Mr. Speaker, this morning I want to make a few remarks about Bill C-68. First I must comment on the fact that the whole debate has been derailed. Its basic values have been destroyed by much of the rhetoric that has been going on around it.
Across the province of Ontario there have been major gun rallies sponsored by the Reform Party of Canada. In some cases it has been more interested in selling memberships in that party than in improving constructively the laws of the nation. That is a fact of life.
Dr. Sobrian from the Omemee area near Peterborough visited my constituency a short time ago. It was at exactly the same time as we were having a church service and the laying of the colours for the airborne regiment. He appeared before a gun rally at a high school in Pembroke and was using my name all over the place.
I do not consider myself to be part of a gun lobby. I consider myself to be a parliamentarian who is trying to put something constructive into the legislation. Dr. Sobrian would be well advised by his cohorts to stay home in Omemee. He does more harm when he leaves Omemee and goes into the countryside than he would if he stayed at home. I have no hesitation in saying that to him because I do not get scared off by such people. We have to keep our feet on the ground around here.
My decision will be based on my own judgment, not on a lot of hype and cursing and swearing by people who would appear to be leaders when in fact they are feeding their egos and spreading misinformation with their rhetoric.
The impact of the legislation on the average Canadian has to be considered. One has to ask whether making some people pay for the justice system for all is fair and just. There are people paying for the education system who do not use it. They are paying for it the same as everyone else. Why should not Canadian people as a whole pay, if it is to serve the justice of the country and their safety? Instead we are targeting many people who are innocent and law-abiding Canadians. If the system is to benefit all, why should not all of us contribute? I have no problem in that regard, and I do not own a gun.
Training program costs have been mentioned as a great inhibitor. The costs for training courses are considerable. People are complaining to me about the red tape they have to go through. Many police officers whom I have been talking with have not taken the training, yet they will be faced with it. There are major problems in administration out there.
They talk about a coalition of forces. That is not the point. The point is providing good legislation with common sense logic, fairness and justice built into the system. Decisions based on emotions will not stand up over time, but decisions based on justice, fairness and common sense will stand the test of time.
A lot of the problems, the real hype and the gearing up of emotions started with incidents such as the murder at the Just Desserts restaurant in Toronto. In Montreal and in the Quebec legislature such incidents were quickly linked to all guns in general. That was wrong. It should be targeted to certain weapons and not to people who are capable of handling weapons safely.
It is unfair to attribute the problem we are facing today in part to everyday honest people. The ferociousness of the debate does not make for constructive solutions. I have heard some very outlandish speeches in the House and more outside it.
Guns increase violence is the saying, but what about countries where there are guns in nearly every home and there is no violence?
I quote from a very good speech delivered by the hon. member for Cochrane-Superior two weeks ago yesterday:
A number of inquiries conducted in various countries have shown there is no connection between the percentage of crimes involving firearms and the degree of regulation of firearms in that country. In countries with a very low rate of violent crimes or homicide like Japan or Switzerland, the presence or absence of firearms is irrelevant. However making young people socially responsible, giving them a good education and warning them against criminal behaviour, is a major factor in producing low crime rates.
If we look at Switzerland, by its nature over many years it has been a fully armed nation as far as its citizenry is concerned yet has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
It is a culture. It is the enforcement of law. It is the values we put into society. It is the way we train people generation after generation. That will improve the legal system and the courts by taking away plea bargaining in such cases.
The justice minister has made a good start in the legislation. Let us make the justice system work and not have people on the streets who should not be there, not have innocent people become victims of law and become criminals by virtue of it. Because of lack of information or indeed a lack of memory, if someone forgets to do something, according the act as it is written now he would be charged under the Criminal Code.
Nobody would argue about the need for anti-smuggling legislation. It is motherhood. It is necessity. Everyone in Canada, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, would support restrictions against smuggling. On the possession of stolen weapons outdoor sportsmen's clubs would support restrictions on that. They enforce laws within their own clubs, their own bylaws or their own regulations. They have very severe rules in that regard.
Export-import laws are great. They prevent the inflow or outflow of illegal arms. We have a 4,000-mile boundary to handle and it is very difficult to control border problems. With a 4,000-mile border we will have a challenge on our hands with the export-import laws. However it must be done and I give the minister credit for bringing forward that part.
No one should be in illegal possession of a firearm. There is a charge in that regard. We should get rid of plea bargaining and the minister has done part of it.
There is absolutely no sympathy out there for illegal trafficking of firearms, not by sportsmen or anyone else. They know if people with firearms get into trouble it will impact on them. The message is immediately spread on radio stations, TV stations and newspapers. It is very easy to start the hype that everything is wrong in society when certain things should be corrected.
The minimum sentence of four years for a list of 10 crimes is a good start. The court system, plea bargaining and the justice system must generally be upgraded and enforced. It is supported by the general public. There will be no pity on anyone who allows the system to deteriorate in any way. Canadians want the sentence to fit the crime.
This is my fourth time around on gun legislation. None of them has been easy. None of them has been very productive in the sense of the rhetoric used. We keep coming forward with legislation. As time goes on we must pass legislation to deal with the times. We are going through difficult times but let us
remember that the good things in this bill can be supported by almost every Canadian. However, there are matters in it that affect the average Canadian. These must be corrected. There are things in this bill that affect estates. I want to see some of those corrected in committee.
I have voted over 2,000 times in the House of Commons and on only one occasion have I voted against the government. If further changes are not made to this legislation, I am afraid I am going to have to see the second time that I will vote against my own government. That does not sit well with me personally because I am a loyalist and a constructive worker trying to get things done. I do not want to vote against this bill, but if I must, I will. My constituents are not part of the problem with their hunting and their sports clubs that operate throughout the area.