House of Commons Hansard #217 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was scientific.


Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC


That, in the opinion of the House: (a) Canada already exceeds all the standards listed in United Nations resolution 55/255 concerning firearms (the resolution); (b) the regulations envisioned in the resolution would do nothing to enhance public safety, and would serve only to burden the law-abiding firearms community; and therefore, the government has already surpassed its obligations with respect to the resolution and is not required to take any further steps.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to speak to the motion that I have introduced in the House. Some may wonder what United Nations resolution 55/255 does and how it impacts on law-abiding Canadian firearms owners. The basics of the resolution is the criminalization of the trafficking of firearms, the establishment of a framework for marking firearms, the criminalization of the altering of those markings, and the registration of all firearms and all ammunition.

Canada has measures in place to protect public safety that are far superior to this. The difference is we operate with good old-fashioned Canadian common sense. Trafficking firearms is subject to a three-year mandatory prison sentence for a first offence under section 99 of the Criminal Code. Altering the serial number of a firearm is punishable by up to five years in prison, as per section 108 of the Criminal Code. We saw how the wasteful and ineffective the long gun registry did nothing to stop crime.

We have our own Canadian approach where law-abiding gun owners must adhere to a very strong set of rules, and it is working. According to Statistics Canada, the firearms homicide rate in Canada is at its lowest point in nearly 50 years. There has been a 30% decline in the rate of handgun homicides since 2008.

Our Conservative government is committed to protecting Canadians. At the same time, we are committed to standing up for law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters.

I firmly believe the UN has no business dictating that Canadians once again be subjected to what can only be described as a backdoor registry. Our government kept its 17-year-old promise and ended the last wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.

My intention in tabling this motion is to ensure that any door that could reopen the long gun registry remains firmly closed.

Darryl Kroeker, head of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited Canada's B.C. Peace Region, where I am from, wrote to me following the tabling of my motion. He said, “The Conservative government has successfully eliminated the long gun registry, saving millions of tax payer dollars, and the UN resolution would be a step backwards, imposing additional costs and documentation on taxpayers' shoulders.” I could not agree more.

That brings me to the provision in this UN resolution regarding firearms and markings.

This resolution proposes that all firearms made or imported into Canada be marked with a specific code identifying Canada, the year of manufacture, the year of import, the name of the manufacturer, the serial number, as well as other details about the firearm. This goes well above and beyond the standard practice of the firearms manufacturing industry and would impose a prohibitive cost on importers. As we all know, that cost would be passed on to our consumers seeking to legally purchase firearms. Some estimates that I have heard are as much as $200 per firearm, and would possibly limit firearms of a certain brand coming into our country. I cannot see the public safety value in adding all of these markings.

Liberals lauded this resolution when they were in government, when they brought forward regulations to give it teeth. They said that this resolution somehow would improve the ability of law enforcement to trace firearms. I disagree.

I have discussed this issue with front-line law enforcement officers, and they consistently tell me that the only necessary piece of information for effective firearms tracing is a serial number. Therefore, I cannot see how any of these firearms marking regulations as drafted by the previous Liberal government are at all necessary.

I would encourage the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to repeal the needless portions of those regulations and only keep the serial number.

I am hopeful that this will happen in the near future, because our Conservative government has consistently taken action to stand up for law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters.

As I have said before, we ended the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. We repealed the needless Liberal gun show regulations. We have brought forward the common sense firearms licensing act to get rid of the paperwork around authorizations to transport, limit the arbitrary powers of the CFO, and to restore the Swiss Arms family of firearms and the CZ858 to their non-restricted classification.

We are clearly the only party that will stand up for the rights of law-abiding firearms owners.

At its core, the motion before us today is about Canadian outdoors culture, whether it is hunting, target shooting, skeet shooting, cowboy shooting, three-gun competitions or any other activity with firearms. These are enjoyable activities that bind us together as a proud part of our shared Canadian heritage. Over two million Canadians participate in these activities. I and my family members are among them. However, it seems that the NDP and the Liberals continue to believe these activities are not Canadian.

I will quote Greg Farrant, of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, who said before the public safety committee:

Firearms owners in Canada are judges, lawyers, farmers, electricians, mechanics, plumbers, accountants, even federal politicians [who] live in and represent urban ridings. They are not criminals. They are not gang members. Rather, they are lawful firearms owners who obey the law.

However, it is clear that the message has not sunk in across the aisle. Some members of the Liberal Party and the NDP have taken the debate on firearms issues as an opportunity to engage in a drive-by smear of outdoor enthusiasts by saying that those who want to obey clear rules are part of the American-style gun lobby or are advocating for a return to, as one NDP member from Quebec said, “wild west” gun laws. That is patently ridiculous and it is offensive to the millions of law-abiding Canadian gun owners.

It is clear that this UN resolution, and any subsequent regulations drafted to enforce it, is only designed to take guns out of the hands of law-abiding Canadians. That is why I encourage the government to repeal those regulations, and I encourage all members of the House to send a strong message to support my motion.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for the member.

First, who signed the arms trade treaty and made us a part of it? I believe it was the Government of Canada, but I would ask the member to answer that.

He tries to leave the impression with the legitimate gun owners and the hunting community that this bill is more than it is. There are probably not too many places in the world where more personal guns are owned than in the United States. Could the member answer whether the United States has ratified this treaty to which he is so opposed? I believe it has.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, in fact, my bill speaks to having us not abide by this particular part of the treaty. That is why I brought forward the bill. Canada does not need any more regulations. We do not need a backdoor registry, such as the one that this would create, not to mention the cost added to the firearms themselves, which would be passed on to legal firearms owners in Canada.

The bottom line is that my bill says that we do not need to do this. I hope everybody across the way will support me in this.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I always find it kind of a shame when they draw the line between black and white. They say that people on this side of House believe one thing and those on the other believe another. Thankfully, Canada is known for its low crime rate; that is what sets us apart from the United States. We would like the crime rate to be even lower. The low rate is due to the fact that Canada has regulations to protect people from firearms.

People have to have a licence to drive and, as my colleague pointed out, to have a dog or a cat. That is why I do not understand the Conservatives' refusal to maintain Canada's exemplary record on protecting its citizens and keeping them safe. I do not understand why they do not want adequate gun control.

Why not implement the United Nations regulations? I do not understand their obsession. Maybe my colleague can explain their obsession with not wanting adequate gun control considering that most firearm owners agree with implementing these regulations.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the statement made by the member across the way. However, I do not know if she heard what I said about my bill. The fact is that we in Canada already think we have sufficient regulation, not just sufficient but exemplary standards in regulations to govern firearms ownership in Canada, and that we do not need further moves to accept the UN arms treaty proposal. She said it for us. We already have exemplary rules, and why should we follow another set of rules, and why should we recreate another gun registry in Canada? I think Canadians are behind us. They were behind us in getting rid of the original registry, and I am sure those same folks do not want to see another registry come in through the back door.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives keep talking about combatting terrorism, combatting violence, and combatting civil war, except that when it comes time to get to work, substantive work to prevent terrorism, violence and civil war, they do not answer the call. We get the impression that they are not prepared to make a serious effort. When we talk about victims of crime, it never seems like this a problem to them. It does not bother them that these things happen. Then, they are keen to punish and provide a military response to what is happening. However, the very idea of trying to prevent crime, violence, terrorism and other things, is really not part of their vocabulary. The idea of working and dealing with the root of the problem is not part of their approach. When we talk about violence, international piracy, terrorism and civil war, weapons are one of the sources, in fact one of the essential aspects, of these phenomena. The availability of weapons, often obtained illegally, fuels these conflicts and gives more financial resources to unsavoury groups.

To that end, I would like to read an excerpt from a report by the group Small Arms Survey, which I have been following for years and does extraordinary work:

The illicit trade [and “illicit” is the operative word, since the members opposite do not seem to understand that we are talking about illicit trade] in small arms and light weapons occurs in all parts of the globe but is concentrated in areas afflicted by armed conflict, violence, and organized crime, where the demand for illicit weapons is often highest. Arms trafficking fuels civil wars and regional conflicts; stocks the arsenals of terrorists, drug cartels, and other armed groups; and contributes to violent crime and the proliferation of sensitive technology.

Every year, this illicit weapons trade causes tens of thousands of deaths. It also creates enormous instability in many countries, which impedes social and economic development. This phenomenon often leads to other indirect deaths, as well as serious development problems.

As I was saying, this trafficking helps reprehensible people, including terrorist organizations, to raise money. That is why the international community adopted the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The goal is to put an end to this illegal trafficking. We know that this was adopted under UN Resolution 55/255 in 2001. Canada signed it, but did not ratify it, even though at the time Canada was a leader in negotiating those kinds of agreements. Canada was really a beacon. We were a model. Since then, the government has continued to postpone ratifying that protocol. Now we see that it wants to put it off indefinitely, with a motion that, we must admit, is a little hard to understand.

First of all, this motion tells us that Canada already exceeds the firearms standards listed in resolution 55/255. Thus, if this is not a problem, why not join all the other countries, including some of our important partners such as the European Union, and simply ratify it? Why not do this in good faith to show that we care about this issue and are prepared to fight the illicit trafficking of firearms?

The resolution also mentions the burden this could represent for law-abiding firearms owners. If they are law-abiding, it is not a burden. It just means that firearms will be marked when sold or when they cross the border. The RCMP has been teaching other countries how to do this properly for years. We are quite capable of doing this. It really is not a burden for Canada.

This is typical of the Conservatives. As in the case of the small arms treaty, they are trying to make us believe that this will affect Canadian duck hunters, for example, even though this is not at all the case. This has to do with the international firearms trade.

The Conservatives are turning a blind eye and are trying to score political points with proposals and positions that completely distort the purpose of international tools that are absolutely essential. If Canada is truly interested in world peace—and I hope so—it should participate in this type of effort.

In closing, we should note that we would not be doing this just for those countries plagued by civil war, piracy—Somalia, for example—or terrorism, but also because it affects us indirectly in Canada.

In 2001, when the resolution was passed, the Canadian representative said something very relevant, and I quote:

In Canada, we know that globalization is contributing to the ever increasing sophistication of international firearm smuggling rings. Illicit transfers of firearms are often carried out through organized criminal channels and, in turn, move into the civilian markets through these transnational networks. We agree with respect to the resulting harm it poses to the public health and safety of our citizens.

Canada views the Firearms Protocol as a seminal instrument in our collective fight against this phenomenon. Canada should therefore ratify this protocol.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the bill. I want to make clear at the beginning—because there is always the attempt by the government side to use gun control as a wedge issue—that the Liberal Party would not bring back the gun registry and the United Nations resolution does not bring a registry in the back door.

Can we imagine the uproar in the United States if it did bring a registry in the back door? The United States has ratified this agreement.

The argument put forward by the member moving the motion, according to a March 30 press release, was that the UN treaty attempting to address the illicit trade in firearms should be rejected is the price of placing a stamp reading “Canada” or “CA” on any exported firearm from Canada.

In that press release, the member confirms that firearms already bear permanently marked serial numbers or identification numbers, which means the stamping process is currently in place and in some cases they do need to add an additional stamp.

It should be of concern to Canadians that, while this country votes in support of the Arms Trade Treaty, it now stands with Iran, Syria, North Korea, Russia, and China in its refusal to sign, let alone ratify, the treaty.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

The U.S. has not ratified it.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

No, Mr. Speaker, not the U.S.; the U.S. has already signed.

With the signing of the agreement by the United States in 2013, Canada is now the only NATO country that has not signed the treaty. Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and now the United States all support it. Canada must join the community of nations, specifically our key allies, in supporting this effort to reduce the illegal small arms trade. To do otherwise would only serve the illegitimate purpose of those forces that seek to undermine public safety and national security.

The UN firearms protocol has been described as working to achieve the following:

The objective of the Firearms Protocol, which is the first legally binding instrument on small arms adopted at the global level, is to promote, facilitate and strengthen cooperation among States in preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition.

Why would the Conservative Party oppose that? We all know that a backbench member's motion obviously has the support of the PMO before it gets here. Is it not the Conservative government's claim to be for law and order? Have we not heard a lot of debate in this House from the Prime Minister about his concern for terrorism and to be tough on terrorists? What weapons does he think terrorists use if they are to get hold of weapons and kill people, either here, South Africa, Syria, or Iran?

That is what this UN resolution is trying to prevent, the illicit use of firearms around the world for any illegal purpose. This is a government that claims to be for law and order, claims to be tough on terrorists; and with this motion, if the Conservatives support it, they are doing the direct opposite at the global level.

In order to implement the UN firearms protocol, contracting parties need to adopt three sets of provisions in their domestic legal system: one, illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts, components and ammunition must be categorized as criminal offences; second, a system of government authorization of licences to ensure legitimate manufacturing and international movement of firearms should be established; third and finally, adequate marking and recording regimes for the purpose of effective international co-operation and tracing of firearms should be implemented.

Those are the three things that need to be done by a country.

The text of the firearms protocol was adopted in UN Resolution 55/255. It was opened for signature by the United Nations member states in 2001. It is, therefore, a treaty that is legally binding upon those states that ratify it.

Would it impact law-abiding gun owners? No, it would not impact law-abiding gun owners.

Canada signed the firearms protocol in 2002 but has not ratified it. This means that Canada is not legally bound by the treaty's provisions, but has committed not to undermine the treaty's object and purpose which comes about as a result of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, article 18.

However, progress in implementing the protocol in Canadian law was slow and is still not complete. As per the protocol, a regulation requiring “Canada” or “CA” to be stamped or engraved into the frame or receiver of every locally produced or imported firearm, with the date of import, if applicable, was made by the Governor in Council in 2004 but never brought into force. Its entering into force was deferred to 2006, then 2007, then 2009, then 2010, 2012 and, finally, 2013. It is now scheduled to enter into force on December 1, 2015. These deferrals were made for various reasons, and some of them quite legitimately.

In 2010, the entry into force was deferred to allow the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to experiment with adhesive markings, rather than engraved ones, at the request of the domestic firearms industry. I think that was a legitimate deferral. The adhesive markings were found to be inadequate.

In 2013, the entry into force was deferred based upon the need to consult with stakeholders to ensure the marking regulations would help police investigations without causing excessive difficulties to businesses and individuals. “Stakeholders”, in this case, referred to law enforcement, the firearms industry, advocacy groups and firearms control officials.

As to the threat to domestic firearms owners, a submission to the foreign affairs committee, in July 2013, by the Canadian Control Arms Coalition stated the following:

There has been considerable speculation, and even misrepresentation on the part of some lobby groups, that the ATT would curtail legitimate gun ownership in Canada. This is not the case – there is absolutely nothing in the ATT that would prevent Canadians from legitimately owning firearms or that would change the obligations of current owners. Indeed, thanks to Canada’s successful efforts, the treaty preamble insists that States Parties be “mindful of the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership and use are permitted or protected by law....The treaty does apply to firearms and ammunition exported from or imported into Canada, but since Canada has export and import controls in place that generally meet the standards required by the treaty, treaty implementation by Canada should not have a noticeable impact on legitimate domestic firearms owners.

This preamble is contained in the text of the Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty of March 27, 2013.

Since that positive vote, Canada has neither signed nor ratified the treaty. Among those countries that have neither signed nor ratified the treaty are Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and Syria. They seem to be strange bedfellows for the Government of Canada that claims it is a law and order country.

To close, Canada remains on the sidelines as the UN Arms Trade Treaty comes into effect. Our reputation around the United Nations is already in tatters. This will give terrorists more legitimacy in terms of the movement of arms, and it further undermines our position at the United Nations.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not believe the member is misleading the House, but his data is incorrect. The United States has not ratified this agreement. It has revoked that ratification, that signature.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

That is not a point of order.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Yukon.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate that while that might not have been a point of order, it was certainly a point worth raising.

I am pleased to stand to speak today about Motion No. 589. I would like to begin by commending the member for Prince George—Peace River for all of his work, particularly in support of the firearms community. I have had a lot of opportunity to work with him. Those of us on this side of the House who support the firearms community through the hunting and angling caucus and other direct initiatives all know that the member has a keen interest in outdoor pursuits, the shooting way of life. He is supportive of the firearms community and has done a lot of great work. It is certainly great to have him as a member of the caucus.

This important motion highlights the Conservative government's common sense firearms regime. The member for Prince George—Peace River is introducing the motion to ensure that no unnecessary steps are implemented. I have heard the Liberals and NDP today engage in a drive-by smear of outdoor enthusiasts by saying that those who want to obey clear rules are part of some sort of American-style gun lobby. In fact, I heard a member from the NDP question the Conservative government's obsession with firearms legislation.

It is interesting that while New Democrats refer to it as an obsession, I would refer to it as representation of the millions of Canadians who are lawful, legal, and ethical firearms owners. New Democrats can call that an obsession. I call it good parliamentary representation of the millions of Canadians across the country who engage in athletic hunting and trapping pursuits and firearms as a day-to-day tool, as a way of protecting and preserving a way of life.

They will not confuse this as any kind of bizarre obsession by the Conservative government. In fact, it is clear, unapologetic, and resounding support for a lawful, ethical, and indeed healthy way of life, exercised for a long period of time in the tradition and history of Canada.

Of course, these kinds of comments by both the NDP and the Liberal Party are ridiculous and offensive to the millions of Canadians who own firearms. This large group of Canadians pays attention to what goes on in this place, and I know they pay far closer attention than the members of the opposition realize or may think. I hope they keep that in mind when this important motion comes forward for a vote.

I would like to talk about something that I spoke a bit on yesterday in my speech on Bill C-42. There are a lot of linkages between our entire firearms policy and agenda to support these millions of Canadians. I will talk about a representative of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Greg Farrant, who said:

Firearms owners in Canada are judges, lawyers, farmers, electricians, mechanics, plumbers, accountants, even federal politicians...who live in and represent urban ridings. They are not criminals. They are not gang members. Rather, they are lawful firearms owners who obey the law.

Indeed, they are mothers, daughters, aunts, uncles, and children, including my son.

Judging by the comments we have heard today, it seems that the NDP and the Liberals in opposition continue to believe that only backwoods, unrefined, rural folk engage in these activities. Again, that is a complete abandonment of the facts in our country, and an insult to Canadians who pursue a way of life, whether it be in sport shooting, collecting, athletics, or hunting and trapping, which is a long-standing heritage, as I have mentioned.

This motion is as much about our outdoor culture and preservation and protection of a way of life as it is about anything else. We have consistently been clear that we will do everything we can to ensure that red tape and unnecessary measures are not put in place to create a burden for the lawful, ethical, and law-abiding firearms owners, manufacturers, or ammunition producers in this country. I think that the member for Prince George—Peace River outlined clearly the reputation that our country already has and the laws that are already in place.

Opposition members say that they are already doing this, that it is lawful and why would we not just go along to get along again. The fact is, why would we put measures in place that duplicate the things we are already doing so well?

We have a regime that is Canadian made. We have a regime that meets the needs of Canada, a vast nation that spans from Newfoundland and Labrador all the way to the Yukon territory, some 7,000 kilometres from coast to coast to coast. It is the largest archipelago in the world, with remote rural Canadian locations, huge distribution networks, a vast array of needs and purposes for firearms ownership, firearms manufacturing and firearms shipment.

We need a Canadian made solution, and that is what we have in our country. Do we need the imposition of an international body and an international governance structure telling Canada how to go about administering our laws, our rules and our policies, given the very unique nature of the Canadian geography and the Canadian people?

We have heard examples from across the floor that the EU does this so why would we not do it. The EU is not Canada, not in this context. There are times when we look to other nations to model the things they do well and best practices. However, in this case, the submission from the member in his motion is that we cannot model that system now in our country under the conditions I have outlined, under the unique geographic differences, the differences of the Canadian people, the different needs for firearms in the Canadian context, the different utilizations, history and culture. Canada in that respect is different.

Nonetheless, we have a strong regime of which we can be proud. In fact, I would submit that the member in his motion would confer that Canada has a model that other countries could sufficiently replicate to maintain public safety, control, tracking and order.

I have spoken directly with manufacturers and shippers in our country and they tell me that the programs, the regulations and the inventory accountability they need to maintain is second to none. In fact, if members in the House were wanting to endeavour to really get the facts on that, all they would need to do is go to a shipping location in our country and ask how it accounts for the ammunition in its facilities and how it accounts for the shipping and movement of that ammunition in and out of its facility. They would find an incredible, intricate, regulated network of rules that absolutely guarantee preservation and protection of society, accountability, security and all the necessary measures that a reasonable Canadian would expect to be in place. I know that because I have been there. I have seen that. I have worked with and talked about these issues with the manufacturers.

Members in the opposition can pontificate about whether this would cause onerous measurements or standards or whether this would be a big deal or not. The simple fact is that they have not gone out and asked. They have not been there to find out.

I can say with absolute certainty that the kind of measures that are being proposed are not good in the Canadian context. They are not fitting in with that need and we do not need to import an international boondoggle. We need Canadian solutions, developed by and for Canadians. We need to be able to stand proud. We have heard that across both sides of the House. We need to be able to stand proud and defend the system that we have in place. Again, here would be clear and ample submission in the House of Commons that we can defend what we have in Canada in terms of our firearms licensing regime, policies, sale and distribution legislation, criminal sanctions and the measures that complete a well rounded policy.

Every time, whether it is this motion, the common sense firearms licensing act, Bill C-637, introduced by my friend and colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, chair of the hunting and angling caucus, or the elimination of the long gun registry, we continue to hear examples like “I register my dog. I register my cat. I register my car. Why is it a big deal?” However, those at the time were the seven myths of the opposition that they continue to talk about. They completely misunderstood the differences between those things.

They continued then and they continue today to use fearmongering tactics in an attempt to fundraise and in an attempt to scare Canadians. The Liberal Party has done it recently, showing pictures of scary guns that will now be available at shopping malls and easily stolen. They hope to scare Canadians into thinking that somehow any of the laws we are putting in place would make that easier. That is clearly not the case.

I will conclude by saying that I invite all members to explore this issue and consider their next steps as they move forward on this motion.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today, with all the strength of my convictions, to oppose this motion as firmly as I can, of course, and to share my thoughts on this motion with the people of Trois-Rivières, whom I have the pleasure of representing. I am certain that a large majority of them support my position.

We are debating a very important issue, since it has a direct impact on public safety around the world and on peace in a number of countries facing instability. I am obviously referring to the illegal trafficking of firearms. I want to emphasize the words “trafficking” and “illegal”, and not “firearms”. That is often where the governing party likes to go, as though we were viscerally opposed to the fact that an individual can own a firearm. We are talking about the illegal trafficking of firearms.

I would like to remind everyone that on May 31, 2001, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution to create a protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms. At the time, the Government of Canada supported the UN initiative. Canada was proud of its decision to adopt that approach because the world was finally finding ways to co-operate in waging an effective battle against this international scourge. I would like to take 30 seconds to remind everyone of what Canada said at the time:

In Canada, we know that globalization is contributing to the ever increasing sophistication of international firearm smuggling rings. Illicit transfers of firearms are often carried out through organized criminal channels and, in turn, move into the civilian markets through these transnational networks. We agree with respect to the resulting harm it poses to the public health and safety of our citizens.

Canada views the Firearms Protocol as a seminal instrument in our collective fight against this phenomenon.

There is no denying that those years are well behind us, as is that approach to international issues, much to my chagrin. Today, the Conservative member for Prince George—Peace River moved a motion that would have the Canadian government turn its back on this UN initiative. The government keeps hammering home its messages about public safety, but this is clear proof that those messages about safety are nothing but smoke and mirrors.

I would like to talk about some of the negative consequences of the illicit trafficking of firearms. As members of the House know, the globalized world in which we live is a source of opportunity but also of threats. Although trade is one of the most positive manifestations of globalization—I could go on and on about all the benefits of globalization, but that is not the topic of debate tonight—unfortunately, criminal networks have also done well and are also internationalizing their activities. A lack of international co-operation bolsters the illicit movement of arms and strengthens international criminal groups. The primary victims of the illicit trafficking of firearms are the countries that have been devastated by years of civil war and the communities affected by urban violence. For example, the proliferation of small arms is just as big of a challenge for conflict zones as it is for peace zones. It is a real epidemic.

I would like to give some statistics to give members an idea of the magnitude of the problem. Every year in Brazil, over 30,000 people are murdered by light weapons. Every year in Colombia, the illicit trafficking of firearms results in the murder of over 20,000 people. In many countries, the rate of firearm-related death is higher than the death rates in official war zones. What is more, the Small Arms Survey estimates that 60% of small arms and light weapons in the world are owned by civilians.

The illicit trafficking of firearms, including small arms—I would like to remind members once again that we are talking about illicit manufacturing and trafficking—is constantly fuelling military conflicts.

It is true that military conflict can be caused by political, economic and social problems. However, the availability of small arms in an unstable environment only increases the probability of conflict and undermines all possibility of finding a resolution.

Of course that is one of the most obvious outcomes of the illicit trade in firearms. However, I would also like to point out some of the indirect consequences of this scourge. Instability associated with the proliferation of weapons has, in some cases, prevented humanitarian aid from reaching the people who need it.

The millions of deaths in the DRC have not all been the direct result of violence caused by light weapons. Some were caused by malnutrition and illness, which were more difficult to address because of the weapons trafficking. Insecurity related to conflict remains one of the biggest obstacles to human development.

Basically, violence caused by the presence of firearms seriously undermines reconstruction as well as investments once the conflict ends. The list of other disastrous consequences is still very long, but the illicit weapons trade is a scourge.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is of the opinion that the United Nations protocol and the marking system it entails helps in cases where weapons are used in the commission of a crime. It also helps in detecting the trafficking, smuggling and stockpiling of firearms, and that applies directly here in Canada. We are not talking about an unknown or obscure international conflict, but events that can happen here at home.

I would like to draw the attention of the House to the current government's inaction when it comes to the illegal movement of firearms. Often the government, this government, is easily lulled to passivity by the economic benefits of the firearms trade and pressure from lobbyists.

Why does this government not want to ratify international regulations on the movement of firearms? Canada's poor performance in international relations is a whole other topic for discussion. What is more, everyone has noticed that this loss of credibility on the world stage coincides perfectly with the arrival of this government.

Once again, the Conservatives are playing petty politics while thousands of civilians are risking their lives in conflict zones. It is nothing less than outrageous for a government to engage in such cheap partisan manoeuvring instead of playing a constructive role on the world stage.

International co-operation is absolutely vital to effectively combat illicit trafficking in firearms. By refusing to ratify and enforce the firearms marking regulations, the Conservatives are once again showing their lack of consideration for the UN.

If I may, I would like to more clearly define the implications of this protocol and the type of marking it involves. The protocol includes a series of crime control measures and creates obligations to establish as criminal offences—it seems to me that this should already be music to the Conservatives' ears— the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components, and ammunition. It also requires a licensing system for the import, export and transit of firearms, and contains provisions regulating the marking and tracing of firearms. By refusing to ratify the protocol, the Conservatives have shown a profound lack of respect for the UN.

I get the impression that our watches are running at different speeds because I never have enough time to finish my speech.

With regard to multilateralism, the Conservatives are going steadily downhill. They are isolating Canada when it comes to the regulation of the gun trade given that over 30 countries have already ratified the protocol in question. The European Union, India, Brazil, South Africa, Greece and Mexico have all signed and ratified this treaty. Where are we?

Once again, the answer is that the Government of Canada is absent, but what is even worse is that we are going to once again receive a lower ranking because of the Conservatives' categorical refusal to ratify this agreement.

A Conservative member even suggested that we simply withdraw from the UN. I thought he was joking but after seeing that Canada was the only country to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol, I think that, unfortunately, we have to take the Conservatives seriously.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in support of Motion No. 589 regarding the firearms regime that the opposition is attempting to foist upon Canadians by the United Nations.

This motion is very important. It clearly lays out the case that Canada has a firearms control system superior to the one contemplated by the UN. Let me elaborate on precisely why that is.

The UN resolution calls for three main things.

First, it calls for a registry of all firearms. Canada has extensive experience with this social experiment. It cost billions of dollars and did not stop a single crime or save a single life. Unless the Liberals or NDP have a chance, this scheme will never again burden Canadian firearms owners. Let me say that we have a very sophisticated and effective handgun registry that is the model and envy of many nations.

The second provision is even more onerous. It calls for a registry of all ammunition. How exactly would this be achieved? Would every single piece of ammunition require a serial number? This is just more bureaucratic creep at its worst.

The third provision would establish a very specific and very onerous regime for the marking of all firearms manufactured in or imported into a signatory country.

Let me provide an example. Were this provision to be in force, all firearms imported into Canada this year would be required to be marked with an additional marking: CA-15. The members opposite seem to think that somehow this would be an enhanced tool for tracing. The only real tool police use when tracing firearms is a serial number, which tells law enforcement a lot. Country markings are patently useless, as statistics show that 96% of firearms crimes in Canada are committed with illegally imported firearms.

These are the facts. We are committed to safe and sensible firearms policies. If measures target criminals and make Canadians safer, then we will support them; if they do not, then we will abolish them.

As a case in point, we created tough new sentences for drive-by shootings. This is a good deterrent. It makes Canadians safer.

We are also in the process of strengthening firearms prohibition orders so that those individuals convicted of domestic violence cannot possess a firearm in a volatile situation. This makes Canadians safer.

We also ended the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. This is sensible.

There have been comments from across the way suggesting that if our firearms regulations and legislation are even more effective than those of the UN, we should adopt the UN measures as well. My response is that adding laws for the sake of just adding them and adding bureaucratic red tape just means an extra burden on Canadians and more expense to government. Those dollars could easily go toward more effective law enforcement and toward reducing the importation of illegal firearms over the borders.

We are also eliminating useless red tape around authorizations to transport restricted and prohibited firearms. This paperwork is not even shared with police; it is simply filed in a bureaucrat's drawer. Ending this requirement is a very sensible act.

We are committed to a made-in-Canada approach. We will not cave in to foreign interests that want to craft Canada's firearms policies. In short, the regulations that give teeth to the resolution we are discussing here today are simply meant to discourage firearms ownership and to discourage hunting and sport shooting. These are Canadian heritage activities that we value and are part of what makes us Canadians. We want to encourage them.

That is why I will be supporting this motion. I encourage all of my colleagues to do the same.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion moved by my colleague from Prince George—Peace River. We have good reason to be skeptical when we read my colleague's motion:

...(a) Canada already exceeds all the standards listed in United Nations resolution 55/255 concerning firearms (the resolution); (b) the regulations envisioned in the resolution would do nothing to enhance public safety, and would serve only to burden the law-abiding firearms community; and therefore, the government has already surpassed its obligations with respect to the resolution and is not required to take any further steps.

Canada signed this famous convention but it unfortunately did not ratify it. Even if we assume that Canada complies with and even exceeds these famous standards, they still only apply to Canada itself. This does not include working or co-operating with other parties in the world that are struggling with the trafficking in illegal firearms.

Instead of lending a hand to our friends abroad, we are slamming the door in their face, telling ourselves that at least the threat is not in our home. That attitude is disappointing, but it is sadly nothing new from this government.

Firearms RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

International DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

May 26th, 2015 / 6:55 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening in adjournment proceedings to review and hopefully to find answers to a question that I initially put forward on April 23. It relates to funding in our overseas development assistance budgets.

In past years, and for many years until recently, when a member of Parliament or any member of the public opened the budget tabled by the Minister of Finance, they could find tables in the back that showed funding in each department of Canada, and previous years could be compared to this year.

In the last number of years, these budgetary tables have not been included in the budget. People have to wait for the main estimates and supplementary estimates.

I was struck, in reading the budget, that although we had heard many commitments in debate on extending the mission of bombing Iraq into bombing Syria, we had heard commitments over and over again in this place. Members will recall that this was not merely a military mission. This was largely a humanitarian mission. Canada was deeply committed to humanitarian assistance in the region.

On April 23, I put this to the minister. I was astonished to find that while in the budget there is $360 million earmarked for military purposes in Iraq and Syria, there is no mention at all of humanitarian assistance in that region. Moreover, there is no reference in the budget to any overseas development assistance spending. There is no budget for what used to be called CIDA, which has now been folded into something that is referred to around Ottawa as DFATD, the combined departments of foreign affairs and overseas development assistance.

We do know that two years ago the budget for international development in this country was slashed by $670 million, and it does appear on further inquiries that there is a freeze on overseas development assistance spending. I find it troubling that in the federal budget there was nothing mentioned for humanitarian assistance.

Now, the response I received was from the hon. Minister of International Development who said that the humanitarian assistance had increased in the Middle East. However, again the basic questions are as follows: What are we spending on development assistance? What is the total amount? How are we accommodating the various humanitarian crises?

Right now we have millions of refugees from Syria who are in Lebanon, in Turkey, and in Jordan. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has made a very clear statement that there is a total lack of resources. There is not sufficient funding coming from the global community to assist the humanitarian crisis in the region.

I would like to pursue that tonight in adjournment proceedings. I am hoping to find a response from the Conservative member as to the following: How much money are we spending on development assistance in total? How are we going to accommodate the various humanitarian crises? What will we spend on Iraq and Syria?

In the minute remaining, if I may, I recently learned that the government is preparing to do something that will be a massive waste of money: moving 3,000 civil servants in this city between Gatineau and downtown Ottawa. It will be moving 3,000 people from what used to be CIDA into different accommodations. The costs of this are astonishing. We have the personnel, the new offices, the packing up of file cabinets and computers and phone lines. It is an absurd thing to do by a government that claims to be fiscally responsible.

It is particularly absurd, and also disrespectful to the challenge of alleviating poverty globally, to spend money on moving civil servants around within Ottawa when the real crisis of mobility is the refugees, the Syrian refugees who are trying to get out of Syria and who are also stuck in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan without adequate assistance.

International DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley Nova Scotia


Scott Armstrong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for her question tonight during adjournment proceedings.

From the beginning, Canada has been at the forefront of international response to help the people of Syria and to help the people of Iraq. Most recently, in May, the Prime Minister announced additional Canadian humanitarian assistance funding for both Syria and Iraq, whose people continue to suffer from the ongoing conflict.

Millions inside Syria now require assistance. Millions more have fled to Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, not knowing if they will ever be able to return to their homes. Compounding this problem even further, terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State have flourished in such an environment, expanding and threatening stability of the entire region.

These situations represent some of the most difficult and complex humanitarian crises ever faced by the international humanitarian community. Canada has been among the top donors to respond to the United Nations' call to step up humanitarian efforts in both contexts. The top priorities are protection for civilians, including from sexual and gender-based violence, and shelter, food, and access to health care and basic humanitarian services.

Already in 2015, Canada has allocated $80 million in humanitarian assistance funding in response to the crisis in Iraq. Since the beginning of 2014, we have committed $107.4 million to respond to the needs of Iraqis affected by the violence, and this makes Canada the fifth largest humanitarian donor to this crisis—the fifth largest, from a country with a small population like Canada's.

Specific to Syria, as of May 2015, Canada is the sixth largest single country donor to the humanitarian response. Since the onset of the crisis, Canada has allocated over $503 million in support of the humanitarian response, with the most recent funding announced earlier this month by the Prime Minister himself.

It is concerning that opposition MPs fail to acknowledge the real threat posed by ISIS and jihadi terrorism to our country and our country domestically. We take this very seriously.

The military measures we are taking against ISIL do not in any way preclude humanitarian actions. There is no either/or. There is support for both. We will combat ISIS militarily, and we will support the victims of ISIS in a humanitarian way.

Canada has been at the forefront of the international response to the crisis in Iraq, as well as Syria and the surrounding area, since the beginning of each crisis. We will remain at the forefront.

In conclusion, we have helped nearly two million people, provided shelter and relief supplies to more than one million people, and helped to educate more than half a million children.

In Syria, Canada's support has meant 16 million people have access to safe drinking water, 4.1 million Syrians have access to food assistance, and emergency assistance is provided to nearly three million refugees in neighbouring countries.

We are getting the job done when it comes to humanitarian assistance during this crisis in the Middle East.

International DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, again, we have heard this before. I am certainly gratified to know some dollar amounts, but I do not think it is unreasonable that a parliamentarian and every MP in the House should be able to see the budget for overseas development assistance as a whole.

I am still troubled that while this budget mentions specific amounts for military assistance, it is the budget that fails to mention humanitarian assistance; it is not opposition members who are unwilling to give credit if the government is going to put money into humanitarian assistance. However, it is reasonable, since the fundamental principle is that Parliament controls the public purse, that a document that is ostensibly the budget—not really a budget, as it does not give us the numbers—should be able to tell us how much money in total we are putting to overseas development assistance and what portion of that is going to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq.

I agree that it is not either/or, but it is not unreasonable to ask how much the total budget is for overseas development assistance.

International DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, the estimates contain all of government spending. All one has to do is check the estimates to see how much money the government is spending. Budget 2015 reaffirms our government's commitment to helping people who live in poverty and responding to humanitarian crises, and this response has been strong.

Our main estimates clearly show the blueprint for the department's annual planned spending. It is right there. Humanitarian assistance has increased 62% this year over the year before, and since 2003 we have nearly doubled the amount of aid to low-income countries over the previous Liberal government.

We are pleased that economic action plan 2015 announces the government's intent to leverage development-focused private investments through a development finance initiative. This will enhance Canada's ability to advance its international assistance objectives by partnering with the private sector to address critical financing gaps in developing countries.

The estimates show all of this clearly. Our Conservative government is reducing taxes on the middle class while delivering aid in a way that is accountable to Canadians and effective for those in need.

Social DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Manon Perreault Independent Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning I was speaking with a woman from my riding of Montcalm, Ms. Francoeur, of the Résidence coopérative Quatre-Soleils in Saint-Lin–Laurentides. She was very pleased to have finally received funding from the Government of Canada for accommodations at her centre.

I would like to recognize the efforts that are made every year in Quebec and Canada to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. The resources invested mean a great deal to people living with physical limitations. The government plays a key role, but there is so much work still to be done before we can talk about a truly inclusive society.

These resources, as much as they are appreciated, are certainly very modest. Investing in the integration of people with disabilities and in accessibility is something that goes far beyond compassionate or altruistic considerations. To put it simply, such investments are good social decisions and actions that demonstrate the goodwill behind the government's public policies.

I have said it before and I will say it again: an investment in people with disabilities is, above all, an investment that is good for everyone and one that contributes directly to our communities.

Had we gotten into the habit of handling funding requests for projects that meet the needs of people with disabilities the same way we handle economic requests, we might have much more effective practices for those people now.

People with disabilities are people first, and each step toward social inclusion is a sure way to help all of them and all affected families thrive.

I deplore the lack of stable programs and the dearth of information about their recurrence. The government has to be consistent and offer more independence to people with disabilities and greater social cohesiveness for all.

The enabling accessibility fund accepts applications at much too unpredictable intervals, making it impossible for organizations to prepare applications in advance for specific projects.

When an organization that helps people with disabilities has a specific need, it asks many community groups for help finding solutions. Everyone—from family caregivers to workers in the network, advocates, professionals and volunteers—pitches in to improve services and contribute to a solution. Funding is piecemeal. Donations from members of the public, private interests and civil society all do their part.

To give an idea of the situation, these organizations often survive thanks to charitable individuals and the generosity of their community. However, there comes a time when the federal government must take responsibility and encourage such efforts, resourcefulness and ingenuity.

Good programs do exist, and their impact has been measured at length. They are clearly beneficial. Unfortunately, the lack of consistency of programs provided to organizations that help people with disabilities, as well as the stability, recurrence and coherence of the programs, must be vastly improved.

Would it be possible to make the enabling accessibility fund a permanent program, with recurring application dates everyone is aware of, in order to improve the stability of government assistance provided to organizations that help people with disabilities?

I realize that reviewing the enabling accessibility fund requires that we be prepared, above all, to implement diverse solutions in order to improve this program's performance. I also believe that as elected officials, we must promote inclusiveness. We must position ourselves as open people who create bridges with our living environments.

The inclusion of people with disabilities in society cannot be done without the support and knowledge of the medical, social and political sectors. It is difficult for a disabled person to be convinced that political authorities are truly committed to the notion of inclusion because so much remains to be done in terms of accessibility, transportation, home care and so forth.

Social DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley Nova Scotia


Scott Armstrong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her question, but I also want to thank the hon. member for her advocacy for disabled people across the country. I welcome the opportunity to address this important issue brought forward by the hon. member for Montcalm.

First, I would like to remind the member that, as soon as the Minister of Employment and Social Development heard about a situation in his riding, he immediately pulled everybody together to find a solution to keep Canadians working. They found that situation swiftly and corrected the issue very swiftly. As the minister said of the 50 hard-working Canadians with intellectual disabilities who have been serving the government well for the past 35 years by sorting, recycling, and shredding sensitive government documents, their determination and dedication to work despite their limitations inspires us all, and we certainly need to continue supporting them and disabled Canadians across the country.

That is why the minister quickly announced that their contract would be renewed for at least three more years. As for their salaries, my hon. colleague would know that they are set by the association and not by the Government of Canada. We partner with many organizations like this across Canada that help Canadians with disabilities get good jobs and fully participate within their communities.

Our government is proud of our improved registered disability savings plan that is available to more than 100,000 Canadians with disabilities. We are also proud of the Canada disability savings grants and bonds, which help Canadians with disabilities save money for their future. We believe that all Canadians, including Canadians with disabilities, should have the opportunity to contribute to our country's economy and contribute positively to their community.

Yes, disabled people are still very under-represented in the workforce, and this is concerning, but we are working at ensuring they have access to better jobs. That is why our government, through economic action plan 2015, would invest $40 million annually in the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities. Not only that; we would also invest $15 million over three years into the ready, willing, and able initiative of the Canadian Association for Community Living, which helps connect persons with disabilities with jobs. In my own experience as a parliamentary secretary, I have seen programs like this support literally hundreds of disabled Canadians, connecting them with available jobs.

Currently, there are more than 800,000 disabled people in the country who are unemployed. Of those people, 400,000 have some form of post-secondary education. Conversely, we have employers across the country who are saying they cannot find qualified employees to take jobs. I encourage them all to look within the disabled community. We have able, ready, and willing employees there who want to work and who have a drive to work and be self-sustainable in their lives. It may take some accommodation in the workplace to employ a person with disabilities. It may take a little flexibility by the employer and maybe by the employee to ensure she or he can fill that job. However, I know from talking to employers who have employed disabled Canadians, as recently as a month ago, that they say that when they put the accommodations in place and support those workers they get very good workers. This money would be in addition to the $222 million per year to better meet the employment needs of Canadian businesses and improve the employment prospects for persons with disabilities through a new generation of labour market agreements for persons with disabilities. That is $222 million.

In closing, we are getting the job done for the disabled community in this country. I thank the member for her interest and her support for that community. We will continue to support employers and employees as they move to jobs in Canada.

Social DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Manon Perreault Independent Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I honestly feel as if we were participating in two different debates. I am talking about the enabling accessibility fund. Rather than dealing with productive programs that have proven to be effective on an ad hoc basis, doling out funding in dribs and drabs year after year, it would be better if the government made the enabling accessibility fund into a well-established, transparent program with recurrent funding.

Given the urgent needs of the organizations, which at this very moment are waiting for the next call for proposals to be announced for this program, can the government at least give the applicants some more information?

The government can help change these people's lives, and I am convinced that it has the power to live up to its intentions. I am therefore asking the government whether it could, at the very least, post the date when the next call for proposals will be held, make funding recurrent and improve the transparency of the program. In so doing, it would provide a little more stability for organizations that help people with disabilities.

Social DevelopmentAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, our government is working hard to improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities.

On top of the measures I mentioned earlier, we are also extending the enabling accessibility fund to improve accessibility in workplaces and other facilities across Canada.

These expanded criteria will support the disabled people the member across is asking about. We are also supporting many organizations dedicated to the well-being of persons with disabilities, helping them connect with available jobs and equipping them with the skills and training they need.

The 50 workers I spoke about earlier have been providing excellent service to Canadians for over three decades now, and thanks to this government they will be able to continue their great work and keep on inspiring us all.

We will continue to be there for the disabled community. We will continue to support the accessibility fund.