November 1st, 12:40 p.m.
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Mr. Speaker, as members are aware, I am rising to speak to Bill C-19, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act.
In this very emotional debate, we have had members from all sides of the House rise and quote from either families of victims, police officers, or from other organizations that are for or against the registry. I think that the kind of debate we have heard in the House emphasizes how divisive this particular issue is in this country. No matter which side of the issue, people have passion when speaking to their beliefs on the matter.
I will address one aspect of that belief. I come from the riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, a very beautiful riding, but I think it epitomizes the divide in this country around this particular issue.
My riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan is an urban-rural riding and members can imagine the kind of discussion that has taken place there on the registry. I would have one group of constituents come before me to say that I absolutely must vote to get rid of the gun registry. Then I would have an equally passionate group of people coming from exactly the opposing point of view.
However, I have heard members in the House say that the reason they are here in the House is because people in their riding voted to send them here based on their position on the gun registry, either pro or con.
I think many of us sometimes face very difficult decisions when we have a riding that is just not that clear cut. What do we do? I have had people, whether they voted for or against me, say that I have to represent their views here in the House. With an individual who says that to me, I always raise this question. There are roughly 127,000 people who live in my riding, it is 4,000-plus square kilometres and I could conceivably have 127,000 different points of view on any particular issue. So how do I best represent my constituents?
It is incumbent upon us, when we are talking about representing our constituents, to look at the country as a whole. Right now we have before us an issue that is dividing our country. It is dividing the urban versus the rural. It is pitting the hunters and farmers against some of the city dwellers and sometimes against people whose families have suffered as a result of gun violence.
It would be far more useful if we could talk about gun control rather than the gun registry. If we want to keep our communities, family members and officers safe, that may be the best way to tackle it. However, instead of having that conversation, we are having a deeply divisive conversation about the gun registry.
I want to quote the late Jack Layton. Jack, in this House and in other places, has said that one of the roles of a national leader is to look for ways to bridge those divides in our country. One of the roles of a national leader is to take those deeply divisive issues and ask where we can find common ground so that we are not beating up on each other over issues.
Years ago when I was doing work on conflict resolution and mediation, one of the things that some of the professors used to say about this issue is to be hard on the problem and soft on the people. However, I find in this House that we are being very hard on the people, but not dealing with the problem.
I want to read into the record parts of a speech that Jack gave on August 20, 2010. Jack said:
I’ve heard from countless gun-owners who say the registry treats them like criminals. Discounts their way of life...their regional roots. I’ve heard from Canadians who hate what the registry seems to represent — another city-driven idea that forgot rural reality. I’ve spoken to First Nations hunters who resent hearing they should “just get over it” and register their rifles. They talk about respect, and treaty rights, and slippery slopes.
The concerns of rural, northern and aboriginal Canadians are real and honest. But I’ve also heard from countless citizens, equally impassioned, who take a different view. Emergency Room doctors, victim service workers, police officers and their unions, parents, teachers, Members of Parliament, ordinary women & men in cities like Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver.
Many agree that the way the registry was implemented was deeply flawed, but they ask a compelling question: Shouldn't we Canadians do anything in our power that might reduce gun violence? Stopping gun violence has been a priority for rural and urban Canadians. There is no good reason why we shouldn't be able to build solutions that bring us together, but that sense of shared purpose had been the silent victim of the gun registry debate.
He goes on and, I think, very ably outlines in that speech the very difficult decision facing our country, but I only have 10 minutes.
I know from my own riding that, although the gun registry has been an issue either for or against, is not the number one issue that people come in to my riding office to talk about. They want to know how come they cannot get their employment insurance claim cheque because of delays in processing.
They want to know where is the national housing strategy because my riding has a situation where there are very few rental units that have been built over the last 10, 15, 20 years. They want to know what is happening with health care because they cannot get a family doctor. They want to know what is happening with the roads and all of those other day-to-day things that people face in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan. The gun registry is not the number one issue that they say we should be spending our time and energy in this House debating.
Now, Jack and the New Democrats did have some proposals around this deeply divisive issue. This included things like decriminalizing first time non-registration of long guns and making a one time offence a non-criminal ticket, enshrining in legislation that gun owners will never be charged for registration, preventing the release of identifying information about gun owners except to protect public safety by court order or by law, and creating a legal guarantee for aboriginal treaty rights.
I know that as a former aboriginal affairs critic I did hear many times from first nations about their concerns around the possible abrogation of treaty rights in this piece of gun registry legislation. I know the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, myself and others in this House have talked very passionately about the need to consider aboriginal treaty rights in the context of gun registry or gun control, whichever way we are looking at it.
As in many pieces of legislation, there are often opportunities for unintended consequences. We have seen this in legislation that has been before this House before. I was talking earlier to a member of the press about the former voter identification registration, where the initial piece of legislation disenfranchised nearly a million Canadians because the House did not get it right. It did not do its due diligence.
An article in the November 1 Toronto Star begins with “Tory gun bill delists sniper rifles, semi-automatics”. In here some concerns have been raised about some, one can imagine, unintended consequences of the bill because I am sure nobody would actually want this to happen. I am going to read from the article about some of the weapons that are affected. It states:
They are all weapons that will soon be declassified under the Conservatives’ bill to kill the long-gun registry and freed from binding controls that now see them listed with the RCMP-run database.
They fall under the class of “non-restricted” weapons and they are about to become unregistered. Restricted or prohibited firearms such automatic assault rifles, sawed-off shotguns or handguns are not affected by the bill and would remain under current controls.
But under Bill C-19, the law would no longer require a licensed gun owner to hold a registration certificate for “non-restricted” weapons.
It further states:
The [Coalition for Gun Control] is still analyzing the legislation. But in information sent to the Star, its researchers point out that under the Conservative bill the Ruger Mini-14, the .50-calibre sniper rifle...a sniper rifle that can pierce light armour from a distance of up to 1.5 km—and [another] Long Range Sniper Rifle, which can accurately hit a target 2 kilometres away will no longer require registration certificates.
I am sure most Canadians would not want this to happen. It would seem important that what we do is take a step back, think about the divisions that this is creating in our country, and think about what Canadians actually want when they are talking about gun registry versus gun control.
I would urge all members in this House to vote against the bill because the bill simply does not address some of the key issues that are facing our communities, our police officers, and families of victims of gun violence.
November 1st, 12:50 p.m.
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for those two very good questions. I ran out of time to quote from the Star article, but further on down in that article, dealing with issues around snipers, it pointed out that in the past businesses used to have to do the registration. Of course, that was done away with, with the long gun registry in 1995.
There is a quote here from the president of Quebec's municipal police federation. He said:
Without the long-gun registry, the government must re-establish the requirement that merchants keep records of gun purchasers, and the same requirement must be imposed upon gun owners who give, transfer or sell their firearms.
We are not doing away with some of the requirements. We still need an ability to find out who has these guns and when they may be used in an offence.
The other issue around officer safety is very interesting. The Conservatives, with their law and order agenda, are actually not looking for ways that they can continue to put in place measures that would support the safety and well-being of police officers in this country.
November 1st, 12:50 p.m.
Ending the Long-gun Registry Act
Mr. Speaker, any of us who have done any travelling in the world, whether to the United States or other countries, recognize very quickly that Canada is a culturally different country. Therefore, when we start looking elsewhere for quotes and comments, this is really one of these cases where it should be a made in Canada solution. Because our country has evolved differently than the United States, we really do need to look for solutions that are going to respect the different provincial and territorial approaches to this, as well as first nations and Inuit rights, with their treaties. First nations and Inuit have been treated very differently in this country as well.
This is an issue that must be made in Canada. We must look to Canadians for a solution. We must look to rural and urban Canadians and first nations, Inuit and Métis. Therefore, I urge the government to withdraw this piece of legislation and go back to the drawing board.