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House of Commons Hansard #41 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

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

We will go to the questions and comments period for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue. Questions and comments.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak against Bill C-19 and show my strong support for maintaining the long gun registry. I recognize there is division among Canadians, and in my riding, on this point, but what evidence tells me in the end is that this registry saves lives.

Members opposite like to say that we have already debated the bill in full. There are a few things wrong with that argument.

First, nearly a third of the members in the House are new members and so we would like to have our say. We would like to be able to represent our constituents, those who sent us here to bring their opinions to the House.

The second thing that is wrong with the argument is that this is a different bill than was originally presented in the private member's bill introduced in May 2009 by the member for Portage—Lisgar. That bill simply removed the requirement to register long guns. This bill goes far further than that, in a sense that it is proposing to have a bonfire of the data and to destroy the very important data that has already been collected under the gun registry, data which plays a very important role in keeping both our police officers and the public safe.

Both police organizations and the provinces want us to maintain that data and use it to enhance public safety. The money has already been spent gathering the data and it should not be destroyed. It should be shared with the provinces who wish to continue a registry on their own, should this legislation pass.

There is an additional complication here because prior to this registry, businesses were required to keep records of the sale of non-restricted firearms. This bill does not make any provisions for reverting to this process and, as we heard earlier today in question period, this means that weapons that were earlier used in incidents, like the Montreal massacre, weapons that were used in the terrible incident in Norway, will no longer be subject to registration at sale or any registration at all in the country.

While New Democrats acknowledge that first nations and rural Canadians have some problems with this registry, we have tried to address those points that would make the registry less burdensome to them. We believe we can find a way to address the problems with the registry, while at the same time strengthening gun control.

What are our proposals? We have agreed that we ought to decriminalize the first time non-registration of long guns, making a one-time offence a non-criminal ticket. This would go a long way toward the objections that Conservatives like to raise that law-abiding Canadians are being hit by the gun registry. They would be given a chance to register their weapons without acquiring a criminal record.

We would also agree to enshrine in legislation that there would never be a fee charged for registration under the long gun registry. This would reduce the objection that there is a high cost to many in rural areas who have low incomes and who need firearms for hunting or other farm related usages.

We have also agreed that we could prevent the release of identifying information about gun owners, except for incidents which would protect public safety, or under court order, or by force of law.

We have also suggested that guarantees could be put together to ensure that aboriginal treaty rights would be protected. I have talked with first nations in my riding and this is a concern of theirs. It is not that they object in principle to the gun registry, it is not that they do not have concerns about public safety, but they do, as they always should, object when their aboriginal treaty rights are ignored and things proceed without any consultation or talks with them. We would like to work with rural and aboriginal Canadians. At the same time, we would like to continue to give the police the tools they need to keep our streets safe.

From my point of view, firearm registration is already a one-time only procedure. It would never expire unless the weapons were transferred to a new owner. Under those conditions, to me, it seems much like the conditions by which we require people to get both a driver's licence and to register their cars; in this case, a firearms acquisition certificate and registration of the actual firearms.

While we would work to make it as non-burdensome as possible, to make it as easy as possible to register those, I still believe in the registration of long guns as an important part of public safety.

What has convinced me? What persuades me that we need to keep the registry? I want to talk first of all about police. I am a former police board member in my own community. At the time the registry was introduced, it was seen as a very important tool by the police that I worked with every day.

The registry gives real time access to information. It is regularly updated when the public safety threats are identified and used when police respond to calls and referenced during important investigations. The police officers in my riding have told me again and again that it does provide them with the information they need to solve crimes involving firearms.

As of September 11, 2011, the Canadian Firearms Registry has been accessed 17,402 times per day. Again, there is no alternative being presented by the government that would allow the police to have similar information that would prevent crimes before they are actually committed with firearms.

In one survey which was conducted, 92% of general duty police officers said they use the Canadian firearms information system and 74% of those front line general duty police officers said the results have provided and proven beneficial during major police operations, that they have helped keep police officers safe and that they have improved public safety.

When we look at the unfortunate deaths of police officers in this country over the past 10 years, it is important to remember that long guns killed 10 out of 13 police officers who died in service of the public. This registry has been supported by police officers across the country.

Chief William Blair of Toronto said, “The registry gives officers information that keeps them safe. If the registry is taken from us, police officers may guess, but they cannot know. It could get them killed”.

That is the first reason that persuades me that we need to keep this registry. The second is the evidence on the public record about public safety.

Since the introduction of stricter gun laws in 1991, there has been a 65% reduction in homicides by long guns. This is data from Statistics Canada. These are facts; these are not opinions. The reduction in homicides involving any type of firearm, in other words, other types of firearms, was only 37%, so there has definitely been an impact that would cause the reduction in long gun homicides to go down again by 65%, almost double the rate of reduction in other firearms.

From 1995, when the firearms registry became law, to 2010 there was a 41% reduction in homicides by long guns. Rifles and shotguns are the guns most often used in unfortunate suicides, particularly those involving youth. While these have decreased by 64% in nine years, from 329 in 1995 to 121 in 2005, there has been no evidence that other methods have been substituted. So again, an important role in reducing the number of suicides among youth.

The third reason is my contact with women's groups in my riding and across the country. They have paid particular attention to family violence and the role of long guns in family violence in this country. When we look at the case of spousal homicides involving firearms from 1980 to 2009, there is a decrease in those figures, but on average one of three women killed by their husbands were shot and 88% of them were shot with long guns legally owned.

Since the introduction of the gun registry, gun-related spousal homicides are down by 50%. So still a significant problem, but a problem which has been greatly reduced.

Members on the other side are fond of saying “when police officers go to domestic violence, they cannot trust the gun registry 100%”. Well they can have fair warning if there are large numbers of weapons in that household. But that is not actually the issue.

The issue is, can guns be removed from households before there is an incident where someone is shot because police are aware, the weapons are registered, and lower levels of violence have indicated this may become a more serious problem in the future. That is where, in my mind, the real value of the registry is when we talk about family violence, the ability to identify weapons and remove them from the home before they are used for a terrible purpose like spousal murder.

The Conservatives like to argue that homicide rates have simply been on the decline and that our facts around public safety for women simply reflect that decline. But I have already said in my speech, we can show that there have been differential effects and greater decreases in the use of long guns in family violence, suicide and other public safety incidents.

When I stand today in opposition to this bill, I stand with police officers, women's groups, victims groups and the majority of Canadians.

Chief Daniel Parkinson of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police said, “Scrapping the federal Firearms Registry will put our officers at risk and undermine our ability to prevent and solve crimes”. Battered Women's Support Services in B.C. supports the registry and has gone so far as to ask the Liberal premier to set up a provincial registry if this legislation passes. The Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime says the majority of victims groups in this country support the registry.

I stand with the majority of British Columbias, 61% in the most recent public opinion survey, in support of the gun registry, and ask the government to abandon this reckless law.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member makes reference to the province of British Columbia. We know full well what the Government of Canada has said with regard to the province of Quebec in terms of the data bank.

My question to my New Democrat colleague is this. To what degree does he believe that the federal government has an obligation to support provinces that have a desire to continue a long gun registry by providing them the data bank as opposed to hitting the delete button and getting rid of the data bank, thereby causing a provincial government such as Quebec that would like the registry put into place to have to recreate the data bank at a substantial cost when it could have spent money on many other projects?

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to see the long gun registry maintained. This is one of the most effective tools for public safety in the country. In British Columbia there is a debate just beginning about what happens if this legislation passes. That debate has not really developed because the government has not given us much time to debate it in the House of Commons. People have not really had a chance to consider what the proper response to the passage of this law would be.

I know that battered women's groups, as I mentioned, have taken the first step in calling on the Liberal government in British Columbia to establish such a registry. The important point is the destruction of data that the government is proposing. It would not even leave this option open to provinces. No matter what position they take in the future, it will foreclose the option of having provincial registries before there is even a chance to have that debate at the provincial level.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question for my colleague has to do with the rhetoric we heard earlier during question period about the fact that the Conservatives are not changing the classification structure for some very powerful weapons. While it may be true, the effect of failing to change the classification structure appears to be that weapons that used to be registered before the gun registry ever existed now no longer have to be registered in any way, shape or form, which makes me feel less safe. Could the member comment on that, please?

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is perhaps one of the unforeseen side effects of this law that maybe the Conservatives had not thought about in their rush to pass it through without much debate. It seems that there are some weapons which will escape any kind of registration, including the kinds of weapons that were used by Marc Lépine in the incident at École Polytechnique and, as I said in my speech, in Norway. While I grant the Conservatives that it is probably not a deliberate attempt to deregister weapons, in fact it will allow these weapons to escape registration.

I am also concerned about the requirement to report sales of these kinds of weapons, which existed before the registry. Now that the registry is being abolished, we need to have the sales reports brought back.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's position and I find it quite difficult to understand a couple of things he said. I heard him say that people are going to be at risk because of these guns. Does that mean we are at risk if there is a military person in a tank or an airman in an aircraft? These types of people who possess guns do not create risk necessarily. Many target shooters and hunters enjoy those sports and we do not consider that they are dangerous people. The sweeping statement that everyone is at risk over this is not quite true.

He also referenced long gun homicides and suggested that there was a drop. Let me read from The Chronicle Herald, which states, “While it's true long-gun homicides have dropped since the registry was introduced, it's also true that murder rates have been—”

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I apologize for cutting off the hon. member, but I have to stop him there to give the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca a chance to respond.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member asked about military members. Of course, they all have IDs, they are all registered and everyone knows what weapons they are carrying. I have no doubts about them doing their job safely, but if they were to take those weapons from their job into another context which would be inappropriate, we would know that they have the weapons and we would know who they are.

My point about the registration of weapons is that it allows us to know who can safely possess handguns and they are no threat. It is similar to those who like to drive. Those who like to target shoot should register their guns and get a licence. This is no heavy burden on them in comparison to the gain we get in public safety. It is by knowing who possesses weapons that weapons can be removed from the hands of those who may have mental instability problems, addiction problems, or family violence problems.

I am not trying to remove guns from the hands of legitimate hunters, target shooters or--

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. member is out of time.

I understand the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale is rising on a point of order.

Bill C-317--Income Tax ActPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, who again has raised certain objections to my private member's bill, Bill C-317. I must note that the member did not raise a single objection or make a substantive argument in response to my rebuttal, nor can he.

To reiterate, it is simply the case that Bill C-317 does not give any additional taxation power to the Canada Revenue Agency that it does not already have. It merely enumerates two of the most relevant of those already existing powers. To be specific, the CRA already has the power to revoke a labour organization's tax exempt status and revoke dues deductibility. The CRA has the power to do this for several different types of violations of the Income Tax Act, including the one that is specifically identified in this bill, the failure of a labour organization to file a return.

As the bill does not grant the CRA any new powers to revoke tax exempt status or dues deductibility, there is no new ability created to collect extra revenue.

Only the requirements surrounding what must be included in a public information return are new. Let me emphasize that labour organizations must already file returns. They already face consequences for failure to file returns. The tax consequences for failure to file returns already exist. Those tax consequences are not increased or changed by the bill. The only thing that would change is what information is required in the public information return.

While the public information return I propose is not onerous, it is probably more detailed in some areas than what is currently required of labour organizations. However, requiring more detail than may be presently expected does not mean requiring more tax or a new tax. It is already the case that a labour organization could refuse to file its currently required tax return, and it could face losing its tax exempt status and dues deductibility as a result.

Under my bill, a labour organization could also refuse to file its tax return, including the new public information return that I propose, and it would face the identical consequences.

Let us use the member's own example of a dues-paying worker whose income was slightly below the second income tax bracket and was forced to pay taxes because of lost dues deductibility.

The member used an example to fit the definition of creating a new taxpayer, as it states in Beauchesne's, “an extension of the incidence of a tax so as to include persons not already payers”.

The example could be a realistic scenario; I do not debate that. However, it makes no difference. Using the same example, the same dues-paying worker could be forced into paying taxes right now if his or her union refused to file its tax return today.

Nothing would change for that dues-paying worker with the passage of my bill. The power to create a taxpayer out of the dues-paying worker in the member's example was granted to the Canada Revenue Agency a long time ago. My bill does nothing to change that.

Frankly, that is the long and the short of it. My bill's sole purpose is to ask for more detailed information and to make it public. It does not impose any additional or new tax consequences on a labour organization or its members.

A different point the member raised in his response concerned the requirement of unionized employees to pay dues. Of course, in my response I did not dispute the requirement to pay dues, nor did I suggest that it was discretionary under certain labour contracts. Instead, I pointed out that employees always have the option to choose which union they want to represent them.

Again, Mr. Speaker, if you read the transcript carefully, you will see that the member did not address the substance of the point that I raised. Instead, he was merely dismissive of the well-established fact that union members can decertify their existing union and certify another one. In Canada this happens all the time for a variety of reasons with which the member is undoubtedly familiar.

I greatly suspect at this very moment if a union local deliberately violated the Income Tax Act by refusing to file a return and put its tax exempt status and its member dues deductibility at risk, its members would take action. One of those possible actions would be, as I stated, to decertify the union and bring in another. As the member himself pointed out, unions are democratic institutions, so another action might be to democratically remove the board of the local and install one that would comply with the law and thus preserve the dues deductibility of members.

The bottom line is that while it may be mandatory to pay dues, dues-paying employees do have options, including whether or not to pay their dues to a labour organization that qualifies for dues deductibility under the Income Tax Act.

However, regardless of the choices that union members may make, Mr. Speaker, I would urge you to focus on my major point, that there is no difference in the potential tax consequences in the scenario of a labour organization failing to file a tax return under the present Income Tax Act versus a labour organization failing to file under the amendments proposed by my bill.

Finally, let me note that both in his point of order and in his later response, the member disappointingly used a considerable portion of his remarks to engage in actual debate over the substance of my bill. He raised issues clearly unrelated to his point of order over ways and means, such as what he falsely assumes my bill would cost unions and his favourite theory about the strategy behind my bill.

The proper place for the member to raise these issues would be the time allotted for private members' business, and I would be happy to correct the member on his faulty arguments during that time.

Bill C-317--Income Tax ActPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for his further intervention on this point.

Resuming debate. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

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

I beg to differ with previous speakers from the other side that this particular subject has not been exhausted. We debated this subject in previous sessions of Parliament. I want to revisit a few of the discussion points from that time, but I will start by saying that our government believes strongly that to keep our streets and communities safe, we need to give the police the tools they need to do their jobs. I think we can all agree on that.

We need to continue to invest in smart crime prevention measures and ensure that dangerous criminals are taken out of circulation so that they can no longer victimize innocent Canadians. I might add as a substantive point, there is a need to deal with gun-related crimes. This is action this government has taken in the past.

As all members of the House know, our party's position and commitment dates back to 1995 when the previous Liberal government inflicted this lack-lustre attempt to deal with gun related crimes. What we wound up with was legislation that put gun control on law-abiding hunters, first nations, Inuit, farmers and sport shooters across the country. For these reasons the Conservative Party, now the government, has long opposed the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.

By eliminating the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry, we instead can focus our efforts on more effective measures to tackle crime and protect families and communities.

I want to re-emphasize for the purposes of this debate what this bill would do. It would repeal the requirement to register non-restricted firearms, long guns; provide for the destruction of all records pertaining to the registration of long guns in the Canadian firearms registry and under the control of the chief firearms officer; and maintain control over restricted and prohibited firearms.

I also want to re-emphasize the fact that the ending the long gun registry bill would not in any way derogate from important legislation and policy that will continue to meet the important public policy safeguards around legal long gun possession and acquisitions. Specifically, firearm owners, or those who wish to acquire a firearm or ammunition, would continue to be required to undergo a police background check, pass a rigorous firearms safety course, and comply with all firearms safe storage and transportation requirements. Furthermore, firearms owners would also still require a valid a firearms licence to purchase and possess long guns and to register restricted and prohibited firearms, such as hand guns.

Obviously, these are important measures that we have actually fortified, not to mention of course making sure that the screening process has even more rigour to it to ensure that responsible long gun owners have their affairs in order to possess these types of long guns.

We are investing in a number of effective measures in this regard and in the broader public safety initiative. We are fighting organized crime, which is where many gun-related crimes occur, almost always with illegal weapons and prohibited firearms. We are introducing mandatory minimum penalties for serious gun crimes. We are combatting gun smuggling. Those are measures that we have taken and ones which we will continue to take.

I want to take a moment to summarize some of what has been presented to the House by my colleagues. There are two particular points.

First and most important, in the recent election Canadians from coast to coast to coast gave our government a strong mandate to end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all, and that is exactly what the bill would do.

I would say by way of extension, the great Kenora riding has a rich tradition in hunting. Our first nations communities, many of which are isolated, depend on the safe possession and acquisition of long guns and ammunition for their traditions and way of life. They gave me a strong mandate to carry this message forward to our government.

Second, in contrary to what some special interest groups tell us, the bill does not weaken gun controls. I have alluded already to the fact that real gun control in this country is done through an effective licensing program, good legislation and public policy around prohibited and illegal weapons and the crimes that are committed with them. Licensing is what affects people, and it is how people who should not own firearms are identified. Bill C-19 simply does not change or address licensing at all. To say otherwise would be a misstatement of fact.

Third, the destruction of records is a necessary part of fulfilling our commitment to Canadians. I find this new hedging argument quite interesting. If the registration list still occurs, then it is in fact, by simple logic, still a registry. More importantly, in my respectful view, this is private information that was given by law-abiding citizens under federal legislation at the time. I do not believe that it is available for the opposition parties to raise what has become a new dimension to their debate. Perhaps it is out of exasperation that some of their members and others of the third party have lost seats in the House over this issue. Perhaps that is why they would create something out of what I believe is not just insignificant, but a misstatement of facts.

I want to remind members of the fundamentals of the long gun registry. It is a process by which law-abiding long gun owners are compelled by force of law to disclose personal information to the state. Those data are then stored and used as part of a gun control system. If we accept that this is neither an effective gun control system nor an appropriate use of billions of dollars of taxpayers' money, then by default we logically must agree that these data must be destroyed. It is also widely accepted that the data are incomplete and out of date and will become increasingly so over time.

As well, in an effort to grasp at any argument they can get their hands on, the NDP suggests that the destruction of these records would cost “untold millions”, in the words of the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. This concerns me. The destruction of records contained in the long gun registry will not result in additional costs to Canadian taxpayers.

I will use my last couple of minutes to reflect fondly on the rich traditions of many northwestern Ontarians including, perhaps critically, our first nations communities.

I appreciate the countless number of chiefs, particularly those in isolated and remote first nations, who have laid out the problems that the gun registry has posed for them in their communities, not just in terms of possession and acquisition but also in the challenges with respect to ammunition. They have spoken loud and clear.

I am here as part of a bigger northwestern Ontario picture on this particular piece of legislation. With great honour and respect, as a long gun owner myself, I would impress upon the House that we must consider the rich traditions of many rural and northern Canadians, particularly those in isolated and remote communities. For example, I have had an opportunity to spend some time in the western Arctic, where I have engaged in hunting and the like.

Coming from northwestern Ontario, I realize that the opposition, particularly the NDP, are firmly divided on this issue. We have seen colleagues across the floor who are from my region vote in support of abolishing the registry, and I encourage those members to maintain their position. We know how northwestern Ontarians feel.

I agree with the intellectual point that there may be a desire for us to move on from this debate. Northwestern Ontarians want to participate in other regional issues and issues of national interest. However, I do not accept what is being proffered by members of the opposite party, particularly the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who says that the passion has been lost.

To the contrary, we have never felt stronger about this. We want to move on, and I am asking members to support this important piece of legislation.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Over the past few months, I have met with representatives of women's organizations in my riding. I am referring here to the Centre féminin du Saguenay, which has been taking care of abused women and their children since 1976, and Maison Isa, which is an organization that helps victims of sexual abuse. I met with these representatives at their request and I was happy to do so. These people told me just how important the firearms registry is and how useful it has been to them in their work with abused women. They spoke about the many instances in which a woman was afraid of her husband, who owned a firearm, and just how useful the registry could be in such situations.

What does the government have to say to these women who fear for their lives and the lives of their children?

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can appreciate that this member may have consulted with his constituents if he can appreciate that I spent a great deal of my life living in isolated and remote first nations communities. I have a rich professional background in dealing with a variety of domestic and sexual assaults, most unfortunately. Not one of them revolved around a gun-related incident. However, I can tell the member that this is exactly what the licensing process is intended to deal with.

The licensing process, which would not be affected by this legislation, deals specifically with stringent guidelines to prevent those kinds of people with those kinds of tendencies in those kinds of circumstances from lawfully possessing or acquiring long guns. That is an important intellectual point, and in the context of domestic abuse and sexual assaults, it is a more than important practical point in this debate.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member can provide a comment in relation to individual provinces. In particular, the Province of Quebec has indicated that it wants to reinstate a long gun registry in the province of Quebec. I understand other provinces might give it consideration. Some provinces have said “no” to it; I believe Manitoba has said “absolutely not” to the long gun registry. However, we notice that there are differences of opinion.

Could the member provide a comment on whether this legislature should support the Province of Quebec in its desire to have the long gun registry and on whether we can show that support by allowing them access to the data? The privacy issue that the member refers to, in the opinion of many, is just more of an excuse. Can we put that excuse to the side and provide—

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am never clear whether this is about a word count for the member or whether he is shifting his representation to the Province of Quebec.

I will answer in unequivocal terms. The answer is “no”.

That is private information that was given to legislation. It was given in the context of that piece of legislation. That is all it is for. It is the position of this government, and one that I strongly support and have encouraged my colleagues to support, that this information not be disseminated.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to compliment the member on an excellent speech. I know there are many people in northern Ontario who are deeply concerned about this issue.

I know, for example, that when the gun registry was first established, the leader of the NDP voted against doing so. Audrey McLaughlin, the MP for Yukon, like many other northerners, was very concerned about it. In my riding of Ottawa West—Nepean there are a substantial number of people who are concerned about this issue.

When we promised to scrap the gun registry, we did not promise to just forward it so that someone else could re-establish it. As a word, “scrap” has a very clear sense. I wonder if the member opposite could comment on that.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not always like to debate this issue as a division between urban versus rural and remote, but I can appreciate the issues and I think we have debated them at length. However, importantly, I share the member's concern over the inconsistencies, particularly in the official opposition's position on this issue. We know now, as members have said quite recently in press releases and statements outside this place, that there is division. We have seen a clear message from some of our NDP colleagues in northwestern Ontario, who I appreciate have stood with us to abolish and scrap the long gun registry; let us see if they maintain that position and do not create new hedging arguments to keep it.

That is not something Canadians accept. It certainly is not something—

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please.

The hon. member for Western Arctic.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, last year I voted in favour of a private member's bill put forward by the member for Portage—Lisgar that would have done away with the long gun registry. That bill was a blunt instrument; however, it restricted itself to eliminating the need to register long guns. Now in front of Parliament we have the government's Bill C-19, which is not only a blunt instrument but a wrong-headed and meanspirited instrument, a bill that would drive a greater wedge between rural and urban Canadians.

The Conservatives are supposed to be the Government of Canada, a truly national government that is supposed to govern for all Canadians, not just the less than 40% who voted for it.

I have never hidden my position on the long gun registry. My position has always been that the long gun registry does not belong in the federal Criminal Code. Provincial, territorial and aboriginal governments should be the ones to determine how long guns are registered in their various jurisdictions. In 2000 the Supreme Court agreed with that position and said that every government has the right to register firearms. Firearms registration is not something that goes against our laws; it fits with the property laws of the provinces, and it would not be within the Criminal Code if the provinces took it over.

Bill C-19 goes against my position because the data would be destroyed without those other governments first being asked if they wished to use the data as the basis for their own registries.

The government has foisted upon Parliament a bill that is a slap in the face to Canadians in those parts of the country that favour a long gun registry, like Quebec. Before the federal registry, Quebec even had a plan to put in its own provincial registry.

The Conservatives claim they have to destroy the data because of privacy concerns that would make it impossible to transfer the data. I asked the Privacy Commissioner about this aspect. Here is her response:

Generally, s. 8(2)(f) of the Act permits the disclosure of personal information “under an agreement or arrangement between the Government of Canada or an institution thereof and the government of a province ... for the purpose of administering or enforcing any law or carrying out a lawful investigation.” Therefore, in appropriate circumstances, an information sharing agreement or arrangement put in place for the purpose of administering or enforcing any law (including provincial law) could assist to ensure any transfer of personal information was in conformity with the Privacy Act.

For those on the other side, this means that as long as there is an agreement allowing the transfer of the information, there are no Privacy Act concerns.

This ill-considered bill would cause farmers, hunters and trappers nothing but headaches and cost all Canadians more money in the end.

One of the advantages of a registry is that it provides an accurate means to show lawful transfer of firearms, but confusion will be the order of the day after the passage of Bill C-19. For instance, the Conservatives have not taken the safe storage provisions out of the Criminal Code. They remain, and will likely be more rigidly enforced by the police in the future.

Because of this poorly thought out bill, a number of important questions will have to be answered. For example, will someone who lends his or her gun to someone else be responsible for its proper storage? If a person gives a family member a gun and does not record that transaction in a proper fashion, will that individual still be liable for any unfortunate results of unsafe storage? Will the individual end up with a criminal record because he or she will have no simple, legal and effective way to mark this transaction?

It is vital to offer something for gun owners to reduce liability in sale, possession, responsibility for safe storage, and transfer of ownership. An effective, simple and reliable non-criminal registry at the local government level is something the vast majority of Canadians can accept and should be entitled to, without having to pay for it all over again; however, because the Conservatives did not think this through, by the time Canadian firearm owners begin dealing with these headaches, the data will have been destroyed.

The bill means that gun owners who live in those parts of Canada that want the registry will have to go through the process of re-registering their guns. Reburdening gun owners like that shows exactly how little the Conservatives have thought the bill through.

If Bill C-19 passes as presented, provincial, territorial or aboriginal governments that want to establish a registry will have to go back to square one, at great taxpayer expense, and redo the whole thing.

Gun owners in the jurisdiction will be forced to fill out more forms and pay more fees. Police will have to wait years to have a useful tool to work with. One province has already said that it wants to reconstitute a provincial registry, that being Quebec, and more may consider the options too. No one will end up with a criminal record by failing to comply with these provincial or territorial registries.

Because of the flaws in the bill and because I support the purpose of getting the bill out of the Criminal Code, I intend to move amendments that would put in place a three-year waiting period before the data could be destroyed. The Conservatives claim the NDP government, if elected in 2015, would want the data preserved to recreate the registry. My amendment would see that the data that was not picked up by the provinces would be destroyed in 2014.

As an aside, it is pleasing to hear that even the Conservatives could recognize the potential for the next election.

My amendments would require the government to consult with the provinces, territories and aboriginal governments to see if they wanted to recreate their own non-criminal registries.

Finally, my amendments would require that the data for those jurisdictions that wanted a registry would be transferred to the respective governments. This amendment would save Canadians hassles and money.

What we have in front of us is a government that is full of its own majority. It is full of the direction that it can take without responding to the needs of Canadians. It is a government that wants to do everything its own way.

When we talk about a band of lemmings charging over hill, it strikes me that is what is happening with the registry right now.

There are important and significant legal issues with the bill. They are issues that take time to debate and understand. We have seen the Conservatives put closure on the debate.

I am sure we will see the bill go to committee. I hope at that point in time the Conservatives will listen to reason and will take the time to understand the issues that are presented with the creation of Bill C-19.

The effort to remove the long gun registry from the federal Criminal Code is a useful thing to do. What has been layered on top of it is a slap in the face to co-operative federalism, to registered gun owners who wish to have some measure of liability protection as easily as possible and to a lot of Canadians.

The government does not have to do this. It does not have to be didactic about this. It should understand that it is making laws that will affect the lives of Canadians and legitimate gun owners and impact the liability of many people. It can make the right choice and support an amendment which would allow the data to be shared with the rest of the country, with the other jurisdictions that have a right to the data, as the Supreme Court said in 2000.

The government can do that. It does not have to turn its back on Canadians. It does not have to turn its back on the provinces. It does not have to act with its shirt full. It does not have to act puffed up and proud of what it is doing. It can act civilly for Canadians.

If it wants the approbation from other political people in the country, then the government should act civilized, do the right thing and follow the amendments.

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to comment on the hon. member's last statement. He wanted to know why the government was not concerned about what other political people in our country might think.

We are very concerned about what our constituents believe. The member knows well, as does most of the members in the House, that for the last five elections, and over the last 11 years, it has been a commitment that this party has made. It is not an agenda that was not laid out clearly before the electorate. My constituents knew when I ran in the election that the long gun registry was one of the platform planks in my rural riding, and will stick to my promise.

It is not about pleasing other political people such as MPs, senators and other politicians. It is about living up to my word to my constituents.

Why has the member, who I am certain has supported getting rid of the long gun registry in the past, backed down from his word as have most of his party?

Ending the Long-gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, in 2000, I stood in Parliament the first time. I said at the time, and it is on the public record, that I thought the way to go with the long-gun registry was to put it in the hands of the provinces, the municipalities, those that could deal with it at a level that was appropriate. What I found offensive about the long gun registry was that it was enforced by the federal Criminal Code, so it made criminals out of people it should not have.

I am very much in favour of decriminalization of aspects of our law, this being one of them. I am sure if the Conservatives consider many other aspects of our law that could be considered for decriminalization too, they would be on the right track.

However, on this one, when you make the decision to destroy the data when you know perfectly well, through the Supreme Court decision in 2000, that the provinces have the right to take over the data and create their own registries, you are making—