Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Issue 22 - Evidence for June 20, 2012
OTTAWA, Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs met
this day at 5:18 p.m. to study the Proposed Firearms Information Regulations
(Non-Restricted Firearms), tabled in the Senate on June 13, 2012, pursuant
to subsection 118(3) of the Firearms Act (S.C. 1995, c. 39).
Senator Bob Runciman (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: The meeting will come to order.
Good afternoon everyone, including members of the public who are viewing
today's proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and
Constitutional Affairs on the CPAC television network.
Today we begin our consideration of a proposal with respect to firearms
information regulations. This proposal was tabled in both the Senate and the
House of Commons on June 13, 2012 by the Minister of Public Safety pursuant
to subsection 118(3) of the Firearms Act. The proposal was referred to this
committee by the Senate the next day.
Bill C-19 repealed the long-gun registry, which contained details of
transfers of non-restricted firearms. Since that time, some firearms
businesses have been required, as a condition of their licences, to record
details of transfers of non-restricted firearms. The proposed regulation
would specify that a person cannot be required, as a condition of a licence
under the Firearms Act, (a) to collect information with respect to the
transfer of a non-restricted firearm; (b) if they collect such information,
to keep a record of it, or (c) if they keep such a record, to keep it in a
form that combines information that identifies the transferee with
information that identifies an individual firearm, links such information or
enables such information to be combined or linked.
This is our first meeting to review this proposal. These hearings are
open to the public and also available via webcast on the www.parl.gc.ca
We will begin our consideration by hearing from the Minister of Public
Safety, the Honourable Vic Toews.
Welcome, Minister. The floor is yours.
Hon. Vic Toews, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public Safety: Thank you
very much. I wish to thank the Senate for inviting me to this committee.
Before beginning my formal remarks, I realize that this may be a divisive
issue. I am not here to convince anyone about the long-gun registry; whether
it is the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do. I think everyone is
very clear on their positions in respect to the long-gun registry. I do not
think we need to re-litigate or re-debate that issue.
The real purpose of this regulation is simply to clarify the effect of
Bill C-19, that is, to prevent the establishment of another long-gun
registry through other means, whether it is through information collected
through CFOs or otherwise. It relates only to the authority of CFOs under
the Firearms Act. The issue of what provinces can do, or indeed what
municipalities can do, as was brought up in recent debates at Toronto city
council, is quite another issue.
We proceeded to abolish the long-gun registry under the criminal law
power of Canada, and that is why Bill C-19 was passed. If provinces wish to
deal with this matter under their own jurisdiction, they can do so under
property and civil rights in the province. That constitutional jurisdiction
is clear. I just want to be clear at the outset that I am not here to
re-debate the issue of the long-gun registry. I will certainly listen
patiently if you ask, but I think you will know the answer.
I am pleased to appear before you to discuss these important regulations
that the government has proposed pursuant to the Firearms Act. I will begin
by putting things into context.
Honourable senators will know that our government delivered on one of our
long-standing commitments to Canadians by introducing and passing
legislation to eliminate the wasteful and ineffective federal long-gun
registry earlier this year. The Ending the Long-gun Registry Act received
Royal Assent on April 5, putting an end to the practice of criminalizing
law-abiding Canadians based solely on where they live or how they make a
Our government has been straightforward with Canadians. We said we were
going to scrap the federal long-gun registry, and that is what we have done.
For a long time our Conservative government has been standing on the side of
law-abiding firearms owners; farmers, hunters and rural Canadians in every
region of the country. Our government also believes that law-abiding
firearms owners have been needlessly and unjustly painted as criminals for
simply owning a long gun. We have always said this thinking was wrong.
Canadians gave us a strong mandate to end this registry, and that is what we
Parliament, and in particular this committee, agreed with us, which is
why Bill C-19 was passed into law. Notwithstanding the clear intent of
Parliament to eliminate the federal long-gun registry, some chief firearms
officers continue to require that businesses maintain records concerning the
transfer of long guns. Specifically, these chief firearms officers are
requiring businesses to retain information on the name of the purchaser,
their firearms licence and the characteristics of the long gun they are
purchasing. This is contrary to the spirit of the legislation, which is now
the law of the land, and contrary to our government's mandate from
In May, I communicated both to the RCMP commissioner and all chief
firearms officers that the Firearms Act does not authorize any activity that
could facilitate the creation of a provincial long-gun registry. I further
communicated that neither the Canadian Firearms Program nor the RCMP are to
assist provinces seeking to set up their own long- gun registry.
When I was here before you in March of this year, I stated that while I
would not advise it, given the federal experience, provincial governments
are free to use their constitutional powers in the area of property rights
to establish a provincial long-gun registry. However, I cannot be more
emphatic: The federal government will not assist in setting up a registry by
the back door.
The regulations that our government has proposed pursuant to the Firearms
Act will ensure that the will of Parliament to eliminate the federal
long-gun registry is fully respected and follows through on my commitment to
not assist in setting up a registry by the back door.
The proposed regulations pursuant to the Firearms Act make it clear that
firearms businesses are not required to collect and keep transaction
information on the sale of long guns. The regulations that our government
has proposed would remove any ambiguity with respect to the creation of a
federal long-gun registry by the back door.
This is the important message that I would like to stress. If there is
any ambiguity in the legislation, if there is any ambiguity in the intent
that we expressed in passing that legislation, this regulation is a lawful
attempt to clarify that ambiguity.
Experience has shown us that a federal long-gun registry is an
ineffective waste of taxpayers' dollars. The long-gun registry that our
government eliminated cost Canadians $2 billion, according to the CBC. We
can all take that as it stands. That is money that should have been used to
crack down on real crime and real criminals, not law-abiding farmers and
I said that I am not here to convince anyone, so I will skip over some of
the issues. My position and the reason I am here today is clear. We are
committed, as a government, to effective measures to combat the criminal use
of firearms and we have taken steps to ensure that gun control is focused on
fighting crime, which is why we will continue to maintain records on
restricted and prohibited firearms such as handguns.
Part of the Canadian firearms program is the National Firearms Tracing
Centre. This centre will continue to be available to assist all law
enforcement in their efforts to trace firearms. Maintaining information on
law-abiding long- gun owners does not contribute to reducing gun crime in
Canadians who wish to acquire a firearm or ammunition are still required
to undergo background checks, pass a firearms safety course and comply with
all firearms safe storage and transportation requirements. Firearms owners
also still require a valid firearms licence and are required to register
prohibited and restricted firearms such as handguns.
Our government has repealed the requirement to register long guns and
requires the destruction of all records pertaining to the registration of
long-guns in the Canadian firearms registry and under the control of the
chief firearms officers.
The regulations we have proposed pursuant to the Firearms Act will ensure
that we continue to deliver on our commitment and ensure that the will of
Parliament to eliminate the federal long-gun registry is respected.
Thank you. I will now be happy to answer your questions.
The Chair: Thank you, Minister. We will begin our questions with
the deputy chair of the committee, Senator Fraser.
Senator Fraser: Welcome back to the committee, Mr. Minister.
I do not know if you have seen the letter that we received from the
Attorney General of Prince Edward Island.
Mr. Toews: I have not.
Senator Fraser: I have a copy that the clerk will give you. I will
read a couple of passages from it.
This is from Ms. Janice Sherry, Minister of Environment, Labour and
Justice and Attorney General of P.E.I., which, interestingly, is a province
with a significant rural population. She says that these ledgers were used
prior to the establishment of the long-gun registry, and the expectation was
that they would continue to be used after Bill C-19.
With the elimination of the requirement to register non-restricted
firearms, these ledgers became even more valuable. They became the only
tool available to be used by firearms officers when conducting
inspections of licensed firearms basis.
They have always been used as a regulatory tool to promote business
Forgive this long preamble, but this is new material to you. Further on,
Without a regulatory scheme in place to promote and ensure compliance
with legislation, there will be no means of ensuring that a business is
selling firearms to individuals who are lawfully entitled to possess
them. In essence, it will render the entire licence scheme meaningless
as it pertains to non-restricted firearms.
Even in a jurisdiction as small as Prince Edward Island, there have
been numerous issues with firearms businesses, including attempts to
operate outside of legislation. There have been firearms business owners
who were charged and convicted criminally, and we are aware that there
have been even more serious cases involving firearms businesses across
She then says:
If the concern surrounding the ledgers is that, in the custody of the
firearms office, these ledgers could be used to create a form of a
registry, this is simply not feasible. The speculation that these
ledgers are some form of back door gun registry is completely without
Before I put a specific question, could you tell me what your reaction is
to those comments?
Mr. Toews: I think it is fairly consistent with that government's
position in respect to the long-gun registry. They oppose the elimination of
the long-gun registry and are now asking us to, through the Firearms Act, to
maintain records that we believe could be used as a registry.
A ledger does not have to be in paper form; it could be in computer form.
It can all be centralized with the provincial government.
If the province, in this particular case, has identified a problem in
respect of the ownership of that property, they can create that legislation
or that ledger under their own legislative powers. They have the full
authority to do it.
Senator Fraser: We are not talking now about centralized registry
systems. I understand your answer. I am about to put another question.
We are talking about a return to the system that existed for twenty years
or so, before the long-gun registry was established, where individual gun
merchants were required to keep ledgers. They could only keep ledgers
referring to the people they sold guns to; they could not do anything about
what happened to the guns after that. However, those ledgers were available
for the police to examine if they had reason to believe that a merchant had
sold a gun, either improperly or that was later used in the commission of a
If the provinces have the power civilly to require that such ledgers be
maintained by gun merchants, as I take you to be saying, do they also have
the power to require that those ledgers be accessible to police in the
circumstances I just suggested?
Mr. Toews: Senator Baker is probably the expert in this area.
Senator Fraser: But you are the minister.
Mr. Toews: I want to be modest in front of another expert. I am
not suggesting I am an expert in this respect.
I can tell you that if you do pass a statute in this respect, under
property and civil rights, to maintain that ledger, it is essentially a
regulatory matter, and powers of inspection could be added in that
legislation to authorize police to inspect those records.
The only caveat I would put on that is where those firearms might be
stored in a private residence. There might have to be an independent
authority granting a warrant or power of entry.
Therefore, yes they could. There is absolutely no problem. We do it in
every context. I have drafted many statutes, provincially, in that way when
I was a lawyer working for the provincial government — especially in the
context of labour statutes and labour regulations.
Senator Fraser: This is my last question.
I am puzzled because one of the hallmarks of this government is that it
frequently says — and I am sure absolutely believes — that it wants the
police to have the tools they need. However, the police and many other
witnesses who appeared before us on the long-gun registry, said that in
connection with ledgers, the maintenance of the ledgers would be a very
important component of continued law enforcement.
Why do you not like them? In the original versions of the gun registry
bill, they would have been maintained. However, in this version they were
not. Why do you not like them?
Mr. Toews: You mean the ledgers. I wanted to ensure you did not
mean the police. I am usually accused of being too pro-police in my
We weighed all the possibilities in this particular case and we realized
that, given the particular history of this situation, we cannot return to
the pre-Bill C-68 scenario. We are very concerned that another government
may, in fact, use these ledgers in order to recreate a national registry by
simply putting all those registries together and starting it all over again.
We made it clear that we will not participate or insist in any way, and that
is why we made this decision.
We cannot stop a provincial government from creating those ledgers if
they choose. They have the authority to do that, but then at least they will
have to go to their voters and explain why they are doing it. The success in
respect of Bill C-68 has been less than stellar in terms of the long-gun
registry, and we want no part of that legacy.
Senator Fraser: I will have second round questions, if I may.
Senator Boisvenu: Mr. Minister, thank you for joining us today.
The understanding is that your directive affects only hunting weapons. Is
Mr. Toews: Yes. Essentially, "long guns " would be non-restricted
firearms — shotguns and rifles like the .22s, the .303s, the 30-06s, and the
kinds generally used for hunting. It does not affect restricted or
Senator Boisvenu: In terms of that, hunters who own other types of
weapons will always have to obtain an acquisition licence from a police
Mr. Toews: Yes. First of all, everyone who wants to buy a firearm
must be licensed, so you go through the background check. Whether it is a
non-restricted firearm or a restricted or prohibited one, everyone has to
have that licence.
If you go to get a restricted firearm — let us say a handgun or an
automatic, though I do not know if they are all prohibited as I am not that
much of an expert on firearms — you would need to have that firearm
Senator Boisvenu: Would you say that provinces will maintain a
registry of firearm owners given the licence acquisition?
Mr. Toews: The licence itself is issued under federal authority by
the chief firearms officer or however it is structured in a particular
A province could, if it chose to, state that anyone who buys what is
presently classified as a non-restricted firearm must provide certain
information, indeed, the identical information that is required on the
ledger. That ledger could be compiled centrally, in a computer or whatever
form, by a provincial government so they could in fact construct a long-gun
registry, and that is exactly the fear we have with the maintenance of the
ledger. We are saying this is essentially a matter of property and civil
rights. If a province wants to do that, it is in their hands to do that.
Senator Dagenais: Thank you, Mr. Minister. If certain provinces
wanted to establish a firearms registry, would it not be preferable to,
instead of establishing a budget for a gun registry, allocate those budgets
to police forces to help them prevent crimes committed using firearms? That
is more of a remark than a question, but I would like to hear your thoughts.
Mr. Toews: That is essentially what we are doing. When we look at
the $400 million that we gave to police and provincial governments across
Canada to hire police officers, I think we got a much better bang for our
buck, so to speak, than investing money in the long-gun registry. I think
that having a police officer in a community is a much more effective
deterrent than the registration of long guns, because if you go into rural
areas you will find out that even law-abiding citizens were not registering
Senator, what really concerned me, and I stated this at the House of
Commons, is in the last 12 years that I have been an MP, I come from a
riding which is very conservatively minded — they have had Liberal MPs
before but conservatively minded — and the very people who should be
supporting our police were alienated from the police. They felt distant;
they felt worried about the police because probably the only thing they have
ever done wrong, other than perhaps a speeding ticket, was not register
The community that the police should be relying on to help them stamp out
the drug dealers, the motorcycle gangs who are moving into rural areas and
growing drugs, the law-abiding citizens do not want to get involved because
they are worried that someone will come into their house and take their .22
or their shotgun or their deer rifle. The damage of the long-gun registry
was much more significant than even the ownership of property. It was a
schism that developed between police and decent, ordinary, hard-working
people. That has been the most regrettable thing about the legacy of Bill
C-68 and the long-gun registry.
The Chair: Minister, to clarify my own understanding, you talked
about the most important part of your earlier statement was to remove the
Mr. Toews: Yes.
The Chair: What you are talking about, as I understand it anyway,
is a question or a suspicion. At least one CFO has suggested that if gun
dealers do not maintain these ledgers they could lose their licences, and
there is the suggestion out there that this is under federal authority.
Instead of using their own authority under property and civil rights, they
were not taking on this issue themselves and letting their own citizens
decide if they agree or not. Essentially I think that is what you are
saying. If a province wishes to go down this road, they have the ability to
do so, but they will not do it behind the shield of federal authority. That
is what this is clarifying, as I understand it.
Mr. Toews: Right. The calls and concerns we are getting about the
different interpretations by CFOs are really putting a chill in the gun
community, those who sell guns, those who operate ranges. They feel should
they ever object to what a CFO says that somehow their licence will be
pulled, that there will be some kind of an inappropriate taking of their
licence through a veiled mechanism.
We want to ensure that they have a piece of paper, the law of this land,
in their hand that says the law says here that you cannot attach as a
condition this type of a matter to my licence. This really is about
protecting many small business owners and also protecting property that we
feel is part of many people's lives in this country.
Senator Peterson: I have a couple of questions. First, we often
hear the phrase that the long-gun registry made criminals out of law-abiding
citizens. How many people were charged?
Mr. Toews: That is a good question. I do not know how many people
were charged, but I can say that potentially there were hundreds if not
thousands of criminals in my own riding because they were in breach of the
law. Just because you are not charged does not mean you are not a criminal;
you have not been found guilty in court. That is what I was saying about the
schism between police and essentially very decent people. You have basically
saddled them with the label of criminal, because that is what they are if
they do not register, even though it has not been proven in a court.
Senator Peterson: You need a driver's licence, too.
Mr. Toews: That is a good point, senator. That is a very good
point, but you are not a criminal if you do not have a driver's licence. You
can even drive a car and you are not a criminal. You are only a criminal if
you are prohibited from driving and then you are charged under the code.
That is a good point.
Senator Peterson: Second, what is the status of the registries
that the provinces already have, the information they have, under the
Mr. Toews: As you know, senator, there is an injunction in place
in Quebec that has ordered the federal government to maintain the
information of the long-gun registry in the province of Quebec. There is no
such injunction in place, as far as I am aware, that would stop the federal
government as soon as they have made the appropriate technical adjustments
to erase all of the material that is presently forming the long-gun
registry. That process is ongoing right now.
Senator Peterson: Do other provinces have this information?
Mr. Toews: They all have it.
Senator Peterson: However, only one province you say is fighting
Mr. Toews: There is a central computer, a central data system, and
the problem with the Quebec injunction was that you had to separate out the
Quebec information from all of the rest.
The officers in Manitoba, of course, would just go onto their computers
and that data would come up, but it is not a registry technically that is
maintained by the province. It is maintained in New Brunswick, I assume, or
wherever these computers are located.
Senator Di Nino: Mr. Minister, I understand that Chief Firearms
Officer Wyatt from Ontario has ordered all stores who sell long guns to keep
a detailed register of the sales of these firearms, in effect, it would seem
to me, disrespecting the will of Parliament that passed Bill C-19. I find
this strange. How can that be?
Mr. Toews: I will give that chief firearms officer the benefit of
the doubt and say he is confused by Bill C-19, and that is why we have taken
the extraordinary step of clarifying by regulation exactly what we meant in
Bill C-19. I will not state he is disrespecting Parliament. I will simply
state that is not the interpretation of the Parliament of Canada in respect
of Bill C-19. This regulation makes the interpretation perfectly clear.
Senator Di Nino: We would hope he would understand the issue
Mr. Toews: We hope to remove any lack of clarity.
Senator Di Nino: Are other CFOs across the country acting in the
Mr. Toews: It has actually been mixed. This might be more of an
issue of bureaucracies rather than policy. For example, in New Brunswick the
Attorney General came out very clearly and said the CFO in New Brunswick
will comply in every respect with the law and that is happening. In respect
to a province like Manitoba, which has an NDP government that has
strenuously opposed the long-gun registry since they came into power, I am
receiving reports from individuals where the CFOs are going to gun ranges
and saying they want this condition and that condition and if they do not
get it they will pull their licence.
Maybe this is simply the bureaucracy going on of its own accord and the
clear instructions have not come down yet. Why they have not, I do not know.
In a place like Manitoba, as I understand it, the CFO is a federal rather
than a provincial designation. That has caused me some concern.
I do not think there has been any ambiguity in what I have been saying
about this and why there would be any attempt to maintain a federal registry
or attach conditions that would facilitate a long-gun registry. I do not
Senator Di Nino: In effect, the reason this measure was taken is
to be able to clarify it so hopefully everyone will understand the intent.
Mr. Toews: So that shop owner, if a CFO came into their shop and
said, "I do not understand, what you are telling me is I have to maintain
this information and what the regulation says is I do not. How do I square
this? " At least then they can say, "Well, look, let's get this
clarified somehow. "
Senator Fraser: The regulation refers to "persons " not being
required to maintain ledgers. Does that include business?
Mr. Toews: I would think so.
Senator Fraser: Under the Firearms Act a "business " is defined
as "a person who, " so I assumed it did.
Mr. Toews: "Person " generally in law includes a corporation.
Senator Fraser: Could you describe for me, please, the way you
have authority over, if you have authority over, the chief firearms officers
in the various provinces?
Mr. Toews: That is a good question. I have certain administrative
responsibilities in respect of the RCMP, which administer that, so I can
send out a directive. That is clear. I have to do that, in my opinion, in
writing so that there is no suggestion that I am improperly interfering with
an RCMP investigation or a criminal investigation specifically.
I have the authority to make that kind of administrative direction.
Essentially that letter simply says what the law is, and the RCMP
commissioner sends out whatever letter he then chooses to send out pursuant
to that direction. In this case I sent it out with a copy to the CFOs.
Senator Fraser: Not all CFOs are part of the RCMP, however.
Mr. Toews: That is correct.
Senator Fraser: Some of them come from provincial police forces,
for example, the one in Ontario, I believe.
Mr. Toews: That is correct.
Senator Fraser: You do not have administrative responsibility over
Mr. Toews: I think that is correct. It is a very difficult thing
to actually determine, and I will say why. This is an argument that has
followed me since 1997 when I told your former colleague, Allan Rock, that I
would not enforce the long-gun registry in Manitoba, nor would I appoint a
firearms officer who would enforce it. That, I said, was a federal
responsibility. Then, at that point, the federal government appointed the
chief firearms officer in Manitoba. I believe there are other provinces who
took a similar position. Other provinces simply accepted the delegation
under the Firearms Act and appointed it directly.
That is the ambiguity. It is the same problem that you have: Can the
federal Justice Minister take over prosecutions of a federal Criminal Code
offence, like from private? It is really just a delegation from the
provinces, which then hire the prosecutors who do that, but it is somehow a
legislative delegation that is a queer creature of our particular federal
Senator Fraser: I am trying to get my mind straight in relation to
the case of a province that has a CFO who is from the RCMP but wishes to
establish ledgers. Could it order the local CFO, even though that person was
from the RCMP, to do the necessary inspections; take over, if you will, the
administrative end of ensuring that their local ledger system was properly
implemented, or would they have to find some other way to do it?
Mr. Toews: Again, Senator Baker would be the expert in this area,
but my opinion is that right now federal RCMP officers are the provincial
police officers and municipal police officers in many parts of Manitoba,
Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. They enforce provincial
legislation, including regulatory legislation. You could take it from there
that they now may well have the authority. I am not going to make any kind
of a conclusion.
Senator Fraser: You are not suggesting things here.
Mr. Toews: I am not suggesting things here. However, I am simply
saying if they can do it in respect of other provincial statutes and
regulatory offences, the question then that an expert would be able to
answer is why could they not do it here? That is not my role to determine
here. My role is simply to say we are out of it. If there is a province that
wants to shoulder this responsibility they will have to figure out the
mechanism to do it. There are mechanisms to do it if they wish to do so. We
do not encourage it, we do not recommend it, but that is within the
jurisdiction of that province.
Senator Fraser: You have, I think, administrative agreements in
those provinces where the RCMP is the police force or is for much of the
territory the police force.
Mr. Toews: We just signed the recent 20-year agreement and it
works differently in different provinces. I do not want to get into details,
but we sign agreements with the Attorney General or the public safety
ministers of each province to designate the RCMP as the provincial police
Senator Fraser: The province then pays a certain amount of money.
Mr. Toews: There is a formula.
Senator Fraser: If the province were to give a new responsibility
to an RCMP CFO in that province, would you charge for it, or would the
agreements just have to cover whatever they do?
Mr. Toews: I would have to look at the agreements, but every time
a province passes a piece of legislation we do not increase the charge.
However, there are certain administrative fees that might occur or follow as
a result of setting up something like that. If you are taking up the time of
RCMP officers to do that, there may be certain financial ramifications. I am
not in a position to answer that because these agreements are very lengthy
and complicated. I have never considered that issue.
Senator Fraser: You may recall when you were here on the long-gun
registry I asked you about conformity with our international obligations.
Mr. Toews: Yes.
Senator Fraser: I will put the same question again in connection
with this regulation because there are various international conventions,
protocols, instruments, some of which Canada has signed but not ratified,
that would suggest we do need to have a system of records keeping for small
arms and for weapons that may be illicitly trafficked, which seems to me
might include improperly sold non-registered guns. Have you had a chance to
look at that area? How would this regulation square up with those
Mr. Toews: That is a question that I have specifically asked not
only in respect of Bill C-19, which fundamentally abolishes the long-gun
registry, but also the regulation which is passed pursuant to the Firearms
My advice from the lawyers is that it complies with all of our
Senator Fraser: Can you give me some indication of the legal
reasoning that they offered or that you are offering us?
Mr. Toews: I have not looked into that because international law
is well beyond my field of practice. I satisfied myself with whether we are
in compliance with international agreements, and I am advised that we are.
Senator Baker: Minister, when you were speaking previously to the
authority of the police forces to gain access to records that are kept under
provincial regulation, the thought came to mind of production orders under
487.012 of the Criminal Code. Just based on the suspicion of a police
officer, you can get the records of anything. "On suspicion " is the way
that it was worded in 2004 when we passed it under the previous government.
Records kept can be produced at any time to any police force.
I will tell you, minister, what was on my mind when you were talking
about the impact of this measure. We are talking about somebody who is
purchasing a gun at a store and whether a record of it is kept. What came to
my mind immediately was that many records are kept at that store. First,
when you purchase a good 12 gauge shotgun or a .30- 06, as you say, you are
paying a huge amount of money for it. You are paying $1,000 for most of them
and then you are paying $400 for a scope. The first thing you do with the
dealer when you buy it is you fill out a warranty.
Mr. Toews: Absolutely.
Senator Baker: You have to show your identity but when you fill
out the warranty, and I checked prior to coming here, the Winchester
warranty asks for marital status, name, date of birth, the number of people
in your household, whether you rent your primary residence, and your
occupation. The Remington warranty asks whether you own your principal
residence, the numbers of people in your household and who they are, what
type of vehicle you drive and whether you own a dog.
These warranties go into everything. I was thinking that the most
comprehensive record kept of new gun purchases are for the purposes of
warranty. They are kept for only two years from the point of sale. When you
buy it, your warranty will last. All of these gun makers have a warranty
that lasts for two years on the principal parts and one year on specific
Under the production orders, under the Criminal Code, any police force in
Canada can get that information.
Mr. Toews: Yes, but it would have to be a specific production
order in respect of a person or a gun.
Senator Baker: That is right — a person or a gun.
Mr. Toews: Absolutely.
Senator Baker: The first thing that came to my mind was the number
of records available. There is a record of everything, if the police were
Mr. Toews: You are correct.
Senator Unger: Minister, in your statement, you made the comment
that you communicated to both the RCMP Commissioner and all CFOs that the
Firearms Act does not authorize any activity that could facilitate the
creation of a provincial long-gun registry. You further communicated that
neither the Canadian Firearms Program nor the RCMP are to assist provinces
seeking to set up their own long-gun registry.
In Alberta, we just signed a 20-year contract with the RCMP, the body
that enforces provincial legislation. There is a conflict here because they
could be asked, perhaps by the Solicitor General, to comply and yet you have
specifically ordered them not to comply. I am confused by this.
Mr. Toews: That is a good point. You will spend many years being
confused about how the RCMP works. I remember when I was a provincial
attorney general I tried to figure out why the federal government was
closing down detachments in my province without telling me. They would send
a letter to say that they were consolidating here or there. I would say,
"Wait a minute — that is our provincial police force. Why are you doing
The RCMP live in a world of somewhat divided loyalties, but ultimately
they are a federal police force contracted to the province to carry out
policing responsibilities. That includes the enforcement of all federal
Criminal Code provisions. Narcotics control remains a federal matter and is
prosecuted federally. They also investigate provincial offences, such as
highway traffic offences, liquor control offences, and those types of
In this particular letter, I was saying that there is no authority to do
it under the Firearms Act. If you are doing this, you better be doing it
lawfully under some other provision because there is no lawful provision to
demand that type of information under the Firearms Act.
I have tried to be very careful not to step on the jurisdiction of the
provincial attorneys general.
Senator Fraser: The minister referred a couple of times to this
letter, and I wonder whether he could provide us with a copy of it.
Mr. Toews: I have a copy here, but I do not have it in French. Not
only do I have the letter, but I also have the directive that went out from
the commissioner, if you would like to see that. Again the commissioner's
letter is in French and English but my letter is unfortunately in English
only. I will provide you with the French copy as well. My office will ensure
that you get the French copy.
The Chair: I had a conversation, before we dealt with Bill C-19,
with a gun store dealer in my former provincial riding. He indicated that he
had been keeping a ledger prior to the implementation of Bill C-68 and kept
it throughout that time. I suspect that many responsible operators, for
their own purposes, will continue to maintain a ledger. The message being
delivered by this regulation is that they are not obligated to do that by
the federal government through its legislation or regulation.
This is probably more a question directed to the CFOs who will appear
next, but it seems that many gun store dealers will continue to do that for
their own purposes.
Mr. Toews: Many will continue to do it because there is nothing
stopping them from doing it. It is a practice of the business. They can keep
any kind of business record, whether it is a warranty or other.
Sometimes they have a check mark for: Can we send you information on some
of our other products? It probably has it in there. That will last a lot
longer than two years. They are keeping that information on file much longer
than two years. It will be there for 10 to 20 years. People will get these
letters from some shotgun they bought 10 years ago. They maintain that.
There is nothing preventing them from doing that if you have consented to
it. The firearms shop might keep a ledger for their own protection because
they want to ensure that any time they sell a firearm, the individual had a
They keep the details of that licence so that if there should ever be any
question in a criminal investigation, "Did you sell a firearm to an
individual who was unlicensed, " you say, "Look, I maintain a ledger here.
Here is the individual; here is the licence. That is who I sold it to. " In
my opinion, from a legal point of view, it is a prudent thing for them to
The Chair: Thank you, minister. That wraps it up for you. We will
let you off a little bit early.
Our next panel includes, from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of
Police, Mario Harel, who is Vice-President, Chief, Service de police de la
Ville de Gatineau; from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, John Robert
Ervin, who is Chief Firearms Officer for Saskatchewan; and from the Ontario
Provincial Police, a fellow Brockvillilan, Chris Wyatt, Chief Firearms
Officer. Welcome, gentlemen. Please proceed with your opening statements.
Mario Harel, Vice-President, Chief, Service de police de la Ville de
Gatineau, Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police: Once against, thank
you for having the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police present here
today. I am Mario Harel of the Gatineau Police Service, and I am
Vice-President of the CACP.
We respectfully regret that, once again, we are being asked to appear
before you to discuss legislation around the issue of firearms. Despite the
fact that we have supported the introduction of a number of positive
legislative measures to improve the safety of our streets and community,
this particular item runs counter to that goal.
On March 28, I appeared before this committee and stated:
We acknowledge, on the issue of repealing the long-gun registry, that
the government has been transparent with the Canadian people regarding
their intent to pass this legislation. In our parliamentary system, we
must respect the desires of Canadians who elected this government with
the ability to do so. Nothing now is gained by providing further
opposition to this bill.
The government's reasoning for removing the long-gun registry was based
on spent costs and the philosophy that it criminalizes hard-working and
law-abiding citizens. We were prepared to leave it at that.
During the house and Senate committee meetings relating to Bill C-19 and
through a letter to the minister, the CACP urged the government to ensure
that records of sales by firearms vendors be maintained, as has been the
case since 1977. Why? Very simply, firearm vendor ledgers provide at least
one method through which law enforcement can investigate a long-gun used in
a criminal act — I repeat, in a criminal act.
It is not a searchable, centralized database. It has no cost to
Canadians. It does not criminalize law-abiding citizens, and it places no
burden upon them.
Why would we remove such a practice and how can we justify it from a
public safety perspective?
During the long-gun registry debate, I feel it necessary to quote some of
the testimony given by witnesses who supported the government's Bill C-19.
Mr. Tony Bernardo from the Canadian Shooting Sports Association held up
the pre-registry "green book " in front of the house committee on November
He described the process of a gun coming to Canada:
That firearm then goes to a dealer's inventory; they are obligated to
keep an inventory book. It's colloquially known as "the green book
Every single merchant in firearms has to have that green book, and every
firearm coming in or going out has to be recorded in that green book . .
. That green book has been the status quo for at least 30 years.
He was asked:
. . . store owners can now just sell guns to anyone and there will be
no record; they can sell a gun to anyone.
He responded by saying:
No, that's absolutely false . . . He has to have where it went in his
Sergeant Grismer, in front of this very committee, stated:
I am very familiar with the ledgers that were kept then. That kind of
a system was not onerous then and I do not think the dealers of today
would consider it onerous now.
Calgary Chief Rick Hanson, who supported Bill C-19, recommended in front
of this very committee that:
. . . we must reinstate point of sale recording. This existed prior
to the gun registry and was useful for two reasons. The first is that it
allowed for proper auditing of gun stores to ensure that they are
complying with the law requiring them to sell only to those with proper
licences. That is a starting point should that gun be identified as
being used in a criminal offence.
Law enforcement has attempted to enter into respectful dialogue with the
government on this issue, but we have not once been consulted. Opponents of
the long-gun registry — the hard-working, law-abiding citizens — to our
knowledge, have never requested this action. Other than the pro-gun lobby,
who stated that "the so-called gun control laws simply make the bad guys
laugh all the way to the next crime scene, " who is really making this an
It is not a searchable, centralized database. It has no cost to
Canadians. It does not criminalize law-abiding citizens and places no burden
We have to ask the question: How does this regulation possibly serve the
interests of public safety? Since we are not part of the consultation
process, we have to ask, what can we expect next? Thank you very much.
John Robert Ervin, Chief Firearms Officer, Saskatchewan, Royal
Canadian Mounted Police: Thank you for the opportunity to appear today.
I am John Robert Ervin, Chief Firearms Officer, Saskatchewan.
The Firearms Act governs the licensing and registration of firearms for
all provinces and territories. The act gives provincial governments the
right of first refusal to appoint a Chief Firearms Officers or CFO. The
Firearms Act provides for the option of administering the RCMP Canadian
Firearms Program federally in the event that a jurisdiction chooses to opt
out of the program by not appointing a CFO.
There is a CFO in each province and territory. There are federally
appointed CFOs in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba,
Newfoundland and Labrador because those five provinces have chosen not to
appoint a CFO. The federal CFOs are also responsible for the three
territories. I am the CFO for Saskatchewan.
All CFOs are funded through the Canadian Firearms Program to provide a
variety of services. As a federally administered CFO, I am an employee of
the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program.
My job is to administer the Firearms Act and its related regulations. In
my role as Chief Firearms Officer for Saskatchewan, my mandated
responsibilities under the Firearms Act include issuing and revoking
firearms licences, issuing authorization to transport and authorization to
carry permits, approving transfers involving restricted and prohibited
firearms, approving shooting clubs and ranges, administration of the
Canadian Firearms Safety Course and Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety
Course including the designation of instructors, and approving and
inspecting firearms businesses.
Section 102 of the Firearms Act provides me with the authority to conduct
inspections for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the act. My office
is mandated to conduct inspections of all firearms businesses every three
years, although inspections may take place for frequently. The time required
for a business inspection depends on volume of firearms and can range from
half a day to five days.
A firearm business inspection involves a 100 per cent manual count of all
firearms on site. As part of the inspection, the firearms business ledgers —
which are a business tool and the property of the business — are consulted
on site and compared to the results of the manual count. If the numbers from
the manual count and business ledgers do not match, a follow-up
investigation may be conducted to determine why the numbers are different
and to determine the whereabouts of the business firearms.
Businesses may have their own processes in place to assist my staff and
allow them to form inspections in a timely and thorough manner. In my
experience as a CFO, firearms businesses generally have systems in place to
monitor inventory and manage warranty concerns.
In conclusion, as a Chief Firearms Officer I have a regulatory role with
regard to firearms businesses. I will continue to use the tools available to
me within the Firearms Act and its related regulations to ensure businesses
are in compliance with the legislation.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Superintendant Chris Wyatt, Chief Firearms Officer, Ontario Provincial
Police: Good evening, senators. It is a pleasure to be here especially
with my old boss Senator Runciman; he was a good boss. I cannot say that
about all of them.
We also come from the same hometown and went to the same high school,
although he was there many years before I was.
I brought a gift for Senator Runciman. It is a business ledger. The only
stipulation I make is that when you have no further use of it, it must be
returned to the Government of Ontario.
Thank you for having me today. I will offer some insights from the
perspective of a Chief Firearms Officer and a police officer regarding this
proposed change. I am Chris Wyatt, Chief Firearms Officer of Ontario and a
member of the Ontario Provincial Police.
The OPP and the Chief Firearms Office have significant concerns about the
impact this proposed regulation change will have on public safety in the
Province of Ontario. Currently, every firearms business in Ontario use
ledgers in which they record the details of every firearm: make, model,
serial number, the name and licence number of the person involved in the
By linking firearms to an individual, a reasonable level of
accountability is placed on the business and the individual.
This proposed regulation will create a low standard of accountability.
Before Bill C-19 became law, there was independent verification of the
buyers and sellers licences and the firearm when the firearm transaction was
If this regulation comes into effect, no one involved in a long-gun
transaction with a business will have to produce a firearm licence or have
it recorded. With the end of the ledgers there will also be no information
on where a long-gun came from or where it went. Additionally, neither party
to a firearms transaction will know for certain if the firearm was stolen
and/or used in a crime.
The collection of information on long-gun transactions involving
businesses began in 1978, well before the long-gun registry came into
Until now, no one thought of the ledgers as a registry. Ledgers are not a
back door registry.
The registry is automated, centralized, networked, has many search tools,
links firearms owners to all of their firearms and is available online to
Ledgers have none of these characteristics. The Government of Ontario has
stated publicly that it will not be establishing a provincial registry for
In fulfilling my mandate as the CFO in Canada's most populous province, I
and my firearms officers regularly inspect businesses.
Let me speak about how this proposed new regulation will affect those
inspections. In Ontario, firearms business inspectors make sure that every
firearm is accounted for during an inspection. Very few are found to be
missing or stolen, and those that are found are reported to the police and
entered on CPIC. This high level of accountability protects the public in a
way not possible if this regulation does away with the ledgers. There are
also significant benefits for the business owners and employees in recording
The ledgers give businesses significant protection from criminal and
civil liability arising from charges of firearms trafficking and other
criminal offences. Business owners recognize this, and they will continue to
keep records of transactions to protect themselves. I will continue to
recommend that firearms dealers record this information as a business best
practice even if it becomes optional under this proposed regulation change.
During my six years as Chief Firearms Officer for Ontario, I have never
heard a complaint from a firearms business about keeping ledgers. I have
only heard a few complaints from individuals about having their licences
Last month, the owners and an employee of an Ontario firearms business
were charged with firearms trafficking. They sold firearms and ammunition to
undercover police officers even after the undercover officers admitted that
they did not have a licence. It was the first time a business owner has been
charged criminally with this offence in Ontario in the last five years. I
believe the elimination of the ledgers will result in more firearms being
sold by businesses to criminals and unlicensed persons.
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, OFAH, which represents
hunters in my province, recognizes the importance of record-keeping for
firearms transactions to protect their members. OFAH has even posted a
record of ownership transfer for non-restricted firearms, a form, on their
website, which records the details of the firearm and name and licence
number of the purchaser. These are the hunters.
If this proposed regulation comes into effect, as Chief Firearms Officer
for Ontario, I will move quickly to comply. I will send a letter to all
firearms dealers in the province to inform them that maintaining ledgers for
non-restricted firearms is no longer a condition of their licence. I will
also request that they return all existing non-restricted firearms ledgers
to me. I do not want to do either of these two things because, in my
opinion, the ledgers are an important public safety tool.
To summarize my presentation, the position of both the OPP and the Chief
Firearms Office of Ontario is that this proposed regulation will, if passed,
have significant negative impact on public safety in our province. The OPP
and the Chief Firearms Office urge this committee to study the impact of
this change carefully and suggest changes that will address these concerns.
Senator Fraser: Thank you all for being here. That is extremely
interesting testimony. I am fascinated to see that at least in Ontario the
green book is actually red, a good senatorial colour. You are here in the
Red Chamber, so to speak. That is fine by us.
Mr. Harel, have you had any experiences, at the Gatineau police force,
where those various books have been useful to you? The registry was, of
course, still available.
Mr. Harel: We have been working with the registry for several
years. I can tell you that, since the debate on abolishing the firearms
registry — which is now a reality — our police officers have been wondering
why the registry was abolished because it was a tool they used daily.
Now, having to reclaim similar registries kept locally by businesses
dramatically changes investigation methods and will significantly increase
the length of police investigations.
However, as I said earlier, we at least have a starting point for
investigations. When we talk about police investigations, we are talking
about criminal offences and not, as I mentioned earlier, situations
involving honest citizens who own firearms legally and legitimately.
Senator Fraser: Only crimes lead to investigations.
Mr. Harel: Yes, those tools are used following a crime. In
addition, I understand that, for every province's chief firearms officers,
the registry was also an administrative tool that helped in the application
of regulations and the Firearms Act. However, in terms of police activity
and investigations, the registry was a starting point that at least enabled
us to know where that gun came from and where it had been sold so that we
could meet with people and establish the gun's history. That was a key
element in an investigation.
Senator Fraser: Mr. Wyatt, you made it plain that you do not
really want this regulation to take effect, but you said that if it does,
you will write to all the firearms dealers and you will request that they
return all existing non-restricted firearms ledgers to you. Why would they
have to do that? I have gathered from even listening to the minister, whose
proposed regulation this is, that he would expect gun dealers would go on
maintaining these ledgers.
Mr. Wyatt: I think what I heard the minister say was that they can
do it if they wish, but the Chief Firearms Office cannot make it a condition
of their licence.
Senator Fraser: No, but all I am saying is why would you want them
to ship back the ledgers they already have, whether or not they are a
condition of licence, because that could be information they might wish to
Mr. Wyatt: I have no problem with the businesses, if they want to
keep the ledgers and keep on recording themselves. However, I would not want
the government to think that, somehow, I am keeping this thing alive by some
back door means.
Senator Fraser: You could, in those letters, stress that even if
they do continue under the regulation, under the law, you no longer have the
authority to inspect.
If this regulation takes effect, what if the Province of Ontario passed a
mirror regulation of its own — not under the Firearms Act, but under
provincial jurisdiction, as the minister made plain that it could? Would
that cause any difficulties or for you would it become business as usual?
That is, you would go on inspecting and doing the same things you have been
doing all along, except that it would be under the authority of a different
Mr. Wyatt: The Province of Ontario could pass something like that
to require firearms businesses to keep ledgers. They have not indicated, at
least to me, that they intend to do that.
Senator Fraser: No; I appreciate that. Obviously, you are stuck
with the laws, whatever they may be; it is your job to follow the laws,
whatever they may be. I am just trying to winkle out whether it would create
an additional administrative burden in any sense.
Mr. Wyatt: I think the short answer is no.
Senator Fraser: It would just be to keep on doing what you have
Mr. Ervin, would it be the same for you, do you think? If the Government
of Saskatchewan decided to act under its provincial jurisdiction to pass a
regulation having the same essential effect as what the federal government
is about to abolish, would that create any additional burdens for you or
would it be business as usual?
Mr. Ervin: It is a more complicated answer in that, as I stated, I
am an employee of the RCMP and federally appointed. The Province of
Saskatchewan has opted out. If they were to develop some legislation that
would require businesses to keep business ledgers — and they do in fact have
that in some capacity in regard to municipalities that require any
businesses that deal in used firearms to keep that; it is a software program
that belongs to the municipality — and if they were to create in that
legislation some authority for the Chief Firearms Officer to administer that
legislation, the short answer, again, would be business as usual.
Senator Fraser: I noticed that in the minister's directive — of
course, now I cannot find it again; maybe it is in his letter — he does
write in his letter to Mr. Paulson and Mr. Perrin that "the Canadian
Firearms Program and the RCMP at large are to provide no assistance or
direction to any province seeking to undertake measures of this nature
except as expressly required by valid provincial legislation. "
I take it from your situation that the province could require it, based
on the text of this letter and from what you say.
Mr. Ervin: I believe they could. It is out of my realm of
expertise for sure, but I believe they could. The answer is that, as the
Chief Firearms Officer, I am governed by the laws of the land like everyone
else and I will work within that legislation to administer the law.
The Chair: I have a supplementary question. It would have to be
directed to Superintendent Wyatt. Would it require legislation or is there
some legislative tool already available so that you could do something like
this through regulation? Having to introduce legislation is a time-consuming
process, but I am wondering if there is any regulatory ability to do this in
the Province of Ontario.
Mr. Wyatt: Not that I am aware of. I think it would require
Senator Peterson: Mr. Ervin, you said Saskatchewan has opted out
of this; is that right?
Mr. Ervin: That is correct. There are five federal jurisdictions
that have opted out of appointing a chief firearms officer in their
jurisdictions. Therefore, the designation for the chief firearms officer
comes from the Minister of Public Safety.
The Chair: You only get one supplementary question.
Senator Peterson: I had not finished my question.
Senator Dagenais: It is said that the registry helps arrest
criminals who commit offences using a firearm. However, criminals often do
not register their gun. The fact is, if they intend to commit a crime, the
last thing they want to do is register their gun.
You talked about the possibility for merchants to register firearm data.
I find that worrisome because every merchant would register data in their
own way. Perhaps some guidelines should be established.
There is currently an injunction preventing Quebec from creating its own
firearm registry. Since I was a police officer for many years, I can tell
you that police services are complaining about the lack of resources that
would help them carry out their investigations.
I would be disappointed if the Government of Quebec were to invest into
creating a firearm registry. I think it would be preferable for the
government to give that money directly to police forces. That would help
them in conducting their investigations. It is a fact that the lack of field
staff is preventing police officers from conducting effective
The federal government was asked for funding through a five-year plan
with a revolving fund. Many police forces have insisted on more resources.
If money was made available for Quebec, it could be given to police forces
to help them conduct their investigations instead of being used to create a
The firearm registry has not always existed and is not the most helpful
tool for making progress in investigations. What really helps is field
resources. Sufficient police resources, and not a firearm registry, is what
citizen safety depends on.
Mr. Harel: The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has turned
the page when it comes to the registry. That has been mentioned more than
once before various committees. You are entirely right to say that pressures
are stemming from investigation delays and that police services are
incurring increasingly significant expenses for investigations.
I believe we are here today to discuss regulations that will result in
the elimination of the green book because that tool does not help detect
crimes. It is more of a tool for monitoring and making those who deal in
When a firearm is used in a crime, we need effective tools to move the
police investigation forward. We believe that eliminating all traces of
firearm transactions will increase the pressure on and the length of
investigations for police officers who, instead of being on the street to
prevent and fight crime, will have to make phone calls to try to trace the
origin of a firearm in order to move their investigation forward.
That is why we believe the registry is a key tool for police services.
Senator Dagenais: You have answered my question, but I am not
Senator White: Superintendent Wyatt, I am trying to figure out
where in the act the authority would come for you to obligate businesses
today to keep the registry, following Bill C-19.
Mr. Wyatt: Are you talking about after this regulation is passed?
Senator White: No, I am talking about today.
Mr. Wyatt: It comes from section 58 of the Firearms Act. It says a
chief firearms officer may put reasonable conditions on a licence.
Senator White: How would a regulation override that?
Mr. Wyatt: I believe this regulation limits the discretion of
chief firearms officers to put on a business licence a condition requiring a
business ledger. That is my understanding.
Senator White: Thank you.
Senator Di Nino: I, too, would like to clarify something with
Superintendent Wyatt. First, you will agree that over three or four
elections, this government has said to Canadians that, "If we get elected
or when we get elected, we will scrap the long-gun registry. " They have
been very clear and absolutely open. It is, in effect, a responsibility of a
government that makes these kinds of commitments to follow through. Would
you agree with that?
Mr. Wyatt: Yes.
Senator Di Nino: Would you also agree that to buy a long gun, you
need a licence and you must undergo background checks. You have to pass a
firearm safety course and comply with safe storage and transportation
There is control. It is not just that someone goes into a gun shop, buys
a gun and goes out to start to shoot people. There is a process to minimize
any potential difficulties or problems.
You have said you would like to have the status quo maintained. You do
not want to see this change; is that correct?
Mr. Wyatt: I think we have a difference of opinion here, senator.
Senator Di Nino: That is why we are asking questions.
Mr. Wyatt: Before I wrote my letter to Ontario businesses saying
that the ledgers will continue, I consulted with legal counsel. I have
perhaps the foremost legal expert on the Firearms Act working in my office.
The advice I got was that the action I took was fully within the parameters
of the Firearms Act; it was not outside of it. It was not contrary to
anything in Bill C-19.
Senator Di Nino: I am not questioning that. However, I believe you
have indicated to us that these regulations, in your opinion, would create
certain barriers to you doing the job the way you want it done. Therefore,
you would like us not to pass these regulations.
Mr. Wyatt: That is right.
Senator Di Nino: Thank you. You also know that the provinces have
authority to create records, if you wish, outside of the federal government
authority. Have you asked the Province of Ontario to create a registry that
you think would be useful?
Mr. Wyatt: No, I have not.
Senator Di Nino: Why not?
Mr. Wyatt: I have not been asked for that advice and I have not
volunteered it. I am waiting to see what happens with this committee and
this government — to see what action they take and if they listen to me,
which would be really nice, though I have no expectation that will happen.
However, that is one option Ontario could exercise. Senator, they do not
need me to tell them.
Senator Di Nino: Another point I am trying to make is you have a
very strong opinion, which we respect, by the way. This is what democracy is
all about. Without that, democracy does not work. I totally respect your
position. However, if we pass this legislation and you feel strongly enough
that you still wanted to have some sort of a registry, you could go to the
Province of Ontario and ask them and they can then take the responsibility
of doing that; is that correct?
Mr. Wyatt: Yes, I could.
Senator Peterson: Mr. Ervin, going back to my question, since the
province has now opted out, there will be no record-keeping in the province
unless they do something; is that correct?
Mr. Ervin: If the regulations pass, that is correct.
Senator Peterson: Do you have any indication from them what their
thinking is on this? Would you say because they have opted out that they
would not appoint a CFO?
Mr. Ervin: I cannot speak for the Province of Saskatchewan, no.
The Chair: Mr. Ervin, we were talking to the minister with respect
to the reporting mechanisms. You are an employee of the RCMP. Who do CFOs
report to? I guess this would be for Superintendent Wyatt as well. Do you
report to the federal Commissioner of Firearms CFO?
Mr. Ervin: Yes, there is a chain of command through to the
Director General of the Canadian Firearms Program and ultimately to the
Commissioner of Firearms, who is the Commissioner of the RCMP.
The Chair: What is your relationship with the province?
Mr. Ervin: We have very limited relationship with the province.
Through associate committees, such as Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of
Police, we have relationship with the law enforcement community through
avenues such as that, but with the actual premier's office we have limited
relationships with the province, due to the fact that they have opted out of
The Chair: Superintendent, what is your reporting relationship?
Mr. Wyatt: I report up to the OPP Commissioner through to the
Minister of Community Safety. The reality of how it operates is that neither
the OPP Commissioner nor the Minister of Community Safety get involved with
the day-to- day operations of the Chief Firearms Office. I may be called to
explain to the commissioner or to the minister about why I did something.
The Chair: The Commissioner of the OPP or the Firearms
Mr. Wyatt: The Commissioner of the OPP. In terms of the RCMP,
Ontario has an agreement with the RCMP that provides funding to operate the
firearms office in Ontario, and it sets out the things that I must do to
fulfill that agreement.
The Chair: You talked earlier about the first time in five years
that you had a gun dealer who was selling guns to unlicensed individuals.
What is the screening process for individuals who wish to be gun dealers or
import guns and for their employees? What process is involved?
Mr. Wyatt: The first thing is that every person who stands in a
prescribed relationship to the business, that is usually anyone who is
touching the firearms or the owner or who has a share in the business, must
be eligible to hold a firearms licence, have a firearms licence, and that
basically ensures he or she is not a criminal, because if you are a criminal
you will not get a firearms licence.
Then there are many different things we licence businesses for, not just
retail sales. There are wholesalers, suppliers to police and the Department
of National Defence. There are manufacturers, auctioneers, museums, a whole
raft of things. We look at the activities for each particular type of
business to make sure that it is all compliant with the Firearms Act before
we issue the licence.
The Chair: There are no background checks? If you are licensed,
that is adequate? Is that what you are saying?
Mr. Wyatt: Yes, sir, but within the licence there are many
The Chair: You were talking about your suspicion, I think it was
in your statement, that you think a lot of these folks who are dealers will
not continue to maintain ledgers if they are not obligated to do so. I have
limited exposure to this, but my suspicion is that this is not the way most
will proceed, that if they care about their business and operating in a
responsible way they will continue to maintain a ledger. In your role, I
think you have considerable powers of persuasion just by the ability you
have in terms of inspections or other tools.
I am not as pessimistic as you. The gun dealers I have known, and it is a
limited number, are responsible individuals who want to protect their own
behinds as well as ensure that they are doing everything in terms of
ensuring public safety along with the good folks in your office.
I want to put on the record that I think you are being overly pessimistic
about the reaction to this initiative.
Mr. Wyatt: That could be true, senator. There are 500 firearms
businesses in Ontario, and I believe the vast majority of them are very
good, law-abiding citizens. I am just concerned that with the potential
money to be made in firearms sales, it could be tempting for someone to
start selling to unlicensed persons.
The Chair: Based on this regulatory change, do you contemplate
making a recommendation to the Ontario government that they consider
requiring dealers to maintain ledgers?
Mr. Wyatt: Yes.
The Chair: Are there any further questions?
Senator Fraser: Mr. Harel, I will continue discussing the cost
issue and your last answer to Senator Dagenais, when you said that, without
this tool — the green book — investigations would be more difficult and
Mr. Harel: Definitely.
Senator Fraser: So they would cost more?
Mr. Harel: There are currently national issues, from coast to
coast to coast, when it comes to police service costs. We are trying to
revise our methods in order to become as efficient as possible, but each
time a court decision adds steps to our investigations, it results in
additional time spent on those investigations. Therefore, the number of
investigations we can handle drops every year. Victims are waiting. If the
proposed regulations are implemented, we will once again be losing tools.
Consequently, our investigations will be more difficult and longer — so less
efficient and more expensive — but the results will be the same.
Senator Fraser: Following on the chair's line of questioning, like
him, I am perfectly willing to believe that the vast majority of gun
merchants, like the vast majority of citizens, are law-abiding.
However, I would assume that for some fraction of people in the business,
or people who might get into the business, if they could, the absence of
this kind of control would create a temptation to go the other road and sell
to people that you know pretty well you should not sell to.
We studied at great length the provisions that exist under Bill C-19 for
some form of control over who gets to buy a gun, but it did seem to me that
we were opening a bit of a looser surveillance system there. If you combine
that with now, the absence of any requirement to keep this kind of formal,
inspectable record of the sale or non-registered guns, do you think that we
will see an increase in the number of people who are in fact selling guns to
people that they should not be selling them to? It would only take one or
two in any given jurisdiction to be doing a roaring business with a bunch of
criminals, right? I would go first to Mr. Wyatt and then Mr. Ervin, if he is
Mr. Wyatt: The short answer is yes, so I am probably more
pessimistic, as Senator Runciman says, of human nature.
As I said, a business licence, once you acquire it, does not put any
restriction on the volume of firearms that you can move. Like you said,
maybe take one or two individuals who see it as an opportunity for a
criminal enterprise as a money-making scheme and to avoid detection when we
go to do our inspections.
Mr. Ervin: I can expand on that. In my opening statement I said
that we are mandated to inspect businesses on a three-year cycle, but we do
inspect others more frequently. We do that because, during our inspections,
we found inconsistencies. We found missing firearms and we have held them
accountable for the firearms that are supposed to be in their inventory but
are not. We asked them to account for where these firearms went. The reason
for the increased frequency in the inspections is to keep a closer watch on
these particular businesses.
I do believe that most people and most business owners are good people
and upstanding citizens. It is much the same as the criminal element; a very
small portion of society is criminal, but they gain a lot of attention and
they cause a lot of damage.
Although I cannot predict people's behaviour and I cannot predict the
future, I would say that if a person has a tendency to be on the darker side
of the law, the lack of any type of requirement to monitor them would allow
them to slip a little further to the dark side.
The Chair: Is there anything to preclude you from recommending to
the Saskatchewan government that they mandate a requirement for the
retention of a ledger?
Mr. Ervin: I do not know the answer to that.
The Chair: Is it something you might want to find the answer to?
Mr. Ervin: Yes, that is correct.
Senator Boisvenu: Mr. Harel, I have a few questions for you.
Earlier, you said that these problems will make life easy for criminals. I
have difficulty understanding your statement because we know that most, if
not all, guns seized from criminals or even at the crime scene are often
unregistered or illegal firearms.
Over the past five years, how many homicides have been committed with
hunting weapons on your territory?
Mr. Harel: I do not have that answer off the top of my head. I do
not recall saying that this would make things easier for criminals when I
answered Senator Fraser's question earlier. What I said is that, from the
moment a crime is committed, the tools in place — which is what Mr. Wyatt
was talking about earlier — enable us to trace back and have a starting
point for our investigations when a firearm is involved, and especially when
it comes to long guns that account for a fairly significant portion of all
I cannot give you a specific figure, but there have been several. I could
give you a figure off the top of my head. In Gatineau, 29 homicides have
been committed over the past eight years. Several of those homicides were
committed by family members using firearms.
Senator Boisvenu: How many of those homicides were committed with
Mr. Harel: Most family homicides are committed with long guns.
Senator Boisvenu: According to last year's federal data on
homicides committed with hunting weapons, they accounted for 2 per cent of
Mr. Harel: In Gatineau, we are talking about family tragedies —
Senator Boisvenu: Yes, but 2 per cent of homicides in Canada are
committed with hunting weapons.
Mr. Harel: Yes, okay.
Senator Boisvenu: I am trying to understand how you can be so
pessimistic or fear the worst with regard to the lack of gun registration
when the figure is so low?
Mr. Harel: There were seven million firearms.
Senator Boisvenu: I am talking about homicides. I understand that
there may be 25 million firearms — just as there may be 50 million cars —
but what I am saying is that 2 per cent of homicides in Canada last year
were committed with hunting weapons. So I am trying to understand your
statement, as you are saying that the situation will be very difficult to
manage by police officers when they conduct their investigations, although
we are talking about a very low volume.
Mr. Harel: You are talking about hunting weapons involved in
homicides, and I am talking about investigations in general. I was not
talking specifically about homicides. I am talking about investigations in
general that involve firearms, long guns, across Canada. I have no
statistics specifically on long-gun homicides at my fingertips; I am sorry.
Senator White: Mr. Ervin, you describe a very fulsome review when
it comes to an inspection and audit of sales of firearms, for example, the
number of firearms going into a business. You ensure that the inventory
matches. How would a business satisfy you in the future that they received
20 firearms and have sold 14 of them? They would need some form of record,
be it sales records or something else.
Mr. Ervin: That is correct. The lack of requirement for the
ledgers to be completed makes it very difficult to determine what has come
in. It would have to be through invoice or waybills, if we were to go that
I am not sure at this stage how we would accomplish that.
Senator White: More important, they have to accomplish it, not
Mr. Ervin: Yes.
Senator White: That is not going to change. They still have a
requirement to account for the 20 Remingtons that showed up. They will have
to show you some type of sales record.
Mr. Ervin: They will have to be accountable for those firearms if
we have identified them.
Senator White: If they cannot account for those, they could be
charged with or without the ledger?
Mr. Ervin: That is true.
Senator Dagenais: To come back to Senator Boisvenu's question, Mr.
Harel, you say that you cannot provide us with any specific figures
regarding the number of homicides committed using a long gun or a hunting
weapon, but that there have been several. If I were to tell you that,
between 2003 and 2006, seven out of ten hunting weapons used in homicides
were not registered, would registering or not registering today make the
Mr. Harel: Are you talking about guns being added to the firearm
Senator Dagenais: You are saying that the important thing is to
have basic data.
We know that, in Quebec, Sûreté du Québec maintains a registry of permits
and acquisition licenses. Therefore, some retracing is possible. We also
know that, in an investigation, more than the guns need to be found. The
criminal has to be found, especially since the registry data often could
have prevented a crime from being committed. However, between 2003 and 2006,
seven crimes out of ten were committed with unregistered firearms.
So there is no need for concern tomorrow morning, whether guns are
registered or not. Only 2 per cent of crimes across Canada are committed
with long guns.
Mr. Harel: I can respond to this comment. Regarding firearms we
recover at the scene of a crime — with all the crimes merged together — if
any homicide statistics are significant regarding Senator Boisvenu's
question, we can obtain them, and I believe they are available. When it
comes to firearms recovered at the scene of a crime or involved in a crime,
I agree with you and I will not argue with the statistics indicating that
many firearms are not in the registry; I concede that point.
What we are talking about today in terms of chief firearms officers being
present is that those firearms were put on the market at a given time by
importers, distributors and merchants, and that those merchants were
supposed to add them to a registry along with an acquisition license of
those who are authorized to buy those guns and to whom they sold them. That
is what I am talking about today. Despite the fact that some guns were not
included in the registry, what I want you to take away from this is the fact
that, when they were put on the market, they were added to a registry and we
know to whom they were sold. From a police perspective — when it comes to
serving the community and moving our investigations forward — the minimum we
need is what has been in existence since 1977. That is my position.
Senator Fraser: Regarding the statistics, I have with me some
figures that cover two groups I think we would like to protect the most in
our society. I am talking about women who are victims of domestic violence
and police officers.
Apparently, about 62 per cent of women who die as a result of domestic
violence are murdered using shoulder arms, and most police officers killed
in the line of duty are victims of shoulder arms. Are you familiar with
Mr. Harel: Off the top of my head, those figures are reminiscent
of the reality in the field, yes.
What I could add, Senator Fraser, is that the environment will change
with the proposed regulations, since the parameters will no longer be the
same. Without being optimistic or pessimistic, I think that people take
advantage of any opportunities, and I believe that these regulations will
change the parameters of firearm distribution, sales and ownership.
As Mr. Wyatt was saying, those parameters will lead to opportunities.
People may take advantage of those opportunities to buy firearms legally,
but in large quantities, and we do not know what they will then do with
those firearms. That is because, as the saying goes, where there are humans,
there is human nature. People notice any opportunities to make money. I feel
that, in terms of public safety, that does not help us given the direction
this legislation is taking.
The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen. We very much appreciate your
being here this evening and helping us with our consideration of this
We will reconvene in this room at 10:30 tomorrow morning.
(The committee adjourned.)