Mr. Speaker, over two decades ago, on December 6, 1989, 14 women died in the Montreal massacre. Their murders devastated our country and changed the lives of students at school, women around the country, and all Canadians and their families.
We went to vigils, we walked the street in take back the night marches, and we said, “Never again”. Their senseless deaths triggered the Canadian movement towards stronger gun control. In 1995 the Firearms Act was passed. The law is recognized by the victims' families as a monument to their memory.
The government claims to stand up for crime prevention, victims and police officers. However, victims are asking in whose interest is loosening gun control in Canada. Chief William Blair, past president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said that this is about public safety. He said:
The registry has made Canada a safer country. The registry has saved lives. We lose it at our peril.
Police officers put their lives on the line for Canada each day. Canadians should know that of the last 18 police officers killed, 14 of them, or 78%, were killed by long guns. Police across Canada use the gun registry more than 17,000 times per day. They say it helps them evaluate a potential safety threat when they pull a vehicle over or are called to a residence. They also say it helps support police investigations. The registry can help determine if the gun was stolen, illegally imported, acquired or manufactured.
The Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, the government's own ombudsman for victims of crime, police forces across this country and the Coalition for Gun Control, an organization that includes families whose daughters were murdered in Montreal in 1989, have all called upon the government to keep the long gun registry.
According to an Ipsos Reid poll published in the National Post last year, two-thirds of Canadians support the registry.
The YWCA says that “dismantling the long gun registry puts women's lives at risk“.
The Canadian Women's Foundation reports:
We are particularly disturbed that there appears to be no recognition of the strong link between long guns and violence against women.
When a woman is murdered by her partner with a gun, almost 75% of the time she is killed with a long gun not a hand gun. The link is so strong that the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs has called long guns the weapons of choice when it comes to domestic violence. Too many women in rural and remote communities are intimidated and controlled by partners wielding shotguns and rifles. With the registry gone, these weapons will be impossible to track, placing women at increased risk.
Violence against women is a $4 billion tragedy in Canada. Every year 100,000 women and children leave their homes, fleeing violence and abuse. Almost 20,000 women go to 31 YWCA shelters across Canada looking for safety.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women requires that countries party to the convention take all appropriate steps to end violence. Why, then, would Canada destroy the long gun registry which protects women and girls, particularly with Canada leading the global effort for an international day of the girl?
Why is the government refusing to listen to the voice of experts, to the voice of Canadians? The government claims to be interested in public safety, yet is rejecting an initiative that police agencies say is vital to their work and to protecting victims. This is impossibly disturbing.
Sue O'Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, has said most victims' groups want the registry maintained. She said:
Our position on this matter is clear, Canada must do all it can to prevent further tragedies from happening, including using the tools we have to help keep communities safe, like the long-gun registry.
Why is the government refusing to listen to evidence?
Since the introduction of stricter gun laws in 1991, there has been a 65% reduction in homicides by long guns. From 1995 when the registry became law to 2010 there was a 41% reduction in homicides by long guns.
While the government rejects the notion that it is ending the long gun registry based on ideology rather than facts, government action a few months ago contradicts this. Recently the Minister of Public Safety tabled a list of the experts serving on his firearms advisory committee, in response to a written question by a Liberal MP. The minister's advisory committee includes several people who appeared before a parliamentary committee last fall to support government legislation to scrap the long gun registry. The minister's advisory committee did not disclose its membership to the MPs on the parliamentary committee.
We need evidence-based policies, not biased policies. It is pure bias to have a witness on a parliamentary committee supposedly appearing as an individual with a personal point of view but who is actually an appointee of the government there to bolster the government's position.
The government wants to get rid of the long gun registry. It claims that it is ineffective at reducing crime, although evidence shows that is absolutely false. Also, the government claims that it is wasteful. Let us look at the evidence.
We acknowledge that it did cost more than $1 billion to set up the registry in 1995. However, today, the best estimate is that it costs a mere $4 million to operate. In stark contrast, the total annual cost of firearm related injuries in Canada was $6.6 billion. Gun violence alone, which includes suicide, has been calculated at costing over $100 billion in the United States. In Canada, the cost of gunshot wounds per survivor admitted to hospital is $435,000. Economic studies show that preventive interventions to stop interpersonal violence save more than they cost, in some cases by several orders of magnitude.
We repeatedly hear from the government that it is committed to ensuring that hard-earned taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. If that is the case, why will the government not keep the long gun registry that saves lives and reduces economic costs?
Finally, the government is failing to hear the voices of provinces and police agencies who are asking that they be able to continue to consult the database. Our leader has said that the data collected over the last 16 years must be preserved so that provinces can salvage this important policing tool. The government claims it cannot help because the Privacy Act forbids collecting data for one purpose and then transferring it to be used for another purpose.
The government is not only ignoring evidence now but also actually destroying data. The government has said that it would be of no assistance to provinces that want to set up their registries. The Minister of Public Safety has said:
We've made it very clear we will not participate in the recreation of the long-gun registry and therefore the records that have been created under that long gun registry will be destroyed.
In closing, I do not support the bill, which will destroy the long gun registry and its data; jeopardize the health of Canadians, particularly that of women; and cost society billions. What is at stake is not a piece of paper or a requirement that people might have. What is at stake is people's lives.