Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I have amendments before the House today that would delete certain sections of the act, such as the section to eliminate and destroy the registry records at the time the bill passes. Other sections I seek to delete would make it an offence to travel with long guns in a vehicle. I think this would help to create more public safety at the time the bill is going through.


Speaking more generally to the bill, I remember where the bill came from. We all recall the killings at École Polytechnique and the great demand by Canadians from coast to coast that we act to take greater steps to control the use of weapons in crimes of violence.

One of the witnesses before the committee back in November of last year, Nathalie Provost, was one of those who had been shot at École Polytechnique. I wish to quote from some of her evidence:

I was injured on December 6, 1989, at the École Polytechnique by a shot with a semi-automatic rifle while other more seriously wounded students died around me. Long guns are dangerous, as I know only too well.

If we pass this bill, we will abandon a lot of work done by many Canadians who were friends and families of the victims, but more so, those across the country who recognized the risk and realized we should take action.

That is not to say that the long gun registry has been perfect. It is not to say that it was implemented in ways that made all Canadians confident in the system. I believe there would have been, had there been an occasion for compromise, an opportunity for those who had legitimate concerns to see changes made to this bill.

Here, I recognize that for members of the Conservative party, and for two members of the New Democratic Party who chose as a matter of conscience to vote with the Conservatives on this bill, there are aspects of the way the long gun registry has been created that create concern. For members of the Green Party, I have heard from a lot of people in rural areas who would like to see the legislation changed. However, the circumstances were such that we were forced to be for or against the bill, with no compromise. There was no room for us to see how we could maintain a registry so that we would know where semi-automatic weapons were, and know which guns were used by snipers, and know if they were sawed-off shotguns, so that we would know where these arms were and that if they were legal weapons in Canada that had to be registered, we could maintain that registry.

I am afraid that in the haste to kill the long gun registry, because it has been such a rallying cry for the Conservative party, it has moved too fast. This is not the first time they have done that. It has moved so fast that it has ignored the implications confirmed to us by the RCMP, that in removing the long gun registry we are now moving backwards to a point farther back than where we were before this bill was passed. We are going back more than 30 years and losing the requirement that a person who buys a weapon must ensure at the point of sale that the purchase is registered, so that the police will know that someone has a weapon. We have absolutely wiped out the registration for a whole category of weapons, including the kind of gun that was used at the massacre at École Polytechnique and the kind of weapon that was used at the CEGEP at Macdonald College.

Moving too rapidly like this, and not thinking things through because the goals have become much more geared by spin doctors than by criminal law analysts, is leading to our having bad legislation passed. I think we should now ask at report stage that we rethink this. The opportunity is a brief one: it comes down to 10 amendments put forward by members of the official opposition, the Green party, and the Bloc, as seconded by members of all parties on the opposition benches. They are saying that we should just take this chance to think this through whether we can, by deleting the sections that create unacceptable situations, and provide a way to lessen the negative impact of this legislation.

I wish we could have started this over, bearing in mind the concerns of so many witnesses before the House of Commons committee. I am reminded very much of the importance of the evidence by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. It pointed out very clearly in its evidence that there was a significant preventative and investigational value to law enforcement and the communities it serves in having the long gun registry. It pointed out that, yes, there has been over-spending. We certainly know that much more was invested in setting up the long gun registry than needed to be done. It certainly went over budget, but that money is all sunk costs. The annual functioning of the long gun registry now, as confirmed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigation, and confirmed by the Canadian Association of Canadian Chiefs of Police, is cost effective.

We have a registry now that is working and that law enforcement officials have reasons to use. If we look to the most recent report of the RCMP, the 2010 report that came out after the House adjourned for Christmas and the New Year, it again confirms that this registry is being used by law enforcement officials. It is being used more than ever before. It is being found to be cost effective.

If ever there was a time for members of the Conservative Party who are concerned about crime on our streets to pause and consider, this would be it. As my colleague from the Bloc Québécois just pointed out, when the registry is functioning and a long gun has been registered, it reduces the likelihood that someone will steal it. It is traceable and trackable. It actually reduces the risk of crime to legitimate legal gun owners.

We also know it provides police with the tools to avoid a conflict when responding to a domestic violence situation if they know there is a long gun present in the home. Gatineau police chief Mario Harel testified that the current registry is “a reasonable balance between the exercise of an individual privilege and the broader right of society to be safe”.

Since the House adjourned at Christmastime, there has been greater and greater evidence that this bill has moved too quickly and we are losing the opportunity to keep Canadians safe. The venerable mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion, in mid-December called for a reconsideration of scrapping the long gun registry as it became quite clear that more weapons would not be traceable at all through the failure to recreate the existing registrations that were set aside when the superior registrations under the long gun registry came into effect.

The rush to kill the registry is borne more out of a visceral hatred for the fact it was created at all than for sensible public policy. There is a middle ground. In their speed and ideological vengeance toward the previous Liberal government which brought in the long gun registry, I am afraid my colleagues and friends in the Conservative Party are moving too quickly.

It is time to do as much as we can at report stage and pass all the amendments. I would plead with Conservative Party members to pass Motions Nos. 1 through 10. This would go a considerable way toward improving this legislation. I beg colleagues on all sides of the House with constituents in rural areas, hunters, farmers and those driven by a concern for the safety of women and knowing that passing this legislation would put women’s lives at risk, to take the chance and pass these amendments.