This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firearms.

Topics

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

February 6th, 2012 / 3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I wish to inform the House that because of the statement made earlier today government orders will be extended by 11 minutes.

The hon. member for Gatineau.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, after consideration in committee, the House is now seized, at report stage, with consideration of government Bill C-19, that not only seeks to eliminate references to long guns, but also to destroy the data in this registry.

I would like to begin by highlighting the absolutely extraordinary work done by my colleagues from St. John's East, Surrey North and Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. These members have attempted to convince the government of the defects in this bill. There is, of course, a lot of politicking that goes on in this chamber, but politics is supposed to benefit someone—not necessarily us, but all Canadians, in general.

It is true that since the creation of the firearms registry—and I was not in politics of the time; I was hosting a call-in radio show—everyone has complained, and not just a little. People were not complaining about the registry per se, but rather about how much it costs and how poorly designed it was in the first place. The reason for the creation of the registry was clear. Perhaps this is not repeated frequently enough: there was a mass killing at the École Polytechnique where the now infamous Marc Lépine decided, just like that, to shoot at people for one single reason: they were women. That made people’s blood boil. It became a very personal matter in people’s eyes.

Nobody in this House, regardless of what side they are on, is saying that they want to put weapons in the hands of somebody who is going to go crazy and do what Marc Lépine did at that time.

The firearms registry was created after a lot of trials and tribulations and hemming and hawing. It was supposed to solve all of these problems. There were problems with the cost of the registry. There were also problems—and this is constantly alluded to on that side of the House—because very law abiding citizens had no desire whatsoever to use a firearm in any dangerous way; they were simply collectors, aboriginals or hunters. The debate then took another turn because people realized that the way the bill was drafted created a lot of problems. In fact, people who had no intention of doing anything illegal could be charged because they had an unregistered weapon in their possession. Basically, there were a lot of problems.

For years, the Conservative government promised at each election, and each year, that when it came into power, it would get rid of the firearms registry and in particular the long gun registry, in order to solve the problem faced by hunters.

What did the NDP team assigned to this bill do when it received Bill C-19? We looked at it in what I would call an intelligent and sensible way. We stated that we understood that the government had made certain promises and we wondered what could be done to try and meet everybody’s needs. In other words, we asked ourselves how we would alleviate the fear in the minds of hunters, collectors, and other groups, and remove the idea that they were common criminals. At the same time, we asked ourselves how we could protect the public.

This was of course considered in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. The committee, as its name suggests, is responsible for the public’s safety. This is the perspective from which we considered Bill C-19.

The committee studied the bill, and now it is before the House at report stage. Colleagues from other parties presented amendments. For technical reasons, the NDP cannot present amendments in the House because it already did so in committee. The amendments had to be presented by other parties. Regardless of who presented the amendments, they were presented not to irritate Canadians or the Conservative government, but to help improve this bill.

That being said, every time an amendment was presented, it was flatly dismissed. The government never even tried to understand why the amendment was being presented. Since we began studying Bill C-19, associations of chiefs of police and various provincial ministers have said that they would like to maintain the information in the registry. I am not the one who said that; I am not an expert on the subject. They were the ones who explained what they do with the gun registry and the data, which are not perfect, of course.

All the same, as I have said since the beginning, no one can plead his own turpitude. The government itself imposed a moratorium on updating the data. That is why some data are not in the registry. It may not be completely up to date, but if it can save just one life, I think it would be worth the effort.

This government is so deeply ideological that it refuses to listen to reason. That is what makes me so sad about this debate. Since the beginning, I have tried to be as open as possible to the arguments on both sides, beyond the promises politicians sometimes make to the people. That is called leadership. We might have some of the same ideas as our constituents, but we have to take action when we know that something is illegal and that it will cause a problem.

The Quebec public safety minister asked that the data pertaining to Quebec be transferred. This is harmless and does not bother anyone. Quebec wants to maintain the registry and assume the costs. It would not cost the federal government one cent. It would cost even less than destroying the data. In fact, we have been told by information privacy experts that destroying the data will be quite the job. You do not just push a button and say it no longer exists.

Millions of pieces of data are used by our police forces. People who oppose the registry may be convinced to say they have never used it. People told us that they do not use the data, but, if it at least protects the public, it is worth it. We now know that some types of long guns will no longer be tracked after the data are destroyed and the long gun registry abolished. The minister opposite has made this the fight of her life, and whether she likes it or not, we will no longer know where these guns are. Do not bother showing me the proof of purchase because if someone decides to transfer their gun to someone else, or if I knock on my neighbour's door and tell him that I like his gun and want to buy it, there will be no record of it.

There are huge holes in this bill. The government refuses at all costs to listen to reason or to even try to ensure that all the holes will be plugged. This is all I want, and it is all that the NDP, the official opposition, wants.

We must bow to the inevitable. The Conservatives will put an end to the long gun registry but, for goodness' sake, let them plug the holes in the bill and listen to Quebec. Quebec is telling them that it wants to keep the long gun registry. It is not right to claim that the data and the registry are the same thing, and that we need only erase the data to abolish the registry.

The issue was that people were treated as criminals. By removing this criminalization we can solve the problem for those people who are waiting for the bill to pass. At the same time, we can ensure public safety.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.

First, although we are on different sides on this issue, I appreciate that she has been able to address this and we have been able to disagree in a very respectful way. She was at the committee meetings when front-line officers appeared and told us over and over again that they did not use the registry and, as some of them put it, it actually became a danger to police officers who put any kind of faith in the very flawed data. She admits that the data is flawed. We may have agreements or disagreements on why it is flawed, but it is flawed. We all agree on that.

Would she not agree that front-line officers are putting their lives on the line if they look at that information and put any kind of credence into it when making a tactical decision?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is consistent with what I was saying earlier, and I also appreciate the fact that we are able to have this type of discussion.

Indeed, some people came to committee and said such things. The police officers were very clear. Those I spoke to later on, in order to get a better understanding of how the system worked, said the same thing. When they know that a person is in the registry, they are not going to knock on the door or enter carelessly because they saw that there is no registered long gun at that address.

There was an absolutely unfortunate incident, and I do not have enough time to explain how it had absolutely nothing to do with the registry. Facts can be manipulated to make them say what you want.

In committee, I kept asking the same question: if the registry saves just one life, is it not worth keeping? That question embarrassed even the witnesses who sided most with the government's position, and they did not know how to answer it.

Then we were treated to this grand fiction whereby the registry was responsible for a person's death. By all accounts, that is absolutely not true.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I remember a bilateral meeting that we had here in Parliament with members of Mexico's parliament. Among other topics, we spoke about the violence in the region and, in particular, the violence in Mexico. One thing that struck me the most was when one member asked what Canada was going to do after it eliminated the firearms registry. The illegal export of these weapons to Mexico was now going to be even easier. What did Canada intend to do in this regard?

What does the hon. member think we should tell Mexico?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am short on answers, which is rare for me.

Honestly, this is a real problem. Some senior public servants are saying that Canada will even have a lot of difficulty respecting some of its international firearms agreements. These are other concerns, other loopholes in the legislation that we have gone to great lengths to try to fix.

When someone completely closes the door on all positive suggestions, it is quite difficult to break down that door. Unfortunately, the legislation will have to be amended a few years from now when all the problems it will have created have come to light.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, for many years now law-abiding Canadians who use rifles and shotguns for legitimate reasons have spoken out against the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry created in the 1990s by the former Liberal government.

Last May, this government promised to end the long gun registry once and for all. In the Speech from the Throne we repeated this pledge to Canadians. Now with Bill C-19, I am proud to say we are honouring our commitments.

We are honouring our commitment to Canadians, and I am very proud to say that I will be honouring a personal pledge I made to my constituents in Wild Rose when I stand to vote in favour of scrapping the registry.

The long gun registry was ill-conceived from the outset. Under the guise of urban gun control, the Liberals long gun registry really only served to penalize ranchers and farmers who required and responsibly used firearms as a tool to do their jobs. As we all know, criminals do not register their guns.

It is important, first to see this bill in context. The proposed legislation builds on a long string of law and order initiatives that extends back over five years. During this time, we have created the mandatory minimum prison sentences for serious gun crimes. We have created a new broad-based offence to target drive-by and other intentional shootings. We have given the provinces and territories more resources for law enforcement. This is to name only a few initiatives.

Canadians gave us a strong mandate to keep our streets and our communities safe, and that is exactly what we have done. In June we reintroduced legislation to tackle the scourge of human smuggling. Last September we tabled the safe streets and communities act. That legislation has a range of initiatives designed to extend greater protection to the most vulnerable members of society, while further enhancing the ability of our justice system to hold criminals accountable for their actions. It increases offender accountability, ends house arrest for serious crimes, better protects society from violent and repeat young offenders, and increases penalties for serious drug crimes.

Bill C-19 as proposed fits in with our effective agenda of tackling crime.

First, it ends the discrimination against rural Canadians for their legitimate use of shotguns and rifles. In so doing, it will eliminate the element of the current gun control system that is the most wasteful and ineffective.

Second, it will retain the tools needed to allow us to focus our attention against real threats to public safety. In so doing, it will free up substantial resources that we can invest to further bolster crime prevention and law enforcement.

I want to highlight evidence that reinforces these arguments, but first let me briefly explain why the bill before us is so necessary and overdue. It is no secret that Canadian taxpayers have long protested the exorbitant cost of the long gun registry, and rightfully so. Indeed, the state broadcaster, the CBC, has estimated that the total cost of the long gun registry is in excess of $2 billion. This is a substantial sum of course and it is a sum that we could have invested much more efficiently and with much greater impact in either crime prevention efforts or law enforcement.

Still, if the long gun registry actually contributed to enhancing public safety, perhaps a case could be made to keep it. However, the fact is that it has never stopped a single crime or saved a single life. This is not about having a system that is better than nothing. As the chief of Abbotsford Police said in his testimony before the public safety committee, “a flawed system is worse than no system”.

Defenders of the registry like to make the case that police consult the registry frequently in order to determine if firearms are present in a residence in which they were called to or are investigating. The fact is that the registry data is called up automatically every time a police officer runs a search from his or her cruiser.

That is what accounts for the number and frequency of hits on the registry, not the fact that police officers are relying on the registry for their safety. Police officers are in fact trained to assume there is a firearm or some other weapon on hand whenever they respond to a complaint. Indeed, it would be foolish of them not to assume there was a firearm present.

Imagine the consequences if police officers fully trusted the long gun registry to confirm whether there was a firearm on the premises, only to find themselves facing down the barrel of an unregistered gun that they could not have detected by searching the registry. As we on this side of the House have said repeatedly, criminals do not register their guns.

On top of the waste and ineffectiveness, the long gun registry places an unfair burden on law-abiding citizens in rural communities, such as people who use rifles and shotguns to protect livestock or to provide food for their families. The ponds and woodlands of rural Canada are a long way from the Jane-Finch corridor. Making farmers and hunters register their long guns will not keep people in downtown Toronto any safer.

While there is no evidence to support the long gun registry, there is plenty to show the long gun registry is ineffective. I will take a few moments to break some time-honoured myths.

First, most violent gun crime in Canada does not involve long guns. Between 1975 and 2006, for example, Statistics Canada showed that the use of rifles or shotguns in homicides declined by 86%. In 2006 alone, three times as many victims were killed with a handgun than with rifles or shotguns. These statistics are no aberration. In 2009, out of the 179 firearms homicides, almost 60% of those crimes were committed with handguns.

Furthermore, where long guns were actually used in violent crime, the vast majority of the firearms were unregistered. Between 2005 and 2009, for example, police recovered 253 firearms that were used to commit a homicide. Of these, less than one-third, 31% in fact, were actually listed with the Canadian firearms registry.

All this means that law-abiding citizens are spending time and money to comply with the law, but at the same time, and this by now should come as no surprise to anyone, criminals who use long guns do not follow the rules of the registry. This goes to the heart of why the long gun registry has never worked.

People who are willing to use guns to commit crimes or engage in violent acts are not likely to be the first in line to register their guns. In fact, it is quite the contrary. The result is an ineffective system that discriminates for no good reason against legitimate long gun owners and does nothing to stem the tide of illegal firearms crossing the border.

With all this mind, I will recap the provisions of the new bill and how it would address these issues.

The most important component of Bill C-19, and the one that has been so long awaited, is the end of the registration for non-restricted firearms. This will relieve the disproportionate burden on rural Canadians and free up valuable resources to invest in crime prevention and enforcement.

At the same time, the bill would retain the gun licensing system, which this government believes is the most effective form of gun control. Licences would still be required to own any type of firearm and applicants would still need to undergo a background check and pass a firearms safety course.

Finally, the bill would address a very important piece of housekeeping. As one can imagine, the registry has demanded mountains of paperwork from law-abiding citizens. This has been a source of contention, and now with the imminent demise of the registry, it has also become a source of concern. Canadians are worried about what will happen with these records. Will they be taken over by another government organization?

We know that the NDP and the Liberals, if given the chance, would overturn the will of voters and resurrect the gun registry. I am pleased to say that Bill C-19 would require the complete and absolute destruction of all records related to the registration of non-restricted firearms contained within the firearms registry and under the control of the chief firearms officers. This would preserve the privacy of all registrants and would give long gun owners the peace of mind they deserve after so many years of exasperation.

The proposed legislation is long overdue. It promises to eliminate a wasteful and ineffective long gun registry that penalizes law-abiding citizens in rural Canada. It would do so without weakening our gun control programs.

The vast majority of constituents in my riding of Wild Rose have long sought the demise of the long gun registry. In fact, in a survey that I did recently, 97% of them showed their support for ending the long gun registry. I know that many members on the other side are loath to admit it, but they would have to admit, if they were being honest, that many of their constituents have long called for that as well.

I would ask that all members of this chamber join me in supporting Bill C-19 to end the wasteful, ineffective long gun registry once and for all.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech very carefully, and I thank him for making it. I must admit, I simply do not understand why he continues to support the bill in its current form, especially since we made suggestions repeatedly in previous Parliaments to try to find some common ground. The main sticking point has to do with decriminalizing the failure to register a firearm.

Many of my friends are hunters, and I completely understand why someone who owns a firearm might feel harassed, or as though they were being treated like a potential criminal, for having to fill out a questionnaire. However, considering the value and usefulness of the firearms registry to police officers, families and even firearms users themselves, since it allows police to intervene safely, why is this government putting our law enforcement officials in danger by excluding these weapons?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not think the hon. member was paying close enough attention during my remarks, because I clearly addressed the question he has asked.

It is very clear that police officers are trained to always assume there is a firearm present when they respond to a complaint at a residence, whatever kind of complaint it might be. For them to rely on the long gun registry, as many police officers have testified, would be a foolish mistake on their part because the registry data is incomplete. It has been a wasteful, ineffective registry. The police simply would not be able to rely on the data in the registry to keep them safe and to ensure there is not a firearm.

As I stated, in less than one-third of cases where guns were used in violent crimes, they were not registered guns.

It is very clear that police officers, based on their training and based on what they know about the gun registry, cannot rely on the data. That is why we are going to end the wasteful, ineffective long gun registry once and for all.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I just do not know where to begin with all of the inaccuracies by that member. I guess he believes that by repeating the incantation about the firearms registry it will make it so.

This useful and effective firearms registry accounts for a 23% decline in suicides by firearms. In fact, five times as many firearms-related suicides use long guns as use handguns. It has been effective. It has been effective in reducing homicides, which have had a 41% decline since 1995, whereas homicides with handguns and illegal sawed-off shotguns have been flat during that time.

There has been so much inaccuracy. I want to ask the member about his comment about how expensive the long gun registry is to maintain. It is the RCMP itself that has said it will save between $1 million and $4 million a year to scrap the registry.

I wonder if the member could tell us, with that kind of saving, $1 million to $4 million a year, how many years it would take to save up that money to where the President of the Treasury Board could use it, as he did with his Muskoka madness of putting $50 million into his riding for pork-barrel projects, unrelated to the intent of the funds that he used.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member of the Liberal Party if she could answer a question for me. When the Liberal government brought in the registry, the claim was that it would cost about $2 million. We all know that bloated to over $2 billion, a cost overrun of one thousand times.

Imagine what we could have done with that $2 billion her party's government spent to set up this very wasteful, very ineffective long gun registry. What could we have done with that $2 billion to prevent crime, to bolster law enforcement in this country? I can only imagine how much safer this country would be if we had used that $2 billion in a way that would actually improve public safety.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-19, which would remove the requirement to register long guns and would destroy existing registrations.

First, it is important to remember that the gun registry was created in 1995 following the École Polytechnique tragedy. As a woman who grew up and went to university in Montreal, I am very familiar with that event. Just as tragic is the government's failure to learn from it. I would like to quote Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the École Polytechnique massacre:

The firearms registry is a practical means that Canadian society has developed to try and prevent another slaughter of the magnitude of the one that occurred at Polytechnique. In honour of our dead sisters, we tried to take concrete actions that would meet a real societal need.

I believe that gun control is one of the most effective ways to prevent crime, particularly violence against women. According to a study by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, an estimated 2,100 lives have been saved since the introduction of the gun registry. I would like to quote the Government of Quebec's advisory committee on domestic violence:

Eliminating the gun registry, a tool that helps authorities prevent and intervene in domestic violence, would be a major loss. The police use the gun registry every day when they are called on to intervene in domestic violence situations and when the courts order the seizure of firearms.

One-third of all women killed by their husbands are shot to death. In most cases, the murder weapon is a legal rifle or shotgun. Since the introduction of the gun registry, the incidence of spousal murder has dropped by 50%.

Quebec's National Assembly has spoken out in favour of maintaining the gun registry several times since the Conservative government was elected in 2006. Recently, the Government of Quebec clearly stated its intention to take on more responsibility with respect to gun control. The federal government refused to co-operate, so on December 13, 2011, Quebec's public safety minister, Robert Dutil, announced that he would ask the courts to prevent the abolition of the registry and preserve the files therein.

In order to avoid having to start again from scratch, the Government of Quebec would simply like to have access to the existing information. After all, Quebec taxpayers helped pay for the creation of this registry. However, for ideological reasons, the Conservative government stubbornly insists on destroying that information. What a waste. It makes no sense to simply destroy this information, which is so useful to police officers.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police specifically asked the Conservatives to keep those records and make the information available to police forces in an effort to help save lives and trace guns. I recently received a letter from the president of CAW local 1004, Michel Lepage, who criticized the Conservative government's wastefulness. I would like to quote a few passages from the letter, because I think it shows a great deal of common sense:

This bill is an absolute disgrace for Canada. Once again, the Conservatives have proven that they are not governing in the interest of Canadians....The [Conservative] government is taking us back more than 20 years.... As a Canadian, I feel betrayed by this government, which is going to waste all the money that has been invested over the years in order to help police forces track these weapons.

Destroying the records proves that the issue of the cost of the system is a false pretext the Conservatives are using to justify destroying the registry. If they truly wanted to ensure that taxpayers get the best value for their money, they would forward the information to the Quebec government, to avoid destroying information that has already been paid for.

We are not stupid. Eliminating the long gun registry and its records has nothing to do with the cost of the system. This is an ideological decision, pure and simple. The Conservatives' attitude towards gun control is appalling.

They have no intention of coming up with a Canadian solution, a solution based on compromise. All that interests them is partisan games. Their policy is dividing Canadians and, unfortunately, they are using this issue as a funding tool to fill up their election war chest. They are doing this on the backs of Canadians, Quebeckers and people who are likely to be victims of violence, such as women.

We have very serious reservations about Bill C-19 in the NDP. We believe that the problems relating to the registry must be addressed by strengthening the laws controlling the possession of firearms. We want to respond to the concerns of aboriginal and rural populations, while at the same time ensuring that our police forces have the tools they need to keep our communities safe. It must be said again, those on the front lines in the fight against crime, police officers, are calling for the firearms registry to be kept.

Police officers use the Canadian firearms registry more than 17,000 times each and every day. According to a survey, 74% of police officers who had used the registry stated that the search results were of benefit to their major operational activities. These statistics alone prove the usefulness of this registry.

The NDP is going to continue to rally Canadians in order to come up with solutions, rather than doing what the Conservatives do and playing political games that divide the population. The challenge that awaits us is to repair the damage caused by the parties that have used this issue as a political tool for their own partisan purposes. Canadians are counting on us to keep them safe. The firearms registry saves lives, and destroying it is yet another irresponsible action on the part of this government, a government that is not in sync with the public and arbitrarily plays with people's lives.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the member's speech. She suggests that we are using this as a political tool and dividing Canadians. What about the members of her caucus who actually did vote with us? They have suggested that they represent their constituents. How does she explain those people who did want to vote with us and that those who did ended up being penalized for that?

Also, does she not recognize what we have done for women with many aspects of our tough on crime legislation, how many of those pieces of legislation are put in place to help women affected by violence, particularly the trafficking bill where serious offenders are put in jail? That is our agenda. We wonder where they have been if they suggest this is the only bill that would protect women from violence. I would suggest that she do some homework.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, with the omnibus Bill C-10, the Conservatives are trying to create criminals rather than help victims and rehabilitate criminals. If the member wants to know what the NDP is proposing, here are a couple of measures. We suggest that failing to register a gun be decriminalized for a first offence and that the person involved be fined instead. This is a proposal we put forward in 2010.

Moreover, we suggest that the law state that owners of long guns should not have to absorb the cost of registration. We also propose that disclosing information about the owners of firearms be prohibited, except for the purpose of protecting the public, or when ordered by a court or by law.

These are but a few recommendations. The NDP is looking for conciliatory solutions that help address the concerns of many Canadians across the country. I hope that my colleague is going to propose the same solutions.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I look to the member to provide some comment with respect to the Quebec government and other jurisdictions that have indicated that they want to gain access to the data bank. The Province of Quebec in particular, the province my colleague is from, is going to have to generate a significant amount of tax dollars to recreate a data bank if it wants to move ahead and establish its own registry.

I wonder if the member could provide comment or advice to the government from her perspective as to what she believes the Government of Canada should be doing to accommodate the Province of Quebec with respect to that data bank.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have seen time and time again in this Parliament the Conservatives downloading costs onto the provinces and municipalities and refusing to help them with the bill.

That is why the NDP has proposed various changes to Bill C-19 at report stage. Notably, we have proposed abolishing clause 29, as we have heard police chiefs in provinces such as Quebec indicate their desire to retain data to help protect public safety.

The Conservative government has to stop downloading costs and has to help the provinces and municipalities foot the bills. We have seen this as well with the omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10. The government keeps putting forward laws and forcing the provinces as well as municipalities to pay for these enormous bills.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Aspin Conservative Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to add my support to Bill C-19, Ending the Long-gun Registry Act.

The proposed legislation is the product of extensive input by concerned Canadians, from academics and police officers to firearms enthusiasts to those concerned about establishing real, effective gun control. They have written letters, organized town hall meetings and, most importantly, voted for this Conservative government. I want to thank them all for sharing their thoughts and time, and for giving us a strong, stable national majority Conservative government.

For the benefit of those who may be new to the House, let me briefly recap the provisions of the bill.

I am pleased to say that the proposed legislation would eliminate the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all. It would also destroy all data in the Canadian firearms registry and under the control of the chief firearms officers to preserve the privacy of Canadians. At the same time, it would retain the licensing system, which this government believes is the most effective form of gun control.

While this is not a complex piece of legislation, the bill has generated much discussion. I think it would be instructive to look at both sides of the argument. In their testimony, supporters of the long gun registry have dusted off several tired arguments about the long gun registry's benefits.

The first myth is that the long gun registry saves lives. There is no evidence that the long gun registry has stopped a single crime or saved a single life.

The second myth is that the long gun registry promotes responsible use of long guns. This will come as news to my constituents who have never registered their long guns, and to those who know the hundreds of years of experience prior to the introduction of the long gun registry. As far as I know, no one has ever become more responsible by filling out paperwork. The very suggestion is patronizing in the extreme.

The third myth is that the long gun registry is essential because it contains a comprehensive record of the number and type of guns in Canada, where they are located and who owns them. This is simply wishful thinking. In their testimony to the committee, police told us that the long gun registry was unreliable and inaccurate. As one detective from Saskatchewan said:

The registry does not indicate where firearms are stored or who may have control of the firearm, nor does it denote ownership. Tens of thousands of firearms are registered inaccurately.... Many firearms in the registry have multiple registrations—

This testimony should put to rest the idea that police officers can rely on the long gun registry to keep them safe. As the chief of the Abbotsford police put it:

—a flawed system is worse than any system.

The last myth is that pulling the plug on the long gun registry will unleash a flood of violence on our streets. This is preposterous for several reasons. First, the true heart of gun control in Canada is our licensing system, and the bill before us would keep that system intact. Anyone wanting to own or use any firearm must still pass a thorough background check, as well as a firearms safety course. Second, the RCMP would still maintain a registry of all restricted and prohibited firearms. This includes handguns and automatic weapons, which is what criminals tend to use.

I will now cite testimony by critics of the long gun registry. This will take some time because there are just so darn many of them. I will start with voices from the wilderness.

How do the sportsmen and women who enjoy heading into the woods for wild game hunting feel about the long gun registry? They are sick and tired of being treated as either potential criminals or irresponsible children.

In the same neck of the woods are the outfitters and tourist operators. These are the folks who make their living selling outdoor gear and hunting licences and who run lodges in remote areas. They sent a strong message that long guns were an important part of the rural and northern economy and that the long gun registry made it more difficult for them to make a living.

We must not forget those who need to hunt, aboriginal people, who use long guns to provide food for their families. Hunting is not an option for them; it is a necessity. Will we continue to make them criminals as well?

I have already mentioned that many in the policing community think the long gun registry is unreliable. Why do they feel this way? Because registering their long guns is not exactly a priority for criminals. I would say it ranks quite low on their to do list. In any case, police tell us criminals prefer to use handguns when committing homicides, not rifles or shotguns. Therefore, the long gun registry becomes moot.

A sergeant from Nova Scotia summed up these points in his testimony to the committee, when he said:

—the long-gun registry does not help police stop violence or make these communities safer from violence. And there's no evidence that it has ever saved a single life on its own merits.

There is one group that too often gets overlooked in the debate over the long gun registry. I am speaking about elite athletes who take part in shooting events at Commonwealth games, world cups, world championships and the Olympics. Whether it is the biathlon, or skeet or trap shooting, these athletes put in countless hours of training to hone their skills and performance so they can be the best and do this country proud.

How do we pay their sacrifice and hard work? With scorn. At the very moment, these high performance athletes are flashing their Canadian passports at our border. At the very moment when they could be basking in pride and representing our country in international competition, they are instead worried about being treated as common criminals.

Diana Carbrera, a former member of Canada's national shooting team, told us what she experienced each time when she went through Canadian customs. She said there was “a primal cringe every time I am asked for my papers, knowing what could be next and fearing what might happen”.

What could happen is delays, temporary detention, the confiscation of her gun, missed flights, missed competitions, the shame of having her hopes and dreams dashed, years of training down the drain and years of wondering what might have been. This is all because she has to show officials her long gun registration papers and they may, as she said, apply personal interpretations to our confusing law. Handing the paper over for inspection already makes the athlete feel like a criminal. It creates added anxiety and stress at the worst possible moment.

Is it not time we afford some respect to hundreds of farmers and those who use long guns to provide for their families? Is it not time we recognize that long guns have been, and remain, an important part of rural and the northern economy? I think it is high time we did because the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of disbanding the long gun registry. It does not keep front-line officers safer. It does not prevent crime. It makes criminals out of law-abiding citizens who are simply going about their business, whether it is shooting natural predators in a field, hunting for wild game, or hunting for a medal in decision competitions.

The long gun registry has been missing a target for many years. It is wasteful, ineffective and, as I illustrated, a thorn in the side of a variety of groups from all walks of life. It is time to adjust our sites to eliminate the long gun registry once and for all and focus on real gun control and real crime prevention.

Therefore, I urge all hon. members to join with me in supporting Bill C-19.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech and he might think me a bit of a heretic. I grew up in rural Nova Scotia. My grandfather was a gunsmith. My family owns a number of long guns and I enjoy skeet shooting on occasion myself. However, I think this registry should be saved.

I have deep concerns that when we have gun deaths in the future, that member will have to stand and justify why the Conservatives got rid of this registry, if anything could have been done to prevent future deaths.

Could the member give us a glimpse of how he would handle that issue in the future, if it unfortunately arises?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Aspin Conservative Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would submit that the hon. member is an exception rather than the rule. I have sat quite diligently on the public safety committee and listened to much testimony. I honestly believe what I say, that this registry is a complete and utter waste of money. We could have been using the money elsewhere.

There are licensing provisions in place which will not change. I do not think it matters one iota. In fact, I am confident it will not matter one iota.

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the Conservative members on this vital and effective tool for keeping our streets safer and I fail to understand the logic.

They seem to believe that having less information about our demographics by not having a mandatory long form census is good for public policy-making in Canada.

They also believe in having less information about the ownership and whereabouts of deadly weapons, weapons that, yes, are used by peaceful Canadians for legal purposes, but they are also used to break the law and result in violence and death. How can having less information about the ownership and whereabouts of these deadly weapons actually make Canadians and our streets safer?

Ending the Long-Gun Registry ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Aspin Conservative Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is not simply a question of less information, it is, quite frankly, a question of the duplication of information. This information is already contained in the licensing and firearms provisions.

I sat diligently through all the committee meetings and it was pointed out to us that the information in the firearms registry was very inaccurate. If it were to be useful, we could not rely on it. It is totally inaccurate.

The licensing provisions will be what we rely on as a government and we will not waste one more dollar in investment in this inaccurate and duplicated service.