Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Maria Mourani Profile
2015-05-29 10:03 [p.14331]
Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to speak to Bill C-42, which would amend the Firearms Act, the Criminal Code and the Customs Act, thereby changing the legislation governing firearms licences and the transport and classification of firearms and limiting the powers of provincial and territorial chief firearms officers.
I do not have enough time to discuss all of the provisions in this bill, so I will focus on two specific elements.
First, what baffles me about this bill is that it gives the Minister of Public Safety the power to decide how to classify firearms.
Basically, if memory serves, in 2014, after conducting an analysis that got a lot of press, the RCMP decided to reclassify Swiss Arms Classic Green and CZ858 firearms. These firearms were originally classified as restricted, but the RCMP reclassified them as prohibited. Why? Because the RCMP determined that these firearms could easily be converted into automatic weapons.
What did we find out a few weeks later? We found out that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness was not very happy about that decision and granted an amnesty for individuals who already owned those guns. Then, to ensure that such a situation does not happen again, since the minister did not have the power to reverse the decision, he introduced Bill C-42 to grant himself those powers.
At this time, all ammunition and firearms, regardless of the type of gun, whether prohibited or not, are classified by the RCMP, then approved by the minister. When the RCMP makes a decision, the minister cannot reverse that decision.
Furthermore, standards governing the classification of new products—in other words, new guns—the modification of firearms or ammunition, and even the review of information on classification are set out in the Criminal Code. Bill C-42 grants the minister another new power whereby, by regulation of course, and through exceptions, the minister can determine on his own, in his infinite wisdom, how firearms will be classified, obviously bypassing the RCMP and the Criminal Code.
What does this mean, in concrete terms? This means that the minister could decide, by regulation, to classify guns that would normally fit the definition of a prohibited or restricted weapon as non-restricted firearms. He could even decide that weapons that are normally prohibited could be restricted or non-restricted. He could therefore decide that even automatic weapons could be classified as restricted or non-restricted. Basically, this bill puts the power to decide whether a weapon should be prohibited in Canada into the hands of a politician, the public safety minister.
If the RCMP no longer has a say in firearms classification, then who is going to advise the minister? The RCMP is the appropriate body to do so and has the experience with firearms, having seen a few. Is the firearms lobby going to advise the minister as to whether or not a firearm is prohibited? Will Gary Mauser, their big expert they keep talking about here in the House, step in? He wrote a very good book that I invite my colleagues to read, entitled “Manipulating Public Opinion”. I do not know whether there is a link between public opinion and guns, but there could be because we have been watching the Conservatives since 2006 and they are pretty good at manipulating public opinion. In that sense, I have to hand it to them that Mr. Mauser is a good advisor.
That brings me to the next point. Currently, the provincial and territorial chief firearms officers are responsible for implementing the Firearms Act and setting standards for licences and authorizations to carry and transport, transfers of firearms, and record keeping.
This bill would limit by regulation the authority of the chief firearms officer. The premier of Quebec and also Mr. Fournier are completely opposed to the bill. Thus, Quebec is opposed to the bill, but it is not the first time that this government has not listened to the provinces.
If this government is really concerned about public safety and wants to do something intelligent about it, it should instead quickly implement the firearms marking regulations, which it has delayed since 2006. I have been closely following this file since 2006. Firearms marking would make it possible for us to know where firearms in Canada are coming from. Information such as the place or date of manufacture, the manufacturer and the series number is described in detail in the regulations.
It is ridiculous that we currently have marked firearms in Canada because of the United States. It is not a Canadian government initiative, but a U.S. initiative that has led to the mandatory marking of firearms by the manufacturer. The U.S. honours the contracts and agreements it signs with other countries. We have still not implemented that decree, and we do not always honour the agreements that we have signed. We have delayed this one every year.
We have the U.S. government to thank for the fact that some of the firearms that come into Canada are marked, since they come across that border. However, some firearms that come in through channels other than the U.S. border and from some European countries are not marked. Unmarked firearms are extremely difficult to track, so they are the most tempting to the criminal world.
I listened to the debate on Monday, and I have been listening to the Conservatives talk about firearms since 2006. They always talk about the illegal trafficking of firearms. We all agree that we need to combat the illegal trafficking of firearms, but if firearms are unmarked, how can we start to combat illegal trafficking?
Here is a little lesson in criminology: marking is a theft prevention mechanism. A marked firearm is easier to track and is therefore less attractive to criminals. Furthermore, marking is also used to protect firearm owners. Marking is certainly necessary in the fight against gun trafficking, but border controls are also important.
Let us have a little criminology 101.1 lesson: 80% of illegal weapons in Canada come through the United States. The Internet gives people access to all sorts of ways of buying weapons and bringing them to Canada. Nevertheless, since 2006, this government has done nothing but cut the CBSA's budget and shut down a number of border crossings in the regions. The CBSA's budget for 2014-15 will be cut by $143 million. That means that 1,351 jobs will be cut, including those of 325 border officers and about a hundred intelligence officers.
If we want to crack down on the smuggling of firearms, we simply need to allow our agencies to trace these weapons and stop the traffickers. If there is no one at our border crossings and cuts are being made, we are not going to be able to solve this problem.
In closing, I would like to show how ridiculous this situation is. The Conservatives are passing laws that will put more prohibited weapons in circulation. They still have not done anything regarding firearms marking, and they are cutting the CBSA's budget. Then they are wondering why there are illegal firearms in Canada.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague, and there might have been some information in there that I do not believe to be quite accurate.
As I understand, the United States did not actually ratify the treaty. I also understand that every single imported firearm has unique identifiers. I would hope she would ensure that this is clarified, because I understand that to be the accurate information in terms of both unique identification and treaty ratification.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Maria Mourani Profile
2015-05-29 10:14 [p.14332]
Mr. Speaker, perhaps my colleague and I do not have the same information. The information that I have clearly indicates that the United States has ratified the agreements and that the weapons that are arriving from the United States are marked by the manufacturers. We therefore have all of the information we need when a weapon crosses the border between the United States and Canada. That is the information I have. If my colleague has something different, then I would be pleased to exchange information with her.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2015-05-29 10:15 [p.14332]
Mr. Speaker, the member raised issues such as marking and serial numbers and the importance of being able to track. Does she have a sense of how we would record this? How would we know that serial number X goes to person Y?
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Maria Mourani Profile
2015-05-29 10:15 [p.14332]
Mr. Speaker, that is a good question and a very complex one. My understanding of the process is that if Canada were to issue an order for firearms marking, for example, and if manufacturers complied, the manufacturer's name, the serial number, the date of manufacture and the importing country would be engraved on the firearm. All of that information comes from the manufacturer.
Suppose a crime is committed and the weapon is found at the scene of the crime. The RCMP told me that if the weapon is marked by the manufacturer, it is easier for officers to trace that weapon because they use international databases. They can contact Interpol and a number of other international agencies to find out where the firearm was made and trace it from the manufacturer to the buyer. That is why it is important to issue that order. That would enable Canadian authorities to know who manufactured a firearm, when and where, regardless of the country it was intended for or who made it. That would apply to all firearms, not just those from the United States. For example, we would know if it was sent from Russia to the United States and ended up in Canada. We would be able to trace it. That makes police investigations much easier, and that is what police officers want.
View Denis Blanchette Profile
View Denis Blanchette Profile
2015-05-29 10:17 [p.14332]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. She talked a lot about marking as a tool that could help us, probably because it could help with prevention. However, it is difficult to obtain.
I wonder if she could comment further on what other elements, besides marking, could help us be able to trace firearms and give our police forces the most effective means to combat crime.
View Maria Mourani Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Maria Mourani Profile
2015-05-29 10:18 [p.14333]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Marking is indeed a very important tool. Not only does it allow police to trace a gun, but more importantly, it makes that gun less appealing to criminals. A marked gun can be traced, and therefore criminals will not want it because they too can then be traced.
As for other methods, we did have another tool, but it no longer exists. That was the gun registry. Unfortunately, our colleagues across the aisle did everything in their power beginning in 2006 to destroy that registry, which contained very specific information, besides marking, of course. The information included the number of weapons in a residence, the owner of a weapon and the owner's address. With a few keystrokes, police officers would know how many guns were located at a given address. That was important for intervention. It was another way to prevent crime, because criminals were not interested in stealing guns from their owners' residences, because the guns were in a registry. That tool is gone. The registry died and its carcass is still smoldering. I heard my colleagues speaking on Monday, and I do not think the NDP has the power to bring it back yet.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to note that I will be splitting my time with the member for Sault Ste. Marie.
It is certainly an honour for me to stand to address Bill C-42, the common sense firearms licensing act. This is a matter that is very important to a large group of people in the riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.
Before I speak to this bill and some of the specifics, I want to say that as members of Parliament we represent Canadians and our constituency, but we are also here to make decisions for all Canadians. One of the things about making decisions for Canadians is to recognize that there are many differences. Whether it is in regard to the lobster fishery in Prince Edward Island, the transit needs in some of our urban settings, or the common sense that some of our rural communities want, it is incumbent on us to try to understand the desires of the constituents, to respect and reflect that in terms of our culture and heritage, and to have a very common sense and practical approach to the things we put in place.
In this case, the only party that our law-abiding firearms owners can count on to ensure their rights are protected and respected is our Conservative government. We have seen a succession of Liberal governments design policies that treat firearms owners as criminals. This bill represents a balanced approach that would see to it that lawbreakers are punished but that law-abiding firearms owners are rewarded, by cutting the red tape.
I want to reflect a bit on the differences among the parties. Certainly the New Democrats have a paradoxical approach to this in terms of the civilian ownership of firearms. We have many members of the NDP who represent rural areas, from Timmins—James Bay, Thunder Bay—Rainy River, Churchill, Sudbury to many others. In their hearts, they clearly knew what their constituents wanted, but they were unwilling to represent their views, especially when it came to the long gun registry. That is an important example.
The member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River told the local radio station that he was ready to break party ranks again if it came to it, that he was ready to draw the line in the sand. However, he did not. It is important to know that the NDP leader was unequivocal, that if he were to form government, he would bring in something that would allow police to track every gun in Canada. He would bring back the long gun registry.
Although the member for Timmins—James Bay tried to reassure his constituents by stating “We're not talking about going back to get every single gauge shotgun up in the attic put into some kind of registry”, it is clear that this is not the case. It is clear that is what the intention is, and that is what the New Democrats' votes reflected when it came to getting rid of the long gun registry.
Of course, the leader is not the only one who is focused on this crusade. The member for Newton—North Delta, for instance, claimed it is bizarre that in the common sense firearms licensing act there would be a six-month grace period when someone's licence expires. This means that the member is perfectly comfortable with turning forgetful Canadians into full-blown criminals. They could face years in prison, even though they are law-abiding citizens who have done due diligence and followed the rules up to the point that they missed the deadline for renewing their licences.
I do not know that there is anyone in this House who has not had car insurance or house insurance, or a gun licence, expire. Does that make them criminals because they miss a deadline? According to the member for Newton—North Delta, it absolutely does. It has to be clear that this grace period would be for protecting law-abiding Canadian citizens.
These people have nothing to do with the gang members in the member's riding. They are people like us who might not have renewed their car insurance. Under the proposed legislation, individuals would not be allowed to purchase new firearms or ammunition, or even use their firearms during that time, but they would not become an overnight criminal as a result of a simple honest mistake.
That truly is common sense, in the same sense that people who forget to renew their car insurance are hopefully not driving their cars because it could be an issue. It is the same with this, but the person is not a criminal.
The legislation treats actual lawbreakers accordingly. It would make firearms prohibition mandatory for serious crimes of domestic violence. We believe that the best indicator of future criminal behaviour is past criminal behaviour. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all those convicted of spousal homicide have a previous history of domestic violence. Hence, it only makes sense to add these prohibitions. It is a very common sense approach.
This legislation would also require that first-time gun owners receive basic firearms safety training. That is absolutely sensible. I do not know that anyone in the opposition should disagree with that. However, opposition members cannot seem to agree among themselves that the long gun registry was ineffective and wasteful, so it is not surprising that even firearms safety training for first-time gun owners would be hard to agree on.
The legislation would also create powers for an elected government to overturn bad classification decisions by the Canadian firearms program. Mistakes have been made, and there needs to be a way to correct them in a way that is respectful of firearms owners. Clearly, the first of such measures would be to return the Swiss Arms family of rifles and the CZ 858 to the classifications they had prior to February 25, 2014.
People have spent their hard-earned money to buy either Swiss Arms rifle or others, and it makes no sense to turn them into criminals overnight. Again, opposition members seemed to think that was okay to do. It was crushing to people who had done the right thing, the legal thing, under a government bureaucratic decision. I do not see how anyone can believe that this reclassification, which changes and devalues people's firearms, is okay.
What would this do? It would end the arbitrary authority given to chief firearms officers. The previous rules have resulted in a nonsensical patchwork across the country. Does it make any sense that it was different between Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario? We need some harmonized standards.
There are eight elements to this bill. We call it the common sense firearms licensing act because there are issues around protection and common sense. This is important to the constituents in my riding.
I had an opportunity to speak to the bill at second reading, and in that speech I relayed that had I only ever lived in an urban setting, I would not have understood the importance of this. I talked about a couple of personal examples in my life, where the farmers who live near me had some life-saving interventions in terms of a cougar and another incident. I would ask people who live in urban areas to try to understand what it means to people in rural areas.
I will be presenting a petition later today, which to me makes some sense. It is not part of this legislation, but it talks about people who spend a lot of time in the woods. We hear about cougar and bear attacks. There is very restricted ability under the Firearms Act in terms of what licensed handgun owners can do. That is perhaps something that we can look at in the future.
I could go on, but the fact is that this legislation would cut red tape for law-abiding firearms owners and punish those who break the law. That is what Canadians expect. Our government has and will continue to stand up for the rights of law-abiding firearms owners while enhancing public safety.
View Dennis Bevington Profile
View Dennis Bevington Profile
2015-05-29 10:29 [p.14334]
Mr. Speaker, I do not mind speaking to the bill, although I find that the Conservative position on this is sometimes rather odd.
I was one of the NDP who voted for the first private member's bill that was going to eliminate the long gun registry, so I am speaking from a position of having done that. However, I did not support when the Conservatives would not amend the new bill, because they were destroying the data. Basically, by allowing provinces to have the right to do what they want with firearms, the Conservatives would take firearms out from under the classification of the Criminal Code and put them into civil code. This means that infractions under civil code would not make people criminals, which is a very distinct difference here.
However, I want to talk about safe storage. Over the last 30 years, the best thing that has happened for firearms, in my mind, is safe storage. It means that guns are not available to be used by someone other than the owner or in disputes, which means that we save lives.
Does my colleague not agree that continuing to provide safe storage of firearms is one of the most important aspects of our laws?
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, this bill absolutely continues to ensure safe storage. It is critical, and the bill does maintain that.
I have been in a rural community for many years, and I know how the constituents in my riding feel about the long gun registry, Bill C-42, and indeed perhaps some other adjustments that could be made. I think that if the member for the Northwest Territories were to reflect the wishes of his constituency, not only would he have voted to get rid of the long gun registry, he would be voting for Bill C-42.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2015-05-29 10:32 [p.14334]
Mr. Speaker, within the legislation, as has been pointed out during the debates, there is a significant change in the way in which guns would be put on the prohibited list, and there is a great deal of concern by Canadians that the government is politicizing it.
Prior to this, we had the professional organization, the RCMP, who had a very good sense of what the community was thinking on the potential benefits and drawbacks of certain weapons with the current system. It could always use some improvement, but the government took the responsibility away from the RCMP in terms of how a weapon or gun would be listed.
Does the member have any concern that we are politicizing something that need not be politicized and that is what Bill C-42 would in fact be doing?
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, we are not politicizing anything. However, I would ask the hon. member if he thinks it was okay to reclassify the Swiss arms family of weapons? People who had bought something in good faith, who had significant value invested in terms of that purchase, were turned into criminals overnight.
We have tried to create a balance in terms of ensuring that as we move forward the reclassifications would have a good, thoughtful, rounded process.
View Bryan Hayes Profile
View Bryan Hayes Profile
2015-05-29 10:33 [p.14335]
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise in the House today to speak in favour of Bill C-42, the common sense firearms licensing act. As its name suggests, it would restore a good deal of common sense to our firearms laws.
For too long, hunters and sports shooters have been treated like criminals for simply wanting to take part in their hobby. These activities are a shared part of our Canadian heritage, and a huge part of my northern Ontario heritage. Although I did not move to northern Ontario until the age of 23, I did not realize how huge a part of the heritage it was until it came time for moose, deer and bird hunting season. Life in northern Ontario really revolves around that, the drive to get that moose tag, and the number of American visitors who come to northern Ontario to take part in that, as well as the number of Torontonians who come to northern Ontario in the hopes of bagging a moose. Therefore, it is an incredible part of our heritage.
It is shameful that decades of previous Liberal governments took steps to try to dissuade people from becoming involved in these activities, whether through needless red tape, the possibility of jail time for good faith errors or processes that stigmatized. These measures did nothing at all to keep Canadians safe. I am proud to be part of a government that rejects this idea and has adopted a safe and sensible approach to firearms policies.
What precisely does this mean? It means that we crack down on dangerous criminals who use guns to commit crimes. That is why we have passed tough new measures to combat drive-by shootings. It also means that we reduce needless burdens for those Canadians who work hard and pay by the rules. That is why we ended the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry once and for all.
It is clear that our approach is working. According to Statistics Canada, the firearms homicide rate in Canada is at its lowest point in nearly 50 years. There has been a 30% decline in the rate of handgun homicides since 2008. In fact, in the year after the gun registry was ended, firearms crime was down by more than 80% in Toronto. This is a strong record of which our Conservative government can be proud. The commons sense firearms act builds on that strong record.
There are three strong measures that will improve public safety.
First and foremost, firearms prohibition orders will be strengthened for those convicted of domestic violence offences. It is clear that having a firearm in a volatile situation like that is dangerous. This change makes good—
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2015-05-29 10:37 [p.14335]
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Could you inform the House as to what the quorum requirements are for the House on Friday?
View Joe Comartin Profile
View Joe Comartin Profile
2015-05-29 10:37 [p.14335]
They are the same as they are every other day of the week. Is the member calling for a quorum call?
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