Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour to rise today in the House on behalf of the people of Alfred-Pellan to speak to this Conservative bill, Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code and to make a related amendment and a consequential amendment to other Acts.
I have been serving the people of Alfred-Pellan for four years now. I am fortunate to be a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and to be the NDP deputy critic for public safety. Therefore, I have been following the debate closely. I wish I could say that it has been a substantive debate, but unfortunately, that is not the case. I attended the debate in committee and took part in the discussions with the various witnesses who came to share their views on Bill C-42. Many interesting points came out of that.
As most of my colleagues know, when it comes to firearms issues, I really like to remind everyone that I myself am a hunter. I have a hunting licence. I have taken the Canadian firearms safety course and the introduction to hunting course. I have the good fortune of coming from a long line of proud hunters and fishers. My female cousins and I are part of the first generation of young women who are taking part in hunting and fishing activities in various regions of Quebec. We are very proud of that. Being forced into a category or into a little box by a Conservative government that says it will protect my rights and my sense of liberty as a hunter—I simply do not believe in that. If you dig a little deeper into Bill C-42 and really look at the various provisions, you see that, basically, the issue of firearms in Canada is being politicized to some degree.
What is coming out of this debate and the positions the Conservatives are taking on the issue is really the politics of dividing Canadians in the various regions of Canada. It is pretty sad to hear the Conservatives brag about being the great defenders of public safety. They should have rallied people around the debate on the firearms legislation and held proper consultations. That is what is missing.
Since my time is quite limited, I will quickly focus on the key points of Bill C-42.
I consulted various groups of experts. I also consulted various police associations to get their take on Bill C-42. The first thing that came up was the lack of consultation on the issue. In fact, most police forces were informed after the fact about what the Conservative government wanted to include in its firearms legislation. I think that is terrible, given that the government is talking about public safety and wants the support of the polices forces that have to enforce these laws.
I consulted various police departments, in Quebec in particular. They told me about their concerns regarding Bill C-42. One of the main concerns has to do with the transportation of firearms. At present, anyone who wants to transport prohibited or restricted firearms to or from a club, shooting range, police station, gun shop, gun show, or port of exit from Canada must have a prescribed route when authorized to transport prohibited or restricted firearms. Unfortunately, these provisions will be eliminated by Bill C-42. The authorizations will be automatically given with the firearms licence, which greatly complicates the work of police officers across the country. The Conservative government would know this had it consulted our police forces.
The second major concern is the classification of firearms. I feel that there is a serious flaw. Quite frankly I am disappointed with the federal government. At present, non-restricted, restricted and prohibited firearms and ammunition are classified under the RCMP's Canadian Firearms Program.
Bill C-42 will give cabinet a new power, namely, the power to circumvent the definitions of the classifications of firearms set out in section 84 of the Criminal Code through a regulation that provides for exceptions.
If that is not politicizing the debate, then I do not know what is. Determining which firearms will be restricted, prohibited or non-restricted is extremely important and it should be done with the help of experts. The people who are appointed to cabinet, regardless of which party is in power, are often highly qualified, but not necessarily in this area. I am really concerned about the government politicizing this debate, because no matter who is in power, they will have the authority to decide how weapons should be classified.
Right now the classification system is working, although it could still be improved. The RCMP manages the system, but the Minister of Public Safety still has to approve any classifications.
I therefore do not know exactly where the Conservatives are going with this or what the Prime Minister has decided to do and what he is telling his colleagues. However, this government is clearly playing divisive politics with this issue. I know that I use the word “deplorable” a lot, but I find this particular situation completely deplorable.
I attended the various hearings that were held with regard to Bill C-42. Many things were said about the bill, but what stood out the most was the lack of consultation. I always talk about Quebec because that is where I am from. My riding of Alfred-Pellan is very close to Montreal. About 80% of the land is agricultural even though it is located on the the island of Laval. We are very close to a very urban area. We have some small, very urbanized areas, but the riding is also quite rural. I am proud to represent such a region. What I am not proud of right now is how the Conservative government is using bills like the one before us today to try to divide Canadians by pitting people living in urban areas against those living in rural areas.
What bothers me the most is that once again, Bill C-42 ignores what Quebec wants. The government did not even consult the Government of Quebec on this. It simply informed the province after the fact. The minister responsible for Canadian intergovernmental affairs said:
This flies in the face of the notion of public safety, the safety of citizens. I think there is a huge disconnect when I hear the federal government say that it is doing this in the name of public safety...
It is rare that I agree with the Liberals, but I have to say that I completely agree with what Mr. Fournier said. I would have liked to see the federal government take its leadership seriously and consult the provinces and territories on a bill as important as this one. The government tried to make it seem as though it was not important and it was just removing some things that should have been gone a long time ago. However, when we look carefully at Bill C-42, we can see that, on the contrary, this bill should have received very broad consultation, so that there was no divisiveness on this particular bill.
I would like to emphasize another point about granting licences. Various police forces I consulted also made this point. This licence can be renewed every five years. The Conservative government wants to permanently create a six-month grace period. Once again, this further complicates the problem that police forces in Quebec and the rest of Canada are dealing with.
I see that my time is almost up. I will endeavour to answer questions from colleagues on both sides of the House as well as I can, but I have to say that I cannot vote in favour of Bill C-42. The policies in it are far too divisive. Once again, the Conservatives are going it alone. They are trying to politicize the debate, an attitude that I utterly deplore.