Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Whitby.
I want to recognize that I am speaking to the House of Commons from traditionally unceded Algonquin territory.
I am speaking today on a very important bill, Bill C-21, an incredibly important bill that addresses the proliferation of handguns in Canada and the need for greater measures to protect community safety.
Just by way of a refresh, our work on gun control, as a government, started much earlier. Since 2015, we have banned AR-15s and listed 1,500 models of assault-style firearms as prohibited. We have cracked down on illegal trafficking by investing in law enforcement and enhancing border security. We have invested $250 million to address the root causes of gang violence.
Bill C-21 is part of the evolution of this approach and it is targeting specifically handguns. The question is why. We know that gun violence in Canada is on the rise. Since 2009, violent offences involving guns have increased by 81%, and handguns are the number one type of gun used in shooting homicides in this country.
Around 47% of Canadians have reported feeling that gun violence poses a serious threat to their communities. My community of Parkdale—High Park is no exception. My city of Toronto is no exception. We know that handguns are the preferred weapon of criminals in Canada, and that criminals obtain their guns through different means: smuggling, theft or what is known as straw purchases.
For example, the horrific Danforth shooting a few years back in Toronto involved a gun that was originally a legal firearm that was stolen in the province of Saskatchewan. We are trying to address part of the problem, which is the supply of handguns that are circulating in Canadian society.
How will we do that? This bill would freeze the market. Individuals will no longer be able to buy, sell, transfer or import handguns, subject to some very narrow exceptions. This means that there will never be more handguns in Canada than there are at the moment this bill passes. I just want that to sink in for members of Parliament, because that underscores the need to ensure community safety by passing this legislation as quickly as possible.
That begs the question, what about other sources, such as the borders? We are addressing borders and smuggling as well. While Bill C-21 limits the domestic supply of handguns, what we have done at the borders, and we have heard this injected into the debate by people like the member for Vaudreuil—Soulanges, is that we have made a $350-million investment into the RCMP and the CBSA, in their capacity to intercept weapons coming across the U.S. border. While we venerate our relationship with our strongest ally and our largest trading partner, that trading partner also happens to be the world's single largest manufacturer of firearms on the planet.
When we made that investment, and I will note this for the people watching on CPAC, the Conservative Party of Canada voted against that investment, betraying its perspective when the rubber hit the road, in terms of voting patterns.
What happened after that historic investment? Let us look at the evidence. In 2021, the RCMP and the CBSA intercepted nearly double the number of firearms at the border than they had in 2020. The investments in border safety are working to keep our communities safe.
Both in this debate and in the context of other debates about firearms and gun control in this legislature, at least in the time I have been here, since 2015, we have heard a lot about the narrative about victims, that the focus needs to be on the victims. Let me talk about three victim groups that I feel are strongly served by a bill like Bill C-21.
The first is women. The member for Vancouver East just asked a very poignant question of the member who just spoke from the official opposition, about victims of intimate partner violent and things like gender-based violence. We have heard, and it is fairly common-sense, that if there is violence in the home, the presence of weapons in the home would accentuate the propensity of that violence to end up being lethal. That is exactly what has happened. A stat was just provided that 500 instances of intimate partner violence involved firearms. That is almost two per day in terms of how frequent that is. That is an alarming statistic for all of us who are concerned about violence, and I am sure there is no debate that all of us in this chamber are concerned about intimate partner violence.
What does this bill do? This bill would provide, among other things, regulatory authority that will allow for an individual who is the subject of a restraining order to be prevented from having either a firearm or a firearms licence. We know that the number of women who are killed at home because of intimate partner violence and gender-based violence is far too large. That is why we are working to address this.
The next area I would like to address, in terms of whom we are supporting, is those who are dealing with mental illness. We know that we have a concern about mental illness, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic.
We know that rates of suicidality are going up. We know that when people are contemplating suicide, or having what is called suicidal ideation, the presence of a weapon can, again, be lethal. We know that guns in homes lead to greater numbers of suicides in this country. There are members of the official opposition who have called for various measures, and they are right to call for them, to address suicidality and to address getting people support.
One way of ensuring that suicidal ideation does not result in death is by restricting the numbers of firearms in homes. This bill would do that. I found it a bit perplexing, to be candid, to hear, in the debate just prior to my intervention, about the notion of background checks. It was raised by the Conservative member who just spoke. When the issue of background checks was moved in the House of Commons in the previous Parliament, the Conservative Party again voted against that aspect of the legislation. That is really troubling for a party, when all parliamentarians need to be addressing the need to ensure that lawful firearms are only put into the hands of people who should have firearms, not people who may perhaps be suffering from mental illness.
Let me address a third group, and this one is really important to me in the work that I have been doing for the past seven years. What this legislation would do through the red flag provisions is address people who could be targeted by hatred. I am talking about people who might be racial minorities and religious minorities. I am talking about people who could be targeted online, and the women I spoke of earlier. If such people have a legitimate basis or reasonable grounds to believe that a firearm should be removed from the home of a potential assailant, or someone who was stalking or threatening them, etc., they could apply for a court order to do just that. The court order raising a red flag could be for a limited period as short as up to 30 days. A long-term prohibition order could be all the way up to five years, if there continued to be a reasonable basis to believe the individual posed a public health risk.
The removal of the weapons could be done immediately, via a court order that they be surrendered immediately to law enforcement. This is important because we heard from, and listened to, women and minority groups who are targeted by violence. They are targeted by hatred and are threatened. They told us that their fears are real and that there are fears of reprisal.
I am going to get to an aspect that we have improved in this legislation. What they have said is that they were not going to come forward because if they did so, it would put them in even greater vulnerability. They would have a greater sense of jeopardy, with a higher likelihood of potentially fatal consequences. What we have done with this iteration of Bill C-21 is we have improved it. We have listened to those stakeholders, and we have cured what we feel is an aspect of the old Bill C-21 that needed curing. This is in terms of protecting the identity of those persons who would apply for such a court order.
Under the current version of the legislation that we are now debating, a court could close the court hearing to the public and the media. A court could seal the documents in the record for up to 30 days and remove identifying information for any period of time, even permanently, if the judge felt that was necessary. That is important because it gets to the heart of this issue: that people who are facing threats and have very legitimate fears need to be emboldened to come forward and not be afraid to come forward. This is what this legislation would do. It would allow for such people to be protected.
I want to point out the types of people who have been calling for the red flags. One amazing group is a group of physicians called Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns, and I salute their incredible work. I had the occasion to meet with some of them, including Dr. Najma Ahmed and Dr. Julie Maggi. Many of their colleagues were doing incredible work from a medical perspective about this being a public health crisis that we are dealing with, in terms of firearms violence.
I also want to salute the lifetime work of my constituent, Ms. Wendy Cukier, a professor at TMU in Toronto and also the president of the Canadian Coalition for Gun Control. I first met Wendy when I was a parliamentary intern in this chamber in 1995. She was doing work back then, 27 years ago, to promote better gun control. She has never wavered in those 27 years. I salute her for the success that this legislation has achieved.
The last piece I want to address in closing is the idea of having municipalities deal with this on a one-off basis. Having bylaws in individual municipalities would create a checkerboard. It would not serve the constituents of Toronto if guns were banned in Toronto but available in Markham or Mississauga. The same would apply across the country.
We are taking a national approach because this is a national issue and a national crisis. It is important for victims. It is important for women. It is important for people who are suffering with mental illness. It is important for racial and religious minorities. I firmly support this bill, and I hope my colleagues will, as well.