Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak on behalf of my constituents of Niagara West once again. I never take this privilege for granted and I always want to thank them for their trust in me.
This time I rise to relay my constituents' concerns on the Liberal government bill, Bill C-21. My office received hundreds of regular mail, phone calls and emails disagreeing with what this bill would do. Since its introduction, Bill C-21 has had a long journey. I want to assure folks in my riding who are watching today that I have fought against this bill every step of the way.
Let me start by acknowledging something that always comes up in conversations around firearms, perhaps rightly so. Yes, gun crime in Canada is a real problem, but let us not forget that gun crime in Canada is almost always committed with illegal guns, trafficked and smuggled over the border from the United States. Last month, a police operation in Toronto seized 173 firearms and over 1,400 rounds of ammunition. All of that was smuggled across the border.
Since the Liberals were elected in 2015, violent crime has increased by 32%, and gang-related murders have doubled. Let us contrast that with the previous Conservative government, which saw a record 33% drop in gun crimes. That is a huge difference and a huge difference in approaches. Today, in cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, there is a real and concerning gang presence.
Criminals and their illegal guns put Canadians at risk every single day. This is a problem that needs to be addressed, yet somehow the Prime Minister cannot seem to figure it out or does not want to. In fact, the government is making life easier for violent criminals by repealing mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes with Bill C-5, and made it easier to get bail with Bill C-75. On top of everything, the Liberals continue to fail to stop the flow of illegal guns across the U.S. border.
We also need to acknowledge that legal firearms in Canada are very tightly regulated. The process to obtain one is long and can take several months. Someone who wants to obtain a firearm legally must take safety courses, exams and go through rigorous background checks. After the process is complete, the firearm can only be used at a range and to hunt.
We would think that with all these safety precautions, legal gun owners would be the least of the government's worry. However, they are not. The government seems to think that gang members are attending firearms safety classes and studying diligently for their exams so they can go hunting or shooting on the range after.
The logic of the Liberals use on legal firearm owners is mind-boggling. It does not seem like they understand a simple fact, which I will repeat. The overwhelming majority of guns used to commit crimes are smuggled into Canada through the U.S. border and are obtained illegally.
Instead of addressing the root cause of gun crime, the Prime Minister takes the easy route and groups our law-abiding gun-owning grandpas with some of Canada's worst criminals. While the government attacks hunters and sport shooters, criminals and gang members stock up on guns and continue to use them to cause mayhem on our streets. For some reason, the government believes that taking away legal guns will solve crimes committed by illegal guns.
Over eight long years of the tired government, it seems the Prime Minister just cannot stop taking things for himself. He wants to take Canadians' money by skyrocketing taxes, their freedoms and, now, their legal firearms.
Back in 2020, the then Minister of Public Safety's office said the government would not target guns designed for hunting. In 2023, it has done exactly the opposite. In 2020, it also said it would treat law-abiding gun owners with fairness and respect. In 2023, that could not be further from the truth.
For millions of Canadians, legal firearms ownership is a way of life. It is a culture that feeds families and ties communities together.
For example, sport shooting clubs in my riding and across the country provide opportunities for people to learn about firearms. They train and learn how to use them safely and responsibly. These clubs are not a hub for criminal activity, but rather they give both recreation and education to folks who are interested in hunting or sports shooting.
For hunters, guns are not just a tool of recreation, but also a tool with which they feed their families. For millions of Canadians, hunting is a means to feed their family, bond with others and connect with their culture. Humans have lived off the land by hunting for many generations, but the Prime Minister wants to end this lifestyle. Hunters, farmers, sport shooters, indigenous people and so many others all use their firearms for benefit, yet the the government seems to think they are one of Canada's biggest threats.
As I mentioned earlier, I have received an incredible volume of correspondence from constituents who are all against this bill. These are usually folks who acknowledge the risk illegal and smuggled firearms pose to the safety of our communities. However, they are also very clear that legal gun ownership is not the issue. These folks are also confused as to why they are being targeted and are worried their legally obtained hunting rifles will be taken away.
As we heard throughout the day, the opposition to this misguided bill is not just in my riding but also across the country, and even in some ridings of the Liberal Party. Even some NDP members oppose it. However, do they admit that anymore? They will need to answer to their constituents when they return to their ridings. I would love to hear the reasons they will give their constituents. More than likely it will just be Liberal talking points.
In the face of the strong opposition to the bill, the Prime Minister is trying to do everything he can to ram this bill through Parliament. He knows Canadians are against it. In my view, I think he is just desperate to make it seem like he is in control. It is a destructive pattern I have noticed over the last eight years of trying to gain control over the lives of Canadians, while simultaneously infringing on some of their most basic freedoms.
This is where I will repeat something I said many times in this place, especially in the last three years, which is to let folks live their lives. Leave them alone. At this point, the Liberals have pushed and rushed Bill C-21 through committee because they do not want to hear some of the views and opinions of hunters, farmers and indigenous people. The government knows what committee witnesses will say about the bill.
However, this is not happening just in committee. The Liberals are rushing Bill C-21 through the House, to have as little debate as possible here as well. What is even more interesting is their ever-changing terminology. To dodge scrutiny, they are redefining Bill C-21 as a ban on “assault-style” firearms when they are just trying to take the firearms away from law-abiding gun owners. It is that simple.
The government is trying to make it seem as if this new definition will save hunters and legal gun owners. Instead, all this definition does is give the Liberals more time to reapproach the issue in the fall and come up with another ill-defined and ineffective ban. All this definition does is put hunting rifles and shotguns at risk of being confiscated in the future.
I also need to mention that farmers are also deeply affected. Farmers use firearms for various important purposes on the family farm, such as protecting cattle from predators or handling pests. Let us be clear that Bill C-21 is not about stopping criminals and it is not about fighting gang violence. The Prime Minister has already admitted and is on record that he wants to ban legal hunting guns, and he said so himself in an interview on CTV.
This is about the Prime Minister doing everything he can to take more rights away from Canadians. He is not satisfied after three years of wedging, dividing and stigmatizing Canadians at every opportunity possible. If it really were about fighting crime, the Prime Minister would stop removing mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes. It is that simple. He would stop making it easier for criminals to get bail and get back on the streets. Once again, it is that simple.
Already in 2023, half of the murder suspects in Toronto were out on release. The Liberals try to paint Bill C-21 as being tough on crime. This is ridiculous and they know it. They want the country to believe they are coming in like a knight in shining armour to save the country from an evil dragon, the hunting rifle of one's uncle.
Canadians see this bill exactly for what it is, a fairy tale. Canadians are tired of the government's fairy tales. They are tired of seeing their rights be diminished and stepped on by the power-hungry, overreaching and intrusive government.
Let me share what Bill Baranick, a volunteer firearms safety instructor, said about Bill C-21. Bill lives in my riding and he is also a grape grower. He said, “Bill C-21 appears to be nothing more than a wedge issue to be used in the next election. By banning the sale and transfer of legally owned handguns, entire collections and family heirlooms etc. have zero value now, taking hundreds of millions of dollars out of the economy. These firearms cannot be passed down to the next generation or sold. It's a devastating blow to shooting sports in this country as well as affecting thousands of jobs in the firearms industry. C-21 in it's current form needs to be redrafted to be tougher on criminals and addressing root causes of gun violence, and not going after the safest demographic in Canada...legally licensed, daily vetted women and men of the hunting and sport shooting community.”
I am absolutely in when it comes to fighting crime with tough measures. None of us on this side of the House do not support that issue. We very much thing that when it comes to fighting crime we need to have tough measures.
I think I can speak for my Conservative colleagues that we must work together as a country to fight gun violence and work toward safer streets. However, how do we do this? It is simple. We need to do this by tackling illegal guns used in criminal activities, targeting gun smugglers and being tough on gang activity. We must bring back serious sentences for violent gun offenders, while supporting common-sense policies for farmers, sports shooters and indigenous peoples.
What we must not do is take away the rights and freedoms of lawful Canadians. The rights of lawful gun-owning Canadians must be respected.