Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Barry Devolin Profile
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Brandon—Souris.
View Larry Maguire Profile
View Larry Maguire Profile
2015-04-02 10:07 [p.12687]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak in support of the common-sense firearms licensing act, Bill C-42. This important legislation highlights our Conservative government's commitment to firearms policies that are safe and sensible.
This is a theme that is seen throughout the bill, and it is a theme that has been at the heart of how our government deals with issues related to firearms. In other words, we believe that we should punish lawbreakers, but we should reduce red tape for law-abiding Canadians.
I would like to briefly highlight the eight changes contained in this important legislation, but first I would like to give some context as to how we arrived at the situation we are in today.
While a variety of permits and documents to possess firearms have existed in Canada since 1892, licensing in the context that today's Canadians would recognize did not begin until 1979. The firearms acquisition certificate system existed until it was amended by the previous Liberal government in 1995.
Bill C-68 created the Firearms Act, which put new and onerous requirements on the licensing and transportation of firearms. This same Liberal bill also created the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.
Following our Conservative government's election in 2006, we immediately took action to make sure that no one could be prosecuted for being in possession of an unregistered long gun. We also took action to end the needless Liberal gun-show regulations. We deferred and are examining the repeal of the UN firearms marking regulations.
After many years of work, we ended the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry once and for all. Following an inappropriate and unacceptable decision made by unelected bureaucrats, our government took action to restore the property rights of law-abiding owners of Swiss Arms and CZ858 rifles.
It is clear that we are taking safe and sensible firearms licensing seriously, and that brings us to the important common-sense legislation before us today.
As I stated earlier, there are eight key measures in this legislation. As I have said, these measures are safe and sensible, and the bill could be broken down along those lines.
We are bringing forward measures that will keep Canada safe.
We will require all first-time gun owners to receive basic firearms safety training.
We will create a system for the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency, the CBSA, to share information on firearms smuggling investigations. Shockingly, thanks to loopholes in the Liberals' Firearms Act, these law enforcement agencies are barred from working together. This has led to literally thousands of firearms making their way into the black market and into the hands of thugs and criminals. Sharing would occur under Bill C-42.
We will make firearms prohibitions 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. Taking firearms out of these volatile situations just makes good common sense.
To that end, we are also making firearms laws more sensible for law-abiding Canadians who work hard and play by the rules. We will streamline licensing by merging the possession-only licence and the possession-and-acquisition licence. This would give new purchasing rights to 600,000 experienced firearms owners.
We will end the needless paperwork around the authorization to transport a restricted firearm. No longer will law-abiding sports shooters need to fill out endless reams of paperwork to do something their licences ought to have authorized them to do.
We will put a six-month grace period at the end of the five-year firearms licence. One will not be allowed to purchase new firearms or ammunition, or even use one's firearms during that time, but a person will not become an overnight paper criminal as a result of a simple, honest mistake.
We would end the broad and often arbitrary discretionary authority given to chief firearms officers. The Firearms Act is a Canadian law, and we believe that there ought to be similar standards from coast to coast to coast. Rules and procedures differing vastly between Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario is completely unacceptable, as is the troubling trend of unelected officials trying to make policy on the fly without consulting Parliament, and from time to time, by directly confronting Parliament.
Last, but certainly not least, we would create powers for the elected government to overturn incorrect classification decisions made by the Canadian firearms program. On the advice of independent experts, we will take steps to make sure that all decisions made regarding issues that impact the property rights of Canadians make good common sense. I can assure the House and all Canadians that the first of such measures would be to return the Swiss Arms family of rifles and the CZ858 to the classifications they had prior to February 25, 2014.
These measures are safe and sensible. We can see that from the broad support they have received. Front-line police officers are supportive. Police chiefs are supportive. Hunting groups are supportive. Sport shooting groups are supportive. I would like to quote the Manitoba Wildlife Federation, which said:
We support smart, cost effective firearms policy that keeps Canadians safe, but treats gun owners fairly. We applaud the [Conservative] Government’s ongoing efforts to streamline firearms licensing in Canada to make it more effective and efficient.
Unfortunately, the other parties disagree. The NDP leader takes a different position on this issue, depending on whether he is in rural or urban Canada. Most recently, he said that he believed that the long-gun registry was useful. However, the Liberals take the cake when the member for Malpeque makes process arguments about who ought to be making decisions, which is simply a ruse to cover the real views of his party. Consider the quote from the member for Trinity—Spadina, who said that “emotional arguments” from firearms enthusiasts are not enough of a reason to justify the sale of ammunition. Can members believe that? The member would do away with the entire hunting and sport shooting industry in Canada in one fell swoop. We cannot allow that sort of reckless move to happen in Canada.
I can assure the House that our Conservative government will always stand up for the rights of law-abiding hunters, farmers, and sport shooters. I hope that all parties will support this legislation.
View Tyrone Benskin Profile
View Tyrone Benskin Profile
2015-04-02 10:15 [p.12688]
Mr. Speaker, during his speech, the member basically said that the law should be simplified and that certain unelected individuals, such as firearms control individuals and the police, should not have the right to control gun ownership laws.
This is a vast country, with different needs and very different attitudes about everything across it. I wonder if my colleague discounts the fact that the people on the ground have a better idea of how certain things affect their community. Should they not be in a position to say, “This is a problem in this community. It may not be in another community, but it is a problem in this community”? I wonder if he would like to answer that question.
View Larry Maguire Profile
View Larry Maguire Profile
2015-04-02 10:17 [p.12688]
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague makes a very good point. That is why this bill is receiving so much support, as I said, from police officers, police chiefs, hunting groups, and sport shooting groups.
We always want to be cognizant of making sure that people are safe in their communities, and this legislation will not inhibit that at all. Those who are on the ground probably do have the most understanding of the situation in their small communities or in their cities, no matter where they are in Canada. That is why so many groups are so supportive of this common-sense legislation.
It is also why the changes have been made for the Swiss Arms family of rifles and the CZ858. They have certainly been proven to be weapons used for hunting and target shooting. That is why this is such a well-received bill.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2015-04-02 10:18 [p.12688]
Mr. Speaker, there are certain aspects of the legislation the Liberal Party supports. However, there are other areas about which we have some concerns.
The legislation would empower the ministry of the government of the day, through cabinet, to determine what classification a gun or rifle would have. I wonder if the member might explain to Canadians why he believes, or the government believes, that the government of the day and the minister responsible would be in a better position to determine what a restricted rifle is and what an unrestricted rifle is, for example, as opposed to having the current structure, where we have professionals who do that.
View Larry Maguire Profile
View Larry Maguire Profile
2015-04-02 10:19 [p.12688]
Mr. Speaker, I would reiterate what I said in my previous answer.
First of all, the safety of Canadians has to be paramount in any decisions that are made. Regarding the weapons described by my colleague, all of them still have to go through very restrictive and thorough examinations. In these two particular cases, the Swiss family of arms and the CZ858, they were thoroughly examined and scrutinized and obviously were found to be very safe.
The situation we were faced with over a year ago, on February 25, 2014, is certainly the reason the legislation before us is a more common sense type of legislation that has been brought forward. It is very effective and certainly does not inhibit our police forces from doing anything in regard to keeping the public safe.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
2015-04-02 10:20 [p.12688]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.
I am rising today to oppose Bill C-42 at second reading. I listened very carefully to the arguments being presented by the government, especially to my colleague who just spoke. I have not been persuaded by any arguments I have heard to date to support this piece of legislation, because I do not believe the bill would do what is being said it would do.
I am from the beautiful city of Surrey and my riding of Newton—North Delta over the last number of years has seen innumerable incidents of gun firings. Many times these are gang related. Just a few weeks ago over a 28-hour time frame we saw five, six, and then seven gang-related shootings. One can imagine that we are very sensitive when it comes to gun control, gun licensing, et cetera. We are also very concerned that the government has failed to deliver on its commitment for additional policing. We are not saying additional policing would take care of a lot of issues in my riding, but it is one of the components that would help, to have more men in serge out on the streets, keeping our streets safe.
As I was going through the bill, one of the first components that hit me was that we are looking at a grace period of six months when someone's licence expires. This seems so bizarre. For a gun owner it would still be perfectly okay for six months after one's licence expires. That would be legalized in this legislation. When my driver's licence expires, it expires on that date and I have to get it renewed beforehand. When my car insurance expires, I have to do that on time or there are huge fines. Here we have something unique being built in for firearms's licensing, a grace period of six months.
Also, we know that, when people go for renewal of their licence, we are not just talking about paperwork. Firearm owners are screened for mental health issues, which we know are fast growing in our country right now across all the age groups. It is also a way of gauging any potential risks to themselves or others, yet the government sees fit to give a six-month grace period. I am just so shocked by that.
Then I looked at firearms transportation. With the firearms licence, the government would be authorizing automatically, without any special permission having to be sought, which it was before, the transportation of prohibited or restricted firearms to and from any gun club, shooting range, police station, gun shop, gun show, and any point of exit from Canada. This measure alone could make it more difficult for police to crack down on unauthorized firearms and transportation of firearms. This is happening at the same time that the government is reducing the 2014-2015 Canada Border Services Agency operational budget by $143.3 million a year. At the same time that the government is cutting resources for the CBSA—and by the way to the police by $195.2 million—it is also relaxing the rules around the transportation of guns. This just seems totally bizarre.
The other concern I have is over the classification of firearms. I absolutely believe that this process needs to be depoliticized. It should not be in the hands of politicians. I love all my colleagues in the House. I have a great deal of respect for the work done by many, but really, do we want to give cabinet the final authority as the decision maker on classification of firearms? Should that not be done by experts and people in the field who know a lot more? Should it not be done by the RCMP, et cetera?
Once again, there is a great deal of concern that we have a government that is trying to put more power into the hands of cabinet ministers and therefore escape scrutiny. We have seen this in other pieces of legislation as well. This bill would basically transfer authority over definitions and classifications to cabinet rather than putting an emphasis on public safety.
Another power that would be limited is that of the provincial chief firearms officers. This bill would limit, by regulation, the powers of the provincial chief firearms officers to attach conditions to a licence or to the authorization to transport; in other words, local provincial officers' hands would be tied behind their backs. This would also prevent provinces from setting their chosen standards in the implementation of firearms legislation.
As we can see, this is just not good enough. My fear is that all of these changes would put at risk not only our communities but also our men and women in uniform who serve us. We have seen the government do this time and again. It does not put public safety first; rather, it puts political pandering to its lobby groups ahead of what is good for Canadians.
I would now like to talk to members about Inspector Garry Begg, who lives in Surrey, and who has done an amazing job of serving our community. His son served in our community as well. At this point, I would like to recognize the remarkable patriotism displayed by RCMP Corporal Shaun Begg, the commander of the RCMP detachment in Kaslo, B.C.
One day last week, Corporal Begg, who plays recreational hockey on a Kaslo team, journeyed with his teammates by helicopter high up into the Purcell Mountains to play a game of shinny 8,000 feet up. It was a spectacular day and Corporal Begg, who describes himself as a proud Mountie and an even prouder Canadian, donned his regimental red serge and famous stetson for a few shifts of the game. A teammate snapped a picture of Corporal Begg in full dress uniform bearing down for a shot on goal, and the rest is history. The picture was tweeted and is now being described as the “most Canadian photo ever”. Being viewed around the world, it now shines a bright light on all that is Canadian. I am sure that most members of the House have seen the photo and will join me in saluting Corporal Begg, a proud Mountie and a proud Canadian.
I want to reiterate that it is disturbing to me to have a government that is pandering to its lobby groups while failing to do the right thing, which is to protect Canadians. We know that the number of people who own handguns has increased incredibly. I understand the need with respect to hunters and farmers. We are not saying that no one should have guns, but we are saying that the kind of changes we are seeing in this legislation would do harm and would not bring peace to the streets of Surrey or to other communities.
The more I reflect on this piece of legislation, the more I am puzzled as to why a government that purports to be—and often states that it is—a crime-fighting kind of government would now bring in legislation that makes it easier for guns to be on the streets, while at the same time cutting resources to the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency so that we would have even less control over guns entering the country and have more relaxation with respect to the movement inside the country of weapons that can kill people.
View Gerry Ritz Profile
Mr. Speaker, there were so many things wrong in that speech that I am not sure where to start.
Let me begin with the complete misunderstanding of the bill by the New Democrats, whether they are doing that intentionally and trying to mislead Canadians or not. I do not know and I do not care. I am looking forward to next fall's election on this issue and running against my NDP candidate simply because of what they are saying.
There are no cuts, proposed or otherwise. There are actually budget increases to both the RCMP and border services for myriad different reasons, one of them being the influx of gun crime in this country, and of course, we have passed a lot of legislation to address that. Just because New Democrats have voted against it does not mean it is not being effective.
The other thing she talked about is why there would be a six-month grace period after a licence runs out, when her driver's licence expires on the day. The difference is a criminal charge that goes along with firearms registrations not being kept up.
She also talked about how unfortunate it is that we would allow the transport of firearms so easily. The point being made is that all people, including me, are qualified and certified to move firearms around in a way that is guaranteed to be safe.
There is so much misinformation in that speech, but I know Canadians are much smarter than that and see right through the NDP's stance.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
2015-04-02 10:32 [p.12690]
Mr. Speaker, I find the defence really amazing for giving a six-month grace period for a licence to hold a gun. I do not see how one could actually defend that in any way, because once a licence expires, it expires, and that is when, as I said previously—and maybe my colleague did not hear me—a mental health assessment is done, a psychological assessment is done, and a licence is renewed. Surely, we are not saying that all of those things are unnecessary.
Let me read a quote from a gun group, which actually agrees with the NDP. It reads:
Turning a blind eye to gun owners who do not comply with the licensing requirements will put police officers and the public at risk. It will also hamper police investigations and in some cases hamper prosecution of gun crimes.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2015-04-02 10:33 [p.12690]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to get the member's thoughts with regard to the timing of the legislation and the manner in which the legislation is being brought forward.
As we know, the government has instituted time allocation, once again, on a piece of legislation when there are differing types of opinions on both sides of the House. Yet we are being told that there is limited time and, in fact, it will end today after a couple of hours of debate.
The other issue is that here we are, once again, in an election year and we now have this particular issue being brought to the table. The bill was introduced late last fall, disappeared from the agenda, and then was put back on the agenda in the last couple of days, and the government is putting on a super rush to pass it.
I wonder if the member would like to comment with regard to the coincidence of having it in the lead-up to a federal election and the whole issue of time allocation.
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
2015-04-02 10:34 [p.12690]
Mr. Speaker, I think it is no surprise to anybody that we are in another time allocation, another attempt by my colleagues across the way to shut down debate. They cannot say that they are short of time because, as my colleague just said, they have had since October and have not been in a hurry to bring this legislation forward.
However, yesterday in the House, I began to understand why this legislation was brought forward when my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca asked a question of the minister and received a non-reply. The question was whether this is payola to the gun lobby for not testifying on Bill C-51. It was going to oppose it, and it then withdrew from that; so we have this legislation here.
Also, as we know, there is an election in the air. My colleagues across the way love wedge politics and want to drum up this kind of fear, to divide and conquer. New Democrats are not going to be silenced when we have serious concerns about ill-thought-out legislation.
View Mylène Freeman Profile
Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to 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.
This Conservative government bill cuts red tape for firearms owners. In my opinion, what it will really do is weaken Canadian gun control laws.
Let us remember that the government had to put work on this bill on hold. It was supposed to have been debated for the first time on October 22 of last year, a day we will all remember for a long time. That day, a soldier was shot and killed at the National War Memorial not far from here. The gunman then stormed the Centre Block on Parliament Hill.
In my opinion, the government should have put this bill on hold indefinitely. Having solid, reliable data and laws that govern the use of firearms in Canada, together with giving police the resources and tools they need to enforce rules and laws, is of vital importance to public safety and stemming violence in Canada, particularly violence against women.
With this bill, however, the Conservatives are playing politics on the firearms issue. They are using this issue to play political games and divide Canadians, which jeopardizes public safety and creates additional challenges for police services in Canada. They are trying to shift the debate and make us forget that we are talking about public safety
However, reasonable people from different parts of the country, both rural and urban, could very easily work together to come up with solutions to this problem rather than practising the politics of division, as the Conservatives are doing.
The opposition NDP members and I believe that any changes to the Firearms Act must be made with a certain degree of caution. Improving public safety must be the priority objective. Bill C-42 does not meet that criterion, however, and we cannot support it.
I want to talk about the measures that are actually in Bill C-42. First of all, this bill allows a six-month grace period when a five-year licence expires, for gun owners who have failed to renew their licence.
Right now, owners must have an authorization to transport in order to have the right to transport their firearms. They must apply to a provincial chief firearms officer. The authorization allows them to transport a specific weapon to and from a specific location. They must have the authorization with them when transporting the firearm.
However, Bill C-42 would make it possible for this authorization to be granted automatically with the firearms licence, thereby authorizing the transportation of prohibited and restricted firearms to and from a gun club, firing range, police station, gun shop or any other place where firearms are used.
The bill also gives cabinet a new power, namely, the power to change the definitions of the classifications of firearms set out in section 84 of the Criminal Code through regulations that make exceptions. Through a regulation, cabinet could classify firearms that would normally be defined as prohibited or restricted as non-restricted firearms. Right now, firearms are classified based on assessments conducted as part of the Canadian firearms program, which is administered by the RCMP. These classifications are then approved by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
Let us look at the problems associated with that. First, the grace period is problematic because a firearms licence allows the police and other authorities to access the latest information about the owner of a firearm. We talked a lot about this important topic when we discussed the firearms registry. It is important for the police to know who owns a firearm, what type of firearm it is and where these firearms are being taken.
As part of the licence renewal process, firearm owners are assessed to determine whether they have mental health problems. This is a way of detecting whether there is a potential risk for the owners themselves or for the public. This assessment makes it possible to determine fairly early on whether there is a potential risk and helps the police to intervene in the case of an accident.
The timeframe set out in the bill could delay access to that information and could pose very serious risks to public safety. The Conservative Party members will likely say that anyone who does not renew his or her licence will have a criminal record. In fact, failing to renew one's licence is considered criminal because it is a serious matter. It is not as though this licence has to be renewed every year. It is renewed every five years.
Licence renewal is mandatory and failing to meet that obligation is considered criminal as a way of addressing the risk that gun owners may have mental health problems. A lot can happen in a person's life in five years. It is therefore important that all licence holders be in good mental and physical health so that they can use their hunting guns properly.
The measure on transporting firearms could also cause problems for police forces in their fight against the unauthorized transport of firearms. Why is it so important to control the use of firearms, keep these data and make public safety the priority?
We are not here to attack Canadians living in rural regions or hunters simply because they own guns. That is not it at all. Our priority is public safety. We are talking about guns that can be used to attack and kill people. It only makes sense to exercise the best possible control, while allowing people to use their guns.
The problem is that in Canada, gun violence remains a factor in many domestic abuse cases, causing some women to stay in abusive situations out of fear of being shot by their partners. Unfortunately, the presence of firearms is a top risk factor associated with domestic murders of women in Canada. In 2009, nearly 75,000 incidents of violent crimes against women were by current or former spouses or someone with whom the women were otherwise in an intimate relationship. These are the incidents that were reported to police. It is estimated that over 70% of such incidents go unreported.
Women are three to four times more likely than men to be victims of a spousal homicide. According to the most recent data available from Statistics Canada, in the past decade, from 2000 to 2009, over a quarter of women killed by a current or previous partner were by means of firearms.
Most women killed with guns are killed with legally owned guns. Family and intimate assaults involving firearms were 12 times more likely to result in death than intimate assaults that did not involve firearms. However, homicides of women with firearms dropped by over 63% with progressive strengthening of gun laws from 1991 to 2005, while murders of women by other means, such as stabbing and beating, declined by only 38% because we enforced the laws and put laws in place.
Twenty-five years have passed since the Polytechnique massacre, when 14 young women were violently murdered just because they were women. These events led to the creation of days of activism against gender violence, when we come together to reflect on the meaning of this attack against women. We also reflect on the fight for women's rights and the work that must still be done to achieve true gender equality.
This event of 25 years ago marked a turning point in the debate on gun control in Canada and spurred Canadian politicians to tighten access to firearms and start tracking legally purchased guns. The NDP has always proposed practical solutions to the legitimate concerns of the many Canadians who use firearms. We have always taken care to respect the rights of aboriginal peoples while ensuring that police services have the tools they need to protect Canadian communities.
Data on 1.6 million firearms in the province of Quebec will now be destroyed.
This bill would limit the powers of provincial chief firearms officers through regulations. By limiting the role of these officers, the federal government will make it more difficult for the provinces to set the standards they believe are necessary to implement the laws that govern firearms.
Unfortunately, the reforms introduced by the bill do not work for all Canadians. Therefore, we cannot support the bill.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
View Bob Zimmer Profile
2015-04-02 10:46 [p.12692]
Mr. Speaker, I am concerned about the safety of my daughter and my wife, but I am also a firearms owner. My daughter and wife have fired all my firearms very safely and soundly, and they are fine.
However, I would like to respond to the member's comments about Quebec and what Quebeckers think. The Quebec Hunting and Fishing Federation is thrilled with this initiative and has said:
Quebec hunters are very pleased with this bill because it simplifies the licence issuing process for law-abiding users, while reinforcing the concepts of safety and education.
Could the member respond to those Quebeckers and their concerns?
View Mylène Freeman Profile
Mr. Speaker, as I said, we do not think that public safety is a priority in this bill. We must ensure that the use of firearms for sport hunting is put into perspective.
For example, the six-month grace period is dangerous since it makes firearms more difficult to track. We must all work together on addressing these issues.
As a Quebecker who grew up in a rural area and who represents a rural riding, I too have always been surrounded by firearms. My family did not own one, but all of my neighbours go hunting in the fall. That is normal for me. I recognize that this is a part of rural life for hunters, who want to be able to travel more easily with a firearm for use during the hunting season.
However, we do not know what might happen in someone's life. Something can happen suddenly and change them. We must therefore reassess everyone's mental health every five years. That can only improve public safety.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Adam Vaughan Profile
2015-04-02 10:48 [p.12692]
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the reciting of the safety that was achieved with sensible firearms control. In particular, you listed the impact it had on reducing domestic incidents of violence and homicide.
Do you have similar information about the reduction of suicides?
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