Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand here today. I have to comment on my two hon. colleagues across the way. I respect them as members of Parliament. However, good Lord, when one does not understand a topic like this, one should not be speaking to it. It is very clear that neither of them does. There were comments in there that have nothing whatsoever to do with this bill. The mindset over there just baffles me.
I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to discuss Bill C-346, a bill to amend the Firearms Act with respect to licences. It is a common-sense piece of legislation that has been put forward by my hon. colleague from Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies. He knows what this issue is. It is not hard to fix. I wish the people on the other side of the aisle would get a grasp on it.
To begin, I would like to commend my colleague for bringing this forward and for the tireless work he does for law-abiding firearms owners in Canada. He truly understands the issues that firearms owners face, and his bringing this legislation forward certainly reflects that.
I am hopeful that the government will finally stop the attack on law-abiding firearms owners in this country. Last year I brought forward legislation that could have closed a loophole that allowed the RCMP firearms program to make arbitrary firearms classifications. Like Bill C-346, my bill was a very common-sense measure that simply would have given a legal definition to the term “variant”, a term used close to 100 times in regulations related to firearms. Unfortunately, the government could not bring itself to side with law-abiding firearms owners and do the right thing. It is my hope that, this time around, common sense will prevail.
This legislation is certainly very timely. This week, deer hunters across Ontario are gearing up and heading out to their deer stands, waiting for the perfect buck to stroll into plain sight.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, you know me, and if I were not here in Ottawa today, I think you know where you would find me.
I can assure the House that law-abiding firearms owners accept that they need to be licensed. That is not an issue. However, the last thing that hunters and law-abiding firearms owners want to be thinking about when they are out in the bush is the expiry of their firearms licences. This legislation would help to ease the minds of law-abiding hunters, anglers, and sports shooters so they can get back to what they love.
This legislation would do three key things that would improve Canada's firearms licensing system.
First and foremost, Bill C-346 would eliminate the expiry of firearms licences, with a mandatory provision that the licence holder must update his or her information every 10 years. This is simply a common-sense measure that would solve a problem faced by Canadian firearms owners every day.
Going back to my colleagues across the way, they both mentioned the fact that 10 years was too much and that public safety would go to hell in a handbasket. If we look at passports, we see they have to be renewed every 10 years. I know that the colleagues across the way support that. Public safety is involved in passport applications as well, because of illegal entry or otherwise, and that is accepted. However, when it comes to firearms owners, those scary, bad, firearms owners, it just blows me away. I really took exception to the last speaker when she basically said that we are at risk of firearms owners going out and shooting people. It just shows a clear lack of knowledge and understanding when it comes to this issue.
Bill C-346 would eliminate the expiry of a firearms licence, with a mandatory provision that the licence holder must update that information every 10 years. This is simply a common-sense measure that would solve a problem faced every day by us Canadian firearms owners. Furthermore, it reflects the reality of the RCMP's continuous eligibility system. Every single day, the RCMP firearms program verifies the validity and conditions of licence requirements of licence holders across Canada.
Second, the bill also proposes to create a mechanism to ensure that updates are in fact provided every 10 years, just like with passports. Through Bill C-346, if individuals did not update their information with the RCMP firearms program after 10 years, their licence would be suspended.
The suspension would prohibit the licencee from being able to make purchases, but would not go as far as to criminalize the licencee for simply an administrative error. The suspension would be lifted as soon the licencee provided the necessary update.
This provision would ensure compliance with the licensing system, but would not criminalize firearms owners simply because they have forgotten to update their licence. This is, again, a common-sense measure.
Finally, Bill C-346 would also allow for the relinquishment of licences. It would create an environment in which someone who no longer desires a firearms licence could voluntarily relinquish their licence to a chief firearms officer with no negative consequences. This is another common-sense measure. My father-in-law actually went through this a few years ago, prior to his passing.
Now, I want to take some time to speak to why Bill C-346 is necessary, and why it is good news not only for firearms owners, but for the RCMP firearms program, and for Canadians in general. I know not all members in this place own firearms, but as a law-abiding firearms owner, I know the provisions in Bill C-346 go a long way in easing the tensions between firearms owners and the RCMP firearms program when it comes to licensing.
Time and time again, firearms owners have felt personally criminalized for simple administrative errors. In 2014, our Conservative government passed the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act. The act created a six-month grace period when a firearms licence expired to ensure that firearms owners would not feel criminalized for administrative errors. This bill goes even further and truly solves this problem once and for all. Essentially, when a firearms licence expires, the RCMP firearms program deems the person to be in possession of an illegal firearm.
I would like to cite the Criminal Code to demonstrate to the House just exactly what this could mean for a firearm owner with an expired licence. The Criminal Code says, “every person commits an offence who possesses a prohibited firearm, a restricted firearm or a non-restricted firearm without being the holder of (a) a licence under which the person may possess it”. In terms of punishment, the Criminal Code states that anyone in violation of the section above is “guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or (b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction”.
Five years for failing to renew on time. This is why there is so much angst among firearms owners when it comes to licensing. Under this system, the moment a licence is expired, firearms owners face the possibility of not only losing their property but facing up to five years in prison. The elimination of expiry would go a long way in creating a system that is respectful of firearms owners, which will in turn make firearms owners respectful of the system. It is truly a win-win situation.
Furthermore, this would decrease the administrative burden on the RCMP firearms program. There would be fewer administrative tasks to deal with, such as numerous renewals. Attention could then be paid to tasks that would truly make the system even safer. Imagine, less bureaucracy. What a concept.
I would like to say to my hon. colleagues across the way that this is truly a common-sense piece of legislation that would not only maintain the safety of Canada's firearms licensing system but would in fact enhance it. By creating a licensing system that is respectful of firearms owners, we would in turn see a greater appreciation of the licensing system, rather than distrust and angst from firearms owners.
I know the government has made a number of promises related to firearms in Canada. These are promises I would certainly like to see the government break. The promises made in the 2015 campaign do not reflect the reality of Canada's firearms safety regime. This legislation does.
I urge my colleagues across the way not to listen to all the talking points coming out of the PMO, to do the right thing on this and support Bill C-346.