Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to debate Bill C-47, a bill that implements an international arms control treaty. It is fascinating listening to the members from Glengarry—Prescott—Russell and Kitchener Centre on the government side. We heard so much about the government's intentions. They said that the bill intends to do this and that, and that the government does not intend to cause any problems for law-abiding firearms owners but to address arms control internationally. It lays bare a fundamental difference in the foreign policy approach of the official opposition and the government, which is that the government is always chasing an optic, in general, but especially when it comes to our foreign policy, without looking at the details.
My colleagues on this side of the House have very ably laid out the practical problems with this legislation and the practical reality that we already have a strong system of arms control in this country that achieves the stated objective. The government members barely engaged in a discussion on this point. Instead, we heard them laud their own intentions.
Let me tell the members opposite that on many of these issues, we have the same intentions, but we have read the bill and looked at the treaty and have heard specific concerns from our communities about its substance, especially insofar as we already have a strong system in place.
We oppose the bill on the grounds that it complicates existing arms control mechanisms that are working very well at present, and that in the process, it introduces substantial problems for responsible law-abiding Canadian firearms owners. I want to start by talking about some of those core substantive issues in terms of existing and proposed new arms control measures and then talk specifically about what I am hearing from firearms owners in my riding about the way the government is treating them.
On the substantive side, Canada already has a strong and effective system of arms control that, in practical effect, exceeds the system proposed by the UN treaty. It includes the Trade Controls Bureau, through which the responsible minister prevents us supplying military equipment to countries where those exports might threaten Canadian security or be used in an internal or external conflict in general. I should say that it is supposed to do that depending on the decision the minister makes. It includes provisions that allow a complete ban on trade with high-risk countries. Under the present system, the Canada Border Services Agency and Statistics Canada collect all such information on goods exported from Canada.
Therefore, we are already doing exactly what we need to do and are meeting the objectives laid out by the member for Kitchener Centre. We are already doing those things, keeping weapons from bad actors and out of dangerous situations and, in any event, certainly tracking our exports.
Some might argue that signing on to this UN treaty is important to align Canada with other nations. One of the members opposite mentioned the nations that had initially signed on to it, but if we look at the actual ratification record of countries, we note that the countries accounting for a majority of the sales of military equipment have not signed on to it, so this treaty is not at all establishing an effective international regime that we can align with.
We already do arms control and do it well, so at best, Bill C-47 is a solution in search of a problem. Paradoxically that was the defence of it by the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. He told us that it is not really changing anything anyway, which is at odds with what the member for Kitchener Centre said. The member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell told us that it is not changing anything, but the member for Kitchener Centre told us it is going to save the world. It is one or the other. Maybe it is somewhere in-between. Probably, based on our evidence, it is making things worse.
At best, if we take the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell at his word, it is a solution in search of a problem. However, our contention is that it is worse than that, because the treaty fails to recognize the legitimacy of lawful firearms ownership and creates all sorts of unnecessary problems and red tape for responsible firearms owners. Most critically, it effectively recreates the federal gun registry by requiring the tracking of all imported and exported firearms and requires that that information be available to the minister for six years. Given that those are calendar years, it could be up to seven years.
Firearms groups and individual owners have repeatedly expressed concern about the implications of this. They want a strong system of arms control, but they point out that in fact we already have one.
Beyond that, firearms owners are generally frustrated by a constantly shifting classification system that does not provide any meaningful certainty to law-abiding gun owners. A gun could be legal today and illegal tomorrow, without even the due process of an order in council.
I also want to make some points in general about the government's approach to firearms owners.
I know that many people in the House have certain ideas about who gun owners are. These presumptions or stereotypes lead the government to dismiss the legitimate concerns and suggestions of people from the firearms owning community. When everything we know about a particular community comes from movies and media, we are perhaps liable to come to incorrect conclusions.
I ask the government to pause and look again and to listen to the many law-abiding firearms owners in this country. Most people who own guns are not like Al Capone or even James Bond. They are scrupulously careful with their firearms and use them for recreation and, perhaps, to hunt responsibly for food.
The responsible use of firearms can be something around which people build community. Just like some of us get together over drinks or to play sports, some Canadians enjoy spending time with their families and friends at the range or out hunting. For some people, guns are also an important part of their family history. In these cases, making it harder for people to possess their guns means we are trying to take away people's valuable family heirlooms.
I ask the government to think about these gun owners, people whom we might not have met but who do not deserve to be judged on the basis of uninformed stereotypes. Liberals, who supposedly champion diversity and openness to experience, should be open to learning about the legitimate aspirations of firearms owners, aspirations that can be effectively and responsibly integrated with a commitment to public safety.
With that in mind, in the remaining time I have, I will read at some length an essay written by one of my constituents who is a firearms owners. He asked that I share this anonymously. He writes the following:
I am the gun owner that is a loving husband and father, I raised great kids and still love my high school sweetheart 27 years later.
I am the gun owner that deplores violence, I respect the police and the law. I fly a Canadian flag in my yard.
I am the gun owner that is a sports coach, a community leader, an involved parent, and the father that booked off work for all those field trips with our kids when others were busy.
I am that gun owner that stopped on that icy highway and brought your wife and child to safety from their stuck car on a cold night....
I am that gun owner that has a successful business, employs people with good jobs and fair wages. I am the gun owner that ensures respect, fairness and proper treatment of people, I speak out against harassment and racism.
I am that gun owner that believes firearms safety and training are paramount to have a successful firearms policy in our country.
I am the gun owner that stores his firearms properly and safely, respects the privilege of owning firearms, and is a respected and committed member of the community, that cares deeply about the safety of your children and mine.
I am the gun owner that lives on your street, down the alley or at the end of the block, I am the one that waves, pushes your car when you are stuck, and my kids and I are the ones that shovelled those neighbors driveways when they needed help, someone passed away or a neighbour fell ill.
I am the gun owner that has firearms for sports shooting and hunting and recreation, my firearms have been passed from generation to generation, my firearms are of all types and many are well over a hundred years old, they have never been used in anger or against another. They are my family history, heirlooms and always used safely and with respect for my family, neighbors and friends. Many belonged to my great-grandfather, grandfather and father....
I am the gun owner who is proud, and enjoys the wonderful people I have met in the firearms community, my dear friends they have become, they are good people worthy of my friendship.
I am the gun owner, that should not be blamed for gang violence, smuggled and stolen firearms, failed public policy not holding criminals responsible for their actions, or drugs in our community. I am responsible for none of these things. But if I was the Public Safety Minister, I would take real action against these plagues on our communities.
I am the gun owner that believes the Government should focus on passing legislation like Wynn's Law, that would make criminal history mandatory at bail hearing's so that if suspects are released into our communities, the Justice releasing them is aware of the risks to our families, our communities and our police officers....
I am the gun owner that requests your support for our heritage sport, target shooting, responsible and ethical hunting practices and acceptance that the two million plus Canadian gun owners are your friends, neighbours and the people who help make caring communities up.
I am the gun owner that recently had his 10/22 magazines status changed to prohibited by this government, effectively making farmers, sports shooters and good Canadians into criminals without notice, without cause or justification. Many who are unaware now face incarceration and don't even know it. If the Liberals are going to turn law abiding citizens into criminals they should at least communicate this to the citizens. I will do my best to let everyone I can know about their actions.
I am the gun owner who will not be silent anymore. I will be politically active, I will speak up, I will endorse the right candidates to speak for my community, I will speak to factual evidence....
I am that Gun Owner.
I am thankful for the opportunity to share that on behalf of my constituents, and to oppose to bill.