Madam Speaker, on behalf of my constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country, it is a pleasure to have this opportunity to show my support for Bill C-19. I have personally waited a number of years for this opportunity to stand in this place and say with confidence that the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry will soon be gone.
Our government has been quite clear since we were first elected that we would take a stand and do what was right. We said that we would do what was right for all law-abiding Canadians. We said that we would abolish a system that criminalizes law-abiding Canadians based solely on where they live and the tools they use to make a living. Canadians have now given us a strong mandate to do that.
The debate is not new. Our government has tried on several occasions to achieve the results that Canadians want, as have several hon. members. At this time I want to recognize the efforts of the hon. members for Yorkton—Melville and Portage—Lisgar who have worked tirelessly for many years to do away with Canada's long gun registry. Today is their day as much as it is a great day for all Canadians, a day to rejoice.
I would ask all hon. members of this House to think back to the news coverage they have seen in the past few days. I would ask them to think more specifically about those news stories that covered gun violence on our streets. In many cases, when we see images of gun crime on television, it usually involves gang members settling scores or fighting for drug turf in large city neighbours. It usually involves brazen acts on street corners or in parks or even in schools.
Last summer in my riding, on a Sunday afternoon, it happened. We had open fire from gang members in the middle of a beautiful August day in a tourist city, a city of just over 100,000 people. People from all around the world had gathered to enjoy a beautiful Sunday afternoon. My daughter happened to be working at the hotel that day and I thank the good Lord every day that she survived. The staff ran into the rooms, called 911 and took frantic customers, patrons from all walks of life, to safety. It was a horrific situation. It is these situations that gun control must target. This must be stopped and our government has certainly taken a number of steps over the last six years to do that.
This government is convinced that asking hunters to fill out forms to register their long guns in a computer database does not prevent these types of crimes from taking place in our communities. Our government is not alone in taking such a stand.
Some hon. members have indicated that police speak with one voice in support of the long gun registry. That, however, is simply not the case. For instance, in April 2006, more than 11 years after the Firearms Act was introduced, the president of the Winnipeg Police Association said, “The Winnipeg Police Association has never supported the long-gun registry”.
More recently, other front-line officers have added their voice to the debate indicating that Canada's long gun registry does nothing to prevent gun crimes or even to protect the safety of police officers.
Abbotsford police chief, Bob Rich, an urbanite with no hunting background, has been quoted in the London Free Press as saying that the long gun registry completely misses the mark and does nothing to address the real gun problems in his community. What he said was that 90% of all recovered guns in Abbotsford were smuggled into Canada from Washington state and that the debate we should be having in this country was about how to address that issue. I think that is of vital importance.
Madam Speaker, yourself coming from British Columbia, you are well aware of the fact that guns and cocaine are going across the border. It is a very serious issue and it is something we need to be focused on, be aware of and working on with other pieces of legislation with the support of all members of this House.
Chief Rich is not alone. When Calgary police chief, Rick Hanson, testified at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness last spring he said that the registry was flawed and that it failed to tackle the real issue of gun violence. He went on to say that the registry:
...falls short of making the type of positive impact this country needs to be safer. No direct links have been made between the existing gun registry and the behaviour of criminals.
I have some more from front-line police officers weighing in on the debate. Retired police officer, Sergeant Michael Mays, who spent 6 of his 33 years on the Toronto Police Force, working the dangerous Jane and Finch area, wrote in a letter to the Toronto Star that he found the long gun registry “ terribly flawed and a waste of time, energy and money”.
Sergeant Mays added that the information in the registry was “outdated, inaccurate and completely unreliable”, and that for any officer ”to make a decision at a call based on registry information would be foolish at best and deadly at worst”, as my hon. colleague recently stated.
The verdict is in. The long gun registry does nothing to prevent gun crimes, protect Canadians or even protect law enforcement officers.
Again, retired police sergeant Michael Mays noted in his letter to the Toronto Star that:
A [police] check of the registry is done automatically every time an officer is dispatched to an address, wanted or not. From its inception, I was advised not to depend on it to make decisions.
What we can deduce from all this is that however well-intentioned it may have been, the long gun registry is completely ineffective and does nothing to prevent gun crimes.
Taxpayers were originally told that the registry would cost something in the order of $2 million, since the rest would be made up by fees. All of us know full well that the state broadcaster has stated the cost to be well in excess of $2 billion. Two million, two billion. M and B. That is a big difference.
Today, we know there are over seven million long guns legally registered but there are millions of others not legally registered. Some estimates put that figure at 16 million. Seven million registered and possibly 16 million unregistered. It is a guess at best. There are still a lot of guns that would need to be registered if the long gun registry remained intact.
We could add to that the cost of making the data current and correcting the data, as well as the police hours that would be spent enforcing its compliance. For what? For a tool that never has and never will have any impact in preventing gun crimes? For a tool that police officers do not rely on? For a tool that some police officers actually refer to as dangerous? For a tool that many police officers say has had absolutely no role in helping them to solve crimes? It is just goes on and on. We can and will do better.
As Al Koenig, president of the Calgary Police Association, noted in the Calgary Herald, the vast amount of money spent on the long gun registry could have been much better spent and put to use for the front-line police officers in Canada. He said that the program has had no effect on crime or acted in any way as a deterrent. He said, “despite the money spent, it should be scrapped.
That is what the legislation before us would do.
Our government believes in taking a balanced approach to firearms control, one that targets criminals and eases requirements on law-abiding firearm owners. We must not forget that the true aim of gun control is to prevent gun crime.
The measures we are taking to build a more effective firearms control system aim to achieve two goals. On the one hand, we want to crack down on individuals who would use firearms to harm others and, on the other hand, we want to ensure that individuals who want to obtain firearms for legitimate purposes are not a threat to others and know how to handle firearms.
We respect our law-abiding farmers, recreational hunters and sports shooters.
I met with members of the BC Wildlife Federation, which has about 38,000 individual members and represents over 100 member clubs in British Columbia, including the Oceola Fish and Game Club in my riding of Kelowna—Lake Country and the Kelowna and District Fish and Game Club. Its president, Rod Wiebe, put out a news release in the fall when we tabled this legislation, in which he stated:
The Prime Minister has consistently pledged to rid us of this expensive white elephant, which has cost Canadian taxpayers almost $2 billion dollars; the introduction of the legislation is tangible proof of that commitment. Supporters of the registry have repeatedly stated that it works, but they have consistently failed to provide clear evidence to support that contention.
The bottom line is that Canadians want results, not expensive showpieces. They want action on gun crime, not expensive boondoggles.
Bill C-19 is long overdue. I therefore ask all members of this House to work with this government to ensure its speedy passage.
In a little while hon. members will have an opportunity to stand up and do the right thing, to stand up for freedom for recreational hunters, farmers, fishermen, outdoors people, who appreciate the beauty of our country and our freedom, and support Bill C-19