Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place to speak to Bill C-21. I am going to try to deal with a number of complex issues in a short amount of time and hope it works.
It relates to Bill C-21, and that is the use of firearms. I want to comment on some of the discussion during question period about the Portapique shootings. I think it is important to reflect on what I take away from the news media at this time, when I have a moment to say it. There is no chance of interrupting question period to put it into perspective.
As a Nova Scotian originally, I was devastated, as we all were, by the shootings at Portapique. The RCMP officer who was killed, Heidi Stevenson, was a friend of mine and I know her mother well.
It was awful to watch what happened. We will see what the Mass Casualty Commission produces as a result, but it is pretty clear to me, and I want to speak clearly to this, that the RCMP in Nova Scotia failed the public badly. I know a commission is looking at this, but the RCMP had information that was not shared. It failed to put out a warning and 22 people were killed. I know this inquiry is very important to all the families who lost loved ones.
There appears to me to have been an uncalled-for assumption by some members in question period, who put into question the integrity of the Minister of Public Safety and the Prime Minister's Office. I am not an apologist for the Liberals, but I thought that was not what the evidence revealed. When I look at the CBC reports of what they found out, it appears to me that in the aftermath of the shooting, the Nova Scotia RCMP was all too quick to try to obscure facts from the public, rather than reveal them.
It appears to me that the RCMP commissioner, Brenda Lucki, provided more transparency and provided real information. If anyone in PMO instructed her anything, it seems to me that it would have been to tell everybody what has happened and just be transparent. I am very concerned that we let any false rumours or assumptions to besmirch the reputations of others, including Brenda Lucki, be spread in this place.
It appears to me, as in a number of other shooting incidents, that sometimes the police get it wrong. They did not move in Uvalde, Texas, when they should have, to save those children. There is a common denominator that I discern, which is that when the RCMP is slow to move or the police are slow to move, it is because the people they would have to deal with are heavily armed. I do not find the police slow to move against unarmed protesters. I do not find the police slow to move against indigenous people. However, they delay when they are at risk for their own safety, all too often. It is not always, but all too often.
In the case of the Nova Scotia shooter, we know his name. I do not want to repeat it, because of the crimes he committed. However, he was well known to the RCMP and in the early hours after the shooting, the Nova Scotia RCMP, not the commissioner, put out false statements that he was not known to them. He was known personally to them. They had warnings about him.
This goes to make the bridge and the connection to Bill C-21. This goes to a number of the provisions of Bill C-21 that, if Bill C-21 had been law at that time, could have saved lives. The neighbours of the multiple shooter in Nova Scotia, and we can just call him the evil dentist for the time being, reported him to the RCMP on numerous occasions, but no action was taken. Neighbours were so frightened of him that they literally sold their dream home and moved away, yet nothing was done to even conduct a search of the property or even to inquire why he is buying a car that looks just like an RCMP vehicle. Why does he dress up like an RCMP officer? These details were known in the community, and a number of them were reported to law enforcement authorities.
Could this bill have made a difference? I think it could have, but only if the RCMP or local police are prepared to use the information that comes to them. That is why one of the provisions in this bill that I particularly like is the ability to seek an ex parte motion on the strength of concerns from people who are concerned that some person may be threatening others, not just with firearms, by the way, but with crossbows or with explosive substances. This is really important. This is found under “Application for emergency prohibition order” in clause 4 of this bill, which would amend section 110 of the Firearms Act.
It is really important that we recognize what an ex parte order is. That means that people can go to the court without notifying the person they are scared of that they are going to court, and there can be an emergency search and seizure without a warrant. This violates every instinct of my being, searches without warrants, because I am a civil liberties lawyer, but there is a history of violence by people in the community, people we know.
There is a lot about this law that I hope we will have time to study thoroughly, and I want to speak to that. There are the red flag and yellow flag provisions, the ability to go to a judge without fear of retribution from someone who is well armed or who has crossbows. It may be in cases, as we know all too frequently, of intimate partner violence. It may be in cases of the random and reckless killing of others, as in the case of Portapique or the desperately sad case of Lionel Desmond, who killed his wife and mother and kids. He was, of course, suffering from PTSD from his service in our armed forces and did not get the help he needed, even though he had gone to a hospital the day before. There are many and varied circumstances when the presence of firearms in a home makes the difference between life and death, and where the provisions in Bill C-21 would indeed, I hope, save lives.
I want to turn to a process question at this point: Why rush this bill? I am very concerned that we just invoked time allocation on a bill that we had only had before us for debate for three hours. This bill is complex. It has many moving parts. The government itself has changed its views on key aspects of this bill between its version last year, which was also Bill C-21, and its version this year, which is the current Bill C-21. The Liberals changed their minds, and wisely, on the question of voluntary versus mandatory buyback. They changed their minds, wisely, on the question of any jurisdiction other than the federal government regulating guns. Those were wise choices, and this bill has changed in that way.
Bills get better when they are studied. Any attempt to achieve consensus will improve a bill. A decision on the government side that the Conservatives are only going to obstruct and delay and filibuster is entirely a justified conclusion, given conduct so far in this Parliament, but that does not excuse shortening the time for debate, shortening the time for study and shortening the time to try to find consensus in this place, which is possible.
I want to put forward some of the things that would help achieve consensus. One is to observe the rules, which are our rules. It does not take changing the Standing Orders to ban the practice of reading a speech. How does that connect? When a whip or a House leader in a party knows that they can rally however many MPs they have, like cannon fodder, and give them a speech to deliver in 10 minutes, they can clog up the works of this place with people giving speeches.
If the rules prohibited members from reading a speech and required them to express their thoughts in their own words, there would be fewer members rising to speak during a debate on a bill.
We need to get control of this so that we can have real debate among fewer MPs, because fewer MPs would be able to stand up and speak without a written speech.
The next thing we need to do is consider how many days we sit in this place. We have this panic this time of year, every year, as though a disaster will strike if we do not adjourn on a day that is set. We could sit for more days. We sit for far fewer days than the U.S. Congress, and even fewer days than the British Parliament.
I voted against time allocation, because this is a complicated bill and we should take the time it needs, to respect each other and come up with the best bill.