Mr. Speaker, in joining this debate on Bill C-19, it is with sadness that I hear the speeches of the Conservative members and the continuing campaign of misinformation and disinformation. The Conservatives are cynically pitting important members of our society, such as hunters, ranchers and farmers, against other important members of our society, our peace officers, trauma surgeons and those who care for victims of violence.
My remarks will be about the kind of governance and the kind of erosion of democracy and the unfortunate decision making of the government. Bill C-19 is a prime example of that.
We have an effective and vital tool that police chiefs, front-line officers, emergency room doctors, pediatricians, nurses, women's groups, the RCMP and many others insist saves lives, but the government will not listen. It will not be reasoned with. It refuses to allow the public good to deter it from its partisan campaign to kill this important tool.
I acknowledge that there could be ways to improve the registry. What major tool like this does not require continuous improvement? There are ways to incorporate the concerns of peaceful gun owners, and Liberals proposed just such changes.
This campaign is an ideological one on the part of the Conservative government and it is just an example of many others. The expansion of mandatory minimums and the elimination of the mandatory long form census are similar kinds of divisive, ideological campaigns. Why would the government, for example, want to throw more young people in jail and yet throw out an important tool for understanding the makeup of our country? It does not make sense, but it is the Prime Minister's style, which the Liberal leader recently coined as dictatorial federalism.
The government has not had any meaningful consultation with the provinces, with experts, with community organizations, with Canadians. It is simply bullying, baffling and bulldozing its way forward. That is a concern of anyone who cares about the health of our democracy in Canada.
The Conservatives openly proclaim that if someone or some party disagrees with them then that individual is an adversary, or a radical or a party that they will destroy. That is unworthy of Canada. It is frightening.
Among the people who have spoken to me in Vancouver Quadra about the direction the Conservative government and the Prime Minister are taking are people who have come from other countries to find refuge in Canada. They have come here because we have a reputation of being a responsible, peaceful, open democracy, a country where we value dissenting opinions, a country where we make better decisions and better laws because we listen to people and we change the plan to incorporate good ideas. It is discouraging for those new Canadians to see the direction that this country is going in, the closing down of debate, this dictatorial style, the exact types of governments from which they have fled.
The Conservative government believes that ideology and votes from specific segments of Conservative donors and partisans should be at the heart of government policies, not facts. The Conservative government is a government that has abdicated its responsibility to defend Canada's parliamentary democracy for the common good of all Canadians.
Permit me in contrast to provide some of the facts that have been so distorted in this misinformation campaign.
The gun registry does save lives. There can be no disputing that. Since the gun registry was implemented, there has been a substantial decline in the number of homicides, domestic violence incidents and suicides using rifles and shotguns. As I mentioned earlier in the debate, that same decline has not taken place with respect to handguns and other illegal weapons. Since 1995, there has been a decline of over 40%.
Law enforcement associations across Canada use the registry daily to help prevent, investigate and solve crimes. We know this registry provides safety. It improves the safety of first responders because they tell us so and the RCMP's own report made that clear. Because of the registry, we know that gun ownership is increasing in Canada. That is the kind of thing we learn and build into policing strategies. In fact, the number of firearms owned by each gun owner increased by an average of 12% between 2006 and 2010. That is useful information.
We know that registering firearms helps peace officers ensure the safety of our communities.
According to a report published on the RCMP website on January 23, police officers use the registry almost 14,000 times a day. In 2006, there were a total of 2,400,000 online requests. That figure more than doubled in 2010. These are not routine or useless verifications. Just 11 days ago, the firearms registry helped the Ontario Provincial Police apprehend a man in Sudbury for the dangerous use of a firearm after he had escaped from the police.
The registry also helps the police pursue criminals. The number of affidavits produced by the Canadian firearms program for the purposes of legal proceedings has continued to increase in recent years. More than 17,900 affidavits were produced by the CFP between 2003 and 2008 in support of legal proceedings involving firearms crimes.
The registry allows police officers to revoke permits if a gun owner starts committing drug-related offences, has mental health problems or spousal abuse issues, or does not store the gun safely. It allows police officers to focus preventing crimes before they are committed.
In closing, the RCMP report, an analysis based on facts and hidden by the Minister of Public Safety for months, found that “investing in firearms safety is very worthwhile”.
This is the opposite of what Conservative members are claiming. On top that, in terms of this dictatorial federalism, the government wants to destroy the registry's data. With a stroke of the pen, the government is seeking to eradicate, over the strong objections of the provinces, an invaluable set of information.
The provinces have helped pay for the data and they deserve to have a say in what happens. Again, ideology and not evidence is guiding the government's decision. In fact, by scraping the gun registry, the data becomes subject to the Library and Archives of Canada Act which dictates that records must be maintained for 10 years. After that, the government is free to do what it wants with it.
The government is ignoring the advice of Parliament's own officers. The Information Commissioner has said that destroying the data would violate the letter and spirit of the Library and Archives of Canada Act. The Privacy Commissioner has urged caution in destroying the data. This may well be subject to court cases put forward by the Province of Quebec.
However, the Conservative government does not seem to care. It does not want to consult, and that is dictatorial federalism. We know that the Province of Quebec is very interested in keeping this data and using it, but it is being ignored because it does not fit the government's ideology.
It is disturbing to see this kind of federal governance in Canada. No government has a mandate to ignore the facts and evidence, ignore expert advice, ignore the provinces and territories and dictate to Canadians.
I call upon the government to stop thumbing its nose at Canadians and let facts, not ideology, become the cornerstone of its public safety policies.