Madam Speaker, it is good to be back and to see all members here.
I rise today to urge my colleagues to support my private member's bill, Bill C-238, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to possession of unlawfully imported firearms, a bill that would put the criminals using smuggled guns behind bars for longer and make communities safer by raising the standards on dangerous criminals being released on bail.
This is a bill that all GTA residents need and have been calling for. The numbers do not lie. Since 2015, gun violence has grown in Toronto. In 2018, there were record high numbers of deaths. In 2019, there were record high numbers of shootings.
The year 2020 should have been different, as COVID-19 forced people to work from home, and millions of GTA residents changed their routines. The active nightlife, festivals and events were all cancelled. Once very busy streets were now ghost towns. However, that did not stop the violence at all. In 2020, even with a worldwide pandemic, there were over 450 shootings and 40 deaths.
Gun violence has become all too common in places that used to be considered safe. The stories of people waking up to gunshots or being called about loved ones' deaths are heartbreaking. Those people have been promised action but have not seen any results.
I believe the Liberal government has approached this issue in the wrong way. It has focused on gun bans. For its plan to work, violent criminals would have to suddenly start following the law. We know that criminals are not getting a licence to buy firearms that would require taking a course and having a background check. Criminals are buying smuggled guns, just like they are buying smuggled drugs. A gun ban would do little, if anything, to stop them.
The former chief of police of Toronto stated that 82% of handguns used in crimes are smuggled in from the United States. The Ontario solicitor general put the numbers at 84%. More recently, Peel Regional Police reported that 74% of the guns they seized were from south of the border.
The problem is not just smuggled guns; it is also about how we treat criminals who are caught with these guns. The truth is that when they are arrested, they are released on bail within days. They can have a smuggled gun back in their possession within hours.
We need to target the criminals using these guns. Criminals need to know that the use of smuggled guns is a serious offence and that they will do real time behind bars if they are caught. As I have said before, there is no excuse for criminals to have these weapons. If someone has a smuggled gun, they are a real threat to public safety. When they are arrested, neighbours do not want them to get out on bail. The former chief of police reported that criminals getting arrested and being released on bail is far too common.
No one bill will stop the gun violence in Canada, but Bill C-238 is an excellent first step to making my riding of Markham—Unionville and all Canadians safer. I encourage every member to vote for this bill. It would keep dangerous criminals off the streets and save lives. If there are any concerns regarding Bill C-238, they can best be handled in committee.