House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-21.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Rosemarie Falk Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I found a lot of what the member opposite said quite interesting.

As a therapist in my previous life, I can say we wanted to get to the roots of situations with people and their actions. I heard a lot about the statistics on male suicide in rural Canada and that type of thing. I represent a rural riding in western Canada. This government has done nothing but attack the livelihoods of the men and women who work in the energy sector.

I guess my questions are: Why does the government pick and choose what it actually wants to do and not look at the real reasons for mental illness? Why does this government not actually care about the mental health of Canadians? Its attacks on the energy sector are only perpetuating the problem in western Canada.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, we are here to debate Bill C-21, which is important legislation to protect Canadians. Having had similar conversations, I would encourage the hon. member to speak to people like Dr. Alan Drummond, who can talk about the issues with, as I said, largely rural, white males who are dying by suicide.

It concerns me greatly when the Conservative Party of Canada only talks about guns and gangs, which is an important issue that we are dealing with, and ignores the issue of death by suicide.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his speech.

I would like to hear his thoughts on the fact that, contrary to what was originally promised, the buyback program will not be mandatory. I understand that the firearm owners will be subject to restrictions that will ultimately make the firearms useless, as my colleagues mentioned.

Instead of making everyone unhappy, why not push to make the buyback program mandatory as originally promised? Why choose half-measures?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased that the hon. member agrees with our government about the need to ban assault-style firearms. I believe that the minister of public safety has reviewed what happened in New Zealand and looked for a solution that would be most effective in Canada. I look forward to hearing testimony at committee to see if there are any ways to strengthen the legislation.

I am pleased to know that the hon. member is in support of the ban on assault-style weapons.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask specifically about the Canada-U.S. border and the smuggling of guns. There was a cutback a number of years ago. We pulled away from doing investigative and undercover activity with the United States to be proactive on gun smuggling and drug smuggling at the border. Those calls to reinstate that have not been fulfilled. I have been asking for a Canada-U.S. border task force to help deal with COVID and a series of different things that we have had. We had that structure in the past.

Would the member commit here today to at least examining that? Part of our problem at the border is that we have no ongoing strategy that involves third parties that is open, accountable, and public, which could actually work on some of these things that have been cut and other ones that are proposed to bring in more safety.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his advocacy on this important issue. He is absolutely correct. Funding was cut under the Conservative government to the Canada Border Services Agency and we have restored much of that. There was $500 million in the last Parliament and we continue to make investments at the border. Does that mean that we do not need to do more? Absolutely not; we do.

We are looking at a new Canadian task force with the United States. I would be happy to have a conversation with the hon. member to work together on ensuring that we are taking the most appropriate and best action on this issue.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to join in the debate in this virtual sitting of the House of Commons on Bill C-21, which is obscurely named an act to amend certain acts and to make certain consequential amendments on firearms.

I first want to say that what New Democrats want is for Canadians to be safer and feel safer. What we do not want is a polarization and a politicization of an issue that should be about public safety. Unfortunately, it deteriorates fairly rapidly into a debate about something else. We understand there are differences of opinion as to how best to make Canadians safer, but we do not want a clash of cultures. This is not a debate about cultures; this is a debate that ought to be focused on public safety.

I sat through two Parliaments before the previous one and heard issues debated regarding gun safety and the long-gun registry and it was not very helpful, frankly, in terms of gun safety and people's safety. We are in a situation now where the banning of assault rifles is one of the two most important measures. This is not about gun culture, hunting, law-abiding citizens or anything like that. We know there are efforts to talk about law-abiding citizens and I agree that most of us are law-abiding citizens, but the reality is that guns are a serious problem in our society. There have been mass shootings and I can go over some of them.

In December of 1989, we are all familiar with the horrendous events at École Polytechnique, where 14 were killed and 14 injured. In August of 1992, there was a massacre at Concordia University and in 1996, in Vernon, B.C. there were nine killed. In January 2017, we know about the Quebec City mosque shooting in Sainte-Foy, with six dead and five injured. Last April, there was the horrendous event in Nova Scotia, where 22 were killed and three injured. We know that these things happen and that they are likely to happen again. If something can be done to reduce the danger of this happening, then we should do it.

The two most important measures that deal with gun violence are the ban on military assault-style weapons and assault weapons with those kinds of capabilities and the empowering of municipalities to restrict or ban handguns within their boundaries. Both measures are ones that New Democrats have long supported and, in the case of the municipal handgun ban, were even the first to advocate. These measures would provide some support and defence against the possibilities that someone, in the case of assault rifles, who may have an obsession, grievance, hatred or some form of mental imbalance or anger associated with that, could cause mass deaths in a very short period of time, causing significant and horrendous death and loss of life of innocent people. As was pointed out, these guns have no use in our civil society. These are military weapons designed to be effective killers of people and New Democrats support the ban of these weapons.

We also want this legislation to receive the largest support possible in the House of Commons and largest level of acceptance by the general public. We know there is significant public support for a ban on assault rifles. A May 2020 poll said that 82% of people support a ban on the possession of assault-style weapons by civilians, 87% of women and 88% of Canadians aged 55-plus support a ban on military assault-style weapons and 87% of Canadians agree that the federal government should increase funding to suppress the smuggling of assault-style guns into Canada. Of course, this is another measure that we have been advocating for for at least a decade, that smuggling enforcement has to be improved considerably.

We heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety say that measures have been taken, but they are very late in coming and they are not even installed properly yet. In fact, going back to 2014, over 1,000 Canada Border Service Agency agents were removed from service and have not been replaced by the government since it has been in power, since 2015. That is something that is seriously deficient in the response that has taken place.

We will have committee hearings. There are serious concerns that have been raised by groups that have been advocating for victims of mass shootings. They have come forward and said that they do not believe that the Liberals are very serious if they are not prepared to put measures in place that take the long-term effect of removing these weapons seriously.

The so-called “grandfather clause” that allows people to keep weapons for potentially 20 to 60 years, despite the fact that they are prohibited weapons, is something that causes people to be concerned about how serious the government is in actually changing things, particularly when we already have a commitment from the Conservative Party to reverse that ban and therefore the lobbyists are encouraging people not to participate in a voluntary buyback program.

The minister's parliamentary secretary and the previous speaker suggested that a study of the New Zealand situation proved that only 40% of guns were actually returned in a voluntary buyback program. I do not believe that is an effective and proper analysis of the facts. The only figure that is based on is a figure put forth, unverified, by the gun lobby suggesting that there were 170,000 assault-style rifles in place. The other evidence shows that as a result of the buyback program, there has been no change in the price on the black market for assault-style weapons and there is no indication that this has not, in fact, been effective in reducing and eliminating further actions of that nature in New Zealand.

In fact, a ban in Australia was very important in effecting change for what happened in 1996, the Port Arthur massacre, that killed 35 people and injured 23. A national firearms ban was put in place and placed tight controls around automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Since then, there has only been one mass shooting since 1996, defined as more than five killed. However, between 1978 and 1996, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia, proving that the ban would be effective.

This is another failure of the government. There are other aspects of this bill, and I think the previous speaker touched on the red flag laws. We need to hear about the effectiveness of them. It looks to me that they can be effective in improving the possibility of getting guns out of the hands of people who may be an immediate danger to themselves or others. That is a very positive thing, but we do need to hear evidence on that because there are some of contrary views as to whether they are proper and able to do an effective job in that.

We have also a need for consultation from these groups. We need to also hear from another group that has a great deal of interest in this legislation and I am speaking here of the airsoft industry. It has come forward after being effectively put out of business by this legislation without any notice, without any consultation and without any alternatives. The failure to consult with other groups in the preparation of this legislation was also evident in this area because there are possibilities of using regulation as a different method of control in the airsoft industry.

For those who do not know, it is akin to the paintball industry. It is called airsoft because it is essentially an air gun that is used in recreational activity. Many of them are replicas of other styles of guns. We have legislation and regulation within the movie industry to allow it to use replica guns in film work with licences and regulations.

There is no reason to believe that regulations could not be developed in consultation with the airsoft industry to allow that industry to continue in a regulated fashion. That is something that may or may not be able to be done with committee hearings. It may be something that ought to be put off for further consultation.

This legislation was brought in after the order in council, very quickly after the Portapique massacre in Nova Scotia last year. We do not think that sufficient consultation was made, with all of the things that are contained in this legislation. We do need to have a closer look at much of what is in this legalisation. There is a lot of detail here.

I would like to hear that the government is prepared to be serious about considering other ways of ensuring that if we are going to have a ban on assault rifles, it is going to be an effective one that would be permanent in nature. It has been suggested, for example, that instead of having a compulsory buyback, if people wish to keep these assault-style rifles because they are collectors and want to have a display and show them to their friends, etc., there are methods of rendering them inoperable. It has been suggested that might be an alternative to the grandfathering clause, which would be quite easily overturned, rendering ineffective the measures that the government has taken.

It is not something that I think ought to be left lingering. We do not control the future, obviously, but to have a measure that provides legislation that lingers for decades but is not effective for that period of time is something we need to avoid.

The bottom line here is that we have legislation that meets the need to ban assault rifles, to make it more difficult to use, to be put into place. We hear as part of the discussion, and we have already heard it here this morning, talk about law-abiding citizens. The law-abiding citizens are people who do not break the law. There are many people who are law-abiding citizens until they are not law-abiding citizens anymore.

The research on gun violence shows that, for example, in the 16 deadliest mass shootings in Europe, and this is five-year-old evidence, between 1987 and 2015, 86% of the victims were shot by a licensed shooter. In at least 29 American mass gun killings since 2007, 139 people were killed by licensed firearm owners. To look back to Canada, of the firearms seized from Canadians who were violent, had threatened violence or were subject to a prohibition order, 43% were registered to licensed gun owners. In New Zealand, another example from far away, half the perpetrators in both non-fatal firearms-related domestic disputes and in gun homicides have been licensed gun owners.

It is not a panacea to say that we are dealing with law-abiding gun owners and there is no problem, because law-abiding gun owners are being affected by this. In fact, the individual who drove from Manitoba to Rideau Hall last July with a cache of guns had these guns legally. He said he was coming to arrest the Prime Minister, in part because of the gun legislation being brought forward.

We are not talking about one category or another here. We are talking about protecting the public and making the public safer. We are talking about assault-style rifles. One of the prohibited weapons from last year's order in council was held by this individual from Manitoba.

We have to get away from this whole issue of talking about attacking one group of people versus another. The emphasis has to be on public safety. The emphasis has to be on finding a way to ensure that we have the broadest public support possible for the legislation, by focusing specifically on the assault-style rifles and trying to do something about handguns, which are predominantly a city problem, by giving the authority to the municipalities to have some control over that. It may not be perfect, but it is better than what is there now, which is nothing that is actually controlling this.

Yes, there has to be more enforcement. Yes, there has to be a crackdown by the police on activities in cities. We have already heard from some municipalities, like Vancouver and Surrey, that are interested in this. Toronto has spoken favourably about it. These are areas where handguns are a particular problem and a danger to public safety. If this will help, then we should provide the mechanism so that it can be put in place.

Having said all that, I will be interested in comments or questions from my colleagues. I think this legislation is in the right direction, but it needs to be looked at very carefully. We need to make sure that it is actually going to be effective and that it is not going to be an overreach in an area like the airsoft industry, for example, which might be able to be more properly regulated.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from the east coast for his good words, and I share his analysis that we need to work through a consensus-based approach in Parliament to do what we can to make Canadians not only feel safe, but in fact be safe.

I have listened to the Conservatives, many from rural parts of the country. They talked about the need for sentencing, as if because we have made murder illegal it somehow has been stopped, simply because we have made it a criminal act. I have also heard them attack mandatory minimum sentences and talk about the increase in gun violence that has occurred underneath a regime of mandatory minimum sentences that have done nothing to stem the growth of gun violence.

I work with mothers in my riding who have lost their children to gun violence. What they are saying is that if we want to stop it, we need to invest in jobs and housing and attack systemic racism in the justice system, especially in the sentencing provisions but also within prison and the way police arrest.

I am just curious, because the member mentioned the border and because we have had several significant arrests recently in Toronto precisely because of the investments we made at the border, whether he would work with us through committee to strengthen border provisions to stop all handguns coming across the border and whether he would—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I will let the hon. member answer, because there is a huge list of MPs who wish to participate.

The hon. member for St. John's East.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, measures at the border are necessary, absolutely. Surprisingly enough, it is the first time we have heard of new equipment being introduced that will actually detect guns. One would think this would have been in place many years ago, but that is not the case. Obviously, border measures have to be strengthened.

As far as the mandatory minimum sentences go, many of them have already been found to be unconstitutional. I know they are brought forward for symbolic reasons, but they are not held to be effective and, in fact, in many cases are found immediately to be unconstitutional. Therefore, it is a futile effort. They do not work. They have been proven not to work and they have not, in many cases—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Battle River—Crowfoot.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's speech and some of the Liberals' speeches before, and I find it interesting that this debate is around their having a lot of consultation with those who agree with them and then bringing forward this legislation that somehow deals with what is certainly a problem.

My question for the member for St. John's East is quite a practical one. Could he assist in this conversation to simply define what an assault-style firearm is? Certainly there is a lot of ambiguity around that. The government has been unable to or has chosen not to define what that is, exactly, which has led to a significant amount of confusion about what is actually being discussed here when we talk about so-called assault-style firearms.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, it is a good question if one is looking for a specific, exact, legally applied definition. However, it is there in the list of types of weapons that are being specifically banned. If there needs to be an improvement in the specific definition, that is something that could be handled at committee. I would welcome any suggestions for opening up the areas of ambiguity so that we could look at them and perhaps amend them to ensure that the definition is accurate.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech, in which he spoke primarily about assault weapons.

Towards the end, he touched on the issue of restricting handguns and said that some major cities have expressed an interest. I would like to hear more about that, because in Quebec, for example, the mayor of Montreal is not interested. Then again, the Quebec National Assembly is saying that Quebec and the provinces could eventually be given the authority to manage handguns. Furthermore, as some groups have suggested, one solution could be to ban the importation and production of handguns.

What does my colleague think of these solutions? I would like to hear more from him on the issue of handguns.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I personally would be supportive of that. As to the Government of Quebec wanting to pass regulations in relation to handguns within its jurisdiction, I would be happy to see that as well. That is something that is certainly permissible.

The method being used in the legislation, we would have to talk about it, but it may well be workable. It attaches the bylaws to the firearms certificate, and that is what makes it enforceable under federal regulations. It is a possibility of doing both of those things, and I would welcome any moves by the Province of Quebec to assist in that within its jurisdiction to go beyond municipalities.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Questions and comments, the hon. member for North Island—Powell River.

Is the hon. member for North Island—Powell River on? We'll come back to her.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Hastings—Lennox and Addington.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Independent

Derek Sloan Independent Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a few issues with the comments I have heard. I want to focus on the issue of assault rifles. I want to point out that the reason why the member is saying “assault-style” is that it really is just a style. There is no functional difference. There is no magazine capacity difference between these guns. They simply look different. They are not more dangerous. They are not more capable of harming somebody. To use this terminology, which is unfair to legal gun owners and is entirely arbitrary, does damage to this debate.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I think the idea is fairly well understood. I believe there is no real room for doubt about the nature of these weapons, which are capable of rapid fire in a very short period of time, and they are designed to do that very thing. That is the nub of the matter.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Unfortunately, we have to go to Statements by Members. The hon. member for St. John's East will have three minutes left for questions and comments.

I know there was a technical issue with the hon. member for North Island—Powell River, so as soon as the debate continues after question period, I would certainly look at recognizing the hon. member for North Island—Powell River should she choose to come back on after that.

COVID-19 LockdownsStatements by Members

11 a.m.

Independent

Derek Sloan Independent Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, lockdowns with no end in sight are being endorsed by federal leaders and are destroying our communities. The impact on the lives of Canadians is severe. Ordinary people are being investigated by police for organizing peaceful protests against the lockdowns.

Last week, I heard from a young business owner in my riding. She told me that if things did not change soon, she would likely have to declare bankruptcy. The Liberal budget will be of no help to her.

Others have confided to me that their children have had to be medicated to reduce suicidal thoughts. Tragically, the budget fails to address the surging youth mental health tsunami we are witnessing.

Canadians look to their leaders for help, but instead their concerns appear to be falling on deaf ears. We can look south of the border to see that many U.S. states have reopened and are better from an economic, social and mental health perspective.

It is time to recognize that quarantining the healthy helps no one. We need to end these draconian lockdowns once and for all.

ArmeniaStatements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, April 24 is Armenian genocide remembrance day, a time to remember and reflect on the horrible crime that led to the deaths of over one million ethnic Armenians during World War I.

During the month of April, we remember all genocides: the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the Cambodian genocide and far too many others. Governments and people around the word must recognize genocides for the permanent marks of hate they leave on our history.

Tomorrow, I invite all Canadians to join in remembering with our large Armenian Canadian community through online ceremonies. Genocide must never be ignored or denied.

As we honour those lost in the Armenian genocide, remember and proclaim “Never again”.

Explore ProgramStatements by Members

April 23rd, 2021 / 11 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Madam Speaker, in 1971, the Government of Canada launched Explore, a second-language summer program for young students across the country that seeks to promote our official languages.

Since then, over 250,000 young people, including myself when I attended Glendon College in Toronto a few years ago, have taken advantage of this program to improve their second language and their understanding of Canada's cultural and linguistic reality.

This year, 2021, marks the 50th anniversary of the Explore program, which is something worth celebrating.

It is time to extend heartfelt congratulations to all those who contributed to the success of this program over the years by implementing, managing and facilitating it in order to give these thousands of youth the experience of a lifetime.

Let us continue to support the Explore program, which strengthens our linguistic and cultural diversity and represents a pillar of our national identity.

Kenny WilliamsStatements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Kenneth McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, today, I pay tribute to the life of Kenny Williams, who recently passed away at the age of 69 after a long, dignified struggle with ALS.

Kenny was a son, husband, father, grandfather and friend to everyone who knew him. However, most people knew Kenny from his 30-years of service to the hockey community on the southern shore and throughout the province.

Kenny was a founding member of the committee that worked to get the Southern Shore Arena built in 1986, and worked as the stadium manager for over 30 years. He served on boards for minor, junior, senior and women's hockey.

Kenny WilliamsStatements by Members

11 a.m.

An hon. member

Point of order.

Kenny WilliamsStatements by Members

11 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Generally, we do not have points of order, but does the hon. member have a tie and a jacket on? I cannot see that. Maybe I will come back to him.

I will now go to the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain.