Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.):
Well, Mr. Speaker, the Reform Party's dream has really come true.
Let us look at how long we have been having this debate. The debate first started when a Progressive Conservative senator suggested to Kim Campbell that the House look at registering long guns. This idea was well received back in 1991 by the Progressive Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party. I am not too sure about the Bloc.
It has always been a mission of the Reform Party to bring in a bill to kill the long gun registry. Today the Conservatives will see that mission realized. I am not going to guess at the decision prior to the actual vote, but I know about that glass bubble in the Conservative administration. The government has indicated how its members are to vote on this bill and no one would dare vote against what it has indicated. Given that the Conservatives have a majority, the Reform Party's dream of getting rid of the long gun registry will be realized today.
We have been hearing all sorts of arguments but the one that really amazed me was regard to the costs. Governing is about priorities. The government has gone out of its way to give the impression that the gun registry costs billions of dollars. It has been trying to give the impression to Canadians that hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year on the gun registry. That just is not true. Independent offices have made it very clear that the annual cost of the gun registry is close to $4 million.
We talk about priorities in this place. The government will kill the registry in the same year that it introduced a bill to increase the number of members of Parliament from 308 to 338. To have more politicians in this chamber will cost six times the annual cost of the registry. Imagine that when we talk about priorities. How many Canadians want more politicians? That speaks well in terms of the government's priorities. I can appreciate members might not like to hear the truth, but that is the truth.
It does not matter what the facts really are, the registry is dead. If 85% or more of the police officers in Canada told us today that the registry saves 100 lives a day and they could prove it, it would not matter. The Conservatives will not be confused by the facts. They want to get rid of the gun registry.
What has more credibility is the RCMP. The RCMP is an independent agency. Many Canadians have a deep amount of respect for the RCMP and the fine work its members do. The RCMP conducted a survey in regard to the firearms registry and issued a report. I will read from the report:
|| A survey of CFRO users showed that 81% of trained police officers supported the statement, “In my experience, CFRO query results have proven beneficial during major operations.” So beneficial, in fact, that RCMP dispatchers, RCMP Operational Communications Centres, Quebec Police agencies, Halifax Regional Police, Halton Regional Police, Canadian Military Police, OPP, Peel Regional Police, Toronto Police Service, West Vancouver Police Department and the Tsuu Tina Police Service have re-designed their Records Management Systems to auto-query CFRO whenever a police officer queries CPIC. Additionally, 513 RCMP detachments and federal units, 579 Canadian municipal police agencies and 88 OPP locations query CFRO yearly.
Those are the facts from the RCMP, but it does not matter to the government.
The other day I posed a question to a Conservative member. I asked if he believed it was possible that the gun registry might have saved one life. The Conservatives will not even concede that. They will not concede that there has been an ounce of benefit from the gun registry for its $4 million in annual costs, a figure that came from the Auditor General of Canada, or one-sixth the cost of the 30-plus members of Parliament the Conservatives have told Canadians they must have. They say, “Prove it”.
Let us go back to that RCMP report. It states:
|| After an individual was observed driving directly into some parked vehicles, he was taken into an ambulance to be checked out. He subsequently pulled out a handgun, pointed it at the attendants and threatened to kill them if they touched him. He then exited the ambulance and fled on foot. The local police soon apprehended him and found that he was in possession of a Glock pistol and loaded spare magazines. Canadian Firearms Registration Online (CFRO) checks indicated that he was a licensed owner of 31 registered firearms. NWEST was asked to assist by preparing the public safety warrant, laying charges and seizing 33 firearms (two of which were not registered), along with thousands of rounds of ammunition.
These are the types of reports I find credible because the RCMP has recognized the value of this and incorporated it into its report. I have heard from many people, such as emergency first responders and so forth. I have heard the arguments.
I was first elected in Manitoba back in 1988, just three years prior to Senator Nurgitz coming up with the idea. From about 1993 to this day, I have heard a lot about the gun registry. There were some problems in its early years with the costs of administering it.
However, the gun registry was never an attack on farmers or law-abiding citizens. If that were the only issue the Conservatives were truly concerned about, then all they would have to do is to amend it, and they would have wide support to do that. That was not the agenda of the Reform Party. Its commitment was clearly to get rid of the gun registry.
The Conservatives refuse to listen to common sense and facts. Instead, they fabricate and propagate myths and mislead the public about what the facts really are.
There was never any intention to turn a farmer into a criminal. Name one individual who was put in jail because of this legislation, Mr. Speaker. Give us one. You will find under the firearms registry that that is not the case, because law-abiding citizens were never a target.
It was an issue of the government's priority. Was $4 million a priority?
I have had a number of police officers who have told me that the long gun registry is nothing more than one of many tools they use to ensure public safety.
Do members not think that police officers approached the house of the person I mentioned a bit differently knowing that he had 33 registered guns? I know they approach every house as if there were a gun there, but if I were a beat officer and I knew that inside that house there were 33 registered guns and that the person there had just threatened to kill some people, I would approach that house quite differently. I would suspect they had a number of police officers going there.
The registry does make a difference. The facts show that.
Mr. Ryan Leef (Yukon, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to begin the final day of third reading debate on Bill C-19, the ending the long-gun registry act.
As I said last week, this is a very proud day for long gun owners and, indeed, people who are fiscally prudent and taxpayers in our country from coast to coast to coast. We are one step closer to fulfilling our longstanding commitment to ending the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all.
I am pleased to tell Yukon citizens, trappers, hunters, athletes, sport shooters, collectors and first nations who rely on long guns to protect their heritage, culture and traditional way of life that the long gun registry, as promised by our government, is finally coming to its rightful end.
Long guns have been a staple tool in Yukon since its beginning, before it was designated as its own territory. This is indeed true of Canada itself.
Throughout this process of debate we have heard all of the reasons our government is opposed to this misdirected legislation. We have heard how wasteful and costly the long gun registry is. The costs have surpassed $2 billion. Can one imagine how many police officers that money would have hired, how many crime prevention programs could have been funded, how much rehabilitative treatment could have been developed and how much victim support could have been provided? When we stop to think about it in those terms, it is an absolutely grotesque and astounding waste of money.
Throughout this entire debate, whether in second reading or committee stage, we have also heard that it is ineffective. Frankly, for the last 17 years, not one person has convinced me that the long gun registry has ever stopped a single crime or saved a single life.
What would stop crime is smart prevention, effective policing and sentences that deter crime. That is the approach to criminal justice this Conservative government is taking and will continue to take into the future.
The single biggest impediment to police work today is paperwork. Crimes by and large are not solved from behind a computer desk. There is as much value today in good old fashioned, on the street, door to door efforts as there ever was. This holds infinitely true when we discuss crime prevention. Crimes are not prevented from behind a desk.
Supporters of the long gun registry continue to claim that it will help the police. Ask any officer if they would like a partner or a computer and a database and the overwhelmingly answer would be a partner. However, the $2 billion blown by the Liberal government went to a database that did nothing, and the police are now buried in databases wrought with errors.
What do I know about this? I was a member of the RCMP's Troop 4 in depot division the year the Liberal government shut it down. It was the second last troop to graduate before a complete closure of the depot for the first time in 125 years of the RCMP's existence. Troop 4 was told well past the mid-point of training that the depot would be closing and there would be no jobs to go to. For the first time in 125 years, facilitators met with our entire troop to say that while we could remain there until graduation, there would be no jobs.
How can the Liberal member now stand in this House and say that the registry keeps Canadians and the police safe with a legacy like that?
It keeps police behind desks. It keeps police buried in data so that they are not on our streets to prevent crimes. The wasted $2 billion could have been $2 billion spent on a partner that every officer would love to have. That would have been $2 billion well spent.
After all the fearmongering and hyperbole the opposition has continued to use at every single juncture of debate, I thought it would be a useful exercise to again review with everyone what I like to call the seven myths of the opposition, by which they have repeatedly misled Canadians.
Myth number one: The long gun registry will help keep suicide rates down. At committee we clearly heard evidence from peer reviewed studies by Dr. Caillin Langmann, Ph.D, Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine at McMaster University. He stated:
||—the discontinuation of the registration of non-restricted firearms is not likely to result in an increase in the aggregate suicide rate by long gun.
|| I treat suicide and violence on a daily basis.... [T]he money that has been spent on the long-gun registry is unfortunately wasted; however, we can prevent further waste by taking the money we currently spend on the long-gun registry and spending it on....women's shelters; police training in spousal abuse; and psychiatric care, which is sorely lacking in this country. We are not winning the battle against suicide.
Myth number two: The long gun registry will keep women safer. The committee clearly heard about peer-reviewed research which demonstrated that the discontinuation of non-restricted firearms will not result in an increase in homicide or spousal homicide rates through the utilization of long guns. This only makes sense because the people who register their long guns are not committing these crimes. These are men and women who are impeded by the red tape and the stigma associated with being long gun owners. They do their civic duty despite the unnecessary and wasteful burden imposed upon them. They register their firearms because their government tells them it is the law.
Meanwhile, criminals do not do any of this. They enjoy the freedom to operate outside of the law and have all the rights and protections of the law. The opposition attempts to position this debate in long guns as men against women, and offender and victim. The committee heard directly from women, women who hunt, women who trap, women who have represented our great nation in international shooting competitions. The opposition would like Canadians to believe that it is only men who own guns. This is simply not the case.
Madame Hélène Larente, volunteer coordinator of the Quebec women's hunting program, said this in committee:
|| As a hunter, I don't think it's fair that we are being treated like criminals... The registry does not protect women any more than it does society as a whole.
Myth number three: Guns will now be as easy to get as checking out books at a library. The opposition is ignoring the facts. It is deliberately misleading those who do not own long guns and who are not familiar with the process. I can tell Canadians, as any long gun owner can, that the requirements for licensing are not changing. They include Canadian firearms safety courses and, for some, additional firearm, hunter ethic and safety development courses and, of course, pre-screening security background checks.
Myth number four: Police support the registry and elimination of the registry will put police in danger. This is what the committee heard from law enforcement personnel:
|| I can tell you that the registration of long guns did not make my job as a conservation officer safer.
That testimony was from Donald Weltz, an Ontario conservation officer.
The committee heard about a survey conducted between March 2009 and June of 2010 of 2,631 police officers from all across Canada, 2,410 of whom voted to scrap the registry. In April 2011, a further survey of Edmonton city police concluded that 81% voted in favour of scrapping the registry. The committee heard that the Auditor General found that the RCMP could not rely on the registry because of a large number of errors and omissions. Numerous individual police officers stated that they do not trust the information contained in the registry and would not rely on it to ensure their safety.
Myth number five: The data should be saved and turned over to provinces that wish to create their own registry. The registry is the data. Our commitment to the Canadian people was clear. Anything less would be disingenuous. The data was collected under federal law for a federal purpose. It will not be turned over to another jurisdiction. The committee heard evidence that the RCMP had reported error rates between 43% and 90% in firearms applications and registry information. It also heard that the manual search conducted discovered 4,438 stolen firearms had been successfully re-registered. With these errors, it would irresponsible to the extreme to allow this unreliable, ineffective and grossly expensive system to be handed over to anyone.
Myth number six: Registering a long gun is no different than registering a car. What did the committee hear on this assumption? Solomon Friedman accurately stated that, unlike registering a car, failure to comply or errors in the application process have criminal implications. People will not be going to jail or receiving criminal records if they fail to register their cars.
Myth number seven: Registering a firearm is simple, so what is the harm? Again, the harm is that any mistake has criminal implications. The mistakes in the registry are staggering.
We should further consider additional testimony from Mr. Friedman:
|| I have two law degrees. I clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada, and I practise criminal law for a living. Even I at times find the provisions of the Firearms Act and the gun control portions of the Criminal Code convoluted, complex, and confusing.
If this is the case, how can we expect average Canadians to navigate this quagmire without error? How can we have criminal consequences as a result? How can we expect our law enforcement officers to interpret and apply complex and convoluted legislation with discretion and consistency if a criminal lawyer, well versed and studied on the subject matter, finds it difficult?
Linda Thom, who is a Canadian Olympic gold medal shooter, said:
|| I’m accorded fewer legal rights than a criminal. Measures enacted by Bill C-68 allow police to enter my home at any time without a search warrant because I own registered firearms, yet the same police must have a search warrant to enter the home of a criminal. I’m not arguing that criminals should not have this right, they should. I’m arguing that this right should be restored to me and all Canadian firearms owners.
Finally, I would like to highlight the conclusion of Gary Mauser, PhD, professor emeritus at the Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies, Simon Fraser University. He concluded:
|| First, responsible gun owners are less likely to be accused of homicide than other Canadians. Second, the police have not been able to demonstrate the value of the long-gun registry. Third, the long-gun registry has not been effective in reducing homicide. Fourth, the data in the long-gun registry are of such poor quality that they should be destroyed.
That is exactly what will happen. Our government has made a clear commitment. Promise made, promise kept.
However, I would also like to focus today on some of the other insincerities offered by the opposition. First and most flagrantly is the NDP, Her Majesty's loyal opposition. This party, sadly, has caved to the big labour special interests. Numerous members of that party from rural Canada told their voters last spring that when they went to Ottawa, they would put the views of people ahead of cheap partisan politics.
Boy, were those people misled. For example, the member for Western Arctic stated recently, and repeatedly, that he would vote to end the long gun registry. He campaigned on this, knowing full well, and in his own words to the Slave River Journal as recently as June 2010, that 95% of the emails he received from the Northwest Territories constituents supported eliminating the long gun registry. The member has now stated in this House that he will vote against ending the long gun registry.
It appears that he is willing to disappoint his constituents, turn his back on them by failing to defend their traditional, cultural, historic and present-day way of life. Why would he do this when he stated in the same article that he believed he would be able to vote as he saw fit? He said:
|| The NDP has a policy of not whipping the vote on private member's bills, so people are allowed to vote as they see fit.
Alas, the answer. The member for Western Arctic is not prepared to face the wrath of NDP bosses and suffer the consequences.
However, not all members of the NDP are willing to break their commitments. I am referring to the members from Thunder Bay—Superior North and Thunder Bay—Rainy River, who both had the courage to stand up and vote with the Conservative government to end the long gun registry.
Unfortunately, we know how that story went. The heavy-handed union bosses in the backrooms of the NDP spoke and spoke quickly. Immediately these MPs were stripped of the ability to speak up for their constituents. These sorts of intimidation tactics are reprehensible, but frankly not surprising from the disunited NDP.
Let us also look at the Liberal Party members. They have not been as cagey about their position as their New Democratic colleagues. The Liberals were clear prior to the last election that all Liberals would support continuing the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.
Now, thanks to ignoring the will of their constituents, the once-great big red machine has been relegated to the back corner of this place.
Members should not think for a moment that I have any problem with the Liberal tactics. Without these ham-fisted actions by the opposition, our caucus might not have been blessed with the great talents, such as the member for Nipissing—Timiskaming, among others.
Despite the two different approaches of ignoring the will of their constituents, the NDP and the Liberals have something in common. They both support criminalizing law-abiding Canadians through the long gun registry, but oppose punishing real criminals through tough and appropriate sanctions.
This is something that I simply fail to understand. It is the firm belief of the opposition that individuals should have the force of the Criminal Code, the most powerful tool at the disposal of the state, thrust upon them should they fail to fill out some paperwork to register their rifles and shotguns. At the same time, the members opposite grimace and grumble every time our government dares to suggest that those who are trafficking drugs to our children should get serious jail time or that those who sexually abuse children should never have the benefit of having their criminal record erased.
The position not only lacks serious elements of common sense, it is morally bankrupt. All reasonable people agree that individuals must be licensed to possess firearms. We are not changing that. What we are doing is simply taking steps to eliminate a needlessly bureaucratic process that has done nothing to protect public safety.
Anyone who believes that putting a piece of paper next to a firearm makes it safer is not being honest with himself or herself. Let us be clear: Firearms in the wrong hands are dangerous. That is why we are ensuring appropriate licensing still takes place. Firearms in the hands of law-abiding Canadians, however, are merely tools. They are no different from any other piece of property. This again returns to my confusion as to the priorities of the opposition regarding criminal justice.
When I go back to the Yukon I hear the same refrain from all sorts of people. They ask why law-abiding gun owners are treated like criminals, yet criminals are getting off easy. The only answer I have for them is to look back at the history and the legacy of Liberal governments throughout the years.
Our government is looking to take action to correct both of these historic wrongs. We will end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all. We will ensure we develop a correctional system that actually corrects criminal behaviour. That is what we were elected to do, and that is what we will do.
It boggles my mind that any reasonable individual could oppose the bill. There are two fundamental halves. First, as I have touched on, is keeping Canadians safe through effective gun control. Our government does not believe in measures that simply make people feel safe. We are concerned with actually making people safe.
Effective gun control exists through proper licensing and ensuring only qualified individuals have possession of firearms. As I have said before, a gun in the hands of a law-abiding Canadian is just another piece of property. A gun in the hands of a criminal or the mentally ill only leads to tragedy. The long gun registry does nothing to prevent the latter. That is done through screening and licensing, which we have recently increased investment in. That is how people are truly kept safe.
The second half of the bill, which is equally important, is protecting the privacy of all Canadians. For many years the long gun registry made ordinary Canadians feel like criminals for no other reason than the fact that they happened to own a firearm. They were required to register in a cumbersome and paperwork-heavy process. They were required to submit into a database a list of legally owned private property. All for merely having the audacity of being a long gun owner.
Diana Cabrera from the Canadian Shooting Sports Association testified before committee. She said:
|| There is no question that the long-gun registry has deterred individuals from entering the shooting sports. Firearm owners are subjected to spectacular press coverage in which reporters tirelessly describe small and very ordinary collections of firearms as an “arsenal”.
Some may say that being in a database hardly constitutes being a criminal. There are all kinds of databases. The problem lies with the attitude. Firearms owners are taught that they need be ashamed of their hobby, that somehow, because they own a gun, they are more likely to become a criminal. This needs to stop. That is completely untrue.
On law and order matters, police and the firearms community tend to march in lockstep. However, the long gun registry has thrust a wedge between these two groups. In many cases, firearms owners rightfully feel that they are being targeted by police officers for simply owning a hunting rifle. While the police are merely doing their job and enforcing the law as it stands, a culture of division has been spawned by the policies of the previous Liberal government. Eliminating the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry is an important first step in correcting this needless division of Canadians.
The fact of the matter is that once we eliminate the long gun registry, there will be no change in public safety. Effective gun control will still exist. What will change is that, once and for all, gun owners will be able to feel good about owning their guns.
I see my time is coming to an end. I would just like to conclude that we have seen a number of steps taken that are simply divisive politics. We saw, as an example, on two separate occasions, billboards designed by the NDP to provoke fear in urban communities. They had silhouettes of dangerous-looking firearms and they implied that these scary guns would be everywhere should the registry be scrapped. Plain and simple, they were wrong. Those firearms displayed are restricted and are still subject to gun control measures.
I call on all members, especially those members who campaigned on this promise, to stand with our government and vote to end the long gun registry. Let us put an end to this Liberal-led attack on our Canadian culture, tradition, history and day-to-day life of north to south, rural to urban, coast to coast to magnificent coast.
Ms. Charmaine Borg (Terrebonne—Blainville, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to add my voice to those of many Quebeckers, Canadians, police officers and victims who strongly condemn abolishing the long gun registry and its data. This irresponsible choice shows once again the take-it-or-leave-it Conservative rhetoric that has prevailed in the House of Commons since the last election.
Under the Liberal government, the initial implementation phase of this registry cost Canadians a lot more than expected, while also being plagued by significant delays and registration costs. The lack of leadership and the poor estimate of the actual costs were indeed disturbing. However, the current cost of maintaining the registry is $4 million annually, while the total budget for the Canadian firearms program is $76.5 million. Let us do some quick calculations. The registry accounts for 5.23% of the program's annual budget. Hon. members will agree that this is a relatively small amount and that the significant investments that had to be made to create the registry are now behind us. Therefore, destroying these records would waste the public funds already invested.
With their taxes, Quebeckers have paid close to one-quarter of the cost of the registry, and they want a registry. Quebec was even prepared to take over this registry, but the Conservative government flatly refused. Destroying the data would waste the large investment made by Quebeckers and Canadians.
Since the destruction of those records is part of the Conservative plan, I find it unacceptable that the provinces, which have invested a lot of money, were not consulted before making this decision. The Conservative government refuses yet again to listen to the provinces, just as it did with Bill C-10. That shows a total lack of respect.
I also want to point out that the speeches made by the Conservatives in recent months are very inconsistent. The Conservatives partly justify abolishing the long gun registry by suggesting that citizens should be treated like adults and that the government should not interfere in their private lives. The government also says that it is wrong to treat law-abiding hunters as if they were criminals.
I find it very ironic that, under the lawful access legislation, all Canadians using the Internet will be treated like criminals, without any regard for their right to privacy. After all, one of the main goals of the Conservatives with Bill C-19 is to destroy data in order to protect privacy. These two positions are rather controversial and inconsistent.
I want to point out that those same hunters whose privacy the government wants to protect also have computers at home. They will probably use the Internet. I am having a very hard time understanding the government's position. I do not understand why we are legally required to disclose details about our private lives by registering our animals, our children and our cars, but registering a firearm that could be used to kill someone, whether intentionally or accidentally, is an invasion of privacy. That makes no sense.
Simply put, the government is against data that interfere with their rhetoric. They are underestimating the intelligence of Canadians.
As of September 30, 2011, the registry was being accessed 17,000 times a day. A survey showed that nearly all general duty police officers use the system, and that in 74% of cases, the information they obtain assists their operations. The registry enables police officers to better prepare their intervention strategies, which is crucial to protecting those who bear the weighty responsibility of keeping us safe.
That is why William Blair, Toronto police chief and president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and Daniel Parkinson, president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, expressed concern about the safety of police officers and Canadians should the data be destroyed.
In Quebec, Yves Francoeur, president of the Fraternité des policiers et policières de Montréal, said, “To keep people safe, we need a registry, no matter what the cost”.
Marc Parent, chief of the Montreal city police, said, “This is a tool we use every day. The need is there".
The RCMP and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have also spoken in favour of maintaining the registry.
The government is bragging about making the work of police officers easier, but Bill C-19 does not make any sense to police officers across the country.
There is absolutely no question that the registry gives police officers essential strategic planning tools that they use for their interventions. However, I am very concerned about victims and future victims of criminal acts committed with guns. I am thinking in particular of the victims at the Polytechnique in 1989 and at Dawson College in 2006, of police officer Valérie Gignac, and of the RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe in 2005, who were all killed by guns. In 2010, the RCMP said that in the previous 10 years, 10 out of 13 police officers were killed by long guns.
Victims' groups have condemned Bill C-19. It is grotesque, insensitive and cruel to all these victims to abolish a registry whose records can save lives. This government says it protects victims, but its position on Bill C-19 shows the exact opposite. Rather than presenting Canadians with a take-it-or-leave-it choice so as to divide them, the NDP wants to unite them. Our party seeks a compromise between the public safety issues that could result from the abolition and destruction of this registry and aboriginal treaty rights. We believe it is possible to find a solution for all Canadians.
In 2010, we proposed the following: decriminalizing the failure to register a firearm for first-time offenders and issuing a ticket instead; indicating in the legislation that long gun owners would not have to pay registration costs; prohibiting the disclosure of information about firearms owners, except for the purpose of protecting the public or when ordered by a court or by law; and creating a legal guarantee to protect aboriginal treaty rights.
Our point of view has not changed. We support a constructive dialogue between the stakeholders, so that no one is left out and we all work together. Recent governments have divided us enough. The time has come to take measures that will foster reconciliation between all Canadians. There are solutions that will improve public safety while also respecting aboriginal people and everyone who lives in rural areas.
It is time the Conservative government listened to Canadians and acted like a responsible government towards them and towards all those who risk their lives to maintain the peace.
Ms. Isabelle Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, every time I rise in this House to support or oppose a bill, it is usually with great joy. Today, however, it is with great sadness that I am obliged to rise here today to tell the Conservative government that of course I oppose this bill.
I would like to begin by thanking the groups and individuals in my riding who took the time to write to me, asking me to stand up to the Conservative government and oppose this bill.
I would like to take a few moments to read some excerpts from the emails I received from my constituents, whose emails show that they oppose this bill and explain how afraid they are that this bill will pass.
A group from Montreal, the Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes, wrote the following: “Rifles and shotguns in the wrong hands are just as deadly as handguns. Strict controls are essential for all firearms. Registration holds firearms owners accountable for their firearms. It reduces the chance that their weapons will be diverted into the hands of individuals without permits, and helps curb illegal trafficking. Gun control works. Health and safety experts have shown that stronger gun laws have reduced gun-related death rates.”
Approximately 400 of my constituents wrote to me about this bill. Of those 400 people, there were perhaps seven who supported the government and 393 who supported the opposition. Many people wrote letters asking me to continue to fight the elimination of the firearms registry.
Here is an excerpt from a letter demonstrating the fear of which I spoke. “This sends a clear message to street gangs that they can buy a shotgun as easily as they can buy a package of cigarettes at the corner store. Then, they saw off the barrel and the butt to get a concealable weapon that is classified as restricted. Although the government is saying that it wants to maintain the prohibited weapons registry, it is leaving the door wide open for wrongdoers to make their own prohibited weapons without any constraints. It is complete nonsense to tell the public that the fact that a permit will still be required to purchase a restricted weapon will help to ensure their safety.”
Another individual wrote, “As soon as long guns no longer need to be registered in the name of a specific person, as is now required by this registry, anyone will be able to buy a firearm and then transform it into a restricted weapon. The police will no longer be able to find out who purchased and sold these weapons.”
Yet another individual wrote, “Abolishing the registry will give wrongdoers a new way to easily obtain very deadly, restricted weapons. We can thus expect an increase in crime and an increase in the cost of the justice and prison systems, which will exceed the cost of maintaining the current system.”
Finally, another one of my constituents wrote:
“It is for the general protection of the public and the public in general through the normal taxation provisions shall pay the cost of the supervision of the shooting range when it is required. The regular police forces will provide the service at very little cost. This will not deal with illegal arms trafficking, but it will help in many other cases of shootings and will narrow the field of inquiry in cases where an unregistered gun might have been used”.
This shows that my constituents are afraid. They are very afraid of what will happen in our country this evening, in a few hours. In my riding in particular, there is a high rate of crime. In Lachine, many murders are committed using firearms, sometimes long guns. I am sad to see that the government is not addressing victims' needs for protection.
Every time we ask questions in this regard, the government always responds that it is in favour of safety. The Conservatives all have that word tattooed on their foreheads. Whether they are talking about planes or prisons, safety is always mentioned. The government has introduced a bill that violates people's privacy on the Internet in the name of safety. In this case, they are proposing a bill that will make the people in my riding less safe.
Currently, the long gun registry is used about 17,000 times a day, yet the government says that it is useless. I do not understand its logic. Many suicides involve long guns. The registry can be a big help in dealing with such cases. When I was in university, I was part of an organization in my riding that people could call if they were contemplating suicide. We helped people. We started by asking callers if they knew when they were going to commit suicide. Then we asked them if they know how they were going to do it. About half the time—if I remember correctly, because I do not have the statistics here—people said that they were going to use a gun, often a long gun.
After finding out the how, the where and the when, if the caller planned to use a firearm, we checked the registry to find out if he or she owned a firearm. Knowing the caller possessed a firearm was very helpful to the intervention. As soon as we knew the how, where and when, we intervened. I know for a fact that police officers were very glad to know if the person whose home they were entering owned a firearm. Their lives could be in danger. The information helped officers plan their response.
I apologize. I am emotional because I have dealt with this in my life.
One of the government's arguments is that the quality of the information in the registry is poor. I was a teacher, and when a student handed in a bad test, I did not tell him or her to toss it, but to redo it. That makes perfect sense to me. The current registry may not be top quality, but it can be improved. The NDP proposed a number of changes to improve the registry so that all Canadians can benefit from the safety it affords. We wanted to make sure that the people for whom the registry is a problem were included in the process. Among other things, we proposed decriminalizing the failure to register a firearm for a first offence and issuing a ticket instead. That makes perfect sense.
When the registry was created in 1995, it was not perfect. We realize that now. It is our duty to improve it, not destroy it. We have also proposed that the bill indicate that long gun owners would not have to pay registration costs.
I hear the Conservatives saying that it is too costly for farmers and for those who use long guns in their leisure activities. So we have suggested a solution.
We also propose that disclosing information about the owners of firearms be prohibited, except for the purpose of protecting the public, or when ordered by a court or by law. We also propose creating a legal guarantee to protect aboriginal treaty rights. Those who represent aboriginal constituencies and are using this argument should have considered our amendments.
I have a lot more to say. I know I will not convince any government members to vote against their party today, but I will ask them two things, which will help me sleep better tonight. As we know, Quebec has asked the government to transfer the data. I hope the government will consider that. We know it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if the Quebec government decides to seek an injunction against the federal government. I therefore ask the government to at least save that money, since we are talking about budget cuts.
Furthermore, the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound told us yesterday that he plans to celebrate tonight. I really hope he changes his mind and foregoes the celebration.
Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is my please to rise to speak to Bill C-19, getting rid of the wasteful and useless long gun registry. I am proud to split my time with the member for Portage—Lisgar, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety. I thank her the yeoman's effort she has put in toward getting rid of the long gun registry. In the last Parliament, her private member's bill to end the long gun registry nearly passed, but lost by two votes. In my time in Parliament since 2004, that was the closest, until today, that we ever came to getting rid of the long gun registry.
I have to thank the Minister of Public Safety for bringing forward this bill and for listening to firearms' owners right across the country and to ranchers, farmers, hunters and sports people who enjoy the outdoors and target shooting. He listened and was able to put that all together in a comprehensive bill that would ensure we would get rid of the registry and the data and, more important, it would take away the incredible onus on responsible Canadians having to register their long guns.
We cannot talk on this bill without thanking the MP for Yorkton—Melville who has been fighting this since 1995 in the House of Commons. He has been an incredible spokesperson on behalf of wildlife organizations and firearms owners across the country, always getting the details, the data and the real statistics on how useless the long gun registry has been and how it has made law-abiding citizens into criminals.
I have listened to the debate. My friend from Winnipeg North stood and made a number of accusations. I want to address some of those in my speech today.
I have been fighting Bill C-68 since 1995. When I was with the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, I presented to the Senate committee on Bill C-68 when it was travelling across Manitoba. I told the majority Liberal senators at that time that this was going to be a discriminatory bill against rural Canadians. Individuals involved in the agriculture industry use firearms, long guns in particular, as a tool in controlling predators, or varmints that they did not want around the yard, like rabid skunks and raccoons, and for putting animals down humanely if they are ill or injured. For the times that we do our own butchering on the farm, we need to have those long guns. Many of us in the agriculture industry are also outdoors people. We love hunting and fishing and when we go out hunting, we need to have our firearms.
Because of the way Bill C-68 was brought in, it automatically labelled people who owned firearms and did not register them as a criminals. The member for Winnipeg North said that nobody was ever arrested based upon the fact that they never registered their firearms. However, we know the bill was specific. If they did not register, they were criminals. Luckily, the western provinces instructed their police forces, mainly the RCMP at that time, not to enforce the firearms registry for those who did not register their long guns. For the most part, that was upheld.
I know of two cases in Alberta alone where firearms owners were arrested and their guns confiscated because they failed to re-register their firearms. Also a friend of mine, Bruce Montague, who was in Kenora, is a gunsmith, a gun collector and goes out to gun shows. He was arrested after a gun show in northwestern Ontario and went to jail. He kept fighting it because he knew it was wrong that he should be treated as a criminal for legally owning firearms even though he never registered them. I agree with him. They were there as part of his collection and his craft. They were never meant for criminal use. Yet he was treated as a criminal, fined under the legislation and put in jail. That is just wrong in too many ways.
We hear all these exclamations that because of the gun registry, we have seen a reduction in gun-related crimes. We know for a fact that gun-related crimes, gun-related accidents and suicides that happen with firearms and long guns in particular, have been on the decline since the 1970s.
We know for a fact that the massive reduction in accidental shootings dates from the previous Conservative government, when Kim Campbell, the Minister of Justice, brought in the first bill to introduce the firearms acquisition certificates and required safe storage and handling and that firearms owners take firearms safety courses. These shootings could have been by kids playing with guns that had not been locked up or stored properly, or as a result of people not having been properly trained and shootings happening accidentally on hunting excursions. Since then there has been a real difference in the number of accidents, the number of suicides and the number of crimes committed with long guns. That is because firearms owners have been getting the proper training. They have been storing and locking up and handling their handguns properly. That is an educational measure that has nothing to do with the long gun registry itself.
We will be continuing with the licensing requirement for gun owners. That has not changed in the last 20 to 25 years. That will stay in place. To be a licensed firearms owner, a person must have taken a firearm safety course. I took my hunting safety course back in 1977 when I was 13 or 14 years old. It was because of that training that I properly handle my firearms and properly store them under lock and key.
I never registered any of my firearms. I refused to do so as my act of civil disobedience. Thanks to the Province of Manitoba, I was never treated as a criminal per se, but as I have explained times in and outside this House, I have refused to register my long guns.
Let us really be clear about the statistics. There have been a lot of numbers thrown around. In 2003 in Vancouver, one of the hotbeds of gun crime, over 97% of the firearms collected on the streets that entire year were not registered. Criminals do not register their firearms. We have stated that over and over again. We know that criminals use handguns. Handguns, under the current legislation, will still be registered and have been since 1925. That will not change.
Targeting law-abiding citizens like long gun owners is a waste of tax dollars, a waste of police time, and a waste of public service time administering a registry that does nothing to prevent any gun crimes.
Since the 1970s, the number of murders committed with guns, that is, the murder rate by long guns or any firearm for that matter, has been 1.9 murders per year per 100,000 people. If we compare that with the population of registered firearms owners, that number goes down to 0.38 murders per 100,000 people.
The most law-abiding people in this country are licensed firearms owners, so why are we making them look like criminals? Professor Gary Mauser looked at all murders since 1997. Less than 2% of them were committed by firearms owners, and out of those licensed firearms owners, only 1.2% of the murders were done with registered firearms. It comes down to the fact that it is not guns that kill people, but people who kill people, and we have to target them.
Just to summarize, the NDP and the Liberals have stated over and over again that they want the gun registry. If they ever have a chance to come back into power, they will bring back the gun registry.
I criticize the member for Western Arctic and the member for Churchill, who campaigned saying, “Vote for me. I will vote to get rid of the long gun registry”. Yet they reversed themselves at second reading and voted, along with their colleagues, to kill our bill to end the long gun registry once and for all.
I thank the members for Thunder Bay—Superior North and Thunder Bay—Rainy River for standing up against their party leadership and voting for their constituents, helping to ensure that we get rid of this long gun registry once and for all. They have been sanctioned and silenced, and their constituents do not have a voice in this House of Commons because of that NDP leadership. However, they deserve to be given all the accolades in the world for allowing the grassroots to speak to them and for carrying their voice back here into the House of Commons.
Ms. Candice Hoeppner (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to be the final Conservative member of Parliament to speak in favour of ending the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.
I am also very pleased to work on behalf of law-abiding firearms owners in this country who use firearms for legitimate purposes. They are not criminals. They have never been criminals. They contribute so much to our country. They love this land. I am honoured to stand here on their behalf and to work hard for these good Canadians.
We have been discussing this important issue for 17 years and I am pleased to report that the end is finally in sight. In a very short time we will vote for the very last time on the future of this wasteful and ineffective measure, and it has been wasteful and ineffective on all counts.
CBC has reported it cost over $2 billion to implement the long gun registry. Every individual, every party, every group, no matter what side of the debate they are on, acknowledges that $2 billion is far too much money. It has been a waste of money. Members should think of what we could have done with $2 billion in terms of helping young people, helping individuals and young people who might be involved in gang activity, putting more police on the street, helping victims of violence. All of us could suggest a positive contribution in terms of helping our country to reduce violence with $2 billion. However, setting up a long gun registry which targets law-abiding Canadians and makes them criminals has been a complete waste.
Throughout this entire time and even while studying the file before I became a member of Parliament, there has never been one example, there has not been one instance, there has been absolutely no proof that the long gun registry has done anything to reduce violence or to stop a single gun crime. That is why the long gun registry must go. That is why it will go.
I would like to thank the member for Yorkton—Melville. He truly is the elder statesman on this issue. Even before ordinary Canadians had caught on to the systemic problem that is the long gun registry, he was fighting to have it abolished.
One of the issues that gets people in my riding very upset, and rightly so, is the long gun registry. All of us have heard loud and clear from our constituents on this issue. When the majority of us on this side of the House go back to our ridings, we are asked questions all the time. I just did a series of town hall meetings throughout my riding. The questions that came up all the time were: when are we going to get rid of the long gun registry and when is it going to end. Finally we can say that the end is near. The final vote will happen in the House tonight.
Frankly, the Liberal introduction of this nonsensical policy is the reason that many of us are here today.
In the last Parliament I introduced a private member's bill to end the long gun registry that only targets law-abiding hunters, farmers and sports shooters. At that time we came within a hair's breadth of ending the long gun registry with Bill C-391. We were all disappointed to see it defeated.
Unfortunately, some individuals on the other side of the House broke faith with their constituents. They told their constituents they would vote to end the long gun registry but they did not. Instead, they voted in the interests of their party bosses.
However, every cloud has a silver lining. We decided that we might have lost a battle but we were determined that we would not lose the war. We made an effort to get out and talk to Canadians. We knew that we needed a majority government. We needed a mandate from Canadians in order to end the wasteful long gun registry, and that is exactly what we received.
Listening to Michael Ignatieff's demands that all Liberals vote to keep on criminalizing law-abiding gun owners meant that we exchanged Liberal Larry Bagnell for the Conservative member for Yukon. It meant that we exchanged Liberal Anthony Rota for the Conservative member for Nipissing—Timiskaming. It meant that we exchanged Liberal Mark Holland for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, the Conservative MP for Ajax—Pickering. They were great trades.
It was not only the Liberals who lost. Listening to the big union bosses in the backroom of the NDP did not work out so well for some of those members either.
The good people of Sault Ste. Marie made what some would call an MP upgrade from Tony Martin to the Conservative member for Sault Ste. Marie.
I would encourage members on the other side to remember this: It was not only the Conservatives who campaigned to end the long gun registry during the most recent election. Many NDP candidates from rural and remote parts of Canada made the same promise.
For example, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who has his eye on the big chair in the front row, said:
|| I have always said that when there was a clear opportunity to vote to scrap the long-gun registry I would do just that.
Someone who wants to be leader of the opposition needs to be honest and straightforward with Canadians, so I encourage the member to stand by his words when he votes tonight. The member will have a clear opportunity in a few short minutes.
Also, just a few short months ago in the most recent election, the member for Western Arctic stood in a church in downtown Yellowknife and in an all candidates debate told everyone, “Vote for me. Vote for the Conservatives. It's the same. We will both vote to end the long gun registry”.
I hope the member stands by his words tonight. He is right. The Conservatives will vote to end the long gun registry. As some of his colleagues on the other side found out last year, Canadians do have a long memory when it comes to broken promises. Canadians will not forget the promises that unfortunately were broken by their MPs.
Let us look at the facts. Whether it has been in coffee shops, in hockey arenas, over kitchen tables, or in the House of Commons, the debate on this issue has been going on for years and every side has been heard. Myths have been perpetuated, such as that the police use the long gun registry 17,000 times a day. That is beyond ridiculous. That myth has been corrected. We have heard time and time again in testimony that front-line officers do not use the registry. They cannot count on the data. It is a useless system. They know they cannot depend on it. They would rather see resources go to help them do their job.
Another myth is that the long gun registry is gun control and it stops crime and domestic violence. That myth is very disturbing to me. The long gun registry has nothing to do with gun control because it has no way of actually stopping individuals from acquiring firearms. Because of that, it cannot stop or intervene in domestic violence.
We need to speak honestly about gun crime, how people get guns, and why they should not have guns. We need to make sure we have laws that actually keep guns out of the hands of people who are dangerous. It is a myth which throughout the debate we have been able to straighten out.
We have discussed every angle of the long gun registry. Thankfully, everyone has had a chance to be heard. Canadians know where they stand on this issue. We believe it is behind us, their government. We believe this because every single Conservative candidate from downtown Vancouver to northern Manitoba, to the suburbs of Toronto, to the Maritimes stood and told Canadians that he or she believed the time had come to end the useless long gun registry. Because of that, Canadians gave us the strong mandate to keep our promises. That is exactly what we said we would do and that is exactly what we will do.
I encourage all members today to think about the wishes of their constituents. I encourage them to think about rural Canadians and those who live in remote parts of this country, Canadians who use their firearms every day as tools to do their work, whether that be on their farms or to hunt for food. As my colleagues have pointed out, these are law-abiding Canadians who are less likely to commit a crime with a gun than the rest of us who do not own firearms.
I encourage members to think about all of these people and the facts, and vote in support of ending the long gun registry once and for all. I look forward to this bill going to the other place and being passed into law as soon as possible.
It has been an honour and a privilege to stand up for the people of Portage—Lisgar, for law-abiding long gun owners in this country, and for the Conservative colleagues with whom I work.
Mr. Nathan Cullen:
Mr. Speaker, I think the danger presented here right now is that of a government that has become drunk on its own majority power. It is refusing to listen to the reason that has been presented to it time and time again.
I will give the government three sources. The opposition moved amendments throughout this process that would ensure the protection of law-abiding Canadians and gun owners, even through the passage of the bill. Police forces in this country have lobbied long and hard, as have victim groups, for the government to listen to reason. I actually had a moment of belief, of hope over experience with the government, that it would find its way to a path of reasonableness and allow the amendments that were necessary in the bill. These are amendments and ideas that the government used to believe in a short time ago.
If the Conservatives will not listen to police groups, victim groups or opposition parties, perhaps they will listen to their own legislation, their own government. In 2006, there was an amendment that was key in the previous bill. It said:
||... that this measure would help ensure that guns did not get into the hands of individuals who should not have them, such as convicted criminals, and assist investigators in identifying the owners of stolen firearms or in conducting criminal investigations.
What was this amendment about? It was about the licensing and verification of a gun when it gets transferred from one owner to a new owner. This was an element that the parliamentary secretary for public safety had in her bill short months ago. Why did the government take that out when, by its own reasoning, there is a need to verify when a gun is transferred from one person to another?
As any gun owner would tell us, one used to have to verify whether the person one was giving the gun to was lawfully entitled to own a gun, that the person was not in a criminal gang, had no previous criminal record and no record of mental history. That is why one would have had to phone the chief firearms inspector. That was in the bill. That was the bill I voted for. That is the bill my constituents wanted me to vote for.
However, this is a fundamental change without reason from the government. There has not been a single ounce of evidence as to why the government would make such a fundamental switch. This is something that protects gun owners and the public. When a gun is transferred from one owner to another, there must be some verification process that goes on to make sure that the person who newly owns the gun is legally entitled to own it. That was all it did. Yet there is not a Conservative member who said here in the House, at committee or publicly, why this important condition was stripped out.
The Conservatives have also said that they had a mandate to destroy the records. Of course they did not. A mandate comes from a set of promises made during an election. There was no promise to do such a thing.
The list in world history of governments that have knowingly destroyed records is a very short list. Governments that have gone forward and destroyed public records encapsulate the worst of western democratic and non-democratic societies. I do not know why the government wants to put itself on that list.
In fact, in order to destroy these records the Conservatives have to change Canadian law to do it. The law of Canada says that the destruction of public records is against the virtues and values of this country. That is a good virtue. It is a good value.
When we moved amendments at committee to restore things that had existed in Bill C-391, the bill that had been presented and supported assiduously by this member, the government refused every single amendment, yet did not offer a reason. It did not offer examples or cause.
I will quote from the bill that was moved by the parliamentary secretary who just spoke. In paragraph 23(1)(c):
|| In the case of a transfer to an individual, the transferor verifies the validity of the transferee's Firearms Licence with the Canada Firearms Centre, and obtains a reference number for the inquiry.
That was in Bill C-391. It was an important condition because it protected the gun owner and it protected society. That is why it was there. How do we know that? The Conservative government said that was why it was there. Why take that provision out? Why take the protection out? It makes no sense.
On classification, under the bill we looked through the records as to what guns would be reclassified: a .50 calibre sniper rifle that can kill at two and a half kilometres. It is not the hunting weapon that my constituents use. They do not hunt with .50 calibre weapons. They do not shoot their target from two and a half kilometres.
The gun that is now going to be put into public use, again with a transfer from one individual to another without any certification at all, is a weapon that has recorded the longest shot kill in human history. Another weapon has been classified by the manufacturer as an urban assault weapon that can be modified into a 30-clip engagement weapon. These are not things that farmers and hunters use. These are not the things that my constituents have been asking for.
New Democrats pleaded with the government. We moved amendments that were based on the government's own legislation. We said this was the time to get it right. We knew this was going to happen. Conservatives have a majority, I congratulate them, but they need to get it right. They should not put gun owners and citizens at risk because they are not willing to listen to the experts and abide by their own legislation that was good enough to vote on eight months ago. Now, suddenly, there is a change of heart without reason and I worry.
I am concerned that in its efforts, speed and expediency to pass this bill in its present form without any changes, not a period or comma, the government will cause harm. It will cause harm to the law-abiding citizens of this country, police officers who serve us so proudly and gun owners right across this land. It is a shame.