Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in this House and speak to this bill. It is my first time rising to give a full speech since the last election. I was able to give a short statement a week and a half ago, but this is my first opportunity to give a full speech. I do want to say a big thanks to the people of Portage—Lisgar who voted for me, and those who did not vote for me, because I am here to represent all my constituents in Portage—Lisgar. This is the fifth time they have sent me to the House.
As I said in my previous statement, it was a difficult election, so I really appreciate the people who stood with me, those who worked and who volunteered. They volunteered in offices and with door knocking, and they donated. They were there for me.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to my campaign team. I specifically want to mention Deb, Colleen and Neal. Then there was Hank, Glenn and Brian, who were always there, and countless others who supported me. As I have a little time today, I also want to say a big thanks to my husband, Michael. This was his second election with me. When we met, he did not know that he would be entering the world of politics, but he is actually pretty good at door knocking. He is very efficient and he knows how to keep me moving through the doors. I appreciate his love and support as well.
Portage—Lisgar sent me to Ottawa to be their voice. It is so important that we, as MPs, stay connected to our riding and put our riding's needs, priorities, and ways of looking at our country and, indeed, of addressing problems that face our country first and foremost in all that we do. That has really been my endeavour since I was first elected back in 2008.
Madam Speaker, you would probably recall that as a new MP, and I think you were a fairly new MP at that time, too, I was able to bring forward a private member's bill to end what we believed was the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. I have a funny story. Madam Speaker very much supported the long gun registry. We were on different sides of that issues.
In sending thank you letters to everyone in the chamber who supported my private member's bill, I accidentally sent one to Madam Speaker, who was understandably unhappy with me because she did not support it and did not want her constituents to think that she had. I am not sure if she recalls that. I see that she does, and I do as well. Hopefully she has forgiven me for that faux pas back then.
I did appreciate the support I got from people in the chamber. The interesting thing I learned during that entire endeavour was that members of Parliament sometimes say one thing in their riding and then something very different in the House of Commons. Madam Speaker was not one of those. She was consistent in her riding and in Ottawa. She supported the long gun registry.
However, there were MPs from the NDP side, and even a few from the Liberal side, who told their constituents they supported law-abiding Canadians and the ability of farmers, duck hunters, rural Canadians, indigenous Canadians and others to legally have firearms and not have to register them, but then they came to Ottawa and voted completely differently. They were what some would call two-faced in how they presented themselves in their riding and how they voted.
That was an interesting first lesson for me. The other thing I learned working on ending the long gun registry was how valuable stakeholders are in developing legislation. When I am talking about issues around crime, guns and how to combat crime, gun crime specifically, frontline police officers were some of the best resources for me. Certainly I talked the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters a lot. I talked to the Shooting Federation of Canada. I talked to countless men and women who were involved in hunting and who used firearms on their farms.
I have to say, when I talked to frontline officers and asked them, again as a new MP, if we were to end the long gun registry, would we hurt the work they were trying to do as police officers. They overwhelmingly told me “No, the long gun registry does not help us”.
What they were having problems with, they told me, were criminals, gangsters and drug dealers on the street victimizing people, luring people into gang activity and using guns in the commission of a crime. They said they needed us, as the Conservative government, to get tough on those individuals. Needless to say, my private member's bill did not pass. It was defeated, but it really brought the issue to the forefront.
In 2011, we had an election and a number of the Liberal MPs who had been inconsistent in terms of where they stood on the long-gun registry lost their ridings and the Conservative Party won a majority government. We were then able, through a government bill, to end the long-gun registry and enact what we believed as a government was the best way to combat gun crime.
All of us in the House know that gun crime in Canada is a problem. Thankfully, we do not have the same degree of gun violence that the U.S. has, but the gun violence we are seeing in Canada is alarming, and it is only growing. It was something that we, as a Conservative government, recognized was a problem that had to be addressed.
The Conservative approach to gun crime was to, first of all, not spend time, energy, resources and police time targeting law-abiding Canadians. These are Canadians who legally own firearms, have licences to own their firearms and have gone through safety courses. We have very strong laws, and so we should, around the transport of firearms, background checks, storing firearms and using firearms.
Conservatives believe in that kind of regime. We believe that we should have strong legislation around who owns firearms and how those firearms are used. Conservatives supported that, but we did not believe we should be using all of our resources, political resources and the finances of the country to target law-abiding Canadians. Why would we? They are following the law. They are not using their firearms to commit crimes.
I remember when I was doing the work on this, an interesting statistic was, and I have said this before in the chamber, if someone has a licence to own a firearm, that person is 50% less likely to ever commit a crime with a gun. That statistic was valid back in 2009-10, and I would say it probably still is today. Those of us here who do not have a licence to own a firearm are actually 50% more likely to commit a crime with a gun. It is only logical that law-abiding Canadians trying to follow the rules and want to own firearms for the right reasons are going to keep following the law. Conservatives said not to focus on those people, not make life more difficult for those people, but make sure they follow the law and keep the rules strong.
If we look at criminals and criminal activity going on primarily in our major cities back in 2011, gun crime was on the rise in places such Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, and even in places like Edmonton, Winnipeg and some of the smaller cities. The Conservative focus was to ensure that people who commit crimes with guns were put in jail.
Over the years, I see more and more that there is hope for many people who find themselves involved in criminal activity. Not all of them are horrible people for whom there is no hope. There is hope for people to change.
Once someone walks into a store with a gun, puts it against the head of somebody and says, “Give me all your money, or I'm going to shoot”, public safety then becomes a priority. The minister referred to somebody who had been drinking too much and did something they regretted. We need to help those people before they get to the point of committing these kinds of crimes. Once they have committed the crime, they need help, and many times the most help they are going to get is in a federal penitentiary. They will actually get more help if they get two years plus than they would in a provincial facility.
Let us help them before they get involved in a life of crime. At least, that is what the Conservatives believe. We proposed some great measures in this last election. Our leader and our party presented some really good, solid and practical solutions to helping people with addictions and mental health issues.
Helping people before they get involved in crime is really the way to do it. However, once they have committed a crime, and I will say it once again, protecting the public should become the government's top priority. That was the Conservatives' top priority. Let us not focus on law-abiding gun owners; let us focus on criminals.
I would now like to focus on the different approach taken by the Liberals since 2015 to combat gun violence. As the Conservatives, we had our approach, and when the Liberals were elected, they had their approach. Their approach is to get out the big hammer, come down hard on farmers and duck hunters, and throw the book at them because they are easy to go after.
I know not every Liberal in the House should be painted with the same brush, but it would appear the Liberal government wants to do the easy thing, which is a lot of great virtue signalling, but does not accomplish anything. Therefore, they go after what some would say is the low-hanging fruit, the law-abiding Canadians. That is who the Liberals go after.
Then they have no problem being hard and very severe. Once the hammer comes down, somehow they do not care about how people feel or the stress law-abiding Canadians are being put under when they are made out to be criminals. Somehow compassion, common sense, justice and fairness are not words found in the vocabulary of the Liberal government when it talks about what it is going to do to law-abiding Canadians who own firearms.
The minute the government had the chance, it called an election. Then, when it got to this Parliament, the first thing it wanted to do was pass a bill to make life easier for the people who commit armed robbery with a gun and say it will help those people who are marginalized. However, people who are minorities are probably victimized even more by gun crime, so saying that it will help marginalized Canadians and reduce gun crime is insanity.
I want to go to my graph to talk about the evidence. This covers the reporting period from 2004 to 2020. It is entitled, “Shootings & Firearm Discharges in the City of Toronto”. I will not go through all of the years, because I do not have enough time, but I will say this. In 2014, we had a Conservative majority government with Conservative legislation and a Conservative approach to combatting gun crimes, and shootings and firearm discharges by year were at an all-time low of 177, although that sounds like a lot. At the start of 2016, all the way to 2020, it was as follows: in 2016, 407; in 2017, 392; in 2018, 427; in 2019, 492; and, in 2020, a whopping 462. The numbers have skyrocketed.
I will now turn to the number of persons killed and injured, the instances where peoples' lives have been impacted. Innocent people and children have been killed and injured, not while they were off hunting with grandpa or killing some rodents on the farm. In cities in our country, children and teenagers have been and are being killed by people who are committing crimes with illegal guns, which have, often times, been smuggled in and sold illegally, so I want to talk about the number of people who were killed and injured per year.
In 2012, there were 114 deaths and injuries. That is sad. In 2013, there were 119. In 2014, there were 76. We start to see the trend go down. By 2015, there were 125. It starts going up and then my graph is cut off. In 2017, there were 148. We have seen the numbers go up consistently under the Liberal government. The point of this is that the Liberal approach to combatting gun crime is not working. It is very disappointing to see that the Liberals are continuing the same pattern they started.
The bill that we are debating today is Bill C-5. It is basically a reintroduction of the previous bill, but it really does the same harm and damage. I think there could be some agreement and work we could do to help people struggling with addictions and mental health, but this approach is so backward. It just feels like what the Liberals do is always backward. When the minister said that if someone commits a crime with a long gun then there will not be mandatory minimum sentences; he was somehow trying to comfort Canadians. I think that is what I heard him say.
No, if a person commits a crime with a long gun, small gun, short gun, handgun or any gun, public safety and justice should be paramount in the government's policy and that person should go to jail. That is a bottom-line principle that the Conservatives believe. The Liberals somehow think that they can kind of twist it around, virtue signal here and soften it there. It is very hard to understand their logic.
Bill C-5 reduces mandatory minimum sentences for a number of drug offences. I am sure we will have a chance to talk about that, but the ones that I am concerned about are to do with gun violence in Canada and its massive increase.
A lot of what the Liberals are reducing in taking away of mandatory minimum sentences have to do with people literally committing crimes with guns, such as robbery. These crimes are just so serious. I do not think any of us can imagine getting held up. Imagine if a person is working in a store or at a local gas station and someone comes in with a gun and asks for all the money or they will shoot, and then the firearm is discharged.
People who commit these kinds of crimes are a danger to society for whatever reason. They may have a mental health issue. They may have an addiction. They need treatment for that, but the protection of the public should come before the treatment of the criminal. That is what Conservatives believe.
I want to tell colleagues what frontline officers are saying. I am going right to an individual who is a frontline officer dealing every day with very serious crimes. She said this:
“Criminals using illicit firearms in the commission of an offence is now a common occurrence. The violence I see is unprecedented. I see it firsthand. I often feel like I am working in a war zone with no end in sight. Recently I was mandated to be certified in tactical trauma care to help save the lives of gunshot victims in the critical minutes following a shooting until we can make the scene safe for paramedics. As a police officer, it is incredibly frustrating to see the revolving door of criminals in and out of jail. Violent offenders out on bail or receiving conditional sentences for the violent crimes they committed. Not to mention continuously breaching their conditions and being arrested again and again. How do I protect victims? Repealing mandatory minimum such as Firearms offences, Discharging a Firearm with Intent, Robbery with a firearm and Extortion with a firearm are incredibly serious offences that put the public at serious risk. Offenders need to stay in custody where they should receive meaningful rehabilitation. I am sickened to hear and sincerely hope that Bill C-5 will not proceed any further in the best interest, safety and well-being of Canadians.”
I respect the work that our police officers do. Let us listen to our frontline officers. Let us definitely help the people who need help, but when they cross the line and commit violent crimes, we have to protect Canadians first and foremost.