Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-71, an act to amend certain acts and regulations in relation to firearms.
I have been a member of this place for nearly 13 years. I am proud that over that time I have played a part in legislation that ensures Parliament is reaching three important objectives: first, that laws are put in place to protect the public from violent crime; second, that we are standing up for victims of crime and their families; and third, that law-abiding Canadians are treated with respect.
In this case, Bill C-71 misses the mark on all three of these objectives.
I recognize, and indeed our previous Conservative government recognized, how important it is to ensure that violent offenders and those who intend on using weapons to commit crimes are taken off the streets. I am certainly an advocate for legislation that targets dangerous offenders, protects our public, and ensures justice for victims and their families. I am proud that over my time here, I have been able to do my part to do just that.
In 2013, I introduced Bill C-479, an act to bring fairness for the victims of violent offenders. This legislation, which received all-party support, made certain that violent offenders who were clearly not remorseful or ready to be reintegrated into society could not drag their victims and their families before the Parole Board every year needlessly.
Indeed, any laws that aim to tackle violent crime must also seek to protect victims of violent offenders and their families from being re-victimized. They must also ensure that these offenders, those that are among the most likely to reoffend, do not get that opportunity.
By introducing legislation such as the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, and the Tackling Violent Crime Act, among many others, our Conservative government implemented productive, common-sense policies that treated firearms owners in the manner that any law-abiding citizen should be treated, while also cracking down on violent offenders and protecting the rights of victims.
The Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act took the power to reclassify firearms out of the hands of the RCMP and officials and put it in the hands of parliamentarians, who could be held accountable by the public. In doing so, our government sought to prevent any law-abiding citizen from being criminalized due to an unsubstantiated classification change.
The Tackling Violent Crime Act mandated jail time for serious gun crimes and made bail provisions stricter for those who had been accused of such crimes.
The Organized Crime and Protection of Justice System Participants Act provided police and justices with crucial new tools to fight against organized crime and to target reckless shootings by adding a new offence for the use of a firearm in the commission of a crime, regardless of whether the person caused or meant to cause bodily harm.
Of course, who could forget that we repealed the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry, which did absolutely nothing to reduce crime, but did waste millions in taxpayer dollars to treat law-abiding Canadians like criminals. In fact, I would challenge my Liberal colleagues to show me any data that would prove that there has been any increase in firearms crimes from legal firearms owners since the firearms registry was eliminated.
These are just a very small sample of the measures our previous Conservative government took to protect our communities and keep Canadians safe.
It is a shame now that the current Liberal government is trying to undo the progress we made. We have seen over the past two and a half years that the government cannot be trusted when it comes to protecting the public, while also protecting the rights of farmers and recreational and competitive firearms owners.
Bill C-71 proposes a myriad of changes that would potentially criminalize law-abiding Canadians, while doing nothing to target violent offenders or organized crime. The bill would put firearms classification powers back in the hands of unelected officials who Canadians cannot hold accountable, and risks unsubstantiated changes that would indeed create legal problems for people who have done nothing wrong. For my colleagues across the way, we experienced that in the last session when changes were made. Some members of Parliament who possessed firearms were criminalized by the changes.
What is worse is that the Liberals are pretending they are not trying to bring back the long-gun registry, which is nothing less than misleading. This bill would create a registrar to keep track of transfers of non-restricted firearms, yet the government insists it is not bringing back the long-gun registry.
I took the liberty of doing a quick Google search for the word “registrar”, and right at the top of the page was a definition that read, “an official responsible for keeping a register or official records.” That certainly sounds like a long-gun registry to me, and it sounds equally as wasteful and ineffective as the last one.
Originally, our caucus was optimistic about the government's intentions when it accepted our amendment at committee, which stated, “For greater certainty, nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to permit or require the registration of non-restricted firearms.” However, much to our surprise, it rejected our additional amendments that would have ensured that the elements of Bill C-71 to bring in this new long-gun registry were taken out of the bill. The government can say that it is not bringing back the long-gun registry, and I have heard it say that many times, but that does not make it true.
Meanwhile, Bill C-75, the government's legislation that proposes to overhaul the Criminal Code, would reduce penalties for very serious crimes, in some cases down to simple fines. The penalties for crimes like participating in the activities of a terrorist group, advocating genocide, and participating in organized criminal activity are being reduced in one piece of legislation, while farmers are being potentially criminalized in another. That is absolutely shameful.
The riding I represent, Flamborough—Glanbrook, is home to many farmers, hunters and sport shooters. These are people who are legally and safely using their firearms to protect their livestock and their crops, and who are participating in recreational pastimes that are ingrained in our national heritage.
I have heard from a wide variety of firearms owners in my riding who are deeply concerned that the government is targeting them through this bill, while completely neglecting to address rising crime rates in rural communities across the country which are particularly derived from illegal imported firearms.
I personally enjoy going down to the range for recreational purposes, and I completely understand the concerns of my constituents. They are concerned that they could be randomly criminalized by bureaucrats who they would be wholly unable to hold to account. They are concerned that the government is increasing red tape and treating them like criminals when they have done absolutely nothing wrong.
As has already been pointed out by our Conservative caucus several times throughout debate on this bill, this new long-gun registry that the Liberals are bringing in through the back door is treating law-abiding Canadians like suspects, and that is just not right.
The tandem of Bill C-71 and Bill C-75 is symbolic of much of the last two and a half years, where the government has been terribly ineffective on numerous files. The Liberals introduced these two pieces of legislation with the notion that they wished to tackle gun violence. However, they are doing nothing of the sort. What these bills would do is potentially criminalize law-abiding farmers, hunters, and sport shooters, and reduce the penalties for very serious and violent crimes. What they would not do is make our communities safer.
Canadians want to feel safe in their communities and their homes. They want a government that ensures that those who pose a threat to them and their families are taken off the streets. Bill C-71, and Bill C-75 for that matter, would do nothing of the sort.
This legislation is not only deeply flawed, but wasteful, and quite frankly offensive to the thousands of law-abiding Canadians who it will affect. Our Conservative caucus is determined to ensure that the laws we produce in this place protect our communities and respect the rights of law-abiding Canadians. Anything less is not good enough.