Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in support of Bill C-42. Also, I am very happy to be joined by my colleague and friend from Wetaskiwin.
We have a number of members in the House of Commons on this side of the House who join me on the hunting and angling caucus. They do a lot of great work to promote and preserve Canada's rich and proud heritage of hunting, trapping, and sport shooting, and of course, the farmers who use in firearms in Canada as a day-to-day tool. They support a traditional and positive way of life and, indeed, a healthy way of life.
I will spend a bit of time talking about the value of firearms and what role they play in the country and then specifically about Bill C-42.
I was pleased to substitute on the public safety committee when we were reviewing the bill and the committee was undertaking the study. We heard a lot of things from witnesses, and one of the things that stood out for me was some testimony from Greg Farrant, who represents the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. Mr. Farrant is tuned in, clearly, to a lot of the debate that has gone on with the bill. He understood what was going on and in fact provided testimony as the government was introducing legislation to get rid of the long gun registry.
The one point he made that really stood out was his reflection on the size of the community that engages in hunting and trapping activities in the province of Ontario and right across Canada. He said that we always get branded, and I say “we”, because I come from a long, proud tradition and history of hunting. I grew up in the Yukon territory doing that as a wonderful way of life as well and will well into my future. I say “we” in that sense. We get branded by the opposition as being part of the gun lobby, as though that is said in some sort of pejorative sense. That is what Greg Farrant said. He said that we are always branded as a gun lobby, as though that is a bad thing.
Let us talk about what the gun lobby is. We say it with pride, and we say it with the understanding, on this side of the House, of what exactly the gun lobby represents in Canada. It is not the negative, pejorative term that anyone should hide their head from and be ashamed of. What does that gun lobby do? That gun lobby participates in hunting heritage activities. It contributes millions of dollars to conservation in this country. In fact, a recent study from the United States indicates that the group four times more likely than any other group to put their sweat equity and their cash into conservation is the hunting group. That is right. Hunters are four times more likely than any other group to put their money, their time, and their effort into the valuable principles of conservation. That is something they should be applauded for.
Instead, in return, what the opposition does is call them the gun lobby, as though that is some sort of evil moniker they should hide from and have a shadow over them for.
I say that they need to stand and be proud of that one simple fact. They are the ones out there on the land. They are the ones who first recognized the need for the protection and preservation of our environmental heritage. They are the ones who recognize the depletion or the need for conservation practices and principles in a particular area or a particular region for a particular species. It is not only the species they hunt. It is the species, the streams, the habitats, the lakes, and the forests that contribute to the life processes of the wildlife populations in our country. Those people are the ones who are responsible for the abundance, the protection, and the preservation of the wildlife, lakes, land, and water in our nation.
There is no accidental abundance of wildlife in Canada. There is no accidental protection and preservation of the wilderness. There is no accidental protection and preservation of the lakes, rivers, and streams in this country.
How does that happen? Where does that come from? It is from the gun lobby: the hunters, the anglers, the trappers, the sport shooters, and the athletes, the people who own guns and carry guns and spend time in the wilderness.
Where do we get our safety laws from? We did not create them here in the House of Commons, did we? No. Anyone who owns a gun in this country knows, as ethical, safe, law-abiding people in Canada, that they were the first to promote and teach safe ways of handling firearms. They were the ones who developed the 10 rules of firearms safety that those on the other side of the House could not list three of but that probably 90% of the members on this side of the House know inside and out, as though they are a bible to us. They were created by the hunting community and not by politicians.
We can thank the gun lobby. We can thank the conservationists. We can thank the hunters, the trappers, the sport shooters, and the athletes in the country who use firearms in a safe, responsible, and ethical way every single day in this country for the fundamental rules we now call laws.
Is it not ironic that we are here standing up to defend, change, or alter the very laws that this community itself generated? That is because it understands that firearms come with responsibilities. They are a tool to protect and preserve an important way of life, but they do come with responsibilities. It was those groups, not the House of Commons and not the provincial legislatures, that first created those laws.
I am proud to talk about the measures we are taking in Bill C-42 to ensure that those people who created those laws and do so much for the conservation, preservation, and protection of a great way of life in this country are not burdened by red tape that is unnecessary, are not considered criminals at first blush, and are not considered criminals because of paperwork errors.
Bill C-42 will merge the possession and POL licences to give people more opportunities to own firearms, to simplify things, and to reduce some of the red tape. It will merge some of the ATT conditions in just one licence so that there is a condition for that licence instead of a whole bunch of other papers of authorization, which can inadvertently trip people up and in fact make it more difficult for law enforcement to determine whether a person is in legal possession of a restricted firearm when he or she is going to and from a range. The bill contains sensible measures so that people can transport firearms to shooting ranges, gun shops, a police station, or a point of entry, all things they could do in the past but that can now all be on one licence instead of multiple licences.
Bill C-42 will also take another step to balance responsible firearm ownership and public safety. It will introduce stricter penalties for people convicted of domestic violence and stricter conditions for people involved in violent behaviour and violent activity. Who asked for that? It is the gun lobby, the firearms community, those responsible gun owners. They are every bit as offended, if not more offended, by the illegal and unlawful use of firearms as anyone in this House could possibly be, because it affects that community greatly when someone steps out of line or uses a firearm in an illegal and inappropriate manner. That is not what they taught long before we put laws in place, and it is not what they teach in the present day. Of course they are supportive of the stricter public safety measures we are putting in place. At the same time, they do not want to be treated as criminals for simple paperwork errors.
The bill will reduce red tape and formalize some of the provisions that did not have clear guidelines before, such as the rules and regulations around the determination of what the CFOs can do. Arbitrary decisions were being made from one province to the next that left everyone in a state of confusion, because they were not clear-cut. This legislation will make clear what CFOs can do and what terms and conditions they can and cannot put in place so that firearms owners, the general public, and the law enforcement community have certainty and we do not see decisions like the one made by a CFO in Ontario, who arbitrarily decided that any firearms owner wanting to go to a range with a restricted weapon needed an invitation from another range. That was not spelled out in any piece of legislation at all. It was an invention of a CFO. Clearly, firearms owners need to know what is a reasonable restriction and a reasonable condition on their licence that cannot be made up. This bill will provide that.
I will leave members with this thought. One in every five Canadians participates in hunting, trapping, and sport shooting activities in this country. They contribute $15.5 billion to the Canadian economy. This side of the House, this party, and this government will stand up for law-abiding firearms owners every single day. While I would like to encourage the members of the opposition to get on board and help support these measures in Bill C-42, it was clear from their testimony at committee that they have no intention of doing that, which is all the better for us. We will be the party that stands up for law-abiding firearms owners.