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1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 67

Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

THE SENATE

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Honourable Pierre Claude Nolin, Acting Speaker, in the chair.

Prayers.

SENATORS' STATEMENTS

Ms. Betty Howatt

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, it is my distinct pleasure today to rise in recognition of an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to a greater understanding of the importance of the Prince Edward Island way of life.

Betty Howatt has a deep knowledge and understanding of the Island's plants and animals, one that comes from a lifetime of living close to the land. She has compiled that lifetime of experience in a most popular book called Tales from Willowshade Farm. In that book, she has shared her stories of gardening, wildlife, folklore, folk medicine, and memories of days gone by. She has also shared those stories through her regular CBC radio broadcast, gaining her a wide and receptive audience for her humour and wisdom.

Betty Howatt's commitment to the environment, agriculture and the history of Prince Edward Island has earned her the respect and admiration of her fellow Islanders. It has also brought official recognition. Last month, she was one of six individuals who were presented with the first Diamond Jubilee Medals in Prince Edward Island. The citation noted that she is a champion of Prince Edward Island's environmental and agricultural heritage. The medal was presented in recognition of her work in promoting environmental stewardship and the importance of farming to the Island's economy and way of life.

Last month also saw her presented with another prestigious award, the Award of Honour from the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation. That award was presented for contributions in raising awareness of Island heritage and for her work on the board of the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation for 12 years.

Many Canadians have made a major contribution to our understanding and appreciation of the world around us. Betty Howatt is one such individual. I would ask honourable senators to join me in recognizing her lifetime of achievement.

First Nations Education and Learning

Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Honourable senators, I rise today to acknowledge and give credit to the Government of Canada for rolling up its sleeves and making reasonable, informed decisions in challenging economic times, as it has done through the measures outlined in last week's budget.

Honourable senators, we all know that our Senate committees work hard, and I can honestly say that during my 19 years in this place, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples has done a tremendous amount of work and produced several excellent reports. The members of the committee have done their very best to provide sound advice to the government in the interests of the Aboriginal constituency we all serve, on both sides.

In the course of producing one of our reports, Sharing Canada's Prosperity — A Hand Up, Not a Handout, initiated under the chairmanship of Honourable Senator Nick Sibbeston, and throughout our study of several other topics, our committee noted a recurring theme. We came to realize that the key to unlocking the economic potential of Canada can only be found through education, which is the attainment of knowledge and skills development. Education and learning produce the capacity needed, thus allowing leadership to flourish, causing people to take control of their own destiny.

Honourable senators, we must fully recognize and give high regard to this government for its careful study of our Senate report — not mine but ours — Reforming First Nations Education: From Crisis to Hope, along with a national panel's report and listening to what Aboriginal leaders said during the Crown-First Nations gathering last January.

The government is the first to truly recognize that Canada's future lies in doing what must be done to ensure that every Canadian has an equal opportunity, not only to unlock the economic potential of Canada but to ensure that every Canadian can fully invest themselves in the communities in which they live. That, in essence, is the value of education.

The government has committed to invest $275 million over three years to provide early literacy learning supports and to build and renovate schools on-reserve. Most important, the government has committed to work with First Nations and create a First Nations education act that will establish for the first time the structures and standards to support strong and accountable education systems in First Nations communities.

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As our Senate report also recommended, the government will create the mechanisms to ensure stable, predictable and sustainable funding for First Nations elementary and secondary education.

Honourable senators, education cultivates the independent mind to enable free people to choose their future, to reach out and succeed, to make our dreams come true. Together as non-partisans in this Senate of Canada, we can achieve that which many other institutions of government can only hope for.

Thank you and God bless you.

International Day for Mine Awareness

Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, tomorrow is the International Day for Mine Awareness. For the past 20 years, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines has worked tirelessly around the globe to rid the world of land mines. This has been an overwhelmingly successful campaign. Since the Ottawa treaty to ban land mines came into force in 1999, the global trade in land mines has almost completely dried up, most countries have destroyed their stockpiles of land mines and very few countries still actively use land mines. With each passing year, we see more minefields cleared and fewer victims maimed.

Nevertheless, the fight is not finished. There are still thousands of acres of minefields to be cleared and, most troubling, newly planted land mines to contend with. Last year land mines were used by government forces in Libya, and now they are being used in Syria. The Syrian government has planted anti-personnel land mines along its borders, specifically to target fleeing refugees. This is absolutely unacceptable, and these actions have been roundly condemned by countries around the world, including Canada.

Sadly, civilians are the overwhelming victims of land mines. Children especially are particularly vulnerable, and those lucky enough to survive will go through life with missing limbs and permanent disabilities.

In order to show our support for these children and all victims of land mines, Mines Action Canada is inviting Canadians to participate in the "lend your leg or arm and stand with survivors'' campaign on April 4. Tomorrow I will be rolling up my sleeves in solidarity with land mine survivors. I encourage all honourable senators to join me.

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of representatives from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), Quebec Farmers' Association (QFA) and L'Union des cultivateurs franco-ontariens (UCFO). They are the guests and visitors of Senator Fairbairn.

On behalf of all senators, I welcome you warmly to the Senate of Canada.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.


[Translation]

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

2011 Annual Report Tabled

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2011 Annual Report of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, pursuant to subsection 61(4) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

[English]

Auditor General

2012 Spring Report Tabled

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2012 Spring Report to the House of Commons, pursuant to subsection 7(5) of the Auditor General Act.

Agriculture and Forestry

Budget and Authorization to Engage Services and Travel—Study on Research and Innovation Efforts in Agricultural Sector—Sixth Report of Committee Presented

Hon. Percy Mockler, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, presented the following report:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry has the honour to present its

SIXTH REPORT

Your committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Thursday, June 16, 2011 to examine and report on research and innovation efforts in the agricultural sector, respectfully requests funds for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, and requests, for the purpose of such study, that it be empowered to:

(a) engage the services of such counsel, technical, clerical and other personnel as may be necessary for the purpose of such study; and

(b) travel inside Canada; and

(c) to travel outside Canada.

Pursuant to Chapter 3:06, section 2(1)(c) of the Senate Administrative Rules, the budget submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that committee are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

PERCY MOCKLER
Chair

(For text of budget, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix A, p. 1108.)

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

(On motion of Senator Mockler, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)

Study on the Establishment of a "Charter of the Commonwealth''

Third Report of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee Tabled

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, entitled: A Charter "Fit for Purpose'': Parliamentary Consultation on the Proposed Charter of the Commonwealth.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

(On motion of Senator Andreychuk, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)

National Security and Defence

Budget and Authorization to Travel—Study on State of Defence and Security Relations with the United States—Fifth Report of Committee Presented

Hon. Pamela Wallin, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, presented the following report:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence has the honour to present its

FIFTH REPORT

Your committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Wednesday, March 7, 2012, to examine and report the state of Canada's defence and security relations with the United States, requests funds for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, and requests, for the purpose of such study, that it be empowered to travel outside Canada.

Pursuant to Chapter 3:06, section 2(1)(c) of the Senate Administrative Rules, the budget submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that committee are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

PAMELA WALLIN
Chair

(For text of budget, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix B, p. 1124.)

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

(On motion of Senator Wallin, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)

Budget—Study on Services and Benefits for Members and Veterans of Armed Forces and Current and Former Members of the RCMP, Commemorative Activities and Charter—Sixth Report of Committee Presented

Hon. Pamela Wallin, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, presented the following report:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence has the honour to present its

SIXTH REPORT

Your committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Wednesday, June 22, 2011, to study issues concerning veterans affairs, requests funds for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.

Pursuant to Chapter 3:06, section 2(1)(c) of the Senate Administrative Rules, the budget submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that committee are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

PAMELA WALLIN
Chair

(For text of budget, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix C, p. 1130.)

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

(On motion of Senator Wallin, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)

Canada-China Legislative Association
Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group

Annual Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum, January 8-12, 2012—Report Tabled

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-China Legislative Association and the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the Twentieth Annual Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum, held in Tokyo, Japan, from January 8 to 12, 2012.

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Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Committee Authorized to Meet During Sitting of the Senate

Hon. W. David Angus: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(a), I move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources have power to sit after the vote but not before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 3, 2012, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Angus, seconded by the Honourable Senator Stratton, that the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources have the power to sit at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 3, 2012, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.

[Translation]

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): May I ask the honourable senator for an explanation regarding why the committee should sit while the Senate is sitting?

Senator Angus: With pleasure.

[English]

It is rather a special circumstance, honourable senators.

I understand there might be a vote around 5 or 5:30 p.m. Due to a wonderful initiative of Senator Mitchell, a group of high school students from Edmonton have been following our energy study for some five or six months, and they have been doing a project whereby they are taking a profound interest in the work that the Senate is doing through this particular committee. They have done individual in-depth preparations so that they will interact with our committee at our meeting, which is normally scheduled for five o'clock today. They are here with chaperones, school professors and/or teachers. We are looking forward to what I understand will be the first time in the history of the Senate that we have had a formal youth organization come and participate in an interactive way in the work that we are doing. We are quite excited about it. We do not want to interrupt and be sort of halfway through and then come back for a vote or vice versa.

The gist of what I am asking, on behalf of my colleagues on the committee, is that we be permitted to sit after the vote and not before five o'clock. I hope that answers your question, Senator Tardif.

Senator Tardif: Absolutely.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)


QUESTION PERIOD

National Defence

F-35 Aircraft Purchase

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Honourable senators, we have really reached an all-time low with this government's actions with the F-35 fighter jet program. The Auditor General today stated:

In May 2008, through the Canada First Defence Strategy, the federal government announced its intent to replace the CF-18 fleet with 65 "next generation'' fighter aircraft. Then, in July 2010, the government announced its decision to buy the F-35 Lightning II, without following a competitive process, as the CF-18 replacement.

Now, the Auditor General has condemned DND for not providing key information in a timely manner and for not providing cost information to parliamentarians. The AG also implicates Public Works and Government Services for just going along with DND without key documentation and approvals.

The Prime Minister himself misled Canadians during an election campaign — I spoke about this last week — regarding the existence of a contract and his statement that Canada was shielded from rising costs in the F-35 program.

At best, this is incompetence at every level and step since 2008 in this process. At worst, it is a conscious decision by this government to push this purchase no matter what the cost or abuses to the process.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate explain so many lapses in judgment from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Defence to the officers responsible for procurement to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services? Honourable senators, this is everyone we know of so far.

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, first of all, I would like to thank the new Auditor General for his work in this area. The government accepts the conclusions of the Auditor General and will implement his recommendations.

The government is taking immediate action to ensure that due diligence, oversight and transparency are firmly embedded in the process to replace the aging fighter aircraft fleet, and, as a result, the government has frozen funding and is establishing a separate F-35 secretariat outside of National Defence to lead this project forward.

Senator Moore: Now the government's response to the Auditor General's damning report of the F-35 purchase is to create another layer of bureaucracy, which the leader has mentioned, this time in the Department of Public Works, which will monitor and manage the procurement process.

In light of this development, the creation of a secretariat to manage the procurement process, combined with the just days' old announcement of cuts to all departments, when will the government do the fiscally responsible thing and get rid of the position of minister responsible for procurement?

Senator LeBreton: I think that is a very provocative statement the honourable senator has just made. We have examples of secretariats within the Department of Public Works in the past doing excellent work. The government, as I just indicated, will immediately establish a new F-35 secretariat within the Department of Public Works and Government Services. The secretariat will play the leading coordinating role as the government moves forward to replace the CF-18 fleet. A committee of deputy ministers will be established to provide oversight of the F-35 secretariat, and I believe this is a prudent and proper course to follow. We have outstanding public servants, and we can certainly have every confidence in the work of this secretariat.

Senator Moore: Just feeling that one has to create a secretariat after all the other ministries, bureaucrats and officials have been involved in this process is quite an indictment, I would say, of the performance of the government and the ministries.

The government has also decided to freeze the acquisition costs at $9 billion for this fleet of aircraft. That will obviously limit the number of aircraft that DND can purchase. If, as the best estimates state, the ballooning cost per unit is nearing $200 million, we might be able to afford only 45 of these airplanes.

How can the government square this reduced number with the declaration by DND that 65 aircraft was the absolute least number that the Canadian Forces could purchase in order to fulfill its NORAD and NATO requirements?

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Why was this government so insistent on the number of 65 for the past four years when it is obvious now that the number was absolutely unachievable in the face of spiraling costs and in the face of Chinese cybertheft? I would like some answers, provocative or not.

Senator LeBreton: Let us let the secretariat do its work. The government, as I indicated earlier, has frozen the funds.

At the end of the day, honourable senators, Canada will not sign a contract to purchase new aircraft until all of the steps are completed and developmental work is sufficiently advanced.

Canada remains committed to ensuring that the Royal Canadian Air Force has the aircraft it needs to do the jobs we ask of them. Our primary responsibility is to ensure that the men and women of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and our armed services generally, have the best available equipment. By going through this process, I believe it is a prudent and responsible action on the part of the government.

Again, I would like to personally and on behalf of the government thank the new Auditor General, Michael Ferguson, for his report. We fully accept his recommendations.

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, it is quite interesting that the government seems to be surprised and has waited until the Auditor General has made his report before taking any action.

The Liberal caucus in the Senate and the House of Commons has been raising this issue for the past two years. In fact, on February 1 of this year, Senator Moore asked a question in this house and has asked a number of them on the F-35s. The leader's answer was that the government believes the F-35 is an aircraft that meets the needs of Canada and our commitments to NATO. Her responses to most of those questions indicated how firmly she believed that the F-35s were going to be the answer.

Why was the government not asking questions of our own departments, such as the Department of National Defence?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the fact of the matter is that if the government were to respond to every newspaper article, all the various speculations and the discussions in the Liberal caucus, we would not get anything done.

The Auditor General is the person best equipped to go in and look at the various records of the departments. Of course, the Auditor General has done this. He has provided the government with information and conclusions as to the process that was followed here. The government fully accepts the work and recommendations of the Auditor General and, as I have already indicated, will freeze the funds and allow the secretariat to do its work.

At the end of the day, the goal of the government is to provide our hard-working, dedicated members of the Royal Canadian Air Force with the very best equipment available, also keeping in mind our NATO commitments.

Senator Cordy: On March 14 of this year, in response to another question by Senator Moore, Senator LeBreton said:

Honourable senators, the media reports that we are abandoning the F-35 program are erroneous.

Two weeks later, they are no longer erroneous. The Auditor General has said the items that we have heard questions about in the House of Commons and certainly from Senator Moore, Senator Dallaire and Senator Cowan in the Senate Chamber have proven to be correct. This government has ignored them. I would think a responsible government would try to find the answers to these questions.

Since the honourable senator did not answer, why was the government not asking questions of the Department of National Defence and the Department of Public Works to get to the bottom of this matter? Obviously, the Auditor General asked questions and got answers. The answers are that this should not have gone as far as it did and that it was mismanaged.

I ask again, why did the government not ask questions of the Department of Public Works and the Department of National Defence?

Senator LeBreton: First, I did not see anywhere in the Auditor General's report or in any of the responses from the government that we were abandoning the F-35 program. As a matter of fact, the government has stated that Industry Canada, through the F-35 secretariat, will continue identifying opportunities for Canadian industry to participate in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Global Supply Chain, as well as other potential benefits for Canada in sustainment, testing and training, and will provide updates to Parliament. That is a very important point to make: There is a commitment to make updates to Parliament, in this case explaining the benefits.

Honourable senators, the Auditor General took a good, hard look at this. When one reads the Auditor General's report, it does state that the work done between the Department of National Defence and industry was a proper process, but we have now put a freeze on the program. I think that is the responsible thing to do. That is certainly what Senator Cordy has been demanding that we do.

At the end of the day, Canada will not sign a contract to purchase new aircraft until all the steps the government has laid out today are completed and developmental work is sufficiently advanced.

As I pointed out, all of the steps taken will ensure that the loyal, dedicated members of the Royal Canadian Air Force have the best possible equipment to go forward and do the job we ask of them.

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, the question is, why did it take the Auditor General's report to do what ordinary Canadians and experts — Allan Williams as an example. I saw him being interviewed on CBC television this morning, and he said the government had it wrong from the very beginning.

The Auditor General caught the government out in a lie. Why did it take until that stage before the government acted and did what those of us on this side, in the other place and experts from across the country and elsewhere, beyond the borders of our country, have been saying that the government should have been doing for years? Why did the government wait to do it now?

Senator LeBreton: First, it is really quite improper to say that the Auditor General caught the government out in a lie. That is not the case and the honourable senator knows it.

The fact of the matter is that Mr. Williams has always been in the media as a person who was not supportive of this program. Other people in the media were supportive of the program. For every person one can cite who did not support the program, I can cite a number of people who did.

There is only one person in this country who can go in and look at these programs, department to department and inter-department, and it is the Auditor General. The Auditor General has now done this, and he has done a good and thorough job. The government thanks him and accepts his recommendations to put a freeze on the program.

The secretariat that is being established under the Department of Public Works will be made up of experienced deputy ministers. We saw an example in the past of how these deputy ministers work in the shipbuilding area. I have every confidence that this secretariat will ensure that all the proper steps are followed and that at the end of the day we will have an aircraft deserving of our good men and women in the Armed Forces.

Senator Cowan: Surely the leader is not pretending that the government could not have gotten this information, coordinated it and come up with this report without having the Auditor General come in. Surely the government has the capacity to draw information from various departments in government and come to the same conclusion that the Auditor General did.

Speaking of misleading Canadians and Parliament, let me read what the Prime Minister said on April 8, 2011, which as I recall happened to be in the middle of an election campaign:

You have to understand that in terms of the F-35 costs, we've been very detailed with those to the Canadian public. A lot of the developmental costs you're reading in the United States, the contract we've signed —

— this is the Prime Minister speaking —

— shelters us from any increase in those kinds of costs. We're very confident of our cost estimates and we have built in some latitude, some contingency in any case. So we are very confident we are within those measures.

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What contract was he referring to?

Senator LeBreton: If the honourable senator would check with the leader of the third party in the other place, that was exactly the question he put to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister responded to that question. I would be happy to provide the honourable senator with a copy of the Prime Minister's response. The Prime Minister responded to the agreement of all nations in terms of the development of the F-35, which, of course, started 15 years ago under the previous Liberal government.

Senator Cowan: That development contract was entered into by the then Government of Canada, and I think $100 million was contributed toward the developmental costs. By the time that government took over in the mid-1990s, that contract had already generated some $400 million worth of contracts for defence contractors in Canada. It was a very good investment of $100 million in the early 2000s and there was absolutely no commitment at that time by the then government that this country would purchase the F-35s. Does the minister not agree that that is correct?

Senator LeBreton: I absolutely do not agree that that is correct. Senator Cowan is very clever, but he will have to get up early in the morning to put words in my mouth.

The honourable senator talks about the various departments, but it takes a person like the Auditor General to actually go into the separate departments and put the pieces together. That is the role of the Auditor General.

The Auditor General has been working on this for some time. He has made recommendations and the government has accepted them. We have frozen the funding. We are establishing a secretariat to work through best practices here. I think that is what the Canadian public would want us to do, and that is what we are doing. At the end of the day, our goal is to have a process that produces the best aircraft available for our men and women of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Hon. David P. Smith: I would like to ask the government leader if she believes — and I emphasize the word "believes'' — the Auditor General had a valid point. I also emphasize the word "valid.'' If so, how would she characterize the valid point that he had?

Senator LeBreton: I think I made it clear that the government thinks the Auditor General had a valid point. We agree with his recommendations and have taken measures to address them.

Hon. Robert W. Peterson: The government had a contract and was protected with an upside fee. Can the leader tell us what the break-free will be if the government does not proceed with this contract?

Senator LeBreton: Let us not put the cart before the horse. Let us accept the recommendations of the Auditor General, which we have done. I applaud the new Auditor General for his report. The government accepts his recommendations. The government has taken action to freeze the funds and establish a secretariat. The government has committed to make regular reports to Parliament on this. Let us allow the secretariat to do its job before we start answering hypothetical questions of "what if?'' and "why not?''

Environment

Oil Sands Regulations

Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I have to qualify this question before I ask it. Despite how this question may sound to some members of this house, I want to say that I really appreciate the unanimous support of the Conservatives for our special meeting later today. Thank you very much.

The government said they would release regulations for oil sands emissions last June. Ten months later, environmentalists and the industry — they actually have been brought together in agreement by this government, believe it or not — are both wondering what is going on. The budget gives us some insight. There have, of course, been brutal cuts to environmental policy programs, initiatives, insight — you name it — in this budget.

My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is not one of the reasons for the delays in the regulations for the oil sands that after laying off upwards of 1,000 people in the Environment Department, there is simply no one there to work on developing those regulations?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): If the honourable senator read the budget — which is a debatable point, I know — it demonstrates that our government is fully committed to a strong environment agenda, even as it takes significant steps to restore fiscal balance. In keeping with our commitment to resources development that creates jobs and protects the environment, funding for the Major Projects Management Office has been renewed.

Is the honourable senator listening? No. He only asks the questions. He never listens to the answers.

Despite the opposition's rhetoric — the honourable senator seems to fit that profile very well — longer does not equal better. Our renewed focus on improving elements of environmental assessments will benefit all Canadians. We also renewed funding for species at risk. We are committed to creating a new national park in the Rouge Valley, which is well applauded, and we are continuing support for other environmental efforts, such as support for Lake Winnipeg and Lake Simcoe.

If one reads the budget, there is a lot in it. I think my colleague Senator Raine went over yesterday to try to convince Senator Mitchell of this, but I rather suggested to her that is like trying to spit in the ocean, if one wants to make any kind of impact. The fact of the matter is that the budget contains a lot of support for the environment.

Senator Mitchell: I really appreciate the answer to a question that I did not ask. There is not a single thing in that answer — I use that term lightly — that addresses the issue of regulations in climate change.

I might mention that Senator Raine brought over the list of what the government is doing. However, if one reads it properly, which I did, it said this is what the government has done since 2006, and of course all of it has been cancelled, so it was not that edifying.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers indicates that they are concerned that there has not been a constructive dialogue between the government and industry over the development of regulations. One would think that the one group with which this government would want to have a constructive dialogue would be industry. They are saying that clearly this has not been the case. Is that because after laying off 1,000 people in this department there is simply no one to do that, or is that because the government really does not want to regulate them, never will, and there is no point in talking to anyone about developing regulations anyway?

Senator LeBreton: The fact of the matter is I answered the question about the budget because the honourable senator referred to the budget, and I pointed out some of the things that are in the budget.

Senator Mitchell is absolutely wrong. There have not been 1,000 people laid off in the department. There are lots of people in that department. The government is using many resources in the department and in the private sector to assist in the environment portfolio. Our commitment to the environment is the strongest of any government in history, far better than the government that preceded us, which did, as I said yesterday, absolutely nothing.

Senator Mitchell: Is it just a coincidence or did the government do this on purpose, where it shut down the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which was a spokesperson and advocate for a climate change initiative — it was Conservatives, too — to save $5.5 million, which was then directly put into the CRA so they could muster the way to muzzle all those environmental groups that are also trying to make some sense of the environmental policy of this government?

Senator LeBreton: Oh, my goodness, how he knits one thing into another.

The fact of the matter is that many agencies of government have outlived their usefulness. There is other expertise now that we can rely on. We have many scientists working for the Department of Environment who have participated in many public meetings and certainly are not muzzled.

Finance

Hiring Credit for Small Business

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The hiring credit for small business provides up to $1,000 a year to a business that has an increase of EI premiums over the previous year. I am glad that the government has continued this credit in the recent budget, but my concern is the same as it was when this was first introduced.

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The problem is that not every small business will be eligible for this credit, because to be eligible a business must pay $10,000 or less in EI premiums, which means that half of the small businesses in Canada are not eligible for this program. In fact, a business with more than nine employees at the maximum insurable earnings cannot get the hiring credit.

We all know that small business is important to the economy, that it creates jobs and that it is the real driver. Why can all small businesses not take advantage of the hiring credit?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, this follows along on other questions that Senator Callbeck has asked. This was a credit to allow small businesses to hire. In all of these arguments about EI and EI payments, I am reminded that the third party in the other place actually supported a 45-day work year, which would have drastically increased the EI premiums. This provision was put in the budget to assist small businesses when they hire. The program works. It worked last year and it will work into the future.

The fact of the matter is that we design tax policies for those who pay taxes. I do not know how one can design a tax policy and give tax credits to people who do not pay tax. I have trouble getting my head squared around that.

Senator Callbeck: Honourable senators, this does not have to do with whether or not a business pays taxes. It is simply a credit for small business. It provides up to $1,000 to a business that has had an increase in EI premiums in the past year.

I think, as I said, that this is a good program, and I applaud the government for bringing it in again. However, why would the government bring in this program to cover only half of the small businesses? Half of the small businesses in this country are not eligible for this program. Why?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, again, I do not know how one brings in a program for people who were not intended to be covered by the program. However, I will take the question as notice and seek further advice from the Department of Finance as to the intent here.

[Translation]

Funding for Katimavik

Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators, my question also pertains to the budget.

The budget the government tabled last week eliminates several programs. Unfortunately, one of the programs that will disappear is Katimavik, a program that gives young people an opportunity to volunteer in community settings and to learn to be better citizens while helping Canada's less fortunate. This program has been the source of many success stories, which we have all heard. Katimavik has trained over 30,000 Canadians. It has changed their lives. It has changed the lives of those who were being helped by Katimavik's young volunteers, particularly "vulnerable and marginalized groups in [various] impact areas.''

I will not go on a hunger strike, like our late colleague, Senator Jacques Hébert. However, I regret and deplore the abolition of this program.

Would the Leader of the Government in the Senate give us specific reasons, with supporting figures, why the government is abolishing the Katimavik program?

[English]

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I will be happy to give the honourable senator some numbers. Since I was around when we had that incident many years ago, I have been one of those people in the government, I am proud to say, who has advocated for many years that we end the Katimavik program.

Since its creation by the Trudeau government over 30 years ago, taxpayers have put over $375 million into the Katimavik program. Since 1977, Katimavik continues to receive 99 per cent of its funding from taxpayers. Why did they not raise money for themselves?

In fact, Katimavik has cost taxpayers $28,000 for every young person the program supports. That is roughly the salary of an average Canadian for an entire year. Our government is committed to giving young people the opportunity they deserve, however, funding expensive programs does not do enough to help our country's youth. Furthermore, Katimavik represents a fraction of the money our government now invests in youth programming. The fraction is 5 per cent; this year the government has invested over $300 million in young Canadians.


[Translation]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

Business of the Senate

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 27(1), I would like to inform the Senate that when we proceed to Government Business, the Senate will address the items in the following order: Motion No. 34, third reading of Bill C-19, followed by other government business, as indicated on the Order Paper.

Distinguished Visitor in the Gallery

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, before calling on the Leader of the Opposition, I would like to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of our former colleague, the Honourable Marcel Prud'homme. All your former colleagues welcome you, Senator Prud'homme!

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Criminal Code
Firearms Act

Bill to Amend—Allotment of Time for Debate—Motion Adopted

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau, in the name of the Honourable Senator Carignan, pursuant to notice of April 2, 2012, moved:

That, pursuant to rule 39, not more than a further six hours of debate be allocated for consideration at third reading stage of Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act;

That when debate comes to an end or when the time provided for the debate has expired, the Speaker shall interrupt, if required, any proceedings then before the Senate and put forthwith and successively every question necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of the said Bill; and

That any recorded vote or votes on the said question shall be taken in accordance with rule 39(4).

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, before proceeding with debate on this motion, allow me to remind you that under rule 40, the debate on this motion will last a maximum of two-and-a-half hours. The leaders may speak for a maximum of 30 minutes and other senators for a maximum of 10 minutes each. If a standing vote is requested at the end of the debate, the bells will ring for one hour and the vote cannot be deferred.

(1500)

Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I believe it is important to resume debate on Bill C-19 within a time limit. This would allow us to respect the will of Canadians, who were clear during the last election. They asked the government to follow through on election promises to abolish the firearms registry and ensure that the hundreds of millions of dollars that might be spent on paperwork be instead transferred to the victims, and spent on effective crime prevention tools and on enhancing services that will have a real impact on crime prevention.

I spoke with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition about setting a precise framework for time allocation for this debate. Unfortunately, despite our good intentions, we were unable to come to an agreement.

I believe that it was important to set a time limit, a sufficient amount of time in which senators could debate and express their opinions, as they were able to do previously at second reading. There have been many debates on both sides of this issue, but we should be able to end this debate, once and for all, within the time allocated so that we can pass this bill, ensure that the will of Canadians is translated into a reasonable and effective bill, and move on to other bills that are just as important to Canadian society.

[English]

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, here we go again. Our Speaker, the Honourable Senator Kinsella, when he was in opposition, compared the use of time allocation to bringing down a guillotine. Well, the Harper government brings it down so often that it will soon rival the record set in the French Revolution.

Why is this government so afraid of free and open debate? The former United States Supreme Court Justice William Brennan wrote in a famous decision: "Debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide open.''

The philosophy of the Harper government is that there should be no debate, but that if debate does take place, then it certainly cannot be uninhibited, robust, and wide open. It should be strangled, enfeebled and slammed shut as quickly as possible. That is what they are doing here again today with this motion.

Time after time, bill after bill, this government brings down the guillotine on open and uninhibited debate. It has become a matter of form. A matter comes before the Senate. There is one speech and debate is adjourned, as is only respectful. Surely the proponent of the bill would feel that his or her words merit reflection and thought. However, instead of reflection and thought, the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate rises and slams the door shut.

Honourable senators, Bill C-19 is a controversial bill. Canadians across the country feel passionately on both sides of the issue. There are strong arguments why this bill is wrong for the country. My colleagues opposite may disagree, but surely they agree that those arguments deserve to be heard and debated without having one eye on the clock.

Just a few weeks ago, the guillotine was brought down on debate on Bill C-10, the government's omnibus crime bill. Speaker after speaker on our side was cut off before they had finished, sometimes even in mid-sentence. Indeed, the last speaker on the motion, the Honourable Senator Robichaud, was cut off literally in mid-sentence.

This government is not interested in anything anyone has to say against its plans. Here in Parliament, the ultimate place where the people's voices are to be heard and conveyed to government, debate is choked off in mid-sentence. This government is not interested in listening. It buries reports when the conclusions go against the desired result.

An RCMP evaluation report on the long-gun registry concluded that the program is cost-effective, efficient and an important tool for law enforcement. The findings of the report were deep-sixed for many months. The RCMP Chief Superintendent who agreed with those conclusions and was set to present the report suddenly found himself replaced as the head of the Canadian Firearms Program, and he was sent off for French-language training.

As I have said, the Harper government is not interested in listening to any opposing voices, even from the police. When he was in opposition, Stephen Harper famously said this:

When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is, frankly, when it's rapidly losing its moral authority to govern.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper would do well to listen to his own words.

The irony of this situation is not lost. Earlier, this government brought in time allocation to force through a bill to be tough on crime and to make our streets and communities safer. Now it uses the same tactics to slam through a bill that will deregister not just hunting shotguns, but also what can only be described as tactical assault weapons. I looked up just one weapon. There were some photographs circulated around within the last few days. This one was the Steyr Mannlicher HS .50. It is capable of piercing body armour. A shipment of these rifles was exported — legally — by the Austrian manufacturer to Iran, and they found their way to Iraqi terrorists.

Honourable senators, do Canadian duck hunters really need sniper rifles that fire bullets that can pierce body armour? Do we really want these weapons circulating in Canada with no need for registration?

Senator Tardif: No.

Senator Cowan: How can this government say that it is tough on crime to send teenagers to jail for growing six marijuana plants in the garage, but that it is perfectly fine to have tactical, armour-piercing weapons hidden in one's basement?

However, we will not be allowed to properly debate these issues. My position, and that of my caucus, has been very clear. We do not support Bill C-19 and we plan to vote against it. However, there has never been any suggestion that we would unduly delay the bill, prolong debate unnecessarily or engage in a filibuster. Our responsibility — our job as parliamentarians — is to make sure that bills brought before us are given appropriate, serious study and that the voices of Canadians on all sides of the issues are heard in committee and then reflected in debate here in this chamber. That is what this government repeatedly refuses to allow us to do. It uses its majority, in this place and in the other place, to slam down the guillotine time after time after time.

Honourable senators, this is shameful. This is not doing the job that we were sent here to do. This is not what Canadian taxpayers are paying us to do.

(1510)

Where is the urgency about all of this, honourable senators? I mentioned Bill C-10 a few moments ago. That bill was rammed through solely because of an artificial political deadline dreamed up in an election campaign. Prime Minister Harper announced that he would pass that bill within 100 days. Why 100 days? No reason, honourable senators; none was ever put forward here other than it was a campaign promise. It sounded nice — a nice round number. Here we are, weeks later, and not one section of Bill C-10 has been brought into force. The government promised that it would ram that bill through Parliament in 100 days to make our streets and communities safer, yet it has not brought into force one single clause in that bill. Where is the urgency and where is the honesty in that?

Honourable senators, this is all about show. It is about showing your political base that you have the capacity to pass laws, whether or not they are the right ones and whether or not the laws are then brought into force.

We are already seeing the consequences of the Harper government's refusal to listen to opposing voices. Today the Quebec government filed for an injunction against bringing this bill into force. So much for respectful federalism and, with this guillotine motion, so much for respect for Parliament.

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise today to speak in opposition to the motion before the Senate to allocate a maximum of six hours of debate to the third reading of Bill C-19, the bill that seeks to eliminate the federal firearms registry and the data contained within the registry.

When they were in opposition, members of the government in this chamber decried the use of time allocation measures as bully tactics, calling time allocation a guillotine motion, as the Honourable Senator Cowan has stated. They called it the muzzling of Parliament and the use of power to secure more power. Even under circumstances where legislation dealt with urgent, national security matters, honourable senators opposite urged the government of the day to let the Senate be allowed the time needed to do the work it has been mandated to do, that is, to provide sober second thought.

Honourable senators, not only have the members opposite conveniently changed their viewpoint on this procedural tactic, but it appears they have also done a drastic 180-degree turnaround. The motion before the Senate today concerns the third reading of Bill C-19, an act that would repeal a federal registry program. This is not an urgent matter. There is no meaningful matter hanging in the balance that will be affected one way or the other by the Senate taking longer than six hours to deliberate on the question. The government has provided no evidence demonstrating any urgency in the consideration of Bill C-19. Then again, honourable senators know very well that this government does not have a great deal of fondness for evidence.

On the subject of evidence, the bill that this motion concerns is a prime example of legislation that directly contradicts a long-established catalogue of evidence. The registry that this bill seeks to destroy provides valuable information to public safety officials regarding the use of long guns. RCMP data shows that long guns are the most common type of firearm used in spousal homicides. Over the past decade, 71 per cent of spousal homicides involved rifles and shotguns.

Last week I received a letter from a group of concerned women, constituents in Alberta, who urged the Senate to carefully consider this and other evidence. The following is an excerpt from their letter:

Alberta women are devastated that registration for long guns will be dismantled by the Government of Canada and that records of guns already registered will be destroyed.

Alberta women, children and police officers, in particular those in rural communities where gun ownership is high, are most at risk of firearm death and injury.

Honourable senators, the city of Calgary has more spousal abuse incidents than any other city in the country: 15,789 last year, an increase of 10 per cent. In rural communities, like Leduc, Alberta, calls to police for domestic disputes rose 25 per cent in 2010.

Front-line crisis workers, including rural women, shelter workers and emergency physicians, have testified that police depend on being able to consult the long-gun registry when responding to calls in order to remove all firearms from a potentially deadly situation.

Canada's largest shelter provider, the YWCA, stressed to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security that ending the long-gun registry is not in the best interests of women and children who live at risk of domestic violence. The role of legally owned firearms in domestic violence against women and children must be acknowledged.

Honourable senators, it bears mentioning that there has been no gender impact study on this bill. Despite requests from a number of violence against women service providers, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs did not include a single one amongst 30 witnesses invited to appear in the study of this bill. It is clear to me that a serious and thorough deliberation of this bill is required before the question is put. Senators must have the opportunity to review the extensive evidence accumulated by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

This is a matter of public safety. The evidence that I have seen so far in my examination of the testimony suggests that lives are potentially at stake. As such, I suggest to honourable senators that if there ever were a time when a bill merited sober, serious second thought, this is the time.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, the Fathers of Confederation established this chamber to provide sober second thought on all bills. It is therefore our duty to carefully and thoroughly examine Bill C-19.

Given the time allocation motion, the Senate will obviously not have enough time to debate this bill in this chamber, particularly since Bill C-19 continues to generate such great controversy among members of the general public.

As my honourable colleague Senator Cowan has said, a disturbing pattern has emerged since this government received its coveted majority. We have seen repeated instances, both here and in the other place, of the government using procedural tactics to suppress debate on its legislation. With this latest motion, the government will have used closure on eight separate pieces of legislation. It has been less than a month since a gag order was last imposed by the government.

[English]

Time allocation is a tool afforded to the government that is to be reserved for cases where the utmost urgency is required, not to railroad those who do not agree with them. It may be necessary when obstruction occurs, when there is a deliberate effort to delay unnecessarily or halt the progress of an item of government business.

I entreat the members of the government opposite to show any evidence of such intent on my part or that of our caucus. There is no obstruction on our part. We have not been dragging out the consideration of Bill C-19. We have not been unnecessarily uncooperative. The members of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs were, in fact, exceedingly cooperative in expediting the consideration of this legislation.

(1520)

In the Senate Chamber, debate at third reading of this bill began just yesterday — not even one day, honourable senators. There are senators on this side who want to speak at third reading but they cannot do so because they are away on official business. What is the urgency, honourable senators? Is there a rational reason? No, there is only the arbitrary deadline imposed by the government for some unknown purpose.

I implore honourable senators to reflect on the ramifications of passing yet another time allocation motion in this place. Rules 39 and 40, which address time allocation, were brought in by the parliamentarians who came before us for use in exceptional circumstances when a special urgency needed to take precedence over the rights and responsibilities of Parliament. Today is not one of those cases, honourable senators. In fact, none of the eight times that these rules have been invoked in the Forty-first Parliament would pass that litmus test.

I strongly believe that if this chamber allows the use of time allocation provisions to become the rule rather than the exception — using power to secure more power, as one honourable senator opposite stated at one point — we are turning our backs on the mandate given to this chamber. This institution that we serve is worthy of greater respect than it currently is being given. I ask honourable senators not to support the government's motion for time allocation on Bill C-19.

Hon. Joan Fraser: What on earth is the rush? What is the rush?

[Translation]

I listened very carefully to the Deputy Leader of the Government, who was explaining why he moved this motion, because I have a great deal of respect for the Deputy Leader of the Government.

However, the only real argument he made was not very convincing, in my opinion. He said that a majority of Canadians voted for the government's agenda. We all know that that is not exactly true: less than 40 per cent of Canadians voted for the Conservative Party, which means that a little over 60 per cent voted for other parties.

[English]

Furthermore, the bill before honourable senators is, in some important details, not the same as the various versions of this bill that have been advanced in recent years. Therefore, it is not as if we were simply being asked to go over very well-trodden ground.

This is not a minor piece of proposed legislation. The Order Paper contains bills on sports betting, on prize fighting, on increasing public awareness about epilepsy, et cetera. All of those are important subjects, but this bill is of another order of importance. This bill has to do literally with life and death and with the instruments of death; yet we are being asked to rush it through.

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs found itself obliged to gallop through its consideration of this bill in a grand total of four sittings. I pay tribute to the Chair of the Legal Committee, Senator Wallace, because within those constraints he worked very hard to ensure that there would be a fair representation of witnesses who would be able to explain many of the different points of view about this bill. I, as Deputy Chair of the Legal Committee, greatly appreciated his work. All members of the committee sat for extended hours during those four sessions.

However, believe me, four sessions is not enough to understand the complexities of this bill. The more we heard, the more we realized how great some of those complexities are. This bill has something that many of us perhaps had not realized, for example, very serious implications for our international relations and for our obligations under international instruments. We did not really have a chance to go into that.

We did not have a chance to hear from many witnesses who had expert knowledge that the committee could have benefited from but who were not available within such a short time frame. Those people ranged from the Privacy Commissioner to the Canadian Police Association to women's shelters — a wide array of people who have serious knowledge and experience from which the committee could have benefited.

We could have compensated to some extent for those gaps in the committee's work had we been allowed to have a rather more detailed third reading debate than we will have. Instead, it was rush, rush, rush. As the Honourable Deputy Leader of the Opposition commented, we have had only one speech on this bill, yesterday, less than 24 hours ago, and immediately the guillotine has been brought down. This will not be the Senate's finest hour.

Yesterday, I heard some members on the government side cheering about this bill. All I could think of was a comment by one woman in Quebec when celebrations were held in the other place after it voted in favour of this bill. She said:

[Translation]

They are dancing on the graves of the victims.

[English]

We are not just dancing on the graves of the victims, we are rushing to do it; and I do not feel very good about it.

Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I would like to say a few things about this issue. There is a great irony in this moment and in this initiative to create closure, particularly on an issue like gun control. The government is very, very capable in its ability to spin and to communicate politically. Consistently and not without some merit, often, it appeals to some higher ideal to defend its position.

At its most prominent moments in this debate about gun control, it is an appeal to the question of rights whereby individuals have a right to these guns and a right not to be treated like criminals if they are not undertaking criminal activities. That is an important, powerful and meaningful argument. Many of us would argue that this right is, in many respects, a privilege, not so much a clear right in that it needs to be modified, adapted and accommodated within the broader social issues. However, it is a legitimate argument, and this government states prominently and persistently that the real reason underlining the need to do away with gun control is a question of fundamental rights and liberties.

In one of the great ironies of our democratic and parliamentary process — our parliamentary debate — the government is invoking one of the least democratic elements of that process by creating closure, which actually offends rights deeply, in order to establish its policy and to pass it. It is all the more confounding why the government does that, given that there is no rush. As the Honourable Senator Fraser said, "What is the rush?'' What is another day or two, or two or three weeks, for that matter?

Honourable senators, this bill is all but in effect. Nobody is getting arrested under the old bill. Nobody is being required to register under the old provisions. This bill is in place. We might say that the old bill — that parrot, as it were — is, in fact, dead.

(1530)

The fact is that there is no real reason to do this and, in my estimation, it amounts to little more than gratuitous violence. Why bother? Why, when one has argued so vehemently for the protection of rights on gun control, would one assault profoundly important democratic rights of freedom of speech in this place, of all places, and in the other place, of all places, when there is really no need to do that?

There are those who are cynical about politics, and they will often cite as an example Question Period and the rancour on the other side, or they will cite the fact that politicians often make no sense when they speak or that people are not listening to them in the legislative chambers. What is really important is the symbolism of being free to speak in chambers like this across the country, regardless of what one says, how much others may disagree with it, or how silly it may seem. Every instance of freedom of speech in this great democracy is important. This democracy does not deserve this affront to democratic rights, certainly not in circumstances where there is no need to rush and no demand of public policy to do it quickly. It is a great irony that the government would argue for rights and then, in order to "protect'' those rights, would gratuitously offend other rights, especially the important right of freedom of speech.

This is about much more than just the right to arm or not to arm oneself; this is a question of democratic rights. There are many elements to that, and I will list a few of them and indicate how this behaviour by the government fits into a much broader and deeper trend, one that many Canadians are increasingly finding disconcerting. It says something profound about what this government truly is. We have yet to know why this government needs to be like this. It has a majority; it does not have to push people around; it does not have to bully. It can give a few weeks, a few days, a few extra hours of debate on something that reflects, as importantly as this does, the question of democratic rights.

There is the element of accountability, a pillar of the democratic process. How many ways have we seen that offended? In the 10 minutes that I have, I cannot list them all. However, I will begin.

For example, omnibus bills are becoming a standard procedure of this government. There may be infrequent times when omnibus bill are necessary, but the government is using this tool to drive legislation through because it does not want to have to confront disagreement. It does it sometimes to show that some opposition members who voted against a bill on one initiative ended up voting the opposite way on it because the initiative was inappropriately lumped into an omnibus bill.

What about Question Period? Honourable senators, we have all observed politics for a very long time. I am not saying that Question Period in the other place is ever easy and I am not saying that it is wrong. It is important to have intense debate and Question Period serves a very important role in our parliamentary process. However, it is absolutely unprecedented that minister after minister fails to even make an effort to address a question directed at them, let alone to answer it. That is an affront to the parliamentary process and it contributes to the erosion of the quality and strength of the democratic process as captured and embodied in the parliamentary process.

I have said before and I will say again that there are those in this Senate, and certainly in the government, who at times find the democratic process and the parliamentary process to be inconvenient, to be a burden, to be a waste of time. The fact is that the parliamentary form of government is the most successful form of government on the face of the earth today. It has lasted longer by far than any other form of government in the world. It has lasted upwards of 900 years in different configurations and evolutions, and it has lasted because it works. It is bigger than each and every one of us. It serves issues and interests that are bigger than each and every one of us. It defends rights and freedoms that are bigger than each and every one of us.

The government and many of us say over and over again that we are so proud of our women and men in uniform who are defending democratic rights all over the world, and this place reflects that. That is what our men and women are fighting for; that is what they are defending. That is what many of them are dying for, and here in this place today and in the other place far too frequently this government gratuitously does away with critical democratic values and rights just because it seems to be inconvenient or gratuitous, or they are tired of hearing disagreement on what they want to do.

There is also the question of accountability. If someone disagrees with the government, such as the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the government attacks that person and extraneous variables surrounding that person and that person's work. Why do they not just stand up and debate the principles, the assumptions, the findings and the research? It is because they do not really want to be held accountable and they do not understand that the essence of proper and refined debate is a democratic responsibility and right.

Transparency is critical, but this also has been eroded by this government. We certainly have no transparency in Question Period; we hardly ever get an answer. Look at what has happened to the way that access to information requests are answered and redacted. One can hardly get anything out of this government. They have snuffed it out, shut it down; a government that campaigned on being more democratic and on democratic renewal.

Senator Mockler knows what I am talking about because he came from a province that did a lot of that very well under Premier McKenna. They had to fight that problem.

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!

Senator Mitchell: As our former colleague the Honourable Nick Taylor used to say, "You throw them a bit of red meat and they start rattling the cage.''

This government has a troubled, difficult and distant relationship with information.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: The honourable senators' time has expired.

Senator Mitchell: May I have five more minutes?

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to give Senator Mitchell more time?

Some Hon. Senators: No.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Senator Mitchell, I regret to inform you that there is not unanimous consent.

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I have been listening carefully to what the other senators have said on this motion to limit debate. It always disturbs me when debate is limited because, as a person who lived on the margins of society for a long time, I have always felt it is very important to bring to bear all voices concerned about an issue. As Senator Fraser said, there does not seem to be a real reason to rush this bill through our chamber. It is not good to limit the number of people we hear at committee. There are many people who are not in favour of this bill and, if we do not hear all the reasons they are not in favour of it, then how can senators make the best possible decision?

Not all of us are members of the committee that heard witnesses on this matter. There are many sides to this issue. If we cannot hear them, then the committee cannot make a proper decision. As someone who is not a member of the committee, how can I know all the ins and outs of the debate? It is a complex issue. We are putting limits upon ourselves, putting limits upon what we hear, and so limiting ourselves, our responsibilities as senators. Therefore, I think it is a terrible thing that we should ever limit the amount of debate that goes on in the chamber.

(1540)

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

[Translation]

Hon. Fernand Robichaud: Honourable senators, the last time I addressed the chamber, I spoke for about a minute and a half and that was during the debate on the closure motion concerning the Canadian Wheat Board. That was not so long ago, and history is repeating itself. I am somewhat hesitant to take any more of your time, honourable senators, since the arguments have all been made, but it is as though it were written in the stars. The senators opposite have not spoken on this motion, but they all seem to be in agreement. So, is there any point in trying to convince them?

This worries me. I think we could have taken some time to reflect on the changes that this bill will bring about. What also worries me is the fact that some very powerful weapons, ones that are currently restricted, will be available on the market.

I do not know very much about weapons. I have a .22, a .308 and, as we say at home, a number 12. These are semi-automatic weapons, which means that every time you pull the trigger, the bullets fire very quickly and it does not take long to empty the weapon. They are hunting tools.

I have a note from the Honourable Senator Fraser indicating that very powerful weapons will be available on the market overnight; for instance, I see one here: a Steyr-Mannlicher HS5.50 M1 which can pierce light body armour from a kilometre and a half away and is a very powerful and rapid-fire weapon.

It does not say how many rounds this weapon can hold but, from what I can see, it is a semi-automatic weapon. That means, honourable senators, that every time you pull the trigger, the bullets are fired quickly. Hunters and people who have served in the Canadian Forces and the police are familiar with semi-automatic weapons. It is not the only weapon, honourable senators, as I can see a number of others. Just looking at them is intimidating.

In the past, people have committed serious crimes with weapons less powerful than these. Just imagine what a deranged person could do with one of these weapons.

I would like someone to tell me why these weapons should be on the market. Why? Imagine a hunter who comes across a small herd of deer. With this type of gun, he will kill all the deer in short order. It would be a massacre.

These guns cannot be used for hunting. That means that, if we give quick passage to this bill, as they would like us to, we will immediately be allowing some people to go out and purchase these powerful weapons. Has there been any thought given, perhaps, to allowing amendments that would ensure that these weapons remain restricted or prohibited? If we had more time, we could have agreed that these weapons should remain restricted and that the general public should be prohibited from purchasing them.

I would simply have liked to have taken the time to study the bill and identify the best solution. I understand that the government wants to eliminate the long-gun registry. Many people opposed the registry when it was established. A great many people voiced their opinions, including those who spoke out publicly and said that they did not want the registry. Others, the silent majority, those we heard from indirectly, told us that the registry was a good thing and that it should be kept.

If the government wanted to abolish the registry, then it should have taken into account the doors it was opening for access to these firearms. I would also like to mention the fact that the Province of Quebec would like to retain the information that was collected when people had to register their firearms. However, we are told that the federal government is going to destroy the data as soon as possible despite the fact that one province would like to have the data for its own use.

I have a problem with that. I deplore the fact that the government is imposing the guillotine motion in order to dispose of this bill quickly.

Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Honourable senators, I will be brief. I listened with interest to the honourable senators' arguments concerning the way in which the government is handling this matter.

We know that one of this government's ambitions is to enhance public safety. That theme has been greatly emphasized by the Conservative Party and it is clear that a majority of Canadians share the same objectives. However, by proceeding so quickly — of course there was Bill C-10 — and by limiting the government's attention to the firearms registry — it has become a political symbol — I wonder if we are in the process of creating the illusion of successfully fighting crime. Nonetheless, I am in favour of reviewing the nature of this registry.

I believe it is important to indicate — at least when it comes to Quebec — that the vast majority of the people in Quebec disagree with what the current government is doing with the registry. This being a safety issue, I would have liked parliamentarians in the House of Commons and especially in the Senate to be able to examine the place of firearms in our society, because that is where the problem lies.

Senator Robichaud just described certain weapons, their nature and the possible consequences of their use, but the real problem in Canadian society with regard to the use of firearms cannot be boiled down to having a firearms registry, regardless of any merits of such a registry.

(1550)

The problem is the presence of firearms. It seems to me that a responsible government should have taken the time to ask the following questions, particularly of the parliamentary institutions: what place do we give the use of firearms in Canada? What control can the Canadian government have over the circulation, importation and possession of firearms? This issue must be reviewed in its entirety. It is an important issue; on that I agree with the government.

It does not make any sense for the government to proceed in this manner or to lead the people to believe, either consciously or unconsciously — no doubt unconsciously — that they will be safer if the firearms registry is abolished, because this is just one small aspect of a much larger problem.

In Quebec, Canada and the United States, again this week — and Senator Robichaud alluded to this — the use of firearms by people who are impaired by drugs or mental illness is a major problem. They are the ones who will be able to access and own firearms, without any controls in place.

It seems to me that this is a fundamental problem that the government should have addressed rather than limiting its action strictly to the issue of firearms. Since we have the time, the government could have turned over the issue of the use and presence of firearms in Canadian society, including the registry of course, to the Senate for debate and discussion for a specified period of time.

I believe that the government is missing the point on this issue and risks misleading members of the public by telling them that it has ensured their safety.

As many senators have indicated, and this point has also been raised by the public, abolishing the firearms registry will allow for increased circulation and use of firearms and will not, in my opinion, meet the objective that the government claims to be striving for, that of protecting public safety.

[English]

Hon. Jane Cordy: I would also like to speak about something that is becoming very common, and that is the limiting of debate in the Senate. Limiting debate and use of time allocation are becoming more the rule rather than the exception in this chamber. I know there are times when governments use time allocation — when time is of the essence. Time is not of the essence in this situation.

We have a responsibility as senators; we are supposed to be the chamber of sober second thought. We are supposed to represent our regions. We are supposed to represent Canadians. We have a responsibility to listen to Canadians.

Conservatives have the majority in the Senate. They are now the unelected, unaccountable Conservative majority, but it should not mean that they stifle debate.

This is Canada, a democracy. Canadians value our freedom. We value what the courageous men and women of our military fought for throughout the history of our country. Why the rush? Is it really worth stifling debate and democracy?

My understanding is that some excellent amendments were raised at the committee level. They were voted down by the Conservative majority. This is not a committee on which I serve and, as Senator Dyck said earlier today, I would like to hear why honourable senators voted against the amendments. I would like to know why the data collected over the years will be destroyed.

I regret that the government is using the guillotine. I believe it is wrong to use time allocation on this bill, which evokes strong reactions both for and against it. Why should we not have a debate in this chamber? Why is the government afraid of discussion and debate? Why are we yet once again not acting as the chamber of sober second thought?

I received an email earlier today. It says:

I have long held a view that the Senate performs a much needed role as Parliament's house of "sober second thought.'' I held this view because of the many times you have set aside "party politics'' and proposed amendments to bills that were poorly drafted or had unintended consequences.

That is why I am writing to you after watching the March 29th meeting of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on Bill C-19.

There is no doubt in my mind that C-19 will pass and the registration of long guns will be eliminated. However, many witnesses, including Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson, who supports the abolishment of the registry, testified there were flaws in the bill regarding record keeping at the point of sale and the validation of "licenses'' in private sales.

Chief Hanson noted that when guns are sold privately the wording under C-19 was very weak! He felt the "buyer must possess a license'' and the seller MUST check the validity of the license with the Firearms Centre Registrar.

Chief Hanson also observed that prior to Bill C-68 in 1995 all gun shops were required to keep a record of all guns sold and to whom. (Note: this requirement had been replaced by "registration'' through the Firearms Center when C-68 was passed.) Chief Hanson suggested that C-19 be changed so that "point of sales recording is reinstated''!

So when it comes time to vote on the bill clause by clause I was shocked that Conservative members of the committee voted to defeat amendments that were proposed to correct deficiencies in the bill as noted by Chief Hanson and numerous other witnesses.

The letter goes on to say:

I find it very sad that the Senate has now become so partisan, as a result of recent appointments, that it is abrogating the long held responsibility to objectively study bills and propose amendments if needed.

I always hoped Bill C-19 would never be passed as I strongly feel it will severely weaken our firearm laws! But to further weaken our laws by passing an obviously flawed bill is something that can be avoided if the will to admit changes are needed is there.

Therefore I hope you will demand the obvious deficiencies in the bill be addressed by adopting similar amendments as were submitted at the committee.

This letter was actually addressed to all honourable senators. I really believe that we have to take note of what it is saying.

We do not pass legislation that we know is flawed. This is the place — the chamber of sober second thought, the Senate — where we can make amendments. I will be voting against the bill, but these are people who are in favour of doing away with the gun registry; these are people who are saying this bill is flawed.

This bill needs amendments. That is our role. Our role is to ensure that legislation passed by the Senate is as good as it should be. We should be responsible.

Yet, as the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Cowan, has said, here we are using the guillotine, saying, "No changes. No discussion. Just close your eyes and rubber stamp the bill.''

That is wrong.

[Translation]

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, I must tell you, limiting the debate worries me a great deal. Why? Because certain questions have not yet been thoroughly discussed, and certain issues included in the bill are not sufficiently understood. I will explain.

I do not have a problem with eliminating the firearms registry. I live in a rural area of Manitoba, among and with hunters who did not like the firearms registry. Naturally, when I returned home last week, everyone was asking me if the firearms registry would be eliminated. I replied that that is not the issue; the issue rather is that Bill C-19 removes the obligation to confirm the legitimacy of the permit. Thus, someone who wants to buy a rifle can go to the person selling it, with a permit in hand, and the seller does not have to verify the legitimacy of the permit.

(1600)

Honourable senators, the people who opposed the firearms registry said to me, "Why are you doing this? Removing the obligation to verify the legitimacy of the permit is unnecessary. On the contrary, that should be maintained. It is a good control method and it ensures safety.'' That is what I wanted to share with you, honourable senators.

I do not feel that the issue has been examined sufficiently or that it is properly understood. It needs to be examined more thoroughly.

[English]

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Continuing debate? Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question!

[Translation]

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Some Hon. Senators: Yes.

Some Hon. Senators: No.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Will those honourable senators in favour of the motion please say "yea''?

Some Hon. Senators: Yea.

[English]

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: All those opposed to the motion will signify by saying "nay.''

Some Hon. Senators: Nay.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: In my opinion, the "nays'' have it.

And two honourable senators having risen:

[Translation]

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Under the Rules of the Senate, I must allow 60 minutes for the bell, unless I hear a suggestion to the contrary.

Please call in the senators.

[English]

The vote will take place at exactly five o'clock. I seek permission to leave the chair while the bells are ringing.

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(1700)

Motion agreed to on the following division:

YEAS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS

Angus Manning
Boisvenu Marshall
Braley Meredith
Brazeau Mockler
Brown Ogilvie
Buth Patterson
Carignan Plett
Cochrane Raine
Comeau Rivard
Dagenais Runciman
Demers Segal
Di Nino Seidman
Doyle Seth
Duffy Smith (Saurel)
Eaton St. Germain
Fortin-Duplessis Stewart Olsen
Frum Stratton
Greene Tkachuk
Housakos Unger
Lang Verner
LeBreton Wallace
MacDonald Wallin
Maltais White—46

NAYS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS

Baker Massicotte
Callbeck McCoy
Chaput Mitchell
Cools Moore
Cordy Munson
Cowan Peterson
Day Poy
Dyck Ringuette
Eggleton Rivest
Fairbairn Robichaud
Fraser Sibbeston
Harb Smith (Cobourg)
Hervieux-Payette  Tardif
Hubley Watt
Losier-Cool Zimmer—33
Mahovlich  

ABSTENTIONS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS

Nil

(1710)

[Translation]

Third Reading—Vote Deferred

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Lang, seconded by the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, for the third reading of Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act.

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, it is with sadness that I rise today after the study of this bill in committee. I would simply like to reassure the Canadian people who attended the committee hearings and tell them that there were some people who heard them, who listened to them and who gleaned from their testimony that they were people of good faith who were not acting out of self-interest, but who had the best interests of Canadians at heart.

As a senator from the Bedford region in Quebec, I would first like to say that I completely agree with the Government of Quebec, which voiced its opinion through its minister, who appeared in the other place and, through a motion passed unanimously by the National Assembly, requested that Parliament keep a universal firearms registry system.

Quebec government officials believe that a long-gun registry is useful and essential for crime prevention, policing and the administration of justice.

Contrary to certain claims, non-restricted firearms are used more often than we think to commit offences against the person. The minister told us that, between 2003 and 2009, this type of weapon was used in more than 2,000 violent offences in Quebec.

In 2009 alone, of the 1,476 offences against the person believed to have been committed with a firearm in Quebec, 274 were committed with a non-restricted firearm. Clearly, the long-gun registry made it possible to collect these data, to know where the weapons came from and who committed these offences.

Quebec is concerned about the abolition of the firearms registry because of the programs it has put in place to deal with spousal abuse and with the issue of suicide.

Between 2007 and 2009, there were 169 incidents of spousal assault involving a non-restricted firearm, while 122 involved handguns. Honourable senators will note that more offences were committed with non-restricted firearms. Statistics in Quebec also reveal that, of the suicides committed using a firearm, nine out of ten involved a non-restricted firearm.

Moreover, coroners in Quebec have strongly recommended that the firearms registry be maintained based on these suicides committed using non-restricted firearms in Quebec.

There is also the issue of prohibition orders. Under the Criminal Code, orders prohibiting the possession of firearms may be imposed when a person is convicted of a violent offence or, for preventive purposes, when the person's mental state poses a risk to that person or to others. The registry is also used for enforcing prohibition orders.

From 2007 to 2010, no less than 1,042 prohibition orders were issued against the owners of non-restricted firearms in Quebec. In the event that the long-gun registry were abolished, the police would have to carry out more in-depth investigations in order to determine whether persons subject to an order own a non-restricted firearm, which would involve additional costs for law enforcement agencies, reduce the number of interventions and increase the subsequent risk.

It should also be noted that in 2010 alone, 2,561 non-restricted firearms were removed as the result of an order so as to protect the firearm owner and others. Needless to say, this number alone makes us realize that the registry plays an extremely important role.

As far as the issue of mental health is concerned, universal registration enables firearms officers to verify whether firearms are possessed by persons under an application for an order to confine them to an institution or for a psychiatric assessment. We all recall crimes committed in various places in Quebec. For those that were prevented — because there have been people who had firearms and were threatening others — the firearm was removed, which likely prevented a human tragedy.

Between January 1, 2008, and March 31, 2010, 13,383 applications for orders were reported, and consultation of the registry made it possible to conduct 1,193 interventions to ensure the safety of persons. We are talking about human beings, who are susceptible to depression, a mental illness that is not linked specifically to a chemical imbalance, but rather an illness that comes with stress. Everyone here today is susceptible to depression. The final point one reaches with depression, when one no longer has the will to live, is of course suicide.

I think we all recognize the importance of the traceability of firearms, which has been recognized in international law by two treaties initiated by the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Both treaties have been signed by Canada, but strangely, Canada has never ratified them, which is worrisome to say the least. The purpose of these treaties is to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit manufacturing of, and trafficking in, firearms, particularly through marking, which facilitates the traceability and identification of each firearm.

I would remind honourable senators that the witnesses told us that, at present, very few registries could really give us any indication of how many weapons — whether legal or illegal — are entering Canada. There may be places in Quebec in particular where they could certainly enter without too much trouble, but we do not have a system to control their entry into Canada at all entry points, such as ports, airports or border crossings.

We know that there are international conventions in this regard and that Canada will be excluded from their application. This bill therefore constitutes a major step backward, particularly with regard to the obligation for merchants to keep a registry of their firearm inventory and information about firearm sales transactions, including information on the purchaser. The national registry aside, this is fundamental, necessary data. Let us be very clear: no longer will it be possible to identify anyone as owning a firearm at the point of sale.

The obligation for the seller to check whether the purchaser has a firearms acquisition licence involves just one little question. Sellers will no longer need to check the purchaser's licence, whether the licence is valid or whether the licence belongs to the person attempting to purchase the firearm. In addition, weapons will no longer be traceable to either the purchaser or the seller, even though we know that there are several million legal firearms in Canada.

Quebec reaffirmed the need to maintain the firearms registry or, failing that, to amend Bill C-19 by withdrawing the provisions regarding data destruction and allowing Quebec to obtain the data on non-restricted firearm registration certificates involving its residents, since Quebecers' tax dollars helped pay for the system in the first place. We know that, today, the Government of Quebec applied for an injunction to protect the data.

The only question I am asking myself is whether or not the government has already destroyed the data. It seems that not only are the Conservatives anxious to amend the bill, but they are also often moving even faster than the process to pass the bill.

The Government of Quebec respects Quebecers. We would like the Government of Canada to do the same.

(1720)

I would like to come back to the issue of suicide, because we heard from some excellent witnesses on this topic. These professionals spoke about why abolishing the long-gun registry will have a significant impact on suicide prevention.

One of the witnesses, the Association québécoise de prévention du suicide, told the committee that it was important to maintain all existing measures to control firearms, such as the requirement for all owners of non-restricted firearms to register every gun they own, and the requirement for a merchant to check that any potential buyer has a valid acquisition licence for the purchase or transfer of a non-restricted firearm.

In light of this, we should note that, in the event that a merchant sells a firearm and wishes to retain the buyer's information for professional purposes, today, that buyer can resell the firearm to his aunt, his grandmother, a friend or anyone else, and there will be no record of the sale anywhere in Canada. The principle of Bill C-19 presumes that everyone has a valid permit. However, no one, neither the next buyer nor the original vendor — the merchant — is required to check the permit.

After reviewing the statistics in order to determine the relationship between suicide and the availability of firearms, international organizations argued that there is a direct relationship between murder, suicide, the proliferation of firearms and the lack of control over them.

A Swiss company conducted a study in 2006 that revealed that between 24 per cent and 28 per cent of suicides in Switzerland were committed with firearms, a sad second place, far behind the United States, where that rate is 57 per cent.

This means that the more guns are circulating, the easier it is to obtain one, the more difficult it is to know if someone suffering from mental health issues has one, and the higher the suicide rate.

We wonder whether protecting individuals would require us to have a mental health policy that would take into account the fact that a person suffering from deep depression could use a firearm to commit suicide. In fact, according to the study, it is the most effective means:

The use of shotguns or handguns is the most effective means of taking one's life. Committing suicide with a firearm has a 90 per cent success rate.

This study is found at http://www.swissinfo.ch/fre/dossiers/ la_suisse_des_records/records_d_europe/Suicides_par_balle,_le_ record_dont_personne_n_est_fier.html?cid=8476506. In other words, the chances of using a firearm and surviving are rather slim.

When we think of the possibility of unrestricted, widespread distribution of firearms, we have to remember that when someone buys a gun and requires a valid and duly verified licence to do so, this enhances the accountability of the gun purchaser. This might be the first safety barrier in preventing an emotionally distressed person from going to a gunsmith to procure a firearm. This barrier could save that person's life.

I do not think there is a single witness who appeared before our committee who did not establish a cause and effect relationship between destroying the firearms registry, maintaining only minimal control over licences and the lethal consequences this will have for a portion of the Canadian public. To me, the loss of one life justifies keeping the registry.

A group of doctors also appeared before our committee. I am not sure if we have the same set-up in every province, but the doctors were all directors of public health in Quebec and they all signed the brief they submitted to us. Their mandate is to protect the health of the public — in this case, we are talking about mental health.

According to them, between 1998 and 2004, there was a decrease across Canada of approximately 250 suicides and 50 homicides each year on average, or nearly one death per day. We are talking here about public policy, not individuals; we are talking about a comprehensive policy for the rest of the population.

Some witnesses contradicted a few of the studies the doctors cited. Things nearly got out of control. I mention this because I have never seen this at any other committee: witnesses who start insulting other witnesses. The doctors' representatives were attacked by members of the Prime Minister's advisory committee. I must say that this was a first for me and it was not pretty.

I want to come back to our responsibility with regard to the United Nations. Canada adopted the UN Firearms Protocol on May 31, 2001, at the UN General Assembly. The protocol came into force on July 3, 2005. A sufficient number of countries had ratified the protocol by then.

More recently, in 2002, the European Community signed this protocol. In 2010, a legislative measure was implemented for every country in the European Community. Honourable senators, this protocol defines the confiscation, seizure and deactivation of firearms; requires states to adopt legislative measures to criminalize certain activities; and calls for cooperation and the regular exchange of information between states. I believe that such a protocol requires a system that would allow these measures to be implemented. If Bill C-19 passes, Canada will not be able to comply with its obligations under this international protocol.

It is also important to note that a similar protocol was signed by Canada with the Organization of American States, the OAS, but clearly not ratified by the current government.

There is an organization called the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which has conducted studies on homicide. It found that 42 per cent of homicides are committed with firearms; however, there are regional disparities since this rate is 74 per cent in the Americas and 21 per cent in Europe. These numbers, which of course represent human lives, tend to decrease in places where there is a rigorous legislative framework and a means of controlling the circulation of firearms.

This United Nations organization tells us that globally — not just in Canada — 80 per cent of homicide perpetrators are men. Whereas previously I was looking at this issue from the perspective of female victims, domestic violence and the possible effects of firearms in those circumstances, I now realize that the main victims of homicides involving firearms — and we are talking here about legal and controlled firearms — are men. On the other hand, in 2008, almost 80 per cent of all people killed by a current or former partner were women. So, there is still a link between the parties involved.

During our committee hearings, we also discussed, as we have been discussing for several years now, the issue of whether it is a right or a privilege to possess a firearm. There was a case before the Supreme Court, that of Philip Neil Wiles, who committed a crime or offence that involved the possession of drugs.

(1730)

The lower court ruled in Mr. Wiles' favour, indicating that he had been a victim of discrimination, but in the end, here is what the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court had to say:

The state interest in reducing the misuse of weapons is valid and important. The sentencing judge gave insufficient weight to the fact that possession and use of firearms is not a right or freedom guaranteed under the Charter, but a privilege.

We therefore have a precedent before the Supreme Court to support the argument that having a firearm is a responsibility as well as a privilege, and one that can be restricted through legislative measures.

I believe the court ruled that Mr. Wiles was not a victim of cruel and unusual punishment and that, in this case, he had violated the Criminal Code. He had a criminal record, but this ruling confirms that, for all citizens, owning and using a firearm is not a right, but rather a privilege.

As for the Canadian Bar Association, it has spoken out on several occasions and is encouraging us to keep the firearms registry. The CBA favours responsible and limited gun ownership, viewing gun ownership as a privilege, rather than a right. It has confirmed that the Supreme Court was right to say it is a privilege.

The CBA also endorses an efficient, low-cost system to register all firearms. Requiring registration will improve public safety and make firearms owners appropriately accountable.

Knowing the professionalism of the Canadian Bar Association and the wisdom of its policy statements, I am sure you will agree, honourable senators, that our legal colleagues weighed this question carefully and could have come out in favour of liberalization, if that were in the public's interest.

Our colleagues also indicated that the registry is an effective way of improving officer safety — although, yes, it is definitely not the only way. The registry also serves as an important tool in criminal investigations.

Can you imagine the time, effort and money needed to hunt for the perpetrator of a crime committed with a firearm when the identity of the seller or the purchaser of the firearm is not known? The search for the guilty party will be long and arduous. I find it rather odd that a government that wants to protect its citizens is heading in this direction.

In addition, the bar association spoke about improving public health and safety. The CBA spoke to the issue of mental health and family violence:

People can be negatively affected by a number of factors, including job loss, divorce or other forms of socio-economic or psychological stress, that may increase the risk of firearms misuse.

We need not panic. We must simply look after those honest citizens who, at a given point, find themselves in a difficult situation.

They said that we must not ignore the victims of gun violence, including those who die as a result of domestic violence where firearms are involved.

This issue was addressed many times by other witnesses. I will talk briefly about women and Bill C-19.

The Barreau du Québec has endorsed the position of the Canadian Bar Association and indicated that a computerized registry of all firearms in circulation should make it possible, primarily by identifying the owners, to better monitor firearm imports and exports, as well as the use of these weapons, while making it easier to trace them when seized by police. In this way, the government would be in a position to achieve the objectives it has set, not only to improve border control, but first and foremost, to contribute appreciably to the suppression of crime involving the use of firearms.

We must realize that after Bill C-19 is passed all firearms will be legal, whether or not they are obtained through channels usually reserved for tobacco or firearms trafficking. Once a firearm is in Canada, it can be sold without risk to either the buyer or the seller, because there will be no documentation. Illegal acts are very seldom admitted in public.

The Barreau du Québec is surprised that the government set itself the goal of making streets and communities safe when, at the same time, it wants to eliminate the mandatory registration of long guns and destroy the existing firearms registry. This is a counterproductive legislative choice in light of the government's goal of protecting the public.

It is hard for me to reconcile the fact that the government wants to protect people's lives and safety with allowing the legal sale of firearms with practically no control.

I am not talking about the semi-automatic firearms in the pictures we were shown during our hearings. I am talking about the type of firearm that cost the lives of young Norwegians, which was one of these non-restricted weapons sold freely on the market, an extraordinarily deadly weapon that can kill a tremendous number of people in a very short amount of time. I told my colleague who spoke about semi-automatic weapons that these are weapons that, to our great surprise — and to the surprise of our Conservative colleagues — are extremely destructive and are not used for hunting at all. They will be available on the market without any more restrictions than before, other than the registration requirement, which will no longer be a requirement. Do we want to end up in situations like the one in Oakland, where a disturbed person killed a number of innocent people this week? Obviously, the weapon alone will not kill anyone. There needs to be someone behind the weapon, and when people who should not be armed become armed, the consequences are tragic.

I would like to talk about a group that wanted to appear before our committee. I say group because it was a number of associations. I would like to give them a voice today. I am talking about the B.C. Society of Transition Houses, the Alberta Council of Women Shelters, the Manitoba Association of Women Shelters, the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, the Fédération des ressources d'hébergement pour femmes violentées et en difficulté au Québec, the Transition House Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services, the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale, the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia, the Ottawa Coalition To End Violence Against Women and the Canadian Federation of University Women.

[English]

They are: the B.C. Society of Transition Houses, the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, the Manitoba Association of Women's Shelters, the Ontario Association of Interval and Transitional Houses, La fédération des ressources d'hébergement pour les femmes violentées et en difficulté du Québec, the Transition House Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services, Le regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale, the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia, the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, and the Canadian Federation of University Women.

They say that they reacted with shock at the Senate's decision to end their study on Bill C-19.

(1740)

[Translation]

I need not tell you that the decision to end the debate does not rest with this side of the chamber. It was also not the members of the Senate committee, and certainly not our representative on the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure, that prevented these people who represent women across the country from telling us that Minister Ambrose admitted to them in February that no gender-based analysis was conducted for this bill. They are appalled at the lack of work done by the government and gave the example of a woman who was killed with a hunting rifle.

For the women's associations that I just mentioned, it is tragic to know that, as of tomorrow, there will be no easy way to identify individuals who have acquired a weapon or to contact government authorities to prevent such individuals from using a weapon in a violent situation.

These women told me that the Government of Quebec developed a comprehensive policy on domestic violence. This policy includes principles to ensure safety. The action plan, designed to ensure the safety of families, includes requirements for all stakeholders, which can be found, for example, in the manual used by police officers, where it states that they can confiscate weapons in situations of violence.

I imagine that you have already seen or heard of police officers going to a home as a result of a domestic disturbance complaint. Clearly, it is easier for them right now to check the firearms registry to see whether there is a weapon in the house that needs to be confiscated. Without a way to verify whether there is a weapon in the home, it will be more difficult for the police to confiscate weapons since the weapon may be hidden and police may not be aware of its existence.

There is another extremely important group that is active across Canada. I am referring to the YWCA. In Quebec, as elsewhere, this organization plays a remarkable role in helping women get ahead and supporting them in the difficulties they face. In Montreal, where I am from, women have regained their financial independence thanks to this association. The Y has been highly critical of the fact that there will no longer be a gun registry, at either the merchant or federal government level. The registry is an essential tool for control and, more importantly, for providing better protection for women in difficulty, since these associations work with and support these women. However, they will have a harder time taking action when such prevention tools are not available.

We heard testimony from Francine Dulong of Vancouver. She referred to a situation that occurs in all of our respective provinces: bullying. She said that when people use violence to solve their problems when they are young, if nothing is done, by the time they grow up, the violence will only increase.

This woman lost one of her family members in the École Polytechnique massacre. Yet, her family owned weapons. She is originally from Nova Scotia, and her father was a hunter. She said that not all weapons need to be banned. She simply wants the registry to be maintained and for it not to cost the government a fortune. The costs involved in repairing the harm caused, whether by murder or suicide, are also significant. I am sure no one here believes that the day after the Polytechnique tragedy everyone went home and said, "Phew, I was spared, so I don't have any problems.'' After violent crimes involving individuals or groups are committed, we could ask the authorities how many people committed suicide because they were depressed owing to post-traumatic shock directly related to the incident, as in the case of the École Polytechnique tragedy. I ask the honourable senators opposite to simply prove to me that beginning tomorrow there will be no increase in the number of suicides or murders and that everything will be fine in an ideal world. No one has given us any proof of this. We need to regulate firearms, which are deadly weapons, and make people accountable in order to prevent them from using firearms against themselves or others.

Priscilla de Villiers, who has been studying this matter for years, was an exemplary witness. I invite honourable senators to read her brief. She knows the subject inside out. Her daughter was murdered. She spoke to us about her in-depth research on the subject. She shared her pain with us, and she also spoke about measures that would prevent other mothers from losing their children in the same way.

Bill C-19 is not the answer. It would have been wiser for the government to propose a small amendment that all senators would probably have supported. In the case of an offence such as the one related to the previous bill, instead of considering it a criminal offence, they could have made it a hybrid offence by ensuring that, if a form was not filled out properly or was received a few days late by government authorities, the person would not have a criminal record — because this would have been a crime — and the situation could be rectified. It would be similar to driving my car with an expired licence because I forgot to renew it. There are much more practical solutions that are in the best interests of all adults and children.

We must think about the fact that when a spouse is murdered, children are often orphaned and must be supported by the state. The government is always talking about cost. What about the cost when a woman who had young children is murdered and her husband is found guilty? That is if the guilty party is identified, because it will be more difficult to do so without the registry. The family must be placed in the care of the state. As for the simplistic argument that we will be saving money, no serious and competent witness will say, "You know, this registry is so expensive.'' Quite a fuss has been made about the cost. I just remind people that the federal government publishes its estimates and statement of revenues and expenditures every year. If we want to know the exact cost, we can look it up; it is available, and we do not make it up.

Most witnesses did not raise the question of the current cost of maintaining the registry. There are already over seven million guns registered. Some of the senators opposite told us that there were many errors in the registry.

(1750)

As far as we know, and as far as we knew, the many mistakes associated with the registry for the most part had to do with restricted weapons. When it comes to revolvers and weapons used by a limited number of people, it is a good idea to verify and make corrections. The registry of restricted weapons will continue to exist. If it contains errors, I do not see why the government would not take care of correcting it immediately. Nonetheless, I highly doubt that any rifles were registered incorrectly in the newer, non-restricted firearms registry — unless the questionnaires were filled out incorrectly. When it is simply a matter of entering one's name and address and the serial number of the weapon, I do not believe a person would intentionally make mistakes. That is a question for our conscience.

This bill does not deal with managing everyday material goods. We are talking about a bill that will allow people to obtain a gun, without having a regulatory and legislative framework in place to make those people accountable, to find those who commit offences and to remove guns from those who should not have any. Keeping this registry in place is entirely justified.

I urge honourable senators to think twice before refusing to respect the will of the Government of Quebec, which would like to obtain the data and operate the registry. The jurisdictions overlap. A number of provincial authorities worked on creating the registry with the Quebec police. I urge honourable senators to think twice before they proceed. Quebec paid a quarter of the expenses related to this registry. The data will go up in smoke, when it would be so easy to transfer them to the Attorney General of Quebec.

Honourable senators, I hope that you will sleep on it and that you will think about the mothers, the people suffering from depression and those who will become victims if we fail to do our work properly.

Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu: Honourable senators, today we are being asked to speak to a legislative measure that has been subject to many debates about its legitimacy and its effectiveness.

Since Bill C-68 was passed in 1996, the legislation has been controversial. Its legitimacy was questioned by a number of segments of the population, including hunters and trappers. The registry created a divide between rural and urban communities. Its effectiveness has been questioned with regard to its astronomical costs and the number of lives it was supposed to save.

Honourable senators, I rise today to support the passage of Bill C-19 and to invite you to do the same. I would like to take the few minutes that have been allocated to me in this debate to tell you why.

As you know, I grew up in the wonderful region of Abitibi, and nothing says Abitibi like hunting and fishing. My father and mother decided to raise their 10 children in the country rather than in the city. I am eternally grateful to them for that because, from a very young age, I learned to love nature, to protect the environment and, most importantly, to form friendships with people who are still in my circle of friends today. There were about 10 of us young boys who hunted rabbit and partridge with our fathers' rifles.

I am speaking to you as a Quebecer from Abitibi, an untamed land that epitomizes Quebec, and as someone with a background in science, having studied psychology in university. I believe that a balance between the practical reality and the scientific approach should be considered in this debate in order to prevent it from becoming too subjective or emotional, which can sometimes partially obscure the facts.

As they get older, all hunters become more ambitious and, in Abitibi, the dream was not only to become like Guy Lafleur or Maurice Richard, but also to go moose hunting.

In the 1970s, when we were a little bit older, we had to take firearms safety courses. The larger the weapon, the more vigilant and safe the hunter had to be. Even then, hunting and fishing associations instilled in hunters the principles of proper behaviour in the forest and the safe handling and storage of weapons. It was not just because of Bill C-68 that hunters became vigilant and safe. This was already in practice in the 1970s.

Then the terrible, tragic massacre occurred at the École Polytechnique. Many people, particularly the victims and their loved ones, exerted pressure on the government to improve the monitoring and control of firearms, including those belonging to honest hunters and trappers. Like most people from Abitibi, I highly doubted the effectiveness of this registry and control. Nevertheless, the registry was adopted.

At that time, I was a senior official in the Quebec wildlife department and I witnessed hunters' inability to come to terms with the requirement to register their weapons. I also watched as they gave in and registered them. Thus, the registry became a necessary evil for them.

In terms of legitimacy, this registry was imposed on Canadians who own rifles as though it were the weapon that posed the danger and the perceived threat. The individual, the hunter, became a potential criminal simply by owning a weapon. Honest citizens from rural regions obeyed the law. Yet this did not prevent tragedies like the one at Dawson College from occurring a few years later, despite the existence of the registry, which was supposed to save lives, but cost billions of dollars. Furthermore, the Auditor General of Canada proved this a few years ago.

In 2002 a terrible tragedy happened in my personal life: my daughter was murdered, and I was plunged into the public arena to stand up for victims of crime.

I always had my doubts about this registry. However, to denounce it publicly while defending victims' rights is simply not done in Quebec. It is inconceivable that anyone in la belle province would question the firearms registry. In Quebec, calling the firearms registry into question is tantamount to saying one does not care about violence against women.

Over the course of the eight years that I was a spokesperson for victims of crimes, I never defended the appropriateness of the firearms registry. As my father used to say, "When in doubt, don't.''

Then one day Prime Minister Harper granted me the immense privilege of letting me join his team to pursue my mission to defend victims' rights. An initial bill, introduced in a previous Parliament, led me to meet with victims' groups in order to explain to them our government's position on the firearms registry. Despite my persistent doubts, I did so. Those meetings were very emotional and very difficult. Indeed, the simple fact of questioning the effectiveness of the firearms registry is perceived as a sign that one does not care about violence against women. I therefore had to gather information in order to be able to enhance my reflections on the matter and above all to develop an objective opinion on the effectiveness of the registry. That is what I have been doing for the past two years.

What I found is that the registration of hunting rifles has no connection with lower numbers of suicides and homicides in Canada. On the contrary, no advocate of registering firearms has been able to scientifically prove that it has had any bearing on the decline in homicides and suicides in Canada.

(1800)

If a real debate about the effectiveness of long guns had taken place when Bill C-68 was being passed, we would not be here debating it once again. In fact, the long-gun registry never turned out to be the prevention tool that it was supposed to be. There are no examples of crimes that were prevented by the registry.

Instead of having an objective debate about the effectiveness of a registry, the Liberal government of the day exploited the events of 1989 and proposed a political solution.

As was the case in the United Kingdom, the registry was a political response to massacres committed by deranged individuals. For example, the Firearms Amendment Act, a 1988 British law, was passed after the 1987 Hungerford massacre. Similarly, after the Dunblane massacre, the British government passed the Firearms Act (Amendment No. 2) in 1997.

This is very revealing. I studied England, New Zealand and Australia; these three countries reacted in the same way. New Zealand, however, withdrew the requirement that hunters register their firearms in 1983, but maintained the requirement that guns be stored securely.

The first thing that England, Canada and Australia have in common is that all three countries adopted this requirement after massacres that shocked the public. These national registries were established even though gun-related homicides and suicides had been steadily declining for more than a decade before the registries were established.

Let us now talk about Canada. Between 1979 and 1994, the number of gun-related homicides dropped from 183 to 66, a 64 per cent reduction. From 1995 — when the registry was established — to 2010, the number of gun-related homicides dropped from 64 to 36, a 44 per cent reduction.

With respect to the period when all the registry requirements had the full force of law, between 2002 and 2010, the rate dropped by only 10 per cent, from 40 to 36 homicides. That was four fewer murders in eight years at a time when all the requirements were in effect. The same holds true for suicide. I examined the suicide trends. Between 1979 and 2010, the decline in suicides and homicides was the same. These statistics are from Table 253-0005 in Juristat 2011. Also according to Juristat 2011, Canadian homicide statistics for the same period reveal that seven out of ten firearms used to commit homicide were not registered.

Honourable senators, I have a question for you. If the period from 1979 to 1994 saw a greater decline in the number of homicides and suicides than the period from 2005 to 2010 — I am comparing two periods of 15 years each — can I scientifically deduce that the absence of the registry had a greater impact on the decline of homicides and suicides than the presence of the registry? You will say no and I will agree with you. That conclusion is too easy. If I am wrong to draw such a conclusion from the statistics, then why would those who say that the registry can save lives and reduce the number of murders and suicides in Canada be right about a period when the registry existed?

If we want to compare the decline in suicides and homicides in Canada against the registry, we have to compare a period when the registry existed with a period when it did not. If not, we are comparing one period with the same period and that, in my opinion, is not scientifically valid. That conclusion is about as smart as the one I came to.

Our government has decided to invest in crime prevention where crime is on the rise, in other words, especially among young people involved in street gangs.

I am very proud of the witnesses who came to speak in favour of Bill C-19. We had the opportunity to hear articulate testimony from professionals from the worlds of hunting, medicine and scientific research. These professionals demonstrated that the registry had not delivered the results that were promised when it was adopted.

I would like to draw your attention, honourable senators, to one of the scientists, who is a doctor at McMaster University in Hamilton and who conducted a very scientific, very solid and well-documented study. The study is called Canadian Firearms Legislation and Effects on Homicide 1974 to 2008, and it was produced on February 10, 2012.

I urge you to read this scientific study that shows beyond a doubt that there is no link between the presence of the registry and the decline in homicides and suicides. If you want to have an objective, unemotional judgment of the registry, consult this study.

The New Zealand Herald newspaper published an article on March 30, 2010, titled "NZ's firearm homicide rate drops.'' In that article, journalist Michael Dickison says that gun killings in New Zealand have declined the most in an international comparison — even though this country has less strict licensing laws than Canada, Australia, and England.

An article in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, which is published in the United States, confirmed that New Zealand had, and I quote:

. . . the most pronounced decline in firearm homicide over the past two decades.

Honourable senators, New Zealand abolished its registry in 1983, and yet the homicide and suicide numbers dropped just as they did in Canada, England and Australia, which all had registries.

If we really want to determine whether the registry helped to lower the number of suicides and homicides, then comparisons must be made with periods in which the registry did not exist or with countries that do not have registries.

In addition, the president of the New Zealand Police Association, Greg O'Connor, told a journalist from this same publication that the decline in firearm homicides shows that New Zealand has a well-balanced licensing system. That is what Canada wants to achieve. According to Mr. O'Connor, and I quote:

[English]

I would be very disappointed if as a result of the actions of criminals in New Zealand, there was an encroachment against lawful gun-owning people.

[Translation]

This police officer means that he would find it very unfortunate if, with the decrease in crime, we exerted even more control over firearms.

Aside from a few minor cases involving the return of stolen firearms, New Zealand's registry was seriously flawed and never helped to solve any serious crimes. This was confirmed by the police in an assessment of the registry's usefulness. The registry had no value, and it was expensive to keep the information in it accurate and up to date. Attempts to improve New Zealand's registry had been made since the mid-1970s, and after a public consultation was held, the Arms Act 1983 was abolished.

New Zealand's new legislation did away with the registration of shotguns and rifles, which are widely used for sport throughout the country. The new legislation focuses on the issuing of licences to individuals rather than on the registration of each sporting gun and also puts special emphasis on the safe storage of weapons.

In New Zealand, the annual number of firearm homicides has been falling steadily since the 1980s.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, Senator Boisvenu's time has expired.

Senator Boisvenu: Honourable senators, may I have five more minutes?

[English]

Senator LeBreton: Five minutes.

An Hon. Senator: No.

Senator Day: No, there are no extensions here. No, we say —

Senator Comeau: Did you say "no''?

Senator Cowan: You said "no'' earlier.

Senator Comeau: That was on the two-and-a-half hour —

Senator Day: Are there going to be extensions or not? You said earlier there would not be.

Senator LeBreton: That was on the time allocation.

Senator Cowan: If everybody agrees, that is fine.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: We are on a different debate. That was a totally different debate. Now we are on the main motion, which is third reading.

Senator Boisvenu is asking for five minutes. Is it agreed to give him five minutes?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Agreed. Senator Boisvenu.

[Translation]

Senator Boisvenu: In England, Britain's Home Office identified an urgent need for a strategy to reduce crimes committed with firearms by organized groups of youth or gangs. The Home Office published a report entitled: Ending gang and youth violence: cross-government report, which sets out a strategy based on street gangs, which represent the real challenge to safety in cities and other communities.

The British government now realizes — and the government has said so — that registration measures are ineffective and that illegal weapons present a real challenge. As is the case in England, we need to tackle gang culture and mental health as factors that have an impact on the suicidal and destructive behaviour of men who commit murder.

(1810)

In the study mentioned earlier, the Journal of Interpersonal Violence confirmed that high unemployment rates and the use of hard drugs are more significant factors in the use of a firearm to commit homicide than whether the weapon is registered.

What we need to control are the men, the people who have psychiatric problems. We need to crack down on real criminals, those who have never registered their weapons and who are responsible for the vast majority of crimes committed in Canada. We need to address the real problem, the one presented by real criminals, and not law-abiding citizens.

[English]

Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, I have a long history with this issue of gun control, going back to my days as Mayor of Toronto and subsequently, in the 1990s, as part of the Chrétien government that implemented Bill C-68.

I think Bill C-19 is a tragedy. All of us can remember the immense loss that the country felt because of the rampage at l'École Polytechnique in December 1989, when 14 women were brutally murdered. With that moment fresh in our minds, and knowing the history of the use of guns in our country, I stood with my colleagues in the House of Commons almost 17 years ago and implemented Bill C-68, the Firearms Act. That day exposed significant gaps in Canadian gun laws.

Honourable senators, rifles and shotguns are the guns most likely used in domestic violence situations, accidents and suicides, and they have been used against our police personnel.

This is what the experts were telling us. This is what had to be addressed. As a result, my colleagues and I were asked by a group of more than 350 diverse organizations, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Public Health Association, amongst others, to strengthen the law. That is what we did. We listened to the voices of law enforcement and to the victims of crime.

I am saddened that today we are going full circle, back to a time before strict gun laws. Have we not learned anything? I believe we have, and that is why I strongly object to this bill.

Senator Runciman: We have spent $2 billion.

Senator Eggleton: First, the registry is working. Why fix something that is not broken? Second, the cost of the program is not wasteful, as my Conservative colleagues assert. Third, this bill will put Canadians' lives at risk because it makes it easier to buy deadly weapons.

Honourable senators, it has been over 15 years since stricter gun laws, including the registry, were implemented. Has it worked? All evidence, I suggest, says yes. The fact is that firearm deaths in Canada have declined since stricter controls have been put in place.

Senator Runciman: Not since the registry.

Senator Eggleton: However, honourable senators do not have to take my word on the importance of the registry. The facts speak for themselves.

Senator Runciman: Yes, they do.

Senator Eggleton: Fact: The rate of death involving guns is the lowest it has been in over 40 years. Nearly 400 fewer Canadians died of gunshots in 2008 compared to 1995.

Fact: In 1995, 911 Canadians committed suicide with firearms. By 2008, it was down to 518. Keeping firearms away from at-risk individuals is a critical component of a suicide prevention strategy.

Fact: Rates of robbery committed with firearms have decreased 43 per cent, while rates of robbery committed by other means have only decreased by 9 per cent.

Fact: Murders with rifles and shotguns have decreased dramatically, from 61 in 1995 to 36 in 2010. Researchers have concluded that stronger controls on firearms have caused a significant drop in gun homicides with no significant increases in other methods.

Fact: The rate of women murdered with firearms by their intimate partner has decreased by 69 per cent since 1995.

Fact: After we implemented the bill in 1995, a toll-free line was set up for the spouses of firearm applicants or others who may have had concerns about their safety. Between December of 1998 and October of 2001, the line received over 26,000 calls.

These are the facts. The strict gun laws introduced in 1995, including the registry, have reduced gun-related crime in Canada. What is most frustrating for me about the argument against the gun registry is that the facts are ignored. The Harper government is saying, "I have made up my mind, so do not confuse me with the facts.''

Now that we know that the Firearms Act played a role in reducing gun crime in Canada, what role did the registry play?

Honourable senators, experts have said that registering all non-restricted firearms to their legal owners is the key to the effectiveness of gun control policy in five important ways. Let me give you these facts.

Screening and licensing firearm owners reduces the risk that dangerous people will have access to weapons, and registration reinforces the licensing, as it holds gun owners accountable for their firearms and reduces the chances that their guns will be diverted to unlicensed owners.

Honourable senators, we license drivers. We also register automobiles. This encourages responsible driving, assists the police in enforcing the law and combats car theft. The same principle applies to firearms.

Another fact: Police officers across Canada use the gun registry — 17,402 times per day was the last count — for preventative action or to enforce prohibition orders. An example is that shortly after the Dawson College shooting, the police used information from the registry to remove firearms from a potential copycat.

Similarly, after a man had threatened to kill a co-worker with a rifle, police confirmed through the registry that the suspect had a valid licence, with nine long guns registered, allowing them to recover the weapons and the ammunition.

Also, a total of 4,612 registered firearms were removed from individuals whose licences were revoked due to public safety concerns. That shows us that the registry has been effective.

The gun registry has aided police investigations. The gun registry has provided over 18,000 affidavits supporting the prosecution of gun crime. For example, the two men identified as accessories to the murder of four RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe, Alberta, were convicted, in part, because a registered gun was left at the crime scene and it could be traced.

Controls over legal guns are essential to choking off the illegal gun supply. An example of this was in March last year, when a licensed gun dealer from Quebec was charged for illegally selling 63 guns, including long guns, to Montreal street gangs. Police started investigating because three of the guns that happened to be registered to this individual were used in gang crimes. Because of that registry, they were able to find a lot of illegal guns.

Most industrialized countries register firearms. The registry helps Canada meet its international obligations to trace firearms and combat the illegal gun trade.

Honourable senators, I just provided five practical ways, with individual stories, in which the registry has helped fight crime in Canada. If we vote today to scrap the registry, these important crime-fighting tools will be lost.

Our Conservative colleagues have talked a lot about the cost of the registry system, but again facts are not part of their argument. The previous system, introduced in 1991 — this would have been by the Mulroney government — cost about $50 million annually and was deeply flawed. The building of the registry was more expensive than expected. However, what is done is done and the infrastructure is now in place. In the last audit of the program, the Auditor General of Canada reported that the annual costs had decreased significantly and that there had been a large improvement with the system. The RCMP has said that the registry now only costs $4 million per year to operate.

(1820)

How much are lives worth? I think even one life is worth this kind of money.

An Hon. Senator: Hear, hear.

Senator Eggleton: If the registry is gone, the cost of police investigations will increase because essential information will no longer be available. Police will be less likely to trace guns to their source and will compromise their investigations, and, more importantly, it will reduce their ability to take preventative action.

I know there are a lot of illegal guns as well. More has to be done about them coming across the border, but an awful lot of registered guns end up being used illegally ultimately or become a part of the problem in our country. Let us not discount them.

In 2006, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva singled out Canada's gun law for its significant impact on reducing gun death and injury in Canada. Here is an international agency that estimated that the decrease in gun injuries and gun deaths since 1995 has saved up to C$1.4 billion a year — and, I might add, how many lives? Many lives.

If it were as useless and wasteful as the government insists, then why would our police rely on it so much? Why would they use it so much? Why would they continue to insist that it is a valuable asset?

The police associations have stated that the registry is an essential tool in fighting crime. Toronto Police Service Chief Bill Blair, in his capacity as former president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said:

. . . we should not be diverted, here, from the most important point. This is about public safety. The registry has made Canada a safer country. The registry has saved lives. We lose it at our peril.

Let me just repeat part of that quote: "The registry has made Canada a safer country. The registry has saved lives. We lose it at our peril.''

Honourable senators, my last point is that I believe this bill is a reckless, short-sighted piece of legislation. Unlike all previous Conservative attempts to end the registry, Bill C-19 goes far beyond simply repealing elements of the Firearms Act. It actually removes critical measures that have been in place since 1977. It will allow a licensed owner to acquire an unlimited amount of guns without anyone being legally required to check whether the licence is valid. This includes weapons such as sniper rifles, the semi-automatic Ruger Mini-14, which was used in the Montreal massacre and used most recently to kill 77 Norwegians last summer. There will be no way to know who owns these powerful guns or who sold them. Let us be clear: We are talking about weapons that can pierce armoured cars and precisely hit a target nearly two kilometres away.

As well, there is no provision in the bill to reinstate the requirement that businesses keep records of sales. This has been required also since 1977, and will be repealed because it is kept in the registry. This removes the tool that allows police to find out where guns used during crimes come from. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police wrote to the Minister of Public Safety in May 2011 requesting that this requirement be reinstated and be kept and available to the RCMP. Without this information, there is no way for police to investigate the sources of rifles and shotguns recovered from crime scenes or seized from suspects.

Honourable senators, back in May 2010, a group of experts testified in favour of maintaining the long-gun registry. Included in this group were the RCMP, the Canadian Association of Police Boards, the Canadian Police Association, the Attorneys General of Ontario and Quebec, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, the Canadian Paediatric Association, the Canadian Labour Congress, and on and on.

Are we to believe the Conservative government's claims about the registry over all of these respected experts? There is no logic to the many contradictions coming from the government. On the one hand, the rationale behind their recently passed crime bill, Bill C-10, is that it would increase public safety. However, Bill C-19 is clearly a danger to the public. There is no consistency; it is going in the opposite direction. That is from what the Conservatives say; I do not think Bill C-10 is going to increase safety at all. It is going to create a crime factory in our prisons. Nevertheless, the government has said that, and now they are going in the other direction here.

Bill C-10 supposedly gives a voice to the victims of crime, yet this bill ignores what the victims themselves, who oppose this legislation, have been saying. I recently received a letter from the mother of one of the victims of the Montreal massacre. Perhaps we all did. I think it is worth repeating what she said. She said that the day parliamentarians passed this bill was the saddest day for her since December 6, 1989, when she lost her daughter. She said, "The government estimates the value of human life at $5 million. I can assure you the loss of a loved one cannot be measured in monetary terms. The pain of such a loss is beyond anything one can imagine. My faith in government is at the threshold of cynicism.''

Sadly, what we have is yet another policy — a Conservative policy — that is based solely on ideology and securing votes with a complete disregard for the facts, with a complete disregard for the evidence.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: The honourable senator's time is up. Do we agree to five more minutes?

Senator Eggleton: I only need one more minute.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Five more minutes.

Senator Eggleton: The abolition of the gun registry, I believe, is a slap in the face to victims of crime who are mourning their dead or tending their injuries. It will unnecessarily curtail a critical safeguard and crucial data that is needed to ensure the future safety of all Canadians.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Hon. Vernon White: Honourable senators, today I rise to speak about Bill C-19, a piece of legislation that will re-engage law-abiding Canadians who have felt that they have been treated like common criminals.

Honourable senators, I ask that you support this legislation as we right a wrong. The mere suggestion that knowing the serial number of a firearm would make society safer is ill-conceived at best.

[Translation]

Last week, the executive director of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association explained the problems with the long-gun registry.

[English]

He described the people within his organization, who enjoy responsible sport shooting, hunting, firearm collecting and related heritage pursuits. He stated his members enjoy a day at the range the way some families enjoy trips to the arena, soccer pitch or otherwise. He went on to say that his organization has expended $875,000 in the last 10 years defending members in criminal cases that pertain solely to an administrative breach of the law, criminalizing otherwise law-abiding, criminal-record-checked Canadians.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, we also heard from Linda Thom, who has represented Canada in international shooting competitions and has won five gold, four silver and two bronze medals for our country.

[English]

As well, Ms. Thom is best known for winning an Olympic gold medal in 1984. She spoke in favour of regulations regarding proper storage of firearms, such as safekeeping ammunition and guns, for example, and of the requirements regarding licensing of those wishing to have long guns to take and successfully complete gun safety courses, written and practical, continuing in her assertion that it is important that gun owners and those possessing a licence are real preventative tools.

We heard passionate people speak about the long-gun registry, honourable senators. We heard from lawful, engaged Canadians — those who are licensed to possess and acquire long guns and ammunition — tell us that they agree fully with the requirements for obtaining those licences and for the safety, safe handling and use of firearms in Canada, but that the long-gun registry is criminalizing those same Canadians.

Some witnesses referred to other countries and the movements that have either instituted or abolished registries such as that which we are speaking about today. I would suggest that Bill C-19 will allow us, as lawmakers and those who actively work with our communities to combat crime, to focus that energy on those who are committing crimes with guns rather than those who are not. The reality, honourable senators, is that those who are committing gun crimes in this country are neither the same people taking a two-day course in order to be able to apply for a licence nor those undergoing a criminal records check with the police. The truth, honourable senators, is that the criminals using guns out there in Canada are not bothered by our long-gun registry. They do not use it. Instead, it is one of the largest data banks of lawful Canadians that exist in this country.

(1830)

It is law-abiding Canadians who are made to feel like criminals and who often find themselves criminalized for a breach of administrative law and putting themselves at odds with law enforcement officials.

I would assert that the long-gun registry cannot prevent crime. It cannot predict criminal behaviour. After all, it is a list of serial numbers of pieces of equipment lawfully owned by lawful Canadians. The words "lawful Canadians'' should resonate with each of us, as gun owners would not be able to have a licence should this not be true.

What happens should Bill C-19 pass? We will continue to have the stringent, important safeguards in place — licences, police checks, mandatory waiting periods, references, attendance at required courses for the applicant, and passing written and practical tests. Each of these things makes long-gun owners accountable for that which they have chosen to become — owners and users of long guns. The reason these things, especially the written and practical tests, are put in place is because we have proven through hunter safety courses for many years that they are among the biggest strengths in preventing deaths and injuries in the hunting field and they have worked extremely well.

Some would argue that the registry assists police in knowing whether there is a gun in a residence prior to their arrival. I can say from experience that every officer I have worked with in almost 31 years goes to every call with the firm belief that there is a gun available to the person with whom they are about to deal. That thinking — and not a data bank which may or may not be accurate — will keep that officer alive. Again, it is this training and operational thinking — and not an inaccurate data bank — that will save the life of a police officer. Even the thought that the serial number of a long gun in a data bank makes one safer makes little or no sense.

The reality is that I could own a long gun, having been licensed appropriately and having lawfully registered it, and I could lawfully loan it to my friend, Senator Lang, for example, who I know has met the same licensing requirements. The officer coming to my house could check the data bank and find that I have a gun, when I do not. Another officer going to see Senator Lang could be told that he does not have a gun, when, in reality, because of the loan, he does. It was a system set up to fail, and it has succeeded in failure every time.

Last, when the registry was created, it was challenged in the courts by five provinces, including New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia, all of which, I believe, had Liberal governments at the time. I would argue that that undermines any partisan argument.

This is about a group of law-abiding Canadians who want to be treated with the respect they deserve. I would argue that the symbolism of tough gun laws is all well and good, but symbolism has not translated into savings lives. We need to focus on criminals using guns in Canada, not law-abiding Canadians who use guns as they have done in this country for centuries. I would argue that the long-gun registry has provided Canadians and police officers alike with a false sense of security. The strength of a strong government is that it admits a mistake has been made. In my view, honourable senators, this is one such opportunity we have been afforded in abolishing the long-gun registry and passing Bill C-19.

[Translation]

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, according to what we have heard over the past few weeks, Bill C-19 was apparently created in response to the fact that a number of honest citizens and hunters believed that they were being treated like criminals when they registered their firearms. The government's response to this concern, a legitimate one, was radical and difficult to justify.

On a number of occasions, they have talked about the good old hunting rifle, even though the bill also covers rifles that can pierce light armour. We have seen the list and pictures of long guns that will no longer have to be registered. You are all aware that these are not at all traditional hunting rifles.

The introduction of Bill C-19 has also been somewhat inconsistent because it comes to us just weeks after the passage of Bill C-10, which, according to the government, sought to make our streets and communities safer. The argument in favour of Bill C-19 and the abolition of the registry has been made many times. It is not guns that kill, we are told, but people. That argument seems to appeal to a number of honourable senators. My intention today is not to change their minds. They have had a number of opportunities to do so, and I respect their choices. I simply want to tell them that Bill C-19 is not limited to abolishing the registry, as they would like to believe.

People defend the abolition of the long-gun registry by saying that nothing will change and that if a person has a valid licence, then we should trust them. The problem is that Bill C-19 does not require the vendor to check the validity of the buyer's licence. People should stop saying that Bill C-19 only seeks to abolish the registry; it also makes it much easier for anyone to buy a weapon.

In 2009, the government introduced Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and another Act, which also sought to abolish the firearms registry. Bill S-5, indeed, sought to abolish only the long-gun registry. Bill C-19 differs from Bill S-5. Under the current legislation, when a firearm is purchased, the vendor has to notify the registrar of the transfer of the weapon in order to verify whether the person acquiring it has the necessary licence. That is only logical. Registry or not, we have to make sure that the person buying a weapon has a valid licence. Bill S-5 maintained that requirement. Under Bill S-5, which sought to abolish the long-gun registry, the vendor was the one required to notify the firearms registrar and to obtain a vendor's licence.

Again, whether you are for or against abolishing the registry, we can agree that the purchaser's licence should be verified. Bill S-5, introduced by this same government, fell in line with that principle. But the government changed its mind and that provision no longer exists in Bill C-19. Under Bill C-19, a vendor can request verification of the licence, but he does not have to. The vendor has to have "no reason to believe that the transferee is not authorized to acquire and possess that kind of firearm.'' That is all that is required.

Why remove the obligation to check the validity of the licence? Do we feel as though we are being treated like a thief when the librarian checks to see whether our library card is valid before allowing us to borrow books? Would an honest citizen object if the seller confirmed that he had the licence necessary to make a purchase? When we drive a car and we are stopped by the police, they verify whether we have a valid driver's licence. Is this not standard practice?

The minister told the committee that it would not be advisable for the store owner to sell a weapon to someone who did not have the required licence since the store owner could then be sentenced to five years in prison. In other words, following a murder or an attack involving a firearm, store owners can be found guilty if it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that there is "reason to believe that the transferee is not authorized to acquire and possess that kind of firearm.''

The words used in the bill are "reason to believe,'' but how can that be proven? Is it the store owner's fault if the purchaser showed him a very convincing fake licence? We are then faced with a crime that could have been avoided.

Let us set aside the issue of the registry since most honourable senators want it to be abolished. Rather, let us speak of the licence required to acquire a firearm. I am trying to understand why the government decided to take the same bill it introduced two years ago and remove the obligation to verify all licences at the time of purchase. It is this specific point that concerns me.

We have been told repeatedly that it is not the weapon that kills but the person. So then why would we not want to ensure that the identity of the transferee is known before the weapon is sold to him? Why would we no longer want to ensure that the transferee's licence is valid before he is allowed to acquire a weapon? After all, from what we are being told, it is the person who is dangerous, not the weapon.

As senators, these are the types of details on which we must focus. Have we really understood why the government did not just reintroduce Bill S-5? If the honourable senators are convinced that the registry must be abolished, are they certain that the bill before them does only that?

According to the testimony that we heard before the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, this bill does more than simply abolish the firearms registry.

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I hope all honourable senators, regardless of their position on the registry itself, are aware of that. By voting in favour of Bill C-19, we are abolishing the registry, but we are also removing the requirement to verify whether the buyer is licensed to possess a firearm. Therefore, honourable senators, I fail to see how Bill C-19 promotes public safety. I think it does the opposite.

Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, to govern is to choose between various options to prevent crime and make our streets safer. First, I want to make a few comments on the gun registry.

It was put in place as a political answer to the demands and representations made by victims and the families of victims of the Polytechnique massacre. That terrible tragedy, which occurred on December 6, 1989, shocked our whole society and was even felt abroad. Human beings, regardless of their nationality, are always shaken by such insane and inhuman behaviour. As we all know, this tragedy rocked our community because women were specifically targeted.

The crazed gunman, Marc Lépine, did not just kill 14 women. In a way, he fired on all the women of Quebec and Canada. Did he know his victims? Had he even met them before? The answer to these two questions is no. Since he did not know his victims personally, his deadly rage was not directed at them as human beings but, rather, at them as women. He fired on the women of Quebec and Canada. Consciously or not, that is how we absorbed that shock.

Without minimizing the pain felt by the families and loved ones of the 14 women killed on December 6, 1989, that terrible tragedy had a devastating impact on one of our most fundamental values, gender equality, which various people, but mainly courageous, trail-blazing women, have fought for decades to achieve. The Polytechnique massacre caused a trauma that was all the more significant because of that. This barbaric act touched the heart of our nation, but it was committed by an extremely disturbed individual who was obviously out of touch with reality and who went on a killing spree.

After the most serious wounds healed, various groups got organized to demand tougher and more restrictive laws. The extreme emotions related to the tragedy that led to their demands and their actions may have convinced the government of the day to take a series of important measures, some of which may have had a concrete impact, while others, such as the long-gun registry, did not have any impact on prevention. Unfortunately, of all the measures that were taken, it is the long-gun registry that came to symbolize the rejection of violence against women. In a way, the registry is also perceived by some as a monument to the memory of the Polytechnique victims. Unfortunately, the registry was the most ineffective and costly of all the control measures taken.

As parliamentarians, we must step back and take an objective look at what is presented to us. When we take the time to look at everyone's position on the gun registry issue, we quickly realize that there is no serious study proving its effectiveness in preventing homicides.

In fact, as my colleague, Senator Boisvenu, pointed out, a recent study by McMaster University revealed that having more stringent gun control laws has had no effect on the homicide rate and on spousal homicides in Canada. The researcher in charge of the study, an emergency medicine resident at McMaster University, discovered that the overall decline in gun crime could be attributed to a richer and older population, and that adopting better social programs to fight the causes of gun violence would be much more effective than legislation.

Other studies have concluded that gun control measures have a certain degree of effectiveness. One study in particular attracted my attention because it summarizes the studies about this subject. I am referring to the study of the impact of gun control laws on homicide in Canada between 1974 and 2004 by professor Étienne Blais, professor of criminology at Université de Montréal. This study was published in 2011 and sought to measure the impact of Bill C-51, passed in 1977, Bill C-17, passed in 1991 and Bill C-68, passed in 1998. It looked at performance indicators in order to measure the real impact of these three laws on homicide rates. These indicators included the province of origin, the proportion of men between 15 and 24 years of age, the unemployment rate, per capita beer consumption, and the number of homicides — using a restricted or prohibited weapon, a shotgun or a hunting rifle — per 100,000 inhabitants. The study suggests that the best preventive measures are conducting a background check of the person at the time a firearms possession permit is requested, storing firearms securely and cancelling a firearm possession licence.

If one thing has been proven, honourable senators, it is that there has been a decrease in the firearms mortality rate since 1979, well before the implementation of the firearms registry. However, several other measures have also been adopted since that time to control who is allowed to possess a firearm.

There is no research to show that there is a link between this decrease in the firearms mortality rate and the registration of such weapons in a national registry. It is more important to control who is allowed to own a weapon than to control the number of weapons that person can possess.

One fact remains. The implementation of the firearms registry cost taxpayers a fortune. According to the Auditor General of Canada, the firearms registry cost over $2 billion, and there is no concrete evidence to prove that it prevented a single crime. This amount could have been better spent preventing gun crime and adopting more effective tools for the police and courts to use in arresting and sentencing offenders.

Imagine for a moment what we could have done with $2 billion. Two billion dollars represents 2,000 additional police officers for 10 years or, if you prefer, 4,000 community workers for 10 years. Think about it. Personally, I am convinced that 2,000 additional police officers or 4,000 community workers in the area of prevention would have produced much better results than a registry, the impact of which we are still having difficulty determining after 17 years.

Some people claim that gun control legislation saves lives. Allow me to comment briefly on this myth. For many months and even years, the police have been saying that the firearms registry does not help to prevent gun crime. Gun control legislation is powerless to attack the root causes of crime and to prevent offenders from engaging in shootings in the streets. The evidence presented by the witnesses speaks for itself.

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The long-gun registry does not help put an end to gun crime, nor did it help save Canadian lives.

Honourable senators, the truth is that from a legislative perspective, the most effective form of gun control is still the licensing system. That is why Bill C-19 keeps the system currently in effect. That is also why it maintains the very strict control of restricted and prohibited firearms. At the end of the day, the firearms registry is just a data bank to which law-abiding firearms owners had to contribute data. Through its implementation, the bill before us will eliminate the requirement to register non-restricted long guns.

Abolition of the registry will free up resources from a program that has proven to be ineffective, cumbersome and costly. We will be able to use taxpayers' money to implement proven gun control and crime prevention measures. The measures missing from Bill C-19 are just as important as the ones it contains. For example, the bill makes no changes to the Canadian gun licensing system.

Anyone wishing to acquire and own a long gun or any other type of weapon will still have to get the necessary licences. I would like to correct something Senators Chaput and Hervieux-Payette said. The honourable senators said earlier in the day that Bill C-19 would get rid of the requirement for a purchaser to present a licence when purchasing a firearm. That requirement does not exist under the current legislation. The only requirement of the purchaser is to have a valid licence at the time of the purchase.

The current section 23(a) of the legislation stipulates that:

the transferee holds a licence authorizing the transferee to acquire and possess that kind of firearm.

There is no requirement to present a licence. Bill C-19 does not change this section of the act. Nonetheless, Bill C-19 does introduce a new provision, section 23.1, which allows the vendor to verify with the registrar whether the purchaser holds the licence referred to in paragraph 23(a), which we do not have in the current legislation. Purchasers will still have to submit to a thorough background check and pass the Canadian Firearms Safety Course before they can obtain a licence.

Honourable senators, as prescribed under the existing regulations, these individuals will undergo an extensive verification to ensure that they do not have a history of violent criminal offences or a mental illness associated with violence, that a tribunal has not issued a prohibition order preventing them from possessing a firearm, and that they do not represent a threat to security.

Bill C-19 does not change anything about that. In fact, our government has taken measures to strengthen the licensing system.

[English]

Additional funding of $7 million per year has been invested since 2006 to enhance front-end screening of first-time firearms licence applicants. This funding allows officials to screen an additional 20,000 applicants per year, including all applicants for restricted licences.

[Translation]

Our government has also acted to improve compliance with the existing federal legislation on firearms and to ensure that an increasing number of gun owners are licensed and, consequently, are subject to ongoing verification of their eligibility. Such ongoing control measures will ensure that a licensed gun owner who displays high-risk behaviour is automatically brought to the attention of law enforcement authorities. In fact, there is a 1-800 line that allows individuals who are concerned about public safety as it relates to firearms, albeit not in an urgent way, to report such situations.

Therefore, a number of measures already exist and will remain in place to monitor firearms. They include the firearm prohibition order, the rejection of the initial request and the licence revocation.

To understand the impact of all these measures, it is interesting to know that, in 2005, there were 58,709 people who had their firearm licence revoked. Under our government, that number climbed to 301,048 in 2010.

Honourable senators, one must realize that the gun registry is just one of many measures taken to monitor the use of firearms. The Canadian Firearms Program includes about 20 measures. These include the imposition of minimal sentences, a thorough review of licence holders, the ongoing verification of eligibility . . .

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, the honourable senator's time has expired.

Senator Carignan: May I have five more minutes?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Carignan: . . . the requirement to take a firearms safety course, the regulations on the safe storage of firearms and ammunition, and so on. There are an impressive number of specific measures to control firearms, and this is probably why, since 2006, over 300,000 people have been prohibited from having firearms.

[English]

In addition to leaving the existing licensing regime in place, Bill C-19 also makes no change to the requirement for owners of restricted and private firearms, including all handguns and automatic firearms, to register these weapons through the RCMP's Canadian Firearms Program.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, Bill C-19 will allow us to achieve a balance by preserving the existing licensing system and maintaining the compulsory registration of restricted and prohibited firearms, while abolishing the requirement to legally register rifles and shotguns.

Our government is committed to making our communities safer. However, the long-gun registry does not in any way help achieve that objective. In conclusion, honourable senators, I would like to summarize again the goals that Bill C-19 will allow us to reach.

It will eliminate the obligation for law-abiding long gun owners to register their non-restricted guns. It will eliminate the burden imposed on law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport hunters, who have been treated like criminals for too long.

It will put the emphasis back on proven tools used by law enforcement authorities, tools that are reliable and produce the desired results.

At the same time, the strict licensing system in place, which is among the concrete and responsible measures taken to control firearms, will remain unchanged.

Honourable senators, in May of last year, we presented Canadians with a clear plan explaining how we are going to fulfill our mandate. We promised to reintroduce our law and order measures, and to adopt them in the first 100 sitting days of Parliament. That is why I am inviting all honourable senators to look at the legislation before us today and to vote in favour of it.

Senator Chaput: Honourable senators, I agree with the honourable senator when he says that Bill C-19 does not remove the obligation to present a licence. He misinterpreted what I said earlier.

Now, I am going to ask this question: Does Bill C-19 remove the obligation for the seller to verify the validity of the licence presented by the buyer?

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Senator Carignan: Not at all. That individual is not allowed to sell his weapon to someone who does not have a licence. If he does, he is committing an offence punishable by up to five years in prison. That is why, as a lawyer, if I were giving advice to someone selling a weapon, I would suggest that he ask the question.

The law does not oblige people to ask the question, but they do not have the right to sell to anyone who does not have a licence. If a seller has reasonable grounds to believe that the buyer does not have a licence, he must not sell the weapon. How does one verify this, if there are no reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the person does not have a licence? The best way is to ask the question.

Senator Chaput: What is the definition of "reasonable grounds''?

Senator Carignan: I think that when one is selling a weapon, especially for a store like Canadian Tire or some other similar business, there are no grounds; there is no other way besides asking the question. I do not think that stores or businesses would risk committing even one offence of this nature, considering the consequences they could suffer. I am sure these people would definitely verify these things.

Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I will come back to this very specific point in a few moments.

[English]

I would like to echo the sentiments expressed yesterday by Senator Lang, who said that in our committee, I think all members had their understanding of the other side deepened. I would like to say for the record that the person who was most responsible for deepening my understanding of the other side was Senator Lang himself. His passion, conviction and transparent honesty in presenting his passion and conviction were far more persuasive to me than any witness who supported Bill C-19.

We are told that the registry is not perfect. Well, no database is perfect, absolutely not perfect. The fact that it is not perfect does not make it unuseful, does not invalidate its use as a tool. I wish to note that if it is imperfect, if it contains errors, there are some reasons for that which tend to be overlooked. One is that, from the outset, some people set out deliberately to sabotage the registry, not only by tying up phone lines but by making false entries, as we were reminded yesterday, even in registering glue guns.

The amnesty this government brought in almost as soon as it took office and has renewed five times has also undoubtedly contributed to the fact that much of the registry's information is not up to date.

Finally, I would note that many errors, according to the Auditor General, relate to the transfer of earlier data about handguns, not about long guns.

We are told, among other imperfections, that many police do not really understand the registry, so they make mistakes when they are administering it because they have not been properly trained. Well, if they have not been trained, train them. That is not an excuse for abolishing the tool.

Let us go back to why the registry exists. It was designed to reduce, not eliminate, the risk of death and injury by guns. Despite the critics' allegations, it has helped to achieve that goal.

We heard from Senator Eggleton, for example, about statistics regarding the decline in gun-related deaths, even though the population has increased. Senator Eggleton and others have mentioned the foiling of the would-be copycat killer after the Dawson College shootings in Quebec as well as the case relating to the Mayerthorpe gun and the registry's utility in finding accessories to that. There are other examples of the utility of the gun registry. Heather Imming, who faced violence by her partner, credits the removal of the firearm because of the registry for saving her life.

In February, there was another example. An employee of a B.C. hunting store was charged with stealing 159 firearms from that shop and trafficking them by posting them on websites popular with gun enthusiasts. The police say the registry helped to apprehend the suspect and recover 159 stolen guns. That is a reminder that, even though it is true, as we are told so often, that criminals do not register their guns, criminals do steal guns and that it is not infrequent for those stolen guns to be traced back because there is basic information in the registry about the original source, the original owner of those guns.

That kind of example is why so many people, including police, support retaining the registry. We hear about one debatable survey of front-line police officers, but the fact is that every front-line police organization in the country, from front-line cops all the way up to chiefs of police, all support retaining the registry, and these examples show why they use it. We are told that of those 17,000 daily referrals to the registry, probably a lot of them are automatic and do not really count. Even some of the ones that are automatic produce useful information, automatic if a car that looks suspicious is stopped, even at a traffic stop.

For example, one thing that strikes me is that last year in the nine months to September 30 there were, as a daily average, 363 queries relating specifically to the serial numbers of the guns in the registry — 363 per day. That is over 130,000 per year. That means the police are using that registry.

The registry has been instrumental in producing 18,000 affidavits to support prosecution of gun-related crime, and 2,000 licences are revoked each year by court order or by the police. Because of the registry, when those licences are revoked each year, 4,500 guns are seized from people who it has been determined should not have guns and who represent a public danger. Nobody is talking about taking away the guns of safe, law-abiding, ordinary citizens, but some people should not have guns.

We also hear a lot about the costs. We hear over and over again that famous $2 billion figure. Well, first of all, what it costs to set up the registry is sunk money; it is gone and we will never get it back.

In any case, most of the money to start up the registry and to continue it in operation today, the firearms control registration system, is related to the licensing system, not to the long-gun registry. The long-gun registry accounts for less than 10 per cent of the operating cost of our gun control system. The RCMP says it will save only $4 million per year when the long-gun registry is gone, and as has been pointed out, the cost of police investigations will, of course, rise.

Against that cost, look at the cost of gun-related violence to Canadian society. Estimates range between $3 billion and $6 billion per year. Honestly, is it not worth retaining a $4 million tool to help keep down costs of between $3 billion and $6 billion?

One particularly emotional element of this debate is that it is often seen as opposing urban Canadians to rural, and especially to Aboriginal Canadians for whose way of life the use of guns for hunting is often integral. However, problems with guns exist in rural and Aboriginal communities as well. To give just one example, communities with above-average rates of gun possession also have above-average suicide rates, for example, in Aboriginal communities in rural Alberta. Other studies find that rural and Aboriginal women are far more apt than others to report great fear of spousal violence because there are guns in the house.

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That last fact is a reminder that this is a women's issue. It is not only a women's issue. If you are dead, you are dead, whether you are a man or a woman. However, it is a women's issue because, over and over again, rifles and shotguns are the weapons most often used to threaten or kill women and children. That is why I find it so unbelievable and inexcusable that the government apparently did no gender analysis of this bill before presenting it.

There are so many things wrong with this bill, but if we pass it — as the government side is determined to do — without amendment, what will happen? What will be the results? For starters, we will be in breach of a series of international obligations, as we were reminded by Senator Hervieux-Payette. There are at least four or five international instruments that require that we trace firearms — the possession, sale and transfer of firearms.

We asked a civil servant who is supposed to be knowledgeable about this and he said, "Well, once you pass Bill C-19, there are other things you can do to trace the firearms.'' However, he was not specific at all about how one could do that without passing fresh legislation to enable the tracing of firearms if we are going to meet those international obligations.

In that context, as I told the committee, I was particularly struck by the case of the UN Firearms Protocol, which requires tracing. Just last October, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Prime Minister Harper urged Commonwealth heads of government to comply with all obligations arising under international law and urged all countries to become parties to and implement the UN Firearms Protocol. I do not know where to spot a note of sincerity in these conflicting positions; maybe in neither.

Here at home, we will damage federal-provincial relations. As we have heard, the Province of Quebec, as is its constitutional right, wished to set up a gun registry for its own citizens and asked the federal government to negotiate the transfer of the data. The Minister of Public Security of Quebec, Robert Dutil, wrote a letter to our committee which states:

[Translation]

Quebec wishes to agree on the conditions for the transfer of registry data concerning Quebec citizens as soon as possible. In our opinion, this would be the perfect opportunity for the federal government to deal with this matter in a spirit of cooperative federalism.

[English]

So much for cooperative federalism. This bill, far from consenting to negotiations, says that data have to be destroyed as soon as feasible after the bill is passed. I do not know whether that can be done in 10 seconds, 10 minutes, 10 hours or 10 days, but the law is going to say "as soon as feasible,'' which is, of course, why the Government of Quebec has now had to resort to seeking an injunction before the courts.

Far worse, from the point of view of ordinary citizens, is that this bill will create gigantic loopholes in our system. First, there is the matter of non-restricted guns. Some honourable senators have seen the email I sent around —

Senator LeBreton: Which was ridiculous.

Senator Fraser: I wish it were ridiculous.

Senator LeBreton: It is ridiculous.

Senator Fraser: — with illustrations of some of the weapons which, under Canadian controls now, are not restricted. They are, however, like all guns, at the moment, required to be registered. They include the gun that was used at l'École Polytechnique. The same gun was used, as Senator Hervieux-Payette said, to kill 77 young people in Norway last summer.

When the registry is gone, honourable senators, those guns will still be unrestricted and freely available — one can buy them on the Internet — and there will be no way to know who in Canada is toting around guns that are actually sold as assault rifles. Their makers, in some of these cases, call them assault rifles. These are not duck guns. If one tried to shoot a duck with one of them, one would blow the poor bird to smithereens.

That is one problem. The next problem, as has been said, is that there will be no obligation on merchants to keep records. For years before there was a gun registry, there was an obligation on merchants to keep what were called "green books,'' which were records of who bought which gun, and those records were available to the police if the need arose.

We heard from Sergeant Murray Grismer, who opposes the registry and supports this bill. He said:

Years ago, before I became a police officer, I worked in retail sales in a sporting goods shop. 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.

However, the government is not interested in restoring that system. We will be going back not just a couple of decades, but we will be going back to the mid-1970s, to the status quo then when no such ledgers were required. The government side in committee voted down an amendment to re-establish this non-onerous system of keeping records, which would help the police to do their jobs and which would remove the onus from gun owners and give it back to the merchants to keep the records. I cannot understand why the government does not want to preserve those.

May I have five minutes more, please?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Five minutes.

Senator Fraser: Thank you very much, honourable senators.

As has been much discussed here, there is the question of licences. It is unfortunately true that there is no obligation in this bill for merchants to check the validity of licences. The bill says that the purchaser must possess — not present, but possess — a licence and that the merchant must have — a double negative is about to appear — no reason to believe that the purchaser does not have a valid licence. There is no obligation on the merchant to verify in any way whether there is such a valid licence. The merchant is allowed to call the firearms centre to ask, "By the way, does this person have a valid licence?'' However, the firearms people are not allowed to keep a record of that call.

We know that some of the worst people in our society who are going to turn up to buy guns are among some of the most plausible folks, some of them our next-door neighbours. I draw to honourable senators' attention the estimable character of Colonel Russell Williams, for example, the previously believed to be estimable character.

In the past — actually, under the law as it still exists tonight — the merchant does not have to check the validity of the licence, because what the merchant does have to do under the present law is call the firearms people to ask, "Can you give me a registration certificate for this person and the gun?'' Before that certificate is issued, the firearms people check to see whether there is a valid licence.

However, there will no longer be registration certificates for long guns. We will have more than 7 million long guns out there — the ones that are now registered, plus all the ones that will be bought — with no means of knowing who has them, where they are or what their origin might have been, let alone whether they are in the hands of criminals or people who have lost their licence, as, I think, about 2,000 a year do, sometimes because of emotional difficulties, for example.

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We proposed an amendment for licence checks as well, and the government side voted that down, too.

Senator Tardif: Shame.

Senator Fraser: I find it incomprehensible, inexplicable that this government, which is so quick to trumpet its dedication to the police and to victims, should insist on pressing ahead with this bill, which is opposed by police and by the majority of victims.

Honourable senators should have heard some of their representatives speak to us. I will quote to you Mr. Steve Sullivan, the victims' representative in Ottawa, who said, "we talk about how maybe gun owners feel. I apologize if they feel that way, but, with all due respect, we,'' that is, those who deal with victims, "deal with people who face real terror and real fear.'' He went on to say a little later that "those people may feel targeted. The people we stand with are targeted.''

That is the terrible truth, honourable senators. It is not the law-abiding gun owners who are the problem. It is the people who should not have guns who are dangerous and who will now find it much easier to get guns. Trust me — some of them will use those guns.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, I would like to also add my support to Bill C-19, the ending the long-gun registry act. This legislation, 17 years in the making, will finally repeal the inane requirement to register non-restricted firearms such as long guns. This requirement was introduced by the Liberals in 1995 and has, as has been said many times this evening and over the past, proved to be a $2 billion boondoggle that was both wasteful and ineffective and did nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

At the outset, I would like to note that I myself do not own any guns and have not since the Liberals enacted the long-gun registry. I did own three long guns until that point, always using them responsibly and storing them correctly and safely. However, I was not about to register them, so just before the registry came into effect, I disposed of all of my guns.

Senator Chaput stated, and I would like to quote the same statement — and possibly the words are a little different — that guns do not kill people; people kill people.

We have heard several senators reference the École Polytechnique massacre with regard to this legislation. This massacre was a devastating event in Montreal in 1989, where 25-year-old Marc Lépine shot 28 people, specifically targeting women before killing himself. He was armed with a Mini-14 rifle, a long gun, which was legally obtained. Let me repeat that: It was legally obtained.

The fact that this gun was legally obtained did not change the fact that Marc Lépine was a misogynist and a violent criminal. It was he who brutally shot and murdered 14 innocent women. Instead of creating this wasteful, ineffective registry, the Liberal government should have been creating tougher penalties for violent criminals.

For several years running, Winnipeg has been the murder capital of Canada per capita. Further, in 2010, the rate of murder in Manitoba was the highest of all the provinces and territories. A lot of these violent criminals get recruited through gangs. Parm Gill, Member of Parliament for Brampton—Springdale, recently introduced in the other place Bill C-394, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and National Defence Act (criminal organization recruitment). This bill seeks to address the issue of innocent and vulnerable youth being actively targeted and recruited by criminal organizations. This legislation will provide the necessary tools for law enforcement officials and our justice system to hold these criminals accountable for their actions and will help to protect our youth.

Our Conservative government was given a strong, renewed mandate. We have successfully introduced and passed legislation that will fight crime and put away violent criminals. Our government will continue to focus our efforts on measures that can actually tackle crime and make our communities safer. As Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews recently stated:

. . . we have brought in mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes and targeted those who engage in dangerous criminal activity such as drive-by shootings. We have also funded numerous programs through the national crime prevention strategy that helps stop gun crime before it happens. That is how we keep Canadians safe, through tough and effective laws and smart prevention programs, not through needlessly increasing red tape and targeting law-abiding Canadians.

The Liberals and the NDP have opposed our tough-on-crime legislation at every step of the way. The opposition logic of a criminal thinking, "Hey, I better register my firearm before I use it in the commission of a crime,'' is truly baffling. Yet, the long-gun registry treats law-abiding hunters, farmers and sport shooters as if they are criminals.

A very good friend of mine, together with his sons, in my hometown of Landmark, Manitoba, hunt every type of wild game, including deer, moose, elk, bears and wild turkeys, just to name a few. They do it in every season of the year using different types of firearms, including muzzle loaders, long guns, bow and arrow, as well as cross bows. They diligently practise safe gun use and storage. As well, they have taken all the necessary safety courses. They have rightfully been opposed to this registry since its conception in 1995. They will now have the freedom to use their guns safely without reprisal.

Bill C-19 does not change the fact that there is and still will be a requirement for all individuals to hold valid firearm licences, undergo police background checks and pass the Canadian Firearms Safety Course in order to possess a firearm. Individuals will still continue to be required to register prohibited and restricted firearms such as handguns.

Honourable senators, I think we must address the real issue of firearms. Unsafe storage of firearms can lead to accidents and fatalities. Also, uneducated use of firearms is a problem that must be addressed.

In 2003, Statistics Canada reported that of the 526 victims of attempted murder that year across Canada, 82 per cent of the victims were injured with something other than a gun. Of the 93 attempted murder victims that year who were injured by firearms, 72 per cent were injured with handguns. Handguns fall under the category of prohibited and restricted firearms and will continue to with Bill C-19.

Further to this, only 29 per cent of the 548 murders committed in 2003 were with a firearm. Of that, only 6 per cent of the guns used were registered. The other 94 per cent were either unregistered or the government did not know the registration status as they were stolen property or the serial numbers had been removed. That, again, leads me to the question as to why we are treating law-abiding citizens, such as farmers and duck hunters who use long guns for legal purposes, as criminals.

Honourable senators, it is time to do the right thing and to end this $2 billion ineffective, wasteful, Liberal boondoggle. I encourage all honourable senators to vote in favour of Bill C-19.

(1930)

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Are senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Some Hon. Senators: No.

Some Hon. Senators: Yes.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Those in favour of the motion please say "yea.''

Some Hon. Senators: Yea.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Those opposed to the motion please say "nay.''

Some Hon. Senators: Nay.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: In my opinion, the "yeas'' have it.

And two honourable senators having risen:

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Call in the senators. Do the whips have advice with regard to the bell?

Senator Munson: Under the Rules of the Senate, I wish to defer the vote.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: The vote is deferred until tomorrow at 5:30 p.m.

First Nations Elections Bill

Third Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Patterson, seconded by the Honourable Senator Ogilvie, for the third reading of Bill S-6, An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations.

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to third reading of Bill S-6, An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations.

Honourable senators, the sponsor of the bill pointed out its good points a few weeks ago, and I will not focus on those this evening. The critic of the bill spoke last week about some of the issues with respect to the process, and I do not want to say very much about that. I want to say that I believe that members of the committee did not get a chance to hear the arguments for some of the amendments that a small group of us discussed in a small committee meeting. I believe that that was a mistake. I think that we should have come together as a whole committee before clause-by-clause consideration of the bill in order to hear the reasoning behind the proposal of some of the amendments.

What I will do tonight is try to convince the members of the committee, as well as members opposite, as to why we should at least move one amendment, and that is to delete clause 3(1)(b) of the bill. That is basically the purpose of my speech tonight.

Bill S-6 was developed, at the request of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat, as opt-in legislation for First Nations who hold elections under the Indian Act. This bill does contain good provisions, which the sponsor of the bill talked about. I just mentioned that. I have absolutely no problems with the opt-in provisions of the bill. He did not, however, say much about the main problem with the bill, which is the inclusion of clause 3(1)(b). This clause allows the minister to order a First Nation to come under the provisions of the bill and thus have to conduct its elections according to the provisions of Bill S-6. In other words, if the minister has ruled that a band has had a protracted leadership dispute that has significantly compromised the governance of that First Nation, the minister can unilaterally change their system of governance to that outlined in Bill S-6. To make matters even worse, this forced conversion will apply not only to the 240 bands that hold Indian Act elections but also to the 341 bands that hold community custom code elections. Only the 36 First Nations who are self-governing are exempt from such ministerial intervention. Clearly, clause 3(1)(b) has far-reaching, negative consequences for almost all bands.

Honourable senators, there are six reasons why clause 3(1)(b) should be deleted from the bill. First, all of the witnesses, except for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, AANDC, were opposed to this clause. Second, clause 3(1)(b) is unconstitutional. Third, clause 3(1)(b) significantly extends the powers of the minister to intervene in elections held under custom code and not just those held under Indian Act provisions. Fourth, there are better ways to intervene in protracted election disputes in First Nation communities. Fifth, there is the potential for this clause to be used inappropriately. Finally, sixth, deletion of clause 3(1)(b) is simply the right thing to do.

Honourable senators, I will deal with each of these reasons in more depth now. First, all of the witnesses, except for AANDC, were opposed to this clause. Both of the regional First Nation organizations — the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic Policy Congress — who were the instigators of this legislation only asked for opt-in provisions. With regard to clause 3(1)(b), Grand Chief Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs stated:

If I may, I would agree with a recommendation that 3(1)(b) and (c) be severed from the legislation. I agree with your characterization of these provisions to be reflective of a time that has come and gone, a paternalistic approach to management of the relationships within our communities.

Similarly, Mr. John Paul of the Atlantic Policy Congress stated that:

Imposing the will on a community externally has consequences. We have learned over the years that if anyone imposes their will upon communities, they are very negative about that kind of stuff.

Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould of the Assembly of First Nations stated:

Unfortunately, the power set out in subclauses 3(1)(b) and (c) of this proposed bill . . . is actually an example of an inappropriate use of federal legislation, an inappropriate use of federal legislation I referred to at the First Nation-Crown gathering. These provisions essentially give the minister the ability to impose core governance rules on a First Nation, which, if ever used, would be resented by that First Nation, would not be seen as legitimate in the eyes of that nation, and would probably add fuel to an already burning fire.

The witness from the Canadian Bar Association stated that the clause should:

. . . explicitly exclude First Nations with self-government agreements and First Nations that are currently operating under customary systems of governance, unless their consent is obtained in accordance with either their customary practices or, in the absence thereof, by a double majority vote.

The witnesses from the Assembly of First Nations, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and Chief Cook-Searson from Saskatchewan all thought that clause 3(1)(b) should be deleted from the bill. The message was very clear: Delete clause 3(1)(b) because it is unacceptable practice in the 21st century and because, without excluding First Nations operating under custom code elections, the bill goes beyond the scope of opt-in legislation for First Nations under the Indian Act.

The second reason to delete clause 3(1)(b) is that it is unconstitutional. It was noted by the witness from the Canadian Bar Association that the application of clause 3(1)(b) to First Nations with customary systems of governance potentially infringes on constitutionally protected rights of self-governance. The witness stated:

Allowing the minister to prescribe a form of election for First Nations that currently operate in accordance with customary elections would represent a significant interference with protected rights of self-government.

Furthermore, the witness stated:

The broad discretion afforded to the minister to include participating First Nations could then impact on constitutionally protected rights and international legal principles.

In addition, while the government officials stated that the minister has ordered a new election only three times in First Nation elections in the last 10 years, and while they insisted that the minister would only do so in rare circumstances, such an action would be a continuation of archaic colonial practices and is completely contrary to the inherent right of First Nations to govern themselves.

Granting such legislative power to the minister of AANDC is particularly troublesome coming right after the Crown-First Nation accord in January, where National Chief Atleo urged the government to "re-invigorate the original relationships that were based on mutual recognition, sharing, and trust'' and reset the agenda.

(1940)

The third reason to delete clause 3(1)(b) is that the minister will gain new powers over custom code First Nations through this clause. Under the Indian Act, the minister has the power to intervene in a First Nation election and order a new election for the "good governance'' of the band, but this power is limited to the 240 First Nations who hold elections under section 74 of the Indian Act. If a First Nation operates under custom code, the minister cannot intervene unless asked to do so by the First Nation through the Custom Election Dispute Resolution Policy or by court order. However, under clause 3(1)(b) of Bill S-6, the minister will gain statutory authority to place First Nations who operate under custom election codes on the schedule of Bill S-6, and thus grant the minister the statutory authority to intervene in custom code election disputes without a request by the First Nation or without an order from a court.

There are 341 First Nations that operate under custom election codes. If Bill S-6 passes, the minister would be able to intervene in any protracted leadership disputes they may have, and such intervention would supersede the voluntary Custom Election Dispute Resolution Policy.

To reiterate this point, the minister will be able to order any of the 341 First Nations that hold custom election codes to conduct a Bill S-6 style election if he deems that there has been a protracted leadership dispute compromising its governance. This is a new power. He cannot do this at present unless he is asked to do so by the First Nation or by a court order.

In addition, the minister will be able to order any of the 200 First Nations under the Indian Act to come under the provisions of the bill rather than opt in. Currently the minister can only order them to hold an Indian Act election.

The fourth reason to delete clause 3(1)(b) is that there are better ways to intervene in prolonged election disputes. AANDC witnesses stated it was necessary to order such First Nations to hold Bill S-6 type elections because in Indian Act elections there are no provisions defining election offences or setting penalties for such offences. However, this could be remedied simply by amending the Indian Act to contain the same provisions as in Bill S-6 that outline the offences and penalties. If the minister then orders an Indian Act election for a First Nation that operates under custom code, the Indian Act election would have the same offences and penalties as under Bill S-6.

Furthermore, witnesses stated that the vast majority of election problems occur with those First Nations that conduct Indian Act elections; amending the Indian Act would seem to be a good strategy to prevent these from occurring. The insistence of AANDC on retaining clause 3(1)(b) as is gives one the distinct impression that the department wants the power to intervene in custom code elections.

The fifth reason to delete clause 3(1)(b) is that there is no guarantee that the minister will not use clause 3(1)(b) inappropriately. The department argues that First Nations can trust the minister not to use this clause inappropriately because the minister of AANDC has intervened only three times in the past 10 years; however, there is no guarantee that this will hold true in the future. For example, as pressure mounts to increase natural resource development on or near First Nation land, there is great potential for significant dissension, and as First Nation communities, provincial governments and private sector organizations try to negotiate agreements, there likely will be protracted leadership disputes in First Nation communities.

The federal government authorities are not neutral. The federal government has its own interests, which may well be at odds with those of a particular First Nation, and so it is possible that the minister may be inclined to order an election in hopes of finding First Nation leadership that will come to an agreement more quickly.

Finally, the sixth reason clause 3(1)(b) should be deleted is simple. It is just not the right thing to do in the 21st century. Despite all the considerable efforts of a First Nation community to develop their own custom code election provisions and even have them approved by the minister, the minister can still take back control of their election process through clause 3(1)(b) of Bill S-6. That just is not right.

Chief Wilson-Raybould stated:

Corruption and lack of accountability is highly exaggerated in our First Nation communities. To think that the imposition of an external government's piece of legislation will solve those challenges is somewhat, in my respectful view, misguided.

Honourable senators, a lingering symptom of colonialism is the constant trivializing of the rights of First Nations peoples and the continuing unchallenged position of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Department Canada and its minister as being the experts in knowing what is best for Aboriginal people. First Nations should not have to justify why they want to limit the power of the minister of AANDC over their own community custom elections.

Honourable senators, I ask you not to pass Bill S-6 as is, but to support an amendment to delete clause 3(1)(b) that grants the minister of AANDC the power to order a First Nation to come under the provisions of this bill rather than opt in. As I said previously, due to unexpected circumstances, I was not able to make the foregoing comments at a committee meeting, so I now ask the members of the Aboriginal Peoples Committee in particular to do what the First Nations witnesses —

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Does the Honourable Senator Dyck need more time?

Senator Dyck: Five more minutes.

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Dyck: Thank you.

I now ask the members of the Aboriginal Peoples Committee in particular to do what the First Nations witnesses and the Canadian Bar Association asked us to do, and that is to vote in favour of an amendment to delete clause 3(1)(b).

I will remind the committee members that in our report on First Nation elections, released in May 2010 and entitled First Nations Elections: The Choice is Inherently Theirs, we stated:

. . . any attempts by the department to regulate custom leadership processes, once in place, could constitute an unjust interference of those rights.

Clause 3(1)(b) is such an attempt by the department to regulate custom leadership processes. If we, as members of the committee, do not vote to delete this clause, we would be contradicting ourselves. Furthermore, in our report we recommended that the department commit the resources and work collaboratively with Indian Act bands to help them convert to or update their custom code elections — in other words, move to a better election system. In other words, rather than allowing the minister to force First Nations to change their election mode to conform to Bill S-6, the minister should be helping them convert to or update their custom code elections. That would be much more preferable.

Finally, in our report, we recommended that a First Nations electoral and appeals commission be established immediately. If this commission were set up, this would be a better way to deal with protracted leadership disputes in First Nation communities and the minister would not feel that he somehow had to control what was going on in Indian elections.

Honourable senators, if we do not delete clause 3(1)(b) we will be contributing to the chipping away of First Nation rights. If we do not delete clause 3(1)(b) we will be like accomplices in a crime — the crime of doing nothing when we know that we have the power to stop something wrong from happening.

Though Bill S-6 is marketed as optional, that is, an individual First Nation may choose to opt in, the reality is if this bill passes with clause 3(1)(b) the minister will have the power to add any First Nation having a protracted leadership dispute to come under the provisions of this bill without their consent.

Honourable senators, please let us do the right thing, let us do the honourable thing: Let us pass an amendment to delete clause 3(1)(b). I outlined six reasons why we should do this. First Nations deserve our support in amending Bill S-6 to delete clause 3(1)(b). Please, honour their request.

(1950)

Motion in Amendment

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, therefore, I move that Bill S-6 be not now read the third time but that it be amended as follows:

(a) on page 3, in clause 3,

(i) by deleting lines 1 to 3;

(ii) by replacing lines 4 to 9 with the following:

" (b) the Governor in Council has set aside an election of the Chief and councillors of that First Nation under section 79 of the Indian Act on a report of the Minister that there was corrupt practice in connection with that election.''; and

(b) on page 4, in clause 5, by replacing lines 4 to 7 with the following:

" (b) in the case of a First Nation whose name is added to the schedule under paragraph 3(1)(b), six months after the day on which the order is made.''.

(On motion of Senator Carignan, debate adjourned to the next sitting of the Senate.)

Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Budget—Study on the Progress in Implementing the 2004 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care—Eighth Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the eighth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, (budget—study on the 2004, 10 year plan to strengthen health care), presented in the Senate on April 2, 2012.

Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie moved the adoption of the report.

Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I urge Senator Ogilvie to tell us a little more about this report, please.

Senator Ogilvie: Honourable senators, this is a budget of the committee with regard to the presentation of the study on the 2004 10-year health accord. It deals with the development of an executive summary and a special publication that will be roughly 12 pages long and will save the Senate nearly 200 pages in publication.

Senator Fraser: It sounds good.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)

Budget and Authorization to Engage Services—Study on Social Inclusion and Cohesion—Ninth Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the ninth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, (budget—study on social inclusion and cohesion in Canada—power to hire staff), presented in the Senate on April 2, 2012.

Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie moved the adoption of the report.

Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, I have not seen the report and I have a question that also applies to the next report. Are there any substantive changes from what was requested by the committee?

Senator Ogilvie: No.

Hon. Joan Fraser: For the benefit of honourable senators who were not part of those deliberations, could Senator Ogilvie tell us more about what is involved? It sounds like an extremely interesting study, but it could also be extremely expensive.

Senator Ogilvie: Honourable senators, I was waiting to get the chance to speak to this report. This report is on the study of social inclusion under way at the committee. Senator Eggleton has been largely responsible for moving this through the Senate. The report is nearly complete. The budget of $21,500 had been approved and deals with exactly the same issue that I mentioned before: the publication of an executive summary that saves the Senate a substantial number of pages in publication.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)

Budget and Authorization to Engage Services—Study on Prescription Pharmaceuticals—Tenth Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the tenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, (budget—study on prescription pharmaceuticals in Canada—power to hire staff), presented in the Senate on April 2, 2012.

Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie moved the adoption of the report.

He said: Honourable senators, the report represents exactly the same kind of publication budget but for two reports on two consecutive studies that are now under way and anticipated to be completed in this budget year on the pharmaceutical study. The first study is under way on the clinical trials; and the second study, which we hope to commence in the fall, will deal with the post-approval surveillance. The report refers to the publication of exactly the same kind of study and the same order of funds.

Senator Fraser: Is that all?

Senator Ogilvie: That is the total. There are no extraneous materials; and there is no travel involved or anything other than what I have described.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)

[Translation]

Business of the Senate

Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I would like to make a clarification concerning the rules. After the question was put on Bill C-19, we continued the debate and we all agreed not to see the clock. However, I do not believe that anything was said to that effect.

Rule 39(5)(c) states that we would ordinarily interrupt the debate after the vote on Bill C-19. However, given that we were caught up in our work as senators, we continued without seeing the clock. Therefore, I would like to ensure that we have agreement not to see the clock to ensure that the proceedings are valid.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, I do not believe that this consent is even necessary because the rules state that we do not see the clock and that debate continues.

Senator Carignan: I do not wish to debate this point, but rule 39(5)(c) does not seem to say the same thing.

(2000)

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: It is like wearing a belt and a pair of suspenders to make sure that your pants do not fall down.

Is it agreed, honourable senators, that we not see the clock?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: All honourable senators agreed not to see the clock.

[English]

To reassure honourable senators that we carefully follow the rules, we are quite strict in our application of them. Rule 39(5)(c) states exactly that.

Senator Carignan: Exactly.

[Translation]

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Your Honour, may I ask for a clarification? In your comments, you indicated that rule 39(5)(c) states exactly that. What do you mean by "that''?

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: My notes say that there was to be no break for dinner and so we continued. We did not see the clock because the rules indicate that we do not see the clock. There was no break for dinner.

Senator Carignan: What the rules say is that, at the end, when the allotted time has expired, we should, according to our interpretation of the rules, interrupt the sitting. The rule states:

when the Senate would otherwise take its dinner hour interruption in accordance with the provisions of rule 13, the sitting shall not be interrupted until the debate is concluded, or the time provided for the consideration of the Order of the Day has expired. . .

This suggests that when the debate is concluded, we should interrupt the sitting for a dinner break; however, since we did not see the clock and we confirmed that we did not see the clock, I think that everything is clear now.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is everything clear, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[English]

National Finance

Budget—Study on Potential Reasons for Price Discrepancies of Certain Goods between Canada and United States—Ninth Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the ninth report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, (budget—study on the potential reasons for price discrepancies in respect of certain goods between Canada and the United States), presented in the Senate on April 2, 2012.

Hon. Joseph A. Day moved the adoption of the report.

He said: Honourable senators, following the tradition that we seemed to have established with respect to these matters, this is the budget for a special study of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance dealing with cross-border discrepancies in pricing. It is for an amount of $49,700, primarily involved in travel to a border location to investigate this matter.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question!

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)

Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration

Ninth Report of Committee—Debate Adjourned

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration (committee budgets—legislation), presented in the Senate on March 29, 2012.

Hon. David Tkachuk moved the adoption of the report.

[Translation]

Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, there are some points we would like to delve into regarding the committee's report. With your permission, we would prefer that the adoption of the report stand until tomorrow.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Before we begin this portion of the debate, I would like to propose the motion and then I will give the honourable senator the floor.

[English]

Senator Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I did move that the report be adopted, but I would now ask to move the adjournment.

(On motion of Senator Tkachuk, debate adjourned.)

Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Budget—Study on Current State and Future of Energy Sector—Third Report of Committee—Debate Adjourned

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the third report of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources (budget—study on the energy sector), presented in the Senate on March 29, 2012.

Hon. Grant Mitchell moved the adoption of the report.

He said: Honourable senators, this budget will allow us to complete our study, which will be done no later than the middle of July. It will probably be published by the end of June. For many reasons, it is time. We have done an in-depth, extensive, and very rewarding study. Unfortunately, Senator Angus will be leaving by the middle of July when his retirement age is met. In honour of him, yes, but more importantly because we need his expertise to assist us in completing this before he goes.

[Translation]

Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, Senator Mitchell is claiming some professional fees in his report. Could the senator give us further details about those amounts, the duties he would like to present or give? Were any choices made? How were the estimates done? I would like further details.

[English]

Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, there are several areas of expertise that we have solicited. First, to help us with writing. This report spans a great deal of information: three years of 250-plus witnesses, with very complex issues from diverse regions. While we have two excellent researchers — one who is writing now — we felt we needed somebody to help us bring all of this together, so we enlisted the help of a very prominent business person in the energy industry from Calgary, Peter Tertzakian. He is a prominent energy investor with a prominent energy investor company, but he is noted for two very well-read books on the energy industry. He has a mind that has already helped us organize all this information and start the writing process. He is doing this for $1, so there is essentially no cost in that. He has offered to do that for us.

In the process of writing this report, we want to isolate some things, as the basic document will be quite long and detailed. This was a suggestion of Senator Neufeld who did this as energy minister in a comparable kind of study in B.C., where he distilled out 35 pages that were very tight and well written. We felt that we needed somebody who could write that very effectively. Mr. Tertzakian works with a writer who has extensive experience with oil and energy magazines in the oil sector, knows how to write and understands the issues. We felt that was a reasonable expense, and that is $20,000.

We also need to express this and explain this very clearly, and to have a snappy presentation because it is so complex. We started with the process of education. There are so many different ideas and different understandings and misunderstandings across the country that one of the basic reasons for us undertaking this study was to explain it to Canadians.

To take all this data, to distill it to 35 pages — and the 35 pages will be electronic, so we will do very little publishing with this — and then to present it in a way that is easily described, easily captured in people's minds and interesting, we felt we needed some better resources, such as for graphic artists. We ran that by the subcommittee and got a positive response.

(2010)

We feel that this is very necessary; that this will be an excellent report, widely read, widely understood; that it will advance the debate and the discussion of this important policy area; that it has been demanded by many, many sectors, industry and otherwise, in this country; and that there be a solid look at energy strategy for Canada.

[Translation]

Senator Carignan: Considering Senator Mitchell's response, I would like to do some additional verification. I therefore wish to adjourn the debate in my name.

(On motion of Senator Carignan, debate adjourned.)

[English]

Transport and Communications

Budget—Study on Emerging Issues Related to Canadian Airline Industry—Fourth Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications (budget—study on emerging issues related to the Canadian airline industry), presented in the Senate on March 29, 2012.

Hon. Stephen Greene moved the adoption of the report.

He said: Honourable senators, we need a small amount of money, $44,000, to complete our report. This particular part of the report deals with the issue of cross-border shopping, particularly the amount to which Canadians seek air travel from U.S. cities along the border. I note that we are requesting just $44,000, which is $5,000 less than the Finance Committee's crossborder shopping study. We also promise not to do any cross-border shopping ourselves when we are over there.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

An Hon. Senator: Question.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)

Study on National Security and Defence Policies, Practices, Circumstances and Capabilities

Fourth Report of National Security and Defence Committee Adopted

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Wallin, seconded by the Honourable Senator Lang, for the adoption of the fourth report (interim) of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, entitled: Answering the Call: The Future role of Canada's Primary Reserve, tabled in the Senate on December 15, 2011.

Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, this matter has been adjourned in my name for 10 days now. I know that the committee is anxious that it move along. I thank honourable senators for their indulgence while I was preoccupied with finance matters.

I can be fairly brief in my comments with respect to this particular report.

When the report went through the committee, I abstained; I did not vote for the report. The report is a report of National Security and Defence relating to reserves, entitled Answering the Call: The Future role of Canada's Primary Reserves.

Honourable senators, the matter of reserves has been of considerable interest, and I could say importance, to National Security and Defence for the last 10 years that I have served on this committee. A number of our former colleagues, including Senators Forrestall and Wiebe, were on that committee and took a great deal of interest with respect to the reserves every time we travelled anywhere.

I wanted to ensure that the report reflected the work we had done in the past, and I had that knowledge from the previous reports, but the problem was that the committee was trying to get this report through before Christmas last year. The first time I saw the report in its entirety was the day we wanted to vote on it. I was concerned we were being asked to do that and that was the primary reason for my abstention.

There were various iterations of earlier drafts of the report in one official language or the other and I felt, not as a member of steering committee and not particularly on the executive of that committee, that I would wait for the report to be dealt with at committee rather than reviewing a copy at the committee from one of my colleagues who might have obtained a copy in one official language.

That was the reason; it was on principle that I did not see it until the day that it was finally brought together and in both official languages, and I said I needed some time. They said this is the last time for a meeting and, not wishing to hold it up, I abstained from voting on it.

I have since had an opportunity to review the report. I can tell honourable senators that it is a good report and I would recommend taking the opportunity to look at this report on the primary reserves. It is an interim report. There is a lot more work to be done in relation to reserves. It is an ongoing issue with respect to the committee. I fully expect that we will have an opportunity to revisit this subject and expand on the subject matter that is in that report in due course.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Some Hon. Senators: Question.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)

Mental Health, Illness and Addiction Services in Canada

Inquiry—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Hubley, calling the attention of the Senate to the 5th anniversary of the tabling of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology's report: Out of the Shadows at Last: Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Services in Canada.

Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, Senator Callbeck is wishing to speak to this inquiry. She will be the next speaker on the inquiry. I would like to adjourn this inquiry in Senator Callbeck's name for the remainder of the time, please.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(On motion of Senator Hubley, for Senator Callbeck, debate adjourned.)

Anti-terrorism

Special Committee Authorized to Refer Papers and Evidence from Related Special Committees of Previous Sessions to Current Session

Hon. Hugh Segal, pursuant to notice of April 2, 2012, moved:

That the papers and evidence received and taken, and work accomplished by the Special Senate Committee on Bill C-36 during the First Session of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament; by the Special Senate Committee on the Anti-Terrorism Act during the First Session of the Thirty-Eighth Parliament and the First Session of the Thirty-Ninth Parliament; and by the Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism during the Second Session of the Thirty-Ninth Parliament and the Third Session of the Fortieth Parliament, be referred to the Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism for the purposes of its work during the current session.

He said: Honourable senators, I merely explain that the reason for this motion is so that the present Special Committee on Anti-Terrorism can have all the documentation that was used by previous versions of the committee in order that we can conduct our affairs in a manner that is well informed by prior work and research without having to duplicate in any way.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, April 4, 2012, at 1:30 p.m.)