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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Issue 16 - Evidence for March 29, 2012


OTTAWA, Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was referred Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, met this day at 9:34 a.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator John D. Wallace (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Good morning, colleagues, guests and members of the general public who are viewing today's proceedings on CPAC. I am John Wallace, a senator from New Brunswick, and I am Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

Before proceeding further, I will have each member of our committee introduce themselves, beginning with the deputy chair.

Senator Fraser: I am Joan Fraser, a senator from Quebec.

[Translation]

Senator Chaput: I am Maria Chaput from Manitoba.

[English]

Senator Frum: Linda Frum, a senator from Ontario.

Senator Lang: Dan Lang, Yukon.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: Mr. Dagenais from Quebec.

Senator Boisvenu: Senator Boisvenu from Quebec.

[English]

Senator White: Vern White, Ontario.

Senator Unger: I am Betty Unger from Edmonton, and I am just sitting in as an observer.

The Chair: Thank you, colleagues.

Today we are continuing our consideration of Bill C-19, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act. This bill, which is entitled "Ending the Long-gun Registry Act," was introduced in the House of Commons by the Minister of Public Safety on October 25, 2011. The bill amends the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act to remove the requirement to register firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted, in particular non-restricted long guns.

The bill also provides for the destruction of existing records held in the Canadian Firearms Registry On-line and under the control of firearms officers as they relate to the registration of such firearms.

Bill C-19 was referred to this committee by the Senate on March 8, 2012, for further examination and study. This is our committee's fourth meeting on Bill C-19. Our meetings are open to the public and also available live via webcast on the parl.gc.ca website. Additional information on the scheduling of witnesses can be found on the parl.gc.ca website under the heading "Senate Committees."

Colleagues, as we begin our last day of hearings regarding Bill C-19, I am extremely pleased to have this panel of three with us today. From the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, we have the Executive Director, Tony Bernardo. We also have a very accomplished lady who was the 1984 Olympic gold medalist in the ladies' match pistol, Linda Thom. I should say that her being very accomplished does not suggest the other two are not, but we always welcome our Olympians. From the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, we have the Manager of Government Affairs and Policy, Greg Farrant.

Welcome to you all. We will now be pleased to hear opening statements.

Tony Bernardo, Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association: Good morning, Mr. Chair and senators. It is a pleasure to be here; thank you for your kind invitation to speak on behalf of our association members, who enjoy responsible sport shooting, hunting, firearms collecting, and related heritage pursuits.

This is the ninth time I have appeared before a Canadian parliamentary committee in an effort to explain why many elements of the Firearms Act are fictional attributes to public safety. Many trees have been sacrificed to fill Hansard with the long-gun registry debate, which surely begs the question: Is there anything new to say?

Would it be news to suggest that the current laws in Canada presume guilt before innocence for all gun owners? Is it news that some media outlets have been shamelessly complicit conduits for the outlandish scam perpetuated by anti- gun spin doctors?

It has taken 17 years to reverse the legislative mess that gave Canadians a gun registry that was no more than a desperate political pacifier.

Unfortunately, many Canadians took the bait and, in deference to them, they believed the police chiefs and politicians who assured them that the gun registry was an important public safety tool. Now, 17 years later, we are still waiting for a single example of the gun registry saving anyone, anywhere, any time. In fact, it has cost lives.

The pro-registry groups have never been able to oblige because the registry was never designed as an instrument to protect the population from anything. It was designed as an instrument to get John Q. Citizen off the couch and into the polls to vote. The government of the day knew it was a sham and they knew their blessed registry was a high-priced house of cards waiting for a decent breeze.

Front-line police officers have already testified that believing registry data can place them in grave danger in the field. Police chiefs enjoyed the registry because it provided them with a list of addresses where guns are located so they can someday take them away. The chiefs claim it was not about confiscation, and with every denial, their collective nose grows longer.

We have seen too many doors kicked in and too many innocent gun owners charged with a myriad of alleged infractions, some of which do not even exist in current legislation.

Like the four-year-old child that drew a gun with crayons, overreaction is rampant. Have some police forces been instructed to ensure that the punishment is the process? When charges will not stick, the innocent must shell out thousands of dollars in lawyers' fees just to have the charges dropped. The system was designed to frustrate gun owners into giving up and abandoning their beloved heritage sport. As the saying goes, "That ain't happening."

I represent the Canadian Shooting Sports Association. The CSSA has members who enjoy a day at the range, the same as some families enjoy trips to the arena, soccer pitch and swimming pool. Some of our members have cultivated their shooting skills to the point where they have captured gold for Canada at the Olympics. We are honoured today to have one such champion with us.

Shooting develops hand-eye coordination, patience and the continuation of the Canadian quest for excellence. If you doubt it, consider those who have trained themselves to squeeze the trigger between their heartbeats for ultimate accuracy. Some people say, "Okay, fine, have fun, but why should you care about taking five minutes to register your guns?" What is the big deal? Here is the big deal: The gun registry is a shopping list for computer hackers. It tells criminals where to find the guns of responsible firearms owners who have registered because they are lawful citizens. Surprise — criminals do not register their guns. Could the registry be hacked for ill-gotten gains? Apparently so. The RCMP admits that the registry has been compromised more than 300 times. Now, more and more Canadians demand the registry be consigned to the trash heap of history.

Canadian media could have something to do with that through the newspapers, television, radio and online reports. Members of the media who have taken the time to actually investigate the registry's efficiency tend to conclude it needs to be scrapped. Meanwhile, there are legions of so-called reporters and editors who have mounted concerted campaigns to preserve the registry in all its defective glory. We have hit a sad new age in Canadian journalism when certain myopic scribblers hide behind their fake non-partisanship.

In recent years, some of the country's foremost journalists pointed out in detail how the registry has failed and how it can only continue to fail. These are the writers and broadcasters who have identified the truth and reported the facts. The beat goes on. Lawful firearms owners appreciate your invitation to work together to attain legislative sanity without jeopardizing the safety of a single Canadian.

Thank you for your time this morning.

The Chair: Thank you for those comments Mr. Bernardo.

Linda Thom, as an individual: Honourable senators and distinguished witnesses, good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today regarding the repeal of the long-gun registry. I would like to point out that the opinions I express are my own and not those of any organization or group to which I belong. My name is Linda Thom; I am a wife, mother, grandmother and real estate agent living and working in Ottawa. I have other credits to my name, but I have had the good fortune to be able to represent this country over several years in two international shooting careers during which I have won five gold, four silver and two bronze medals for this marvelous country, of which the best known is the Olympic gold medal that I won in 1984.

The long-gun registry is a huge failure. It has only half of the legally owned long guns in Canada in the registry but has none of the illegally owned ones. Police do not rely on the registry, as you have heard from Senator White himself, and as I have heard over the years on various committees from various chiefs of police up and down the country.

The long-gun registry cannot prevent crime. Why? It cannot predict criminal behaviour or insane behaviour. It is only useful after the fact, and in that case very little use because very few guns used in crime have been in the registry. In fact, no homicides have ever been solved through the use of the registry. To prevent violent crime you must tackle social ills: bullying, harassment, low self-esteem, loss of jobs or unavailability of jobs and all sorts of other social ills. We have been told that over and again by social scientists and researchers.

The shooting sports, including hunting, are among the safest sports in Canada. Take a look at our insurance rates; they very low, in fact I think the lowest that you can get. In all the time I have been driving, which is since the age of 16, I can recall only one injury in a civilian range in Canada.

Now, what happens when we abolish the registry? Canada will continue to have a lot of important safeguards in place: licences, police checks, mandatory waiting periods, references, attending required courses on the case of the applicant, and passing both written and practical tests. The reason these are put there, especially the written and practical test, is because we have proven through hunter safety courses for many years that it is one of the big strengths in how you prevent deaths and injuries in the hunting field. It has worked extraordinarily well.

We have gun dealers' records, which they must keep. We have safe storage and transportation requirements. We have restricted and prohibited gun registries. We have gun club safety courses, requirements and supervision. We have a wonderful club at the RA Centre. If you would like to, we would be honoured to have any of you come down and see the rigours with which we put our members through courses and through routines whenever they come to shoot.

We have the hunting licences, as I already mentioned, and hunter safety courses. We still have the Criminal Code, which is about this thick. We have enforcement of that code by police, border guards and game wardens. In fact, public safety will be enhanced by abolishing the long-gun registry, as counterintuitive as that may sound, because we will be returning more police to active duty who now shuffle registry paper. We will save a lot of money from the long-gun registry to hire more police to beef up anti-smuggling squads and do other regular police work. In fact, regarding the smuggling squads, 70 to 90 per cent of illegal firearms are smuggled into Canada from the United States.

Please free millions of responsible and law-abiding Canadians from being treated worse than criminals by abolishing this registry. Thank you.

Greg Farrant, Manager, Government Affairs and Policy, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters: Good morning honourable senators, fellow panelists. On behalf of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, one of the oldest and largest non-profit conservation organizations in Canada, our 100,000 members and 675 member clubs thank you very much for providing us with an opportunity to appear before you today to comment on Bill C-19.

Over the last few decades, firearms ownership in Canada has become an emotive and polarizing issue. During that time, the lines have often been blurred between legitimate firearms ownership and wider societal problems. All too often firearms ownership has been blamed for a variety of societal ills and may have diverted attention away from the real causes of violence. As a result, firearms ownership by legal, law-abiding, responsible individuals has been surrounded by misinformation and frequently viewed with suspicion. We strongly support the fact that the government has demonstrated leadership on this issue and fulfilled its long-standing commitment to abolish the long-gun registry for non-restrictive rifles and shotguns. I make the distinction about the type of firearms the bill impacts to re- emphasize the fact that the government is not gutting the registration of firearms, despite claims to the contrary.

As a conservation-based organization, the OFAH bases all our fish and wildlife programs on the best available science. Science relies on fact. In the case of the long-gun registry, there is a glaring absence of fact-based evidence to support its existence. Suggestions that gun crime in Canada has declined since the introduction of the registry ignore the fact that that decline began two decades before the registry was created.

Sometimes the facts make people nervous. To those who oppose firearms ownership, the facts are uncomfortable because they expose the degree of misinformation that is often used by gun prohibitionists who advance their argument. Rosemary Gartner of the University the Toronto has commented that experts have difficulties in accounting for the reasons behind the decrease in gun crime in Canada. Dr. Ron Melchers, professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, stated last fall that the decline cannot be attributed to Canada's gun registry. This conclusion is supported by studies undertaken by experts at the International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting in Australia, who have published a long list of papers demonstrating the lack of correlation between the introduction of firearms legislation, most notably a gun registry, and falling rates of firearms accidents, homicides and suicides. They, too, have concluded there is no publicly available evidence to indicate that a firearms registry and a long-gun registry in particular have prevented any criminal acts.

Public support in Canada for the registry has eroded. Since the introduction of Bill C-19, registry supporters have on various occasions suggested that the long-gun portion of the system and losing it will result in the delisting of various dangerous guns and sniper rifles, that solving gun crimes will end because police will have no more tools at their disposal and, finally, that this is a partisan political plot to undermine a program created by a former government.

In actuality, the facts suggest nothing of the sort. The bill has nothing to do with delisting anything. The other components of Bill C-68 will remain in place, including licensing, screening, background checks, firearms training, safe storage and transportation and registries for restricted and prohibited long guns. Police like Bracebridge OPP Inspector Ed Medved have stated that losing the registry will not shut us down by any means. Lastly, when the registry was created, it was challenged in the courts by five provinces, including New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, all of which had Liberal governments at the time, undermining the partisan argument.

Case studies published by the International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting have noted similarities between Australia, New Zealand and Canada. In New Zealand, they disbanded their long-gun registry in the 1980s and, lo and behold, the sky did not fall. They decided that those who are willing to undergo a licensing process that includes screening and background checks are not likely to be the people that police have to be monitoring. In Australia, their registry was introduced in 1996, and anti-gun lobbyists claim to this day that it was responsible for the decline in gun crimes and, in particular, homicide, suicides and firearms accidents. This ignores the fact that, like in Canada and New Zealand, those rates had been falling for a decade prior to the legislation's being introduced, and, in the case of Australia in particular, coincided with the concurrent introduction of a national suicide prevention strategy. According to the Public Health Association of Australia, they concluded that the 1996 long-gun registry was not a cost-effective intervention for the prevention of suicide.

A long list of studies by Samara McPhedran and Jeanine Baker in Australia have concluded there is no publicly available evidence to indicate that firearms registration has prevented any criminal acts. This was echoed in Canada by the report of the former Auditor General, who noted that the Canadian Firearms Centre was either unable or unwilling to provide fact-based evidence to demonstrate how the long-gun registry had delivered on its promise that it would enhance public safety and save lives.

The symbolism of tough gun laws is well and good, but symbolism has not translated into saving lives. Ineffective legislation can and should be changed, and we urge you to support Bill C-19 unamended. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you. We will now turn to questions from committee members, beginning with our deputy chair.

Senator Fraser: Good morning. For the record, I believe you are all members of the minister's firearms advisory committee.

If I could begin with you, Mr. Bernardo, based on some things you said in the past, I would like to ask what your views are on gun control in general. In particular, do you believe that we should retain a system of licensing for gun owners, and do you believe that handguns should continue to be controlled in this country?

Mr. Bernardo: Obviously I believe that all firearms should continue to be controlled. However, I do not believe nor does our association believe in silly gun control. We believe that laws that pertain to the regulation of firearms should be sensible and cost-effective and should actually work.

In terms of your other questions, we believe that the current licensing system is flawed. We do agree that there should be some forms of checks and balances. I think that all Canadians would agree on that. Certainly understand that we represent sports shooters here, not the criminal element. We are families. We are husband, wives and children, and we want to have safety on our streets too. We just believe that the current system that regulates this has proven to be ineffective, not cost-effective, and needs considerable improvement.

Senator Fraser: What would you do to improve the licensing system?

Mr. Bernardo: If I may be bold, our discussions here on Bill C-19 would be regarding the current state of the firearms registry as opposed to licence. I do not mind answering the question. It is just that precious minutes tick by.

In terms of the licensing system, I believe that, first of all, we have two separate licensing systems that do exactly the same thing, and that is completely not cost-effective. It is redundant and does not solve any particular social issue, because there is not one there to solve. There is also a myriad of exceptional permits that you need to have to move firearms, depending on the type, from Point A to Point B. There are also a number of other flaws in the system that I think need to be addressed.

Senator Fraser: As you say, the minutes tick by. It would be very interesting to pursue that, but I would like to put another point to Ms. Thom. Congratulations on the Cordon Bleu. I envy you that.

You said in your presentation when you were speaking that the long-gun registry contains as few as half of the rifles and shotguns in Canada, and your written brief says that the registry may contain as few as half. Either way, what is your source for that, and have you any idea how much of the gap is due to the amnesty that has been in effect for some years now?

Ms. Thom: Thank you for the questions. In fact, the United Nations has estimated that only half of the long guns, and I did not say "may" in my presentation, so I apologize. It was semantics, as I was reading from points. Nevertheless, let us say half, because that is, in fact, what the UN has said.

Senator Fraser: Do you know what they based it on?

Ms. Thom: Yes, import and exportation of firearms, records of import to this country and export from the United States and other countries.

Senator Fraser: We have heard interesting testimony on the imports of firearms. What about the amnesty?

Ms. Thom: The import records are there.

The amnesty has been very helpful to prevent all gun owners from becoming criminals under the way the legislation is written, so that has been very helpful. I think that some people have in fact believed that the amnesty forgives them from renewing their licensing, so there is confusion out there. I do not think that people are deliberately not renewing their licences.

Initially, why did those other half not register their guns? They are afraid that the intention of the government at the time was to slowly increase the number of restricted and prohibited firearms and put them into those categories and seize and confiscate their firearms. They did not want to lose them. I have informally heard a lot of comments by gun owners out there in the country that they are very much afraid. They are afraid of being visited by the police. For example, the way the legislation is written, if a neighbour of mine decided that, for some reason or other, they did not like me and they really wanted to be malicious, all they would have to do is call the police and say, "Linda Thom threatened me." The next thing I know, I would have a SWAT team on the doorstep because I own firearms.

Senator Fraser: No, because a threat was alleged.

Ms. Thom: A threat was alleged; that is right. However, there would not be a knock on the door or any other reasonable check. I would be descended upon by a SWAT team, who commonly throw in flash grenades and employ other means. They throw people to the floor and bind them up. Sometimes worse injuries are incurred. Sometimes people have heart attacks because they have been attacked. Whether it was a legitimate or not a legitimate complaint, my whole point is that if they have an illegitimate complaint, a nuisance complaint, they can come down on me with undue force. Without a warrant, they can simply burst into my home. A policeman can come without warning and insist on inspecting my home and my firearms without any advance notice. A lot of people, yes, they are afraid.

Senator Fraser: I take with absolute faith your statement that a lot of people are afraid. That does not necessarily mean the fear is justified, I would observe. I would also observe that a continuing thread of debate in the Senate has to do with the powers given to inspectors of all kinds. Food and safety inspectors — all kinds of people — have, in law, the power to invade your home or your factory, or whatever, without warrants. That is a continuing concern. However, in the case of a threat, I think perhaps the debate might be a little more nuanced than otherwise. I thank you very much.

The Chair: Colleagues, I know you are aware that we have another panel scheduled for 10:30 and that we will keep the schedule. If you could keep that in mind with the length of your questions and with responses, we certainly want to hear everything you have to say. Make sure you get the points across that you think are important, but if you could do that as concisely as possible, we would appreciate it.

Senator Lang: Welcome this morning. I want to pursue Ms. Thom's last comments in respect to the question of the legislation and how it has affected people across this country.

I want to reiterate for my colleague Senator Fraser that there is a threat out there every day, whether you like it or not, in respect to this legislation and how they enforce that legislation, if called upon.

I want to go back to Ms. Thom's comments in the other place, when she said:

Nevertheless, I'm accorded fewer legal rights than a criminal. Measures enacted by Bill C-68 allow police to enter my home at any time without a search warrant because I own registered firearms, yet the same police must have a search warrant to enter the home of a criminal. I'm not arguing that criminals should not have this right, they should. I'm arguing that this right should be restored to me and all Canadian firearms owners.

Would you and perhaps any of the other witnesses like to comment further on that statement? I think it is very important for the record that people across this country understand that the rights of gun owners have been infringed upon, strictly based on a phone call, as Ms. Thom outlined. That is very real, and these are criminal charges.

Could you comment further on that?

Ms. Thom: Thank you very much for the opportunity. Yes, in fact there have been a lot of documented cases where people's rights definitely had been infringed upon. There was a case where someone was putting a club on the wheel of their vehicle. Someone saw this and thought that it was a gun and called the police. All kinds of really horrible circumstances occurred, also witnessed by children and other neighbours. A person's job, simply because of the innuendo and the gossip and so forth that surrounds all of these things, can be affected. There was a case recently, which Mr. Bernardo mentioned, where a child in school, a four- or five-year-old child, did a drawing. In that drawing, a gun appeared and the father was jumped on by the police simply because the child in that school had drawn a firearm and presumably the father holding the firearm.

I will defer to Mr. Bernardo and Mr. Farrant to give other examples, but there have been many examples. There have also been examples of traps being laid against people who own a lot of firearms — all legal, all registered, all extremely well documented and well stored, the whole thing — to ensnare them so the police can go in and take all of their firearms and make a big story out of it.

The Chair: Ms. Thom, you obviously believe what you are saying, but we should try to avoid these general kinds of situations.

Ms. Thom: I am sorry.

The Chair: As much as we can, we must stick to facts. We would appreciate that.

Mr. Bernardo: If I may add to this, our association has a legal fund for our members. We can provide up to $5,000 in legal assistance for any one of our members that our board adjudicates was unjustly charged with firearms events. In the last 10 years, we have gone through $875,000. That is $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 at a time. It is rampant. It is everywhere. It is going on every day. Not a week goes by that I do not get a phone call in my office about this. It is rampant.

Senator Lang: That is interesting information. It certainly does substantiate the observations that were made in testimony here the other day in respect of the number of court cases that are going forward and the question of whether or not the registry itself has any validity in a courtroom. Perhaps you want to comment on that.

Mr. Bernardo: There have been many times when judges have thrown registry information out because it is so breathtakingly inaccurate. Currently, there are 3,000 Lee-Enfield rifles registered in the registry with the serial number 2.222 because it is not a serial number but a proof mark. People did not know how to enter that information. They have gone back and, more than once, they have had to redo all the serial number information. Now any firearm that is transferred has to be re-verified. You have to confirm that all the data you are transferring is actually correct because the registry information is incredibly inaccurate.

Senator Lang: I want to follow up on the licensing requirements and perhaps your observations in respect to what is required of an individual who applies for a long-gun firearm licence and the fact that not only does he or she have to apply, but they have to go through a rigid exam and get 80 per cent on that exam in order to be qualified. There are references required when you go through that exercise, so the community has to comment. Your spouse has to agree to that licence.

Do you have any comments about that aspect of what is required and remains to be required and whether that meets the test from the point of view of trying to do the best we can to ensure that those who should not have long-gun firearms do not get them at the outset? There is no point in having the registry at that point. Could you provide comments on that?

Mr. Bernardo: Some of the licence application information that is taken down is quite useful, I am sure. However, there are things like having to list your conjugal partners for the last two years. Excuse me; I think it was long ago established that the state has no business in the bedrooms of Canadians. That is not my quote. We all know where that came from. Yet you are asking for our conjugal partners for the last two years, and we have to go to that conjugal partner and get permission; they have to sign off, or they are phoned if they do not sign off to be asked, "Is it okay that your ex obtains a firearm?"

This is not evidence-based information gathering; this is fishing. It is intrusive and ugly, and it is not allowed for any other licence application in Canada for anything.

They want to know about job losses. Are job losses the government's business? They want to know whether you have ever been treated for depression. You understand that if someone has a problem, this kind of stuff prevents them from seeking treatment. I am sure you may have heard from the psychiatrist in Prince George who says she takes her patients' confidential information to the police and they use the registry to go and seize guns. You know what? I bet she does not have a lot of patients telling her any confidential information, because I certainly would not tell anything to a psychiatrist who is willing to betray my confidential information to the police.

This is the kind of thing gun owners face every day in this country.

The Chair: We will have to move along.

Senator White: As you probably know, the changes that have come about as a result of Bill C-19 focus on specific registration of long guns; a number of requirements, including individual licensing, safety courses, storage, and transportation would remain. If you do not mind, Ms. Thom, do you have an opinion around the requirements that would remain in place?

Ms. Thom: Yes, a lot of requirements that remain in place are good safeguards. I referred to them. The safe storage requirements are one good safeguard.

I was on another federal committee before this one, and we developed a kind of matrix of items that we thought would be sensible: proper storage of firearms, with certain exceptions; and keeping ammunition and guns separate seems logical. However, it is a good thing to actually state and require. Gun safety courses, written and practical, are extremely valuable, because I really believe that those are preventative tools. You want to know if someone holding a firearms licence is really competent enough to handle such a firearm. Quite a few people have been denied because they did not pass either the written or the practical test.

Senator White: In summation, legal gun owners are not suggesting that we do away with the safety factors that surround the utilization of guns. What we are talking about is whether the number on a long gun is helpful in keeping society safe; that is what we are focusing on.

Ms. Thom: That is it, yes, in a nutshell.

The Chair: Mr. Farrant, do you have any comments to make?

Mr. Farrant: Yes, certainly. The OFAH has always supported the components of licensing. We support all the other components that will remain in place, such as safe storage and transportation. Going back to the 1960s, we were responsible for working with the Ontario government to introduce formal hunter safety courses in Ontario. The 310 hunter safety instructors who also teach the firearms safety course in Ontario are employees of ours.

Over the last 10 years they have trained 170,000 first-time hunters. The program has an impeccable safety record, and we believe strongly in licensing and reasonable gun control. We spend a lot of time through our vehicles — Ontario Out of Doors magazine, Angler and Hunter television, Angler and Hunter radio, social media sites — encouraging people and reminding them of their responsibilities for those aspects of licensing, those aspects being safe storage, safe transportation, et cetera.

I would also point out briefly that I know when Sergeant Grismer from Saskatchewan was commenting yesterday and was talking about how the system works in terms of the background checks, screening and it is sent to Miramichi; we have an extra step in Ontario. Before it goes to Miramichi, it is sent to the Chief Firearms Officer, who takes a look at it. If they judge it to be safe, that person will send it back to the instructor, who then sends it to Miramichi. There are two levels of screening that have taken place in Ontario, which not all provinces have.

Senator White: Mr. Bernardo, this is a supplemental to an earlier response, you referred earlier to $875,000 spent in defence of members of your organization. In the money that you have expended, are any of those in relation to criminal offences other than what I would call administrative charges?

Mr. Bernardo: No.

Senator White: The $875,000 spent — court time provided, Crown prosecutors — is in relation to administrative breaches?

Mr. Bernardo: Absolutely. We have an adjudicating panel. The member makes application to the adjudicating panel. We look at the circumstances surrounding the offence. If you try to knock off a 7-Eleven, you are on your own. It is when someone has fallen outside the law inadvertently and is being what we considered unjustly persecuted.

Senator White: Administrative breaches.

Mr. Bernardo: Yes.

Senator Jaffer: I have a clarification, Mr. Farrant. The licensing requirements will stay, which means they check how long you have been with your spouse and all the other checks will be in place; is that correct?

Mr. Farrant: Yes.

Senator Jaffer: When Mr. Bernardo said all these checks have to happen, that will still continue, will it not?

Mr. Farrant: That is correct.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: My question is for the three witnesses, whom I thank for being here. You all belong to organizations that are involved in shooting or hunting. Obviously, I imagine that you and your members, in your organizations, have had to renew their licences at the Miramichi office. I would like to hear what you have to say about how easy it is for you or the undue delays you encounter when you renew those licences.

[English]

I would like to have some information, because normally with your organization, you must renew your permit for your firearms. You know the delay with Miramichi. I would like to have information if you have a problem for your renewal of your permit — two, three or five months.

Mr. Farrant: Regarding renewal times, I can particularly speak to the Ontario example because we are an Ontario- based federation. The delays even in Ontario — because we have the extra CFO step that other provinces may not employ — add anywhere from six weeks to three months to the process, in addition to any delays that may then be experienced once it goes to the Canadian Firearms Centre.

It can be anywhere from three to six months before those licences are issued.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: I would like to hear what the other two witnesses have to say about delays. With your permission, Mr. Chair, has that caused your members any prejudice?

[English]

Mr. Bernardo: Absolutely, sir. We advise all our members to send licence applications and renewal documents to the Canadian Firearms Centre in Miramichi by registered mail, signature required. That way you have an actual record that they got it. We have had a number of people in a situation where they claim they never received the application.

If you fail to renew on time, you lose grandfathering privileges. For example, if you are a collector of 12(6) handguns and you are one day late getting an application into the Canadian Firearms Centre, you lose your privileges for grandfathered firearms and they are then seized without compensation at that point in time. You cannot go back and reclaim your grandfathering status. It is quite problematic.

Senator Runciman: I have a couple of quick questions for Mr. Farrant. In your submission, you were talking about 100,000 members of your organization. I have read and heard about Bill C-68, and the way this act has been administered, with respect to registration, has driven a wedge between law-abiding citizens and police and has seriously damaged the relationship. I wonder how serious that is, what kind of feedback you have had from your members with respect to this, and how has it impacted on the street in terms of cooperation, support, those kinds of issues. Do you have any views with respect to that?

Mr. Farrant: Thank you for the question. It is rather not just registration of long guns and the system that is in place, badly flawed as it may be, that has caused some rifts between police and the legal law-abiding community. There are other issues that Senator White raised regarding safe storage, safe transportation, whatnot. Police officers do a very difficult job. We have great relations with them from OFAH and we respect the job they do, but many officers in this country do not understand the requirements under Bill C-68. They particularly do not understand what constitutes safe storage.

There are many examples of legal law-abiding firearms owners being charged for unsafe storage of a firearm in their home when in fact it is not unsafely stored. However, the police officer does not understand what safe storage constitutes under the law. That is an ongoing and constant problem that our members have experienced and I know the broader firearms community has experienced. It is the fact that the system itself is not always well understood by law enforcement officers, who have a difficult enough job to do, and I know they have a lot of Criminal Code to be aware of. However, if you are laying charges against people, you need to know whether you are laying charges on the correct basis. It causes a lot of distrust and concern on the part of legal law-abiding firearms owners when they know they are abiding to the letter of the law, but police officers do not.

Senator Runciman: It is interesting you make that comment, because the chief of the Calgary Police Service appeared before us last night and essentially echoed what you are saying. He proposed mandated training for police organizations across this country with respect to understanding firearms legislation. Thank you for that.

I want to ask you another quick question related to your submission and the creation of a violent persons registry. It is the first time I have heard of that. Could you elaborate on how that works, and if you have any data on what kind of impacts it might have had?

Mr. Farrant: Yes. Thank you for bringing that point up. There are several hundred thousand people in this country who, once probation has expired, disappear into the system. They are not tracked. We do not necessarily know where they are. These are people who were convicted of committing violent crimes with firearms, people with restraining orders against them, people who have previously engaged in spousal abuse or have mental health issues. In many jurisdictions — and I will cite Baltimore as a good example — they have instituted a violent offenders registry, which targets a small core of violent offenders who have used firearms incorrectly in the past, instead of looking at the bigger picture.

There are examples in New York and other places, where they have said: We are not going to spend all our time chasing the guy who has a duck rifle that he uses for two weeks in September or a guy who hunts deer one week in November. We will go after the guy who uses illegal firearms and has demonstrated in the past the proclivity to do that. We are going to focus in on that smaller cadre of individuals.

By all accounts, in those jurisdictions that I have cited in my paper, it has worked extremely well. Last year there was a gentleman arrested in Newfoundland for gun crime. When they arrested him, they checked and found out he had been under a prohibition order for 10 years against possessing firearms, but no one knew where this man was. They never checked. If you go back to Mayerthorpe, which we are all familiar with, the gentleman involved in that situation who killed four Mounties was under a prohibition order. No one was paying attention or did anything about it. These are the types of individuals who would be focused upon by this system. It is not about who should have guns, but who should not have guns.

[Translation]

Senator Chaput: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Under Bill C-19, the vendor, the person who sells firearms, no longer has an obligation to verify whether the person who wants to buy a firearm has a legal licence. I would like to know what you think about that. The vendor previously had an obligation to verify that the licence was legal, and, under Bill C-19, he would no longer have to check the see whether the permit is legal. I would like to have your comments on that point.

[English]

Mr. Bernardo: I think there are a lot of misconceptions about this. To provide a firearm to someone who is not authorized to have it is a Criminal Code offence. The obligation is most definitely there to confirm that the person you are selling the firearm to is licensed to have that firearm. I think what you may be confusing on that is the record- keeping requirement in that transfer. Remember that all businesses are required to keep records mandated by the chief firearms office of the province that they live in. To remove the record from this registry does not remove their obligation to keep business records. Business records are mandated by the chief firearms office in the issuance of a business permit. This is a misnomer. The record-keeping requirements are not going away, nor is the obligation to ensure the person you transfer a firearm to is licensed to have it. It is a Criminal Code offence to do that.

[Translation]

Senator Chaput: That is your understanding of Bill C-19, that the person who sells the weapons still has an obligation to verify that the permit is legal, under Bill C-19?

[English]

Mr. Bernardo: That is exactly my understanding, yes. It is still a Criminal Code offence to give a firearm to someone who is not authorized to possess it, and you can go to jail for four years. You really want to make sure the person you give a firearm to is entitled to possess it.

Senator Chaput: Do you have anything to add, Mr. Farrant?

Mr. Farrant: Yes. Thank you, senator. We have and will continue to encourage all of our members, and through our media sources, all firearms owners in general that even if the requirement is not there, that they are still obligated. As Mr. Bernardo has said, there are consequences if they sell a firearm to a private individual, putting businesses aside, to someone who is not duly licensed. They still have the option of calling the CAFC to verify if a licence is currently legal. We will be encouraging our members to keep records for their own benefit, for their own protection, of license numbers and, if they wish, to call the CAFC to verify that the person they are selling a firearm to has a licence that is not under suspension or is currently still legal and has no encumbrances on it. It is not mandatory, but it will be encouraged.

Senator Fraser: To any of you, I think you are aware that the RCMP has formally confirmed that dealers will not have to keep the kinds of records that they previously were required to keep. How do you respond to that? I do not find it in the law. The RCMP says it is there not there, and they run the program.

Mr. Bernardo: The RCMP only runs part of the program. Business licences are not administered by the RCMP, but by the chief firearms offices of the provinces. The chief firearms officer may — this is right from the legislation — require any business to keep any record that they specify. The RCMP may not be keeping that record and it may not be a federally mandated requirement that they keep the records. However, it is mandated by the issuance of the business permit that the dealer keeps records.

Senator Fraser: It may be mandated.

Mr. Bernardo: I can absolutely guarantee you that the CFO's offices will continue to demand record keeping from businesses. Besides, we are not talking about a commodity like chewing gum. Businesses will exercise the same due diligence they have always exercised in the past. We are dealing with responsible, licensed businesses run by responsible Canadians.

Senator Fraser: Mr. Bernardo, I will put to you the same question I have put to a number of other witnesses. First, take it as read that the vast majority of these businesses are legitimate and that they are dealing with wholly honest, legitimate persons like you. However, we know that guns are also used by less-than-admirable characters and we know that in any field, not just this one, there are some businesses that operate at the margins. When we talking about something that is designed to kill and that can be used to kill human beings, should we not be very explicit about the controls required and the records kept?

Mr. Bernardo: I would state to you that a firearm is designed to project a projectile. It is not designed necessarily to kill.

The other thing is that all firearms businesses in Canada operate under a federal licence. They are inspected, background-checked and controlled. If there is a business operating outside the law, it is because they are operating outside of the checks and balances.

If you can successfully deceive the Ontario Provincial Police into issuing you a business permit to own a firearms business, well, good luck to you, but it is not because there were not any checks and balances. There are many checks and balances.

The Chair: We will have to conclude at this point. Be very quick, Senator Lang.

Senator Lang: Since this has not come up before, I wanted to address this. Mr. Farrant's presentation stated that New Zealand disbanded their long-gun registry in the 1980s and the sky did not fall. Do you have any further comments on the New Zealand experience or any knowledge of it?

Mr. Farrant: The group that I mentioned, the international coalition in Australia, has published a number of papers. In particular, they published one that compared Canada, Australia and New Zealand with trends over time. I am happy to share that with you, if you wish.

The charts are quite clear that, in all three jurisdictions, firearms crimes were on the decline long before governments became enamoured with or introduced registration of long guns. In all three jurisdictions, there has been a shared experience in terms of homicides, firearms accidents and suicides: All of those rates were declining long before Bill C-68 came along in this country, or equivalent bills in the other countries.

There are uniform experiences in the three jurisdictions and, having seen New Zealand's example where they abolished theirs decades ago, we have had the benefit of 30-some-odd years of watching what went on there. As I said, the sky has not fallen. The trends have continued to go downward and it had nothing to do with the registry in the first place.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Farrant. That concludes our time with this panel.

We very much appreciate the input you have given us. You all come from somewhat different backgrounds, but you made your points very strongly and I think we understood your messages loud and clear. There may be different thoughts on the messages, but we understood them and you delivered them very well.

We will pause for two minutes to prepare for the next panel.

Welcome to each of our four guests on our second panel, and I would say it is our final panel on Bill C-19. We are pleased to have you here. We have with us, from the Ottawa Victims Services, Executive Director Steve Sullivan, who has been before us a number of times. We have as well Priscilla de Villiers. We also have, representing the students and graduates of Polytechnique for gun control, spokesperson Heidi Rathjen, and a member of that same group, Mr. Benoît Laganière.

We will now have opening statements from each of you, beginning with Mr. Sullivan.

Steve Sullivan, Executive Director, Ottawa Victims Services: Thank you to the committee for once again inviting me here. I can say that I am here on behalf of Ottawa Victims Services, but I am fairly confident in saying that I speak also on behalf of the violence against women communities in Ottawa. They speak with one voice in complete opposition to this bill, and I believe that is a voice that is echoed across the country by those who work in the violence against women community. Unfortunately, you are not hearing from any of those voices at the committee. I will try to raise some of those issues, but I do recognize that I am a middle-class, white, privileged male. I may not be the best person to bring forward the feminist views and gender analysis this bill requires.

I would also recognize, from Minister Ambrose's comments a couple of weeks ago in the other place, that no gender analysis was actually done of the bill. I suspect that if one had been done, you would have recognized that this is not a bill that will benefit women who face abuse and violence in their homes.

We have heard much in the last session, and I know the minister has raised it, about this notion of how firearm owners feel. They feel targeted. They feel that the licensing process is intimidating and invasive. I can tell you that the people we work with, the women we work with who are terrorized in their own homes by their partners, would probably give you a lesson on what invasive and intrusive and fear actually are — to be terrorized in your home by someone you are supposed to love, to be terrorized and not know if tonight is the night when he might end your life, when he might point over at where those guns are stored.

We talk about the homicide rates. Homicide with firearms is one of the issues that women face in violence against women. Those guns are used, as the YWCA pointed out in the Commons committee, to terrorize and intimidate women in their own homes into silence. Those are things that have to be considered when we talk about how maybe gun owners feel. I am not a gun person, and I apologize if they feel that way, but, with all due respect, we deal with people who face real terror and real fear.

I planned on going into the arguments that we often hear about criminals who do not register, and I am not sure. Frankly, I think the government speaks out of both sides of its mouth on this. Somehow criminals do not register long guns, but we are supposed to expect that the Hells Angels will register their handguns and get licensing, because they are keeping those processes. I do not understand how organized crime works, I guess.

Let us also be realistic about men who abuse their wives and their partners. For many of them, in every other aspect of their lives, they are law-abiding citizens who go to work, pay their taxes and register their cars, but when they come home, sometimes they beat up their wives. They are law-abiding people except for that one little thing. That is a pretty important thing in the lives of those women. When we talk about criminals who do not register their guns, many men — I do not suggest all men who own firearms do this, but many men — who beat their wives and have firearms register those firearms.

I hope we do not get into the issues of cost. Given that the government has just passed a bill that will cost Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars with not one piece of evidence that it will reduce violent crime, I am not sure that argument holds much weight.

When Minister Toews was here, he talked about a discussion he had with the chief in Vancouver about gangsters and they no longer carry their firearms just for fun or status symbols, and they only carry their firearms when they are going on a mission, and he credited this to the mandatory minimum penalties. I guess it is a good thing that the gangsters are not carrying their guns more often. I am not sure it is a great thing that they still carry them when they are going on missions. If that is the measure of success that the government is looking for, it certainly will not be hard to meet.

We have heard a lot about the police, and the chiefs of police have been here. Unfortunately, the Canadian Police Association has not. Those national associations are unanimous in their support for Bill C-10. The officers that I have spoken to certainly support the registry. In the past, I have attended many of the vigorous debates the Canadian Police Association had. They were certainly lively debates. A province that was probably the most consistent in its support for the registry was always the Quebec associations.

If the argument is that if you give police information about guns in a home you might give them misinformation and there might be guns they do not know about, you could use that argument for anything. Why would you tell them if there have been previous incidents in the home? Why would you give police any information when they go to a home, because you do not know who is in there. There could be someone dangerous if that home that does not live there. That argument is a little off the mark.

It is clear from the violence against women community perspective that the passage of this bill will put women at risk. Heather Imming, an outspoken advocate who has herself faced violence by her partner, credits the removal of the firearm because of the registry for saving her life. The Supreme Court of Canada has made the link between the registration of firearms and the licensing. It requires both of those models to promote public safety.

We all talk about criminals and Hells Angels, but long guns, as you know, are used most commonly in the murder of women and police officers. The verification of licensing when selling weapons has come up. Senator Fraser raised it in the last session. I would remind you what Minister Toews said. He compared it to when you loan someone your car. You say to them, "Yeah, you can drive my car. Do you have a licence?" If they say yes, you let them have it. If it is someone you do not really know, you might say, "I hope your licence is current." That is what the minister has said is the requirement now under the law to verify that someone has the proper documentation.

Six coroner's inquests have drawn the link between violence against women and the use of firearms. Access to firearms is a risk factor for lethality in cases of violence against women.

Thousands of guns have been removed across the country from homes, many of those because of prohibition orders where men have been charged with assaulting their partners, and police, because they know what firearm is in the home, have gone in. In the debate in the other place, the RCMP raised a case where 21 guns were taken from a home where the family did not even know they were there, but they were identified because of the registry. Now, tomorrow, or when you pass this legislation, they will not have that information. Theoretically, 21 guns or 5 or 6 guns could have been left in that home. We do not know what could have happened had that been the case.

I will draw my remarks to a close because I want to hear what my colleagues have to say, and I certainly look forward to answering your questions. I will say that the minister in his comments made it clear where he stands. He stands on the side of gun owners. Those of us in the violence against women community stand with those women who were terrorized in their own homes. One of us will be wrong. Either this is an important public safety tool or it is not. On a personal level, if I am wrong, the result will be that gun owners have to continue to fill out forms, send them in and register their firearms. I understand how they might feel about that, but with all due respect, at the end of the day, I do not mind saying to those people that that is the requirement for owning a weapon that fires projectiles that are designed to kill. I do not mind being wrong. If the minister is wrong, if the government is wrong and if those who support this bill are wrong, women and children may die. Those are the two differences. I can stand and say to you that I do not mind being wrong. I think the costs of you being wrong are much more important. If that happens and a family comes to my door and asks me why more was not done, I will tell them their government stood with firearm owners. When they want a further explanation, I want to be able to tell them that we warned everyone what the potential cost could be. From that point, those families will come to you and ask you how you voted and why you voted that way. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you. With this panel of four, my understanding is all four have an opening statement to make. Again, if you could keep it as concise as possible, we would appreciate that. We want as much time for questions to be directed to you.

Priscilla de Villiers, as an individual: Thank you for allowing me to appear before you today.

I better give you a bit of background or you will wonder why I am here at all. I grew up in South Africa. All the men in my family, most of the men I knew, very few women, hunted. There were guns in the houses. It was part of our lives. We needed them in our gardens as there were often snakes and animals, but certainly for the hunting season. I want to make it clear that this is not an area that I am unfamiliar with.

However, I was brought up with a very healthy respect for weapons. They were all in the military as well. Safe storage was very strictly enforced, as was licensing and registration of all weapons. If you failed to do that you did not ever get a licence again. It was very strictly controlled. Frankly, when this all arose, I was completely bewildered when there was such enormous opposition to the safe storage of weapons. I first appeared before this committee on December 4, 1991. I was called as a witness to a committee that was evaluating proposals to implement rules on the safe storage of firearms. At that time, gun enthusiasts were opposing the measures. Why? Public safety experts were arguing they would reduce the risk of impulsive suicides and accidental firearm shootings. I was testifying a mere four months after my 19-year-old daughter Nina was abducted at gun point, shot by a sexual offender with an old rusty .22 caliber weapon that he used on his farm. He then also shot and killed Karen Marquis in New Brunswick, attempted to abduct a third stranger and finally committed suicide with the same weapon.

Suddenly for the first time in my life I was faced with the reality of death, abduction, sexual assault, mental illness and all that resulted from that.

At that time, I quoted an article out of the Canadian Medical Association Journal from November 1991. It said:

The current practice of verifying that the applicant has not had a conviction within the past five years is inadequate. Gun ownership must be made impossible for those who pose a risk.

After my daughter's murder I spent five months at a public inquest staring at a coroner's motto: What we learn from the death of one may save the lives of many.

This is the reason why gun control was implemented. This is precisely why we all work towards some means of control. It was never a political issue for me or for any of the people who were representing victims and vulnerable people.

Unfortunately it became a political wedge issue, and each time an argument was addressed a new one was made, which was truly like shooting in a shooting gallery. Fees have been waived, forms have been simplified, credible professionals have come forward to add experiences and research to the debate, to no avail. Frankly, what I heard just before about how the police do not know the law, give me a break. You do not throw the baby out with the bath water. You see that the police are trained. Goodness me.

What is seen today as a political victory will put vulnerable people at risk and jeopardize the safety of all Canadians. Instead of working towards a safer solution, addressing the problems that are there — and there are some — there is dancing on the graves to the sound of the grief of the victims. It appalls me.

Bill C-19 will make it harder for the police to track guns that they find at the scene back to the criminals who used them or to those who may be trafficking guns to unlicensed people by removing the obligation — I think it has been in place since 1977 — to keep sales records. Without the accountability of the existing records tying owners to specific weapon, it could very well make owners more careless about storing their guns safely as there will be little come back.

Every year, there are private sales of guns between friends and acquaintances at gun stores, gun shows, online or through other means. Not all sellers will ask for proof of licence status without being required to do so, nor will know how to detect a fraudulent licence. Not all individuals selling their guns will know intimate details of the circumstances of acquaintances, what is going on in their homes or what their mental status is. Are they deeply depressed like the man who killed four people at OC Transpo? Are they uncomfortable asking personal questions or pushing for proof when the person assures them that they are licensed?

Bill C-19 further forbids any record keeping of what licence verifications might be done. In the event that the Canadian Firearms Centre is called to verify the licence of a purchaser, and that record indicates this individual's licence has been revoked and that he is under prohibition order, there will be no mechanism to notify the authorities.

This information should be recorded, and a formal process must be in place to advise local police that a dangerous individual is trying to buy a firearm, in spite of the prohibitions in place.

If someone had told me that when I first appeared before the Senate, barely able to find my way across the room, that 21 years later I would still be defending sensible measures to help keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people, I would never have believed it. I hear and read on the blogosphere about the gun lobby saying that Bill C-19 is only a good first step and that there should be further weakening of licensing rules. This concerns me greatly. Tough standards need to be maintained in order to keep guns away from dangerous people — tough, but reasonable and fair — and to hold those who would flout the law responsible for their actions.

I have given you a submission that talks about the costs of gun violence, about the effects of gun violence. I would like to say something I never hear of: Guns in the home not only have a profound effect on women but also have a devastating effect on children. The more we learn in neuroscience, we can actually see a child's brain. The atmosphere of being in a home with dangerous people, like the children who were butchered by a very mentally ill man, is profound. Those children will often grow up very damaged.

During a debate in 2006, Stockwell Day released a statement describing gun law. In 2007, he said the bill also lays out rules for how businesses will have to record and maintain records of any firearm transactions.

The 2006 statement was:

The amendments introduced in today's bill will require current owners to verify that a potential purchaser or another new owner of their non-restricted firearm has a valid firearms license by contacting the Chief Firearms Officer. This measure will help ensure that guns do not get into the hands of individuals who should not have them, such as convicted criminals, and to help investigators identify the owners of stolen firearms or conduct criminal investigations.

That was six years ago. I would like to know what has happened in the interim for that not to be the case in Bill C- 19.

Thank you very much.

[Translation]

Benoît Laganière, Member, Groupe des étudiants et diplômés de Polytechnique pour le contrôle des armes (Polysesouvient): Good morning, Mr. Chair, as a Polytechnique graduate, a proud member of Polysesouvient and a responsible citizen, I feel the same lack of understanding, the same frustration and the same revulsion with regard to Bill C-19 as I felt 22 years ago.

On December 6, 1989, I left the cafeteria a few seconds before a deranged man entered and shot three students. He killed a total of 14 young women.

I have never felt any remorse for my actions, but I can tell you that my only wish, and the reason why I am here today, is to prevent any Canadian from going through the same situation I experienced at Polytechnique.

I do not understand why we are preparing to destroy a system that is in place and that works, rather than try to improve it. It is unbearable for me to hear that the complaints about the few minutes it takes to register a gun are more important than protecting citizens, preventing tragedies and solving crimes. I find it incomprehensible that anyone can propose to repeal not only most of the measures introduced following the Polytechnique massacre, but also one of the modest measures that was already in place in 1989, the obligation for businesses to keep sales records, a measure that made it possible to identify the killer because he had no ID on him.

When the registry's opponents claim that long guns are not a problem because they are not criminals' weapon of choice, they disregard the facts and common sense. An unrestricted weapon is just as dangerous as a handgun when it is in the hands of dangerous individuals. Despite that fact, Bill C-19 will result in an additional aberration. At the end of my brief, you will find photographs of weapons currently categorized and sold as unrestricted weapons.

I want to show you a few photographs of weapons, the IWI Tavor Tar 21 5.56 mm, which its manufacturer categorizes as an assault weapon; the Steyr-Mannlicher HS5 .50 M1, a .5-calibre elite marksman's gun that can pierce armour at 5 kilometres and the Ruger Mini-14, the weapon used at Polytechnique, which killed 14 of my female classmates and killed 13 others in 20 minutes. It is nicknamed the "poor man's assault rifle" and, as modified, was used in Norway and killed 69 persons last summer. We are talking about unrestricted weapons here.

Heidi Rathjen, Spokesperson, Groupe des étudiants et diplômés de Polytechnique pour le contrôle des armes (Polysesouvient): Mr. Chair, thank you for this opportunity to testify before you today. I am going to make my presentation in English.

[English]

There has been much discussion about the repercussions about the proposed changes regarding the obligations of gun stores and private sellers. We would like to add to this discussion.

Since we are not lawyers, we cannot claim with certainty what these repercussions will be. Rather, we have some questions of utmost importance in the hope that the honourable members of this committee will seek the answers before you vote on amendments and before you vote on this bill.

If you look at clause 11 of Bill C-19, and you scratch the surface behind the wording, which is:

A person may transfer a firearm . . . if, at the time of the transfer, . . .

(b) the transferor has no reason to believe that the transferee is not authorized to acquire and possess that kind of firearm.

Is it not true that the law is worded not as an offence but as permission? "You may sell if certain conditions are met." Is it not true that, according to the wording, there is no procedure that the seller must follow? It is a passive state to have no reason; they do not have to do anything, according to the law.

With respect to criminal convictions, we agree that selling a gun to an unlicensed individual is still a crime and still punishable. However, when you want to punish someone, you have to go to court. In this case, as in all criminal convictions, the burden of proof is not on the accused, as we have heard earlier in some of the testimony, but on the Crown. According to the offence linked to the violation of Criminal Code section 99, the Crown must demonstrate that the accused knew he or she was not allowed to sell a gun according to the Firearms Act. Is it not true that, as it is worded, clause 11 does not refer to the concept of due diligence, which was also brought up before this committee, but rather of ignorance or error in good faith, which is clearly less stringent? An accused can plead ignorance or error in good faith in order to defend himself or herself against such accusation.

Is it not true that to obtain a conviction, the Crown must prove that an accused exercised willful ignorance or blindness, meaning the seller had doubts and deliberately chose not to follow up on these doubts to see if they were founded?

Finally, is it not true that this burden of proof will be so great that the prohibition on the sale of non-restricted firearms to unauthorized persons will be practically almost impossible to enforce in practice?

One thing is for sure: The changes in this bill fundamentally weaken the licence provisions. This weakening is just one more element that will force all transfers of non-restricted firearms into the dark, outside of a structured legal framework, without records of who is selling or buying long guns, what guns are being sold, or even the fact that any sale has taken place. It is the legal framework that allows police to identify, flag and prosecute illegal sales, because they are done outside of this legal framework that the bill is now taking away.

Without this framework, an individual will be able to accumulate a large quantity of non-restricted guns — and you have seen what some of them actually consist of — without setting off any red flags with the police. This will make it easier for individuals with dangerous intentions to stockpile firearms.

Many groups would have liked to appear in front of you today to raise similar concerns. Again, we greatly appreciate the opportunity to be here. I would like to mention the presence of Arlène Gaudreault, Association québécoise Plaidoyer-Victimes; Leeza Pousoulidis, Association des families de personnes assassinées ou disparues; Kathleen Dixon, the mother of one of the injured at Dawson College, as well as her daughter, Meaghan Hennegan, who was injured at the time; and Michel Léonard, member of the board of directors of l'Association des diplômés de Polytechnique.

The Chair: Thank you very much for those comments. Before we go to questions, I want to remind members that witness opening statements were somewhat longer than we would normally get, but I think it was important. You are invited guests and it is important that you be able to say what you want to say in your words, so we are pleased that you did. I want to ensure, though, that each of our colleagues have a chance on first round to ask questions. We have been able to do that throughout all of our hearings, and I want to continue that today.

I am just giving everyone warning that I may be a bit tight on second questions. I want to ensure everyone at least has the opportunity for one question on first round.

[Translation]

Senator Fraser: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. It is very important for us to hear you, to listen to you and to understand you.

[English]

I have only one question but it is for each of you, so answers will have to be short.

If you could make one change in this bill knowing that the bill would then pass — but with the one change — what would you choose?

Mr. Sullivan: It is a difficult question to answer, because the simple answer is not to pass the bill. Having said that, based on the issues you raised with the last panel, it strikes me as odd that a government would propose a bill that uses the word "may" and then say there is a requirement to verify the licence. If the intention is to ensure that everyone who sells or transfers a firearm will check, the word is "shall" or "shall not sell." It behooves me to understand why anyone would propose such an ambiguous wording in a law and then argue that it actually creates a requirement.

Ms. de Villiers: The mandatory licence renewal checking.

Ms. Rathjen: I would say the obligation to verify the validity of the licence, which is absolutely linked to the whole issue of licensing. We hear how important it is — and it is repeated — all the steps you have to go through to get a licence, but what good are all those steps if you are not required to show a licence absolutely at point of sale? This was a measure that was recognized by the current government as being important to prevent the transfer of guns to people who pose a risk to society. We simply do not understand why the government would back down on a measure that they themselves say is fundamental. That would be an amendment that we would absolutely support.

[Translation]

Mr. Laganière: The act of registering a weapon makes people accountable at the time of transfer. This is extremely important, like a car or something else. To my mind, this is an extremely important point to look at. This is a civil responsibility that we assign ourselves under the act, one that is there and that helps in checking people's identity, which is already checked by means of the licence to acquire and possess firearms. This is a responsibility that every Canadian ultimately should have and should consider. This is one thing that I would keep.

[English]

Senator Lang: I first want to say thank you very much for coming before us. I want to assure all of you, and all those in the room here, that we share all your concerns. That is why we are here today, to hear what those concerns are. I just think it is really important for us to understand that we are dealing with the registry itself.

The question that is being asked of us is this: Does the registry do what you people say you think it does? We have had evidence over the course of the last number of weeks, and in the other place, where almost 90 per cent of the front- line officers, the law enforcement officers in this country, do not support the gun registry, for a number of reasons. First, it is not accurate. Second, with younger police coming into the forces, in some cases, unfortunately, it is giving them a sense of security that is not warranted, which is putting them in harm's way.

The other information that we have been provided, not just in one case but in many cases before us in testimony, is the fact that the information from the registry, when it goes to the court, does not necessarily prevail because, once again, of the inaccuracy of a system that has not been put into place properly, nor does it work.

That is what we have to deal with in respect to the evidence that we have before us. Whether or not it would prevent a crime, that is another issue in itself, and we have evidence that says it does not.

The one area that has come up — and I would like to hear from specifically Ms. de Villiers, because I appreciate your comments and experience, and having come from South Africa — is the question of our licensing. This relates to the application for a licence, the fact that when you apply for that licence that you just do not get the licence; you have to have references and you have to take an exam. There are a number of serious, rigid steps that are set in place at the outset to ensure that individual has the qualifications to own a licence in order to purchase a firearm.

Do you feel that particular provision that is in place and staying in place is rigid enough and meets the test that is required to do the best we can to ensure that those who apply for a firearm licence are qualified and should be considered for such a licence?

Ms. de Villiers: To your first point, the fact that the system is inadequate and has not been properly set up, that is a long history and it goes back a long way. There was a concerted effort to basically sabotage the system when it was being set up, by sending in zeros for numbers and sending in the same number a hundred times and all this sort of thing. I must admit that there were problems with the actual implementation of the bill in the 1990s.

However, I believe that that is something that can and should be dealt with. It should be adequate. It is a long time ago that it was implemented. I do not see that as a reason to do away with the entire registration.

Second, you point to the young officers and the front-line police. They must be trained. The old police that I have spoken to, the old front-line cops, have all said they all work under the assumption that there is a gun in the house. However, if they know there are six guns in the house, it makes life much easier. You actually have something more to work with. I am not a police officer. I am reporting that.

Third, in South Africa, it is a long time ago and I did not ever apply for a firearms certificate, a licence or registration, so I cannot comment on the bureaucracy there. I can, however, say that the FACs, firearms acquisition certificates, that were in place previously, the one I saw was over five pages long. It was not easier. It possibly was not as probing, but it certainly was, administratively, quite a long document.

I feel strongly — and this has been stated by the Supreme Court over and over again — that owning a gun in this country, which is a civil society governed by legislation, is not a right; it is a privilege, and it carries responsibility. I believe that we need to have fairly probing questions in order to decide whether the individual applying can be safely trusted with not just one gun, maybe 200 guns, and that we need to continually check, because circumstances change.

I deal with victims across this country all the time, many of them either who have lost family members, many of them who have lost young daughters and sons, are losing them now but, more than that, who are threatened by guns, who are held hostage by guns and are severely injured. As my last word, I just want to say that we have not spoken about the injury that a modern gun inflicts.

My ex-husband is a neurosurgeon, so I know very well what one bullet from one gun can do to a person, and it is usually a lifelong illness. I do not think we talk about that enough. Frankly, I think we can certainly go back through it and see that, in applying for a licence, the checks on licences are fair and reasonable, but I believe that they have to be there.

The Chair: Senator, we will have to move along.

[Translation]

Senator Hervieux-Payette: Earlier my colleague asked what clauses you would propose for this bill. I support your theory that the current act, particularly the registry or registration, should remain as it was, but I believe that the issue that bothers weapon owners the most, good citizens, is the offence of incorrectly completing the questionnaire, and so on. I would make a similar proposal, which I can make to my colleagues as well, and that is that the penalties should include the possibility of characterizing the failure to comply with the act, particularly when completing the questionnaire, as a criminal offence, if, for example, you fill out the questionnaire with a lot of falsehoods, that is to say if you lie without shame. However, if you are late in registering, you commit an infraction. The offence is set out in Part 24 of the Criminal Code. If you commit a minor theft of $100, you would receive a fine and no criminal record. So if you do not meet the conditions of the questionnaire, but do not act in bad faith, you incur a penalty, a penalty that is virtually the same as when I park my car, which costs 52 cents for five minutes more than the parking meter allows me. So simply have a dual characterization, either criminal offence or infraction, and think that the police officer, the justice system and the attorney are intelligent enough to determine the nature of the offence under the bill. I believe we would solve the problem for honest people and those who commit crimes, by committing suicide — that is not a crime, but it would help prevent suicides; however, it would help prevent murder between spouses.

As you will note, there are four women on our side. It is not because our male colleagues do not support this bill, but rather because, like you, we see that women are the main victims in Canada. We have come here convinced that this bill must stand and perhaps be improved.

Would you agree that changes should be made to the bill with regard to penalties and to make it possible to keep the registry?

In closing, I would like you to tell me what kinds of animals are killed with these weapons?

Mr. Chair, what kind of deer will someone kill with an Iwi Tavor 21? These are legal weapons. What does anyone do with those weapons?

[English]

The Chair: Senator, is there a question here?

Senator Hervieux-Payette: I asked the question.

The Chair: We are not dealing here with classification of weapons. We are dealing with the registry.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: We are dealing with these arms, because they are commonly referred to as permitted.

The Chair: Senator, I would ask the indulgence of the committee members. If you have questions —

Senator Hervieux-Payette: I put the question about whether they were agreeing that we would change the sentences, and also, of course, when it is an infraction instead of a criminal act.

[Translation]

Ms. Rathjen: Absolutely. We realized quite early on that the threat of criminalization was an extremely important issue for gun owners. That is why, shortly after the act came into force, the groups including Polytechnique students, including the coalition and other victims' groups, such as that of Ms. de Villiers, including the police chiefs, all supported the act and asked that it be amended precisely in that way so that we would focus on that important concern and solve the problem.

However, what the bill is doing now is throwing everything out the window, instead of finding a solution that could suit most people who have concerns. I am mainly thinking here of ordinary owners, not necessarily lobby groups that want to get rid of the two bills, Bill C-17 and Bill C-68.

So to answer your question, yes, that would be an obvious solution, but one that the government has ruled out.

[English]

Senator Frum: I also want to thank all the witnesses for being here and also our guests in the room. I want to congratulate all of you on the work you do on the issue of violence against women. I very much share your concern for this issue. It is a very important issue. I want to assure you that if I believed the gun registry did anything to prevent violence against women I would support it, but I have yet to be convinced that it can do anything to prevent violence against women.

My question is to you, Mr. Sullivan, because in your comments you seem to draw a correlation between gun ownership and wife beating. You made some comments to that effect. It is important to note that one in four Canadian households contain a gun, and fortunately our domestic abuse rates are not that high. I have a hard time understanding the correlation between those things. You suggested that a lot of the threats that are made against women are made with registered guns. I would simply say to you that it is a crime to threaten anyone with a weapon, whether it is registered or not registered. That is the crime. The registry has nothing to do with it. The registry, as you say, cannot prevent someone from threatening with a gun; it is irrelevant. How do you think the registry prevents violence against women?

Mr. Sullivan: Thank you for the question. In fact, in my statement I did say that I am not suggesting that every man who owns a gun beats his wife. That was a clear statement I made. The Criminal Code does not prevent crime. The DNA data bank does not prevent crime, nor does the National Sex Offender Registry. Do we just get rid of all of them?

In fact, police respond to crime. We have responses to something that has happened. The most important way in which the registry prevents women from getting killed by their partner in the home is if she takes that step, calls the police, the police lay charges and search the registry. That has been done, as we have evidence from the YWCA and the RCMP, and they see what guns are in the home. They can go into that home and remove those guns.

If they do not know which guns are there, they do not know how many to search for. Is it possible he will get another gun somewhere? Yes, absolutely. It is possible that someone on the National Sex Offender Registry will still molest a child. These tools are part of a bigger model. This is an important public safety tool. It is not a panacea, but it is part of the solution.

Senator Jaffer: I appreciate your presence here today and I certainly acknowledge the presence of the people who have suffered losses of loved ones. What came across in your panel today, which we have not had, is the voice of the women. We have heard about the terrorization of women when there is a gun only on the periphery. One of the things Senator Lang has been very good at is to point out all the licensing requirements that are needed before a licence is issued. Because you have first-hand experience, can you tell us how often you have heard that the licensing authorities call the spouse or the common-law partner and what you have heard?

I was the chair of violence against women in my province for many years and one of the things I heard said continuously was: "I wouldn't dare speak up because my husband will find out that I said that he had a gun." I do not know what your experience was.

Mr. Sullivan: We do not have a lot of experience with women who raise that particular issue. Usually, when we encounter them, they have left or they are still in the abusive relationship but are looking for safety tips. They know they are in danger, but they are too scared to leave. In relation to the voiceless part that you talk about, the statistics show that the women who live with gun owners support the registry. Gun owners may not, but the people who live with them actually do. That is an important perspective.

With respect to your point about being voiceless, one of the reasons 70 per cent of domestic violence cases are not reported is because they are scared so they are absolutely voiceless.

Senator Frum: You have stated a statistic that women support the registry. What is your evidence for that?

Mr. Sullivan: I can provide you the poll that shows that if you like.

Senator Frum: Is it a poll?

Mr. Sullivan: I am sorry; I said statistics. It is a poll.

Senator Jaffer: Did anyone else want to respond?

Ms. de Villiers: I largely work with families who have usually lost children and sometimes spouses to homicides, so it is very different. The weapon is clearly identifiable. The cases are not always solved. I also work with people who have been incredibly badly injured, may still be alive, but there have been significant injuries. However, I want to talk about the difficulty in speaking up on behalf of victims who are not victims of homicide. Homicide is cut and clear and it is very public. The minute the homicide happens, you have no right to privacy. People will get to know how many teeth you have. It is out there.

The rest of it is a grey area because the whole point about violence in the home, and terrorization of women and children, is usually hidden. It is an occult occurrence, and it only becomes a crime when, first, a woman finds the courage to leave and call the police; and second, in effect makes it to court, which a lot of them do not; and third, there is actually a sentence of guilty. It is extremely difficult to prove. We are dealing with people who own guns, tangible weapons, things that you can see and feel, and they are historical, they are archived, they are antiques, and they love them, and it is fine.

However, on the other hand, Mr. Sullivan and I are coming to you and saying: This is something that is happening within our society. That is why it is largely considered by the World Health Organization and by public health in Canada to be a public health issue. This is the dichotomy. You are bringing in a law that, in effect, a lot of what you are trying to do is support the public health of Canada, including the confidence, and the sense of peace and safety. I believe we need to be reasonable and balanced about this but that, in a nutshell, is what is so difficult.

In terms of prevention of crime, including domestic violence, we have heard how the registry has not saved lives. How do you measure prevention? We do not have a list of incidents that were prevented because they never happened. On average, 2,000 licences are revoked every year from legal gun owners, and the registry allows the police following these prohibition orders to remove weapons. According to the minister's own statement in the house, over 4,500 weapons are removed due to these licence revocations. Can we not imagine that among all the people who were deemed at risk whose guns were removed, that maybe we did prevent some incidents? We cannot tell you which ones, because they did not happen. We have removed the opportunity to use guns in domestic situations, in suicidal situations, and so on. We do not have the headlines, and it is not just because some incidents do continue to happen that the registry does not work. The registry is part of a puzzle and it all has to work together, and we have to work to improve the system to reduce the numbers even more because the number of gun-related murders with long guns, the very guns that were targeted by the registry, because handguns were already registered, crimes with those guns have consistently gone down since the measures were implemented.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Rathjen.

Senators, we are getting well into overtime. We have still on the first round Senators Boisvenu, Runciman, Dagenais and White. Please keep that in mind with your questions.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Thank you very much for your brief. I want to say hello to Ms. de Villiers, Ms. Rathjen and Mr. Laganière. I understand that it is not easy for you to testify in defence of the idea of keeping the long-gun registry. Your testimony comes after a long fight for the adoption of that registry in 1995, and I understand your frustration, especially after your tragedy and your struggle.

I grew up in Abitibi, in the country. When I was very young, the young guys there took their father's .22 and we went hunting for hare and partridge. In the 1970s, we took courses with the hunting and fishing association, where we were trained to use firearms safely, but also to store them safely. When the registry was introduced in 1995, I was in the Eastern Townships and I was one of those who doubted that the registry would be effective.

Obviously, the events in my life led me to focus on the victims of crime, starting in 2002. My doubts have always persisted. When I tried to discuss the issue with the people who were in favour of the registry, it was difficult to discuss the issue of the registry's effectiveness. People were always inclined to be highly emotional and it was virtually impossible to have a discussion.

I went looking for statistics to get a clear idea, to have an objective idea. Did the registry adopted in 1995 really have an effect in lowering the number of homicides and suicides, among other things? I compared the period from 1980 to 1995 to that from 1995 to 2000. What I saw was that the number of homicides in Canada from 1980 to 1995 declined by 50 per cent, and we did not have the registry. We had the old standards. From 1995 to 2010, the decline was 44 per cent, less than when we did not have the registry. If I consider suicides, the percentages are about the same. It is scientifically almost impossible to make a connection between the two.

I look at the number of crimes involving handguns, which will continue to be registered, and they increased by 75 per cent during the same period. I said to myself, that is Canada. I compared Canada to other countries, including New Zealand, which abolished its long-gun registry in 1970. They have the same figures on the reduction in the number of suicides and homicides, despite the fact they have no registry.

My question is, given figures as clear as that, how can we claim that there is a direct link between the decline in the number of homicides and suicides, when the figures prove that there is no connection. There have been the same declines over time with and without a registry.

Ms. Rathjen: I should answer that by saying that I am not a statistician or a researcher in that area. It seems to me that, when you compare the effect of a measure, you have to look at the kind of crimes affected by that measure. You can look at all homicides, all homicides involving firearms, or you can look at homicides involving long guns that are affected by the registry.

Senator Boisvenu: Here I am talking only about long guns.

Ms. Rathjen: For long guns, there has been a decline; I have the Statistics Canada table that shows that, from 1991 and 1995, when the various measures came into force, it declined. Before that, it was always 100 per year at the start, and now, in the 2000s, it is less than 40. There are variations, more or less, every year.

Senator Boisvenu: I have the same table.

Ms. Rathjen: I wanted to cite Statistics Canada.

Senator Boisvenu: You have to cite the right figures.

Ms. Rathjen: I am going to cite Statistics Canada, in 2009, which states that, despite the decline among the homicides attributable to — pardon me, I have it here in English, sorry. No, I have it in French: "Despite declining in 2009, the use of handguns has generally been increasing over the past 30 years." So there has been a slight increase in the past 30 years. In contrast, the use of rifles and shotguns has generally been declining. Before the homicides, the largest percentage of homicides were committed using guns, long guns. That has changed since the registry and other measures came into effect. It is handguns that are most prominent, but that does not mean there has been any substitution because the total number of homicides by firearms has sharply decreased. That is due in part to the decline in the number of homicides involving long guns.

[English]

Senator Runciman: I have quite a few questions but will boil them down to one.

With respect to Statistics Canada information, firearm-related spousal homicides did decline more rapidly prior to the registry, and that is Statistics Canada information if you do not have it before you.

Ms. De Villiers and I go back a long way. I have enormous respect for the work she has done on behalf of victims of crime over the years. I know that she and her organization, as she indicated, have been committed to the registry for many years. We locked horns on this in the past, so I will not go down that road.

We had a submission earlier talking about a way to perhaps more effectively deal with these issues, which a number of U.S. states currently have brought into force, and that is a violent persons registry. Are you familiar with that? Do you feel it is something the government should look at going forward?

Ms. de Villiers: I have just read a bit about it. It is in the media. I do not know the details at all. I must say that on the surface it sounds incredibly important, particularly serious habitual offenders because those are the people who cause most of the extreme violence in our country. It may not be homicide, but it often escalates toward homicide. The man who killed my daughter had a 13-year history of violence against women escalating over the years until he finally started killing, and that is not unusual; it is a pattern.

However, at the moment I gather that the National Sex Offender Registry is way behind, CPIC is way behind, and so it is not terribly reliable. I would love to think that we could have that if we could make it a reliable count.

However, from my point of view, I think the problem, as I have said before, is the public health issues involved in this. As you know, violent offenders are my big thing. Putting violent offenders on one side, the public health issue is that there is an effort, not just at preventing homicide or injury, but toward the broader area of accidents, suicides and terrorization in the home, none of which are overtly criminal; they are often committed in a milieu that is not within the criminal justice system.

That is why I have always supported the registry. I have never seen it as a totally criminal area of law. I have seen it as a public health area of law.

Where there are legitimate complaints, as I have enumerated over the years — things have been changed to address many concerns by the gun owners — but if we continue to address some of the legitimate concerns, what is the worst thing that could happen if we keep the registry? What exactly is the worst thing that will happen? The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are running it. It is a minimal amount of money to run it compared to what one murder costs.

If we take it away, who are we appeasing? If we keep it, who are we hurting really and genuinely, if we meet these complaints? I am asking you the question instead of answering.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Obviously, I have two questions for Mr. Laganière. I looked at your document. You know, I am a career police officer; I was with the Sûreté du Québec for 39 years. We are talking about abolishing the long-gun registry. Most of those weapons are not in the long-gun registry; they are restricted weapons. Consequently, whether or not there is a registry, you cannot have that in your possession. Police officers seize them from you.

That being said, this is a highly emotional issue in Quebec. We had two very unfortunate events, and I believe they should not happen again. They occurred at two educational institutions. There was the Polytechnique tragedy, which you experienced, and there was also the tragedy at Dawson College.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: The National Assembly as well.

Senator Dagenais: You can add that, senator. Are there any others? That being said, there was no firearms registry in place at the time of the Polytechnique tragedy, and when the Dawson incident occurred, the firearms registry had been in place for a number of years. I would like to hear what you have to say about that. The two contexts are obviously different.

Mr. Laganière: First of all, those things come directly from Canada. If they could be circulated; it really is marked non-restricted weapon. I have the documents. You can go and see.

Senator Dagenais: They are not long guns for hunting.

Mr. Laganière: No, that is what is written there. I did not make that up.

Senator Dagenais: You can shoot clay pigeons, but you cannot go hunting with it.

Mr. Laganière: We agree that these are not hunting weapons; non-restricted weapons, that is what is written there; I did not make it up.

[English]

The Chair: I am not sure you are addressing the question that the senator asked.

Ms. Rathjen: These are non-restricted weapons. The ads are on the Internet; you can buy them over the Internet. We want to say that we did not use restricted weapons in the pictures. These are from the Internet, from ads.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: We are talking about hunting weapons; you cannot go hunting with that; that is for sure.

Ms. Rathjen: Yes, but our concern is that, if you pass this bill tomorrow, these weapons will become unregistered, and thus invisible to police, including stockpiles of weapons. This is a major concern.

But to answer the question we often hear, Marc Lépine bought his weapon legally. That is true, but at least the sales records made it possible to identify the killer, which is invaluable in police investigations, to know where the weapon comes from. He shot himself in the face and therefore could not be identified.

In the Dawson killings, the individual was an alcoholic and depressed; he had been rejected by the armed forces as a result of antisocial behaviour, and consequently part of the system did not work. This means that, when you see obvious signs of a threat to public safety, you have to talk about it. And that is how the police can react and, thanks to the registry, remove weapons from these people who, in all cases, bought the weapons legally. So he did not exhibit that behaviour when he obtained the permit; that came afterward. Under the system, the police can be informed and the licence can be revoked and, with the registry, the weapons can be removed.

I believe you also heard that, in the Dawson case, because witnesses had identified the killer's car by means of the licence plate, they were able to identify his address and, through the registry, determine that he was the gun owner at that address and what weapons he had.

So I am asking any parent here this: do you not want to give the police all the necessary tools when your child winds up in a situation that we have now experienced several times, tragedies involving total chaos? They do not know what they are dealing with. So is any additional information not a good thing? That is what the registry provides.

Senator Dagenais: Madam, you are aware that, long before the registry was put in place, if the police were informed that there were firearms at a residence and that might jeopardize someone's safety, you could go to court and get a warrant, and that was in place before the registry and police officers could seize the weapons.

[English]

The Chair: Final questions from Senator White.

Senator White: I have a point, then a question. Many people suggest it is impossible to understand why people would be concerned about their long guns being registered and yet, at the same time, we have the DNA data bank and the National Sex Offender Registry, which is full of criminals lumped in with the long-gun registry. I can see why lawful owners have a concern around this when even Mr. Sullivan would lump those three groups in together.

My point is that I think two of you identified concerns around authorization of transfer of firearms:

A person may transfer a firearm . . . if, at the time of the transfer,

(a) the transferee holds a licence . . .

(b) . . . has no reason to believe . . .

I think the concern is around the terminology "has no reason to believe." That is the Firearms Act today. There is no change that would come as a result of Bill C-19. It has "no reason to believe" in the act today in section 23, so we are not suggesting that there would not be a check; we are suggesting actually that we would carry through with the same requirement as is in the legislation today. I have not heard you speak out against the legislation today.

Was your suggestion that the act needed to change already or was it that Bill C-19 has a fault?

Ms. Rathjen: Bill C-68 made that check automatic. In the current bill, the person has to inform the registry of a transfer of any firearm, including a long gun. The registrar will decide based on that request whether to issue a registration certificate, and that decision is based on whether the licence is valid. The registrar can refuse based on the fact that the licence is not an accurate one.

It is currently done automatically; it is linked with the registration. If you take away the registration that you kept for the restricted weapon — the wording is there in the current bill — but it is not for the long guns.

It did happen before with the current law that it is automatic: When you buy a weapon, your licence number is run through the system and it is validated by the registrar. Even if it is not explicitly written in the law currently, that verification is part of the transfer.

Senator White: Today, under Bill C-19 that could occur, as well: If a person was selling a weapon, they could make the same request.

Ms. Rathjen: They may, but they do not have to. That is a big difference when you are talking about people with bad intent trying to purchase firearms. We are talking about people who do not have a valid licence who want to get a firearm but who were not able to go through the checks. Perhaps these people want them for criminal intentions. These people will lie and produce fake licences.

There was a recent case in B.C., I think, where the police shut down an operation where they were fabricating firearms licences, fake firearms licences. They are around. Some people will lie, obviously not everyone, but those who do not have a licence will lie, and the way the law is written, there is no way to ensure that they do have a valid licence.

In fact, the way the law is written, the only way to know if a licence is valid at the time of the sale, because it could be revoked at any time, is to do a verification. It is the only way to verify the validity at the time. Because the law only requires that for restricted weapon and does not specifically require it for unrestricted weapons, it is actually saying that sellers do not have to be preoccupied by the current validity of the licence.

Mr. Sullivan: Could I respond to the allegations Senator White made about me drawing comparisons between sex offenders and firearm owners? I am not sure how anyone could logically draw that conclusion.

The answer was I raised the DNA data bank and the registry for sex offenders in relation to an issue about how you prevent crime. My point was those tools are used to be reactive. The registry reacts to certain things and can be used proactively. I was not, and I suspect Senator White knows it, drawing comparisons between sex offenders and law- abiding long-gun owners.

I would add, finally, that the people he stands with today may feel targeted; the people we stand with are targeted. Thank you.

The Chair: Colleagues, that concludes our evidence, this being our last panel, and we thank you so much. What you have said has been thoughtful and for obvious reasons there has been a tremendous amount of passion around the issue you brought before us, and we thank you for that.

Colleagues, we will continue with our consideration of Bill C-19, and in particular, our clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.

Before leading you through the process of clause-by-clause consideration, I would point out to you that we do have with us today in the room. Paul Shuttle, who is Executive Director and Senior General Counsel, Public Safety Canada Legal Services. He is also with the Department of Justice Canada. We also have Robert Abramowitz, who is Counsel with Justice Canada and Public Safety Canada Legal Services.

They are here, and as we know from the clause-by-clause process, at times there are questions we may want to put to officials, and they are here for our benefit if we wish to refer a matter to them.

Colleagues, is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-19?

Senator Fraser: Chair, before we do that, there are two things that I would like, if possible. First, I would like to move that there be appended to the proceedings of this committee all the briefs and submissions that we have received from people we were not able to hear from in person, including, in particular, I would draw to the attention of committee members the brief we received earlier today, this morning, from Quebec Minister Dutil, which includes some very interesting information. I commend it to your attention, colleagues.

I believe we may be receiving during our proceedings today a submission from the Barreau du Québec. It has come in, so I would like that to be included. That was the first thing, if I may make that motion.

The Chair: Yes, you may.

Senator Fraser: I so move.

The Chair: For clarification, Senator Fraser, those would be briefs that have been received either during the hearing portion of our consideration of Bill C-19 or would have been received by the clerk? I simply —

Senator Fraser: In relation to this bill.

The Chair: Yes. I simply draw the distinction because many of us have received briefs outside of what may have been sent to each of us individually, but it is what has come through this formal process that you are referring to. Is that right?

Senator Fraser: I am assuming that the clerk has received them all.

The Chair: That is the point.

Senator Fraser: If by any chance we stumble across something that for some reason she did not receive but that is obviously the kind of submission that would normally be appended, the steering committee could look at that and determine that something just went off, but this is something that should be included in the proceedings.

The Chair: That is your motion. Does that motion carry? Is it agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Fraser: Second, I wonder if we could ask the officials to come forward before going to formal clause-by- clause because I have a couple of questions that I would like to put.

The Chair: Yes, we can do that.

Senator Fraser: Other colleagues may also, but I know that I have a couple.

The Chair: Gentlemen, for the record, if you could introduce yourselves and identify your positions.

Paul Shuttle, Executive Director and Senior General Counsel, Public Safety Canada: Thank you, Mr. Chair. My name is Paul Shuttle. I am Executive Director and Senior General Counsel at Public Safety Canada Legal Services, a portion of the Department of Justice.

Robert Abramowitz, Counsel, Public Safety Canada: I am Robert Abramowitz, Counsel with Public Safety Canada Legal Services, Department of Justice.

Senator Fraser: We have heard, for the non-expert, confusing testimony about what actually happens when guns are imported into Canada in relation to whether or not records are kept of those individual weapons. I know customs, presumably, is aware if someone brings in a case of 50 rifles, but are detailed records kept of the weapons? If so, how does that system work?

Mr. Shuttle: Unfortunately, senator, I am not aware of the precise operational actions of customs officials. It is not a portion of the bill before the committee today.

Senator Fraser: No. It has been raised many times in testimony, however. That takes care of one question.

The second question has to do with the matter of the various international agreements concerning firearms that Canada has signed or participated in. You will recall that when the minister appeared before us, I asked him about our obligations under those instruments to keep detailed records about firearms and how we could square those obligations with Bill C-19. The minister said: "You will have to speak to an expert on that."

A number of people testified on that, notably Professor Martha Jackman yesterday, who said we would be in breach. Could you comment on whether we will be in breach if this bill passes as is, whether we will be in breach of those obligations? If so, what do we do to rectify that situation? Do we have to pass more legislation?

Mr. Shuttle: Yes, Senator Fraser. In your interchange with the minister, you summarized well the general nature of obligation in the two instruments that I think you were interested in, the United Nations Firearms Protocol and the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials. Both of them have quite detailed requirements that are set out there.

As you know, Canada has signed both but ratified neither. The minister in his interchange with you did accurately say that repeal of the registry through the bill before this committee will not in itself impede Canada should it subsequently take steps domestically preparatory to ratification of those agreements.

Senator Fraser: What steps would we be taking? That is what I am trying to figure out.

Mr. Shuttle: You yourself, senator, have pointed out the tracing obligations. There are 10-year obligations in there, various obligations on states parties, should they choose to ratify, to ensure that tracing is available. Before ratification, Canada would have to ensure that we are in compliance with all those various obligations in the conventions.

Senator Fraser: How would we do that tracing if the long-gun registry is gone? Long guns are the vast majority.

Mr. Shuttle: Neither convention stipulates whether it must be through legislative or regulatory or administrative means, so the common practice before Canada as a would-be party that ratifies any instrument is to ensure it has a domestic implementation plan. We would have to do the same before ratifying either of those conventions. It could be by any means.

Senator Fraser: Absent the long-gun registry, would the Government of Canada have the statutory authority to do that tracing through regulation?

Mr. Shuttle: There are various regulatory authorities that could be used in various ways. There are other statutes. Your first question related to other forms of legislation beyond the bill before the house today that deal with that.

Senator Fraser: Can you give me some examples? I am a little bit confused. As the chair said to a witness earlier today, general statements do not really help us to understand. If you can give us some specifics examples of these various other instruments that can be used, that would be helpful.

Mr. Shuttle: The obligation in the United Nations protocol is that Canada shall ensure the tracing of weapons imported into Canada for a period of 10 years, but there could be multiple means of ensuring that tracing.

Senator Fraser: What would some of those means be?

Mr. Shuttle: Some could be statutorily obliged registries like this, registries maintained by the police, registries maintained by others. There could be obligations on private citizens to maintain records.

Senator Fraser: We would be looking at some kind of fresh statutory —

Mr. Shuttle: That would be a policy matter for the government of the day to consider as to what is the best option to comply with the obligations of the convention that they are considering ratifying.

Senator Fraser: I guess that is all I will get, chair, although I would like the record to show that on both of these questions, I do not really feel any wiser than I was.

Senator Jaffer: Following up on what Senator Fraser said, Professor Jackman also stated that she thought this bill would be against the Charter, specifically the right to life, liberty and security. I am sure you have done an assessment on that. May we have what your take on that is?

Mr. Shuttle: As you know, the Attorney General of Canada has an obligation to inform the other place should a government bill not conform to Charter standards, and no such notice was given in the other place. We have looked at the provisions, and I do not see a Charter violation on the face of this bill.

Senator Jaffer: You do not see a Charter violation?

Mr. Shuttle: I do not.

[Translation]

Senator Hervieux-Payette: A number of questions have been asked about the validity of the licence. Once Bill C-19 is passed, will weapons merchants have to see the licence? In the case of a resale, will the person subsequently acquiring a firearm have to ask to see the licence and where will he verify its validity?

[English]

Mr. Shuttle: This is governed by section 23, I believe, of the current Firearms Act, which is amended by the bill before the committee. You asked if the transferor has an obligation to see the licence of the recipient. The requirement in the legislation is that it would be an offence to transfer the firearm without the transferee holding such a licence, but the obligation to verify is not set out in precisely those words.

[Translation]

Senator Hervieux-Payette: So if I sell a weapon to my neighbour, I can do that by merely asking him whether he has a licence, without seeing or knowing whether it is valid?

[English]

Mr. Shuttle: If that interchange were to take place and if the transfer were to happen, should your neighbour not be authorized, not hold the appropriate licence, you as the transferor would be committing a crime. With that heavy consequence, transferors are well advised to take steps to ensure they are complying with the requirement that the transferee be authorized to hold the firearm that is being transferred to them. That is the effect of section 23 in clause 11 of the proposed legislation.

[Translation]

Senator Hervieux-Payette: How will you find the person who originally bought the weapon and who sold it to someone else if that person has not provided the name of the new buyer, if there is no paper, no trace of the transaction?

[English]

Mr. Shuttle: The transaction that is governed by section 23 of the current Firearms Act as amended by this bill is the transaction between a transferor and a transferee. The previous transactions that led to the transferor coming into possession are not governed by that. All the transferor would need to know in that case is that the transferee holds the appropriate licence, the authorization, to possess the weapon that is being transferred. The previous chain of possession is not relevant at that stage.

[Translation]

Senator Hervieux-Payette: What I understood is that there is nothing to attest to the fact that the merchant sold the weapon. You can charge the person who holds an invalid licence and who has used the weapon to commit a crime. How are you going to go back to the place where the person acquired it? How do you file a complaint against a person who has committed an indictable offence and ask someone who does not hold a valid licence?

[English]

Mr. Shuttle: You are referring here to the resources available to the police in their investigations. If there were multiple unauthorized transfers earlier in the chain of possession, those too could be investigated. If the police found evidence of unauthorized transfers, they could do that.

What I think you are getting at, honourable senator, are the difficulties in obtaining a clear centralized chain of transfer, which the current registry possesses. Under this bill, that information will no longer be available for long guns. That is the very purpose of this bill.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: Okay.

Senator Baker: Just an opinion. The minister addressed these words, "no reason to believe," and that is section 23, which, as Senator White pointed out and as you pointed out, is in the original legislation. The onus upon the seller is that second section, "no reason to believe."

The minister appeared before the committee and explained his interpretation, his intent of the meaning of those words. They were as you just said a moment ago, Mr. Shuttle; you repeated practically word for word what the minister had said as to the meaning of that section.

Mine is a general question. What weight is given by a judge in adjudicating a matter concerning this section? What weight is given to the intent of the clause as identified by the minister of the Crown who is introducing the piece of legislation?

Mr. Shuttle: As a general precept of statutory interpretation, the text as enacted by parliamentarians is the primary source of meaning. As you may know, in recent cases the Supreme Court has taken a more generous approach to legislative history. Therefore, the debate of witnesses before committees such as this, including significant witnesses such as the minister himself or the sponsor of the bill, the court takes that into account as well to help understand what Parliament may have intended in enacting these words. The debates of committees such as this are admissible evidence in courts in interpreting legislation.

Senator Baker: In other words, the statutory interpretation, the Driedger standard — am I correct?

Mr. Shuttle: Yes, Albert Driedger, a former Justice Canada official, yes.

Senator Baker: Yes, and Ruth —

Mr. Shuttle: Sullivan?

Senator Baker: Yes, Ruth Sullivan wrote that text. As you say, the Supreme Court of Canada has taken a more expansive view of the interpretation to include what the intent was as stated by the minister before the committee. I see. That is a good answer. That is a better answer than I got when I asked another lawyer who was before the committee. That is a more complete answer. Thank you very much.

Senator Jaffer: Could I please get clarification? Section 23 is part of the Firearms Act but not part of the code, right? Was it in the Criminal Code as well?

Mr. Shuttle: No. These rules on what constitutes a permissible transfer, those were in the Firearms Act. The consequences of an impermissible transfer were in the Criminal Code, but just like the registry, these are sort of more the administrative provisions. This is seen as a more administrative provision.

Senator Jaffer: Will this now be in the code?

Mr. Shuttle: No. The amendment proposed by Bill C-19 is merely to repeal the existing text of section 21 and replace it with two other sections, but they will remain in the Firearms Act.

The Chair: Thank you, senator. Colleagues, is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-19?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall the title stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 2 carry?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Fraser: I would ask for a roll call vote.

Shaila Anwar, Clerk of the Committee: The Honourable Senator Wallace.

Senator Wallace: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Baker, P.C.

Senator Baker: No.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Yes.

Senator Chaput: No.

Senator Dagenais: Yes.

[English]

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Fraser.

Senator Fraser: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Frum.

Senator Frum: Yes.

[Translation]

Senator Hervieux-Payette: No.

[English]

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Jaffer.

Senator Jaffer: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Lang.

Senator Lang: Agreed.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Runciman.

Senator Runciman: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator White.

Senator White: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: Yeas, 7; nays, 5.

The Chair: Thank you. I declare clause 2 carried. Shall clause 3 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 4 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 5 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 6 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 7 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 8 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Clause 8 shall carry on division. Shall clause 9 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 10 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 11 carry?

Senator Fraser: Chair, I have two amendments to propose. I will ask the clerk to distribute them one at a time so that people can keep track of what is afoot here.

The Chair: That would be appreciated.

Senator Fraser: The first one would be the one that begins by replacing line 17.

I do not think we need the officials at the table any more, chair.

The Chair: All right. If you could remain in the room, we would appreciate it in case something comes up. Thank you, gentlemen.

Senator Fraser: I move:

That Bill C-19 be amended in clause 11, on page 5,

(a) by replacing line 17 with the following:

"23. (1) A person may transfer a firearm that is";

(b) by adding after line 25 the following:

"(2) A business that carries on activities that include the manufacturing, buying or selling at wholesale or retail, importing, repairing, altering or pawnbroking of firearms that are neither prohibited firearms nor restricted firearms must

(a) keep records of transactions entered into by it with respect to such firearms in the prescribed form and containing the prescribed information;

(b) keep an inventory of all such firearms from time to time on hand at the place of business;

(c) produce the records and inventory for inspection at the request of any police officer or police constable or any other person authorized to enter the business;

(d) mail a copy of the records and inventory relating to the firearms to the Registrar; and

(e) retain the records until the expiration of six years from the end of the last taxation year to which the records relate."; and

(c) by making any consequential changes to numbering and cross references.

That is my motion, chair.

The Chair: Would you please explain your proposed amendment?

Senator Fraser: This would require persons who sell guns to keep records of those guns for six years from the end of the last taxation year in question. That matches the Income Tax Act's requirement for record keeping. That is why that particular time period was chosen. The text is lifted almost exactly from the law as it existed before the long-gun registry, which was passed in 1968. As you heard, from I think it was Detective Grismer yesterday, he had experience actually working with that law when he was working in a sporting goods store and he said that those ledgers, those green books, were not onerous — that was his word — to keep. They are not an onerous imposition on the merchants; they remove the requirement to keep the records and keep them up to date and all that from the gun owner back to the gun seller, but they would be available for police to check if a need should arise, largely if a crime had been committed or seemed likely to be committed using a given gun.

It seems to me that this is a provision that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and others, many others, have asked for, that it is a reasonable provision, and that it is one that was tested and practised over many years and should be reinstated now that the long-gun registry appears likely to disappear.

The Chair: Colleagues?

Senator Lang: Mr. Chair, I want to make a couple of points. I know that we have sat here many hours and heard significant testimony on either side of the issue. Sometimes we wandered away from the actual issue before us, the question of the registry and whether we should maintain it, and went into other areas where firearms and the enforcement of firearms come into question and whether or not they are doing it properly.

It is important to point out again and for the record that the ultimate end for at least our side is the requirement for the licensing and the rigid enforcement of that licensing before one is eligible to purchase a long-arm firearm. I think it was clearly stated here in no unequivocal terms that we have a very rigid process that is required for individuals to put themselves through in order to get the necessary licensing to buy and purchase a long gun.

I want to make this point, and I think it is very important — the fact is I want to go over it again very briefly — when one applies, and there are a number of people around this table who have applied, for the purposes of that licensing, you have to have references from the community. That in itself ensures that there is a recognition of you in your character as far as the community is concerned. That is very important because it has been overlooked by some and kind of dismissed by some.

The other aspect to this, which was referred to by one of the witnesses earlier today, is the personal nature of the application. I do not think there is any other application by government, whether provincial, municipal or federal, that is so inquiring about your personal life. In fact, perhaps one should challenge whether or not one should be required to divulge that kind of information to a government and have it on government file. It is to the point of your relationships and your health; it goes right down the litany of questions that you have to sign off at the end of the day.

It does not stop there. As my good friend from Newfoundland knows, then we go in and take, not an hour course, not a two-hour course, but a two-day course. You make a commitment for two to two and a half days of your life to a firearm course that is accredited and presented for the purposes of acquiring this licence. You are not finished yet. I know I am boring you, but you are not finished yet. Then the police do a check. Not only do they check you, they phone and they check with your spouse to see whether or not you should acquire this licence, or, as the good senator from Newfoundland says, the girlfriend or former spouse.

Senator Baker: Or all three.

Senator Lang: My point is that, at the end of the day, when you are applying for this licence, this is a very rigid process. Then the RCMP receives this information, after they have phoned your spouse, and then they consider, with your character check, with your RCMP check on your criminal record, if you have one, the decision of whether or not you get a licence.

One should not dismiss this course. This course is very intensive and, for those who have taken it, you have to pay attention because at the end of the day you have to get 80 per cent or higher to qualify for this licence.

From the point of view of gun control and gun scrutiny, I would submit to you that we are probably one of the most rigid in Canada from the point of view of vetting individuals to be qualified and to have the privilege and the responsibility of a licence.

Before us here today is the question of the registry. It has been stated, over and over again in this place since we sat, that the registry is flawed.

I would just like to point out the evidence that was provided to us at this table. I am not making this up. I would point out to my colleague, and perhaps she was not here, the representatives from the front-line police; up to 90 per cent of them say the gun registry does not work, is not effective, and in fact it gives front-line officers a false sense of security and in some cases puts them in harm's way, which is unfortunate, but that is the evidence. I am not making this up. That is the evidence that was brought before us.

No one refuted throughout our whole sitting the fact that the registry, as it sits, is inaccurate and of little use from the point of view of going to court. It was clearly stated not on one occasion but on many occasions that, in going to court, the question of the validity and accuracy of the registry was such that your case would not proceed. At the end of the day, the question is whether we have a registry that works, is legitimate, is supposed to do what we say it will do. I submit to you that the overwhelming testimony pointed out that it certainly does not. From our perspective and from the perspective of the licensing and the requirement for the licensing, that is the vehicle that you follow in respect to the question of the gun owner and the responsibility of the gun owner. That particular licensing is available to the enforcement agencies when they wish to pursue it.

I would submit to honourable senators here that we definitely have a method that is still in place, that gives comfort to those situations that were described to us earlier today and on other days, those unfortunate incidents we speak of, but at the same time I want to speak in respect to those individuals who have firearm licences and feel they are put in a position of being criminalized. I think that was well stated earlier today by Ms. Thom.

I just want to end by saying that, as far as I am concerned, the legislation that is before us has been clearly thought out, well presented, and it meets the bar that should pass this house.

Senator Fraser: I will want to respond at the end. Might I just point out, for clarification purposes, that this amendment is not about licensing. I will propose one later that has to do with licensing. This amendment is about record keeping. I will say more later. When we get to the amendment on licensing, Senator Lang, I will remember every word of your eloquent speech.

[Translation]

Senator Hervieux-Payette: In fact, we must not be attending the same committee meeting. I have not seen any evidence that the registry has any major problems. I am referring to another registry which is the motor vehicle registry. We have a licence, we buy a car, our dealer has our name, and, when we continue doing business with a dealer, the dealer has all our information, maintenance and everything. That is not just anything; it is for the individual's protection. We take courses for more than two days in order to become good drivers. If we draw parallels with other sectors where there are registries and think that there are errors in the registry, even in Quebec — I have already said this to this committee — we are aware that we have a number of people who have health insurance cards that are inaccurate, that are false, that have been obtained fraudulently. No one is saying that we are going to destroy all the cards tomorrow morning, but rather that we are simply going to improve the system. It is in those terms. I accept none of the statements by my colleague. It has to be said that, currently, the vendor would have a weapon in his possession, and records simply indicating to whom he sold it and what model he sold. I believe this is an instrument that all police officers said was useful. Earlier the official said that, indeed the vendor, the weapons merchant, would disappear from the picture if he committed a crime, or ultimately committed suicide; we would never know who sold the weapon. This amendment would make it possible to go back to the source, and I believe it is extremely important.

[English]

The Chair: Are there any other comments, colleagues? Senator Fraser will do a wrap-up comment.

Senator Fraser: I would just like to repeat that this amendment is about record keeping and it is designed specifically as a tool to assist the police long after a gun owner has acquired a licence. This is about what happens if a gun, having been lawfully sold to a lawfully titled purchaser, goes astray or is used in some dangerous or illegal way. It is a restoration of the system that existed for years before the long-gun registry was brought into practice.

As I understood the testimony from Mr. Granger — you will remember the retired policeman from Montreal who tracked Marc Lépine, the killer from l'École Polytechnique — this was the system he used. He was able to figure out from the bullets that he found where the gun shop was that had sold the weapon in question, and went to the gun shop and got the record of the purchaser. That is how we knew who Mr. Lépine was. It was not an imposition on lawful, law-abiding gun owners in any way, but it was a very useful, as I understand it, tool for the police to have access to when they needed it, and by the testimony of a supporter of Bill C-19, it was not an onerous system for them to administer.

All we would be doing here is restoring, for the purposes of record keeping by merchants, the status quo ante.

The Chair: Honourable senators, that concludes the debate.

Senator Fraser: I have one last point. I will save it for the next discussion.

The Chair: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion in amendment?

Senator Fraser: Could I have a roll call vote, please?

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Wallace?

The Chair: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Baker, P.C.?

[Translation]

Senator Baker: Yes.

Senator Boisvenu: No.

Senator Chaput: Yes.

Senator Dagenais: No.

Senator Fraser: Yes.

[English]

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Frum.

Senator Frum: No.

[Translation]

Senator Hervieux-Payette: Yes.

Senator Jaffer: Yes.

[English]

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Lang.

Senator Lang: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Runciman.

Senator Runciman: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator White.

Senator White: No.

Ms. Anwar: Yeas, 5; nays, 7.

The Chair: Colleagues, I would declare the amendment proposed by Senator Fraser defeated.

Senator Fraser: I have another amendment to propose to this clause, if the clerk would distribute it, as soon as she makes her necessary record keeping.

I move:

That Bill C-19 be amended in clause 11, on page 5,

(a) by replacing line 22 with the following:

"of firearm;"; and

(b) by replacing lines 25 to 40 with the following:

"and possess that kind of firearm; and

(c) if the transferee is an individual, the transferor verifies the validity of the transferee's licence with the Canadian Firearms Program, requests a confirmation from it that the firearm is neither a prohibited firearm nor a restricted firearm and obtains a reference number for the inquiry."

[Translation]

Mr. Chair, I believe that my colleague, Senator Chaput, would like to suggest an improvement to the French text of the amendment, which is missing one or two words. I ask you to allow her to do so.

Senator Chaput: I would like to ask my francophone colleagues to check as well. This is in paragraph (c), on the third line. It reads: "entité confirmation que l'arme à feu"; and a word is missing; I think it is "n'est".

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Senator Fraser: So that is the version of the amendment that I am moving.

[English]

To speak to the amendment, to explain it, this responds to the representations by many witnesses before us that there is a big gap in the system here. Senator Lang has reminded us several times during these hearings, and again just a few minutes ago, that Canada has an elaborate and rigorous system to grant licences to ensure that licences are not granted to people who should not hold them. The difficulty is that, under this bill, the seller of a non-restricted, non- prohibited weapon, a long gun — and they are the majority of the guns out there — will no longer be obliged nor will there be any other mechanism to oblige that the validity of the purchaser's licence be verified. At the moment, the way the law works at present, that check is automatically performed because the merchant must contact the firearms program, and the firearms program will not issue a registration certificate before checking to see if the licence of the purchaser remains valid. Since the long guns will no longer be registered under this bill, the merchant will not have to make that inquiry and, therefore, the validity of the licence will not be checked because there is no requirement in this bill to replace that check.

Senator White was right when he said in our hearings earlier today that the existing language in Bill C-19 retains language that is now in the Firearms Act. The problem is that the other portion of the Firearms Act, which was what made the automatic check kick in, is gone under Bill C-19. There is no longer any automatic check. The merchant may check but does not have to check that the licence remains valid. We have even heard about the production of forged licences, which would not be checked either. That constitutes a massive loophole for people who we all agree should not be getting guns to get them. It is not an onerous requirement. It only takes a few minutes. However, it would provide some kind of comfort that people whose licences have been revoked by court order, for example, or who have been convicted of violent crimes would not be able to just walk out and buy themselves another gun and go and shoot someone else.

The Chair: Is there any other debate?

Senator Lang: I will not be long on this. We have had testimony and evidence that my good colleague has not referred to, and that is the reality of the section itself and the implicit responsibility that an owner of a firearm has in transferring or in selling a firearm to another individual. They have that responsibility, and if they do not ensure that the individual has the proper licensing, then they are responsible, and that is a criminal charge under the Criminal Code. It is a very serious offence, and it is there, not unlike it was in the past legislation.

I would submit to you this: As far as I am concerned, I think that the legislation is clear, as clear as can be, from the point of view of the responsibility of an individual or a corporation, for that matter, upon a transfer of a long gun firearm. I feel the legislation is sufficient to meet that obligation that you have outlined, and I do not see any reason to amend it and to cause it further delay.

This is a bill that has been debated for not one election, not two elections, but five elections. Clearly and unequivocally, positions were brought forward on either side of the issue and clearly debated, not just in this place or in the House of Commons, but across the country. I can tell you, representing the region of the Yukon, that the people of the territory want this legislation passed. There is no question about that. I do not think that the change that you are proposing makes a change to the implicit responsibility of the section.

The Chair: Colleagues, is there further debate?

Senator Fraser: If I might respond.

The Chair: Certainly, Senator Fraser.

Senator Fraser: We have heard testimony to the effect, and, indeed I thought the minister himself confirmed, that if the merchant does sell a gun to someone he should not sell it to, someone who does not have the licence, the standard of proof is going to be so high that it will be very difficult and frequently impossible to prove that the merchant committed the offence in question. To have no reason to believe that the transferee is not authorized will be very difficult to prove.

This is not an onerous requirement. It is a requirement that has been requested, as indeed was the earlier one, by many witnesses, including law enforcement witnesses. It is taken almost directly from a submission by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, but other police organizations have also recommended changes of this nature. I would remind colleagues for the record that, if memory serves, every representative of front-line police officers, every association representing front-line police officers, has opposed Bill C-19.

If we leave this gigantic loophole in this bill, it will be true that people get guns that no one around this table believes should get guns. If we accept this modest amendment, that likelihood will be significantly diminished.

I would also remind colleagues that while it is true that the abolition of the long-gun registry has been part of the present government's electoral platform for a long time, previous versions of this bill were much stronger than this one. Previous versions of this bill did require the retention of records and the verification of licences. This bill is not precisely what had been on offer to the public in all those previous elections.

The Chair: Colleagues, does that conclude debate?

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion in amendment?

Senator Fraser: A roll call vote, please, chair.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Wallace.

The Chair: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Baker, P.C.

Senator Baker: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Boisvenu.

Senator Boisvenu: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Chaput.

Senator Chaput: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Dagenais.

Senator Dagenais: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Fraser.

Senator Fraser: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Frum.

Senator Frum: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Hervieux-Payette, P.C.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Jaffer.

Senator Jaffer: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Lang.

Senator Lang: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Runciman.

Senator Runciman: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator White.

Senator White: No.

Ms. Anwar: "Yeas," five; "nays," seven.

The Chair: I would declare the amendment defeated.

Colleagues, shall clause 11 now carry?

Senator Fraser: Roll call vote, please, chair.

The Chair: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Wallace.

The Chair: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Baker, P.C.

Senator Baker: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Boisvenu.

Senator Boisvenu: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Chaput.

Senator Chaput: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Dagenais.

Senator Dagenais: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Fraser.

Senator Fraser: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Frum.

Senator Frum: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Hervieux-Payette, P.C.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Jaffer.

Senator Jaffer: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Lang.

Senator Lang: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Runciman?

Senator Runciman: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator White.

Senator White: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: "Yeas," seven; "nays," five.

The Chair: I would declare clause 11 carried.

Shall clause 12 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 13 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 14 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 15 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 16 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 17 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 18 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 19 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 20 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 21 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 22 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 23 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 24 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 25 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 26 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 27 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 28 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 29 carry?

Senator Fraser: I would ask a roll call vote on this clause.

The Chair: Yes, senator.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Wallace.

The Chair: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Baker, P.C.

Senator Baker: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Boisvenu.

Senator Boisvenu: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Chaput.

Senator Chaput: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Dagenais.

Senator Dagenais: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Fraser.

Senator Fraser: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Frum.

Senator Frum: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Hervieux-Payette, P.C.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Jaffer.

Senator Jaffer: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Lang.

Senator Lang: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Runciman.

Senator Runciman: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator White.

Senator White: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: "Yeas," seven; "nays," five.

The Chair: I declare clause 29 carried. Shall clause 30 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 31 carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, carry?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division. Shall the title carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Shall the bill carry?

Senator Fraser: Can I have a roll call vote on that?

The Chair: Yes, senator.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Wallace.

The Chair: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Baker, P.C.

Senator Baker: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Boisvenu.

Senator Boisvenu: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Chaput.

Senator Chaput: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Dagenais.

Senator Dagenais: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Fraser.

Senator Fraser: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Frum.

Senator Frum: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Hervieux-Payette, P.C.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Jaffer.

Senator Jaffer: No.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Lang.

Senator Lang: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator Runciman.

Senator Runciman: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: The Honourable Senator White.

Senator White: Yes.

Ms. Anwar: "Yeas," seven; "nays," five.

The Chair: I declare the bill carried.

Colleagues, does the committee wish to discuss appending observations to the report?

Senator Fraser: Is there any point? Would observations be accepted?

The Chair: At this point, I am taking that request as a no, that we do not want to discuss appending observations. Is that agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: It is agreed. No observations.

Is it agreed that this bill be reported to the Senate?

Senator Fraser: On division.

The Chair: Carried, on division.

Colleagues, thank you for your attention and time on this matter. At this point, I would declare the meeting adjourned.

(The committee adjourned.)