Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak today to Bill C-21, hoping that I can bring a calm and reasoned approach to this discussion. All parties in the House are united in their desire to get rid of gun crime in Canada. The question is, what is the best way to go about doing that?
We know that we need to be fact- and evidence-based. In fact, the Liberal government is always talking about how it is fact- and evidence-based, but in this particular discussion, it has missed the mark.
We know that 95% of gun crime in Canada is illegal guns and guns used illegally. What does Bill C-21 do to address illegal guns coming into Canada? The answer is, nothing. What does Bill C-21 do, then, about guns used illegally? The answer, again, is nothing. In terms of trying to address gun crime in Canada, this bill misses the mark.
If we look at the 261 gun-related crimes that happened last year, 60% of those were committed with handguns that are already prohibited or restricted. One in four homicides was related to gang activity. If we look at the people who were arrested for illegal firearms offences in 2019, the Toronto chief of police said that the 326 people charged with firearms offences are free on bail. Even when people commit a crime, we are not enforcing the law, and the penalties are reduced.
If we look at an approach of what we ought to be doing to reduce gun crime in Canada, the first thing is to address the illegal guns coming into the country. I am sad to note that the Liberal members voted against a private member's bill from the member for Markham—Unionville that would have introduced measures against illegal guns coming into the country.
Certainly the point has already been made today that we need to step up the effort at the border, because we know from the statistics that most of the guns coming in are coming in from the U.S.A. There is a role to play there. I know that the National Police Federation has called on the Government of Canada to increase the funding to the RCMP border integrity program to enable dedicated and proactive RCMP investigative weapons enforcement activity in order to address gun crime at the border.
Another issue that Bill C-21 does not address is organized crime and gangs. We have heard the statistics about one in four homicides being related to gang activities. This is something that has not yet been addressed.
What does Bill C-21 actually do? There are a number of things in the bill, but basically, for firearms that have already been banned for lawful gun owners, they are allowed to keep them but there is no defined compensation yet. Again, this is a measure that comes against people who are abiding by the law, and now the government is punishing them. They are not allowed to use these guns, and they are not going to be compensated. Nothing has been put forward on that.
At the same time, the Liberals are trying to remove the provincial authority for the chief firearms officer to “approve, refuse, renew and revoke authorizations to carry” and to give that power to a federal commissioner of firearms, another “Ottawa knows best” kind of strategy coming from the government.
In terms of importing ammunition, the government wants to add additional requirements for a licence to import ammunition. Again, it is always focused on people who will obey the law, and what it is missing is the main point that criminals do not obey the law. They do not obey the existing gun laws, and they would not obey these new guns laws. They would not obey a requirement to have a licence to import ammunition. The naïveté needs to stop, and we need to start with reasoned approaches to actually address the issue.
The municipal ban that is proposed by Bill C-21 has actually been opposed by many of the mayors across the country. The government ought to listen to mayors who are saying that this is not municipal jurisdiction. The RCMP has the expertise in this area, and that is where the power should rest.
At the same time that the government is implementing things that will not do anything about gun crime in Canada, we also see that it is introducing other bills, like Bill C-22, that will reduce the penalties for crimes committed with guns. I cannot even imagine why Liberals would think about doing that.
Bill C-22 repeals several minimum penalties. Let me read the list: unauthorized possession, possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a weapon obtained by crime, weapons trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, reckless discharge, discharge with the intent to wound or endanger, and robbery with a firearm. Why would we ever reduce the penalties for those very things that are part of the problem of gun crime in Canada, which is the thing we are trying to solve?
At the same time, Bill C-22 would also eliminate a number of offences that would be ineligible for conditional sentencing, such as sexual assault, kidnapping, trafficking in persons for material benefit, abduction of people under 14, motor vehicle theft, and arson for fraudulent purposes.
Again, we are trying to solve the problem of gun crime in Canada: illegal guns, guns used illegally, and the kind of organized crime and gang crime activity that is related to all these illegal activities. We have a huge issue of drugs in the country, so we should definitely be putting our money there.
I see that my time is drawing short, and yes, I am going to get to my points. There has also been an allegation that suicide is a reason for the banning of weapons for lawful gun owners, that it would really do something about suicide in the country. I would offer that people who are going to kill themselves, sadly, are going to find other ways: hanging themselves, slicing their wrists, taking pills.
We see a huge increase in suicide in this country. In fact, because this pandemic has gone on so long and the Liberal government has failed to get a plan to exit, we have seen a quadrupling of suicides. Instead of the 4,000 people a year who typically commit suicide, if that is quadrupled, the number of people dying from suicide is approaching the number of people dying from COVID-19. This is why it is important for the government to focus its efforts there and, if it really wants to eliminate suicide, get us a plan to exit this pandemic, absolutely.
The undefined buyback program needs to be clarified so that we can actually comment on it. Right now it just looks like weapons will be banned and there is no defined plan, but the plan is likely to be very expensive and it looks to me like the initial estimates have underestimated what that cost will be.
All in all, Bill C-21 misses the mark on eliminating gun crime in Canada. I want to summarize by saying that the problem is illegal guns and guns used illegally. Bill C-21 does nothing about illegal guns. It does nothing about guns used illegally.
What do we need to do? Let us step up the efforts to keep illegal guns from coming into the country and the penalties associated with being involved in gun smuggling, and once those people are convicted, let us keep them in jail and not let them back out on the street with their weapons again.
Let us make sure that we focus on organized crime and gang activity. I think there are resources that would be better applied there. In fact, the National Police Federation said that we should divert from the monitoring activities on lawful gun owners that we spend on and put some of those resources into crime prevention. That is a very good thing to do as well.
At the end of the day, all of us want the same thing. We all want to eliminate gun crime in Canada, but Bill C-21 does not do it.