Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member and probably have two questions for him.
First, in terms of our police in this country, is there any advantage to them to know, when they go to a home to arrest somebody or to deal with a domestic dispute, whether or not there are firearms at that location?
Second, I wonder if the hon. member could explain to the House what in fact this bill would do. We know that there are licences, in fact two types of licences: to acquire a firearm; and also to own one, to posses one. With that, is it the intention of the government to do away with the licensing of the owner, of the person who plans to acquire it?
Because in my experience, the major complaint in this country has been the need for a renewable licence. The average farmer or sportsman who has a rifle, or a long gun, probably only has to register that once in his lifetime and it is not an onerous problem to license a gun. However, to maintain a licence to own a gun over a period of time, there has been a fee involved. Does the hon. member and his government intend to do away with that five-year fee?
Mr. Speaker, the member first started out with: Is it not a good idea that police officers know if there are firearms at a residence and if a person has a licence to possess a firearm? It is yes to both those questions.
However, the important issue here is how the police officer is trained. A police officer is trained to approach every residence, when he or she receives a call, as if there were a firearm on the premise. It would be foolhardy, quite frankly, for the police officer to make any assumption otherwise.
I think it is very important that individuals be licensed to make sure that they know how to handle firearms and that they are the right kind of person; in other words, there is no criminality or mental condition that might preclude them from owning a firearm.
If the police officer approaching the residence has the name of a person and runs it, as I mentioned, in the CPIC system and it comes back that the individual is licensed to possess a firearm, it is reasonable to assume that there are firearms on the premises. Whether there is one or fifty is—
Mr. Speaker, I am glad my colleague was able to articulate, much better than I have heard from the other side, the difference between licensing and registration. It just seems that the definition is a challenge for the other side of the House.
I recently conducted a survey in my riding. Of the 1,500 people who responded in my rural riding in New Brunswick, over 95% of the people did not see the value in the gun registry and want it gone. Further, police on the street have also indicated that this registration system really does nothing for them and it is not of any great value.
From a policing standpoint, I wonder if the hon. member has spoken with police officers in his riding and asked them whether this system provides value to them in their work.
Mr. Speaker, like the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, I, too, am a former police officer and I, too, have a son who is currently a police officer.
If I thought for one minute that this registry, the long gun registry, the type of guns that families like mine for generations have enjoyed while they exercised, as far as I am concerned, their right in this country and their privilege to hunt and fish, would save a life, then I would be 110% for it.
My colleagues with whom I worked with previous to my retirement were police officers. I can say that they would have much preferred that $1 billion went toward better equipment and more officers than a registry that ran amok. Quite frankly, as I said, I would be 110% for this if I thought a long gun registry would save a life. It will not.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak today to Bill C-21. I am speaking steadfastly against Bill C-21, and further, against it moving forward to committee. This bill should not even be seeing the light of day.
Bill C-21, whose intention is to repeal the requirement to obtain and hold the registration certificate for a non-registered firearm, specifically rifles and shotguns, is a dangerous weapon in and of itself, created by the minority Conservative government. If it is passed, millions of people in possession of long guns will no longer be required to register their firearms.
This act means gutting the gun registry and seriously weakening gun control in our country. It means that the registrar of firearms will no longer issue or keep records of registration certificates for non-restricted firearms.
The Conservative minority government is seriously flawed and its wrong-headed objective to remove the long gun portion of the gun registry is patently wrong. Not only is this attempt by the government against the wishes of the majority of Canadians, as reflected in the Ipsos Reid poll with 67% of Canadians who said so, against the wishes of the majority of parliamentarians, against the wishes of the victims of the tragic recent Dawson College shootings and their families, as well as victims of other such tragedies and their families, it completely flies in the face of the vocally stated wishes of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the president of the Ontario police chiefs, York Regional Police Chief Armand La Barge, the Centre for Suicide Prevention, and more than 40 national women's associations. All oppose strongly this attempt to cripple the gun registry and to weaken gun control in Canada, in turn diminishing the capacity of police to keep Canadians safe, to err on the side of caution, all for the sake of a flawed and ill-conceived election promise, even though it is clear that by including the long gun portion the gun registry works.
It is an important preventative tool. We cannot only look at the measures after a crime is committed. It is essential that we always strengthen prevention, not lessen it. This is inconceivable when we consider that on average more than 5,000-plus queries are made daily by police. Approximately 15,965 firearm licences have been refused or revoked since the firearms act came into effect, and this was born of the tragedy of École Polytechnique in Montreal. Also, more than 500 affidavits have been provided by the Canadian firearms registry to support the prosecution of firearms-related crime in court proceedings across the country.
As is abundantly clear, the gun registry in its entirety continues to provide a vitally necessary tool used by both police and the courts, helping to safeguard and strengthen the safety of Canadians. The safety of Canadians is paramount. This is not something to be taken lightly or trifled with and that is precisely what the Conservative government did when it implemented an amnesty last year and recently extended it for one more year, which has already resulted in an increasingly outdated registry.
This action by the government is of particular concern and is another blatant example of its pattern of governing by stealth, totally disregarding Parliament, its duly elected representatives, and in effect, then, disregarding, disrespecting and bypassing the very Canadians that we as MPs are elected to represent. The removal of the important long gun portion of the registry will have significant far-reaching implications that will reverberate, adversely impact Canadians and compromise the safety of Canadians.
Also, a number of legal implications surrounding the untracked firearms will definitely lessen our ability to carry out searches for firearms and ensure effective enforcement of no firearms conditions on bail or prohibition orders. The fact is that all types of gun deaths, homicides, suicides and accidents, have declined since the registry was brought into force. This includes deaths involving handguns and long guns.
The Minister of Public Safety and National Security has repeatedly defended this decision by stating that Canadians will not be any less safe with these actions because owners will continue to be licensed even while long guns would no longer have to be registered. This is completely misleading, erroneous and disturbing. The fact is that we need both: licensing the individual and the registration of every firearm, including long guns. Without the critical requirement of registering each long gun, police will not know how many long guns people possess when approaching a potentially dangerous offender or crime scene. There could be 5, 10, 20 or more.
This diminishes the capacity of our law enforcement personnel and puts our officers and others at higher risk because, in the words of the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Winnipeg Police Chief Jack Ewatski, who also opposes removal of the gun registry and the long gun portion, “information is the life blood of policing”. He says, “The more information we can give our front-line officers, the better position they are in to perform their duties”.
The Conservative minority government is demonstrating a smoke and mirrors approach on this issue at the expense of the safety of Canadians. It is time for the Conservatives to come clean, be honest with Canadians and tell them that licensing and registering are not one and the same, as both are equally essential to Canadians' safety. One cannot take the place of the other. This fact cannot be overstated.
Clearly, the Conservative government knows it is on very shaky ground and is not secure in this action. This is further reflected in its new firearms advisory committee, which the Conservatives have kept secret. As my hon. colleague from York West said, “They have turned the committee into a gun-loving secret society”. That is, until the muzzle slipped, she said, and the member for Yorkton—Melville boasted that the Conservative faction was stacked with pro-gun activists opposed to gun control.
Unusually, there was no routine announcement and there were no biographies released. This was kept under wraps and under the radar of accountability. As the member for York West continued, she said, “Why did the government change it from the firearms advisory committee to the firearms advocacy committee?”
As the member for London West continued, she said, “If the government really supports the police, why was the Canadian Police Association left off this list?” Why was there no representation, she wondered, asking, “Could it be because it dared to support the gun registry?” She asked, “Why does the advisory committee only hear the voices of the pro-gun lobby?” She asked where the balance is that we had before when we were in government.
The Conservative government has repeatedly put forward money as the primary rationale for these dramatic changes to the gun registry, as the rationale for taking out the long gun portion and weakening gun control. The fact is that since the government's amnesty was implemented, there have been virtually no savings. Total spending remains stable, this after the government crippled the gun registry and after the two year amnesty for long gun owners who are exempted from the existing law.
As the former vice-chair of public safety and national security committee, I participated in the committee meetings on both the departmental estimates and the Auditor General's report. The Minister of Public Safety meanwhile implied that by cutting the long gun registry the government would be saving $10 million this year, when in fact his own deputy minister expressly testified that the $10 million in savings would happen no matter what, because they were administrative savings due to management. It had nothing to do with reducing the registration of long guns. This was erroneous again. This completely debunks the government's supposed rationale.
In addition, I state strongly on behalf of Thornhill residents and all Canadians that we must invest in the safety of Canadians. It is non-negotiable.
While on that committee, I vigorously supported a motion to keep the gun registry intact in its entirety, including the long gun portion. This motion was unanimously passed by all three opposition parties yet was ignored by the Conservative government. The government continually states that it supports the average Canadian, yet when it comes to gun control, and in fact all issues, it is completely out of touch with what Canadians want and displays a total disregard toward the wishes of the majority of Canadians, the wishes of the average Canadian.
To the contrary, the government turned its back on Canadians and used a backdoor, non-transparent method of weakening gun control, getting around what it clearly saw as a little nuisance: Parliament and therefore Canadians themselves.
The Conservative minority government's dogged determination to fulfill its ill-conceived election promise despite indisputable facts and the absolute responsibility of government to do everything in its power to ensure the safety of its citizens is indefensible. Anything less than a fully intact gun registry is unconscionable.
Tonight we heard the Minister of Public Safety say that the government's intention with Bill C-21 is to dismiss the long gun portion of the gun registry. The truth is out. The Conservative government, through this bill, is dismissing the safety of Canadians. This is shameful.
We also heard the minister tonight call the registration of guns in Canada an unfortunate journey. This belittles and makes light of Canadians' safety and it is also a major slap in the face to those who have been victims of firearms.
From day one the government has made it abundantly clear that it is ideologically committed to weakening gun control in our country. In fact, incredibly, tonight we heard from one of the hon. members who spoke that it probably would be good to abolish the entire gun registry.
How can Canadians have any confidence in the Conservative government when it is clearly putting a misguided, deeply flawed election promise before the safety and well-being of Canadians? The government, through this bill, will fail to uphold the most important responsibility of any government: the safety of its citizens. I take this very seriously, as do Canadians.
I do not support Bill C-21 and I definitely do not support sending it back to committee. This bill should not even be on the table. To pass it would go against the very sensibility of the majority of Canadians, against what they know is right and what they know is in keeping with the needs in Canada today. What I do support is protecting Canadians and strengthening, not weakening, gun control in our country.
Mr. Speaker, a law is a good law only if it accomplishes what it sets out to do. If the gun registry would save lives, I do not think there is a police officer or a member of Parliament who would not say fine, let us do it, but quite frankly, it is the criminal misuse of illegal weapons that is the problem. These weapons are not, have not been and will not be registered, and they are the problem.
Why does the member opposite not recognize that? Why have she and her colleagues voted against every measure that has been taken in this House to protect the safety of citizens in regard to the use of illegal firearms?
Mr. Speaker, it was the Liberal government that brought in mandatory minimums for firearms. If the Conservative government took this seriously, it would dismantle the bill, but not the registry. It would take more seriously the words of the vast majority of police officers, not the minority, those words that the member says he takes seriously on so many other issues, but for some reason, selectively, not on the gun registry.
Conservative members have no credibility. On the one hand they say they want to strengthen the safety of Canadians, but on the other hand they want to dismantle the long gun portion of the gun registry. They cannot say one thing and do the other. It is inconsistent.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for her excellent comments today. Obviously she is very concerned about the safety of Canadians. That is really what should be at the heart of this debate.
The government has the intention of abandoning the gun registry in Canada and that is quite sad. I think it will be a disaster for safety and of course for issues of gun violence in our country.
Every indicator throughout the world, certainly in the OECD countries, has shown that the country that is the most violent of all is the United States, which has the weakest gun laws of any OECD member country.
A lot of members over there clap when people say to get rid of the gun registry. Quite frankly, I do not understand their love of guns. The passion they have for this gun culture is quite foreign me. Maybe I need to understand where they are coming from. Maybe that is the case. We need a dialogue.
However, that is a party that has zero members elected in the three largest cities in this country. It is the first time in the history of Canada that we have a government without a single elected member from Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. It does nothing to reach out to those cities that have serious problems with guns in the streets.
It is baffling and quite mind-boggling as to why the government would not want to reach out to the cities and toughen the laws, not weaken the laws.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, that is exactly why I have been particularly disappointed and disturbed by the actions of the government. When one of its members had a petition which stated that 95% of his constituents did not support the gun registry staying intact, that clearly was not reflective of the vast majority of Canadians. It was a minority point of view. It clearly did not take into consideration the very serious situation that we have in our urban centres.
This is something that I will continue to speak out about. The fact of the matter is that there is no defence. There is no justification for changing and dismantling this portion of the gun registry. It is wrong in every sense. I am sure that we will defeat this. I am totally confident that we will defeat this, because it must be one of the worst pieces of legislation I have seen in the three years that I have been here.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As a member of Parliament and the mother of an RCMP officer who is on the streets tonight in his detachment, I talked to my son yesterday about this very thing. He and police officers on the street have told me that the gun registry needs to be shut down and that in regard to the cost overrun, the tally of over $1 billion, by the former government, those resources should be used for putting police resources on the street.
The long gun registry is only for the long guns that farmers, fishermen and everybody else use. As outlined in a study in 2005, out of 569 murders, two long guns were used. All the rest used were handguns. Handguns are already registered. Handguns are already licensed.
I think the member opposite and the Liberal members have lost a lot of credibility with police forces across Canada. Will she support this bill or not?
Mr. Speaker, in response to the hon. member, so are two killings okay? Is that okay? Does that justify killing the long gun portion of the registry? The government is satisfied with two killings? I am not getting the logic there whatsoever.
Mr. Speaker, for the hon. member for Thornhill, it was I who stood up a while ago and talked about the survey recently did in my riding. Yes, it was 95%. Maybe that is hard for the member for Thornhill to believe. People in the urban parts of the country, unfortunately, and it is not that they are not smart enough, have different issues than they have in rural Canada.
In my riding in this is a big problem. We have crime, but we do not have it to the same degree. We should not talk of duck hunters, farmers and whomever because there is a crime problem somewhere in the country.
The bottom line is there is a misunderstanding. There is life north, west and east of Highway 7. I know it is a common problem for that part of the world to recognize the rest of Canada. There are issues there. This is about trying to identify and prevent crimes, not just a knee-jerk reaction to a problem.
On that side of the House members say on the one hand that they want tougher crime bills, but their voting record tells the exact opposite. Why?
Mr. Speaker, first, I hope all hon. members here are taking into consideration the greater good of all Canadians, not only in their riding. That needs to be said. We should not make it easier for people. We are asking for long guns to be registered. Is that too much to ask?
As far as the crime bills, we have supported some, those that made sense and could be effective and have proven effective. The government did not accept our amendments, which would have made them truly effective. Instead we have a government going for show, no go.
Mr. Speaker, the research notes provided, and I do not have anything to table, say that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Professional Police Association both support the registry. Yet the member for Northumberland—Quinte West has said that in the training of police officers, they have to assume there is a gun. They always do that.
Maybe the member does not have an answer, I know I do not have an one, but if that is the case, why do these two associations support the registry and 5,000 references to the registry are made each and every day? There must be a reason.