House of Commons Hansard #199 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was guns.


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, I cannot say that I am happy to be rising today to discuss this piece of legislation, but I am happy to be rising as a law-abiding firearms owner to defend my fellow law-abiding firearms owners.

How did we get here? I will put things in context so the people who might be watching at home know whom they are listening to. I am a member of Parliament for an urban-rural split riding in central Alberta. Half of my constituents live in Red Deer, the third-largest city in Alberta, and the other half live on a first nation reserve, or in a rural setting in Red Deer County, Lacombe County or Ponoka County, or in a small town, city or village therein.

I would consider the people I represent to be honest, hard-working, law-abiding folks who want their tax dollars spent wisely and want the freedom to pursue whatever they want to pursue in life. Many of them pursue various things that involve firearms, including hunting, farming on farms like the one I grew up on, where firearms are just a tool and an everyday part of life, or sport shooting. This is very popular in my constituency. There are numerous stores and vendors in central Alberta that supply firearms, ammunition and parts because of the demand that is there.

I can tell members that we do not have the problems that my colleague who just spoke talked about in her large urban centre, because we respect the law. We put policies in place at the provincial level, and when we are the governing party, we put laws in place that actually crack down on criminals. That is where the actual issue lies.

I can assure Canadians who might be watching at home that the firearms I own are doing nothing right now. They do not do anything until someone picks them up. The issue at hand is violent crime and who has access to firearms. There are numerous provisions in this bill, Bill C-21, that do not address, penalize or in any way affect the outcome of dealing with the wrong people getting a hold of firearms.

How did we get here? Over the course of the preceding decades, Canada was a country that was a rugged place to settle, and it is still a rugged place for some who live in rural areas or adjacent to wild areas or who are farming, involved in forestry, or doing something as seemingly innocuous as keeping beehives. Anybody watching at home who grew up with cartoon books would know that Winnie-the-Pooh was addicted to honey. This is not by chance. Bears often frequent these places, and good, honest people have bought firearms to protect themselves, many of whom were caught up in the order in council that came out a number of years ago.

It all started in the 1930s. If we go back that far, every single firearm and handgun in this country has been put in a registry, but that does not stop criminals from obtaining guns illegally. The government of the day, whenever it is Liberal or Liberal-leaning, seems to want to blame the law-abiding citizen, so, for decades, we have had a firearms registry and the government knows where all the lawfully owned handguns in this country are. Changes were brought in back when Jean Chrétien was the prime minister, including a long-gun registry, which was wasteful and ineffective. The government of the day said it would cost only $2 million, but it was actually closer to $2 billion. Of course, it did not do anything to address violent crime.

We have seen the current government, in its first mandate, put in place Bill C-75, which basically codified in law bail provisions that would let people out in the shortest amount of time with the smallest number of restrictions, and now we see what has happened with that.

What did Bill C-21 originally do? When the members of this House were invited to speak to the bill, it was simply the codification in law of an order in council to ban the transfer of handguns. Then, sneakily, the government decided to table-drop, back in November, a huge stack of amendments that had absolutely nothing to do with handguns. They were all about long guns, and of course the government bit off far more than it could chew.

The government managed to alienate almost all of its voting base when it comes to indigenous Canadians, who were offended by the fact that the firearms used by indigenous people were largely going to be caught up in amendment G-46, taking away their ability to use that firearm.

There was also an evergreen clause in G-4, and I am sorry to report that there is a new evergreen clause put in place that does virtually the same thing, with a minor exception, which I will explain in a few minutes, when I get back to what the problem actually is with the government's notions going forward on its new evergreen clause.

We all remember what happened. It was pretty obvious, because we heard the recordings from the Mass Casualty Commission. The government actually interfered. It took this mass casualty event in Nova Scotia and interfered in the investigation by demanding that the officers who were investigating at the time turn over information to advance a political agenda of the government of the day.

We know it is not about evidence. It is not evidence-based policy-making; it is policy-based evidence-making and evidence-finding, even if it interferes with a police investigation. That is why there is very little trust by law-abiding firearms owners in the intentions of the Liberal government, which is supported by the NDP, and what it is doing.

What is the problem? The problem is violent crime. In the last eight years, violent crime has risen because of the provisions that have been passed by the government when it had a majority and with the support of other left-leaning parties in this place. They passed numerous pieces of legislation, such as Bill C-75 and Bill C-5, that have basically eliminated any consequences whatsoever for people who commit crimes, so much so that violent crime in the last eight years is up 32% over what it was when the Prime Minister and his government inherited the government offices of this place.

More astonishing is this number: 94% increase in gang-related homicides. One would think that an almost doubling of the number of homicides by gang members would trigger a response from the government to crack down on organized crime, but it actually has done the opposite. The passages and clauses in the Criminal Code that would deal with people who are repeat violent offenders have largely been removed, as well as any semblance of a minimum sentence. I am not even talking about mandatory minimum sentences put in place by Stephen Harper when he was prime minister, and by the way crime went down over those 10 years, but I am getting to the point of the fact that numerous basic minimum sentences were removed.

These were put in place by people like Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien. Of the 12 firearms-related clauses in that piece of legislation, 11 were actually put in place by previous Liberal governments, and the current version of the Liberal government has removed even the most basic minimum sentences for violent crime, including smuggling, firing a gun irresponsibly or even holding a gun to somebody's head for the purpose of extortion. It has removed any mandatory jail time whatsoever for those.

That is the tone and the signal Liberals have sent to the country. Why would criminals not want to increase their activity? There are no consequences, and this is the problem.

I will give an example of the illogic of what the government is doing right now. According to the RCMP's website, there are approximately 430 gangs in Canada with 7,000 members in those gangs. If we look at the average number of homicides committed by people associated with gangs over the last five or six years, it is about 50% of murders. Fifty per cent of murders are committed by gang members, or about 125 a year. There are 2.2 million licensed gun owners in this country. If we look over that same time period, we will see that they are charged for homicide about 12 times a year.

That is 12 out of 2.2 million people versus 125 out of 7,000 people. Who does the government go after? It goes after the 2.2 million. It does not make any sense whatsoever. If we do the math, a gang member is 3,300 times more likely to commit murder with a firearm than a law-abiding firearm owner is, yet the government focuses only on the law-abiding firearm owner.

Gary Mauser, professor emeritus, did an analysis for Statistics Canada that shows that Canadians who are not licensed firearms owners are still three times more likely to commit a homicide than a vetted, licensed gun owner is. For the people who are watching at home, the safest people in Canada for them to be with are legally vetted, law-abiding firearm owners who, at any time, could have their firearms taken away with any complaint lodged against them. That means that every firearm owner meticulously follows the laws of storage, the laws of transportation and the laws of safe discharge. As a matter of fact, we jokingly quip sometimes that gun control meetings are about making sure one's muzzle is always pointed downrange. That is what gun control is to a law-abiding gun owner. We follow all the rules because we do not want to risk losing our privileges, because the fact is that every firearm in Canada is illegal unless it is in the possession of somebody with a licence who is authorized to have that firearm.

We have to go through a renewal process every five years, during which our entire history, including our mental health history, our medical history and anything that might have happened before the courts is reviewed in detail. We wait months to get our licence renewed. Sometimes it is not renewed on time. This puts us in a situation, as law-abiding firearm owners, where we are now in possession of our firearms, which were legal one day, but of which, because of the incompetence of the government to process an application on time, we are now technically, according to the law, illegally in possession. We actually had a clause, when Stephen Harper was the prime minister, where people had a six-month grace period. I am very frustrated by the removal of that grace period, and I will get to that in a minute.

In committee, Dr. Caillin Langmann from McMaster University basically laid it out for everybody to see. His brief states:

The foregoing research papers are peer reviewed and conclude that Canadian legislation to regulate and control firearm possession and acquisition does not have a corresponding effect on homicide and suicide rates.

It also states:

I was asked to produce a review paper for the Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2021. This paper entitled, “Suicide, firearms, and legislation: A review of the Canadian evidence” reviewed 13 studies regarding suicide and legislative efforts and found an associated reduction in suicide by firearm in men aged 45 and older but demonstrated an equivalent increase in suicide by other methods such as hanging. Factors such as unemployment, low income, and indigenous populations were associated with suicide rates....

My conclusions are based on sound statistical analysis and information specifically related to Canada. I am not aware of any other Canadian research which uses reliable statistical models to dispute or disagree with my conclusions.

The brief also states:

Bans of military-appearing firearms, semiautomatic rifles and handguns, short barrel handguns and Saturday night specials in the 1990s has resulted in no associated reduction in homicide rates.

To summarize the results, no statistically significant beneficial associations were found between firearms legislation and homicide by firearm, as well as spousal homicide by firearms, and the criminal charge of “Discharge of a Firearm with Intent”....

Other studies have demonstrated agreement with my studies that laws targeting restricted firearms such as handguns and certain semi-automatic and full automatic firearms in Canada also had no associated effect with homicide rates. Canadian studies by Leenaars and Lester 2001, Mauser and Holmes 1992, and McPhedran and Mauser 2013, are all in general agreement with my study.

The issue is violent crime. It is about controlling violent criminals, controlling those people. One can control inanimate objects all one wants, but it will not change anything. Therefore, the “who” is not the problem. It is not hunters. Over eight million people in this country hunt and fish, contributing $19 billion annually to the GDP, and the order in council has already banned rifles used for hunting, some that even conservation officers use. I was a conservation officer. I was a national park warden and I was issued firearms for my duties. I was a park ranger in charge of a park in the province of Alberta and I was issued firearms for those duties as well. Every person I dealt with as a conservation officer was at least a camper who had an axe, a fisherman who had a knife or a hunter who had either a rifle or a bow and arrow. I had no trouble with those good people, no trouble whatsoever.

We are going to ban the very guns that conservation officers use, but they do not have those firearms. The Yukon government actually had to go around the order in council to buy firearms for its conservation officers, because those are the best firearms available to protect its officers from bears, mountain lions and all of the other issues that conservation officers face, because that is where the real issue lies.

It is very clear to me as a hunter, that, with the changes the Liberals have made, they are weasel words, especially the evergreen clause that deals with magazines. I laid it out very clearly at committee that anybody who wants to interpret it that way can say that, as long as a firearm can take a magazine that holds more than five rounds, it shall be banned. After this becomes law, we would end up in a situation in which, with guns that are functionally identical, one from 10 years ago and a new firearm, one would be prohibited and the other would still be legal. This is because of the clear lack of knowledge and understanding, when it comes to firearms, of people who do not own guns, making laws that simply do not work. We are going to have that scenario again.

However, if people think their gun is safe because they have an older gun that is not included in the new evergreen clause, they should think again, because the firearms committee that would be struck would still have the same authority to do a firearms reference table analysis and ban whatever guns it does not like.

I have news for everybody in this room. If we look at all of the hunting regulations in all of the provinces and territories in this country, a hunting rifle is a rifle that is in the hands of a hunter, used for the purposes of the hunt. It does not matter what it looks like; it just matters what the calibre of the bullet is, so the animal can be safely dispatched.

I could go on for literally a couple more hours and talk about the end of cowboy mounted shooting, cowboy action shooting, IPSC, all of these sports for all of these good people. They are mostly Filipinos there, by the way, when I go to an IPSC event. They are people who have moved here from a country that never allowed them to own firearms, but they have come here and taken up this sport and activity. They are frustrated because, when we take away the ability to transfer these handguns between law-abiding citizens, it will be the end of thousands of people's enjoyment of the sports that involve handguns. I look forward to answering some hopefully logical questions from around the room.

Before I conclude, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “Bill C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms), be not now read a third time, but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for the purpose of reconsidering clauses 0.1, 1.1 and 17, with a view to ensure that the government cannot take away hunting rifles from law-abiding farmers, hunters and Indigenous peoples.”

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

The amendment is in order.

It being 5:32 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

moved that Bill C-314, an act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-314, the mental health protection act.

In its very essence, this bill is about reaffirming the dignity and worth of each and every human life. It is about recognizing that it is the most vulnerable among us, the disabled and the mentally ill, to whom we owe the greatest duty: to defend and protect their lives and to provide them with every possible opportunity to live life to the fullest.

Medically assisted suicide was legalized in Canada in 2015 by the Supreme Court's Carter decision and later under the Liberal government's Bill C-14. Under this legislation, medical assistance in dying, or MAID, as it is commonly called, was strictly limited to those consenting adults who had an incurable disease that caused enduring, intolerable suffering that could not be alleviated, and where natural death was reasonably foreseeable, which they call the foreseeability test.

At the time, the government and its supportive stakeholders assured Canadians that this was not a slippery slope, where the scope of MAID would continually be expanded to include more and more vulnerable Canadians. However, not surprisingly, in the intervening eight years since the Carter decision, the government has begun to expand Canada's MAID regime to include more and more defenceless Canadians, most particularly those living with disabilities.

In late 2019, a Quebec lower court judge in the Truchon case ruled that the foreseeability test I just mentioned was unconstitutional, requiring Parliament to respond with additional legislation. Sadly, the Liberal government chose not to appeal the Truchon case to the Supreme Court of Canada, presumably because the decision lined up with the Prime Minister's intent to dramatically expand assisted suicide to other vulnerable Canadians. This leaves us with the perverse situation in which the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in the country, has never been allowed to opine on whether the reasonable foreseeability test is constitutional.

In any event, the Liberal government responded to Truchon by tabling Bill C-7, which initially eliminated the foreseeability test but expressly excluded mentally ill persons from being caught up in its MAID regime. Here is what the justice minister said at the time:

The fact that there would be risk of ending the life of a person whose symptoms would have, in part, why we are of the view that it is safest not to permit MAID on the sole basis of mental illness.... There is also ongoing uncertainty and disagreement as to the potential impact on suicide prevention if MAID were made available to this group.

He went on to say:

...there is no consensus among experts on whether and how to proceed with MAID on the basis of mental illness alone. On a question of such importance and with so much uncertainty and expert disagreement, it is incumbent upon us to proceed with caution and prudence.

Those were our justice minister’s views until the unelected Senate suddenly introduced an amendment that expanded MAID to those Canadians whose sole underlying condition is mental illness. Sadly, the justice minister and the government accepted the amendment without protest and, overnight, became zealous proponents of assisted death for the mentally ill. What happened to the caution and prudence the minister was preaching? What about the impact on suicide prevention the minister was so concerned about? What happened to his view that it was safest not to permit MAID on the sole basis of mental illness?

I agree with the Minister of Justice on one thing, which is that, as he has said, this is indeed a complex issue and is deeply personal. It is deeply personal because it involves life, a precious human life.

I would remind the minister and his government that the issue is also profoundly simple; that is, the principle that all life, all human life is precious and worthy of defence and protection, especially for those who do not have the ability to speak for themselves and have no one to speak for them.

One of the primary functions of government is to protect its citizens, to protect life. In fact, the right to life is expressly enshrined in section 7 of our Charter of Rights. Sadly, the government's Bill C-7 fails to protect the lives of our most vulnerable. It removes the critical safeguards that the original euthanasia legislation included in response to the Carter decision. Removing those safeguards will have irreversible consequences for those who suffer from mental illnesses like depression.

What is equally disturbing is that the Liberal government has also signalled its intention to extend the so-called “treatment option” to minor children. That would arguably make Canada the most expansive, most liberal, assisted suicide jurisdiction in the world. Clearly we are on the slippery slope many of us warned about. Canadians have a right to conclude that the Liberal government has gone too far and too fast in its zeal to implement and expand the scope of assisted death.

My bill will reverse this momentum and repeal the government's decision to extend MAID to the mentally ill. It will put a full stop to the expansion of assisted suicide to mentally disordered persons. Let me be clear. My bill does not in any way reverse the rest of Canada’s MAID regime. Assisted death will remain available for those suffering from irremediable, incurable and intolerable illnesses and diseases. My bill is simply focused on reversing the government’s actions in expanding assisted suicide to include the mentally ill. It would arrest Canada’s slide into normalizing assisted death as an alternative treatment option, something so many of us had predicted would happen.

The evidence from mental health experts is very clear. Contrary to what our justice minister is now saying, there is absolutely no consensus in Canada that the mentally ill should be covered by Canada’s medically assisted death regime. In fact, here is what experts and other stakeholders in the mental health community are saying. John Maher, psychiatrist with Canadian Mental Health Association, states that:

Inducement to suicide while simultaneously denying mental health care to two-thirds of Canadians who urgently need it is an unconscionable failing.

Directly undermining suicide prevention efforts is an insidious and ablest perversion of our mental health care duty.

Drs. Ramona Coelho and Catherine Ferrier, co-founders of Physicians Together with Vulnerable Canadian, penned a statement that was endorsed by over 1,000 physicians. This is part of what it said, “Given that there is no medical evidence to reliably predict which patients with a mental illness will not get better, MAID for mental illness will end the lives of patients who would have recovered…Medicine …would fail in its mission if it were to deliberately end the lives of patients living with mental illness… Legislators must work towards safeguarding the lives of the most vulnerable including those placed at a greater disadvantage because of mental illness.”

Dr. Sonu Gaind, chief of the Department of Psychiatry at Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto, stated, “The Ministers have provided false reassurances that we can somehow separate people who are suicidal from those who are seeking psychiatric euthanasia. That is simply not true. In my opinion, that is dangerous misinformation coming from our federal Minister of Justice and our federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions providing a false sense of safety that does not exist.”

Trudo Lemmens, professor and chair in health law at the University of Toronto, said, “I urge Parliament to take very seriously how offering MAID for mental illness deprives disabled persons, particularly those with mental illness, from equal protection against premature death. Persons experiencing mental illness deserve to be protected against premature death by an unreserved focus on ensuring access to all required health care and social support services. Facilitating their death does exactly the opposite.”

Finally, Sephora Tang, psychiatrist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at University of Ottawa, said, “One cannot prevent suicide while at the same time facilitating it. Placing expectations upon mental health professionals to do both undermines the effective delivery of recovery-oriented mental health care. Canadians deserve to live in a country that is committed to safeguarding the right to life and security of every person. Current MAID legislation fails to achieve this overarching social good.”

Even Canada's justice minister has publicly acknowledged the fact that issues such as irremediability, competency and suicidality are not anywhere close to being resolved to justify such a major policy shift in favour of death. Furthermore, medically assisted death flies in the face of the government’s own promotion of suicide prevention programs, including the recent creation of a national 988 suicide hotline.

It cannot be both ways. It cannot claim, as the Liberal government has, that it wants to prevent suicide deaths on the one hand, when it actively promotes assisted suicide for the mentally ill on the other. Over the last eight years, many of us have expressed our concern and expectation that the Carter decision and BillC-14 would be expanded by future court decisions, and that these decisions would leave more and more vulnerable populations exposed to the reach of medically assisted suicide.

Our concerns were pooh-poohed. We were accused of fearmongering and of misrepresenting the intentions of this Liberal government. Yet, today, the Truchon decision and the travesty of Bill C-7 bear out our concerns. That is why more and more disability groups have set the alarm bells ringing and are vehemently opposing this legislation. They argue that this legislation amounts to a deadly form of discrimination, making it easier for persons with disabilities to die than to live.

We are hearing more and more reports of the poor and homeless approaching food banks to ask for assisted death, not because they are suffering from a grievous illness but because they do not want to go hungry and homeless. The headline in the British magazine The Spectator asked last year, “Why is Canada euthanising the poor?”

The response from some bioethicists appears to be, “Well, why not?” In fact, a new paper by two bioethicists at the University of Toronto makes the case that euthanizing the poor should be socially acceptable. That is indicative of the path on which our country finds itself. It is terrifying.

We also have verified reports of veterans suffering from PTSD who are being counselled by the Liberal government to consider medical assistance in dying rather than being provided with the treatment and supports they need to recover.

These are the vulnerable that the Liberal government promised to protect. Canadians have the right to ask whether this government is exercising the requisite caution and care to avoid unnecessary overreach and ensure that MAID is not abused or misapplied.

Let me conclude. My private member's bill, Bill C-314 gives all of us parliamentarians an opportunity to take a deep breath and reconsider the perilous road we have embarked upon. As I mentioned, my bill simply reverses the expansion of Canada’s assisted death laws to the mentally ill. At the very least, I would ask my colleagues to allow my bill, at second reading, to go to committee where there could be more discussion.

Have we gone too far and too fast with Canada's assisted suicide program? Will we evolve into a culture of death as the preferred option for those who suffer from mental illness or will we choose life?

I implore my colleagues to choose life. I wish them much wisdom as they make that choice.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I appreciate what the member is saying. It is a heavy decision that ultimately does need to be made. There is no question about that.

I look at how important it is that we continue to be in touch with the health care professionals, that we continue to be in touch with other jurisdictions and stakeholders, and that we make sure that we continue to move forward.

This is very much an emotional issue that people have very strong convictions on. I do not think there is an easy answer to this. From my perspective, I think that we have to continue the dialogue and have more faith in the system.

Can he provide his thoughts with respect to that?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for acknowledging that there is further discussion required on this. That is one of the things I have lamented. Medical assistance in dying has been pushed so far, so quickly, that there has not been the appropriate national discussion, or even the appropriate debate within this House, as to whether we should extend this life-or-death policy to the mentally ill.

The stakeholders I quoted represent a very thin slice of the many stakeholders who have written to me. They have said, “Ed, we have not had this discussion. The mental health profession and the stakeholders within the mental health community have not had the debate required to go to this length and extend assisted suicide to the mentally ill.”

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, as I often say in the House, everyone wants to do the right thing. Everyone has the best of intentions and wants to look out for people's best interests. However, being compassionate does not square with undermining human dignity or a person's capacity for self-determination in a decision as personal as deciding one's death.

In his bill, my colleague is telling us that mental illnesses are not considered to be grievous and irremediable medical conditions. However, according to the DSM‑5 definition, a mental disorder is a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual's cognition, emotion regulation, or behaviour that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or development processes underlying mental functioning.

Can we really say that is not serious?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his question. I do not quite understand it. He did say that everyone means well. “Everyone means well” is not the appropriate standard to apply here. We are talking about life and death for the most vulnerable in our society.

We owe it to the mentally ill and those who have mental disorders to act justly and fairly toward them to give them every opportunity to recover. That has been one of the failures of Canada's MAID regime. We have not provided the social supports and mental health supports to help the Canadians who would consider MAID because they are not getting those supports.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Abbotsford for the introduction of his bill.

I was a member of the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying. For me, the struggle I had during all of those hearings was weighing up the respect for an individual's ability to make decisions respecting their autonomy and their capacity, versus the need for us to protect the vulnerable in our society with the understanding that the vulnerable in our society also have the ability to be autonomous and have the capacity to make decisions. That was the real struggle.

How does my colleague view those two concepts? I would like to hear his views on the ability of an individual to make a decision that is best for themselves. We may not always agree with it, but how do we ultimately respect that?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, that is a great question.

Autonomy is critically important. The problem when we are dealing with the mentally ill is that autonomy is often much diminished. That is just one of the problems. What we hear back from stakeholders within the mental health profession is that issues of autonomy, capacity and suicidality have not been addressed appropriately through a national debate. We have not had that discussion, so there is no national consensus on this. Before we ever move forward with something as critical as a life-and-death policy decision like this, we should have that debate and have a national consensus.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge Park Ontario


Gary Anandasangaree LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Abbotsford for bringing forward Bill C-314, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding medical assistance in dying.

I acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional unceded lands of the Algonquin people.

The bill before us proposes to indefinitely exclude persons whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental disorder from being eligible to receive medical assistance in dying, or MAID. I will be opposing the bill for reasons I will detail in my remarks. I want to start by providing a brief overview of MAID in Canada.

MAID was legalized in 2016 for persons whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable, through former Bill C-14. Four years later, in 2021, former Bill C-7 expanded eligibility for receiving MAID to persons whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable. Former Bill C-7 also temporarily excluded, until March 2023, eligibility for receiving MAID on the basis of a mental illness alone.

Parliament decided that a temporary exclusion from eligibility for MAID where the sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness was necessary in recognition of the fact that such requests were complex and required additional study. This is why former Bill C-7 also required an independent expert review regarding recommended protocols, guidance and safeguards to apply to such requests. The expert panel on MAID and mental illness was created to undertake this review, and its final report was tabled in Parliament on May 13, 2022.

Former Bill C-7 also required the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee to conduct a comprehensive review of the Criminal Code MAID provisions and other related issues, including MAID and mental illness. The Special Joint Committee on MAID, or AMAD, took this review and tabled its final report in Parliament on February 15, 2023.

Our government extended the temporary exclusion to March 2024 through the enactment and coming into force of former Bill C-39. This was due to concerns about provincial and territorial readiness. It is important that we get this right.

I want to take a moment to point out that the intention has always been for the mental health exclusion to be temporary. This is a complex, sensitive and polarizing issue. Some very legitimate concerns have been raised.

However, I believe that the health care system will be ready for the safe provision of MAID where the sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness by March 2024. Significant progress has been made by our government, in collaboration with the provinces and territories and other stakeholders and experts, to prepare for this deadline.

We are not ignoring the concerns that have been raised. In fact, many of these concerns led to the one-year extension of the exclusion. We are moving in a prudent, measured way with the ultimate goal of ensuring that our MAID framework supports the autonomy of those who are eligible to receive MAID and protects those who may be vulnerable.

I will now turn to Bill C-314 and outline some of the technical issues.

As I stated previously, the bill proposes to indefinitely exclude eligibility for MAID based on a mental disorder alone. It would do this by replacing “mental illness” with “mental disorder” in subsection 241.2(2.1) of the Criminal Code.

There are two main issues with this approach. First, such a change may result in the unintended exclusion of persons with some medical conditions that are not currently excluded from eligibility for MAID. This is because “mental disorder” is a clinically defined term that practitioners have explained would likely capture all mental disorders included in the American Psychiatric Association's “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”, or DSM-5, whereas “mental illness”, as it relates to MAID, is meant to capture mental disorders that are primarily treated within the domain of psychiatry.

“Mental illness” likely captures a smaller set of conditions than what would be captured by “mental disorder”. As such, making the switch in terminology without an accompanying definition may have the unintended consequence of excluding certain medical conditions that are not currently excluded from eligibility for MAID and that do not raise the same concerns as “mental illness” does in relation to MAID.

The second issue is that the term “mental disorder” is already defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code as “a disease of the mind”, and there is extensive case law interpreting what this means in the context of the “not criminally responsible” regime. Therefore, a switch in terminology in the Criminal Code MAID provisions without an accompanying definition may unintentionally complicate legislative interpretation and may also result in the existing case law interpretation of “mental disorder” and the “not criminally responsible” regime context being applied to the MAID context.

Although many experts and practitioners have noted a preference for the term “mental disorder” since it is a clinically defined term, this preference has already been expressed in the context of developing protocols, standards or guidance for MAID. It is important to remember that MAID is not just a health care issue. It is also a criminal law issue, and as I have just explained, things can get complicated in the legislative context given existing definitions and legal interpretations.

Finally, I simply want to point out that Bill C‑314 also restructures the exclusion set out in the Criminal Code but does not seem to change its application.

Currently, in order to be eligible for MAID, a person must have “a grievous and irremediable medical condition”, which is present when a person has a serious and incurable disease or disability, is in an advanced state of irreversible decline and is experiencing enduring and intolerable suffering, as per subsection 241.2(2).

Right now, a mental disorder is not considered an illness, disease or disability under the first part of the definition of a grievous and irremediable medical condition.

As such, a mental illness cannot satisfy the definition and therefore cannot be grounds for a request for MAID.

Under the proposed new exclusion, a mental disorder would not be considered a grievous and irremediable medical condition at all. In other words, it would exclude mental disorders from the whole of the definition, even though some of those aspects may well exist in the case of a mental disorder, namely intolerable suffering and an advanced state of decline. Although this new exclusion would operate slightly differently than the existing exclusion, it seems as though its effects would be the same.

I want to reiterate that Parliament considered this two years ago during its consideration of former Bill C-7 and decided that a MAID mental illness exclusion should be temporary. The point was reinforced by Parliament's enactment of former Bill C-39 this past March.

The expert panel on MAID and mental illness has tabled its final report, which notes that the existing MAID eligibility criteria and safeguards, supported by other key resources, provide an adequate framework for the provision of MAID where the sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness. Parliament considered the issues again via the Special Joint Committee on MAID, and the majority of members agreed with the expert panel's findings.

I urge members to join me in opposing the bill and not reverse Parliament's decision by unintentionally complicating legislative interpretation in the criminal law.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I heard the member for Abbotsford say right out of the gate that his bill seeks to reaffirm the dignity and worth of each and every human life. Who could be against that?

The dignity of every human life, as I was trying to say to him earlier, depends on autonomy and respect for a person's self-determination. We may have good intentions, but if we claim to know what is good for a so-called vulnerable person because we think we know better than they do about what is good for them, because we mistake sympathy for compassion, if we decide through some sort of state or medical paternalism what is supposedly good for them, without considering the person's suffering at all, if we take away a person's self-determination, then we undermine their dignity. That is what I wanted to say, but my colleague did not understand.

That is the very foundation of our position. It is called ethical and political philosophy, not theology or any sort of religious ideology.

The preamble to the bill sets out its intentions: “Whereas Parliament considers it a priority to ensure that adequate supports are in place for the mental health of Canadians”. Who could be against that?

I see no problem with that, but it has nothing to do with the purpose of the bill. This can be done without saying that the mental disorder considered as a serious and irremediable medical condition is excluded. I will come back to that.

The second paragraph of the preamble states, “Whereas Parliament considers that vulnerable Canadians should receive suicide prevention counselling rather than access medical assistance in dying”. This really shows a lack of rigour.

All the experts spoke about this and we can even read it in the literature. It is a little twisted to associate suicide with medical assistance in dying. I heard the leader of the opposition make that link a few times during oral question period, but conceptually that is false. Medical assistance in dying is initiated when an individual expresses that that is what they want. It is not imposed. Above all, it is for situations where the person's condition is irreversible. As far as I know, no witness at committee told us that a suicidal state is not reversible. Furthermore, witnesses also told us that we should not conflate the two. This is not getting off to a good start.

When a request for medical assistance in dying cites a mental disorder as the reason, the first step is to establish whether the person suffering has been struggling with the mental disorder for 10, 20 or 30 years of their life. In the experts' report, which I hope my colleague has read, it says that a person exhibiting suicidal ideation would not be eligible. It is one thing to want or to request medical assistance in dying, and another to meet the eligibility criteria. This is essential.

A person who is depressed or in crisis will not necessarily receive medical assistance in dying. Moreover, the experts say that an assessor would never consider a request for medical assistance in dying from a person in a state of crisis. The patient would have to first exhaust all available treatments for alleviating their suffering, without refusing a single treatment capable of restoring their health.

As Dr. Black said, “One study estimated suicidal thinking as an 8% lifetime risk for adults in the Netherlands, yet 65 or 0.0004% of adults in the Netherlands have died of MAID in any given year due to psychiatric reasons.”

Now we have members talking about a potential slippery slope, citing Bill C-14 and ignoring the obligation given to us by the courts to proceed with passing Bill C-7. Bill C‑14 was a bad bill that confused the public. Is it respectful of human dignity to force people to go on a hunger strike to reach the standard of likely and reasonably foreseeable natural death? I think there is something a bit inhumane about that.

In order to reach a criterion that was unworkable for some, people had to actually go on a hunger strike. Others, like Ms. Gladu and Mr. Truchon, had to assert their rights in court. Members say they want to protect the vulnerable. They should start by not treating these people like children and not exploiting them for any purpose. They should instead think about their well-being.

Who is more vulnerable than someone who is suffering intolerably and is close to their tolerance threshold? Who are we to decide for them what their tolerance threshold should be? That is essentially what this is all about.

People want to live as long as possible. The court determined that these individuals' right to life was being infringed upon. I am sure the Conservatives have a lot to say about the right to life. The court found that by denying these individuals the right to medical assistance in dying, their ability to live as long as possible is being taken away. This prevents them from living until they reach their tolerance threshold. That is when we could provide care to them and proceed.

Without this assurance, what do many of these individuals do? They commit suicide prematurely, and this infringes on their right to life. This is indisputable, and it could not be considered reasonable in a free and democratic society, even if it went to the Supreme Court.

Some people always want to go to court. However, right now, people are suffering. While we are procrastinating, people are suffering. We have to put things into perspective.

The committee that considered the issue of mental illness as the sole underlying medical condition made a recommendation. That is why I think that Bill C-314 is premature, at the very least, if not irrelevant at this time.

I will read the committee's recommendation. It states, and I quote: “That, five months prior to the coming into force of eligibility for MAID where a mental disorder is the sole underlying medical condition, a Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying be re-established by the House of Commons and the Senate in order to verify the degree of preparedness attained for a safe and adequate application of MAID (in MD-SUMC situations). Following this assessment, the Special Joint Committee will make its final recommendation to the House of Commons and the Senate.”

At the very least, I would have expected a debate to take place following the work of that committee. That is the least that could have been done. I invite my colleague from Abbotsford to read the report of the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying and especially the expert panel's report. The recommendations set out in the expert panel's report include criteria and guidelines that do not exist for other forms of MAID practice. He should feel reassured after reading those recommendations, and I am sure he will never talk about a slippery slope again.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, today we are revisiting a subject that never seems to leave me in this place, which is medical assistance in dying. It has come up repeatedly: in the 42nd Parliament, in the 43rd Parliament and again in the 44th Parliament. I think it underlines the gravity of the nature of this subject matter.

I want to thank the member for Abbotsford for bringing forward this bill and for giving us as parliamentarians an opportunity to discuss this incredibly important subject.

What Bill C-314 is essentially going to do, for the constituents of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford who are watching this debate, is amend the Criminal Code to reverse what was done with Bill C-7 and specify that a mental disorder is not a grievous and irremediable medical condition for which a person could receive medical assistance in dying.

It is important to mention Bill C-7, because it is an important part of why we are here today. Bill C-7 was originally introduced in the 43rd Parliament. The government is, of course, required by law to issue a charter statement with its main pieces of legislation. In that charter statement, the Minister of Justice went to lengths to make people understand why the government had specifically excluded in the first draft of the bill why a person with a mental disorder as a sole underlying medical condition could not be eligible to receive medical assistance in dying.

The charter statement did say that the exclusion was not “based on a failure to appreciate the severity of the suffering that mental illness can produce”. Rather, as the statement took pains to say, it was “based on the inherent risks and complexity that the availability of MAID would present for individuals who suffer solely from mental illness.” It is important to understand we are not using the term “mental illness” anymore. Every text is now recommending that we use the term “mental disorder”.

There were three primary reasons given in the charter statement at that time. First, the charter statement said, “evidence suggests that screening for decision-making capacity is particularly difficult, and subject to a high degree of error”.

The charter statement went on to say, secondly, “mental illness is generally less predictable than physical illness in terms of the course the illness will take over time.” I think a lot of people can understand that. Someone may receive a diagnosis for a physical illness like cancer, which is particularly well known. We know a lot about cancer these days, and based on what part of the body it strikes, we can predict with a fairly certain amount of accuracy what a person's ability to survive it is based on how far it has progressed and so on. It is the same with other physical ailments. With mental disorders, on the other hand, there still are, indeed, a lot of unknowns.

Finally, that same charter statement went on to explain that the recent experience in the few countries that do allow it, and it did mention Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg, “has raised concerns”.

That was the charter statement at the time with the first draft of Bill C-7. Of course, When Bill C-7 went to the Senate, the Senate amended that part of the bill to allow a person with a mental disorder as a sole underlying medical condition to access MAID. There was some back-and-forth between the government and the Senate to establish a sunset clause so that it would not come into effect until March 17 of this year.

At the time, the New Democrats decided to vote against the Senate amendment because the requirements of the earlier Bill C-14 had not yet been met. We had not yet had a parliamentary committee to delve into these issues, and we felt that, despite the government having gone to all those lengths through its charter statement to explain its position, accepting an eleventh-hour Senate amendment without having done that important work was very much akin to putting the cart before the horse.

There was also Bill C-39, which was introduced earlier this year because we found that more time was needed. Whatever anyone's feelings are in this House with regard to people with mental disorders being able to access MAID, there was agreement that more time was needed. Therefore, Bill C-39 was passed in very short order in both Houses, and that delayed the implementation of it until March 17, 2024. That is the timeline we are on now.

I am rising to speak to this particular bill because of my experience with this file. Both in the 43rd Parliament and in this Parliament, I was the New Democratic member on the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying.

It was not an easy committee to be on. Let me just say that. For me personally, I constantly wrestled with two concepts: How do we as parliamentarians, with the power we have to change Canada's laws, find a way to honour the personal rights, capacity and autonomy of the individual versus the need of society to step up and protect the most vulnerable? Those were two great themes that were constantly a struggle for me personally when listening to all of the witnesses who came before the special joint committee on the five thematic areas we were charged with by this House and the Senate.

I would encourage people, if they have not done so already, to look at the good work done by the special joint committee, both the interim report, which specifically focused on this area, and the final report, which was tabled earlier this year and completed the committee's mandate. I also want to draw people's attention to the executive summary of the final report of the expert panel on medical assistance in dying and mental illness because there was some incredibly good work done in that as well. We did recognize the authors of that report. The report states:

That MAiD requests may mask profound unmet needs or conversely, that such requests may not be received with the seriousness they deserve, has been raised with respect to several historically marginalized populations (e.g., racialized groups, Indigenous peoples, persons living with disabilities, and sexual orientation and gender minorities). In the course of assessing a request for MAiD—regardless of the requester’s diagnoses—a clinician must carefully consider whether the person’s circumstances are a function of systemic inequality.

That is the warning sign that I think much of the medical community is struggling with.

People with mental disorders qualifying for MAID will be under track two of the MAID regime, because death is not a naturally foreseeable outcome. I would remind people that track two has safeguards in place:

request for MAID must be made in writing....

two independent doctors or nurse practitioners must provide an assessment and confirm that all of the eligibility requirements are met....

the person must be informed that they can withdraw their request at any time....

the person must be informed of available and appropriate means to relieve their suffering, including counselling services, mental health and disability support services, community services, and palliative care....

I want to underline that last point. They have to be informed of the available and appropriate means, but we know that for a lot of marginalized populations, those are not always available.

I want to recognize my colleague from Courtenay—Alberni, who has called on the government to urgently fulfill its promise to establish a Canada mental health transfer. This is a very great need in our country. We can see it from coast to coast to coast. I can see it in my community of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.

The question of Bill C-314 and the state of mental health care in Canada are two things weighing on me quite a bit. I am certainly going to take a lot of time to think about which way I want to go with this bill, but I appreciate the member for Abbotsford for bringing it forward and giving parliamentarians an opportunity to read the report and consider what this bill seeks to do.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Michelle Ferreri Conservative Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Madam Speaker, as always, it is an honour and a great privilege to speak on behalf of my community of Peterborough—Kawartha.

Tonight, I am speaking on my colleague from Abbotsford's private member's bill, Bill C-314. I have explained this before, but I will do so again. A private member's bill is something a member puts forward for the House to decide on. This is an important private member's bill, as they all are, really, because they come from a place of passion, but this is Bill C-314, an act to amend the Criminal Code, medical assistance in dying, which many of us know as MAID.

The summary states, “This enactment amends the Criminal Code to provide that a mental disorder is not a grievous and irremediable medical condition for which a person could receive medical assistance in dying.”

The preamble states:

Whereas Parliament considers it a priority to ensure that adequate supports are in place for the mental health of Canadians;

Whereas Parliament considers that vulnerable Canadians should receive suicide prevention counselling rather than access medical assistance in dying;

Whereas Parliament considers that Canada’s medical assistance in dying regime risks normalizing assisted dying as a solution

The fact that we need a private member's bill to say this feels outrageous. I have listened to other members in the House tonight, and I want to be very mindful of my tone. This is an interesting and emotional debate, but I really urge the members opposite who have said they are not going to support the bill to consider getting it to committee. There is so much more we need to study.

My question is how this is not already in legislation. I will tell members why. In December of 2021, the Senate added an amendment to Bill C-7, without any consultation, study or discussion, to add people with mental illness as eligible for MAID. This private member's bill is currently the only way we can protect those suffering from mental illness. It is the only way for us as parliamentarians to say to those watching that we believe their lives matter and that it is our job to ensure we fight for them. Today might be awful, but none of us know what tomorrow will bring, as no one knows what is out there for them.

The MAID committee was created after the amendment was added. How backward is that? It heard testimony from many experts, and I want everyone to listen to the following quote because it is the essence of this discussion.

Dr. John Maher, clinical psychiatrist and medical ethicist, stated, “Psychiatrists don't know and can't know who will get better and live decades of good life. Brain diseases are not liver diseases.” Anyone who has dealt with somebody who has a mental illness or disorder knows that we have not even scratched the surface of what we know. We do not know.

I want to read this letter from a constituent who has been following the slippery slope of the Liberal government's extension of MAID into the record. I have her permission.

She writes:

“Dear Michelle...,

My name is Kayla...I am going to be sending this letter to several MPs, but as you are [my] MP...I thought I should send this to you first. I am very troubled by something that is going to be happening very soon in this country, and I hope you will listen to what I have to say.

“Overall, I am a very healthy individual. I have a mental health condition, but it is my sole medical condition. However, I was mortified to discover last month, that Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD...) will be available to people whose sole health condition is a mental health condition as of March 17, 2023.”

We have since voted in the House and that date has been extended one year to March 17, 2024. However, this is still in place, and this letter is very pertinent. She goes on to say:

“Persons who suffer from mental health conditions suffer horribly. I know that. I have suffered with mine for nearly 12 years. Perhaps the most appalling things of all are that 'The law no longer requires a person's natural death to be reasonably foreseeable as an eligibility criterion for MAID,' (Government of Canada, 2021) and 'There is no obligation for a person or their healthcare practitioners to inform family members if that person has requested or received MAiD.' (CAMH, 2022)...

“I think you see this for what it is...I will be eligible to end my own life on the basis that I have an incurable mental illness.”

“Let me give you a bit more background: I have 2 university degrees in Biology and Environmental Science. I have a job that I love and have held since a little while after I graduated. I have NEVER failed to pay taxes, nor have I ever taken extended leave or gone on El due to my mental illness, no matter how hard it gets. I have a family and friends that I love dearly, and they love me too. And yet now my own government has deemed my life not worth living. This isn't just unfair. This is monstrous.

“But it gets worse. What about those people who are in the same boat that I am medically, but are much, much worse off. They cannot pay their taxes because they cannot work. They have a substance addiction. They are veterans with PTSD. They are homeless because they cannot seem to fight off their demons. These are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. To say nothing of the 'mature minors' (whatever on Earth that means) that will be able to access MAiD in the future if this doesn't stop. Make no mistake. This thing, that we dress up with the nice name MAiD, is euthanasia of our most vulnerable people because they cannot 'contribute to society' like others can. The fact that the government would offer to 'get them out of the way' this way, just because the systems that the government put in place are failing them is an unspeakable evil.”

She put in brackets, “convince them that they should die”. These are her words.

She continues, “I hope, Michelle, that you will do everything in your power as an MP as I will do everything in my power as a citizen, to abolish this law. I understand the federal government is seeking to push back the timing”, which it did, as I said. She says this is “likely because it has received so much criticism. I understand that it likely wasn't you that made any of the decisions for this law to go ahead. But I also understand that you are in more of a position to do something about it than many people are. I hope you will respond after reading this letter.



I did respond to Kayla and we had a very powerful conversation. She gave me permission to share this letter.

I think one letter like this is enough reasonable doubt that we need to take this private member's bill very seriously. It is everything we need to know to consider and urge everyone in the House. I have heard people say, on the Bloc side, that people should have the right to choose. The reality is that people who are in such a state of mental disorder do not have that capacity. We have to help them.

I want to leave us with this. This woman's name is Elyse. She is a young university student. She said that she is so worried about this legislation to extend MAID to those with mental illness. She has struggled with mental illness, and she knows with certainty that, if someone had offered that to her during her times of illness, she would not be here today. She would not be getting her university degree. She would not be in a happy, healthy relationship, and she would not know that her life was worth living.

If one is watching at home, if one has a loved one suffering, if one is suffering, one's life matters and it is worth living. It is our job to study this to the depths to determine whether we can do this. This private member's bill is the only thing that would protect those with mental illness and mental disorder from accessing MAID. I urge every member in the House to at least pass it to committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Amendment to Bill C-281 at Committee StagePoints of OrderPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to an amendment made in committee on Bill C-281, standing in the name of the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South. Without commenting on the merits of the amendment in question, I submit that it proposes a new concept that exceeds the scope of the bill as adopted at second reading.

Specifically, the amendment to clause 2 of the bill would add a new obligation to the minister to “develop and maintain a government-wide international human rights strategy.” When the amendment was proposed, the chair of the committee ruled it as inadmissible. However, a majority of the members on the committee voted to overturn the ruling of the chair and then proceeded to adopt the amendment, which is now found in the bill as reprinted by the House on May 4.

I submit that the ruling of the chair of the foreign affairs committee was correct and that our procedures must be respected. As a result, the proper course of action to address this matter is to order a reprint of the bill without the offending amendment.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C‑21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms), be read a third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.


Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, we are finally at third reading stage of this bill that we have put so much work into. It may not seem like it, but we have been working on this for a year already. I have spoken to this bill in the House before, including last week, during consideration of Government Business No. 25, and yesterday, when I rose to give some background on the bill during our study at report stage.

I have often mentioned how the study of this bill unfolded. On the government side, it was all a bit sloppy. For starters, the bill was definitely incomplete when it was introduced. Amendments were made without notice. These amendments were withdrawn while others were reintroduced later. Finally, time allocation was imposed, with two days of intensive study in committee. The bill then returned to the House for consideration at report stage, and here we are now, at third reading.

This has been quite an adventure. I think people are not necessarily aware of all the work that goes into studying a bill. Whether on the government benches or in opposition, everyone has a job to do. Taking a position on a subject as sensitive as firearms gets people worked up, but regardless of the subject, we do not go about this any which way. Obviously, we work it out.

The Bloc Québécois tries to take positions that are as reasonable as possible. We also do our best to know what we are talking about. However, that is one criticism that I have received a lot. I was told that I sounded like I did not know what I was talking about, that I was just a girl who does not know much about guns because I do not own one. That kind of comment came up a lot. People are watching us. They watch when I speak in the House and in committee, when I do an interview on the radio, in the press or on TV, when I post a message on social media. Those comments come up a lot and it is distressing because, at the end of the day, we are trying to do our job and make things better.

This was my first experience studying a bill, and it was great. We get to see what a difference we can really make. My party whip recently reminded me that what I was doing was pretty amazing. She said that when I am old and in my rocking chair, I will be able to tell my grandchildren that I worked on legislation to improve gun control in Canada. The work we did was pretty amazing.

We are not saying everything is perfect, but we have made some gains. I started to list them yesterday in my speech. I talked about the fact that the words “hunting rifle” were removed from the definition of prohibited weapons. I also talked about the list of weapons that the government was trying to add to the Criminal Code, but was removed as a result of conversations we had with the government. These gains are easily attributable to the Bloc Québécois's work.

Sometimes it is easy to give ourselves credit when the government implements a policy or a bill is passed, because we know exactly what we worked on. Other times, we wonder whether our party really did its part. In this case, I am absolutely certain that we did. We worked hard to achieve those gains that I believe improved the bill. When this bill is passed, we will know that we at least tried to improve it.

Yesterday, I ended my speech by talking about airsoft guns, the controversial toy guns that are used for paintball and other recreational activities. In the beginning, in the initial bill, the government wanted to ban them the same as other guns. The Fédération sportive d'airsoft du Québec and other federations from across the country came and testified before the committee. They said that they understood why the government wanted to ban airsoft guns. Many police organizations talked about the confusion that these guns can cause during a hold up, for example. A person may use this kind of fake weapon and put themselves and others in danger because the police think that it is a real gun.

We heard these comments, and so did the people from the federations. They said that they did not want to see people who practise this hobby, this sport, be penalized and that there must be a way to do things differently. They said they had no problem with increased regulations for their sport. They said that regulations around transportation, storage, use and an age requirement, for example, being 18, could be added for someone to acquire an airsoft gun. We really saw that these federations were open to working with us. They did not want them to be banned, but they were prepared to accept increased regulation. Even the government agreed that they were taking a very reasonable approach. That is why we worked to ensure they were not banned, but regulated, as the federations suggested.

We worked hard on this. Usually, something has to be specifically mentioned in a bill for the government to then be able to regulate it. It was therefore difficult to only delete the clause because we would no longer be making reference to airsoft. How, then, would we regulate it?

We agonized over this for days only to realize that it was possible. The officials told us that anything is possible. We realized that the government could regulate airsoft guns without us necessarily making reference to them in Bill C‑21. We simply decided to delete the clause of the bill, then the government abstained, which left room for the opposition parties to vote in favour of this. The federations were very pleased with this work. Yes, it is an NDP amendment that was accepted. However, the Bloc Québécois amendment was the same and it would have come next. It could have been the Bloc Québécois amendment. All that to say that we worked hard on this.

Since that clause was adopted I have received email. I wanted to share them with the House today because they offer a nice little pat on the back. I received one from Guillaume Mailloux, who is the owner of SMPR Tactique et Plein-Air, a shop in Quebec City. Here is what Mr. Mailloux said:


I'm taking the time to write a few lines this morning because I want to thank you. This morning, for the first time in ages, I am sipping my coffee without stressing about my business, my employees and my family. Your collaboration with the airsoft community has been invaluable. You've quite likely saved me from stress-induced prostate cancer. All kidding aside, I've been fortunate enough to work with the FSAQ, and I know that your listening and understanding have been extremely important. It's not easy to navigate the turbulent waters between the waves of hunters, anti-gun lobbyists, sport shooters and people from various industries as you do.

Thanks to you and your team, last night I was interviewed about this on the radio, and I asked the host (who plays airsoft) to mention your excellent work on air to make sure that the NDP doesn't get all the accolades.

Thank you so much!

I was very happy to get that email. I received a second one, from François Gauthier, the vice-president of the Fédération sportive d’airsoft du Québec. He said the following:

On behalf of the Fédération Sportive d'airsoft du Québec and the Quebec airsoft community, we would like to thank the Bloc Québécois, especially [the member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia] and her team for listening to the issues and problems that Bill C-21 could have caused as it was introduced by the federal government.

We would also like to thank the assistant to [the member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia], Ariane Francoeur, for her professionalism and for following up with us on the progress of the work, as well as for taking the time to explain to us the details of the bill's progress in the SECU committee.

We remain open to continue working with the Bloc Québécois in the future if any regulations are being created that would affect our sport.

Personally, and on behalf of the entire Quebec airsoft community, thank you for listening to our concerns.


It was also very nice to get that email. Yesterday, I highlighted the incredible work of my assistant, Ariane Francoeur. I am pleased to be able to recognize her again today, through Mr. Gauthier.

It may not seem like much, but I think that every member of the Bloc Québécois caucus told me that they were getting positive comments about how airsoft guns were taken out of the bill. We will take it while we can. We are very pleased about that. I think it is unfortunate that Bill C‑21 got such bad press as a result of the government's controversial amendments because there are some good things about this bill. There was talk about domestic violence and ways of better protecting women who are victims of it. Despite the rhetoric that we have been hearing since yesterday from members of the Conservative Party, who are saying that there is nothing good about this bill, I would remind them that they voted in favour of most of the amendments that were proposed.

The Bloc Québécois tabled a total of 17 amendments, and 16 were adopted. Most of them, such as the ones concerning magazines, were adopted unanimously. I talk about this a lot, and it is difficult to explain in just a few minutes during questions and comments. I will therefore take the time to explain it. Right now, we can go to a store and buy a magazine for a legal firearm without presenting a licence. That is what the Danforth killer did a few years ago. He stole a firearm. He did not have a licence and the firearm was not registered in his name. However, he went to a store and lawfully purchased a magazine. He put the magazine in the firearm and went on to kill two people and injure 13 others in Toronto.

We wondered why there was no requirement for a valid possession and acquisition licence for buying a magazine and ammunition. That is what is happening now with ammunition and firearms. It was Danforth Families for Safe Communities who brought this problem to our attention, saying that this should have been in place long ago and that it will prevent this type of situation from happening again.

I had the opportunity, or took the initiative, to move these amendments. We were talking about roughly six amendments. The first is very important, but the ones that followed are consequential amendments because if something is changed in the legislation, then it needs to be changed several times where it is mentioned.

I moved this amendment and I saw the wonderful unanimity in committee. Even the Conservative Party voted in favour of this. It is very gratifying to see that people want to improve things, that they want to move things forward. I thank the Conservative Party for voting in favour of these amendments, except for one. As I was saying, these are consequential amendments. It would be unreasonable not to adopt them all.

The Conservatives' strategy, since there was a gag order, was to take turns. Every 15 minutes or so, new members would arrive at committee to fill the five minutes allotted to them. Members would repeatedly ask the same questions that had already been asked by a colleague. These were questions for public servants. Someone who had just arrived, a Conservative colleague, said that this amendment on magazines did not make sense, even though the Conservative Party had previously agreed to all the amendments on magazines. He said that it was unreasonable to put hunters in that position. He said that if someone wanted to go hunting for a particular rare bird and ran out of magazines, they were going to miss the hunt as a result, which is unfair. The officials respectfully pointed out to him that if the person could not go out and get the magazine because his licence had not been renewed or was not valid, he would not be able to go hunting or use his firearm either.

His comments were not even relevant to the situation. It just goes to show that even though someone may try to look like they know what they are talking about, that is not always the case. The amendment on magazines was a win for all the groups that had been calling for it, such as PolyRemembers and many other gun control advocacy groups.

We have heard a little bit about the yellow flag measure, which allows chief firearms officers to suspend or revoke a licence in cases of domestic violence. We wanted to improve certain passages where, in the initial bill, chief firearms officers were given a little too much discretion as to when the person had to surrender the licence or the guns and to whom. This was strengthened thanks to amendments from the Bloc Québécois that went on to be adopted. The government, the NDP and even the Green Party, which does not have the right to vote in committee, but had proposed the same amendments, were in favour. As I recall, the Conservatives also voted in favour of these amendments. It was another great example of unanimity to strengthen measures to combat domestic violence. These are the kinds of real gains that can be made in committee.

When we were working on this file, we realized that it was easier to accomplish some things through legislation and others through regulation. I nevertheless consider it a win that the minister has made a public commitment to certain things. That was the case for the pre-authorization of firearms.

As I already explained here in the House, a pharmaceutical company that wants to bring a new drug to market, for example, must have Health Canada's approval before being able to do so. This does not seem to happen with firearms. Sometimes, guns are put on the market and, at some point, the RCMP realizes that they were not classified properly. We wondered if the RCMP could be consulted before guns arrive on the market, and how to do that. We racked our brains. It was quite complicated, but the minister finally agree to do it when he announced new amendments in early May.

We are pleased about that. Obviously, a promise is a promise. We have seen the Liberal government breaking its promises on many occasions, so we hope that the minister will act quickly on this right after Bill C‑21 is passed. There is nothing stopping him from doing that.

We also need to update the regulations on large-capacity magazines. To be honest, it was PolyRemembers that made me aware of that issue.

When I asked the minister or public servants whether I was mistaken or whether large-capacity magazines were still legal in Canada, I was told that they were no longer legal. However, when I visited the RCMP vault, I saw that some magazines can be blocked with the help of a small rivet. For example, a magazine with 30 rounds can be blocked and limited to five rounds. The magazine therefore becomes legal because it is technically considered a five-round magazine. However, it is very easy for a mass murderer to simply remove the rivet to create a high-capacity magazine. That has happened in Canada and it cost the lives of dozens of people. We then said that, since we were considering the matter of magazines, perhaps we could strengthen the regulations in that regard. That is what the minister committed to doing. I am also very pleased about that. Once again, he will have to keep his word on that.

Then, there is the issue of the much-discussed prospective definition, which is something that I would not necessarily consider as a loss, but something we would have liked. It comes up often. It means that it applies only to future firearms. This means that, as we speak and even after Bill C‑21 passes, there will still be over 482 models of assault-style firearms in circulation in this country.

We therefore suggested to the minister that they should be banned by decree. Amongst them, a few firearms had been identified as being reasonably used for hunting. Let us set them aside for now and ask the Canadian firearms advisory committee for a recommendation on how to classify them. Let us ban the others that are still in circulation right away.

The minister can put an order into effect immediately, tomorrow morning, today or yesterday. He could have already done that. This easy solution is available to him, and I think it is a reasonable solution. I hope he will do that as well.

I would like to go over a few things that happened in committee. As I mentioned before, this was my first real experience of a clause-by-clause review in committee, and it was extremely interesting. It is worth pointing out that the process happened late at night, when I imagine not too many reporters were watching. Some really interesting things happened that deserve to be highlighted, such as the moment the Bloc Québécois saved the government's handgun freeze.

There was a clause in Bill C‑21 that exempted certain persons from the handgun freeze, such as sport shooters in an Olympic discipline. Everyone else was covered by the handgun freeze. The NDP usually supports just about everything the government does, but it disagreed on this specific point. Both the Conservative Party and the NDP proposed amendments that would have made the handgun freeze inoperative and completely irrelevant by including too many people in the exemption.

Interestingly, at that point, just before the vote, the Liberal member for Kings—Hants logged on and spoke. His government tried to prevent him from speaking, but with committee giving unanimous consent, he was able to speak before voting on these amendments. He abstained, which made it a tie. The votes were equal on both sides, for and against. In a very rare occurrence, the committee chair himself had to cast a vote, and he voted with the government.

It is fair to say that if the Bloc Québécois had also abstained or voted against these amendments, the government's handgun freeze would have simply fallen by the wayside. When we say that we want better gun control in this country, that is part of it. This is a measure that the government has proposed. The Bloc Québécois is true to its values on this issue, and it has remained true to its values on the handgun freeze as well.

I see that my time is running out. I still have a lot to say, but what I want to discuss the most is ghost guns. When we went to visit the RCMP vault, we saw how easy it is to assemble an illegal weapon from gun parts ordered over the Internet. The police officers made us aware of it too. Organized crime and illegal firearms trafficking is all part of it.

The measure included in Bill C‑21 is a good one, and we are proud of it.

I would be pleased to take questions from my colleagues.

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6:50 p.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, although I was not at committee, I have heard that the hon. member's interventions were well received and discussed in committee.

She ended her speech tonight speaking about ghost guns, and that is something I have been discussing with our local chief of police. We have had a few walks to talk about this and the guns that look like they are real but are really just toy guns and how that really makes policing a lot more difficult in our communities when guns pop out of nowhere, such as ghost guns.

Therefore, the impact on our police services could be very positive. They could then do a better job of helping with safety within our communities. Could the hon. member talk about how the police forces in her local community are receiving this legislation?

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6:55 p.m.


Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, that is a great question. I have been in contact with a number of police services in the course of studying this bill, and I can say that this is being very well received.

I mentioned earlier about how people can order parts on the Internet. I think we also need to improve what happens at the border. I am not saying that the people working there are not doing a good job. They are doing a great job. Unfortunately, they are under-resourced.

Bill C-21 is good. We looked closely at ghost guns, which will certainly improve police work. However, one more thing also needs to be done. We need to intercept trains and firearms passing through the Port of Montreal along with stolen cars. We need to inspect more packages that come through the mail. This is also part of the fight against firearms trafficking. I think more needs to be done.

It is great that the measure on ghost guns was included in the bill. That said, the guns most commonly found on the streets of Montreal and in the hands of street gangs are those from the illegal firearms trade, so I think a lot of work needs to be done in that regard as well.

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6:55 p.m.


Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, my colleague mentioned the airsoft industry. There are about 320 businesses and 1,350 staff and employees in that industry. These rules that are coming could negate any of that sort of industry and business. I wonder if the member could just elaborate on her thoughts. I know she mentioned that this was a big concern. There is a lot of activity in that area and a lot of these are owned by visible minorities and immigrants, in the testimony that we heard. I wonder if the member could expand on that.

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6:55 p.m.


Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I referred to a specific company in Quebec City that sells airsoft guns. This will certainly help save many jobs in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. That is a good thing.

I would even go so far as to say that firearms vendors in general have nothing to fear. As I mentioned, Bill C‑21 will prohibit firearms that do not yet exist. It is not true that hunting rifles will be prohibited the instant Bill C‑21 is passed. People will be able to continue buying and using them. I believe that it is important to include that in the messaging, because that is how Bill C‑21 will be passed.

I am not saying that it is great to still have so many firearms that are considered assault weapons in circulation. As I was saying, the minister could take action by introducing an order in council for these firearms. However, for firearms that are reasonably used for hunting, everyone can rest assured. People can continue to use these firearms.

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6:55 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed working with my colleague when I was on the public safety committee and I absolutely share her joy in the victory that we were able to achieve for the airsoft community. I too have received many thanks from communities in my own riding and across British Columbia. That indeed is a good thing that the committee was able to achieve.

The member was there on the committee with me back in November of last year when those 11th-hour, ill-advised amendments dropped in the committee's lap and caused all of this uproar. If she will remember correctly, in December, one of the leading voices against those amendments came from indigenous communities. It culminated when the Assembly of First Nations came out with a very rare unanimous emergency resolution that its members were against the amendments. I have heard from many people in indigenous communities who have explained why they have depended on semi-automatic rifles to protect themselves when they were out hunting wildlife.

Can the member explain this for colleagues in the House? Is it her understanding that current makes and models of rifles and shotguns are not affected by Bill C-21? Can she also elaborate as to why it was important to insert an amendment in this bill that would recognize the rights that are upheld under section 35 of the Constitution Act?

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7 p.m.


Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague raises a very good point. I enjoyed working with him in committee and I hope he will come back after the study of Bill C‑21.

The government's mistake in this whole story was to move these famous amendments without doing the necessary consultations ahead of time. Hunters and first nations communities apparently were not consulted before these amendments were tabled. I think that was the first mistake.

Then, the Bloc Québécois proposed pressing pause on the study and inviting witnesses to committee who did not have the chance to be heard. That is when we heard from first nations communities, who told us exactly what the member just said.

I think it was important to reiterate in the bill the fact that these rights are being respected. We do need to reassure people, because there are still all sorts of rumours circulating about Bill C‑21 that are not entirely true.

One thing that is entirely true is that first nations communities are going to continue using firearms for hunting, for their subsistence. Bill C‑21, in its current form and as it will be passed, will have no impact on that. I think that it is important to reiterate that for the first nations communities. There are two in my riding, and I am sure they will be pleased with how things unfolded for Bill C‑21.

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7 p.m.


Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, I am feeling emotional as I rise today to thank and congratulate my colleague, the Bloc Québécois public safety critic.

As she said herself, it was her first time taking part in the clause-by-clause consideration of such an important bill. One day, when she is a grandmother, she will look back and see that she built a better bill because she was able to make suggestions throughout the process, instead of simply criticizing and being partisan. It is a reflection of how the Bloc Québécois works. She was able to propose improvements for the common good.

Tonight, I am proud to be seated beside her, and I am proud of her work. I am old. I have white hair. However, my colleague is quite young and has a great career ahead of her. This evening, I am proud to congratulate her on behalf of the Bloc Québécois for all the excellent work she has done.

Now that we are nearing the end of the process, I would like to ask her a question. If she had one thing to say to the rookies who are going to join us, what would she say? She can speak from the heart. Where do we start with a clause-by-clause analysis?

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7 p.m.


Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my whip for her kind words. I am a bit emotional.

Where do we start? That is a good question. I think that it is important to be well prepared, to know one's file, even if it is not easy. When I was first given the public safety file, I did not know what it was all about. Today, I am very comfortable with my files and talking about an issue as sensitive as firearms.

Collaboration with other parties, with the government especially, and with groups that work on these issues is important. We talked about PolyRemembers, the National Association of Women and Law, and many women's groups and associations that reached out to us. We need to work with these people, trust them and trust ourselves when it comes time to propose amendments. I think that that would be a good place to start.