Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon to speak to Bill C-238, put forward by my colleague from Markham—Unionville. I want to thank the member for his work on this file and the speech he gave earlier this evening.
Bill C-238, an act to amend the Criminal Code, would increase the mandatory minimum penalty for the possession of a smuggled firearm to three years for the first offence and to five years for the second and subsequent offences, with a 14-year maximum. It would also amend the Criminal Code to automatically deny bail for these offenders in order to stop the catch and release of criminals, a circumstance that our hard-working police and Crown prosecutors experience far too often. If someone is arrested carrying a smuggled firearm, they would be required to make the argument to a judge as to why they deserve to be let back into the community. Quite frankly, they should not get to go home. They deserve jail, not bail.
Some of my parliamentary colleagues may have issues with the implementation of mandatory minimums, as we have heard this evening. I must echo the sentiment of my colleague from Markham—Unionville. Those in known possession of a smuggled firearm have it for a violent reason and their ill intent is to cause harm or death to another. That is a good enough reason for me. This cannot be tolerated in our society, and the prison time is more than warranted.
Indeed, this type of bail is already in the Criminal Code for other crimes, such as hostage taking, armed robbery or extortion with a firearm. This private member's bill ensures the punishment fits the crime. It is a common-sense approach to addressing real threats to Canadians' public safety.
Unlike the Liberal government, the Conservatives know that law-abiding firearm owners are not the problem. Contrary to Liberal claims about our approach, we know there is a problem, and we are putting forward real solutions to address it. Gun violence affects far too many people in our communities.
We heard the reports from my colleague about the untenable situation in the greater Toronto area. Sadly, on the other side of our country, even in Abbotsford and Mission, circumstances are similar. I personally know too many families who have tragically lost loved ones to gun violence.
The perpetrators of this violence did not go through the Canadian firearms safety program. They did not take the courses required to apply for a firearms licence. They did not apply for a possession and acquisition licence or a restricted possession and acquisition licence. They did not have their background investigated, their mental health checked or their domestic partner consulted. The perpetrators are not subject to the continuous eligibility screening that Canadian firearms licence-holders undergo constantly, where their names are run through the RCMP system daily to ensure that no crimes have been committed. They did not purchase their firearms from a Canadian retailer. We already have a robust gun control system in place that works, and the members opposite need to look at the way we treat criminals.
We all know that firearms laws are much less stringent in the United States. We also know that the border between Canada and the U.S. is the longest undefended border in the world. In my hometown of Abbotsford, B.C., the border is literally a ditch separating parallel farm fields in the two countries. My opa's farm straddled the border, a field on the Canadian side and a field on the American side. As kids, we would hop back and forth for fun. It does not take a genius to realize these two realities are ready for abuse and conducive to gun smuggling.
No matter how draconian the Liberal government gets with domestic firearms regulations, no matter how much they trample on the freedoms of law-abiding Canadians, the reality is that the U.S. is our neighbour. It will always be easier for criminals to source weapons from the U.S. and illegally import them to Canada.
The federal government must act accordingly. In the last election, we heard from officers of the Canada Border Services Agency that they did not have the tools to effectively interdict illegal weapons at the border. Recently, the Minister of Public Safety stated that his government would be doing more on this issue. I look forward to seeing that progress.
The Liberal government can move rapidly to prohibit Canadians from using legally acquired private property in the middle of a pandemic, doing so because it was politically expedient, but it moves like molasses when it comes to addressing this real issue.
This is an emotionally charged matter, and it is for my constituents, but for that very reason it needs to be addressed in a thoughtful, targeted manner based on real data and not emotion. We owe that to those who have been killed by gun violence and to their families. As legislators we are tasked with the honour and privilege of enacting legislation for the betterment of Canadians. However, that comes with the responsibility to ensure that legislation is sound, that it addresses an actual issue and that it will deliver the results it is intended to.
Part of that legislative process is the opportunity to debate the legislation in this place, at committee and in the other place. Such a debate was not able to take place, however, when on May 1, the Liberal government's order in council turned hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Canadians into criminals. However, Canadians are pushing back. Over 58,000 of them signed a petition tabled by the member for Cariboo—Prince George, highlighting the ridiculous and internally contradictory May 1 OIC and calling for its repeal.
Another 230,000 Canadians signed a petition tabled by the member for Calgary Nose Hill, which also called for the federal government to scrap the OIC and instead pass legislation actually targeting criminals that stops the smuggling of firearms into Canada and goes after those who illegally acquire firearms. This sounds a lot like what we are proposing in this legislation.
Numerous legal challenges against the Liberal government's firearm ban also continue to pile up, arguing among other things that the Prime Minister contravened the Firearms Act when he immediately outlawed more than 1,500 firearms through regulatory decree rather than a legislative process, and that governments cannot use an order in council to outlaw firearms used for sporting or hunting purposes, which would include the vast majority of firearms listed in the May 1 directive.
The impact of this ban on small businesses has also been devastating, as if COVID-19 restrictions were not bad enough. With all of these shortcomings, I and my Conservative colleagues are committed, as the government-in-waiting, to engage with difficult issues, to consult with Canadians and to take hard decisions. That is why I solicited my constituents for their input on Bill C-238. I distributed a survey and requested their feedback. Eighty-four per cent of respondents ranked stopping illegal guns from being smuggled into Canada as very important. The remaining 16% ranked it as the second highest level of importance when it came to their safety and that of their families.
The same high number, 84%, agreed with the bill that bail should be revoked for those charged with the possession of an illegally smuggled firearm. The Conservative Party has a plan to safeguard Canadians' public safety and reduce violent gun crime. Unlike the Liberal government, we would not waste time and money harassing law-abiding gun owners and confiscating their legally acquired private property as part of a virtue-signalling exercise that will have zero impact on reducing crime.
What percentage of respondents agreed with the Liberal approach? It was 5%. The NDP's approach, a carbon copy of the Liberals', received the same level of support, 5%, whereas 60% of respondents agreed with the Conservative Party of Canada's plan.
This private member's bill is just one important component of a broader plan that needs to take place to protect public safety. I encourage my colleagues from all parties to review Bill C-238 on its merits and send it to committee for further study.