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House of Commons Hansard #79 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was guns.

Topics

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today with respect to Bill C-19, the ending the long-gun registry act. It is no secret that our government places a high priority on cracking down on crime and making our streets safer.

Since day one, we have been very clear that we have worked hard to ensure victims are respected, offenders are punished and law enforcement officials have the tools they need to do their jobs. It is also no secret that when we say we will do something, we follow through on it.

Over the last six years, our government has passed several pieces of legislation to tackle violent crime. We passed mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes, as well as reverse bail provisions for serious offences, a lot of changes that the Canadian public has felt were long overdue. Our government has also passed legislation that, among other things, created a new broad-based offence to target drive-by and other intentional shootings that involve the reckless disregard for the life or safety of others.

Those convicted of such acts are now subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison with a maximum period of imprisonment of 14 years. If these acts are committed by or for a criminal organization, or with a restricted or prohibited firearm, such as a handgun or an automatic weapon, the minimum sentence is increased to five years.

However, our work does not end there. We have told Canadians that we would waste no time introducing legislation to repeal the long gun registry and this is exactly what we have done. With Bill C-19, we are making good on another commitment to Canadians.

I will start by noting that the issue of effective firearm control is an important one, one that has been debated in this country for years. All of us see the fallout from gun related crimes in Canada. The media headlines remind us almost daily of the tragic consequences of violent gun crime. Sadly, in some places people do not feel safe in their neighbourhoods or, worse, in their own homes. In this light, it is imperative that we have effective ways of dealing with crime.

As I said at the outset, our government has been committed to making our streets and communities safer for all Canadians for the past six years. We followed up that commitment with concrete and tangible initiatives to get tough with offenders and to help prevent crime before it happens. This is why I hope that hon. members will consider this legislation with an open mind and with a view of moving forward on this long overdue change to our law books.

We all want to ensure that guns do not fall into the hands of offenders or are used to commit grievous crimes. I believe that we are all committed to the principles of balance and common sense. That is really what the bill before us today is all about.

It is about ensuring that we continue to preserve and enhance those measures that do work to reduce crime and protect Canadians. However, it is also about ensuring that we do not unnecessarily penalize millions of honest and law-abiding citizens with rules that absolutely have no effect on crime prevention or on reducing gun related crime.

Our government has said many times that the long gun registry unfairly treats owners of rifles and shotguns like criminals, like so many of the residents in my riding of Huron—Bruce. We stand behind these law-abiding Canadians and we are telling them that we will no longer make them feel like criminals.

We have also said many times that the long gun registry is wasteful and ineffective. First, it is definitely a waste of taxpayer dollars, and we have known this right since day one. The CBC estimates that the long gun registry has cost in excess of $2 billion. That is money that could be better used to support crime prevention, like we so often hear, and give police more tools to do their jobs.

Second, it is ineffective because there is no evidence that the long gun registry has ever stopped a single crime or saved a single life. In fact, in committee hearings, some of the policing community have said themselves that they find the registry inaccurate and ineffective. That is why we are moving ahead the legislation before us.

What does that do to Bill C-19? First and foremost, the legislation before us today removes the need to register non-restricted firearms, such as rifles and shotguns, tools that people use on any farm from coast to coast. These are not generally the guns used to commit homicides.

That said, Bill C-19 would not do away with the need to properly license all firearms owners. All businesses and individuals will still need to possess a valid firearms licence in order to legally purchase a firearm. To obtain a licence, they must be able to pass the required Canadian firearms safety course and to comply with firearms safe storage and transportation requirements. They will also need to pass a background check performed by the chief firearms officers or their representatives who employ law enforcement systems and resources to review individuals' criminal records. Any history of treatment for mental illness associated with violence or history of a violent behaviour against another person will be taken into consideration.

Bill C-19 would retain licensing requirements for all gun owners while doing away with the need for honest, law-abiding citizens to register their non-restricted rifles or shotguns, a requirement that is unfair and ineffective.

What else would this legislation do? Bill C-19 includes a provision for the complete destruction of all records related to the registration of non-restricted firearms that is currently contained within the Canadian firearms registry. This would ensure that the private information of millions of Canadians who have registered their non-restricted firearms in good faith is not distributed to other entities. They did not sign up for that.

These law-abiding long gun owners provided their personal information in good faith to our government for one reason, and one reason alone: to be added to the national long gun registry; nothing more, nothing less. We cannot simply provide this information to other organizations or governments without the express consent of each one of these citizens. Therefore, we must and we will ensure that records are destroyed.

We have heard loud and clear from Canadians who own non-restricted rifles and long guns that they want the long gun registry eliminated. I can say that virtually every weekend I have been home since I was elected, and even before then, this is what I have heard from the constituents of Huron—Bruce. They want to ensure that their private information is not distributed to other entities.

What is proposed under Bill C-19 is, therefore, not a fundamental overhaul or a scrapping of the entire licensing and registration system. Rather, what is proposed are changes that would do away with the need to register legally acquired and used rifles and shotguns that are largely owned by Canadians living in rural or remote areas. This would ensure that scarce government resources can be directed toward initiatives that make our streets safer.

As the Prime Minister has noted, we want to ensure that what we do is actually effective. Certainly, in today's economic climate, every dollar must be accounted for. This includes putting more police on our streets, fighting organized crime at its source and combating gun smuggling. The government has already done a lot in this regard. Our goal is to do a lot more by directing our efforts to where they can be most effective in the fight against crime and gun crime in particular.

Our government is determined to maintain an effective firearms control system while, at the same time, combating the criminal use of firearms and getting tough on crime. This again is really what the bill before us today is all about. It is about ensuring that we invest in initiatives that work and that we continue to protect the safety and security of Canadians without unnecessarily punishing people because of where they live or how they make a living.

Now is the time to support the legislation before us today and stop penalizing honest, law-abiding citizens, just like the honest, law-abiding citizens of Huron—Bruce.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my hon. colleague for some comments on what I am about to read. On February 6, a week ago today, the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca said in the House, “an individual could raise more money by speaking about ending the long gun registry in politics than any other issue in my riding”.

Has my colleague opposite used the long gun registry to raise money in his riding? How many of his colleagues have used the long gun registry to raise money in their ridings? Does he think that is an appropriate way to honour all the vulnerable Canadians who have suffered at the hands of criminals who used guns, whether it be long guns or short guns, to perpetrate crimes?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will go back to a statement the member from Timmins made a couple of years ago when talking about costs. I think that is what we are all concerned about today, the balance between cost and public safety. On November 6, 2009, the member from Timmins said:

What rural people were concerned with is wasting money tracking down your grandfather's 20-gauge rifle, as opposed to putting money into urban gun violence.

I think that statement speaks for itself.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, when the Conservative members of Parliament stand up, they are very clear in terms of their belief that the gun registry has been completely useless. My question is actually fairly simple and straightforward and I would ask for the best answer the member can come up with.

Does the member believe that the gun registry, in any way, indirectly or directly, has saved a life in Canada? Does he believe that could possibly have occurred even once because of the gun registry?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member should not take my word for it. He should take the word of the experts who testified at committee. They did not believe that it had.

I would also like to talk about what happens here with property rights. A former RCMP officer stated:

Many Saskatchewan residents have been charged with a criminal offence simply because they forgot to renew their licence. As a former police officer, I cannot support convicting farmers who need to use a firearm for pest control, and I submit to you that some of these same people were veterans, who should not have their freedom, paid for in blood, vanish with the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen.

Unfortunately for the member, it was his party that did this to people such as--

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Questions and comments. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Kenora Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's contribution to this debate. From the outset, we have been in the same intake class and it has been great to work with him on this matter.

With the exception of the two NDP MPs from Thunder Bay who stand shoulder to shoulder with us on this issue and understand the government's record, the emphasis of the debate from the other side of the House ought to be placed on the process whereby someone actually gets a possession and acquisition licence and the screening that is involved. That, in fact, prevents a lot of the unfortunate accidents, as small a percentage as they are of total gun crimes.

Would the member talk about this government's record and commitment to that part of gun ownership here in Canada?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the member's point, the important thing to focus on is the licensing part of it and what is involved for people who may not have a licence today, or young people coming up through the ranks who want to participate. There are over 12 hours of training via a certified instructor who will provide not only a written test but also a physical test to ensure they are competent. In addition to that, they will need to apply for their acquisition licensing, which is where the chief firearms officer will come into place and that is where the screening takes place.

It is unfortunate that the members of the opposition have overlooked all of that. They missed that in the debate. They focused on the headlines instead of the actual fact that it is preventable on paper.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Winnipeg North.

I am pleased to take part in today's debate on Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, which seeks to remove the requirement to register firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted. It also provides for the destruction of existing records, held in the Canadian Firearms Registry and under the control of chief firearms officers, that relate to the registration of such firearms. This bill is based exclusively on the Conservatives' right-wing ideology rather than on facts.

Police officers say that the registry is effective. It is an essential tool used by the police in implementing preventive measures and enforcing prohibition orders. It is used to ensure that any firearm can be taken from a person should the situation warrant it. It facilitates police investigations. When the police find a firearm at the scene of a crime, they can trace it back to its rightful owner. On a number of occasions, offenders have been found guilty of aiding and abetting murders or other crimes, partly because a registered firearm was left at the scene of the crime.

The registry allows the police to determine whether a firearm is legal or illegal. Without information on the people who legally own firearms and the firearms that they possess, the police cannot charge anyone with illegal possession. The registry allows the police to easily trace firearms, which assists in police investigations of illegal trafficking. The registry reduces the possibility of finding legal firearms on the black market.

We know that the Conservatives do not like evidence, but Statistics Canada recently reported a drop in the number of firearm-related homicides, mainly due to a drop in the number of shotgun- and rifle-related murders. Firearms were involved in 32% of murders last year, which is slightly higher than the proportion of stabbing deaths at 31%. Handguns accounted for approximately two-thirds of the firearm-related homicides, while long guns accounted for 23%. The remaining murders involved sawed-off shotguns, automatic weapons or other firearm-like weapons.

According to the RCMP's 2002 data, long guns are the most commonly used firearm in spousal homicides. Over the past decade, 71% of spousal homicides involved shotguns and rifles.

The Liberal Party joins Canada's police chiefs and the majority of Canadians in the belief that scrapping a tool used over 20,000 times a day by our police forces is not in Canada's best interest.

Unfortunately, the gun registry is set to become the latest casualty of the Conservative government's ideological attack on facts and evidence. There is no respect for last year's vote that definitely said we should not abolish the gun registry. However, the Conservatives have just brought the issue back up.

Some provinces have expressed interest in maintaining provincial registries to keep their citizens safe. Quebec has been notable in this regard. It has not just asked for it but demanded and pleaded for it on many occasions. For this reason the data collected over the last 16 years should be preserved so that provinces can salvage this important policing tool, which has been paid for by taxpayers over and over again.

We are also concerned about the reports of increasing pressure being put on the government by the gun lobby to scrap the licensing of firearm owners in addition to eliminating the registry completely. We are already preparing for the next battle. The Conservatives must be prepared to stand up for the interests of public safety and resist the call for complete deregulation.

Under Bill C-19, the registrar of firearms would no longer issue or keep records of registration certificates for non-restricted firearms, commonly known as long guns. As registration certificates would no longer be required to possess a non-restricted firearm, certain offences under the Firearms Act would be amended and repealed. The Criminal Code would also be amended so that failure to hold a registration certification for a non-restricted firearm would not give rise to any of the offences related to unauthorized possession of a firearm. Therefore, police could no longer seize these non-restricted firearms.

Although Bill C-19 would remove the need to hold a registration certificate for non-restricted firearms, it does not change the requirement that people need to hold a licence in order to possess a firearm and undergo a background check and pass a required safety course. However, while the licensing process screens gun owners for risk, a one-time registration holds gun owners accountable for their guns. If passed the bill would allow a licensed individual to acquire an unlimited number of guns without raising any flags. Members should try to figure out the consistency of that.

The bill would also remove mandatory licensing checks required when transferring gun ownership from a person or business. Currently, the licence has to be verified in the electronic system or through a phone call to the registry office before someone can buy a gun. However, Bill C-19 proposes that gun shop owners should simply visually check a gun licence, which, like other types of cards such as health cards and drivers' licences, can be forged.

Verifying gun licenses has been a factor in different crimes. Victims have been shot by offenders who had been under a prohibition order and had their licences cancelled. Although the licenses were removed from the offenders' possession, they were still able to purchase a gun legally, as the seller was not required to ensure that the licence was valid.

Finally, as a consequence of the registry's repeal, a gun merchant is not obliged to keep records of gun sales. In 1977, Canada passed legislation requiring gun merchants to keep a record of gun sale transactions. The obligation was removed with the introduction of the Firearms Act, as guns would be registered to the owner at the point of sale. What will happen now?

This is where the controversy stems. There has always been a history of gun control in Canada and this is to what we defer. Gun control in Canada dates back to the 19th century. It has been required that all handguns be registered since 1934 and a central registry for restricted firearms was established and operated by the RCMP in 1951. A classification system consisting of prohibited weapons, the most severe classification, and restricted and non-restricted weapons has existed since 1968. However, the classification system has not been updated since 1995.

Prohibited weapons, including handguns, automatic weapons, rifles and shotguns, have been adapted by either sawing or cutting. If so, what are we to make of certain measures classified in the legislation, wherein individuals could possess a prohibited firearm if it were registered when the firearm became prohibited and if they had continually held a valid registration certificate since 1998? The firearms legislation refers to these firearms as having been grandfathered.

Therefore, although the Conservatives say they are saving money by eliminating the gun registry, they are actually adding to the confusion. Now people do not know what they can or should register and which firearms are grandfathered. Restricted firearms are allowed only for approved purposes such as target shooting, or as part of a collection. Firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted, such as hunting rifles or shotguns, are referred to as non-restricted firearms, or long guns.

The Firearms Act was passed by Parliament in 1995 and came into force in 1998. It was established in response to the shooting deaths of 14 women at École polytechnique in Montreal in 1989. It requires both a licence for the owner and a registration certificate for all firearms. This is not a big deal. All transfers of firearms require approval so that a new registration certificate can be issued to the new owner. Again, this is not a big deal. Instead, the registration requirement is eliminated under Bill C-19. We have seen that crimes have gone down as a result of long guns being registered.

In May 2006, the Auditor General of Canada issued a report that examined the Canadian firearms program. In the report, she criticized not only the cost of the registry, but also the quality of the data and how the registry was being maintained. Since that time, several of those flaws have been corrected, because oversight and administration of the registry were assigned to the RCMP in 2006.

The Auditor General confirmed that the cost of developing and implementing the program was $1 million over 10 years. However, that money has now been squandered and we can never get it back. The RCMP estimates that the current cost of maintaining the firearms registry is less than $2 million a year, that is, less than 15 cents per Canadian per year. According to the RCMP's external report, eliminating the firearms registry will save only a few million dollars.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I was not going to rise but so many things that were said by the member opposite are not true. If he had been at committee when we received testimony in regard to the reduction in homicides using firearms, he would have heard experts at the committee who pointed out to us that there is no connection between the gun registry and a slight drop in murders. The murder rate in Canada has been dropping since the 1970s. This is due more to changing demographics in Canada's population, and our higher proportion of seniors, than anything else. And we heard that the homicide rate in the U.S. is dropping more rapidly than in Canada. If the gun registry were responsible for this, why would it be dropping in the U.S. more rapidly than in Canada? We have a serious disconnect here. This member should address that.

There are other bogus claims made, such as the police using the registry 20,000 times a day. This was addressed at the standing committee. It was clearly pointed out that this is a bogus claim. Also, that the gun registry helps them get rid of guns in a home where there might be a—

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please.

The hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker I have to remind the member that this is the Parliament of Canada. He is pandering to U.S. lobbyists when he makes comparisons to U.S. statistics that indicate that the U.S. crime rate has gone down. I was not even at committee and I have a report here that says that the Quebec suicide prevention association told committee that the long gun registry combined with licensing of owners and safe storage regulations have been associated with a dramatic reduction in the number of gun deaths, on average, 255 suicides and 50 homicides annually.

I am not making this up. it is word for word from Hansard. I could table it. I am not sure what the member was listening to. Perhaps he was listening to some debate happening in the United States but this is the Parliament of Canada. He should have been paying attention to the proper committee affiliated with this bill.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's interference in provincial matters is unacceptable. It is one thing to no longer invest in this registry, but is quite another to unilaterally decide what the provinces would do with the data for which Canadians have paid. What are we to make of this intrusion into the decisions by certain provinces to keep collecting data? How far will this ideology go? Where will this denial of provincial jurisdictions end? What does the hon. member think?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not necessarily a question of provincial or federal jurisdiction. The data are already at the federal level. I would like the data to stay there because people move firearms from one province to another. I have constituents who have transferred their firearms from Ontario to Quebec, then from Quebec to Ontario. I would like us to have all the data.

Quebec would like to have the data from the registry. I do not see why the Conservative government could not transfer the existing information for which Canadians have paid. It would save lives. We have the proof.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I did not have an opportunity to hear all of the testimony during the course of the hearings that were held on the bill. However, at the meetings that I did attend, I was really taken by the lack of push-back by the gun lobby on it. I know that the chief of police in Calgary had said that he did not think it really served any purpose. Beyond that, he added that if we do have one, it should be provincial and there should be no charge for it. That is about as aggressive testimony as I heard during the sessions I attended.

I did hear a lengthy list of witnesses, such as the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association, the Police Association of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police Association, and medical health experts, including the Canadian Medical Association, suicide prevention agencies and transition homes, all of whom stood and said, yes, there is a good purpose for the registry.

To quote the former leader of the Bloc, Gilles Duceppe, a party that I do not really quote a lot, he made a good point in this particular case. He said that it costs a lot upfront, but it is like renovating a house: if the costs go over budget, we do not burn the house down.

Would my colleague agree that by casting the information aside, the government in this case is really scorching the earth with it?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso because I know he has worked extremely hard on this file.

The Liberal questions are always the hardest questions to answer, but I will try.

Basically, more information is better than no information. That is what we see in this case. I do not see how the police forces could say they do not need the information. If they have the information, they are saying they can use it.

Obviously, the Conservative government has not done a good job in conveying the information, and that is what it is now using as an excuse in saying that the information is incomplete. A couple of cycles of registration could be provided free to gun owners and they would be more than happy to register their guns, from what I am hearing.

As my hon. colleague mentioned, the RCMP is also in favour of the registry because the cost of keeping it would be less than $2 million a year.

The House resumed from February 9 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Investment Canada ActBusiness of Supply

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 6:30 p.m., pursuant to order made Thursday, February 9, 2012, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the hon. member for London—Fanshawe relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #124

Business of Supply

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed from February 10 consideration of the motion that Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Copyright Modernization Act

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the previous question at the second reading stage of Bill C-11.

Copyright Modernization Act

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it I believe you would find agreement to apply the vote from the previous motion to the current motion, with the Conservatives voting yes.

Copyright Modernization Act

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Copyright Modernization Act

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.