Mr. Speaker, Bill C-71 was introduced in March of this year. In his speech arguing in favour of the bill, the Minister of Public Safety called it “important legislation that prioritizes public safety and effective police work, while treating law-abiding firearms owners and businesses fairly and reasonably”. He went on to add that this bill upheld the Liberal Party's commitment not to reinstate a federal long-gun registry.
I take issue with both of those claims. What I have seen with the Liberal government's Bill C-71 is quite the opposite. Bill C-71 does not treat law-abiding firearms owners fairly, and it is abundantly clear that the Liberals are moving forward with what is, in effect, even if not in name, a new gun registry.
Let us begin with the claim that law-abiding firearms owners are treated fairly by the Liberal government. I think all Canadians believe in ensuring we treat firearms owners responsibly. We understand that, in the interests of public safety, there are sensible measures that can be taken. I think all of us in this place agree on that point. The trouble with Bill C-71 is that it is not offering any sensible measures to combat gang violence, gun violence, or escalating crime rates in our rural communities.
My Conservative colleagues and I recognize that the safety of Canadians must be the number one priority of any government, and we will support common-sense legislation related to firearms that will help keep Canadians safe, but here is the problem: Bill C-71 does not do that. It has no measures to combat the increasing rates of gun violence, domestic violence, gang violence, or to address the increasing rates of rural crime either in my riding of Provencher or across the country.
All this bill does is add greater costs and regulatory burdens to law-abiding firearms owners. In fact, the bill uses the words “registrar” or “reference number” 28 times. Do members know how many times the words “gang” or “criminal organization” appear? Zero. If Bill C-71 is not targeting criminals, who exactly is going to be impacted by this legislation? How are Canadians going to be better off for it? The answer to that first question is, unsurprisingly, law-abiding firearms owners. This bill makes the same mistake the Liberals always make on this issue. It is targeting law-abiding firearms owners instead of criminals. It is high time the Liberals stopped treating lawful gun owners like criminals.
This legislation offers plenty more red tape for those who follow the law. It will certainly create a larger burden for farmers and hunters. However, for those who disregard our laws and commit crimes, there is nothing here to dissuade them from continuing.
As I often say in this place, it is among the primary responsibilities of government to protect its citizens. In fact, our previous Conservative government understood that we could be tough on crime while respecting those who own firearms legally and operate them safely. The criminal element behind firearms violence was always where we focused our attention, yet with Bill C-71, the Liberals have entirely neglected to address the criminals who use guns to commit violence, while treating law-abiding firearms owners like criminals. Why would they do this?
As is the case on most occasions with the Liberals, they are more interested in being seen to be taking action rather than actually taking meaningful action. Let me explain.
It is difficult to address gun and gang violence; we all understand that. It is quite easy, however, to increase red tape and place new restrictions on those who are already following the rules. The Liberals get the benefit of being seen to do something even though the impact of their proposals will do nothing for the serious gun and gang violence Canadians want to see gone from their streets.
I think it is worth highlighting a CBC analysis that was undertaken on this bill, because it speaks to the way the Liberals have tried to justify Bill C-71. The Minister of Public Safety used statistics going back to 2013 to suggest that there had been a dramatic surge in gang shootings since that time. “Gun homicides are up by two-thirds”, he warned. However, he chose 2013 specifically because it was an unusual year statistically speaking. The year 2013 “saw Canada's lowest rate of criminal homicides in 50 years, and the lowest rate of fatal shootings ever recorded by Statistics Canada”, the CBC analysis from March reads. As the analysis indicates, “What appears to make 2013 attractive as a point of comparison is that any year in the past half century can be made to look alarmingly high by comparing it to 2013.”
The Liberals want to be seen as doing something. They were able to manipulate the statistics to create a monster that does not really exist. The Conservatives know that there are still very real issues out there with respect to gun and gang violence, but the Liberals have shown they are not serious about addressing the difficult challenges.
Conservatives will not simply vote in favour of this legislation and play pretend with the Liberals. When the Liberals want to tackle serious crime, Conservatives will be the first to stand with them. In fact, they may consider looking back at our years in government for some pro tips in that regard. Canadians can count on us to fight for concrete actions to keep Canadians safe, focusing our efforts on the criminal element behind this violence. We will not join the Liberals' crusade to make life more difficult for law-abiding Canadians.
Second, I want to discuss the Liberals' claim that Bill C-71 somehow would not reintroduce a gun registry. Now, I know that my Liberal colleagues and the Prime Minister bristle when any assertion is made that this bill is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to bring back the federal long-gun registry. We have heard the Prime Minister say that they are committed to not restoring a long-gun registry and that they are not restoring a long-gun registry; it is that simple. However, somebody needs to explain to the Prime Minister, and to my hon. colleagues, for that matter, that when the federal government is using a federal registrar to keep records on law-abiding firearms owners, that is a gun registry. It is that simple: registrars keep registries. This bill is not about restricted firearms. This is not about illegal guns. The Liberals want to use a federal registrar to keep records on non-restricted firearms and law-abiding firearms owners.
Again, the bill uses the words “registrar” or “reference number” 28 times, and the words “gang” or “criminal organization”, zero times. That is why we on this side of the House have called out this proposal for what it is. It is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to bring back the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry that Conservatives were given a clear mandate to eliminate. I find it interesting that the Prime Minister dismissed this long-gun registry as a failure back in 2012. This was despite his vote in favour of keeping it intact earlier on. Therefore, we should not be surprised that he has changed his mind again. Now he wants a new registry, he just does not want to call it a registry. However, if it walks like a registry and if it talks like a registry—I think members know where I am going—it probably is a registry.
Here is why these kinds of registries do not work. In Canada, 93% of gun crimes that result in death are committed with illegal guns by people who should not have them. The people the government should be targeting with this bill are not legal firearms owners, but those in possession of illegal weapons. Therefore, why in this legislation are the Liberals ignoring gangs, and instead targeting hunters, farmers, and northern Canadians? I serve a rural riding. A lot of good, law-abiding people own firearms, and nobody knows better than hunters and farmers the importance of gun safety and the social responsibility that comes with owning a firearm. That is why it is deeply insulting to have the Liberals consistently impugn not only those people's ability to be responsible citizens, but the kind of moral equivalency we see the Liberals trying to draw between violent gang members, criminals, and then law-abiding firearms owners. The Liberals need to stop focusing their fire on law-abiding farmers, hunters, and northern Canadians, and focus it on felons, on gangs, and on the flow of illegal guns across the borders. However, instead, they continue to target law-abiding citizens, trying to trip them up into an offence by changing the rules.
I do not see any merit in this piece of legislation as it stands. It would not achieve what the Liberals say it will. Instead of targeting gangs and illegal guns, they have stubbornly chosen to keep law-abiding Canadians in their crosshairs. That is why I will be voting against this bill.
That said, I am pleased to highlight that Conservatives have been behind initiatives to address crime in Canada. As I close, I want to highlight the recent efforts of my colleague, the member for Lakeland, and her work to draw attention to rural crime in particular. I was pleased to second her motion, Motion No. 167, which called for an in-depth study of rural crime rates and trends, as well as the current resources available for rural policing and whether they are sufficient. This represents just one of the many efforts by the Conservatives to tackle crime and improve the lives of law-abiding Canadians. I am pleased to say that motion was passed unanimously by this House. With that, I want to close.