Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise and represent my region on an issue that is this important.
Just this past year, Canada shocked the international community at the arms negotiation treaty on small arms. The small arms treaty is vitally important. Every year 740,000 people are murdered in narco-states and places like the Congo, in areas where there is tribal violence, civil war, gang violence, deaths that are caused by weapons that are easily smuggled into these countries.
My hon. colleagues on the other side have this myth about shotguns. A shotgun is like something that is in the painting of Whistler's Mother, or American Gothic, that it is just a tool, but a shotgun does kill and a shotgun in the hands of a narco-gang is certainly a very effective tool.
When individuals are looking at holding families hostage if they have lost their job, a shotgun is a very serious thing. In the past I have heard it said by some people on the other side that to say, “guns kill people” is the same as saying that pencils cause mistakes. However, when we are dealing with the 740,000 deaths happening internationally because of the small arms trade, certainly people are not going into the Congo with pencils; they are going in there with Mausers, double-barrelled shotguns and whatever they can.
I raise this to explain the back story of where the Conservatives are going with this. Canada had been an international leader in trying to stem the trade in small arms weaponry. Yet when the Conservatives went to the last round of negotiations, they did what they had been doing on all the international treaties. They said that the treaty was too ambitious. They said it was “seeking too much”, that it was too detailed. Then they dropped the other shoe. They wanted an exclusion of all sports and recreational weapons from the small arms treaty.
If we look at the mass killings around the world, they are not just done with AK-47s. If we consider what is a sports or recreational gun, for example, the École Polytechnique weapon, that is a pretty effective weapon if it is in the hands of a drug lord. Canada said at this treaty that it would not sign off on an international agreement unless it excluded all these guns.
Who did the Conservatives take with them as their special expert? They took the Canadian Sport Shooting Association, which is the right hand of the National Rifle Association in Canada.
We see the willingness of the Conservatives to undermine an international treaty that protects people in places like the Congo and Colombia for gun ideology.
We have looked at this gun registry bill. With the another bill, the member for Yorkton—Melville wanted to get rid of the provisions that would make it possible for police to stop gang-bangers who were carrying restricted weapons in cars.
Whenever the Conservatives talk about duck hunters and farmers, they are always using them as straw men to move something else. This time they have moved the clauses in the bill that deal with the fundamental effects of licensing. Because of the trade of weapons, it is important to be able to verify whether someone should actually have a gun. That is an issue of public safety.
In the clauses dealing with the transfer of non-restricted firearms, the verification process is now voluntary. We do not actually have to check. If we do check, and this is the real kicker, the registry is not allowed to keep a record if someone verifies whether someone has a right to have a gun.
I know people back home who have had their guns taken away because they were not mentally balanced enough. However, they could go to their cousins, walk out with guns and they could say they bought them, although they did not have the papers. When asked if they checked, they could say that they phoned the registry, but the registry could not verify it.
What the Conservatives are obviously creating, and it is not an accident, it is the intent of the bill, is a whole black market in the transfer of guns. If there is no ability to check whether people actually made verifications, they can do whatever they want. Lost or stolen guns do not have to be reported, only if they are restricted.
This is also a free pass for the criminals. As it stands now, in northern Ontario when the OPP does a big bust and all kinds of weapons are seized, the guys who are caught with their grow ops and their 25 guns always say they are gun owners, that they own the guns. My hon. colleague would know what this is all about. They can say they own the guns. When asked for their records of purchase they claim to have lost them. Under the registry right now it is pretty straightforward to find out whether or not they actually own those guns. It is not all that difficult.
The government is going to erase that provision. This is the get out of jail free clause for gun criminals that the government is bringing in. Someone can trade the École Polytechnique gun, or the Dawson shooter's gun and not worry whether they will be double-checked because it will be impossible to check.
I have been hearing a lot of bizarre comments from my colleagues this morning about verifiable data. I have a lot of friends who are in the police force back home. When we go out we talk about their issues. I always ask them about the registry and if they really use it. They tell me they use it every day. They say it is not enough to know that someone is a gun owner. If there is a domestic violence issue and they see the escalating factors of domestic violence to the point that they have to go into a home, they need to know if there are four or five guns in the house. That fifth gun is the difference between life and death.
It is the same issue with suicides. That party over there says there is no evidence whatsoever on suicide deaths. I have seen the suicide deaths in northern Ontario from long guns. It is essential when there is a concern that the police and family members have raised that they know if the person has four or five guns. It is not enough to know the person is a gun owner.
The reality I hear from police officers whom I speak with is diametrically opposed to the line that was taken by the Conservatives' public safety chair, the member for Yorkton--Melville, who wrote to me, figuring that we were going to be on the same side of the Conservatives' policy on guns. He said in his letter to me that we “risk becoming a state where police can dictate our personal freedoms. Why are the police so strident in their quest to keep the registry in place? They won't admit it, but it appears they don't want Canadians to own guns. To that end, they need a database that will help them locate and seize those firearms as soon as the registration expires.”
I am sorry, but that is the stuff of a conspiracy theory. That is not the basis of public policy. The member for Yorkton--Melville believes that the police want to know where guns are so they can come and seize them because they do not believe in the right of people to bear arms. That is the kind of misinformation that I think has created this false crisis.
I have dealt with the gun registry for 15 years. As a gun owner I filled out those first rotten forms that the Chrétien Liberals had brought in. It was a dumb process at the time. It was an onerous process. It was completely inefficient. I saw the growing backlash in rural Canada. I dealt with it as an elected official in 2004. We had numerous problems. The issues of criminalizing, if there was a problem with the registry, were the issues we were hearing. By 2006 I was not hearing those problems. The issues I have heard again and again have to do with licensing. People are concerned about possession and acquisition. These are things that can be dealt with.
What we are seeing here is that the Conservatives have opened the door on a whole manner of other issues. They are using rural Canadians as a front. What they are creating is a process that is going to lead to more deaths, more violence, and more impact on our front-line responders.