Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to continue my discussion on this piece of legislation. You were actually sitting in the chair when you gave me the first two minutes and 21 seconds of debate on this, so I am glad to see that we are coming full circle to complete this.
It is important to point out, as many people have, not just within the House, but also outside of the House, that this piece of legislation is not what unfortunately the Conservatives are trying to label it as, an attack on legal gun owners. As a matter of fact, the bill is only going to affect about 3% to 5% of gun owners as it attempts to only ban military-style assault rifles, in other words, guns that are designed to kill the maximum number of people possible.
I come from a family both on my side and on my wife's side of proud hunters who have hunted for many generations going back whether they were in Canada or immigrated from another country. A close uncle of mine on my mother's side owns a lodge near Westport, Ontario with acres and acres of land, where he hunts regularly and uses the guns that he has to hunt. He is not concerned about this bill because he does not have military-style assault rifles. He does not see the need to have semi-automatic or automatic weapons that are designed to kill people in combat to be used for the purpose of hunting.
My late father-in-law grew up on a hunting and fishing lodge in Plevna, Ontario, where he, his father and his grandfather routinely hosted visitors, a lot from the United States, who would come to the lodge where they would be taken out fishing and hunting and shown the great outdoors of Canada.
If people in these situations had listened to the narrative coming from the Conservative Party, they would have great concern over what they were hearing. That is because the Conservatives like to leave out some of the very important points as to what the bill is attempting to do. I will get to why I think that is later in my speech.
It is important to address the fact that the bill is meeting the concerns of not just parliamentarians, but of many citizens and stakeholders throughout this country.
Let us go to chiefs of police for starters. Over the years, there have been a number of chiefs of police who have warned about the risks associated with weapons of this style. The Saskatoon Police Chief, Troy Cooper said in an interview, “People who use firearms in committing crimes in Saskatchewan obtain them primarily by theft”. The Regina Police Chief, Evan Bray, said that crime guns are “not being brought in by the United States....[but are] coming from break and enters”.
Therefore, people have to ask themselves if they should believe the Conservative narrative that all these guns that are being used for this purpose are coming through illegal means through the border, because that is the narrative that the Conservative Party has trumpeted for years in the House as I have heard it myself, or do we believe the chief of police from Regina? With all due respect to my Conservative colleagues, I tend to side with those who seem to have the facts and evidence and the real-life experience, notwithstanding the fact that of course there would be members from the House who would have real-life experience in law enforcement as well.
Recently, Edmonton Police Chief, Dale McFee, “said roughly five to 10 per cent of Edmonton's crime guns are coming across the U.S. border.” That is 5% to 10%. The quote goes on to say, “The remainder have either been acquired legally, obtained through 'straw purchasers' or stolen”.
There was a quote recently in Ontario from Inspector Chris Renwick, who told a Crime Prevention Ottawa board meeting that half the crime guns recovered within Canada are usually legally registered, but stolen. However, we hear the narrative from the other side of the aisle that all the guns that are used in committing crimes are coming from across the border, and that we have to strengthen those border measures and get tough on crime. Although I am sure that it does give a fraction of the picture, it indeed misses a vast majority of what the police chiefs are identifying as concerns.
Since I am on the topic of talking about making sure that the proper tools are there for crime prevention, I should remind the House that, when the Conservatives were in power, billions of dollars were removed from the CBSA's ability to do this work. However, over the last number of years, money has been returned to ramp up those efforts: in the last Parliament, $327 million to combat gun and gang violence, $86 million to prevent cross-border smuggling of illegal firearms. The Conservative Party voted against that. The Conservatives are going to have to explain that one to me, even though they claim that is how all of these guns are coming into Canada. This year alone, there is $30.8 million allocated to support the CBSA's efforts to reduce border-related gang activity and prevent firearms from being smuggled into Canada.
Therefore, are we interested in working on that smuggling problem; are we interested in working at combatting the crime that is related? We are absolutely interested. We are doing that and working on that, but it is not the only solution. We do not attack a large problem like this by thinking that working on one thing, which, as I already said, the Conservatives scaled back on, is going to be the only solution.
I want to turn briefly to an issue that came up in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security because it is extremely germane to the discussion and, indeed, the position that is being taken by Conservatives.
Before I do that, let me just jump to something else here. The Canadian National Firearms Association has been quoted saying that the Leader of the Opposition met numerous times with the National Firearms Association in Canada when he was running for leadership. One might ask the question of why that is relevant to the Conservative Party's position on this bill. It is quite relevant because when we take the main firearms policy goals of the CCFR and compare those to what is in the platform of the leader of the Conservative Party, they are almost identical. They could have been written by the CCFR.
The CCFR asked for a simple classification system. In the document released by the Leader of the Opposition, he specifically talks about introducing a simplified classification system.
The CCFR asked that people be able to discharge any firearm they own on their own property. That is the Leader of the Opposition's platform commitment.
A definition of a converted fully automatic and variant is requested to be clearly described in legislation. Guess what? The Conservative Party leader commits in his platform to remove the arbitrary classification of firearms.
The CCFR requests to re-establish the service standard for issuing new FRT numbers; and, guess what, the Conservative Party leader committed to that in his platform.
There is a request by the organization to change the limits to 10 rounds for all magazines. Guess what the leader said in a town hall meeting: “I don't like the restrictions” that are inherently there as they relate to the number of rounds in all magazines. He said that on May 15, 2020, only one year ago.
We can see that it is hard, when we compare these documents, to not come to the conclusion that the Conservative Party is beholden to the National Firearms Association in Canada, considering that its own document on this, as it relates to what they are running on in the election, is almost a carbon copy of what the association is asking for.
This brings me to what I had mentioned a few moments ago, and that is an issue that happened in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. I really wish I could share a prop in here, but I will not, because that is against the rules, but I draw the attention of members to two particular cartoons. I am looking at them, so I will try to describe them to the best of my ability. There are two cartoons that were issued by the National Firearms Association of Canada, that are quite demeaning in their approach to the representation of the member for Oakville and our Deputy Prime Minister. There is another one that has the Prime Minister in it and what appears to be his wife. These are demeaning in the fact that they try to associate fearful women and guns, and there are other individuals standing in the picture holding guns saying, “I think we'll be fine....” By any measure, nobody in this House should accept those as being a proper way to engage in our democratic society.
In any event, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security brought forward a motion to their committee meeting in February that said something I want to read into the record of the House. It said:
That the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security condemn the National Firearms Association and statements made by Sheldon Clare, President, on February 16, 2021 in a video posted online with regards to the introduction of the Bill C-21 which states: “…revisit their old woodworking and metal working skills and construct guillotines again (laughter). That would really be the best kind of Committee of Public Safety to get this reestablished. If they want to make it about public safety that was the way. The sound of this person’s voice is not one that is joking. He was not joking. I don’t think they understand that this is not New Zealand, this is not the United Kingdom, this is not Australia. This is a country made up of people who been here for thousands of years, our aboriginal people, immigrants from Europe who fled tyranny, who fought against tyranny and ... know tyranny when they see it. And this my friends is tyranny”
The House of Commons standing committee introduced this motion asking the committee to condemn a comment made by the National Firearms Association president that specifically referred to their committee as a committee that should go back to studying woodworking and metalworking skills and “construct guillotines”. That is what the National Firearms Association president said, and all the committee asked was that the comments be condemned.
I will fast-forward to the vote on that. Do members know how the vote went on that? Everybody voted in favour, except for four members: the member for Lakeland, the member for Battle River—Crowfoot, the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner and the member for Langley—Aldergrove. They did not vote against it; they abstained. I went back and watched the video of that. I watched the rationale that the member for Lakeland used in trying to put that into an in camera meeting. She basically said this is an issue that if somebody's life feels threatened, they should be contacting the police, and therefore they really should not be talking about this in public, because, if they did, then it is an ongoing investigation. What a load of crock that is, with all due respect. This is a public statement that had been made in the public about not somebody being attacked individually, but specifically about what the committee should focus its work on.
“Perhaps the committee should focus its work on revisiting their old woodworking and metal skills to construct guillotines.” The members for Lakeland, Battle River—Crowfoot, Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner and Langley—Aldergrove could not not even bring themselves to vote in favour of the motion condemning those words. We have to wonder why that would be. How tightly does one have to be intertwined with the National Firearms Association to not vote in favour of that? I believe I have already demonstrated that by telling members how intertwined the leader of the opposition's policy and platform commitments on firearms are with the requests of the National Firearms Association.
As I conclude, I will leave members with the thought that perhaps the opposition to this bill is less about people coming here and genuinely trying to look for solutions as much as it is being directed by an organization that has a stranglehold on a party. I hear members from the other side saying “wow”, but maybe they can explain to me why the four members I pointed out would somehow not be willing to vote in favour. What makes it even worse is that somehow they thought they were skating the issue by abstaining. If they were against it and truly believed what the member for Lakeland said, why did they not vote against it? It is because they knew that by voting in favour they would be sending a message back to the organization their party is so intertwined with, which would not be beneficial to their future campaigns. That is the only conclusion that I can come to.
This legislation is necessary. We need to move forward with it and we need to protect Canadians' lives. We need to listen to the chiefs of police, whom I quoted earlier, so that we can save lives in Canada. We need to stop playing games for the benefit of some people in this country who are trying to promote, rightfully so, their position on the matter but unfortunately are completely intertwined with the Conservative Party.