Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place to talk once again about the important public safety measures being brought forward in Bill C-71. At the top, I want to talk about the tone of this debate and some of the messages and rhetoric.
It is important we have that push, that thrust and parry that occurs in debate and on issues. However, unfortunately my inbox has been filled with enormous hate, including death threats over this issue, which is deeply disturbing and entirely inappropriate. Therefore, we really have to watch the tenor of our debate. This is about public safety and about working together to make our communities safer. We may have differences in approach, but those kinds of messages and death threats certainly have no place in our public discourse, and have been enormously disappointing.
Unfortunately, we have a serious problem in Canada with gun violence. Only a brief couple of weeks ago, at the Pickering ribfest, a shooting terrorized our community. This is a very peaceful event that has gone on for a long time. Only months earlier, there was a horrific multiple homicide then suicide, a domestic violence situation. That is emblematic of what we have seen over the last number of years where Canada has had a decrease in the crime rate overall, but the gun violence in all of its forms has been on the incline.
Some have said that it was low when we look back at 2012, so the fact it has gone up one-third is no big deal because it was so low before. A one-third spike in gun violence, when we had made such progress to drive those numbers lower, is a big deal. It is a big deal because a one-third increase represents a massive number of new victims, people who should not have been victimized, people for whom we could have avoided that situation. Unfortunately that increase in violence has manifested itself in a number of different ways. It has happened with guns and gangs, but tragically it has happened in domestic violence situations. Not often enough do we talk about the increases that have also occurred with respect to suicides.
Therefore, we need to look at this issue from every angle. We have never held out that Bill C-71 is a panacea that will solve all the problems of gun violence, but it is an important part of a broader strategy.
I also want to talk about the fact that when we introduced everything during the election campaign more than two and a half years ago, we said from the outset that we wanted to work with law-abiding gun owners to ensure the measures were as little an imposition on them as possible, while at the same time achieve our public safety objectives.
Let us talk about what we ran on in the platform and what is here today. One of the things we said in the platform, and this has been done in the United States since the 1970s, was that when a gun shop sold a gun, it would have to keep a record of that weapon. It has to keep a record of who of sold it to. Some concerns were raised by gun owners and members of the House that this information might be misused. Therefore, we made a concession in the platform, which is in the bill, that someone had to have lawful access to get that information. In other words, the only way that information could be obtained from a gun store was if it would help an investigation and help catch a criminal. It would allow a police office to go to a gun store, say a gun was involved in a crime, and ask who the gun was sold to. The only way the officer could get that information would be if it could be demonstrated, through judicial access, that in fact that information would help solve a crime. It is behind a firewall.
Unimaginably, the Conservatives have called this a “gun registry”. That is a piece of fantastical imagination and is on the level of believing in unicorns. The reality is that this information can only accessed by police to solve crimes. To describe it in any other way is frankly dishonest and it does this debate no service.
Another thing we ran on as part of our platform in the campaign was that when people were transporting a prohibited or restricted weapon, they would require a free permit to ensure they had authorization to take weapon wherever they would be going. a free permit. In this instance we are not talking about hunting rifles or shotguns; we are talking about high-powered semi-automatic rifles and handguns. We are talking about a class of weapon that is very strictly controlled.
We listened to the gun community. We listened particularly to sports shooters and others. They said that if they were taking it to their gun club directly and they were pulled over by the police for something else, then it would be self-evident they were going to their club and they should not require that authorization to transport. We thought that was a fair point, so we changed what we put in the platform and made that concession so it would only be required when they took their guns somewhere other than a gun club.
Some people have suggested that it should only be a person's own gun club, but we heard from sports shooters. They said that would be a great imposition. When they are competing in tournaments, they are not going to given the opportunity to visit multiple locations. They will have to get a permit all the time, which would be an enormous imposition for people who were doing this as a sport, as an example, or for Olympians. This is why we allow people within the province to drive to any gun club and not require an authorization to transport.
However, in the fewer than 10% of instances when people are taking their guns somewhere other than a gun club, then they are required to get a free permit to demonstrate they are taking them where they should be taking them. By the way, the permits can be emailed to them and they can show it as a PDF. Some people asked why they should do that. There are a couple of very important reasons for this.
If we look at the rules today and do a hot map of any city in Canada, not having that provision means a person can have a prohibited or restricted weapon in the car at all times and be able to explain to police that he or she is taking it somewhere. The individual is allowed to take it to so many places that effectively there is no restriction on driving around with a handgun, a high-powered semi-automatic rifle, or even a fully automatic prohibited weapon in their car.
We have heard from the OPP and the RCMP, and certainly we have heard very clearly from the chiefs of police, that there have been many instances where police officers have pulled people over for one offence and have noticed a prohibited or restricted weapon in their car. The individuals in question are not going to a gun range, the officers cannot figure out where they are going and there is nothing the officers can do. Therefore, police say it is important to have that authorization to transport, which is free and can be provided as a PDF. It provides an important public safety instrument. By the way, again, that represents only less than 10% of the cases. It certainly does not make sense to me that people are sending me death threats over this kind of measure.
As well, the bill would do a couple of other important things. It was actually Jason Kenney, a former member of the House, who talked about the need to have expanded background checks. The reason for this is that unfortunately in a five-year window, somebody's violent history may not be captured. I have spoken in the House before about instances where unfortunately, and all too often, women trapped in violent relationships do not report that violence and do not come forward. It can drag on for years. When the woman finally escapes that relationship, the individual in question can go in and buy guns legally because his violent history with women has not been reported on for more than five years. That person is then able to purchase weapons and unfortunately shoot his former partner dead. It has happened far too many times in the country.
Sadly, gun violence occurs with both registered and unregistered weapons. The measures contained in the bill, and there are a lot more than I have time to address today, do important public safety good to ensure we are a bit safer.
This is one part of the puzzle. We are putting $100 million a year into the guns and gangs strategy to build up our strength at a local community level, to make our communities stronger and more resilient against gun violence. The work we are doing to improve the situation at the border, of the illegal transportation of weapons into this country, is so vital. We saw so many cuts to CBSA and to the RCMP. We are restoring those cuts, ensuring that strength is present.
It is part of an overall strategy to make our communities safer, while ensuring we have as little imposition as possible on those who use firearms responsibly.