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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was firearms.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Cape Breton—The Sydneys (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 76% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Firearms Act June 13th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I will deal with the last point first with respect to the veterans who have a lot of firearms. In Atlantic Canada a great many of the veterans have Enfields. That is a long gun which is neither prohibited nor restricted now, nor will it be after this bill is passed. It will not be restricted in any way. It will have to be registered but it can be utilized as it was before. It can be passed on by the owner to anyone he or she wishes. Other than registration there is no further change in the ownership for that individual. The firearm will have to be licensed.

Firearms Act June 13th, 1995

They do not go inside the home. If it is more beneficial for the individual to have the inspector come to the home, the inspector could wait outside the door while the individual brings the firearm for verification. There is no right of that inspector to go into the home.

We are saying it will cost a maximum of $18 but more likely $10 for the registration of 10 firearms for life. Those firearms do not need to be registered again unless they are sold to someone else. That is the situation.

If an individual wants to gain a possession licence then that registration will take place beginning January 1, 1996 and will continue for five years until December 31, 2001. The cost of the possession licence will not be anything to begin with. There will be a fee after the system has been in operation for a while during the five year period. For those who want to renew their firearms acquisition certificate and gain a possession licence toward the end of the five year period, it could be as much as $60. That would give the person a possession licence for five years.

There is going to be a training course for those who want to purchase a new firearm. This requirement is in place at the present time. However, if someone wants a possession licence,

already has firearms and has no intention of buying new firearms, then the training course will not be required.

There is nothing here that is going to dreadfully harm the lawful gun owner. Sure there is going to be an inconvenience and there are going to be other things in the regulations which may be an inconvenience.

The member for Saint-Hubert talked about trigger locks. The regulations are going to require that new firearms purchased at retail dealers have a trigger lock on purchase.

That is not going to be a major inconvenience. It is going to be a safety factor. What we want to do is to create safety in the homes, to ask for and require safe storage, not to unduly interfere with the rights of the individual. By registration and requiring safe storage, we hope people will realize what a firearm can mean in the hands of someone who would use it improperly, whether that is someone who steals the firearm from the home or someone who is intending to commit suicide.

We have heard time and again in this House and in committee that in Canada on average there are 1,400 people killed by firearms every year. Approximately 1,100 of those are suicides. If the gun is not readily available, the chance of that suicide taking place has diminished. If there is a locked door, even if it is a glass door, and the key is somewhere else, it is going to be somewhat of an effort to find that key. If the ammunition is somewhere else, it is going to be a deterrent.

Many people have told us that some people fail to plan a suicide well in advance. Sometimes it is an instant decision. Some people decide they want to use firearms. If they do not use a firearm, they will not use anything else. Psychiatrists have told us that in committee.

We made very important amendments to this bill in committee. I think personally it is a much better bill now than it was before it went to committee.

We have taken the first offence for the non-registration of long guns out of the Criminal Code and put it in the firearms act. We have changed the inspection provisions, an example of which I gave earlier.

For those who are veterans, those who have heirlooms and relics, handguns which would otherwise be prohibited and only sold to those who have similar firearms, they can pass them along to members of their family. These handguns are mementoes of a very important time in some people's lives, perhaps when they served overseas. This is extremely important and is the sort of thing we want to do. We did it because we heard witnesses and because the members of the committee worked together.

This bill is going to be a good act. It is not going to be a perfect one but it is going to be a good one. Along with the other things this government hopes to do, it will reduce crime in Canada.

Firearms Act June 13th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, it is not a right to own a firearm in the United States either. The Supreme Court of the United States stated the second amendment to the U.S. constitution giving the right to bear arms applies to state militias in their wish to defend against an arbitrary national government. That was the point of view of the amendment, not to give individuals the right to bear arms. This is a misunderstanding many Americans and certainly a great many Canadians have. However, the subject is not the United States.

Bill C-68 is at third reading now. We wanted to create a bill which will be fairer to lawful gun owners and which will offer additional protection to Canadian citizens and reduce crime.

Members opposite ask how we will reduce crime and how many lives will we save. I have to agree there is no common denominator that is going to give us that figure. Certainly with the information available from witnesses who appeared before the committee we have every reason to believe a good many lives will be saved.

I want to talk about what we are going to require from a firearms owner who has 10 or fewer long guns. We are going to ask that person to register his or her firearms. The registration will take place between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2003. The cost for registering the firearms will probably be nothing to begin with or for the most part will be $10. One will also be able to register 10 firearms for the amount of $10. Toward the end of the five year period that figure may go from $10 to as high as $18 for the registration of 10 firearms.

For someone who has 10 long guns there will not be an inspection of that person's home. If there are 10 or fewer firearms there is no inspection whatsoever for safe storage. If in any case an inspector requires verification of a serial number or other information, that verification would take place outside the home or perhaps the owner could be requested to bring his or her firearm to the inspector's office.

Questions On The Order Paper June 13th, 1995

The federal cost of administering the current firearms control program is borne mainly by the Department of Justice Canada and the firearms registration and administration section of the RCMP. Federal expenditures and the number of staff in 1993-94, the last completed fiscal year, are shown in the following table. The provincial and territorial governments and the municipalities should be consulted directly in order to obtain their cost information.

  1. Department of Justice Canada

Staff (Full time and term employees)-10

Operating budget (including salaries)-$5.7 million

Money transferred to provinces-territories pursuant to financial agreements-$8.4 million

(2) Firearms registration and administration section, RCMP

Staff (Full time and term employees)-47

Operating budget (including salaries)-$1.4 million

Total federal cost-$15.5 million

  1. This figure includes certain one time only cost. Approximately $2 million were invested in the development of the Canadian firearms safety training course: a 1.2 million grant to provinces and territories to initially set up their safety training program and $1.4 million was spent on the development and implementation of the automated system for firearm acquisition certificates and accompanying forms.

  2. This amount represents the compensation to provinces and territories for 1993-94 as per new agreements.

Question No. 191-

Firearms Act June 12th, 1995

Madam Speaker, in listening to the debate I cannot help but wonder why the opposition is all of a sudden so exercised about time allocation when in fact we dialogued about this bill for almost a year.

The Minister of Justice went from coast to coast to coast speaking to groups on the bill. The subject matter of the bill was brought forward on November 30 and the bill was brought forward based on that subject matter on February 14, 1995. There has been a lot of dialogue and a lot of consultation.

The committee has met, but not all the witnesses who wanted to appear could appear. There was a restriction on the number of witnesses, but it was done with the belief that those witnesses would have their points of view brought forward by either a national organization to which they belonged or a similar organization which would speak for the the interests of witnesses. There were individuals who wanted to come forward. That was not possible.

Many people wanted to speak to the bill as with most important bills. It is not democracy to hear everybody. That is not the way it has been practised since Athens and the days of Pericles. The way it is done is to choose representatives to come before the committee.

Also, we are talking about the amendments today at report stage. In some cases we are getting a point of view on these amendments and in other cases we are not. The fact of the matter is we have third reading yet to come.

Perhaps not everybody who wants to speak at third reading will be given the opportunity to do so. At committee stage we allowed members to have five minute interventions on points before the committee, which was requested.

Members will know that as speakers come before the House and speak at third reading that the first speeches are 20 minutes and then the other speeches are 10 minutes. Many members are giving those 10 minutes speeches here today.

Relating to the last speaker on minimum sentences, this area has been given a great deal of attention. The member is not satisfied that in 10 very serious offences the minimum sentence would be four years. She wants it increased to eight years in the case of manslaughter and six years in other cases. That is one point of view.

We have had witnesses before the committee who felt that a 10 year minimum, and in fact the previous speaker from the Bloc condemned the government for having a four year minimum in these cases, saying that the discretion should be allowed to go to the courts as is the case at the present time. We have heard it from both sides. We feel four years is a period of time that is defensible in this case.

Minimum sentences are never something that a government wants to bring forward because it takes discretion away from the courts. The courts are put in place to judge the actions of our fellow citizens in relation to the laws, both statute and common law. They are to use their discretion and they are trained professionals in the law and with experience on the bench.

To say that we are going to implement minimum sentences is a curtailment of that discretion and to say that we are going to have a minimum sentence of eight years is an absolute affront to that discretion. The question is, would a minimum sentence of that extent in fact not be challenged under the charter of rights and freedoms. Frankly I feel that it would.

We have have a minimum sentence for those 10 situations. We have a minimum sentence of one year for illegal importation and exportation of a firearm and also for other criminal offences as well. We have attempted to impress on Canadians the seriousness of the wrongful use of a firearm with these minimum sentences. There is a limit to how far we can go and many people and institutions have told us we have gone too far already. We do not think so but we do not think that going further will gain any respect for the law. It is only going to lead to a complete and utter disrespect for the law where the law arbitrarily is imposing extremely harsh sentences without the judge being able to have some latitude.

We talk about section 85 and plea bargaining and also about section 85 with respect to an imitation firearm. If we are going to give four years for a firearm, it is awfully hard to give four years to an imitation firearm that is not a danger to the person on the other side of the counter. There has to be some discretion. It is still possible for the judge to give a stronger sentence. That imitation firearm would still come under section 85 where robbery is included. There would then be a subsequent one year sentence for the imitation firearm.

The case is also put to the attorneys general and provincial ministers of justice as to why these extra charges are plea bargained away. This area is within their discretion. It does not have to happen in the provincial jurisdiction because the provinces have control over the administration of justice. As in the case of dangerous offenders they have to say these offences are not to be plea bargained away.

I want to mention Motion No. 133 as brought forward by a member of the Bloc Quebecois. Motion No. 133 would impose a simple fine for first and second offences. These are offences that would be under clause 107.(1), the new offence under the firearms bill which takes the possession of unregistered long guns out of the Criminal Code and puts them into the firearms act.

The member suggests a simple fine for first and second offences of not only illegal long guns but also for possession of prohibited fully automatic firearms, silencers and prohibited ammunition such as armour piercing bullets. Such a lenient offence would be a mockery of what we are attempting to do under this legislation. Clause 107.(1) attempts to treat leniently and with some kind of compassion those who honestly did not register their long guns. It is certainly not an intent to excuse people with prohibited fully automatic firearms from non-registration.

The penalties the member would impose under Motion No. 133 are much less severe than is the case right now. It would say to someone who blatantly violates the law that they would not be convicted of a criminal offence. As I mentioned, it would trivialize the severity of possessing firearms without a licence and a registration certificate.

We have attempted to bring forward laws and eventually regulations that will not minimize the seriousness of the offence but which will honestly recognize the honest mistake of non-registration. They will also allow those who are in charge of enforcing these laws to deal with the offences in a humane and a compassionate way relating to the facts of the situations as they see them.

Firearms Act June 12th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, the motions that I am presenting and speaking to on behalf of the government are:

Motion No. 23 which is a correction of the French text.

Motion No. 54 would amend the conditions which attach to lending a firearm to better reflect the actual practice. If a firearm's owner lends a gun to someone he or she knows very

well, it may not be necessary for that owner to verify the borrower's licence each time. If someone is lending a firearm to a brother, his wife, or a wife to her husband, that firearm owner has every reason to believe that the person has a licence.

Consequently this motion would change one of the lending conditions in the bill at the present time. What the government would require with the amendment now is: "having reasonable grounds to believe that the borrower holds a licence".

This depends on the actual circumstances and may require a lender to request proof of the borrower's licence. For instance, if it is a stranger, someone the lender has never met before, then the lender would not have reasonable grounds to believe that the borrower holds a licence whereas if it was a member of a family, the borrower would.

Therefore it is a significant change which will make the actual practice of using a borrowed firearm much more in line with reality.

Motion No. 72 would clarify that a non-Canadian business wishing to ship firearms in transit through Canada must obtain an authorization to export, but need not have a business licence in Canada.

As has been said before, even if the firearms are in transit through Canada, the firearms must be registered. There cannot be a shipment in transit, or otherwise, of firearms in Canada if those firearms are prohibited weapons.

A motion was adopted at committee stage which provided that in an application to the registrar for an authorization to export, the registrar could only request from the applicant such other information as is reasonably required. For consistency sake, Motion No. 78 would also add the word "reasonably" to authorization to import. Therefore, the word "reasonably" would be required not only for export but for import as well. We have to look to the business practices of manufacturers. There is no reason that they should be giving any information requested of them, particularly if it does not have any relation to what is required and gives confidential competitive data that would only serve to hurt their competitive position.

As I mentioned, a very similar motion was introduced and adopted at committee stage. However, customs in particular is asking for a slight modification in the wording referring to the in transit shipments to avoid any future confusion.

Motion No. 109 relates to changes introduced at committee allowing an appeal of the minister's decision in respect of shooting club approval. In it we referred to provincial ministers. This change is to make a reference to federal ministers as well as provincial ministers. The federal and provincial ministers will be able to give approval to shooting clubs.

Motion No. 111 is essentially the same as 109. It relates to changes introduced in committee allowing the appeal of a minister's decision in respect of shooting club approval. The minister may be provincial or federal. As I have said, this motion is intended to clarify the appropriate minister in the appropriate circumstances.

Essentially, most of the amendments in group three relate to the registry system. A number of motions delete the role of and references to the registry right through to the registrar and is related to the Reform Party's proposal to eliminate the registry.

The second largest area where motions are put forward refer to the rationale for a registration system and whether they should apply to long guns. The concern is that the registry system is put into effect for various reasons for long guns as well as for handguns. The idea is so that we will have a record of all firearms in Canada. If a firearm is stolen, we want to know where that firearm is. We want to have, if not the serial number, then certainly pertinent data that would allow us to track that firearm.

We also want to be able to register firearms immediately on their entering the country. We found that when certain firearms are brought into Canada initially and not registered, as was practice in the past, between customs and the wholesaler-distributor, some of those firearms disappear.

As I mentioned earlier, we also want to register firearms even when they are in transit through the country. If that is to be an inconvenience then so be it, but frankly we do not really want to encourage the in transit shipment of firearms through Canada.

We also want to be able to impress on people that firearms are important and that the owner's care is very important as well.

We feel the registration system will be of benefit and will reduce death through firearms. We feel there will be a greater appreciation of firearms. The minister has stated time and again that the costs are going to be minimal for the registration of a firearm beginning in January 1, 1998. It may not be anything but very shortly it will go to $10 for up to 10 firearms and maybe up to $18 for 10 firearms before the end of the five year period.

The minister has been very frank on that. He has stated there will not be any cost initially for getting a possession licence but for the renewal of an FAC or eventual renewal of a possession licence it will be $60 for a five year period. Once a firearm has been registered there will not be any need to register it again. With respect to the possession licence there does not have to be

any course taken if the possession licence is for firearms presently possessed and not for the purchase of new firearms.

The registration system has been put into effect with the lawful gun owner in mind. Supposedly there will be the inconvenience of having to register long guns. That is in the eye of the beholder. A lot of people who have long guns do not mind registering them. It is not, as some people have stated, an idea of keeping track of all the long guns with the eventual intention of confiscation. That is not the intent at all. If that were the case, we would not be spending up to $85 million on the registration system.

The member for Yorkton-Melville has requested costing. The minister provided the costing in committee when he initially appeared. He stated why in his and the government's opinion it would be $85 million.

The idea is to put the possession licence in effect on January 1, 1996 and the registration certificates for firearms beginning in January 1, 1998 to give the system a chance to work gradually. Also it is hoped that Canadians will see that the registration of firearms and the possession licences are not an attempt to act against the lawful gun owner.

To know what firearms are illegal first we must know which firearms are legal. That makes sense. We cannot just say that a particular firearm is illegal unless we have a common denominator to say which ones are legal. That is a basic axiom and we want to create that basic axiom in the registration of firearms.

Firearms Act June 12th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I will speak on both of these motions proposed by the Minister of Justice. Motion No. 5 relates to clause 2 and adds a new subsection (3):

For greater certainty, nothing in this act shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

We have heard from many aboriginal groups about the importance of firearms in exercising their traditional hunting rights. With this in mind the government is in the midst of consultation with aboriginal groups so the main tenets of the bill can be applied in a manner which is sensitive to the aboriginal communities. This motion would simply confirm the government's commitment to work in concert with aboriginal communities so that the firearms legislation can operate in their communities in a way which recognizes and is respectful of constitutional aboriginal treaty rights.

What we want to do is rationalise the constitutional and treaty rights which the aboriginal people already have with Bill C-68. That is not to create due rights, but then again it is not to derogate the rights aboriginal people already have. We want this legislation to work in conjunction with the treaty and constitutional rights of the aboriginal people. That is very important for the operation of this bill and for the respect of the rights of aboriginal people under the Constitution and the treaties.

Reform members are calling this a two tier justice system. We have stated and we state again there is to be the same rights applied to all Canadians and that the bill is to apply equally in all parts of Canada except where we have stated certain conditions would apply to those who hunt for sustenance. We are acknowledging that there are treaty and constitutional rights for aboriginal people. We want to mesh the application of this bill into that.

Motion No. 145 strikes out certain lines in the English version of the bill. We are proposing an amendment consequential to the new lending conditions to be provided in the legislation. Motion No. 145 would provide an exception to the summary offence provision of possessing a firearm without a registration certificate if the person were a sustenance hunter who had borrowed the firearm.

This is in relation to section 107(1) of the Firearms Act which will come into being with Bill C-68. It says someone who has borrowed a firearm for hunting for sustenance would not be charged because they were hunting with or using an unregistered firearm. We think that is applicable and is in keeping with those who must hunt for sustenance to feed their families in the more remote parts of the country.

I put forward on behalf of the government those two motions which we feel will add to the bill, particularly to those residents of the more rural parts of the country. We are mindful of the concerns of those in the rural and regional parts of the country and we want this bill to be respected, obeyed and applicable in a meaningful way to these regions.

Firearms Act June 12th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, there is no agreement on the content or to change the format.

The hon. member for Saint-Hubert talked generally about trigger locks and things that were not related to group one. The hon. member for Crowfoot did likewise. I can understand why they would do it, because we do not know how far we will get in this debate.

However, with both parties having had an opportunity to put points of view on the record, I would hope that not all members are going to talk generally. I would like to adhere to the groupings so we will be able to discuss the merits of the amendments. I am not saying we have to adhere completely to that, without deviation, because we do have a time limit and all members have a right to be heard on the subject matter at report stage. I hope we adhere to the groupings as best we can so we give an airing to the motions that have been put forward. If not, then why have these motions at all?

Firearms Act June 12th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak on Bill C-68 at report stage.

I listened to the suggested amendments put forward by different members. The member for Yorkton-Melville worked on the committee and spent a good deal of time with other members of the committee working on this bill which I feel is a much better bill as a result of the work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.

I do not agree when members say we tried to shut down debate. We have had a lot of debate on this subject. We will have report stage today and third reading tomorrow. Members may want to speak to the bill at this stage. The important thing is members have spoken to us about their concerns on this bill and their thoughts and ideas have been taken into consideration; not all but a lot. As a result changes are reflected in the revised edition of the bill before the House today at report stage.

I will speak to the amendments that have been brought forward. The first amendment is by the member for Algoma who wants to change the title from other weapons to related matters. I understand what he is trying to do but unfortunately the wording he wants to use is too general. What we want to do here is relate it to weapons.

There is not a negative connotation meant in this this bill relating to the use of weapons. A weapon is not something that has a negative connotation in the opinion of the government. If it had not been for weapons we would not have our free society today after the first and second world wars and the Korean conflict. We are not trying to downgrade or malign weapons. This is not something we want to do. For that reason we feel the wording as stated is what we would like to use.

He also mentions in section 4 on page 4 that the wording is ineffective because some of the objectives are not stated. He wants certain objectives stated. The problem is that while some of the objectives are stated by the hon. member in his amendment, other objectives are not. We feel that the section to which he refers adequately states what it is the government is trying to do.

I turn to Motion No. 158 relating to the review: "The minister shall periodically conduct a review of this act and the regulations and shall table a report on the review in the House of Commons within 12 months of commencing the review".

The review is something many members wanted to see in the bill and it was given a good deal of study. The problem is that we will be registering the gun owners from January 1, 1996 until December 31, 2001 and firearms themselves from January 1,

1998 to December 31, 2003. That is when the act will really be in place. Any time after that would be the logical time for a review if one were to be brought forward. If we are looking at a five year review the year 2008 presumably would be the time for a review.

It is not felt at this time that a review should be included in the bill. We want to give the bill a chance to work. We want to have the bill passed, to have Canadians understand what is in the bill and to have an opportunity to look at the regulations.

There certainly will be an election prior to the registration of the firearms commencing on January 1, 1998. This could be a subject of debate during the next federal election. I am sure all members will be prepared to discuss this subject and I welcome that. I think that is the way it should be. We would then have the opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of the act and regulations which Canadians will have had an opportunity to review and of which they will be better aware. To leave that out at this time would be the most appropriate course.

The member for Yorkton-Melville has stated in Motion No. 167: "Sections 3 to 129 expire on December 31, 1999 unless prior to that date, with respect to each section the auditor general has prepared and caused to be laid before Parliament a report on whether the section has been or will be a successful in the cost effective use of public funds to achieve an increase in public safety and a reduction in the incidence of violent crime involving the use of firearms". Certainly a review in my opinion would be preferable to this.

We have stated we want Parliament to have the control over legislation, particularly this legislation. The motion gives the powers over the act to the auditor general. While the auditor general has a very worthwhile and important function in our system of government, he is not an institution to which we want to give control over our legislation and control over whether legislation is going to be successful or not.

The member is placing the responsibility on one man and one man's report as to whether or not legislation is going to continue. This is not a review by Parliament but a review by one person. If this precedent were instituted and followed up in other legislation then Parliament might as well stop functioning. It might as well shut down because the auditor general would declare whether he or she thought bills should continue to be in effect.

Motions Nos. 266 and 267, one by the member for Kamloops and the other by the member for Parry Sound-Muskoka, once again call for reviews of the act and I would say the same thing. This is not an appropriate time to implement a review. If it is felt there is still a lot of concern with the act later on, it could be the subject of an amendment perhaps after the next federal election.

The act has to be given the opportunity to work. We have to see the regulations. Many members of Parliament will be very pleasantly surprised.

Supply June 7th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like my vote to count with the government henceforth this evening.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)