Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
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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.

[English]

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Bill C-19 repealed the long-gun registry, which contained details of transfers of non-restricted firearms.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 living.

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 did.

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 Canadians.

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 hunters.

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 Canada.

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.

She continues:

They have always been used as a regulatory tool to promote business integrity.

Forgive this long preamble, but this is new material to you. Further on, she says:

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 the country.

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 basis.

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 crime.

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 legislative initiatives.

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.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Mr. Minister, thank you for joining us today. The understanding is that your directive affects only hunting weapons. Is that right?

[English]

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 prohibited firearms.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: In terms of that, hunters who own other types of weapons will always have to obtain an acquisition licence from a police force, right?

[English]

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 registered.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: Would you say that provinces will maintain a registry of firearm owners given the licence acquisition?

[English]

Mr. Toews: The licence itself is issued under federal authority by the chief firearms officer or however it is structured in a particular province.

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.

[Translation]

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.

[English]

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 their guns.

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 their firearm.

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 ambiguity.

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 long-gun registry?

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 this?

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 better?

Mr. Toews: We hope to remove any lack of clarity.

Senator Di Nino: Are other CFOs across the country acting in the same manner?

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 know.

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 them.

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 system.

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 force.

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 obligations?

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 Act.

My advice from the lawyers is that it complies with all of our international obligations.

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 parts.

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 investigating.

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 that? "

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 things.

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 licence.

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 do.

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 17, 2011.

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 inventory control.

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 issue?

It is not a searchable, centralized database. It has no cost to Canadians. It does not criminalize law-abiding citizens and places no burden upon them.

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 transaction.

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 made.

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 effect.

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 the police.

Ledgers have none of these characteristics. The Government of Ontario has stated publicly that it will not be establishing a provincial registry for long-guns.

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 this information.

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 recorded.

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. Thank you.

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.

[Translation]

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.

[English]

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 retain.

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 act?

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 been doing.

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 legislation.

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.

[Translation]

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 investigations.

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 registry.

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 firearms accountable.

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 entirely convinced.

[English]

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 requirements.

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 program.

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 Commissioner?

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 background checks.

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?

[Translation]

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 longer.

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.

[English]

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 interested.

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.

[Translation]

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 firearms.

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 hunting weapons?

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 all homicides.

Mr. Harel: In Gatineau, we are talking about family tragedies — conjugal violence.

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.

[English]

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 deep.

I am not sure at this stage how we would accomplish that.

Senator White: More important, they have to accomplish it, not you.

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.

[Translation]

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 situation worse?

Mr. Harel: Are you talking about guns being added to the firearm registry?

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 those figures?

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.

[English]

The Chair: Thank you, gentlemen. We very much appreciate your being here this evening and helping us with our consideration of this regulation.

We will reconvene in this room at 10:30 tomorrow morning.

(The committee adjourned.)