House of Commons Hansard #231 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firearms.


Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

5:05 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, increasing the Canada child benefit, for instance, for lots of low-income aboriginal people, indigenous people, and others in my riding is crucial. As the member said, it is not taxable. There are 5,840 children in Yukon who receive this, an average amount of $6,240. Will the increases we gave to low-income seniors, low-income students, and the working income tax benefit contribute to the economy? Obviously, all of these people are going to reinvest that money right away. They really need it.

I will clarify what two opposition members said on northern benefits. We have increased the northern benefit so that people living in the far regions of the north get an increase, which was delightful for the north. Over three years, we will put in $89.9 million for indigenous language and cultures, so we agree with the NDP on that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

5:05 p.m.


Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to share something that happened to me one day when I was talking to my constituents. A woman came up to me in front of the grocery store and showed me what she bought. The total came up to about $5 or $6. She said that would probably be her food for the day, which was rather discouraging. She clearly did not have enough for three meals.

The government assistance being provided is probably not enough to make everyone rich, but it is meant to help meet basic needs. It is not enough money to invest. People need this bit of extra money on a daily basis.

This money is being invested in the public and in turn it will be reinvested in our market. It is reinvested in our grocery stores, our schools, our shops, and our services.

Our constituents confirm that this money is helpful. They are very clear, definitive, and consistent about it. They need this money and are very appreciative of this type of initiative.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

5:10 p.m.


Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance today to discuss the latest iteration of the Liberals' budget implementation legislation, Bill C-63.

When the Liberals were running their election campaign back in 2015, they made a number of promises to Canadians. One of those promises was that they would incur a small deficit of less than $10 billion. During that same time, they also promised they would balance the budget by 2019. We now know that neither of these things are true, and that every time the Prime Minister gives with one hand, he takes more with the other.

As the Liberals like to make up words and change their meaning, I have made up a word for this action. It is “dispocketnesia”, which means using one hand to take from one pocket to the other and forgetting about it.

When the Minister of Finance tabled the government's fall economic statement just a couple of weeks ago, he confirmed the Liberals were borrowing $20 billion this year to pay for their out-of-control spending; that is $20 billion this year alone. That means the current deficit is more than double what the Liberals initially promised. This also means, as confirmed by the government, that the budget will never be balanced under the Prime Minister.

Of course, with reckless spending comes the need to increase taxes, which is in part what Bill C-63 would do. Since the Prime Minister is adding debt at twice the rate he promised and since his government projects that debt will grow every year into the future, someone needs to foot the bill. Unfortunately for my constituents and for all Canadians, it is the taxpayer who will bear the burden of the government's irresponsible spending.

I say all this because the Liberal track record of the broken promise after broken promise has fostered an environment of distrust and skepticism among the residents of my riding, and certainly across the country.

The Liberals constantly say that they are helping the middle class and those who wish to join it, yet over 80% of middle-class Canadians are now paying more taxes than they did before the Prime Minister took office. Bill C-63 would not help these people, but rather would push our country further and further into debt.

The 80% figure I just quoted does not even include a measure that will drastically affect my constituents in a multitude of ways. That measure is a carbon tax, or do the Liberals hope Canadians have forgotten about that, because that is 54 days away?

The good people in my riding just simply cannot afford another tax, certainly not one that will affect so many aspects of their lives. They will now need to pay more to heat their homes, to drive their cars, run their tractors and combines, get to work or see their doctor, and operate their businesses. What do these people get from their government in return?

I would like to say my riding is currently booming with government-funded infrastructure projects that it sorely needs, but that would be a lie. I would like to tell my constituents that in return for the increase in their household bills due to a carbon tax, they would have a government that cares about western Canada, but I definitely cannot say that under the Liberals.

I would very much like to tell the small business owners in my riding that the government will start making life easier for them by not changing the tax rules to the point they are unsure if their businesses will even be viable in the future. Alas, I cannot do any of these things. The government lacks the credibility, as shown by their dismal track record, and Canadians expect better.

One of the major measures contained in Bill C-63 that I would like to touch on is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the effect this investment will have on Canadians. The Liberals are investing $500 million, half a billion dollars, to be a part of an investment bank in another country. We would think that an investment of that size would be overwhelmingly beneficial to the Canadian public, especially given the fact that the federal government is not exactly swimming in dollars at the moment.

Unfortunately, there will be very little direct benefit to Canadians as a result of this investment, and those who do benefit are the wealthy 1% who are the only ones who can afford to consider bidding on contracts through the infrastructure investment bank. We do not know how our investment will be used. We do not know what it will be used on or whether it will be to fund a pipeline. No, not a pipeline in Canada, despite the fact energy east was cancelled, but rather a pipeline in Asia. Instead of making it competitive for Canadian companies to see their oil, this makes it easier for foreign countries to compete against us.

How can the Liberals claim to be helping and representing the middle class when they are investing in measures such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank rather than using even a portion of that money to helping Canadians at home? The Liberals love to spend and we understand the need to create strong relationships and international partnerships through initiatives like investment banks, but it should not be at the cost of the Canadian taxpayer who will see no direct benefit. This is yet another reason why my constituents tell me they have completely lost faith in the government's ability to spend money responsibly.

It appears that the Liberals have a hard time understanding the needs of the middle-class Canadians for whom they say they are working. This is not surprising, given that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have never actually been middle class. The finance minister cemented this general lack of faith when it was recently discovered that he failed to disclose financial assets to the Ethics Commissioner. He should have done this as soon as he became a minister, and yet it was overlooked.

If average Canadians failed to disclose their assets to the appropriate government body, they would be punished accordingly, but when it is the Prime Minister's right-hand man, the problem seems to simply disappear. How are Canadians supposed to trust the finance minister with control of our country's finances when he cannot even properly take care of his own?

The finance minister also refuses to disclose whether he recused himself from important conversations surrounding legislation that would have an effect on his multi-million dollar company, Morneau Shepell . As far as we know, he took part in discussions surrounding Bill C-27. Was he involved in the talks on pensions for Bombardier and did he fail to recuse himself from discussions on the Bermuda tax treaty? Thankfully, he was unable to recuse himself when the Ethics Commissioner came calling. He paid the $200 dollar fine for his actions, but this leaves the question of just how open and honest our finance minister really is.

Canadians expect the Liberal government to do better and be better. We expect that cabinet ministers will uphold the rules to the letter of the law and will also do the right thing. The government has shown that the conduct of its cabinet ministers is not befitting the expectations of the people they represent. Not only are they unable to follow the rules themselves, but they expect the support of Canadians who are being punished for doing just that, as they stated in their messaging surrounding the tax changes to close perceived loopholes.

Those tax changes are going to hurt Canadians, especially in my riding where there is a plethora of small businesses, including farms. There are huge concerns over the cost to transfer a farm down from one generation to the next, something people in my constituency have been doing for over a century in some cases. The cost of doing business is going to go up for all business owners too, not just farmers.

Who is the cost not going to go up for? The Prime Minister and the finance minister, whose family fortunes are safely tucked away and will be unaffected by these tax changes. This just goes to show how out of touch the Liberals are when it comes to the needs of hard-working middle-class Canadians.

Bill C-63 contains many provisions given that it is an omnibus bill. Unfortunately I am failing to see how this “sunny ways” legislation will actually help the people in my riding. My hometown of Estevan is known as the “Sunshine Capital of Canada”. Even with that moniker, everyone knows the Liberals are not building green transit lines in rural Saskatchewan.

On this side of the House, we believe in responsible government spending, lower taxes, and making life more affordable for every Canadian. We have learned that we absolutely cannot trust the Prime Minister to give Canadians a tax break. In fact, the only thing we can trust is that he will continue to break his promises and put us further and further into debt, one tax increase at a time.

This is not what my constituents want. It is not what Canadians want. We will continue to fight the Prime Minister's continued tax hikes every step of the way.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to my colleague's speech. Since our government came into power, we have had extremely good growth. Canada has one of the fastest growing economies in the G7, and there is no denying that. I think my hon. colleague cannot deny that fact.

Budget 2017 will continue in the same way to help our economy grow further and continue to cut taxes for the middle class, small businesses, and help us move people into the middle class. I think my colleague across the way cannot deny that either.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have had a number of conversations with my hon. colleague over the last two years, which I appreciate. I have always found her very open in her conversation.

To answer her question, the Liberals cannot on the one hand take credit for the economy and jobs and on the other hand go after small businesses, farmers, and workers and tell them they are tax cheats. They cannot have it both ways. They either work one way or the other. If they are going to take credit for it, then they need to take credit for the fact that they are going to try to close all these loopholes they are accusing small businesses of having, and that is going to hurt my economy.

The economy in Estevan in my riding has lost many jobs because of the downturn in the oil industry, and it has not recovered. Those people are not back to work. They are still suffering. Back five years ago, my home town had a vacancy rate of 0.1%. Today it is 30%-plus. People are leaving rural Saskatchewan. The jobs in this infrastructure suggestion will not put any work into my riding.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, what is the member's plan to deal with the climate change crisis the world faces? I will give him a minute to think about it, because it may not be the number one priority for his party. I will make two comments while he is doing that.

First, it is fascinating how the Conservatives can make a loss out of a great win, and that is on the deficit. It has gone down from what was predicted because of the flourishing economy, and that is a great news story.

The other point is related to the fact that employment is at the highest in 10 years, as is growth, which was called “dismal”. Therefore, if the adjective for that is “dismal”, I wonder what the adjective for the Conservative record is.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I did have a quick chance to think about the member's question.

First, I am not in government. The member is in government.

Second, when we talk about what we can do, it gives me the opportunity to talk about what is happening in my riding. In my home town of Estevan, we have the only working carbon capture coal-fired power plant in the world. Basically, it is equivalent to taking over 2.5 million vehicles off the road by what it is doing. It is capturing 98% of the carbon through emissions. It is capturing 100% of the sulphur, which is being reused. It is taking those carbon emissions and pumping them down into the ground, which is also helping oil enhancement. It is making it easier for our oil industry to access the oil at a cheaper cost, which makes us more competitive.

Therefore, yes, we are stepping forward on the aspect of carbon capture, and we are very proud of that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-63, a bill to implement certain provisions of the budget. I want to first say how proud I am to be a colleague of the finance minister and to sit in the government with him.

The finance minister has led what most people would understand as an exemplary personal life. He has used much of his fortune to assist people in various parts of the world. He has to suffer the innuendo that is being offered almost every day, that perhaps he joined public life in order to enrich himself. I do not think anyone would seriously believe that we would engage in the election campaign and be successful in public life in the hopes of leaving this place as much wealthier people than when we came. The other thing I want to say about the finance minister is that his area of expertise is critical to the future of so many Canadians, because we have an aging population, we have many issues with regard to pensions, and it should be seen by most Canadians as a benefit to have someone with the profound expertise in the world of pensions such as our minister has.

The biggest take-away from the finance minister and the government legislation that we have put forward is the economic success of the country. All the numbers show it, and we have heard about the job creation. In my own city of Hamilton, we have an unemployment rate of 4.2%, and for the seventh year in a row we have over $1 billion in new building construction.

I also want to point out the success we have had with the Canada child benefit. In my own riding in the month of July, which is the latest for which I have the final figures, 9,470 families received cheques that affected 16,560 children for a total of $5.8 million. In the entire city of Hamilton, all five ridings, 44,700 families were affected, 80,620 children received the benefits, and the total amount for one month in Hamilton was $27.4 million. This money not only goes directly to the families involved, but one would assume it would immediately be reinvested in the community, in the neighbourhood stores, and in the small businesses in the neighbourhood where purchases are made. Therefore, this investment in the Canada child benefit plan is paying dividends that are almost impossible to understand. It is worth saying that in my city there are 80,000 children who are benefiting from this policy that stems from our budget, which was created in part by the finance minister.

I also want to briefly touch on the notion that comes from across the way referring to the costs to be borne by future generations. As a former mayor, I can say that the cities of Canada are in a desperate situation with a huge municipal infrastructure deficit that they cannot solve through the local tax revenues that they generate. Therefore, what would it be like for our future generations if the roads and sewers were even further incapacitated in the years ahead? In our case, we have just made a significant investment in safe drinking water. These are problems that exist now, and fixing them will be to the benefit of those future generations, so I am proud of what we have been able to achieve.

I will leave it at that for now.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2Government Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek will have five minutes remaining in his time for his comments on the motion when the House next resumes debate, and also of course five minutes for questions and comments.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from June 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-346, An Act to amend the Firearms Act (licences), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

November 7th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.


Ramez Ayoub Liberal Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-346, An Act to amend the Firearms Act (licences).

As my colleagues know, we campaigned on a promise to implement reasonable, effective measures with respect to firearms that promote public safety while ensuring that law-abiding firearm owners are treated in a fair and reasonable manner.

I believe it is fair and reasonable to require firearm owners to obtain a permit to own firearms. It is also fair and reasonable that people applying for a permit be required to provide information proving that they do not pose a threat, including information about any new mental health conditions as well as the attestation of current or former conjugal partners. It is also fair and reasonable that that information should be updated regularly, since circumstances can change in life.

That is why firearms permits currently have expiry dates. Every five years, firearms owners must apply to have their permits renewed and they must submit updated information on their eligibility. That is fair and reasonable.

Licences for many other things, such as cars, work the same way. However, the bill before us would eliminate the very idea of an expiration date for the firearms licensing system. In other words, this bill would allow people to go 10 years without having to update their licence information. That is not right or reasonable. This bill would not be in the interest of public safety. That is why I cannot support it.

Let us take a closer look at what Bill C-346 is proposing. Under the bill, a firearms licence would essentially be valid for life for any licence holder over 18. The idea behind the licensing provisions of the Firearms Act is to protect public safety by ensuring that applicants are appropriately screened.

The provision of the bill regarding lifetime licences will weaken the regime and undermine the very purpose of the act. What is more, it is dangerous to let people go for 10 years without updating the eligibility information on their permit. The information that is collected every five years under the current regime is critical to protecting the public. It is an invaluable tool for the chief firearms officers who review this information.

Chief firearms officers use this information to determine whether there are safety risks associated with allowing an individual continued access to a firearm. This is done based on the understanding that people's personal circumstances change over time. The chief firearms officers feel it is very important that this information be kept up to date, as do most Canadians.

Neither communities nor law enforcement officers would want a firearm owner who is not eligible to be able to go for 10 years without undergoing any kind of assessment, while maintaining continued access to firearms.

As I mentioned earlier, applicants have to provide a statement from their current or former partner confirming that they are not a threat. This statement is essential for several reasons.

For one thing, studies have shown that battered women are five times more likely to be killed by their aggressor if he owns a firearm. A study by the Violence Policy Center in the United States showed that nearly two-thirds of the women murdered with a firearm were killed by their intimate partner.

If that is not proof enough, we are seeing more and more evidence of the link between domestic violence and mass shootings. A recent American study that looked at mass shootings between 2009 and 2014 showed that 57% of them involved the murder of a family member or a current or former intimate partner.

If we were to pass this bill, a person could have serious concerns about a former partner owning a firearm, but Canadian authorities would be unaware of those concerns for 10 years.

Let us look at what would happen after 10 years if new information about eligibility were not supplied. First, the licence would not expire because it would have no expiration date. Essentially, the bill introduces the concept of a suspended licence for those who do not renew their licence, and it enables people to voluntarily relinquish their licence.

However, this proposed legislation does not adequately explain what a suspended licence means. The concept of a suspended firearms licence does not exist in the Firearms Act, nor is it defined in the Criminal Code.

There is nothing in the bill before us that defines this concept. It would introduce a vague system that would create uncertainty and jeopardize public safety. For example, if a person's licence is suspended, can that person buy, sell, or exchange a non-restricted firearm? The bill does not say.

Since the bill does not explain how it would amend the Firearms Act with regard to the transfer of non-restricted firearms, a person could buy a non-restricted firearm with a suspended licence, because their laminated card would still look valid.

By all accounts, this is not the only point on which this bill is too vague. It also fails to state whether people who continue to possess firearms after their licence is suspended could continue to hold a suspended licence, even though this would violate our firearms laws. We still do not know whether this means that those who have access to restricted or prohibited firearms could simply choose to allow their licence to be suspended indefinitely while still possessing a non-restricted firearm.

This type of omission is unacceptable in a bill dealing with such an important issue as firearms and community safety. The bill's inconsistencies go against the government's sensible and effective approach to firearms. In the past two years, the government has implemented reasonable basic measures to ensure Canadians' safety, while continuing to treat responsible firearm owners in a fair and respectful manner.

The government allowed decisions on technical classifications to be made by the law enforcement community rather than allowing politics, instead of public safety, to determine how a gun is classified. These decisions are made by the RCMP, in accordance with criteria established by Parliament in the Criminal Code and other regulatory regimes.

The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness overturned a ministerial directive from the previous government that would have allowed firearms manufacturers to determine the classification of their own products, and a new and more representative Canadian firearms advisory committee was established. It includes representatives of women's groups and public health organizations, as well as police and the firearms community. That makes sense, because decisions about firearms concern all of us.

In summary, we are putting public safety first while remaining respectful of responsible gun owners. Since Bill C-346 does not make public safety a priority, I invite all honourable members to join me in opposing it.

Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would have thought after all the debacles the Liberal government has been through in the past that maybe, during the debate on something as important as the rights of law-abiding citizens and their property, there would be someone in the Liberal Party who would actually know what they were talking about when they got up to speak. Virtually everything we just heard from the previous member is untrue, and unqualifiedly untrue, because it simply reflects a complete lack of knowledge of how the current system actually works.

I am proud to be a member of a political party, the Conservative Party, which, under former prime minister Stephen Harper and the previous minister, brought to this House in the previous Parliament the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act. I can tell everyone why that was so important. What my hon. colleague over there does not understand is that in no other jurisdiction in Canada does someone need to have a licence for the privilege of owning property. This has nothing to do with the use of a firearm or the deployment or activities pertaining to it, but is a licence to possess and acquire only.

We could go anywhere in Canada and buy a car, a house, or any other piece of property and would not need a licence to do so. The fact that a licence and the licensing requirement for firearms owners is already in place is a precedent. All that this bill by my hon. colleague from Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies seeks to do is to keep law-abiding citizens from becoming arbitrary criminals because of bureaucratic delays.

One of the things the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act did was to provide a grace period of up to, I believe, six months on the expiry of a possession acquisition or possession-only licence, and it merged the possession-only and possession acquisition licences into a common one. It made things easier for the police when it came to enforcing the laws with regard to background checks and the authorizations to transport. The Liberal government has already gone back on this to a paper system, despite the fact we had the ability, through the Canadian Police Information Centre, to have this digitally. Indeed, the police officer would have had the information instantly on an authorization to transport for any restricted firearm anyone had.

However, no, we are going to go back to the old ways, the old ways where the Liberals hide behind institutions. They love institutions. Over here on this side of the House, we trust in Canadian citizens and in their ability to make decisions that are best for themselves, and we trust law-abiding firearms owners. I grew up in the countryside, where if a police officer were in trouble, my friends and neighbours would come to the aid of the police officer. These are the kinds of people who own firearms in my community—farmers, hunters, sport shooters, patriotic Canadians who love the sport or need that tool for their way of life. These are not criminals.

I have a big news flash for everyone on the other side of the House: laws only pertain to law-abiding citizens. The more onerous we make the laws, and if we create laws that artificially make criminals out of people, we are not doing justice to anyone.

Here is the problem with what the Liberals are doing. Basically, they are now going back to hiding behind the RCMP. Now, I love the RCMP. What an iconic symbol it is for our country. I love the men and women on the front lines of the RCMP who serve and protect us every day. In fact, a member of the Abbotsford police force gave up his life on Monday. They are salt of the earth hard-working people, and virtually every RCMP officer I know likes hunting, and is maybe a firearms enthusiast. Most of them would disagree with the opposite side's notion that they should be voting against this piece of legislation.

A few years ago, I followed what was prescribed on the firearms site maintained by the RCMP. It said that if someone's possession acquisition licence were about to expire, the person should fill out a renewal at least six months beforehand. I had to go through the exact same process I had gone through in the first place to renew the licence. In that time frame, I was at the mercy of the whims of the RCMP bureaucracy to process my renewal. Guess what happened? That renewal did not come back within the six months.

The day after my birthday that year, I was automatically a criminal, through no fault of my own, after following the advice of the RCMP. I had firearms and ammunition in my possession that I had lawfully purchased, while I had a valid possession and acquisition licence. Simply because the bureaucracy did not return my possession acquisition licence renewal, I was an automatic criminal. If anything had happened to me, or if my house had been robbed, or if I wanted to go hunting and something happened or someone stole a firearm from my vehicle, I would have been in serious trouble, potentially criminal trouble, for doing something I did every hunting season.

Every time I go out to my parents' property to do varmint control, or whatever the case might be, I am a law-abiding Canadian citizen. I have no intent whatsoever of being in violation of the law. However, the law made a criminal of me. This is wrong. This is no different than the Liberals changing their minds and moving away from their elected responsibilities as members of Parliament and members of an executive branch of government through orders-in-council. They are now letting the RCMP, again, with a stroke of a pen, change regulations pertaining to firearms in our country, rather than taking the political responsibility and the decision for themselves on the advice of the RCMP.

I love this legislation because it simply suspends someone. It is not a complicated thing to understand. If a person's licence is suspended, it cannot be used, but the person does not have to go back and start the process all over again. Updating information every 10 years is no different than providing the same information again in an application. It just avoids the rigamarole. It is not a complicated concept to figure out. We do it for a passports now. The precedent is set for government-issued IDs for 10 years to be valid. What is so complicated about that? Is it just the love of bureaucracy and creating jobs in the bureaucracy that the Liberals admire and adore so much?

This is an attack on law-abiding citizens. I will remind the House that no one in Canada wants to see any type of violent crime. This issue is not about violent crime; it is about law-abiding Canadian citizens and is another attack or assault on their rights.

Bill C-346 would amend the Firearms Act to eliminate the expiry of firearms licences within the mandatory provision that the licence holder updates the relevant information every 10 years. In the government's mind we cannot have that. We need to have it every five years and start the process all over. God forbid if one's licence expires, as he or she will immediately be a criminal. What is so complicated about this?

It simplifies and streamlines a process. People have already been vetted and if their licences have been revoked in some way, they would know that, because 365 days a year, the RCMP, through the Canadian police information centre, and the CPIC database, would have verified and validated every Canadian firearms licence owner. If something was flagged through either a trial or court decision that someone's firearms licence should have been revoked or the person lost his or her privileges, the RCMP or the local police force would remove the licence from the individual and take he or she off. That is how someone who is in trouble is flagged, not by going through an application process all over again.

If people's licences are suspended, they cannot buy or sell their firearms or buy any ammunition. What an incentive to actually get the paperwork done in that 10-year period, to get the information into the police, and have the licences returned from the suspended mode. People should be able to turn their licences in at any point in time. This bill makes it easy for people who realize they no longer need their firearms licences to hand them in and be done with them. That is how the process should be stopped.

This bill is full of common sense. Obviously, anyone voting against it has none.

Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak about Bill C-346. For those who have just joined us, Bill C-346 amends the Firearms Act to eliminate the expiration of firearms licences for those over the age of 18. It essentially makes licences valid for life, only requiring an update of information every 10 years, with a penalty of a licence suspension if the information is not updated.

The current legislation requires owners of firearms to renew their licence every five years. As part of the process, they must update the information relevant to their licence eligibility. I will discuss this in further detail, but at this point I would like to clearly state that this does not seem like an overly onerous requirement to balance against the requirement and responsibility of having a firearms licence.

I believe everyone in this place can agree that we want to keep firearms out of the hands of people who could be dangerous. Our safety and the safety of our communities is paramount. Canadians, including my constituents, want to live in a country with effective gun regulations.

Millions of Canadians lawfully and responsibly own firearms. Responsible firearms owners understand why it is important for firearms to be kept out of the wrong hands. As of Sunday, the Toronto police showed that 324 shootings had occurred in the city of Toronto this year, including 26 shootings in my community.

Canadians understand the importance of doing everything to combat gun crime and to keep communities safe. This includes keeping firearms out of the hands of individuals who can be dangerous. At the heart of this is the fact that whenever we talk about guns, we need to focus on responsible gun ownership and the safety of our communities.

Our government believes in an effective approach that prioritizes public safety while respecting law-abiding firearms owners. The fundamental principle of the Firearms Act is ensuring public safety. Bill C-346 disturbs the balance, and for that reason, I cannot support this bill.

First, I cannot support the primary premise of this bill, which appears to be that the current requirements that a firearms owner renew their licence every five years is too onerous. I talk all the time with my kids about privileges and responsibilities, that when we have certain privileges, we must accept the responsibilities that come along with those privileges. For example, many Canadians have the privilege of driving a car. We all accept that that this privilege comes with the responsibility of driving the cars responsibly, and of renewing licences to ensure that the driver continues to meet the eligibility requirements, including whether or not the driver still meets the eyesight requirements?

That is the idea. Under the current legislation, every five years a responsible firearms owner must renew their licence. They update the information relevant to their licence eligibility. A renewal notice is sent to licensees about 90 days prior to expiry, and they have a six-month grace period if, for some reason, the licence is not renewed within that timeline.

The licence renewal forms can be completed online, and the cost is $60 for five years. Does this sound too onerous a responsibility for maintaining and fulfilling the obligations of having the privilege of maintaining lawful firearms ownership? It does not to me.

What I cannot understand is the problem that the member across the way wants to address. I can understand that we would want to see people update their information and to keep their eligibility information current. I cannot accept that we would be promoting responsible firearm ownership, or keeping our communities safe, by taking away this renewal every five years.

We can all logically understand the principle behind license renewals. Circumstances change, and we can all understand that an individual might qualify for a firearms license at one point but in the future might not meet the requirements. Under the current regime the information collected every five years is critical to protecting the public. It is an invaluable tool for the chief firearms officers, who review the information to determine whether there are safety risks associated with allowing an individual continued lawful access to firearms.

One of the most critical parts of the current five-year licence information update is what information can be investigated under section 55 of the Firearms Act to determine whether an applicant is eligible to hold a licence. Subsection 55(1) states:

A chief firearms officer or the Registrar may require an applicant for a licence or authorization to submit such information, in addition to that included in the application, as may reasonably be regarded as relevant for the purpose of determining whether the applicant is eligible to hold the licence or authorization.

Subsection 55(2) states:

Without restricting the scope of the inquiries that may be made with respect to an application for a licence, a chief firearms officer may conduct an investigation of the applicant, which may consist of interviews with neighbours, community workers, social workers, individuals who work or live with the applicant, spouse or common-law partner, former spouse or former common-law partner, dependants or whomever in the opinion of the chief firearms officer may provide information pertaining to whether the applicant is eligible under section 5 to hold a licence.

A firearms licence holder's personal situation, including mental health, employment, and marital status, can change numerous times in a 10-year period. By moving the requirement to update the chief firearms officer every 10 years, it will make it more difficult to determine all the factors in a person's changing life.

I also would like to address a specific part of the renewal eligibility requirements that should be emphasized and viewed through a gender-based analysis. One aspect of licence renewal eligibility concerns the owner's role in domestic violence. The key part of the five-year licence information update is that current or former partners of an individual may be contacted about concerns regarding extending the privilege of that person to acquire a firearm and to continue with his or her licence.

A 2011 Statistics Canada report on family violence in Canada found that from 2001 to 2009, in 53% of spousal murder-suicides, the cause of death was shooting. According to the RCMP 2015 Commissioner of Firearms report, in 2015, almost 400,000 new or renewed individual licenses were issued, and 688 applications were refused. Of these refusals, 40 were because of domestic violence.

I am proud that our government has adopted Canada's first gender-based violence strategy. Taking that into account, and the fact that women who leave an abusive spouse are at particular risk of violence, it seems reasonable to me that we have a system that allows for this factor to be reviewed every five years. I should add that domestic violence can be the basis for a licence to be revoked if an issue arises before the five-year renewal, but every five years, we have a chance to review.

I would add that 112 of the refusals were because of mental health, 203 refusals were because there was a concern that a person would be a danger to him or herself, and 132 refusals were because there was a concern that a person would be a danger to others. The refusals were just a handful of the new and renewed licences issued, as we would hope and expect. However, can we not all agree that it is better for us to remove the privilege that comes with a firearms licence from a person who is involved in domestic violence and is viewed as a threat to him or herself or as a danger to others? Is that not at the heart of public safety?

This is not just a question of renewing a licence every five or 10 years. Under this proposed legislation, if the licence is not updated at the 10-year timeline, it does not expire. It is not a 10-year licence that expires. At 10 years, the licence is suspended.

My colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, laid out very clearly all the unanswered questions in Bill C-346 in respect of suspension. It is not a defined term in the legislation. What does a license suspension mean? Would people who have suspended licences be allowed to continue possessing firearms? Would they be allowed to purchase ammunition? Would they be allowed to buy, sell, or trade firearms? Can a suspended licence be confiscated? All this ambiguity in the Firearms Act is unacceptable, and it clearly does not prioritize public safety.

I understand that when we talk about all these matters in the House, there are different perspectives. I have heard them. I am not a gun owner, and I represent a community of fewer gun owners that many of my colleagues. I understand that. In my community, there are incidents of shootings that make the community feel unsafe. Two weeks ago, a man was shot a couple of blocks from my house, with a child in a vehicle. I spoke to constituents recently who have bullet holes and broken windows from a shooting at the beginning of the summer.

Our government will be implementing measures consistent with our platform and will ensure that criminals and individuals who pose a danger to themselves or the public are not able to obtain and use firearms.

I will not be supporting this bill. To me, it is not a heavy burden for gun owners to renew their licences every five years, as the current legislation requires.

Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

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.

Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate. There being no further debate, I invite the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies for his right of reply. The hon. member has up to five minutes.

The hon. member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies.

Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleagues for speaking in support of the bill, my colleagues who are friends of firearms owners across this country and friends of hunters and anglers, which is actually quite a large group in Canada.

I want to especially thank the member for Red Deer—Lacombe for perfectly illustrating exactly why this bill was brought forward. He gave an example of a firearms owner who, in good faith, went through the renewal process of his PAL, which is a firearms licence in Canada. He did it six months prior to the expiration date and because of slow-moving bureaucracy, especially with respect to firearms licences in this country, the day that particular licence expired he became a criminal. That is the way the Criminal Code views a law-abiding person who in good faith did what he was supposed to do. This example perfectly illustrates why we have a need for this kind of legislation in our country.

I am disappointed that members on the other side would go into different parts of a question and always throw violence and different kinds of issues at firearms owners in this country. I am a law-abiding firearms owner. I have several firearms in my house. I know there are a lot of people in the chamber right now who own firearms and do so lawfully. To equate the entire group of firearms owners across this country, literally millions of them, to bad people who do not obey the law and are somehow more violent is a stretch, to me. I struggle with that.

This would be a reasonable firearms change. I call all firearms owners “Grandpa Joe”. I have referred to him before in video that I have done. The last thing we want to see is Grandpa Joe go to jail simply because his firearms licence did not come in the mail in time. That is why I proposed the bill.

I hope members on the other side actually read the bill and understand what they are saying in their speeches. By what I have heard them say in the debate, they clearly do not know what the bill says or what it would help lawful firearms owners do.

The 10-year licensing, in terms of renewal time, is in the bill. It is very similar to what we have now with respect to our passport regime in Canada, 10 years to update.

What is evident across the way is a lack of understanding of the continuous eligibility system in Canada. Every firearms owner gets checked every 24 hours. If somebody should not own a firearm anymore because of violence or some other kind of issue, that licence is immediately red flagged and the RCMP is tasked to revoke the licence.

We already have a system in place that takes care of this. I am just trying to help firearms owners with delayed bureaucracy. They should not be criminalized simply because they own a firearm.

I have used one example many times. We all have a vehicle licence, but just because it expires does not make one a criminal. With a firearms licence, it does.

We have heard about five years as a minimum time in jail for simply not renewing a firearms licence. This is exactly what the bill is trying to fix. Lawful firearms owners across this country support the bill. It is very straightforward.

I will give the House one quote. My bill reflects “the reality that every firearms licence in Canada is reviewed every day by the police. The RCMP's Continuous Eligibility should equate to continuous entitlement to possess firearms.” Tony Bernardo of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association said that.

One the largest sport shooting groups across this country supports licensing firearms owners. We are not saying we do not want licensing for firearms owners, not at all. We are just saying that we do not want Grandpa Joe to go to jail simply because a bureaucracy did not get his licence back to him within six months. We have a sitting member of Parliament who did not get his licence in time and would have been a criminal at that particular moment in time. To me, that is exactly what the bill would fix. I trust members on both sides and across the way in government will support my bill.

Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members



Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Firearms ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, November 8, before the time provided for private members' business.

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

Immigration, Refugees and CitizenshipAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, when I first drew the attention of the minister to the situation facing the Inland Refugee Society of BC, the IRS-BC was facing a 300% increase in its caseload, much of it resulting from the irregular crossing situation.

The IRS-BC offers a unique set of programming for inland claimants, who often lack access to services while waiting for decisions to be made on their claims. Unfortunately, as a result of its unique situation, IRS-BC does not receive any federal funding.

From the time I rose in the House at the beginning of June to the end of September, an additional 271 irregular crossings resulting in asylum claims have occurred in B.C. This brings the total from January to September to 564 in British Columbia. I have risen on this broader issue numerous times. The government continues to claim that it is handling the situation well, but the reality on the ground tells a very different story.

The IRS-BC has informed me that the Canadian Red Cross had to step in to help it due to its funding shortfall. The Red Cross, in August alone, was supporting over 90 individuals in hotel rooms. The IRS-BC had a number of clients in temporary shelters. It informed me that it was stretched so thin that even the Red Cross assistance was insufficient and that people were not getting housed. In some cases, some individuals were rendered homeless. The increase in caseload was forcing the IRS-BC to turn individuals away, as it had neither the capacity to help these individuals find housing, nor to support them with food or transportation.

Irregular border crossers in B.C. are not being fast-tracked for work permits like those in Quebec are, highlighting the government's haphazard approach of taking one-off measures in response to this situation.

Throughout the year, I have also highlighted for the government the underfunding and understaffing of the IRB. To date, despite the fact the government knows about the shortfall in funding for the IRB, it has continued not to provide the necessary resources for the IRB. The IRB, the minister, IRCC, and the parliamentary secretary have acknowledged that this has increased processing time for claims, but have still not committed to providing additional resources.

The IRB now has a backlog of over 14,000 cases. This backlog is increasing by 1,400 cases per month, and yet the government is still doing nothing beyond saying that it is reviewing the situation and calling for “efficiencies”. In the meantime, lives are left in limbo. Organizations that provide services to asylum claimants like IRS-BC are forced to provide services to more people, and to provide those services for a longer period of time because of the delays in hearing these cases. Of course, it does not have the additional resources to do that.

My question for the government is this. Will it commit to provide funding to organizations like IRS-BC, and when will it finally address the funding issues at the IRB?