-19, the government's bill to abolish the long gun registry. Like many Quebeckers, Montreal residents have indicated their support for the registry and their opposition to its abolition at meetings and political forums.

The government's justification for abolishing the long gun registry is not unlike its support of Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act. It has a mandate to enact this legislation. The disposition speaks for itself and all contrary evidence is therefore but an inconvenient truth to be ignored. Yet, ironically enough, the government's legislation to abolish the long gun registry betrays the very principles invoked by the government in support of Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill.

Indeed, the two bills provide an interesting study and contrast that illustrate the incoherence and inconsistency in the government's approach to crime and justice, save for one common feature, the ignoring, marginalizing and mischaracterizing of the evidence.

Accordingly whereas the organizing motif of Bill C-10 is the protection of public safety, which we all support in the House regardless of party, the legislation to abolish the long gun registry would endanger that very purpose of public safety.

Whereas Bill C-10 purports to speak in the name of the victims, this legislation ignores the very voices of the victims themselves who oppose the legislation.

Whereas Bill C-10 purports to rely on the support of police associations, which the Minister of Public Safety yesterday in the House invoked in support of the safe streets and communities act, this legislation is opposed by those very same police organizations.

Whereas Bill C-10 was intended to combat violent crime, this bill ignores the evidence that the long gun registry protects precisely against such violent crime. In particular, it protects against domestic violence, community violence, workplace violence and violence against women.

Whereas 272 members of the House, including many government members, recently rose in support of a motion to adopt a national suicide prevention strategy, this legislation ignores yet again the evidence respecting gun-related suicide.

Whereas Bill C-10 would offload costs of the safe streets legislation on the provinces that must enforce it, this legislation seeks to eliminate all the data, to erase all the evidence that would enable the provinces, such as my province of Quebec, to initiate its own registry, an enormous waste of public investment by a government that professes concern about the registry's waste.

Whereas Bill C-10 purported to consult and consider the concerns of the provincial and territorial attorneys general prior to its introduction, when one reads the letter from Quebec justice minister Jean-Marc Fournier to the current Minister of Justice, it is clear that Quebec's views were not incorporated.

This legislation has been tabled without appropriate consultation with provincial and territorial attorneys general. So much for the open, vaunted, covenantal federalism which the government has professed.

I organized my remarks seriatim around each of these points and principles, the whole anchored in and inspired by the very facts that run counter to the government's proposed legislation.

First, in a manner protecting public safety, despite the government's claim that the long gun registry is a waste and does nothing, as it has been quoted as saying, it is checked by police officers across Canada an average of some 16,000 times a day. Therefore, the question is whether these police officers, the very people the government asks us to heed, are simply wasting their time when they tell us that it is a valuable asset again and again.

The fact remains that having such a database has been a valuable asset, to quote police again, for protecting and promoting public safety. Indeed, in Canada deaths by gunshot are at their lowest level in over 40 years. There were 400 fewer Canadians who died of gunshots in 2007 compared to 1995, the year the Firearms Act was introduced, and estimates directly credit the registry with a reduction of 50 homicides and 250 suicides annually.

Since the first introduction of stricter gun laws in 1991, there has been a 65% reduction in homicides by long guns, as Statistics Canada data shows. Most important, behind every statistic is a human life saved. How can the government look at this evidence and still maintain that abolishing the registry is beneficial to public safety?

Second, in the matter of protecting victims, we need only listen to Sue O'Sullivan, the federal ombudswoman for victims of crime, who said on the occasion of the introduction of this legislation:

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.

She added that “the majority of victims' groups we have spoken with continue to support keeping long-gun registry.”

In my own province of Quebec, a similar indictment of this legislation has come from family and friends of the victims of the École Polytechnique massacre, as well as from the Dawson College student association, both of whom I have met.

It is clear that victims groups are against this legislation, particularly in my province of Quebec. If we scrap the long gun registry what lessons, if any, can the government expect to have learned from the Polytechnique massacre, the Dawson College killing, and other similar tragic events.

Indeed, one of the most compelling statements in regard to victims and reflecting the voices of victims and the lessons learned comes from Janet Hazelton, the president of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, who said:

Nurses and doctors, particularly those who work in emergency rooms, witness first-hand the horrific injuries and tragic deaths that result from firearms. We meet the victims who fall prey to long-guns and attempt to save them. For those whom we are unable to save in spite of our utmost efforts, we meet their families whose lives are shattered by long-guns. We also treat patients on a regular basis who are suicidal or victims of domestic abuse. A rifle or a shotgun in their homes increases their chances of being victimized. We often work with the police, who accompany these patients to hospital, as they can access the registry to determine if a gun is registered to the home, allowing us to devise a safety plan for our patients. The RCMP has stated that dismantling the registry will save less than $4 million a year, a trivial figure when compared to the costs of gun injury and death.

What does the government say in response to Ms. Hazelton, or is her voice and that of the victims for whom she speaks, to be ignored or mocked yet again as an inconvenient truth?

Third, in the matter of support from police, for the year period ending September 30, 2011, the registry had been accessed more than six million times. Again, this speaks for itself. If it were useless and wasteful, as the government contends it to be, and all these wrongful things that the government purports the registry to be, then why would our first responders rely on it day in and day out? Why would they continue to characterize it as a valuable asset? Simply put, as the police associations themselves have affirmed, the registry is an essential tool for taking preventive action; for enforcing prohibition orders; for assisting police investigations, as when the police recover a gun from a crime they can trace it to the rightful owner; for allowing police to differentiate between legal and illegal firearms; and for allowing police to trace firearms easily.

As Windsor Police Services chief, Gary Smith, put it:

...but it can save lives. Often we would search a registry before we dispatched an officer on a call and if you tell them there’s a firearm registered, they’re a little cautious, depending on the type of call. My detectives would use it quite often, anytime they applied for a search warrant or an arrest warrant.

As for the specific issue of the destruction of data, Denis Côté, president of the Fédération des policiers municipaux du Québec, said, “I am shocked that they are destroying the data.”

Fourth, there is the matter of protection against violent crime, in particular, domestic violence and violence against women.

For example, the RCMP estimated in 2002 that 71% of spousal homicides committed in the preceding 10 years involved long guns.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2009 there was a 74% reduction for spousal homicides involving firearms, from nearly three homicides per million spouses in 1980 to less than one homicide per million spouses in 2009.

Indeed, Pamela Harrison of the Canadian Association of Women's Shelters says:

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. Without question we need it in Canada.

Accordingly, while women are a small percentage of gun owners, they account for a high percentage of victims of gun crime. The long gun registry is the only way to know how many of such weapons need to be removed from a dangerous spouse.

Since 1995, the rate of women murdered with firearms by the intimate partner has decreased, as I noted, by 69%.

In addition, Paulette Senior, chief executive officer of the YWCA, added that “the threat of a rifle is often a significant reason that women don’t risk leaving to seek help.” The government has to do something about this.

Simply put, the number of homicides involving long guns since the introduction of the Firearms Act in 1995 has decreased by 41%, a figure that can be traced in part to the long gun registry.

Fifth, I will turn my attention to suicide.

Recently, the government stood with opposition parties to denounce the incidents of suicide in this country and vowed to take action. This statement of solidarity and support from the government is directly at odds with the bill.

Since the Firearms Act was introduced in 1995, firearm related suicides are down 23% as of 2009, and we know that firearms are a weapon of choice for those attempting suicide. Indeed, the number of firearm related suicides in 2004 stood at 475, which is 5.4 times the number of suicides with handguns. Again, if the government were serious in its commitment on suicide and the importance of having a national suicide prevention strategy, which I think it is, then it would not scrap the long gun registry.

Sixth, with regards to destroying records, this is particularly troubling for me as a Quebecker.

It should be noted that the National Assembly is debating the creation of a registry for Quebec as we speak.

The government's move to destroy records prejudices the work of the provinces that realize the registry is a valuable tool that saves lives. Indeed, that is at the core of what we are talking about, a valuable tool to protect public safety and human security.

In summary, what we have here, regrettably, is yet another Conservative policy that is ideologically inspired with a wilful and reckless disregard for the evidence. All the facts, the quotes and the statistics that are provided appear almost as a kind of inconvenient truth for the government, but they remain a compelling truth nonetheless.

As I said before in this House, whenever the government talks about having a mandate for the safe streets and communities act and a mandate for the abolition of the gun registry, the point is that it needs to be reaffirmed that all governments and all parties have a mandate for safe streets and safe communities. However, the question is on the merits of the means chosen, whether it be with respect to Bill C-10 or to the abolition of the gun registry.

The abolition of the gun registry, with respect, is without merit and an affront to the very victims whose voices the abolition of this gun registry purports to represent. These voices, however, are speaking for the retention of that gun registry to support the purpose of public safety, to give expression to their concerns and to save lives.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I want my colleague to know that I hold him in great respect in this House but I do have some concern with his language. It really shows what the Liberal government had intended when it set up this long gun registry.

In the part of the bill that talks about destroying personal records, he called that destroying evidence. When do governments or police forces gather evidence? They gather evidence when there is a crime committed.

However, gun owners are not criminals. They are law-abiding citizens in Canada who believe in the right to own personal property, and their personal information and records are not evidence. It is extremely upsetting to Canadians who are abiding by the law and who put their records out there to respond to the law that is on the books today to be treated like criminals.

Why does the member view law-abiding gun owners as criminals and their personal information and records as evidence?

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not characterize law-abiding owners as criminals. I am saying that the registry, which gathers information, has been relied upon by police associations and has been characterized as evidence that they can then use, not with respect to incriminating gun owners or law-abiding people, but with a view to enforcing prohibition orders, with a view to preventing the commission of criminal offences, with a view to tracing firearms to criminals who may hold them and with a view to protecting the public safety of all Canadians, including the law-abiding gun owners who fully respect the law.

We are concerned with the manner in which the abolition of this registry would end up without, for example, my province of Quebec having the capacity to engage in the proper information gathering that can then be used as evidence against the real criminals who are committing the offences.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my colleague from Mount Royal could comment on the statement by the Minister of Public Safety this morning who, in his capacity as Minister of Public Safety, expressed the view that there was no valid public safety reason for maintaining the records, which are now contained in the registry, when, as was indicated in the member's speech, the National Assembly of Quebec and the Government of Quebec want to maintain these records in the interest of public safety. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has said the same thing.

How can the member square the statement of the Minister of Public Safety and these other factors?

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot square the minister's statement with, as I said, the evidence that has been adduced by the police associations themselves, who the government otherwise invoke in support of Bill C-10, and yet disregard their statements when it comes to the abolition of the gun registry.

All the police associations, which I have cited, state and concur that the long gun registry is an essential tool used by police when taking preventive action, enforcing prohibition orders or used to ensure the firearms are removed from an individual's possession when the situation warrants it, particularly in matters relating to domestic abuse, suicide related issues and the like.

The registry assists police investigations. When police recover a gun at the scene of a crime, they can trace it back to its rightful owner. All members of the House will recall, for example, that two men were identified and convicted as accessories to the murder of RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe, Alberta, in part because a registered gun was left at the scene of the crime.

That is why I talked about the use of information for purposes of evidence that then can be used with regard to apprehending the criminal and the prosecution of that criminal. It allows police to differentiate between legal and illegal firearms. Without information about who owns firearms legally and what firearms they own, police cannot charge individuals with illegal possession. This is to protect law-abiding people and distinguish them from non-law-abiding people and hold the non-law-abiding people to account.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I compliment my colleague on his continued work on behalf of all Canadians and, in particular, for his work on this issue.

One of the issues that gives me difficulty is the vindictiveness, and I do not know what else to call it, of the government to choose to destroy all of the information that the registry has gathered. I find that the most vindictive part of all of this. I can accept where it is going with its ideology, but I do have a problem with the government denying the provinces, if they choose to go forward, their right to do that.

We have already heard from the province of Quebec on this issue. The hon. member is a Quebecker, and I would like to hear his thoughts on that.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for that question because it relates to the overall approach of this legislation.

The government says it has a mandate with respect to the abolition of the gun registry. The minister extends that abolition to eliminating the information and erasing the data.

My own province of Quebec has publicly objected, and the Quebec National Assembly, as we meet, is seeking to initiate a registry and rely on the information that is in the long gun registry for purposes of public security.

I do not know if the Conservative government ever got a mandate from the people of Quebec or anywhere else not only to abolish the gun registry, but in particular to eliminate the data in that gun registry. The government said it went before the people of Canada in the election, but that question about eliminating the data and erasing the information was never put to the people of this country. It certainly was never put to the people of Quebec. The people of Quebec object to it, and repudiate any notion that the government has a mandate to abolish the gun registry and in particular to eliminate the information in it.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the member who just spoke, I wonder if he has been closely following the debate over the last 10 years or so.

Some of the statistics that the member is quoting are totally inaccurate. He quoted many things, but because of time I will give two examples.

The member said that it is accessed millions of times, and he used an astronomical figure. That has been shown to be a completely bogus defence of the registry. Those claims that it has been accessed 17,000 times a day or whatever, include every policeman stopping someone, maybe for speeding or whatever, and using the CPIC database. When the policemen puts in the person's information, it immediately counts as a hit to the firearms registry. Even though the policeman is not aware of it and he is not interested in the information, it counts as a hit to the firearms registry.

Policemen stop people many times in the course of their day. That number is completely without merit.

He compared 1980 statistics to 2009 statistics. The registry did not come in until 1995. The trends the member talked about were trends that were in place long before the registry came in.

Those are just two examples of how bogus those statistics really are.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the hon. member to consult with the police associations that he has been invoking in support. They have been providing the data that I have been relying upon today. They have been talking about the number of times they access the registry.

I did not say that for every single time the registry is accessed there is a consequential relationship to the whole question of protecting public security. I am saying in terms of the overall use of and instrumentality of the gun registry, it is accessed, some will say 11,000 times a day and others will say up 17,000 times a day. We can pick whichever figure, but both come from various police associations and depend on the measurements they use.

The point is the purpose is to access it to protect the safety of the public. The purpose is to access it to save lives. The purpose is in order to understand whether we have to trace a particular criminal proceeding. The purpose is to protect against domestic abuse, to protect against suicide through long gun connections.

The access has to be seen with respect to the purpose. The information has been provided by the police associations themselves.

Second ReadingEnding the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of Bill C-19, the ending the long gun registry bill.

I would like to take a moment to thank those who helped make this legislation a reality: the right hon. Prime Minister, for his leadership on this issue; the hon. member for Provencher, Canada's outstanding public safety minister; the member for Portage—Lisgar, for recognizing my many years of work on this important file and especially for allowing me the honour of taking her speaking spot in this debate; and indeed all of my caucus colleagues who have supported me over the many years that this issue has been before us.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank my wonderful wife, Lydia, who has been by my side every step of the way for the last 18 years as we have dealt with this issue. She has made the most sacrifice. I thank my staff, past and present, in Ottawa and in Yorkton—Melville, who have worked tirelessly on this file for the last decade and a half. I thank the many organizations and stakeholders who have provided valuable insight and support.

Finally, I thank the thousands of farmers, hunters and sport shooters for their patience and support over the years. Throughout the years they have packed meeting after meeting from coast to coast to coast to ensure their concerns about Bill C-68 have been heard loud and clear.

As my hon. colleagues may be aware, this is an issue that has been of deep interest to me for quite some time. In fact, I would like to tell a story about how this first came to my attention.

In January 1994, before the Liberals had even put the long gun registry in place, I was invited to a meeting by a number of concerned gun owners in my constituency. I remember how cold it was. It was -39° outside in the town of Preeceville, Saskatchewan. I got out of my car, walked through the parking lot and into a hall packed with people. I could not believe how full the hall was. I remember so clearly being overwhelmed by just how many concerned citizens had taken the time to come out on this issue. Obviously I felt it was something they thought was very important to them. It was not really something I had thought too much about before that time.

I was asked by the folks in the room what I thought about the long gun registry that the Liberals were proposing. I had not thought much about it and I said something like, who would not be in favour of gun control, because that was what it had been portrayed as. Right then and there they put a challenge to me. They challenged me to look below the surface at what the proposed long gun registry would do and what it would not do. They challenged me to look at what the purpose actually was and who it would actually help. In short, they challenged me to look at the facts.

I made the commitment that I would look into this issue and I did. I ended up doing a complete 180 on this issue. I had to completely reverse my position once it became incredibly clear to me that it was going to be a totally ineffective long gun registry. It took a bit of time to uncover the facts, but as I looked at it with my helpful staff, I realized this was not going to accomplish what it was purported to do.

Since that time I have worked for years to see the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry scrapped once and for all. It has taken a long, long time. I have talked to thousands of people and have attended meetings on this issue from Vancouver Island to St. John's, Newfoundland. I have lost track of how many meetings I have attended.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many concerned citizens, police officers, hunters, farmers and sport shooters who have told me their stories over the past years. They have shared their experiences. They have been honest and forthright with their opinions on the long gun registry.

It has been a long haul, but in the end, through working for positive change, we have been able to make a difference. This bill, Bill C-19, is proof of that.

I am also very proud to be part of a government which, after working so long to deliver on its promise, is making good on its commitment to end the long gun registry. Despite opposition stalling, blocking and obstruction, we held steadfast in our determination to end what has grown into a $2 billion boondoggle.

There are millions of law-abiding gun owners in Canada. These include the good, honest and hard-working men and women from my constituency of Yorkton—Melville, and across the province of Saskatchewan, and from regions all across the country. These are law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters who feel it is fundamentally unfair they are being persecuted for their way of life. More than that, they feel as though they have been criminalized. They feel criminalized because they own a firearm. They feel criminalized because they may not have done all the paperwork. They feel criminalized because they think that even if they have done everything according to the law, they might have done something wrong.

I hear from farmers in my constituency, farmers who work hard every day and have long guns on their property. They use them in the course of their day. It is a tool. I am talking about doing such things as shooting gophers or other rodents and coyotes that may be going after their livestock. These long guns are tools that farmers use to protect themselves and their business. It is not right that they feel they are doing something wrong just because they have a firearm on their property.

I also hear from young people who are interested in getting into sport shooting, which is part of Canada's rich outdoor heritage and one of our traditional activities. We have enjoyed it for more than a century. These young people feel discouraged from getting involved, again because of the stigma associated with the long gun registry. Healthy outdoor living is nothing to be ashamed of. We should be encouraging young people in these respects. These young people are missing out on participating in healthy outdoor activities because they are not sure what they need to do or how they need to do it. That is a real shame.

Of course, I have heard from many aboriginal Canadians. Hunting is a fundamental part of their way of life. They also feel they are being deeply stigmatized by the long gun registry. This is a way of life. That is no more deserving of stigma than any other honest way of life across this country.

For too long, law-abiding Canadians who own firearms have been made to feel like second-class citizens due to this long gun registry. They have been made to feel that they should be held apart, considered to feel like second-class citizens due to this long gun registry. They have been made to feel that they should be held apart, considered more dangerous and made to endure burdensome regulations. They have not committed any crime. They have not acted in any way unlawfully. Yet they are viewed with suspicion and made to register their long guns as though they had.

Time and again, we see how this long gun registry needlessly and unfairly targets law-abiding Canadians. It does this while doing nothing to reduce crime or strengthen our efforts to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

I could quote statistics to support every single thing I am saying.

I will digress for a moment and give a short example. Ninety per cent of the handguns in Toronto that are confiscated by the police are unregistered, and we have had a handgun registry since 1934. That gives an example of how the registry does not affect the criminal. It does not do anything to reduce crime or strengthen our efforts to keep guns out of the hands of the drug dealers, the criminals, the gangs. Our government has been saying this for years. That is why we have been working to scrap it for years. I stand here today to talk about this important issue. I am hopeful that we will soon see the failed long gun registry scrapped once and for all.

I have heard just about every argument for and against the registry that one can think of. I mentioned that earlier today. However, I have no doubt that there will be some interesting debate in the House with our colleagues across the floor. I am sure they will continue to bring forward points to try to demonstrate that it is a useful tool. When the previous speaker did that I pointed to a couple of examples of how what he had cited is not really true.

The facts speak for themselves. The long gun registry does not put meaningful consequences in place for gun crimes. It does not address gun-related or gang-related crimes in Canada. That has nothing to do with law-abiding gun owners who register their firearms. The registry does not prevent crimes from happening. The opposition places the gun registry and crime prevention side by side as though there were some connection between them. The registry does not prevent crime from happening. I could not be more blunt. The creation of a list of law-abiding long gun owners does not prevent a criminal from picking up a firearm or any weapon and using it to harm an innocent person.

Over the past number of years I have spoken with many front-line police officers, the men and women who put their lives on the line for the safety and security of Canadians every day. Time and again they have said that the registry information is not accurate. Police officers know that it is not accurate. They know that when they walk through the door of a house they always assume there is a firearm located there. They do not trust the information in the long gun registry and certainly would not bet their lives on it. A tool that does not do its job is a tool not worth having and should be destroyed. That is what we are doing. These are good reasons to scrap it.

As an aside, the Auditor General stated in a report several years ago that 90% of the registration certificates contained inaccurate information. A staff sergeant in my riding tells his officers when they come on staff not to consult the registry before responding to a domestic dispute as it may put their lives at risk.

To add to all of this is the registry's sheer size and the waste of resources associated with it. When the Auditor General released her report several years ago and that was exposed, in the entire country there was only one editorial writer who still supported the registry, and even that person had reservations with respect to it. At that time, a survey was taken and 72% of people wanted to get rid of the registry. When the Liberals introduced it they told us it would cost $2 million. Later on it was upward of $2 billion.

There is no evidence that the long gun registry prevents crime, protects Canadians from crime or that it protects the well-being of front-line officers. What other government program has gone 1,000 times overbudget? That is unbelievable. It is bad policy. That is why I have fought long and hard over the past decade and more to see it scrapped.

I ask the opposition members what if that money had been better used to address the root causes of crime in this country? Surely, they would not have been opposed to that.

I will now speak to what Bill C-19 means as well as to what it does not mean.

First and foremost, Bill C-19, the ending the long gun registry bill, removes the requirement for Canadians to register their unrestricted firearms, such as rifles and shotguns. In short, that means that law-abiding hunters and farmers would no longer be compelled to register their long guns and no longer be made to feel like criminals in the process.

Second, Bill C-19 would ensure that the records that have been gathered through the long gun registry over the past years would be destroyed. This is a particularly important point. Not only are the details of millions of law-abiding gun owners in this country which are contained within the records inaccurate, they are also a means by which a different government, whether provincial or federal, could attempt to reinstate the long gun registry a few years down the road. The commitment of this government is firm. We would not allow that to happen. That is why we are committed to destroying those records. They would not be shared, nor sealed and kept. They would be destroyed.

As well, Bill C-19 will maintain current regulations for restricted and prohibited firearms. Those firearms will continue to be registered as they have in the past and licensing requirements will remain in place. However, long guns will no longer be required to be registered.

I will touch on another point as well. I spoke earlier about how for many of my constituents owning a firearm is a way of life. I recognize that is not common in many parts of Canada. For people living in large urban centres, the meaning surrounding firearms can be altered. It has become less about a lifestyle and more about what we see in the media.

In many of our urban centres there is a lot of talk about gun crime in the media. That can make some people nervous. I cannot emphasize enough that the Conservative Party believes in keeping Canadians safe. We are delivering measures to ensure families feel safe in their homes and communities. We are delivering better tools for our law enforcement officers and holding criminals accountable for their crimes.

Year after year, that is the promise we as a government have made to the law-abiding Canadian families we stand for in all areas of the country, both rural and urban. That is why we are in support of gun control measures that work, and why we are against measures that do not work, such as the failed long gun registry.

I will mention some of the actions we have taken over the past five years to keep Canadians safer and hold criminals more accountable for their crimes.

Our previous comprehensive legislation, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, has serious penalties for gun offences. Those measures include: longer mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes; tougher new rules for bail for serious weapons offences; mandatory minimum sentences for drive-by shootings; tougher laws to combat organized crime; and, mandatory minimum sentences for using firearms in the commission of an offence. These laws target real criminals.

I have said it before and I will say it again that criminals are not in the habit of obeying the law and they certainly are not in the habit of registering their firearms. They are the sort of individuals who use illegal weapons that have either been stolen or smuggled in from the United States or elsewhere. They have absolutely no respect for the law or the well-being of their fellow citizens.

It is those inidividuals who bring the good names of law-abiding gun owners into disrepute. They are the people who do harm to our homes and communities. They are the people this government is targeting with its tough on crime measures. They are the people against whom we are taking action in an effort to stop them by using tougher laws, by providing better resources for police officers, and by holding them accountable for their actions.

That is how the government believes it should tackle criminals. It is the right way, the effective way and the sensible way. That is why we are in favour of scrapping the failed long gun registry. I hope all hon. members will support us in getting rid of it once and for all.

I challenge members to do the same as I have done, scratch below the surface and look at the facts. If they do I believe they will come to the same conclusion that I did, that the registry is not a cost-effective way of controlling crime or making our lives safer.

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12:40 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated my colleague's speech, although its content did not surprise me.

I have many questions about our Conservative friends' position, particularly in certain contexts, for instance regarding Bill C-10. I am a member of the committee examining this bill, and we are currently hearing from witnesses called by the Conservatives, including some representing victims groups, to support the government's position on Bill C-10 on law and order, public safety and so on.

However, when the time comes to hear from victims associations that are calling for the firearms and long gun registry to be maintained, considering how vital and important it is, the government refuses to listen to them. Are their fine words only good for one side and not the other? Some people have explained how it feels to be a hunter, for example, and I understand that the legislation can cause some inconvenience. I understand why some people might feel as though they are being treated like criminals because they have a long gun. But does public safety not make up for these inconveniences?

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12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, many of the groups that appear to be opposed to what we are doing believe some of the statistics they have been given, such as it is reducing crime and is a useful tool for the police. When it is pointed out to them that is not the case they of course will change their minds. They will change their minds as well if they are given the same opportunity as we have had today to look at whether it is cost-effective at reducing crime.

Many people believe some of what the opposition is saying but nothing could be further from the truth. Therefore, I challenge all of them to take a closer look at this.

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the arguments made by my hon. colleague. If he were to apply those arguments to the handgun registry and the licensing requirements to purchase firearms, would he come to the conclusion that he is in favour of eliminating those?