Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to stand and add my voice to the debate on this important piece of legislation, the ending of the long-gun registry act.
Today we are speaking on behalf of Canadians in rural and remote parts of our country who have been unfairly targeted for the simple and legal act of owning a long gun. I want to talk to that issue briefly.
I grew up in a city and probably would not have understood this issue, but in my mid-twenties I moved to a rural community, and my understanding became much more robust. I hit a deer on the road, and a hunter was able to put the deer down. My children played, but there were cougars in the area, and we came to count on these tools. I also came to appreciate how important this issue was for the farmers and hunters.
Who are these Canadians? They are our friends and family members. They are responsible, law-abiding individuals who use rifles and shotguns to legally hunt for sport or sustenance or both. They are athletes who participate in sharpshooting events, such as biathlons and skeet shooting, and who are internationally recognized for their impressive conditioning and skills. They are hard-working farmers protecting their livestock and their livelihood in the same manner as those who worked to settle in the west did for generations before us. For many of these individuals, their rifles and shotguns are simply the everyday tools of their trade.
Each of these firearm owners has had to undergo proper steps to obtain a firearm licence before acquiring their gun. The wasteful and ineffective long gun registry simply adds another layer of red tape to this process. It also carries with it the uncomfortable stigma that makes these long gun owners feel like criminals. In fact, it is putting more burden onto legal long gun owners while having zero impact on criminals.
Are we really to believe that violent criminals are going to register their long guns and firearms? It is not likely. Therefore, we are left to draw the obvious conclusion: the long gun registry is a waste of time and money.
I will take a moment to say that our government is not against investing in effective measures that take the bite out of crime. It is entirely the opposite. For example, we are proud of our efforts to augment and strengthen our police forces. We have committed $400 million for the police officer recruitment fund to assist provinces and territories in hiring additional officers and in addressing their unique public safety priorities and policing needs. This is a significant federal contribution to policing costs over a five-year period, and it is helping the provinces and territories in their efforts to recruit new police officers and make their communities safer. In this way, since just 2009, our government has contributed to the addition of over 1,800 police officers across Canada.
We are also investing in policing through other partnerships with the provinces and territories and the first nations policing program. To help encourage new recruits, our government has also provided crucial funding for RCMP cadet allowances and for improvement to infrastructure at the RCMP training academy, depot division. These are all worthy investments in our front-line law enforcement.
Another key piece on reducing crime, and another area worthy of investment, is our effort to prevent crime before it happens. This includes supporting community-based crime prevention programs that help at-risk youth make smart choices and avoid criminal activities. Last year alone, our government funded 160 community-based crime prevention programs through the national crime prevention strategy, which had an impact on the lives of nearly 10,000 youth at risk.
We are proud that the next phase of Canada's economic action plan includes $7.5 million annually towards the youth gang prevention fund. These are investments that are making a tangible difference in the lives of at-risk youth. We are proud to support efforts to steer them in the right direction. Every youth who decides to go to school instead of joining a gang has taken a positive step in the direction of success instead of violence and guns.
We make no apologies for these investments because we know that the cost of crime to victims and to society is far higher. According to the Department of Justice, the cost of crime, including everything from property damage to the emotional impact on families and victims, totals nearly $100 billion every year. In the face of this statistic, we stand firmly behind our decision to invest in effective crime prevention and appropriate reforms to law and justice sectors.
What we will not do is allow our scarce resources to continue to be funnelled into an ineffective long gun registry. We will not focus our efforts on laws that are not having an impact on reducing gun crime.
We know that most homicides committed in Canada do not involve rifles or shotguns. We know that in 2006 alone, three times as many homicide victims were killed with handguns than with rifles or shotguns. In 2009, we saw that two-thirds of homicides committed with a firearm were carried out with handguns, not rifles or shotguns.
It is obvious that the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry is not worth the billions of dollars already spent on it. It is nothing more than a bureaucratic database with questionable benefits. In a time of a fragile economic recovery, that money could be diverted to more effective programs that prevent gun crime and protect our police officers. That money could better be utilized in our efforts to strengthen our border enforcement and crack down on illegal smuggling of firearms across the U.S. border, which is where most of the firearms that are illegally smuggled into Canada come from. To those who argue that ending the long gun registry will weaken our gun control legislation, I reply that it does nothing of the kind; rather, it will free up resources to reinvest in programs that actually work.
We will also ensure that all data currently contained in the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry is destroyed. We will not stand for the creation of backdoor registries.
Equally as important as what the bill will do is what it will not do: it will not remove the requirements for Canadians to have a licence in order to use long guns; it will not undo the requirement to pass a background check and complete a safety training course. In addition, Bill C-19 will not make changes to the current requirement for owners of restricted and prohibited firearms to register these firearms through the Canadian firearms program.
These are reasonable and fair measures. I therefore call on all hon. members to support the speedy passage of Bill C-19.