June 19, 2007

LIB

Susan Kadis

Liberal

Mrs. Susan Kadis

Mr. Speaker, because the government does not put as much emphasis on prevention as it should. It makes it more difficult, not easier. The reality is it should not give people the impression that licensing and registration are the same thing. We need both.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Jay Hill

Conservative

Hon. Jay Hill (Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise. I would like to state at the outset that I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Blackstrap.

I will begin by describing a little about the riding I am privileged to represent in the House of Commons. The riding of Prince George—Peace River is over a quarter of a million square kilometres up in northeastern British Columbia. It is almost perfectly dissected by the Rocky Mountains. It is a huge rural riding. Without a doubt, one of the most controversial and emotional issues that my constituents deal with and feel about is the long run registry and their opposition to it. It is almost uniform throughout my riding. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to rise tonight and raise their concerns.

As someone who was a member of the House of Commons, when the original legislation to establish the firearms registry was being debated in 1995, I cannot adequately convey my relief that we have now been provided with an opportunity through Bill C-21 to right that wrong.

We knew back then that the move to register each and every long gun in Canada was the wrong move. Many of us spoke out about that increasingly and persistently throughout that debate and in the years since. We knew then it was a waste of tax dollars that would do nothing to keep Canadians safe. Of course, history has proven us correct. The statistics have proven us correct.

Unfortunately, even MPs, like myself, who opposed the long gun registry could have predicted that the cost of this failed Liberal experiment would spiral from their projected estimate of $2 million to somewhere in the order of $2 billion today.

This evening I will use my limited time to reassure those Canadians who may have been misled by distorted facts and misinformation by the official opposition and others, as they attempt to defend their fiasco known as the long gun registry. In other words, I want to dismiss the most obvious myths about the long gun registry that members from the other side of the House are attempting to portray as fact. Indeed, we have heard a number of them repeated here again tonight.

The myth is the Conservative legislation to scrap the long gun registry will make it easier for Canadians to obtain firearms.

The fact is the registration of each and every shotgun and rifle in Canada is separate from firearms licensing. Nothing will change in regard to licensing. Canadians will still require a thorough background check and safety check. Violent behaviour and certain criminal convictions will continue to be checked as well. Applicants for a licence will also be subject to specific safety standards and training. Stringent storage requirements will also be maintained.

The former Liberal government was fond of quoting the fact that tens of thousands of firearms licences were refused or revoked under firearms legislation. Again, this is a licensing issue and is not a registry issue.

The myth is the proof that the long gun registry is an essential tool relied upon by law enforcement agencies is the fact that the Canadian Firearms Registry On-line, or the CFRO, gets 6,500 hits per day from police officers. We hear various numbers. Some people say 5,000 or 5,600. I will quote 6,500.

The fact is that figure certainly sounds impressive until we realize that whenever a police officer enters a person's name for any reason, even an address check, an inquiry or hit is generated with the CFRO. Regardless of any changes to the registration of long guns through Bill C-21, police will still know whether a person is authorized to own a legal firearm.

The myth is the $2 billion spent on the problem ridden long gun registry are well worth it because the registry helps to reduce gun deaths in Canada.

The fact is according to Statistics Canada 2004 homicide report, firearms homicides actually went up 13% over a two year period. In fact, statistics continue to demonstrate that the long gun registry has done absolutely nothing to reduce firearms homicides. That is because most gun crimes are not committed with registered firearms. I know it has been repeated many times before in the House, but criminals do not register their firearms. That is why our Conservative government has taken concrete steps to target criminals on our streets.

As we also heard tonight, Bill C-10, which I am pleased was passed by the House late last month, targets organized crime and gangs by imposing tougher mandatory penalties on those who use firearms to commit crimes. We recognize that we have to target the people who are using firearms to commit crimes, not the firearms themselves. Two billion dollars are better spent cracking down on the people who commit gun crimes than on reams of paper and bug ridden computer systems to chase down millions of rifles and shotguns legally owned.

The myth is Bill C-21 will remove the need to register handguns.

The fact is the handgun registry has been in effect in Canada since 1934. Bill C-21 does not change that. Whereas shotguns and rifles are an essential tool in many parts of Canada, and I already mentioned my particular riding, handguns are primarily for the use of sportsmen and collectors. Handguns are also easier to conceal and are best registered to better avoid their misuse.

Two-thirds or 65% of firearms homicides in 2004 were committed with handguns. That is because they are the weapon of choice for organized crime and gangs. Again, Bill C-10 targets the real root of gun crime and firearms homicides by going after the real criminals.

The myth is a complete ban on handguns is a worthy consideration to enhance the safety of Canadians.

The fact is although our Conservative government believes handguns should continue to be subject to registration, we do not believe they should be banned. As I said earlier, it is a perfectly legitimate use for sportsmen and collectors to possess handguns. A handgun ban will do nothing but unnecessarily impact upon those individuals.

I contend that gangs and other criminals could care less whether there are registration requirements or an outright ban on handguns. If they want a gun, it has been well proven, not only in our society but in other western societies, that criminals will get their hands on a gun if their intent is to use it for a criminal purpose.

The final myth about firearms registration, which I will address tonight, concerns the Conservative government's fundamental position on this matter. I want to reassure my constituents and all Canadians that this Conservative government, as demonstrated by Bill C-21, remains as committed as we ever were before to putting an end to this long gun registry that imposes a great burden upon law-abiding Canadians, consumes substantial federal resources, yet brings no measurable benefit to public safety.

In short, we are as committed today as we were for the last 12 years, which seems like a lifetime, not only to myself but to those of us who have been waging this fight against this senseless registry. We will scrap the long gun registry and redirect those previous resources to measures that will actually make our streets and communities safer for all Canadians.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Kevin Sorenson

Conservative

Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the chief government whip gave an excellent speech tonight. He talked about the myths and the facts. I want to tell a quick story.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to ask my daughter, who was celebrating her 15th birthday, what she wanted to do. She asked if we could go to the local rodeo. It makes a father awful proud when his child asks to go to a cultural event such as that.

That evening there was a 50/50 draw and a young man from Killam won it. He said to me, “I'll give you all of this money if you'll put it toward the fight against the firearms registry”. That shows the level and degree of passion for getting rid of this long gun registry. I told him that I could not take his money, but assured him that the government was taking some very specific measures to get rid of the long gun registry.

Some of the things we have talked about are investing in front line police officers, the $1 billion registry, mandatory minimum sentences and real measures that would help get the criminals off the street and fight crime.

Could the member, who has served the country and his riding so well over 13 or 14 years, elaborate on a few of the crime fighting measures we are putting in place, and how a long gun registry is simply not sufficient in the fight against crime and is a waste of Canadian taxpayer dollars?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Jay Hill

Conservative

Hon. Jay Hill

Mr. Speaker, I think my hon. colleague, as I do, echoes the concerns and sentiments of the vast majority of our constituents in rural western Canada and obviously others who have spoken tonight demonstrate that this is not unique to western Canada. It is all across the land that law-abiding firearm owners are incensed about this and they continue to be because they believe it is a direct attack upon them. They want to be law-abiding and obviously they will try their best to obey whatever laws there are in the land.

I would contend that this new Conservative government has brought forward over a dozen pieces of substantive legislation now. We recognize that we are a minority government but with the help of some of the other parties we have been successful in moving some of that legislation through.

Bill C-9 is just one example of something that I fought for unsuccessfully for 10 years against Liberal governments of the past. It would impose certain restrictions on the use of conditional sentencing, which is known as house arrest. We finally put that through so that we could hold criminals accountable for their actions. We are about holding criminals responsible for their actions.

Bill C-21 would help us to take the onus away from law-abiding firearms owners and instead impose stronger restrictions and laws on those who criminally misuse firearms.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

Charles Hubbard

Liberal

Hon. Charles Hubbard (Miramichi, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, in order to own a firearm in this country, the owner must have a licence and that licence must be renewed every five years, which is the major complaint with the system.

Could the government whip please indicate to the House tonight whether his party also intends to do away with the need for a farmer back in Prince George who has an old shotgun to pay a licence fee every five years in order to maintain the firearm that Bill C-21 talks about?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Jay Hill

Conservative

Hon. Jay Hill

Mr. Speaker, as I already indicated when I went through the facts and the myths that are being perpetrated by the official opposition and others on this very subject, Bill C-21 is not about the licensing of individuals. This is about the long gun registry, nothing more, nothing less. Our position is to scrap that and no longer have a requirement where law-abiding, legal firearm owners would need to register their rifle or shotgun.

It is not about the licensing. I have said that we are open to discussion on the licensing provisions. There will still be licensing requirements and they will still need to strenuously go through a system to check their background, et cetera.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Lynne Yelich

Conservative

Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I may be from the west but I am not an Annie Oakley and I have never handled a gun. I do not know if I could shoot, aim or load one but I do know that responsible gun owners in my riding and across the country continue to say that the Liberal gun legislation did not focus resources where they were needed. They believe that the current long gun registration is inefficient, unnecessary, wasteful, intrusive, ill-conceived and badly executed.

I am rising in support of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act for the purpose of non-registry of firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted. For the past seven years, as a member of Parliament, I have been told repeatedly by constituents that the registry needs to be replaced. I have been reminded that we promised to do that and I have been encouraged to carry through on that pledge.

I am happy to say that today we are doing that. Needless to say, I am anxious to speak to this bill and express my certainty that it has a speedy passage because it is both necessary and just. However, I thought perhaps a constituent should be allowed to speak first, and since he relies on my presence in this House to make his opinions known, I would like to quote from a letter that he has sent me.

On May 10, 2006, Mervin Hollingsworth wrote:

I want to ensure that our new government follows through with their commitment to repeal the ENTIRE Firearms Act and their pledge to replace that unjust legislation with efficient, effective, rational laws that recognizes the right of responsible citizens to own firearms.

That is why we are here today and that is why I am standing with my colleagues to support Bill C-21.

Although this government has applied the principle of amnesty for long gun owners, vis-à-vis the registry, clearly that is not enough and not what Canadians from coast to coast and a vast majority of my constituents in Blackstrap are demanding from us.

As another constituent, Doreen Ross, put it, she was distressed “over the uselessness of the gun registry in keeping weapons out of the hands of those that choose to conduct themselves in ways that are deadly and illegal”.

Lest there be any in this House or among those listening to my words today who would question whether Mrs. Ross has sufficient knowledge of guns or an adequate knowledge of gun violence, I can only say that she knows the problem well and better than most of us. One of her family members was killed by a man wielding an unregistered gun.

From this tragedy that the gun registry did not prevent, I would turn to a typical story of frustration that the registry has created. Steve Beck from Watrous, Saskatchewan, cannot even shoot a gopher because he has yet to receive confirmation of his registration. He recently called my constituency office to tell us about it.

Ordinary Canadians know that this registry has not kept guns out of the hands of criminals. They know that it has not saved lives. They know that it is not an effective tool in fighting crime, in reducing violence or in making our streets and communities safer.

They do know that it has cost over $1 billion. They do know that it has intimidated, harassed and criminalized law-abiding gun owners and duck hunters. They do know that it is yet another example of how the previous Liberal government created ineffective programs that never dealt with the problems that they were intended to target.

I have been hearing this message from my constituents since I was first elected in the House of Commons and I am happy to be able to deliver on our promise to repeal this registry as Bill C-21 begins its legislative journey to hopefully passage.

Let me be clear that this government is very concerned about gun-related crime. Unlike the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP, this government is committed to effective gun control and tackling the criminal misuse of firearms. We believe in targeting criminals, not farmers and not duck hunters.

The Liberals continuously neglected our licensing system, which is why we allocated $14 million over two years in budget 2007 to improve front end screening of first time firearms licence applicants. This will help prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands.

The Liberal Party wasted $1 billion on a failed long gun registry, which was acknowledged by the Auditor General, and our government is investing $161 million over two years to add 1,000 more RCMP personnel to focus on law enforcement priorities such as gun smuggling.

We have brought forward 11 new legislative proposals that would help crack down on crime.

The government passed legislation to restrict conditional sentences for violent criminals.

Although Bill C-9 was weakened by opposition parties during justice committee hearings, those convicted of most violent crimes will no longer walk the streets and enjoy the freedom of serving sentences at home.

Bill C-19 bans street racing.

The government raised the age of consent from 14 to 16 years of age to protect children from sexual predators. That was something we tried to do in opposition on at least six occasions, through private members' bills and opposition day motions, but the previous Liberal government kept saying no.

We are trying to impose mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes but the opposition does not like that either.

The government just does not talk about fighting crime. We do not create another committee or another registry to create the appearance of fighting crime. We go to the heart of the criminal justice matter and insist that violent criminals serve their time. We do not blame the victims. We punish the criminals. We do not arrest duck hunters. We try to stop violent offenders. We do this because Canadians told us that they were tired of the Liberal delay, confusion and diversion.

Canadians expected action and the Liberal gun registry was not the kind of action they wanted. Canadians already knew that nobody could find ways to waste a billion dollars like the previous Liberal government. They did not need to be shown again by the example of the gun registry, which has been a disaster for Canadians.

Attempting to count and track every long gun in Canada has been ineffective and expensive. It has misdirected police resources from what is most important, which is going after criminals who use firearms in crime.

Bill C-21 would refocus our gun control efforts on what works in combating the criminal use of firearms by repealing the requirement to register non-restricted long guns and by requiring firearms retailers to record all sales transaction of non-restricted firearms.

Individuals would still be required to have a valid firearms licence and to go through police background checks and safety training in order to purchase or possess firearms and to purchase ammunition. Individuals would also continue to be required to register prohibited and restricted firearms, such as handguns.

Through a quick background check, our police officers would be able to determine who is in legal possession of firearms and who is not.

In 1995, the Liberal government told Parliament that the long gun registry would involve a net cost of $2 million. That was in the Auditor General's report 2002, chapter 10.

In May 2000, the Liberals admitted that the costs had actually ballooned to at least $327 million. That was in the Auditor General's report 2002, chapter 10.

By March 2005, the net cost of the firearms program was over $946 million. Today it exceeds $1 billion. That was in the Auditor General's report 2006, chapter 4.

The $1 billion figure does not even include the costs incurred by law enforcement agencies enforcing the legislation and compliance costs to law-abiding firearms owners and businesses, which likely runs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. That was in the Auditor General's report 2002, chapter 10.

The Auditor General said that the Liberals misinformed Parliament about many of these costs. That was in the Auditor General's report 2006, chapter 4. However, misinformation has ruled the day.

I will be happy to end my speech by quoting Edward Hudson of Saskatoon. He stated:

Canada's current Firearms Act is not achieving the stated goal of improving public safety.

Historical government data indicate that compliance with both licensing and registration has been grossly overstated by the previous administration.

I do not think the voice of the people can be more emphatic and yet restrained at the same time.

Firearms legislation needs to be refocused toward the criminal use of firearms and away from the regulation of law-abiding citizens and their activities. For these reasons, the current Firearms Act must be repealed and replaced.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

Larry Bagnell

Liberal

Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I want to very quickly reflect the views of my Yukon constituents who often have strong views. I have not heard much from them this year, but when it first came out they had very passionate views on this. There were a few in favour but many opposed and voiced it strongly.

I know Doug Craig gave eloquent dissertations on what the money could be more productively used for. Bill from Hot Springs Road was concerned about the imposition on his rights. Mr. Rogan, a gunsmith, has fought for years against the registry.

This is why I have spoken against the registry many times in meetings here in Ottawa. In Parliament I have voted against it unless it was on a confidence motion.

Also the first nations, many Yukon trappers, farmers, hunters and cabin dwellers consider it a part of their way of life. That is why I have consistently reflected these views in Parliament.

Does the member believe that the views of rural and first nations people are different from urban dwellers on this issue?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Lynne Yelich

Conservative

Mrs. Lynne Yelich

Mr. Speaker, I think the member is incorrect. I think it is an impression that has been created by members who do not seem to want to believe that the Liberals' gun registry was a complete fiasco. Bill C-21 has been misrepresented by remarks and comments members made earlier tonight.

I do not think the member comprehends what the bill will do or how important it is for gun owners and responsible firearms owners.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Yvon Godin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I remember in 1997 the Reform Party came in with a motion to repeal Bill C-68. I remember I voted to repeal Bill C-68 which is how I would vote again.

Why did the government wait until the end of June when the House is about to adjourn for the summer to bring the bill forward if it is that important? Why did the government not bring it forward last year to tell the people of the west that it supports them?

I remember that that same party, which was the Reform Party, the Alliance Party and now is the Conservative Party—not the progressive part as they took that away—but at that time they were bringing people to the Hill to lobby and to go after the Liberal government about the gun registry. The Conservatives have been in government now for a year and a half and the government brings in the bill when the House will be closing.

I would like to hear from the government, why if it is so important for the Conservatives they waited until now to bring the bill forward.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Lynne Yelich

Conservative

Mrs. Lynne Yelich

Mr. Speaker, I assume the member will support us and try to encourage other members to support the bill. It sounds like he is really for this bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Daryl Kramp

Conservative

Mr. Daryl Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, earlier this evening I heard the hon. member for Thornhill state that it was just a billion dollars or so and if that saved the life of one or two of our officers, the whole thing would be worth it.

As a former officer who has looked down the barrel of a gun I can assure members that that is an insult to the commitment, the integrity and the passion that these officers, men and women in uniform commit to this country.

This money, this billion dollars or so, would that not be better spent potentially to help in many ways, whether it is prevention, enforcement, deterrence and yet why has the Liberal opposition opposed every measure that we have taken in that vein?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Lynne Yelich

Conservative

Mrs. Lynne Yelich

Mr. Speaker, I think the answer is in what our public safety minister has done. He is putting more RCMP officers on the streets. Just imagine how much more we could do and how many deaths could have been prevented if we had invested in police officers or RCMP. The public safety minister has committed this to Canadians for their safety.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Dennis Bevington

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Trinity—Spadina.

I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-21. I would like to thank the government for finally bringing the bill forward, for finally finding the courage of its conviction at this very late date. If we approached all the bills with the same degree of courage the government has shown with this one, we would be way behind in our legislative agenda.

Coming from the Northwest Territories and being our party's critic for rural and remote communities, I have run in three elections supporting the concept of taking away the registry on long guns and shotguns. Throughout those three elections people across the north consistently said to me that it is not required, it is not necessary and it is not really working for them.

I want to take a step back from that and look at what is working in gun control in Canada now. What is clearly working right now is the registry that is in place for licensing. Quite clearly, we have a better system of licensing now. I guess we can thank the Liberal Party for delivering that in the legislation in 1995. We have a better computerized system. It delivers for licensing. We are more organized and efficient at processing licences. I have heard the number of rejected licences, some 16,000, for people who were not considered appropriate to have firearms. That is a good and meaningful figure. It is a figure that makes Canadians safer on the ground. We can thank the Liberal Party for that.

However, when it comes to suggesting that one party or the other in Parliament has the vision to put everything together, that has the ability to transcend the ideology and politics of the day, whether it is in 1995 or 2007, and come up with a plan that is going to match what is required for Canada, that is a very egotistical approach.

We suffered under that with the majority Liberal government. It did not understand the nature of gun control. The Liberals had a law that tried to do too much. The things that it did not do well are the certificates for individual firearms, for long rifles and shotguns. Those are the things that were not done well. Those are the things that this bill will take out of the system. This is not the end of gun control in Canada. It is an adjustment to the gun control legislation that we have in the country. Quite clearly, that is what we are doing here and that is why we should all look at it in that fashion.

This is not about one party being against the other. This is about looking at what is good for Canadians. As a New Democrat in an open party, I feel very good about standing here today and supporting the adjustment that is being proposed by the government. Why? Because in my territory, before the gun registry, the value of subsistence hunting was some $60 million for 45,000 inhabitants. That same message is repeated right across northern Canada and northern parts of the provinces. For people who use rifles and shotguns for their way of life, the gun registry did not work.

It was said at the time in 1995 in Parliament that it would not work. It was not adjusted to make it work. The importance of that to many people across the country was not recognized. We had a situation where a majority government, not a minority government as we have today, made a decision in its magnificence to create a gun control law that went too far.

We are taking it back now perhaps with this bill. This is a minority government and we may find that this bill will not meet the test of all members in this House. It meets the test of this member standing here right now. I support it because I see it as a necessary adjustment to gun control.

The bill does not pass up the good work that is in gun control now. If the government decides to put more effort into licensing by ensuring that the people who own firearms are capable, competent and not criminal in nature, then the gun registry is an excellent investment of public funds. It is an investment that will be returned to everybody in the country.

Storage is extremely important. Safety is extremely important. Training is extremely important. These characteristics that we have built into gun control now should be enhanced and regulated to a greater degree. Quite often if guns are not stored properly, they become available to people who may use them wrongly. I have seen too many tragedies involving young people or people who are not in their right mind who are impaired in one way or another, taking somebody else's rifles or guns that are not stored properly and either doing themselves in or doing in others. We can control that through legislation. We can make a difference to all legal gun owners and the safety of this country.

There is a huge requirement for the control of handguns in our cities. There is a huge requirement for the control of restricted weapons that are easily concealed and are the basis of the criminal industry in this country. A ban on handguns in the future may be part of the legislative agenda of this House, perhaps not with the present government, but perhaps with the next. There would be an onward evolution of gun control in this country. I hope when we debate it that we make sensible choices about how to put that in place.

There is one other aspect of the use of guns in this country that I want to speak to and that is what guns are being used for. Guns are being used to feed the appetite of Canadians for drugs and illicit goods. The majority of illegal guns are causing death and havoc in our cities.

We say that we have to stop criminals by catching them and putting them in jail. We need to recognize the necessity of adjusting our legislation to truly change the criminal state. We need to take some of the oxygen out of the criminal system, what makes it worthwhile for someone to have a handgun in his or her possession, the tens of billions of dollars of illicit drugs that are being sold in this country.

How do we stop the appetite of Canadians for illegal drugs and illicit goods? Are we doing a successful job at that through enforcement, through all the tricks of the trade that we have developed in our war on drugs? I do not think so. I think it has been an abject failure. If this legislature does not come to grips with that, we will never truly understand how to deal with crime in this country.

On the one hand I support this legislation. It is a great adjustment to the gun control legislation in Canada. On the other hand, we have so much work to do to reduce crime in this country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

James Bezan

Conservative

Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Western Arctic for his support of this bill. He is a member from rural Canada and understands the importance of legitimately owned firearms in our areas.

He mentioned and I agree with him totally that Bill C-21 does not change the screening process of ownership of a firearm. A person still has to become licensed to own and purchase firearms. There are still the areas of safe storage which are so important to us.

The member mentioned the problem in urban centres. What we are seeing across Canada are illegal guns and how they are tied to the drug trade. I know in Manitoba we see a lot of people growing marijuana and then trading that for illegal guns in the United States and bringing those back so that they can carry out their crimes.

I want to get back to this issue of legitimate ownership. I know that one of the things we both talked about was the need for subsistence living. We have a lot of Métis and aboriginal hunters in our ridings that use their firearms as part of their daily living. I know in my riding a lot of people hunt for geese, ducks and deer in the fall, and they stock up their freezers and they are good for the year. The member mentioned that and that is important to me as well.

Also, what has been affected in my riding is the outfitting business. It has become difficult for people to transport their firearms across the line. We do not have those international visitors coming in any more and supporting these people. That has hurt our local economy.

Would the member expand upon that and explain if that is one of the same concerns that they have in the western Arctic as we have in Selkirk—Interlake? Again, I want to thank the member for his support of this bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Dennis Bevington

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dennis Bevington

Mr. Speaker, certainly, the basis of my support in three elections was the failure of the previous Liberal government to understand the impact of the gun registry on hunters, trappers, subsistence users of wildlife across the country, whether they be aboriginal or non-aboriginal.

We could say why not just register them. It does not work like that. When people are part of that subsistence economy, they may borrow guns and use guns. It is a tradition and a lifestyle that has been upset and changed without careful attention to what it meant. I think that is the key and that is where the strong reaction comes from.

In the words of Charlie Snowshoe, an elder from Fort MacPherson who has run the game council there for many years, he is totally opposed to this. He said that it has taken the young people out of hunting. It is taking the tradition out of hunting and trapping. It is changing it and turning people away from a pastime which has been so valuable to them.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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LIB

Larry Bagnell

Liberal

Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member to elaborate on how northerners feel differently.

I spoke strongly against the registry and explained how passionately many of my constituents feel about it, the northern trappers, hunters, fishermen and outfitters. They feel that it is a way of life. They do not consider a gun a weapon. They consider it a tool in their way of life.

They have learned from childhood that guns are there as part of their life. They use them safely and they see this as an unnecessary imposition and that this money could be spent to save some lives in the cities. From their perspective the money could be invested in health care or some other system that would have more effect on saving lives.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Dennis Bevington

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dennis Bevington

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right. Everybody wants to stop accidents with guns, the kinds of things that happen without trained people, without safety as a paramount issue in the use of firearms.

I think that fits with the hunting and trapping tradition as well, where individuals go out in the bush by themselves with a gun and they have to survive. If by chance the gun does not work or the people run out of ammunition and they have to borrow some from someone else, that should not be a crime. There is that tradition. Interestingly enough, we have focused on gun control, but we--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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CPC

Royal Galipeau

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Royal Galipeau)

Order. It is with regret I interrupt the hon. member for Western Arctic. I have been trying to give him signals. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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NDP

Olivia Chow

New Democratic Party

Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, “first mourn, then work for change”. That was the rallying cry 18 years ago and every year on December 6 tens of thousands of women and men all across this country say, “Yes, we will mourn, but we will work for change”.

In the Montreal massacre 18 years ago, an assault rifle was used. Every year, when we have the candlelight vigil, we make a commitment to ban violence and to reduce the gun culture.

An assault rifle is a long gun. It is a gun that is used to kill animals sometimes in rural Canada, but in a lot of other places, especially urban centres, assault rifles and long guns are used to kill people and a lot of those people are women.

I do not know if some members of Parliament were here 18 years ago, but for every year since, on December 6, we wear white ribbons. The white ribbons are from the families in Montreal who say they want to work for change. It is also a symbol, saying that we want to stop men's violence against women. I hope members of Parliament remember that moment.

We know that 88% of women killed with guns are killed with shotguns or rifles. We know that 50% of family homicides end in the suicide of the murderer, indicating that key to protecting women and children is licensing and screening, including the renewal.

Of the gun deaths in Canada, 80% are suicides, most by using rifles or shotguns that were readily available. Access to guns is the fifth highest risk factor in spousal homicide.

We have heard from different inquests in domestic violence that a lot of the women are killed because of the gun culture and because of passion, but also because of access to guns.

Perhaps, if more women were elected to the House of Commons, this debate would be somewhat different.

The long gun registry has been working. The gun registry is very mismanaged, but it is working. It is being used. Over two million gun owners are licensed and six million guns have been licensed. We now have police using this registration database 1,500 times per day and are reporting successful use of this tool in fighting an illegal gun trade.

It works. Why? We have seen statistics that say there were 525 fewer gun deaths, which include suicides, homicides and accidents in 2002 compared to 1989, the year I was just talking about. It is a 60% reduction. We are talking about 525 lives. We are talking about 40 fewer women per year being shot, compared to 15 years ago. Every year, 40 fewer women being shot. I want people to remember those lives.

There were 100 fewer murders every year with rifles and shotguns. Think of that number as we are debating this bill today. Think about those women. Think about those murders. In Quebec alone, there were 30 fewer gun related suicides each year among young people in 2000-01, a 50% drop from the average of 56 firearm suicides in this group in the nineties. Obviously, the gun registry is working. Yes, it is mismanaged, but does that mean we need to scrap it? No.

We need a better and improved system. We need better screening, tightening the screening, getting and requiring the gun clubs to provide information on individuals who are having problems, who may be slightly bordering on very dangerous behaviour. There should be at least two references and spousal notification when a spouse is getting a gun.

We definitely should be banning semi-automatic rifles. Because of the registry some who did not need their long guns gave them up because they had no use for them, which means that we are getting the guns out of places where people do not use them, so that there is less chance of accidents, less chance of guns being stolen.

The gun registry is like building a house. We have a foundation; the walls are in and the roof is in. Yes, there are some problems with it. Maybe it has a lousy coat of paint or ugly drapes, but we do not destroy the entire house. We have already spent a lot of money. For us to scrap it now would mean a gigantic waste of taxpayers' money that was already spent.

Sheila Fraser, the Auditor General, said in 2006 that there were problems in this registry. This bill was tabled on June 19, 2006, but nothing happened for an entire year. Why not talk to Canadians? That did not happen. It did not go to committee. If it is so important, why did it not go to committee? Why was there no debate?

Instead, the Conservative government decided to have an amnesty and said it would not charge any more. Each year that has happened $20 million is not being collected. The total for almost two years now is $40 million.

I heard tonight that perhaps we should take that money and invest it in young people, invest it in anti-crime initiatives. The Conservatives, during the election, said that they would provide $50 million in crime prevention programs. That did not happen, did it?

Even today in the House of Commons during question period we heard only $10 million being announced and we do not even know where we can find this $10 million because if we check the website for the National Crime Prevention Centre there are no clear guidelines. How do communities apply? I do not know.

The old program was mismanaged in terms of the anti-crime prevention programs, but we need to improve on that. Improve the gun registry, strengthen it, and manage it well. What we should not do is scrap it and have this bill passed because it would be very unfortunate. We know what the results would be: homicides, suicides, and accident rates would go up. Lives would be destroyed and most of those lives would belong to women.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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June 19, 2007