Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure to stand in this place and speak, not necessarily just on this bill, but on this issue. I have been speaking on this issue in the House it seems for 25 years, but in reality it is 18 years, because that is when I came to the House. Today it is Bill C-71, which has been dubbed the firearm owners harassment act, and most of my constituents believe that is what Bill C-71 is.
Last spring, I wrote a biweekly column for the papers in my constituency. In that newspaper column, the reference was Groundhog Day, because when Bill C-71 was introduced, it was much like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day reliving a very memorable and disturbing day. For me, that day happened back on February 14, 1995. Over and over, we have had reference to that day here in the House of Commons. It was the day that ultimately led to my seeking election for this place in 2000. It was the day that Bill C-68 was introduced by former Liberal justice minister Allan Rock. I will say that there is still a distrust among law-abiding gun owners in this country of the Liberal Party of Canada.
I will paint this picture a little clearer. We are debating Bill C-71, but today in the Globe and Mail, the story is that one of our ministers is going to begin consultations on banning firearms, banning handguns, across Canada. Therefore, although we debate Bill C-71, which has bad proposed legislation in it, the background is that there is more going on with the Liberal government. One of my colleagues from Lethbridge earlier this week delivered a petition to Parliament with 86,000 signatures from law-abiding gun owners in this country. There are over 10,000 from Quebec and tens of thousands from other provinces across this country. There is very little trust in the Liberal government when it comes to this issue, because we have seen it in the past.
While the grip that the Liberal government is trying to put on law-abiding firearm owners this time is not as tight as the one that Mr. Rock tried in the mid-1990s, we believe that any movement on this bill that takes away the rights of law-abiding gun owners is not right, fair, or in the best interest of Canadians.
On the day that the public safety minister introduced Bill C-71, An Act to amend certain Acts and Regulations in relation to firearms, many were immediately ready to jump to compare it to the infamous predecessor. I thought at that time that I would reserve judgment. That reservation lasted about 20 minutes, as it did not take long, after reading through the legislation, to see what the Liberal government was trying to do. It does not bring it back to the extent of the ineffective long-gun registry, but it is a very good step toward that.
In the mid-1990s, Bill C-68 created the billion-dollar gun registry and made criminals out of law-abiding firearm owners such as farmers and duck hunters. However, it did not solve the problem. Many Canadians, particularly anglers, hunters and farmers, which is the majority of my riding, who had been in possession of their firearms for a long time, were made to retroactively, and at a great cost both financially and emotionally, ensure that the make, model, serial number, calibre and barrel length of their firearm was properly recorded and placed on the firearm registry. Failure to do so could turn them into an immediate criminal. That is the kind of intent that the Liberal government has in regard to legal firearm owners, law-abiding citizens.
Soon after forming government in 2006, Stephen Harper and our Conservative caucus immediately moved to eliminate the long-gun registry and to restore the respect that law-abiding firearm owners had been denied since former Liberal justice minister Allan Rock tabled Bill C-68. Unfortunately, once again, that respect is being stripped away, and firearm owners will be made to feel like criminals under the reference number provision outlined in Bill C-71.
Section 5 of the Firearms Act is being amended to include the requirement for anyone transferring a long gun to obtain a reference number from the firearm registry. Before any firearm can be sold or given away, the buyer has to show a licence, and the seller, whether a retailer or private citizen, has to confirm it is valid with the registrar. The problem with this, and I mentioned it in the House before, is that all throughout constituencies in western Canada and indeed Canada—Ontario is similar and possibly Quebec, but I am not certain—there are gun shows going on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, where thousands of collectors, farmers, and law-abiding firearm owners are buying that next rifle for hunting or protecting their livestock. That is going to cause massive problems with the industry gun shows, like gun shows in Concort, Hanna, Castor and Torrington, and the list goes on throughout my constituency.
Currently, vendors are trusted to do a requisite licence check without confirmation. The registrar will issue the reference number only if satisfied that the person buying or receiving the firearm holds or is able to hold an eligible licence.
I see that my time is up. I just want to underscore that this is bad legislation. I encourage the Liberals to back off on Bill C-71.