THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS
OTTAWA, Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs met this day at 5:15 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).
Bob Runciman (Chair) in 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
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
Bill C-19 repealed the long-gun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
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
The Honourable 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
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
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.
Thank you, Minister. We will begin our questions with the
deputy chair of the committee, Senator Fraser.
Welcome back to the committee, Minister.
I do not know if you have seen
the letter that we received from the Attorney General of Prince Edward
I have not.
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
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
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
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?
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
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.
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?
Senator Baker is probably the expert in this area.
But you are the minister.
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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.
I will have second round questions, if I may.
Minister, thank you for joining us today. The understanding is that your
directive affects only hunting weapons. Is that right?
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
In terms of that, hunters who own other types of weapons will always have to
obtain an acquisition licence from a police force, right?
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.
Would you say that provinces will maintain a registry of firearm owners
given the licence acquisition?
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.
Thank you, 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.
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 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.
Minister, to clarify my own understanding, you talked about
the most important part of your earlier statement was to remove the
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.
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
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?
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.
You need a driver's licence, too.
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
Second, what is the status of the registries that the
provinces already have, the information they have, under the long-gun
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.
Do other provinces have this information?
They all have it.
However, only one province you say is fighting this?
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
Senator Di Nino:
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?
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?
We hope to remove any lack of clarity.
Senator Di Nino:
Are other CFOs across the country acting in the same manner?
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.
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."
The regulation refers to "persons" not being required to
maintain ledgers. Does that include business?
I would think so.
Under the Firearms Act a "business" is defined as "a person
who," so I assumed it did.
"Person" generally in law includes a corporation.
Could you describe for me, please, the way you have authority
over, if you have authority over, the chief firearms officers in the various
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.
Not all CFOs are part of the RCMP, however.
That is correct.
Some of them come from provincial police forces, for example,
the one in Ontario, I believe.
That is correct.
You do not have administrative responsibility over them.
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.
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?
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.
You are not suggesting things here.
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
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.
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.
The province then pays a certain amount of money.
There is a formula.
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?
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.
You may recall when you were here on the long-gun registry I
asked you about conformity with our international obligations.
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?
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.
Can you give me some indication of the legal reasoning that
they offered or that you are offering us?
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.
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
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
Yes, but it would have to be a specific production order in
respect of a person or a gun.
That is right — a person or a gun.
The first thing that came to my mind was the number of
records available. There is a record of everything, if the police were
You are correct.
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.
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 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.
The minister referred a couple of times to this letter, and I
wonder whether he could provide us with a copy of it.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Thank you very much.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Only crimes lead to investigations.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
I think the short answer is no.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Not that I am aware of. I think it would require legislation.
Mr. Ervin, you said Saskatchewan has opted out of this; is
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.
You only get one supplementary question.
I had not finished my question.
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
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.
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
That is why we believe the
registry is a key tool for police services.
You have answered my question, but I am not entirely convinced.
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.
Are you talking about after this regulation is passed?
No, I am talking about today.
It comes from section 58 of the Firearms Act. It says a chief
firearms officer may put reasonable conditions on a licence.
How would a regulation override that?
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 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
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
You have said you would like to
have the status quo maintained. You do not want to see this change; is that
I think we have a difference of opinion here, senator.
Senator Di Nino:
That is why we are asking questions.
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.
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?
No, I have not.
Senator Di Nino:
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?
Yes, I could.
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?
If the regulations pass, that is correct.
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?
I cannot speak for the Province of Saskatchewan, no.
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?
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.
What is your relationship with the province?
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.
Superintendent, what is your reporting relationship?
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 Commissioner of the OPP or the Firearms Commissioner?
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
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?
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.
There are no background checks? If you are licensed, that is
adequate? Is that what you are saying?
Yes, sir, but within the licence there are many background
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
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.
Based on this regulatory change, do you contemplate making a
recommendation to the Ontario government that they consider requiring
dealers to maintain ledgers?
Are there any further questions?
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.
So they would cost more?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Is there anything to preclude you from recommending to the
Saskatchewan government that they mandate a requirement for the retention of
I do not know the answer to that.
Is it something you might want to find the answer to?
Yes, that is correct.
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
Over the past five years, how
many homicides have been committed with hunting weapons on your territory?
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
How many of those homicides were committed with hunting weapons?
Most family homicides are committed with long guns.
According to last year’s federal data on homicides committed with hunting
weapons, they accounted for 2 per cent of all homicides.
In Gatineau, we are talking about family tragedies — conjugal violence.
Yes, but 2 per cent of homicides in Canada are committed with hunting
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?
There were seven million firearms.
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
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.
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.
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.
More important, they have to accomplish it, not you.
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.
They will have to be accountable for those firearms if we
have identified them.
If they cannot account for those, they could be charged with
or without the ledger?
That is true.
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?
Are you talking about guns being added to the firearm registry?
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.
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.
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?
Off the top of my head, those figures are reminiscent of the reality in the
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.
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 meeting is adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)